Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1999
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 3: The Life of the King
Lesson 128 – Review: Birth and Life of Christ—Presuppositions and Envelopment
07 Oct 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
I want to introduce a friend who’s a guest, Mr. Fred Wilson; we’ve known each other about 25 years. Fred’s working at the Institute of Creation Research; he goes all over the world teaching creation workshops, particularly working with home schoolers, showing them how to teach science in the home. In early spring he has a book coming out on how to teach science hands-on training. He was telling me some exciting things he’s doing with high school students, teaching creation by actually having them solve problems. [Clough asks] “What’s the name of the new book?” [He answers] Behe’s Darwin’s Black Box, the guy is an evolutionist but he’s realized that Darwinism doesn’t solve a problem of order. He has a neat ministry, he’s been to Africa. He’s just come back from the Philippines, a wide open school, a secular university with 11,000 students that want to hear about creationism.
We are on the life of Christ; we dealt with His birth, His life. The handout has to do with two titles, two vocabulary terms that Jesus Christ used to identify who He was to His contemporaries, the Son of God and the Son of Man. He took those out of the text of the Old Testament. So it gets back to our theme, you can’t understand the New Testament if you don’t understand the Old Testament. Two-thirds of God’s Word is the Old Testament, and yet you never hear it taught, never hear it preached. Frankly, since I’ve been in the ministry I can tell you this, the reason why you don’t hear the Old Testament taught is that it takes a lot of study. Ministers get interrupted, they have this and that, and everybody wants them to do this, the board wants them to do that, and they’re doing everything. The problem is that this takes away their time, and one of the prices of doing that to a pastor is that it diminishes their study time and ultimately, therefore, diminishes their teaching time.
In this class we are not trying to substitute for exegetical teaching. We’re just trying to develop a framework of tying together the Word of God in such a way, structuring it in such a way that it directly opposes the heart of the world system in which we live. The world system is evil, it’s deceptive. This the information age and one of the battles that we are going to face as Christians that other Christians in previous generations may not have had to face quite what we are facing in the sense that we are drowning in a sea of information. The problem with that is we have massive amounts of information and if we don’t know how to manage that information, how to discern, how to pick and choose our way through it, we’re asking to be deceived and led astray.
This is why thinking scripturally in terms of a framework is important. I’m going to review some of the methodologies of thinking through Scripture and we’re going to review what we taught last year on the person of Christ. This will be a review on two things about Christ, His birth and His life, and what those events in history have taught us, what new doctrines, what new teachings they’ve added to the previous teachings of the Old Testament.
One of the elementary things that must be known is that there are only two actual approaches to God and thinking in the world. We’ve mentioned this several times, you’ve seen this diagram numerous times. We want to organize the way we decide what we’re going to do in our everyday life. It will certainly help you to realize that when it comes down to the bottom line, there are only two world views—only two! There are permutations and combinations, there may be red tulips and purple tulips but they’re all tulips. And there may be a lot of different religions around but at the bottom, they share one of these two bases.
The splitting, the dividing line has to do with the Creator/creature distinction. Only in the Bible do you have a distinction between an ex nihilo, i.e., an infinite personal Creator, and His creation. Everything else, and all other world views may talk about gods, angels, people, animals, rocks, atoms, whatever you have, but it’s all part of this. You’ll hear me use this term a lot, and as we go through this we’ll talk about it again and again; it’s called the Continuity of Being. All that means is this: that man visualizes the whole, and all the gods, man and everybody sub genres, sub-categories of being. That’s not true. The Bible says that God is different and distinct from His creation, He always has been distinct, He always will be distinct, and no way are you going to blur this distinction. In other words, the Bible holds to what we call a two-level view of reality. All paganism holds to a one-level view of reality.
The bottom line is this: In the Bible the thing that finally calls the shots is the personal sovereign God who holds all His creation responsible. At the bottom we have ultimate responsibility as men and women before the God who has created us. That’s the bottom line, ultimate responsibility. I emphasize those terms, “ultimate responsibility” because I want to show you what happens when you get rid of this. This is not theory. I know when I teach it sometimes it sounds like theory, but it’s not theory. It’s like two operating systems in your computer. The big debate now is whether we’re going to go with Windows or go with some other operating system, it’s one or the other. As individual people we have two operating systems. We have an operating system in the flesh and we have an operating system given to us by the Spirit of God’s grace and we’re going to operate in one of the two modes. When we operate in this mode, thinking that God, nature, man and everybody else is all mixed, a part of one being, the bottom line is that finally no one is responsible; finally we have impersonal Fate and Chance. If that’s the case, then I’m a victim, you’re a victim.
I point to the bottom line because there’s an agenda that operates. Underneath all the high sounding words there’s a very simple spiritual agenda at work here; observe it. The agenda is I as a sinner want to insure …, I want to get an insurance policy that keeps me from being held accountable. So man creates historically, religions, philosophies, anything he can do to convince himself that he is not ultimately responsible to his Creator. That’s the bottom line in all this. We can talk biology, we can talk philosophy, psychology, geology, astronomy as we did when we were doing Genesis, all of those, but the bottom line of it all is there’s two worldviews that are competing. At any given moment we’re operating in terms of one or the other.
Another thing we’ve tried to show …, I have a little cartoon that I showed last year. You see this fish and icthus on people’s automobile bumpers, and that’s the sign of the Christian. In order to ridicule the Christians, there’s a bumper sticker that has feet, Darwin with feet, showing that evolution occurred and animals came out of fish. There’s a counter bumper sticker to that one, i.e., the big fish called Truth is eating up Darwin.
What we’re talking about here is a strategic envelopment. I’ve drawn this because I’m going to show you this using the birth and life of Jesus Christ. Here’s the strategy. If we have some sort of topic that we’re talking about, in whatever field, just imagine whatever topic it is. Tonight we’re going to talk about the virgin birth of Christ, the life of Christ, but it could be anything. If we’re talking about this topic, we talk about it and we encapsulate it in our world view. We don’t talk about something in isolation. We always talk about it in terms of something else, our own worldview, and we use our worldview to discuss this. The issue is that as we go out in society, we may talk about a religious topic to somebody, we may talk about Jesus Christ and you’ll see this in connection with His birth and His life, that the non-Christian will take that historic claim of the Bible, that God became man, He was virgin born, and they will absorb it inside their own words such that it won’t be a converting truth. That’s the spiritual battle. Here we have a chunk of the gospel, we put it out for a witness, for a testimony, and it becomes absorbed, reinterpreted and insulated ultimately by this false view of paganism.
What we want to do as Christians is the same thing, except we want to look at it in terms of the Bible, and the biblical worldview will be used to encapsulate it. I’m going to read a little story and you think about this strategy and see if you get the point at the bottom of this. My son who works at the Air Force laboratories in New York, a group of Christians in the laboratory were passing this around on the computer, and I think it’s a classic.
“One day a group of scientists got together and decided that man had come a long way, and no longer needed God. So they picked one scientist to go and tell God that they were done with Him. The scientist walked up to God and said, ‘God, we’ve decided we no longer need You, we’re to the point that we can clone people, and do many miraculous things, so why don’t You just go and get lost.’ God listened very patiently and kindly to the man. After the scientist was done talking, God said, ‘Very well. How about this, let’s say we have a man-making contest.’ To which the scientist replied, ‘Okay, great.’ But God added, ‘now we’re going to do this just like I did back in the days of Adam.’ The scientist said, ‘sure, no problem,’ bent down and grabbed himself a hand full of dirt. God looked at him and said, ‘no-no-no, you get your own dirt.’ ”
The bottom line of that story is presuppositionalism. That’s the Creator/creature distinction. It’s like Cornelius Van Til, years ago was on the subway in Philadelphia and he saw this little unruly kid slap her father’s face, but she was sitting in his lap. She couldn’t reach his face unless she sat in her father’s lap. Van Til went on over the years to develop this into a presuppositional apologetic. What he means is that man needs to rely upon God to argue against God. Man needs the tools of logic, he needs the tools of historical experience, he needs observational data of God’s creation in order to argue and construct an argument against God. What the story basically is saying, you have to have a starting point, and the man who wants to be an autonomous person has to start somewhere. That’s the problem. How do you start without relying on that which God created? The irony is that all unbelief needs belief in order to get started.
We want to divide up how we look at life and again I want to introduce these two ideas, two ways of looking at life. Get used to thinking in terms of two ways of looking at life. We’re going to head into the New Testament story of Jesus but we’ve got to look at the agenda that’s happening. Often it is said that the Christians have a “knowing” problem, that all we’re asking people to do is believe. Of course we autonomous creatures, we’ve got a solid foundation under our feet and it’s you Christians that are the ones that are floating around in this believe-ism thing, but we don’t believe, we know. That’s not true. On the Christian basis let’s look at what we’re talking about. The Christian thinks God’s thoughts after Him. Prior to our thinking, who’s thought first? God has thought. Why is it that we can think and reason? Because we’ve been made to think and reason by One who is a greater thinker and reasoner. God is the basis for thinking and logic, and because of that, because He is preexisting, because He has a pattern for creation and salvation, because of all that we can operate. We operate as derivative, as secondary, as reflectors of our Creator. The Bible says we are made in the image of God. What does image mean? It’s the image of God. God wasn’t made in the image of man; man was made in the image of God.
So we view knowing as a problem of faith-resting in the One who is the basis for our thinking. That’s our faith-rest. What happens is that when men become sinners we have this attitude: the “I want to go my own way,” I will reconstruct my world view up here in my head because deep down I really want to, although I won’t admit this, deep down I’m trying to avoid ultimate responsibility before God. So I will literally try to recreate the universe to falsify it, to pervert it, such that it relieves the pressure on my conscience. What I’ve just said is infuriating to today’s intellectuals, the idea that there’s an agenda operating behind the scenes. Of course there’s an agenda, that’s the agenda, right here. Don’t ever forget behind every thought there is an agenda, there is a reason why people think they are … and even mathematics is not immune from this.
We showed this slide before, but again by way of review, these are the limitations of human knowledge. This is a diagram of all experience. On the ordinate we have space, and on the abscissa of this graph we have time; time from very small increments of time all the way to large amounts and large units of time; very small units of space to very large units of space, and all human experience, all your experience, all your life is lived in that shaded area. Outside of the shaded area are all kinds of things that you will never know, I will never know, we just can’t reach it. We are operating out of a very limited base, and it doesn’t make any difference whether you’re a Christian or not a Christian, it doesn’t make any difference where you’re coming from, you’re still trapped inside that domain. You always will remain trapped inside that domain; you can never have infinite experience. Therefore any time you try to generalize about reality, this ought to be, that ought to be, this is true, that isn’t true, you are generalizing unless you trust the Word of God.
If you decide not to trust the Word of God then you’re constructing out of this limited area an extrapolation. That’s what you’re doing. Either you do that or you come to rely upon the Word of God. There are no other alternatives. This is why we say we start with the Scripture. The result of all this, when we don’t start with the Scripture is we come to this kind of a situation; here’s the unbelieving counterpart to the Christian. We call it pagan; pagan means in the sense of one who does not believe in the God of the Bible. The Christian is to think God’s thoughts after Him. What does the pagan do? What’s the counterpart to the Christian who thinks God’s thoughts after God thinks the thoughts? The pagan tries to think like God. Stop there.
Why does the pagan have to try to think like God? Why does he have to try to think like God? Because he’s got to have absolutes. He’s got to have universals. He’s got to have yes/noes that dominate. He’s got to have all these great categories, but he’s not omniscient. So he’s got to pretend he’s omniscient in order to get the categories going. He tries to think like God but now the rest of that sentence, [the pagan tries to think like God] independently of God. So he’s not by deliberate action and choice of the sinful heart, [saying] I don’t want to submit to the authority of the Word of God, I want to be like Eve in the Garden who said I will take what the devil has told me, I will take what God has told me, because after all, God said if I eat of this tree, what’s going to happen? I’m going to die. What has the devil told me? If I eat of this tree I will not die.
If Eve wants to take a middle of the road position, how is she going to find out who’s speaking the truth? The only way Eve can tell whether this proposition is true or this proposition is true is to disobey God and eat the tree. So her choice is to do an experiment, but if she does the experiment she’s already sinned. Why is that a sin? Because the experiment presupposes what about these two statements? The God statement, the Satan statement, they’re both the same authority. So what she’s done is she’s taken the Creator’s authority that’s up here and the creature’s authority down here and she’s already made them the same. She’s going to say God and Satan both together are of the same authority and I don’t know one from the other so I have to do a test.
That’s the autonomous person, tries to think like God but independently of God. The result is that we don’t discover truth on that basis. We don’t discover truth that’s there before we thought it. We make it up as we go. Ultimately at the bottom line all pagan thought invents truth, it doesn’t discover truth, it invents truth because truth goes on up here. The result is we have this finite experience, I showed the diagram, trying to move it to the left, move it to the right, get it big enough so I can control my life, so I can get some absolutes, some order in my life. I’m going to trust me, it’s going to be me, I am the authority here. That’s the story of what happens.
We want to review the things we’ve learned about the Lord Jesus Christ and we’re going to start in Mark 8:27. This is sort of the theme of the way we are approaching these four great events that have to do with Christ: His birth, His life, His death and His resurrection. This is the challenge that Jesus Christ gives every man and woman. This is the challenge we want to follow through and particularly pay attention to how we’re answering this question. Our Lord asked the question; we have to give an answer to Him. The question is on what basis and how do we give this answer back to the Lord. “And Jesus went out, along with His disciples, to the villages of Caesarea Philippi; and on the way He questioned His disciples, saying to them, ‘Who do people say that I am?’  And they told Him, saying, ‘John the Baptist; and others say Elijah; but still others, one of the prophets.’  And He continued by questioning them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’” That’s the question Jesus poses to every man, woman, and child, “Who do you say that I am?”
We started that last year and we want to go on and study the birth of Christ and the life of Christ. Let’s start with that first topic, the birth of Jesus Christ. That’s something that happened in history and men have to respond to it and interpret it, the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ. The birth of the Lord Jesus Christ has an offense to men because this birth claims to be absolutely unique in the history of the human race. Never before, never shall be again a birth like the Lord Jesus Christ’s, a virgin birth. That’s the claim of the New Testament; it’s the claim of prophecy. Immediately we’re faced with a problem. What problem does the virgin birth pose? Why is the virgin birth controversial? The virgin birth is controversial because it comes face to face with a miracle.
Now I’ve got to deal with my worldview. Are all children born the same way? Out of my experience I may have seen, if I’m an obstetrician, I may have seen 1,521 babies born in my life. So I say on the basis of my experience of 1,521 different births I have never ever seen a virgin birth. Okay, valid observation? Yes. I conclude from that data that there can’t be, therefore there’s an absolute zero probability of there ever being a virgin birth. What have I just done to go from the first statement to the second statement? My first statement was true, but it was based on limited experience. Then I generalized, claiming that out of these 1,521 births that I can say that that represents reality. But what did we say before? Remember the diagram; every one of us lives inside a domain, a limited domain. How do you get outside the domain to make an absolute statement? To claim to get outside the domain you have to claim that you think as God; you have to claim omniscience in order to make that generalization. So the person that argues against the virgin birth says I’ve experienced this and therefore on the basis of this, I say as a generalized statement there never was a virgin birth. This actually happened and I want to quote something; here are quotes from two groups of people in the New Testament age that deny the virgin birth of Christ. Let’s listen to them. This is the actual testimony of people in Judaism who said that this claim, that Jesus Christ was uniquely born, is a falsehood. “Rabbi Simeon [ben] Azzai said, ‘I found a family register in Jerusalem and on it was written, ‘Such-a-one is a bastard through the [transgression of the law of] thy neighbor’s life. Joseph Klausner, a Jewish scholar, writes of this Mishnaic section: ‘That Jesus is here referred to seems to be beyond all doubt.’ Klausner notes that throughout the Jewish Talmud, including its Mishnaic section, Jesus is known as ‘Yeshu Ben Pandera’ (Jesus son of Pandera), a title which may refer to Mary’s alleged paramour or to the virgin-birth claim itself (virgin in Greek is parthenos).”
“Another Talmudic scholar, Herbert Danby, summarizes the entire Talmudic reference to the virgin-birth claim.” The Talmud was the Jewish writings about this period. “A Yeshu, called Notsri, so Son of Stada, or Son of Pantera [or Pandera] was born out of wedlock. His mother was called Miriam. She was a woman’s hairdresser (the word here is M’gadd’la, a pun on the name Mary Magdalen). Her husband was Pappus, the son of Yehudah, and her paramour a Roman soldier, Pantera.” So the analysis of Jesus’ birth, right in His own time period, this is not now, this is centuries ago, the response of unbelieving men to this claim was that Jesus Christ was a bastard. He was an illegitimate child; that Mary fornicated with a Roman soldier.
Right away we’ve got controversy here. The virgin birth forces you to say a miracle happened or you’ve got a big problem. So you see, the gospel is controversial in its whole essence and we can’t escape that as Christians. Get used to it. When you testify as a Christian you are the center of controversy, you are going to be attacked. In your own family people are going to ridicule you; get used to it, because this is the big game, this is a big spiritual battle that’s going on here against the world system. Jesus Christ was virgin born; if He was not then that makes Mary a fornicator.
The non-Christian says here’s the virgin birth and I’m going to envelop it in my frame of reference and my frame of reference says the Lord Jesus Christ was illegitimate and Mary was a fornicator. That’s how I take this virgin birth claim and I suck it up like an amoeba, digest it and immunize it against bothering me. I’m no longer bothered by the virgin birth claim, you Christians can talk Jesus all you want to, I say He was a bastard. What has happened? We’ve taken a chunk of the gospel and we’ve allowed the world system to encapsulate itself around the chunk and neutralize it. It’s just been neutralized.
We also have the Gentiles doing the same thing, and I read for you last year the most famous sermon in the early century, it was done one Sunday morning, in June 1922 in New York City. That particular Sunday Harry Emerson Fosdick, who had written many, many books, he’s a liberal Baptist minister who was asked to preach in the First Presbyterian Church and he chose that Sunday morning to give the following sermon, “Shall the Fundamentalists Win.” If you go into the library of your grandparents and look around their books, whoever was reading and buying books between 1910–1930, I bet somewhere you’re going to find a book by Harry Emerson Fosdick. One of the most popular titles you’ll probably find is Manhood of the Master. He was the Norman Vincent Peale of his time. He was sort of like the liberal version of Billy Graham. Lots and lots of people bought his books. It’s pure liberal garbage! But it enthralled the people who lived in this country, particularly in the East. He was the spokesman for the Christian faith.
As he got up that morning, he says, “here, for example is one point of view: that the virgin birth is to be accepted as historical fact;” notice the tolerance here, “it actually happened; there was no other way for a personality like the Master to come into this world except by a special biological miracle. That is one point of view, and many are the gracious and beautiful souls who hold it.” When somebody starts talking this way, you know what’s going to come next don’t you? “But, side by side with them in the evangelical churches is a group of equally loyal and reverent people who would say that the virgin birth is not to be accepted as an historic fact …. Here in the Christian churches are these two groups and the question which the Fundamentalists raise is this, Shall one of them throw the other out? ... Is not the Christian church large enough to hold within her hospitable fellowship people who differ in points like this …?”
The claim is this, what do you do with this claim. Are you going to absorb it inside a framework that is anti-Christian? Or are you going to let the Bible speak for itself? How do we let the Bible speak for itself? We go back and we say is the virgin birth a minor point of the New Testament? What do we find? Let’s enlarge this and say what does the New Testament say, how does it put this in perspective? Number one, the virgin birth cannot be separated from everything else. Learn this about things you know to be true from the Scriptures. Don’t ever let a piece of truth become isolated from the rest of Scripture. The moment you allow yourself to do this in a conversation or in your own heart as you deal with temptations, that’s when we get destroyed. We always have to hold … all the truth of Scripture is a team and you can’t take one player from the team, because if you do, it’s like one piece in the chess board, he’ll get surrounded and wiped out.
The virgin birth is linked in three ways in the Old Testament. Number one, it is a prophetic necessity. Isaiah 7:1-16, particularly verse 14. The virgin birth is a prophetic necessity because the Old Testament text calls for it. People say oh well, it really doesn’t say that, some of the translations in Isaiah 7 say “young woman” shall conceive. Excuse me, but it seems to me if I’m not too mistaken in my experience young women are busy conceiving quite normally. What is unusual about women conceiving? That’s not some special sign of anything. The special sign is that a young woman who was a virgin conceived and we know that that’s the true interpretation.
How do we know that? Because the Jews, who knew Hebrew, when they translated the Hebrew Old Testament to Greek, guess what word they used to translate the word almah? Parthenos. Why did they pick that word? Obviously the translators from Hebrew to Greek knew what the Old Testament was and they deliberately translated the Hebrew by a word that couldn’t mean anything but a virgin. So the Bible requires a virgin birth, not just Isaiah 7, but there’s another passage. We dealt with this last year, Jeremiah 22:30. So there are these passages, Isaiah 7 and Jeremiah 22.
Jeremiah 22 is the story about one of the kings of Israel. This particular king was to be written childless, Jechoniah, and the point is that in the royal line of this king, who was a Judean king, as he went down through history, God said I’m going to cut it off, there will never, ever, from this king be one of his sons sitting on the throne of David. That meant the royal line of David was cut off. So how does that work? The problem is that Jesus’ mother was a lady who was related to David, she had to be in order for Him to be the Messiah. But the relation of Mary to David was not through the royal line, it was through a secondary line going back to David given in Luke 3. Joseph, however, in Matthew 1 is said to be related to David through the royal line. If Joseph is the real father of Jesus, then He falls under the curse of Jeremiah 22, and Jesus cannot be the Messiah. So the only way Joseph and Mary can have a child is by virgin birth and have that child qualify as the Messiah. Mary, through Luke 3 goes back to David, satisfying the Davidic Covenant; Joseph, Jesus’ dad, he cannot be the father of Jesus because if he is he falls under the curse of Jeremiah 22.
What have we done with this first point? We have said that this little piece of truth about the Lord Jesus Christ, the virgin birth, that piece of truth must be set inside a framework of other Scriptural truth and when you do that you protect it so people like Harry Emerson Fosdick, if they’re going to deny the virgin birth in Matthew 1, okay Harry, deny Jeremiah 22 and while you’re at it cut out Isaiah 7. Why don’t you take a razor blade, go through the Bible, cut out the stuff you don’t like and give me the rest. That’s also called the cafeteria approach to Scripture, you know, you go pick the things you want and put them on your plate. What you do is you force the opposition to explicitly deny the Scriptures, and stop this stuff that Fosdick was trying to foist on the church in 1922.
Another point about Jesus’ birth is that there was a legal necessity for that birth because of Adam and all men. All men carry the seed of Adam, according to Hebrews 7. That means that every male is carrying the line and the genes of Adam down with him. Adam is the representative of the fallen race, so the imputed sin that God credits Adam and all his seed with the fall, so if Jesus is part of Adam’s seed, then Jesus carries imputed sin. Jesus cannot carry imputed sin and be the Messiah who dies on the cross, therefore Jesus Christ must be virgin born to avoid that curse.
Finally, there’s a spiritual necessity; Jesus Christ must be virgin born because spiritually the sin nature is transmitted down through … turn to Romans 8 and watch the careful vocabulary of the apostle when he describes the likeness of Jesus’ physical body. This is a tip-off that the apostle is being very, very careful how he depicts the humanity of Jesus. Jesus Christ, if He’s born with Adam’s genes, he’s subject to inherent sin. Number two is imputed sin, this one is inherent sin. This spiritual carrying inheritance will come to Jesus if He isn’t cut off from that somehow. What does Romans 8:3 say? God sent His own Son… in the flesh, or “in the likeness of sinful flesh?” See that word, see how careful it’s constructed; Paul said “in the likeness of sinful flesh,” so he was claiming that the Lord Jesus Christ’s body looked like our body, but it was only like our body in appearance; actually it was a sinless body. That has profound repercussions about what happened on the cross. We’ll get to that later, but I just want to show you that you have to take these truths, like the virgin birth of Christ, and embed them inside this framework, and once you do that you insulate them from all these attacks and assaults. You keep the Bible truths operating as a team.
Out of that comes a set of doctrines that we covered last year. Everything about the Lord Jesus teaches us something, and the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ means the incarnation. What do we mean by the “incarnation.” The incarnation means that Jesus Christ was God and He was man, without confusion, without intermixture. The Lord Jesus had within Himself divine nature. He has all the attributes of God. Although He has all the attributes of God, He also has the attributes of humanity. So you have Jesus with complete deity and He has perfect humanity, both of these.
You can sound very erudite to your less trained Christian friends; this is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union. That was the vocabulary word for Jesus Christ used by theologians. He is perfect God, summarizing 400 years of debate, He is undiminished deity united with true humanity without confusion forever. Four things. “Undiminished deity” means He did not shed any of His attributes. “True humanity” means He had body, soul and spirit of a man. “Without confusion” means that the Creator/creature distinction was never obliterated or compromised. “Forever” means that Jesus Christ remains true humanity at the Father’s right hand now. Said another way, somewhere in this universe there is a body, occupying space, that is Jesus Christ. He is located at a point, He is at the Father’s right hand and that Father’s right hand is at a geometrical point in the universe. It has to be because His humanity has to have a point location.
Is this theory? No! Out of all this come certain practical applications for us in our Christian life. The first one is that we will always be creatures, even in heaven. Some Christians get hold of 1 Corinthians and say then we’re going to know like we are known. It doesn’t refer to becoming omniscient. We will always be creatures; we will always be serving the Lord. The point is, in heaven there will be work to do. It’s not just taking an eternal vacation. There is going to be some work and labor. God didn’t say anything else. It’s not just rest. It will be restful labor because it will be free of conflict, but we’re not going to sit there and contemplate our navels for the next two million years. There are things to do. So we will always be creatures.
The second thing is, very important, John 17:3 says, “And this is eternal life, that they may know Thee, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom Thou hast sent.” What we mean by that is that men and women, collectively in Adam, we were structured from the very beginning to know God. Your dog wasn’t. Sorry. But you are, because you and you alone, the human species alone is said to be made in God’s image. You may love your pets but they aren’t knowing God. We know God. We were made to know God and the fact that humanity can know God is proved right here. Why? Because when God became incarnated, did He incarnate Himself as a lion? The gods of the ancient east did. Did God incarnate Himself as a fish? Dagon was a fish god in Philistia. Did God incarnate Himself as some other creature? No. When God chose to incarnate Himself, what creature did He pick? Somebody on Galaxy 8YZ; something out of Star Wars? Or did God …
[blank spot] The third thing it means is that history is real, we write our history. 1 Corinthians 3 says we will be judged for the history that we write, the good works that we have done in the filling of the Spirit will be accepted. There might be other works that we did just to impress people, impress our girlfriend, impress our boyfriend, wife, husband, whoever, the teacher, but it wasn’t really work motivated out of a concern to please God. Wood, hay and stubble, it goes away! But that’s our record, and the fact that history is real and not a dream is seen by the fact that forever and ever before the throne of God, what will we observe about Jesus’ body? Of all the resurrection bodies, which is the only resurrection body in the universe that will have scars? The Lord Jesus Christ. What does that remind us of? The fact that He left heaven, went to this weird planet, died and was crucified for us and forever and ever and ever His resurrection body will signify that. That wasn’t a dream. Those marks didn’t get there by dreaming about it, they got there because there was a real history.
Finally, the fourth thing, according to Colossians 2:8, all thinking of men, all educational ideas, should start with the starting point of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We want to say a few words about the second great doctrine that we studied, the life of Christ. Same technique, the unbeliever will take the life of Christ and here’s what the unbeliever does with the life of Christ. Here’s what has happened to the life of Christ in the last hundred years of theology. This is what is driving liberal people in the pulpit. Today you can hear people talk about Jesus and they mean something by “Jesus” utterly different than what we mean. Here’s what they have done. They have taken the New Testament picture of the Lord Jesus Christ and they have called that the kerygmatic gospel, meaning to preach, that’s (quote) “the gospel.” Then they have separated out the real historical Jesus; this guy was some sort of Jewish peasant that walked around, we really don’t know too much about Him, but maybe He was history, maybe He wasn’t, but this thing is a fiction created by the church. This is how Christ’s life, for example The Jesus Film, can be shown to someone, they can see it with their eyes, they can hear it, they can think about the message and can totally neutralize it, totally insulate themselves against the conviction of the gospel. Why? It’s simple, it’s fiction, the early church made it up. Yea, there was a Jewish carpenter but as the years went by all these stories grew up around Him and finally you just have myth; he had good spin on His ministry. That’s the separation technique that’s used.
The Lord Jesus Christ was true humanity; we went through many places in the New Testament and the Old Testament. I want to go to one of the most unforgettable passages in the Old Testament that talks about Jesus as a man, waking up in the morning. Isaiah 50:4, that shows you that it was on the minds of the prophets of the Old Testament, though none of them could really put it together. But here’s a phenomenal reference that tells us how, in His humanity, the Lord Jesus learned, because one of the things that grows out of the humanity of Jesus Christ, the fact that He has this perfect humanity, is that Jesus Christ had to be sanctified. Jesus had to be sanctified! That’s a little tough to think about, because that sounds like He was sinful. Why’s that? It’s because we, in order for us to be sanctified it’s a battle with sin. But the Lord Jesus Christ, according to Hebrews had to be sanctified. So that must mean that the word sanctified doesn’t mean necessarily dealing with sin. Did Adam and Eve have to be sanctified? Sure they did.
What does sanctify mean then; is it just struggle with sin? No. Sanctification is learning obedience. Adam and Eve in a sinless environment without a sin nature still had to learn how to obey, and so did Jesus. In Isaiah 50:4 we have this passage where prophetically the Holy Spirit, through Isaiah the prophet, is talking about … he’s impersonating if you can call it that, I don’t like that word, I haven’t thought of another way of saying it. “The Lord God has given me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.  The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not disobedient, nor did I turn back.  I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.”
That’s a Messianic passage in the Old Testament and what the amazing point about this passage is it tells you something you never get in the Gospels about the Lord Jesus’ personal life; that the Father woke up the Son up every morning. He was so sensitive spiritually to His Father He didn’t need to set an alarm clock. The Father, God, was His alarm clock. God the Father woke Him up, and why did the Father wake Him up? Because it was in the morning when God the Father would teach God the Son in His humanity. So that tells you a lot of stuff went on in the morning every day of Jesus’ life. By the time He went out doing His ministries He’d already spent quiet time with His Father. That’s why at the end, verse 5, “The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not disobedient.” There’s the sanctification. So as the Father taught the Son morning by morning, Jesus obeyed, He obeyed, He obeyed, He obeyed, He built a historic strengthening pattern of obedience, so that out of all this we have three great practical applications to the Christian life that we covered last year. Jesus life, all the details of the four Gospels are critical for their application to us as Christians, because if they fall out and they are explained away as some little story that the spin doctors did in the early church, we’ve got a big problem. So let’s go through these doctrines.
The first area of truth that is concerned with the life of Jesus Christ is called the truth or the doctrine of kenosis. It comes from the word for humiliation or emptying; the chief passage is Philippians 2:5-11. That’s the passage about “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus,” He didn’t think it robbery to be equal with God; He emptied Himself and became a servant, etc. That’s a very important doctrine because here’s what it does for us. It says that Jesus Christ in His life is a legitimate model for us. Now if He was God and He could cheat by using His divine attributes to meet temptation, how could He be a model, because you and I can come back and argue yea, I could be victorious in the Christian too if I had omniscience. Yea, give me omnipotence for fifteen minutes and I’ll be obedient. But the doctrine of kenosis cuts that off.
What the doctrine of kenosis says is that Jesus Christ gave up the voluntary right to use His attributes if He wanted to. He was totally dependent on the Father. Could Jesus turn stones into bread? Sure he could, but not without the Father’s permission. He, as God could do it, but as an obedient man He was under the same thing that we are. So kenosis teaches us that Jesus Christ was the test pilot for the Christian way of life. He proved out all the assets that God has given us; He tested them. I work at Aberdeen Proving Ground and one of the things they have over there is big torture traps, they take these heavy vehicles and they run them over these things that are going to be far worse than anything you’re ever going to see out in the normal world, twisting the frames, going over vibrations, using different frequency of vibrations, trying to tear these trucks apart, wreck their transmissions, wreck their suspensions, see how many hundred hours of this banging and thrashing these guys can take.
The doctrine of kenosis says that Jesus Christ, for 30 or 33 years, depending on the chronology, for 30 years He tested out the filling of the Holy Spirit and proved it worked. That’s why He can be a legitimate model. So kenosis establishes the modeling of the Person of Jesus Christ.
The second great doctrine we learned out of this is His impeccability. We had a lot of discussion about that, and the same kind of discussion we had about impeccability we’re going to have again for the cross of Christ. Impeccability says that Jesus Christ had genuine choice, but His victory was certain. He had genuine choice but victory was certain, and this disproves the idea that you have to have sin in order to prove free will. You do not have to have sin to prove free will. Jesus Christ had free will in the sense of responsibility, just like every person. He had a free will [can’t understand word/s]. And yet He was absolutely certain to succeed, not a chance of Him ever falling under the plan of God.
That means that the Lord Jesus Christ has a ministry for us and to see that ministry turn to Hebrews 4. All this works together and you can’t just rip the Bible apart in pieces. It doesn’t hold that way. Here is one of the practical things that we intuitively rely on the Lord all the time when we pray, and it’s all related to the fact that if this is wrong we couldn’t rely on Him. Hebrews 4:15, “We do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Think of the Trinity here: God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. Can God the Father be put in verse 15? No, because God the Father never was tempted like we are. Can the Holy Spirit be put in verse 15? Not in this sense, no, the Holy Spirit wasn’t incarnate. So which of the Trinity is the center of our attention? God the Son. That’s why we don’t go to Mary; we go directly to the Lord Jesus Christ. We go to God the Father through Christ. We don’t go to Jesus through Mary, that’s upsetting the whole idea of the Trinity.
The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit; the Son is our means to reach the Father because He is perfect, He is out intercessor, He is the One who was kenotic, He is the One who is impeccable. Therefore, because of this, He endured every sin, He can empathize, He understands when we fall, He understands what temptation is. We have something the Moslems don’t have. Can you imagine Allah being put in verse 15? Allah’s never walked around; Allah doesn’t have dirt under His fingernails. Only Jesus Christ had dirt under His fingernails because He walked around and was tempted and tested. Do you see the richness of the Trinity? Oh, the Trinity is so heavy … sure it’s heavy, it’s God. But the point is, those truths are important; that’s what distinguishes our so great salvation.
The third thing we learned as a result of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ is we learned more about what infallibility is, that Jesus Christ made no errors of fact, even though He was a first century carpenter, who didn’t know modern medicine, He didn’t know modern physics. That did not disqualify Him from being perfectly truthful in His lifetime. Why do we hold to the fact that the Lord Jesus Christ is infallible? John 3:11-12 says if I tell you earthly things and you do not believe Me, then you cannot believe Me when I tell you heavenly things. So Jesus admitted that He had to be truthful in every historical detail because if we find that He is a false witness to history, then we cannot trust Him with our sins. Do we have access to the record books of heaven? No. The only reason we say He’s forgiven our sins is because the Lord tells us that. If He told us that something happened in Bethlehem and it didn’t happen, how do we trust Him about our sins in heaven? The two are tied together, you can’t separate them.
These are some of the truths that come out of these two events in the life of Jesus Christ, His birth and His resurrection. From the birth we know that He is God-man, and from His life we know that He is our model, and He is a legitimate model for us, He is a legitimate priest for us. Next week we’ll review those terms, the Son of God and the Son of Man because those are two areas sin the New Testament that keep coming up again and again, and I think it’s good to clarify the vocabulary so that when we call Jesus the Son of God we know what we’re talking about, at least we try to know what the apostles meant when they used the word. Then we’ll go on to the death of Christ.