Now, Contending for the Faith. In this regular feature, Dave and Tom respond to questions from listeners and readers of The Berean Call. Here’s this week’s question: “Dear Dave and Tom: I know you have addressed the deity and humanity of Jesus before, but I wonder just how far we can go in trying to understand how the two can work together?”
Tom: This is a tough issue, Dave, but I think the verse that I think about—and maybe we could start off with that—this is Hebrews:5:7-9: “Who in the days of his flesh, [speaking about Jesus] when he had offered up prayers and supplications, with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard, in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered; And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him.” He learned obedience by the things which he suffered—doesn’t seem like something God, talking about the deity of Christ, would go through.
Dave: Well, the eternal Son, member of the Trinity, became a man. You get that in Isaiah:9:6: “For unto us a child is born… [that’s the babe born in Bethlehem], unto us a Son is given… [that’s the eternal Son of God].” You read of Him in Psalm:2:12: “Kiss the Son, lest he be angry.” You learn of Him in Proverbs 30—it talks about “Who is it that put the stars in the space?” and so forth, “and stretched out the heavens. What is his name, and what is his Son’s name?” We’re not making this up, or this isn’t some Christian doctrine.
So, the Old Testament talked about the Son. So, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given,” and He became man: “The Word was made flesh… [John:1:14], and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Tom: Jesus said, “When you have seen me you have seen the Father.”
Dave: Exactly, but as a man—He is God and man in one person—we can’t separate that. When God, the Son of God—God the Son, is how I like to say—became man, He didn’t cease to be God because God can’t cease to be God. God can’t change. But He became man, okay? Well then, He is going to fully live as a man, and, you know, as a little boy in Bethlehem…
Tom: Dave, by restricting some things with regard to His deity, or not?
Dave: No, He still is God, but He is God and man in one person. And when his mother, Mary, told him, as a little boy, “Go down to the well and get some water,” He didn’t say, “Hey, wait a minute! Who do you think you are ordering around? I’m the creator of the universe!” Tom, it’s hard for us to understand. He learned obedience. How do you learn obedience? He learned obedience because He had to obey—He obeyed His parents, as a child should do. He obeyed the Father; He humbled Himself, Philippians:2:8 says, “and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
So, though He was the eternal Son of God, now He is learning, He is experiencing, something that He never experienced in eternity past as God.
Tom: Dave, you’ve responded to people—I think about some letters that you have written to people addressing the subject—and one point that you make is, that it has nothing to do with knowledge; God is omniscient—He knows all these things. But when it says “experienced,” previous to that, He didn’t have that experience, but He had the knowledge of it. He’s omniscient. Again, I think you have to make that distinction.
Dave: Yes, He humbles Himself and lived as a man on this earth. In order to do that, He had to become a man. How could God, the eternal Son of God, who is “invisible, dwells in a light that no man can approach unto”—how could He walk this earth and learn obedience? He had to become a man, He had to become a man, also, to redeem men because “by one man sin entered in,” by a man the penalty would be paid. But of course, He had to be God to pay the infinite penalty, yet He had to be a man to die for our sins. And so it is a mystery, Tom, and I can’t change that—we can’t change that.
Paul writes, “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness; God manifest in the flesh,” and do I dare to say that’s why I have problems with some of the movies that come out, where you’ve got an actor pretending to be Jesus. Now, I understand they’re are trying to make the Bible come alive, and we’re going to see it in action before us. But wait a minute! God manifest in the flesh? And some human, some actor—no matter how good an actor he may be—is going to portray God manifest in the flesh? I think it’s an abomination, in my opinion.
Tom: Dave, on a personal level, when I find verses—this is helpful to me—when I find verses in which I try to, out of my own understanding, come to a conclusion about God, the caution for me is, I had better not diminish God’s character, or the term we use is “anthropomorphize.” In other words, He is human, He is in the flesh, but He is God. So, to give Him attributes or qualities that come out of my own imagination, or my own flesh, that can be a problem.
Dave: And in the movies, they try to make him a “regular guy,” generally, or often, and he kind of talks a little slangy or whatever, and a good buddy to His disciples—I don't think so. I don’t know, but you can’t portray God in the flesh. But it’s a mystery, and He did become a man; He is genuine man, He is fully God and fully man.
Tom: Perfect, sinless.
Dave: Right. The real man, as God intended man to be. And He has lifted us up, and we will be like Him because of our faith in His death for our sins.
Tom: So, our caution is, go with what the Scriptures say, don’t go beyond it, don’t fall short of it. As best you can, understand God according to His Word.