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, 2001
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 6: New Truths of the Kingdom Aristocracy
Chapter 2: The Earthly Origin of the Church
Lesson 177 – The Framework Structure as the Setting of Kenosis and Impeccability
11 Nov 2001
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
“Our Father, we are thankful that You have provided the salvation that You have through the death and the atonement of Jesus Christ. We thank You for the fact that when He ascended into Heaven He received the promise from You and passed it down to us with the filling of the Holy Spirit, the baptism of the Spirit, and the indwelling of the Spirit. And we ask that the Holy Spirit, Who coined the New Testament and brought it into existence, would continue to unravel it’s meanings in our hearts in order that we may believe and walk by faith. We ask this in Christ’s name, Amen.”
Tonight we’re going to leave what we’ve been doing for three weeks; an introduction kind of on Islam and its contrast to Christianity and we’re going to move now preparing to get back to where we were last spring, which is the Church Age. However, in order to do that, because what we were working with back then was regeneration, we’re going to be developing shortly what we will call kind of like a positional truth, i.e., how God has structured the church; the possessions of every believer. And one of those things, of course, is regeneration. However, because regeneration is part and parcel of the overall framework, if regeneration is the bestowing of Christ’s life in the believer today at the point of regeneration, then it behooves us to go back to the life of Christ to see what it is that’s being regenerated; what was being conveyed to the church.
So that’s what we’re going to do tonight and just so we run it again through some of the basics to review. While going back through the foundation, keep in mind that what we’re looking at here is a mix of what people would call systematic theology and biblical exegesis. It’s neither one nor the other, it’s a mixture and it’s the framework that we’ve been going through for several years. The important thing to remember is that every great doctrinal area of the Bible can be linked with an event.
The reason why I keep reviewing this and going over it and over it and over it and over it is if you will learn Bible truth this way, you will not forget that it’s systematic and interconnected. You can’t take a piece of God’s Word and isolate it. The moment you do then you’re going to be in trouble because you start waffling on the meaning of it. You lose the protection of that truth. There’s a whole kind of ramification so you’ve got to think in terms of the Christian faith as a coherent set of sub-beliefs. That’s why there are the great creeds in the history of the church. It’s man’s attempt to state in an organized way all the truths together.
Let me give an example of where you get in trouble. How often have you heard it said and maybe you said it, “Well I really don’t get heavy into doctrine or truth, I just believe in Jesus?” Now on the surface that seems like a very pious way to go except if I ask you the next question: what do you mean you believe in Jesus? Which Jesus? The Jesus of the liberalist? The Jesus of the modernist? The Jesus of Jehovah’s Witnesses? The Jesus of the Mormons? The Jesus of Islam? Which Jesus? And the moment you try to answer my question you’ll be driven to put content into what you just said and now you’re back into doctrine so you cannot escape this.
Now I understand that in our evangelical circles of the past 20 or 30 years particularly we’ve been very sloppy about this. One major denomination prides itself on saying they have no creed but Christ, which is an inane statement. Of course ,you have a creed. The very fact that you just said that you had the creed, “No creed but Christ,” is itself a creed. So everybody has a creed. Everybody has a system whether it’s chaotically organized or really smoothly organized. We all have sets of beliefs and so the framework is not to go through exegetically verse-by-verse in the Scripture. It’s not an approach that would be considered systematic theology. What we’re trying to do is link key events to Bible truth.
The benefits of this are that in the New Testament particularly, the authors, knowing as good Jews their Jewish history, refer again and again to historical events when they’re trying to teach a truth. Think, for example, in Romans, the most theologically systematic epistle in the New Testament. What does Paul do when he has to deal with faith? You can go through it; it’s not in Chapter 1; it’s not in Chapter 2; it’s not in Chapter 3; it’s in what? Chapter 4. And who is it that’s the subject of Chapter 4? Abraham.
So see, it’s an event and he’s citing instances. It’s not just the biography of Abraham, it’s one or two events in Abraham’s life. And so the whole idea of faith in that epistle of Romans, which is centered on justification by faith, the whole content in the imagination and in your thinking is built off of the historic event of Abraham.
Now there’s another benefit to looking at things this way. If you learn from the very get-go that every one of these truths is connected to history it will vaccinate you against the toxin that’s at large in the world, which says that I can accept the content of the Bible stories without accepting the historicity of the biblical text. Now, can you? Can you believe in the content of the biblical stories in the lessons of the biblical stories with a straight face and deny the history behind the biblical stories? I don’t think so.
So again, linking history with revelation is what we’re trying to do. Remember that whenever you talk about God, man, and nature you sort of divide the universe up into those three parts. No, I take that back, we’re not dividing the universe; we’re talking about reality, the Creator/creature distinction. Here is God and then the creation: man and nature.
Now all that is the foundation for the rest of the Bible. Where do you get your foundation? Where do you load the imagination with content that protects you when the house starts to be built on top of this foundation? You get it from Creation. The act of creation sets up the Creator/creature distinction. If you don’t have Creation and you have the pagan idea that in the beginning was gas and everything came out of this and the gods and the matter were intertwined as in the Babylonian Genesis, for example, and the anti-Semitic corpus of pagan literature that the gods and the creation are all tied in. So Tiamat, for example, in the Babylonian Genesis, creates the universe out of her body. The bodies of the gods provide the source of the universe. Now what happens to the Creator/creature distinction? It’s just dissolved and that’s a fundamental distinction. That’s why you have to anchor everything here and that’s why Creation is so important.
Then remember that we came to the Fall and we have evil and suffering and you’ve seen it a dozen times up here or one hundred times. The evil diagram; where does evil come from? Only in the Christian faith do you have a Fall such that before the Fall everything was good. It was the Fall that introduced evil and from the Fall to the final judgment you have good and evil mixed together. What does that do? What is the accomplishment of this? What’s the benefit of the biblical view over against other views? It’s that it brackets evil.
If you don’t have a Fall and you don’t have judgment I’m sorry there is no way you can defend yourself against the charge that you are a total cynic and a pessimist when it comes to evil. You have no platform in which to oppose evil. You have no hope to see that one day evil is done away with. Deny the Fall and deny judgment and you’ve lost it.
So that’s another plank in the platform. Now we come to the Flood and the issue there is the doctrine of Judgment-Salvation. Why do we say those two words together? Think of the Flood: Who was judged? Who was saved? Was it the same mechanism that judged and saved? Yes, when God judges He also saves and when God saves He also judges. That’s an axiom that’s true in the Christian life. That’s an axiom that’s true in the world at large. That’s an axiom that is true throughout the great events of the Bible. You cannot have salvation without judgment.
Another example is what? It’s the second greatest example of judgment-salvation in the Old Testament after the Flood. Exodus, the Jewish Passover. Do you have judgment-salvation in both those things? In Exodus, what’s the judgment? The judgment is on Egypt and deliverance on Israel.
So you see those elements keep coming together, and of course you come down into the interregnum between the First and Second Advent of the Lord Jesus Christ and what do we have? We have judgment-salvation. How do we have that? Because at His Second Advent does Jesus judge? Yes. At the Second Advent does Jesus save? Yes, so that that’s a picture that stays with you through all Scripture.
Then we came to the covenant, which was the last thing prior to the guts of Old Testament; this was how civilization started. This covenant here is a very, very important covenant. It’s one of many covenants in the Bible; it’s not just one covenant, there are many covenants. The covenant is the Noahic Covenant which sets up what we call civilization.
What was different with this covenant that was not true with all this time period here? What new thing happened here? What new social institution came into existence historically? Remember? Back here at Creation we had marriage, we had family. What didn’t we have that we now have that started with this covenant? The state; the civil government; the right of capital punishment.
It’s amazing to me how so many Christians have a problem with capital punishment. Now I grant you, there are all kinds of problems with administrating it in practice, but what do you do with Genesis 9? What you do with Romans 13? What is the sword for the Roman soldier? What do you do with that? He wasn’t cutting his bread and shaving himself with it. Well maybe he was shaving himself with it but the point is it wasn’t a big Gillette blade that he was carrying around. It was to kill people. Are you going to say he was wrong to kill people?
Well you’ve got to say that because if you do not believe in capital punishment then you’re against the military; if you don’t believe in capital punishment then you’re against the policeman carrying the sidearm. What are those weapons for? They’re lethal weapons. How does the civil government get the authority to take life? See the capital punishment isn’t just the trial and the criminal being executed it’s any act of death that’s rendered by the state otherwise the state’s murdering. You can’t have it both ways.
So I have never understood Christians who profess to read the Scriptures have a problem here and I just want to ask them, “Is Genesis 9 in your Bibles? Is Romans 13 in your Bibles?” Now I know there are problems and it’s true that there are unfair and unequitable ways of administering capital punishment and those need to be dealt with, but the argument to sustain capital punishment in spite of the difficulties of administering was shown in what? What’s the grandest mistrial of all history? Who was capitally punished unjustly? The Lord Jesus Christ; the Son of the Father; and the Father was the one who instituted capital punishment.
Now is God omniscient or not? Of course He is. Did the Father know when He set up capital punishment on earth that His own Son would die in a mistrial and a misapplication of capital punishment? Was He surprised by that? No, so what’s the problem? God instituted it even though it would be misapplied at times. Now you have to be careful, this is not a carte blanche to be sloppy about it. It’s not a carte blanche to engage in any war we want to. There’s “just” war and there’s “unjust” war. There are certain legitimate court proceedings for capital punishment and then there are not. But you don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.
Okay so that’s all the basics; that’s the foundation, and we say it’s the buried foundation because it’s buried literally, under our feet in the stratigraphy of the earth, in the remains of that civilization. And it’s buried psychologically in the soul of man in the suppressed memory. So it’s the buried foundation in that two-fold sense.
Then of course we went into the history of Israel and we just skipped rapidly through this. I wanted to cover that foundation again because it’s so important and we can’t get enough of review of that.
Then we came to this; this was the introduction of the next set of events and we call this the disruptive kingdom. Why do we call it the disruptive kingdom? Because after the Fall who was the god of this world? Satan is the god of this world. So his kingdom of darkness reigns and so into that kingdom of darkness God begins to establish a growing, expanding piece of His ultimate plan of salvation and it’s going to be done through a counter-culture called the Jews.
So we have the call of Abraham; the doctrine of Election; the doctrine of Justification; the doctrine of Faith.
Then we come to the Exodus and this is the creation of the nation; judgment-salvation.
Then we have the expansion of judgment-salvation in blood atonement. We have Mt. Sinai; by the way, if people would please look at the sequence between Exodus and Sinai; people aren’t saved by keeping the Law. They were saved first and then the Law was given to them. See? Watch the sequence. Nobody is saved by the Law. It was blasphemous. That’s what the Muslims are trying to do. Get saved by the Law: good works, good works, good works. God must be so impressed by my good works He’s just going to open the door because I’m here. What a bunch of baloney!
So judgment-salvation; and then we come to Sinai and there we have the revelation of God; the inspiration of Scripture. We have the canon—a defined set of texts.
Now we come to the conquest and settlement; the one holy war that was authorized in history, which by the way never was completed because of the sinfulness of man, but it’s a picture of sanctification. The conquest and settlement; all of those war-like things are a picture of sanctification.
The rise and reign of David is the fact that the kingdom must have a leader, and so here you begin to have the first historical inkling of the coming Messiah because you have a king now.
Then what happened, that was the highlight of the Old Testament, and you had in David’s son, Solomon, you had the pinnacle of the wisdom. What are the books that Solomon either personally wrote or he was responsible for in the center of the Old Testament? We call it the “wisdom literature.” Proverbs, Song of Songs, Ecclesiastes. What characterizes wisdom literature? It’s the wisdom about life; skill in living. Does it cover economics? You bet. Does it cover sanitation law? Yes, it does. It’s an exposition and development of the Mosaic Law Code for the Kingdom.
Every area of life is contained in this and what does that mean? In the golden era of Solomon it’s an adumbration of the fact that the Kingdom of God is not just religious. This is a major point. It’s not just getting saved. The Kingdom of God is more than just getting saved. It is getting saved and then expanding and exercising the dominion that God gave Adam.
Dominion over what? Over nature. Not in a careless way but in a developmental way. We make things and tools out of iron ore found in the rock. We grow plants; we develop different botanical species from the seeds that God has given us. We get medicine from the plants. So it’s all part of the expansion of the Creator making the Creation and man learning how to be lord of the Creation.
So that’s the whole point of the golden era. That’s the big idea of all the wisdom literature. Then, of course, we have failure. We have the Kingdom divided, the Kingdom in decline, the Exile and Restoration. What’s the story here? What’s the lesson of all the rest of the Old Testament: all the chastening, all the repentance, all the mess-ups going on?
The lesson is the Kingdom of God cannot come by means of fallen man; an elementary statement. Now lest some of you think this is a trivial thing, let me develop this in a couple of sentences. All this, from the Kingdom divided in Kings and Chronicles, all the way to Malachi in the last book of the Old Testament, that whole section of Scripture is one continuous argument that the Kingdom of God requires sinlessness and cannot come about physically, politically, on the earth without that kind of leadership. That is why we’re premillennial; the Kingdom can’t come unless you have sinless leadership and when you do, when the Lord Jesus returns and the saints are resurrected, when you do have that condition met, then you will have the Kingdom of God on this planet. It will be physical; it will be politically visible but not until.
Now there’s a lesson learned here. Remember we dealt with premillennialism because premillennialism goes back into the 1st century when there was a Jewish influence on the church and Jews interpret Kingdom as a kingdom. They don’t allegorize it.
In the 4th century you had Augustine and some other guys that came along with an allegorical hermeneutics and he went into what we call Amillennialism, i.e., the idea that there is not going to be a kingdom or the idea that the Kingdom is so spiritual and not physical and not political that is could be identified with the church.
Here’s what happens: what was true of the Roman Catholic Church under Amillennialism? What political shape has Catholicism always done? What’s the relationship of the church and the state that Catholicism has historically pushed? Take it over; there’s always been dominion politically. Why? Because the church is identified with the state. The church and the state are allowed to come together under Amillennialism. This is why Lutheranism, to cite a Protestant version of it, was incapable of stopping Nazism. Lutheranism didn’t have a dynamic against it. The German Christians who opposed Nazism, many of whom left and fled, were largely brethren from Germany in the late 1930s and what clued them in was when Hitler started the Third Reich—the idea that this would be the kingdom to come. Uh oh, red flags! There is only one person to bring in the Kingdom to come and that’s the Lord Jesus. So Hitler’s claim to bring in the Kingdom is a marvelous betrayal of the idea that only the Messiah can bring in the Kingdom.
So wherever you have premillennialism you have a safety net that keeps the church out of the state business. That doesn’t mean Christians can’t participate in the state, but they do so as citizens of the state not as Christians per se. So church and state are kept separate under premillennialism.
Okay now into that we come now to the passage we want to get into which is Philippians 2. So if you’ll turn first to Hebrews 2 because we want to go there first and then we’ll get into the rest of the text. We come now to the Messiah.
The Lord Jesus announced through John, His King-making prophet who preceded Him, the message of John to prepare the way for Jesus was, repent, for what is at hand? What was John the Baptist’s message? “Repent, for the Kingdom of God is at hand”. The same phrase as “Kingdom of Heaven” in Matthew. The Kingdom is at hand.
Now the question is what did John mean when he said the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand? What he meant was that the King was at hand.
Now knowing just what you do real quickly from the New Testament, just collapse all the four Gospels for a moment into a great event here. The King was rejected nationally. Now He was accepted by many, but nationally and institutionally He was rejected. Now did the Kingdom come?
That’s the dilemma of the Church Age. Amillennialists have to believe, “Well golly the Kingdom has to be around here somewhere and I’m going to go find it, so I guess it must be the church.” Or do we say that the Kingdom of God was postponed, waiting until what condition is fulfilled? What did Jesus say as He came through the streets of Jerusalem prior to the Cross? I will not come until you say what? “Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord.” Until who says? Who was He talking to? Jews.
Until Israel says, “Blessed is He who comes,” Jesus will not come and that’s why the prophetic event will be the national conversion of Israel prior to the coming of the Kingdom. And Israel is still at the center of this. People like Hitler and Osama bin Laden can get very agitated over the existence of Israel, but I’ve got news: Israel is going to stay there. They’re not going to be knocked out with a nuclear weapon. They’re not going to be taken out militarily. Israel is in the land and Israel is going to stay in the land and the Temple is going to be rebuilt, much to Arafat’s dismay, or his successor. It will be rebuilt without everybody agreeing to it but there’s going to be a Temple there so that Jesus can walk into it. Also so that it can be defiled in defiance.
You see evil has to be shown for what it is and that’s one of the things: the wheat and the tares both grow together and part of the hatred and the anger towards the Jew, towards the church, towards Christians, has got to take place because evil has to show up as a concerted, played out, mature evil. Evil has to mature, just like the tares.
And that’s why as history marches on there is a progress that’s happening. The church becomes more robust. There’s a development theologically, and evil develops theologically. Evil becomes ever more sophisticated. In our day we’re seeing a new dimension to evil and the new dimension I think that we’re seeing is globalized evil.
Now we’re beginning to get a global conscience, a union so to speak globally between sides. This is really necessary because if Jesus had come back in AD 700, was there a global awareness in AD 700? I doubt it. There has to be first developed an awareness that we’re all in this together as a human race and that’s when all that preparatory work will make us appreciate the coming of Christ.
Now Jesus comes, and we want to look at four events here. We’re going to look at only one tonight and that’s His birth and you remember when we went through the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ that that is the basis for what theologians call the “Hypostatic Union.” What do we mean by the Hypostatic Union? The Creed of Chalcedon basically says undiminished deity and true humanity. Notice the adjectives: Undiminished deity and true humanity. Not part. Jesus wasn’t just a human body that God indwelled.
There was a survey recently and they surveyed Christians in Christian colleges and the kids in Christian college couldn’t get it right. They thought that Jesus was God walking around in a body. Excuse me, what does it say in John 1? The Word walked around in a body or it became flesh?
So we have in one Person undiminished deity, but we also have true humanity. There was an actual human spirit, a human soul, besides a human body. Christians can’t get their basic Christology right yet. So we have undiminished deity, true humanity, united in one Person forever without confusion.
Why do they add that “without confusion”? To protect what? The Creator/creature distinction. It’s not erased even in the Person of Christ. Now how do you get that together in one person? Only because man, the creature, is made in whose image? So it fits together.
See, if there’s a separation so big, a metaphysical separation like some of the liberal theologians say, between God and man, then Jesus was a schizo. He never could’ve been united in one person. The fact that He is united in one Person shows you that the Creator/creature fits together at the point of a human being, and that is the Lord Jesus. So we have the Hypostatic Union. Skipping the life for a moment, we’ll go on to that in a minute, the death, the substitutionary blood atonement, and the resurrection; the glorification.
Here’s what we want to do tonight. In the remaining time we want to look at Bible passages having to do with this: the life of Christ. There were three doctrines that we identified and linked with the life of Christ. We’re only going to talk about two tonight because these two give background to regeneration in the New Testament. The three are: kenosis, impeccability, and infallibility. We’ll not talk about infallibility tonight.
We’re going to talk about two doctrines: kenosis and impeccability. So let’s turn first in Hebrews 2, and in Hebrews 2:10 what is asserted about the Person of the Lord Jesus in so far as sanctification is concerned? Said another way, what we’re asking is, did Jesus need sanctification? You’ve got to think this one through. This one is kind of tricky; a tricky question. The issue is the Lord Jesus Christ and the issue of sanctification. Did He need it or did He not?
Let’s read Hebrews 2:10. This is one of many verses: For it was fitting for Him; who is the Him? The pronoun refers to which Person of the Trinity? For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, through whom are all things, in many things to perfect the author of their salvation. It looks like the “Him” refers to the Father. For is was fitting for Him, for whom all are all things and through whom are all things, to bring many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation by means of what? Sufferings; did Jesus get perfected? We’ve got to screw our thinking caps on here now. Let’s think this one out.
If Jesus had to be perfected, what did He get perfected from? Was He sinful? We can’t say that. So now you see we’re introduced to something about sanctification that you might not have thought about before. Sanctification, in order to apply to Jesus, has got to refer to something other than just sin. Sanctification we can define many ways, but one way of defining it has been over the years as a growth in loyalty to God which comes about only by obedience. Growth in loyalty to God.
Now how is loyalty to God developed? What does it say in the passage? Through suffering. What suffering? What particular kind of suffering did Jesus suffer? The Cross: the greatest suffering in His life. What was the crisis over Him personally? He labored over whether He should obey the Father in that famous passage in Gethsemane when He said, Not who’s will? “Not My will but Your will be done.”
Now is there any sin involved in that? Yet Jesus had to be tested to that. So there’s an important thing in sanctification and that is that it is talking about growth in loyalty and that appears to have happened in our lives by choices that we make. We are given in the history of our lifetime a certain number of choices to make and depending on how we choose, whether we choose to submit, choose to obey, or whether we choose not to obey, not to submit, controls in the human sense the scope of our sanctification.
Well you say then, what about sin? Well, sin comes in because we are sinful. So what is our problem besides Jesus? Jesus didn’t have that problem. Jesus wasn’t encumbered by a sin nature. That didn’t make it easier for Him, by the way, as we’ll see in a little bit. But we have a sin nature, a flesh that weighs us down.
So it’s impossible for us to choose, unless God gives us the grace. But when we do choose, we’re choosing against a background of sin as well as our original calling in Adam. Because when Adam and Eve were called in the Garden, what were they called to do? To subdue; to obey. If they hadn’t fallen would they still have had to be sanctified? Yes? No? Yes, because Jesus had to be sanctified. So there’s a dimension here in the life of Christ that He had to undergo sanctification and out of that now comes some tremendous doctrine.
So on our way to Philippians let’s go over to Acts 1:7. This is His ascension: Acts 1:7. Now this is applied to the disciples, but the same thing applied to Jesus during His lifetime. He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or the epics which the Father has fixed by his own authority.” What’s the point? The point is that when we face trials and choices and pressure not to choose not the right way, it is most of the time, or 100 percent of the time, in a situation where we don’t know all the cards. We would like to know, what is God doing here? What is God doing there? Why is this happening? Why did that happen to me? I don’t understand this and I don’t understand what God is doing in this life.
But what does Acts 1:7 direct us to do? Leave it in the Lord’s hands with the confidence that He has a plan whether we know it or not. It is not for you to know the times or the epics. There are things that God isn’t going to reveal to us and that’s part of the test of sanctification. That’s part of the idea that all of those events in the Bible that are studied is to develop a confidence in God and the fact that He knows what He’s doing; the fact that He has a plan for your life; the fact that everything that happens in your life, everything to the smallest detail is all under His control even though He doesn’t share with you all the details of what He is doing. This is an example that Jesus had to walk in this pathway too along with us. That’s what is meant to have true humanity.
Let’s turn over to Philippians 2 now because this is the central passage on the doctrine of Kenosis and it summarizes, it’s put in a passage of the Bible that’s “the practical,” and yet it’s a doctrine that is very, very difficult and deep. It shows you how Paul mixed when he dealt with practical problems. He didn’t go to the nearest psychology text; he went to the heart of God Himself and approached it theologically.
So in Philippians 2:5 he says, and by the way, look up verses 1, 2, 3, and 4 just to get the context, it’s a church problem; it’s a fellowship problem. Verse 3, it’s a conceit problem; it’s a selfishness problem with people not regarding everyone more important than themselves. You know, it’s our normal operating behavior.
So verse 5 is set in the context of Christians that can’t get along with each other and it says to have this attitude in yourself which was also in Christ Jesus. Now you can’t have the attitude in yourself that was in Christ Jesus if you don’t have a grasp of the humanity of Jesus Christ. So this demands that we understand something about what goes on in Jesus’ mind as a human being; as true humanity. “Have this attitude in yourselves which is also in Christ Jesus.”
Now it’s explained in verses 6, 7, and 8. He says, “Who, although He exists in a form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bondservant, being made in the likeness of man, being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross.” That is the doctrine of Kenosis. The main verb in all that thing is what? Humbled Himself. That’s the heart of the doctrine of Kenosis.
The question now comes: how did Jesus humble Himself? Did He diminish His Deity? How and in what sense did Jesus humble Himself? He was the second Person of the Trinity. So how is this humbling happening?
Well we know, if we had time tonight we would go, but you remember when I went through this passage that I took you through a series of verses in the Gospels that showed Jesus to be “lacking” in knowledge. For example, Jesus would ask people information questions. Now if He’s God and He’s omniscient, why did He have to ask people for information? Because He didn’t possess the information in His humanity.
So there are those passages. Then there are passages which show that He clearly does have omniscience. There are flashes, momentary flashes, where all of a sudden, what did He say? He suddenly knew things. Like He says to Nathan, “Hey, I know you Nathan. I saw you sitting over there in a tree.” What? A sudden thing took probably ten seconds to say and suddenly the guy is like, “What did He say? What was that?” Jesus was always doing that kind of stuff.
You know you go 98% of the time He looked like a normal person and then there were these 2% deals that would pop out and He would say these things. Like the guards come up to Him. Is He omnipotent or not? It says that He cast out demons not by His omnipotence, by what? When He had to cast out demons He did it by means of the Holy Spirit.
When He talked to His disciples He said, “These don’t come out of the people except by fasting and prayer.” Why doesn’t He do His omnipotence? When Satan came to Him and said, “Why don’t You make the rocks into bread?” He could have, in His omnipotence. See what Satan was wanting to do? He wanted Jesus to cheat because if he could get Jesus to meet trials and adversities of life with His deity He would be disqualified as our Savior. Jesus’ trial was to do the Father’s will the same way we do it.
We have to rely by faith on the assets that God gives. Jesus had to do the same thing. The only times that He flashed His deity were in special cases where the Father allowed Him to do that to show who He was.
But this humbling is what we mean by kenosis and we can summarize the doctrine of kenosis by saying this: Jesus humbled Himself. Now be careful—be careful of these words. Jesus humbled Himself by giving up His own right to exercise His attributes. He turned that over to the Father. If the Father wanted Him to exercise them, fine. If not, no, but on His own, as the second Person of the Godhead, in some way He did not use the implicit authority that came to Him as the second Person of the Trinity. All the time, He, almost like a test pilot, He put the filling of the Holy Spirit, He put walking by faith under fire.
Now at Aberdeen Proving Ground we test things. We have torture tracks for truck frames. We run heavy vehicles over this framing just trying to twist this sucker. We have guns that we put in mud to see if they’ll fire in the mud. We have bullets and fuses that we bang against the concrete to see if they’ll go; whether they’ll detonate or not. So we have all these tests to see whether the thing does as the contractor says it’s supposed to do.
Now if you can visualize this; it’s helped me to visualize this and maybe it will help some of you. Visualize Jesus as a tester of the Christian way of life; that He put it through the extreme test and He was victorious. He walked by faith. He utilized the filling of the Holy Spirit. And the doctrine of Kenosis means that He agreed to do that. Now that has ramifications.
Another passage I want to take you to besides Philippians 2 tonight to show you this is embedded in the text; we’re not reading this in. Turn to John 17 a moment—the high priestly prayer. He makes a comment here that is sort of intriguing in light of what we’ve been saying tonight. John 17:5 says, as Jesus prays to His Father in Gethsemane: “Now glorify Me with Thyself Father with the glory that I had with Thee before the world was.”
Now clearly if He is praying to get glory that He had when He was praying He didn’t have it. That’s a pluperfect tense—it means the action is over in the past; it’s not true now. He’s asking to have glory restored to Him that He didn’t have in Gethsemane. That’s part of the kenosis. That’s the full manifestation of His deity.
It’s like a lampshade. You have a bright bulb, put a lampshade over it. Visualize that; another example. The lampshade is the Son of God in union with humanity and so the bulb doesn’t shine except through the lampshade. So what He’s saying is, “Father, take off the lampshade so I can shine.”
So obviously John 17:5 is talking about a change and it implies that He did not have the glory that He had before the foundation of the world while He was walking around on earth. The glory was shielded, taken away, done away with; something, but something’s changed here. So all of that to apply and make three basic applications of kenosis and we’ll move on to the second doctrine.
Well, that’s what they said of the Puritans, too, and one of the great unbelieving British historians wrote of the Puritans that everybody laughed at them but those who ever met them on the halls of debate or on the battle field stopped laughing because people who are humble before God have courage before man. So a basic virtue in the Christian religion, in the Christian life, is humility before God. It doesn’t mean being a doormat. It means being humble before whatever God has for you.
But the point is that God has structured the universe all the way up to the high level of the Trinity based on authority. And when it says that Jesus humbled Himself before His Father, it meant He accepted the Father’s authority. And another point about application #2 which applies to those who, like the modern feminist movement thinks that subordination to authority means inferiority in being, how does the doctrine of the Trinity refute that? Let’s think about that.
If the Son is subordinate to the first Person of the Trinity, you’ve got subordination. Do you have inferiority of essence? You better not. Do you remember when we went through that, in the notes I quoted from some evangelical ladies who put this book together about why they were feminists; why feminism was good and when they hit passages like this they really hit scrambled eggs when they wrote their book because they couldn’t handle the doctrine of the Trinity correctly. I thought that was very, very interesting because they were so taken up with the worldview idea that if I am subordinate to somebody in some authority structure, that makes me less of a person than the person that I am under authority to. Well if that’s true then the Trinity is out the door. So that is a fatal theological error there.
Another point under point 3 is not only the basis of Christ’s priesthood; it’s His basis for judging us. The Father has turned over judgment to the Son. Why has the Father turned over judgment to the Son? So you have a trial by jury of peers. Talk about a jury that has to be on a peer with the person being accused. So at the same time He is the judge, but He’s also the jury in the sense here that He’s a peer. We’re going to be judged by a peer, not judged by a god that just stayed in heaven and didn’t do anything; He never walked down here and we can make an appeal: Oh God You never did this, You never did that, You never did something else. Don’t blow smoke at me baby, I was there!
So do you see how this doctrine of Kenosis is a very important one?
Now we want to go quickly to the second one, and that is a difficult one. That is reflections on this whole issue that theologians have come with and it’s called the doctrine of Impeccability. Now impeccability means “without sin.” Everybody agrees that Jesus was without sin, at least all Bible-believing parties to the debate.
The question is, however, clarifying it, and you remember when we went through this that we had two ways of saying it: able not to sin, and not able to sin. Remember that? You change the order of the words and you’ve got a little meaning change here and you’ve got to screw on the thinking caps again. Was Jesus able not to sin? Well clearly He was because He didn’t so at least we know statement one is correct.
Could statement one be said of Adam and Eve? Were they able not to sin? They must have been or else they wouldn’t have been genuinely tempted. So the first statement is less controversial than the second one. The second one is a little more difficult.
The first one is true of true humanity, but the problem is that Jesus as the Son of God was also undiminished deity. Now if He is undiminished deity that He is not able to sin. So the problem is, how could Jesus be tempted if He was impeccably not able to sin? That’s a difficult thing. That’s something you can chew on for a while. That will develop meat in the soul; get the gray matter running. It really is. These are thoughts that are deep and profoundly more important than the latest five-minute commercial or the sports results or something. This is how you build the mentality of your soul—by reflecting on these great truths. They’re soul builders.
Not able to sin. Jesus was tempted even though as God He was not able to sin. And you remember in the notes there’s a diagram that I put in there on page 65 that Brook Foss Westcott (1825–1901), who was one of the great exegetes in the 19th century in England, had a statement, and I built a diagram to illustrate Westcott’s statement. Westcott said, up in the first paragraph there, he said, “Sympathy with the sinner in this trial does not depend upon the experience of sin but upon the experience of the strength of temptation to sin, which only,” and here’s where he dealt with this question, not able to sin.
See the issue is temptation. How can Jesus be a sympathetic Priest and deal with this thing? Temptation is not sin; those are two different words. Was Jesus tempted? How do we know Jesus was tempted? If I challenged you, what passage would you take me to show that genuinely Jesus was tempted? Satan’s solicitations, right? Matthew 4.
So Jesus was tempted by Satan; the Bible tells us He was tempted by Satan, but temptation isn’t sin. Jesus didn’t sin, but He was tempted. Now clearly He was being tempted, but yet as God He was not able to sin. In His humanity He was able not to sin. Well on this diagram what I tried to show is because He had a perfect divine nature, the pressure of temptation became more excruciating to Him than it ever would for us, because we cave before the pressure gets that high. But it’s like His humanity is stuck to His deity.
So if I tempt His humanity here, and His humanity can’t go anywhere because His humanity is in union with His deity, we jack up the pressure. That’s what Satan is doing. He’s jacking up the pressure here. Now we cave; we flop, but He, as it were, couldn’t flop because His humanity is united with His deity so He had to take the full heat. So it’s not true that just because He was not able to sin; just because He was God, doesn’t mean He couldn’t be tempted.
And the point here in all this goes back really to reinforce the issue of kenosis—the fact that He can be a sympathetic High Priest. It also shows that the Lord Jesus Christ had choice and didn’t have to sin. Why is that important? Well, have you heard it said that the evil in the world is the world because if the evil wasn’t in the world we couldn’t have real choice? There’s a little bit of sloppiness in that argument because God could have made a world of choice in which there would be temptation, external temptation, like Jesus, and yet have none of those being tempted falling. And the proof of it is Jesus.
Now what is the application? Next week we’re going to bring the notes we had from last time. We’re on regeneration. We’re taking the event machine further on; we’re going to talk about Pentecost, what the Holy Spirit has done. The Holy Spirit now puts the life of Christ in us. This all folks is part of the life of Christ. It’s the sinlessness of Jesus Christ. It’s the kenosis. It’s the humility and so forth. And yet we sin.
So how do we get together the idea of 1 John 3? That’s what we’re going to deal with. That he who has the seed doesn’t sin, yet in the very same epistle he talks about brothers sinning. So it can’t be teaching sinless perfection, yet it teaches something here that you have to think about. You can’t just flop over it.
What does Paul mean when he says in Galatians 2:20, “Not I but Christ lives in me?” Now how do we handle that one? What we do with a passage in Romans 7 where he says that, “So then it is not I that sins but sin is in me?”
So there’s a thing you have to get together here: on the one hand the Bible is not teaching sinless perfection. Clearly not, the very epistle of John is talking about confessing sin. So the Bible is not saying that we don’t sin. But the Bible is saying something about this regeneration thing and the nature that is given to us after Pentecost, after Jesus ascends to Heaven, after Jesus gets the promise of the Father and after Jesus sends the Holy Spirit to earth. Then and only then all of a sudden the Bible is talking about Christ in us. That’s not Old Testament terminology; that never happened in the Old Testament. This is something that is totally post-Old Testament. So we have to come to grips with that and that’s what we’re going to move on to.
So tonight has been all preparatory to seeing that the Lord Jesus Christ had genuine humanity; He was genuinely tempted; He passed the tests, and the tests that He passed are the same tests we go through. That’s why He is a sympathetic High Priest.
“Father, we thank You for our time together tonight. We thank You that You have given us an example in the Person of the Lord Jesus. We thank You that You did not just stay in Heaven but that You sent Your Son to come to planet Earth to experience the heartache, the pain, the fatigue, the conditions that we have to live under, in order to be a hope for us that His life dwelling in us through the filling of the Holy Spirit can cope with those very same issues. We thank You now for all these blessings through the Person of the Lord Jesus, Amen.”