This sermon is number 3 in a series of 5
The Man Of The Millennium - Part 3
"The Humanity Of Christ"
by David Legge | Copyright © 2000 | All Rights Reserved | www.preachtheword.com
Now let's turn in our Bibles to the reading for our subject today, Philippians chapter 2, Philippians chapter 2 - and let me say that there isn't much practical implications of the messages that I'm bringing to you in these weeks, as we study the Man that made the millennium, the Lord Jesus Christ. We are studying His character and His person, but the reason for doing it is not that you go away from the meeting and say, 'Well, what am I going to do now? How am I going to change my life? How am I going to obey what I've heard in the word of God?', that's not the purpose of these studies. They're not studies of exhortation, but they are studies of devotion. In order to understand this blessed Person whom we say is our Lord and our God, in order that we may be drawn in worship to Him - if there is any purpose that I want out of these studies, it's this: that we will be caught up in love, and wonder, and praise of our blessed Lord Jesus. Let us read this passage together, beginning at verse 5 of chapter 2: "Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father".
Our Father, we pray, as we come to Thy truth now, that the Holy Spirit would reveal Him whom He delights to reveal - the Lord Jesus Christ. Fill, we pray, with Thy Spirit, in Jesus name, Amen.
The humanity of Christ - I mentioned, I think it was last Lord's day morning, that in the 4th century AD there was a man called Arius who was a presbyter, or an elder if you like, of the church in Alexandria. And he began to propagate the view that Jesus Christ, though he was the Son of God, could not be co-equal with His Father - and therefore He must be regarded as, not God, but simply a creature, a great creature He may be, but only a creature. Arianism, as it was called, could be classified as the ancestor of modern Unitarianism today. Then, also in the 4th century, a man called Apollonarius (sp?) - bishop, or elder of Laodicea in Syria - wrote against Arianism and other heresies that were around in his day, but in his zealousness to maintain the truth that Christ was God he went overboard, and said that Christ had a human body but He didn't possess a human spirit. That's a warning to us all: that in our zealousness to counteract false doctrine we need to beware that we don't go overboard to the other extreme. And what Apollonarius was saying was this: that because Christ Jesus did not have a human soul and spirit, he was denying His true and complete humanity. Then in the 5th century, another man called Nestorius, who was a church father in Constantinople, he taught that Christ was both God and man, but that Christ consisted of two separate persons - two people, and at one moment in Christ's life the God-person would come upon Him, and at another moment the man, Christ Jesus - His humanity - would be displayed. Instead of two natures, he taught two people in the figure and in the body of the Lord Jesus Christ. In this same era of time lived a man called Eutychios, he was a monk in Constantinople, and he was such a zealous foe of Nestorius, who said that there were two people in Christ, that he proposed that the human nature of Christ was absorbed into His divine nature - in other words, the two became a cocktail, and you couldn't tell what was divine or human, they were both mixed together.
Now the early church met these heretics with four adverbs, which briefly and conveniently define what the two natures of Christ are, and how we are to understand them: that He is both God and man. They said this: that when the Word was made flesh, the divine and the human natures were united, truly - remember that word - truly, that was to oppose the Arians, who said that He was not God. Then they went on to say: that the two natures of God and man were united in Christ perfectly - that was to oppose the Apollonarians. Then they said: that the two natures were united undividedly - that was to oppose the Nestorians, who said that there were two people in the person of Christ. And then fourthly, they used this fourth adverb: unmixed - to oppose the Eutychios. If you didn't understand all that, don't worry, because I find it had to understand. But what I do understand is this: that from the dawn of time, and from the birth of Christ, men and women have disputed that He was God and He was man.
This man that I mentioned, Apollonarius, bishop of Laodicea, said that Christ couldn't have a human soul, because he believed that the soul was the seat of sin - and therefore the sinless Son of Man couldn't have one! We could sympathise with that - it's not right, it's false doctrine, but we can understand how a man, in his logic when he's trying to put these two things together, that Christ was God and Christ was man, can come to logical conclusion like this. Christian Science believes what Apollonarius believed then - and you find that there's nothing new under the sun, and everything that was believed then by the false doctrines [is] around today. Christian Science says this: 'Christ is spiritual, He was a spiritual body, not a human body' - and they deny the reality of the Lord's physical body and His true humanity. And this is what the word of God says, John the Apostle in 1 John 4 verse 3 said it to the heretics then, and we can say it to them now: 'Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: this is the spirit of antichrist'.
So if that is what the Bible does not say about the Lord Jesus, what does the Bible say? And what do we believe? Someone has said this: 'We allow His humanity to fade away before the majesty of His divinity'. We get so taken up by the fact that Christ is God - and He is God - that we ignore the fact that He is described as the man, Christ Jesus. What does the Bible say about His humanity? Let me go through a few things, and if you're taking notes I would advise you to do it. He is man, because the word of God says He has human ancestry - you go through the Gospels, particularly the first chapters, and you see that He was born of the virgin Mary, He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh. The Gospels refer to His brothers, and His sisters, and His immediate family - and we read in the beginning chapters of the Gospels, His genealogy and lineage is fully recorded and outlined for us there. He had human ancestry.
Secondly, He had a human appearance. If you think of John chapter 4, so far as the woman of Samaria was concerned, Jesus was - at first glance - just another hated Jew for her. There was nothing special about His appearance, nothing unusual about Him. You remember the two dispirited disciples that walked along the road to Emmaus, and they recognised Christ who was with them, only as a stranger - another fellow citizen - and they couldn't understand why He hadn't heard what was going on in their home town. Even after the resurrection, you remember, Mary mistook Him for the gardener, when the disciples returned from their fishing expedition, they mistook Christ for simply another man - all of which combined to bear witness to the humanness of the physical appearance of Jesus Christ. That is why Isaiah said this: 'He had no form or comeliness, that when we should see Him we should desire Him'. He had human ancestry, he had a human appearance.
Thirdly, He had a human constitution. And that simply means this: that the Lord Jesus Christ possessed all the central elements of human nature - whatever it is to be man, apart from sin, Jesus Christ was that. We are made up - we are tripartite beings - we are made up of three things: body, soul and spirit. All human beings are made of those three things. If you look at Matthew 26, you find the Lord speaking of His body, He said: 'For in that she hath' - speaking of Mary anointing Him - 'she hath poured this ointment on my body'. You read of Him speaking of His soul in Matthew 26, 'Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death'. And then in Luke chapter 23, we read of His spirit: 'And when Jesus had cried with a loud voice, he said, Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit'. Remember when He addressed doubting Thomas - what did He do? To show that He was risen from the dead, He appealed to His humanity, to the reality of His human body as a basis for the belief that He had risen from the dead: 'Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself, handle Me and see'.
Now we need to be careful, because when we distinguish between a human nature, we need to make sure that we distinguish between a human nature and a sinful nature. They're two different things. You see, human nature did not need to be sinful in nature! Sin is not a necessary element of human nature, but it is a Satanic intrusion within the Garden of Eden, into the soul of men. He was human by His human ancestry, by His human appearance, by His human constitution - but I want you to see this: also by His human reputation. He called Himself the 'Son of Man'. Now often people think that this proves Christ's humanity - the title 'Son of Man' hasn't really much to do with Christ's humanity, it's a prophetic title that was given to the one, the Messiah who would come and fill up all the prophecies of the prophets in the Old Testament. You find in the book of Ezekiel and the book of Daniel, that both Ezekiel and Daniel are called 'Son of Man, Son of Man, Son of Man', because of the prophetic nature of those books. But innate within that title the 'Son of Man', it must give a reference to His humanity, because a prophet had to be human. Also, Christ was designated not just man by Himself through the favourite title that He had, but He was designated man by others.
Let me say this: if Christ was not human - listen to these biblical truths that are at stake - the death of the Lord is at stake, because only a human being can die; the resurrection of the Lord is at stake, because only a [human] corpse can be resurrected; His claim to Messiahship disappears, because the Messiah had to be a man; His fulfilment of the promises to be the descendant of David to sit on the human throne - it's obliterated! His offices of prophet, priest and king disappear; the virgin birth is a farce - the fulfilment of these Scriptures: 'I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed' - there would be a seed, a human seed, that would conquer Satan. And even after His resurrection, Christ Jesus went out of His way to prove the genuineness of His human body. Listen to the titles that we read of Him in the Gospels: Son of Man; the Man, Christ Jesus; Jesus - just 'Jesus', and some people despise calling Jesus simply 'Jesus', but don't despise it, because it identifies Christ with your humanity! - the Son of David; Man of Sorrows.
But fifthly, not just a human reputation, about what He said about Himself, and about what other men said about Him: but we read within the word of God that He had human infirmities. You see, scripture provides abundant evidence that our Lord was subject to all the ordinary, sinless infirmities of our human nature. This is mind-boggling, listen to this quote: 'There is not a note in the great organ of our humanity', says one writer, 'which, when touched, does not find a sympathetic vibration in the mighty range and scope of our Lord's being - save of course the jarring discord of sin'. Like every other man, He hungered - you read about it in Mark 11:12 - but you know the word of God, God's revelation, says that God is never hungry. But Jesus hungered. After a strenuous day's work and travel, it says in John 4:6, that He was weary - but God, the word of God says in Isaiah 40, can never be weary: 'Hast thou not known? Hast thou not heard, that the everlasting God, the Lord, the Creator of the ends of the earth, fainteth not, neither is weary? There is no searching of his understanding'. The Gospels tell us that He slept, yet the Psalmist tells us that God neither slumbers nor sleeps! The Gospels tell us that He was moved with compassion and sympathy, that He wept. The Gospel tells us that He craved human sympathy, it tells us that He was tempted - yet James tells us that God cannot be tempted! He was a man whose eyes flashed with anger over the desecration of His Fathers house, and the hardness of His people's hearts. And finally of all, John 19 tells us this: that He died - and God cannot die. He had human infirmities.
But sixthly, He had human limitations. Now we need to think [about] this, and grasp this: that although - as we studied last Lord's Day - the Lord never gave up anything of His divine powers, one of the ways in which He humbled Himself, that we've read about in chapter 2 and verse 8 of Philippians, is to become subject to human limitations. As a child, He submitted to the ordinary laws of human development. He - the word of God teaches - learned knowledge as the other boys and girls of His day did, and Jesus increased, it says, in wisdom and stature, and in favour with God and man - He learned! Like ourselves, He was not self-sustained - what do I mean by that? I mean this: that we read of God that He has life within Him - He doesn't need life from an outside source - He is the source of life! But we read within the Gospels - and this is mind-blowing! - that Christ needed prayer and communion for support of His spiritual life, and in all of His great life's crises He resorted to prayer for guidance and for strength - because He was subject to human limitations of power. Hebrews 5 and verse 7, listen: 'Who in the days of his flesh, 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' - Christ was in the garden, I believe, and as He was looking forward to what He would suffer at Calvary, there in Gethsemane He was near unto death and He feared that He wouldn't get to Calvary! - and He had to pray to God to strengthen Him to get Him through it. The Bible teaches that He did not exercise His omnipotence that He had, but He exercised prayer. He obtained power, never from His divine nature, in a human sense, not from the divine works that He performed - they did not come from within Him, in a sense, but they came out of prayer to God. Read how many times He looked up to heaven and prayed!
Now, it's confusing, very confusing. And I look at this, and I say to myself, 'Well' - like these heretics of old, you try and legitimise it, and logicise it, and work it all out in your mind, and you say - 'How could He be God yet have these limitations?'. But the fact is this, and we've looked at this verse three weeks in a row, but it gets deeper in our understanding as we look at the Christ: 'He was rich, yet for our sakes He became poor'. He voluntarily subjected Himself, not to use these things, as part of His humiliation.
And He went, seventhly, through human suffering. Think of this: though He was God's Son, He did not exempt Himself from suffering - and the very fact that He was a sinless human being, I believe, made Him more sensitive to pain. And being in agony, He sweat as it were great drops of blood, falling to the ground - Augustus Strong says this: 'Because Christ was God, did He pass unscorched through the fires of Gethsemane and Calvary? Rather let us say, because Christ was God, He underwent a suffering that was absolutely infinite'. John Owen, the great Puritan theologian, said this: 'He suffered not as God, but He suffered who was God'. And, with the exception of being sinful, everything that can be said about you and I as human beings could be said about Jesus Christ.
Now, I want us to turn now to look at how the two natures of Christ relate to one another. You see, we read within the word of God that this man, Christ Jesus, was God manifest in the flesh. Wesley put it like this:
'Veiled in flesh, the Godhead see,
Hail the Incarnate Deity.
Pleased as man with man to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel'.
God with us. The Belgic Confession of AD1561 put it like this: 'We confess that He is very God and very man. Very God by His power to conquer death, and very man that He might die for us'. Daniel Webster, the great statesman, was one day dining with a company of literary men in the city of Boston, and the conversation turned upon Christianity - and as the occasion was in honour of Mr Webster himself, he was expected to take a leading part in the conversation. And he frankly stated, around that table, his belief in the Godhood of Christ, and his dependence upon His atonement. A Unitarian minister opposite him said this: 'Mr Webster, can you comprehend how Jesus Christ could be both God and man?'. 'No, Sir. I cannot understand it', replied Mr Webster, 'and I would be ashamed to acknowledge Him as my Saviour if I could comprehend it! He could be no greater than myself, and such is my conviction of accountability to God, my sense of sinfulness before Him, and my knowledge of my own incapacity to recover myself - that I felt I need a super-human Saviour!'.
Now I'm not going to say that I can explain the two natures of Christ to you, because if I could I would be as great as Him. But one thing I know is this: that I need Him to be God and man! You see, it's just as wrong to say that Christ was God and yet not man, as it is to say that He was man and yet not God. The first thing I want you to notice about the two natures of Christ is this: that they are mysterious. What did Paul say to Timothy, 1 Timothy 3 verse 16: 'Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh'. Now what is the mystery? The mystery is this: that I can't pluck a plant from the soil, or take a beast from the field, or a bird from the air to illustrate to you in some natural way how Christ can be both God and man in the one person. What I would do by doing that, would be to confuse, rather than clarify. And we must therefore do something - it's very hard for us, as sinful human beings, to do this - we must admit that we can't understand it. It's like what we were talking about - the Trinity - you don't understand it, but it's in the word of God so you believe it! We talked on Monday evening about God being sovereign, and choosing men for salvation - but we also saw that we have a responsibility to believe and obey the Gospel. We can't understand the two, we can't reconcile it - and we cannot reconcile the two natures of Christ in God, but it's in the word of God and we believe it!
The two natures of Christ are mysterious, but the two natures of Christ are actual. Some believed He was a ghost, He just looked like a man - He was God, but He was an angelic figure, He wasn't flesh and blood like you or I, but you've got to see this: Jesus was truly God, and whatever it is to be God, Jesus is that absolutely - but He was equally man, and whatever it is to be man, without sin, He was it! His humanity and His deity were distinct, separate, each nature retained its own normal attributes. Two natures, not two persons, two natures in the one person. James Stocker (sp?) put it like this: 'Christ was not half a God and half a man - He was perfectly God and perfectly man'. The divine didn't permeate the human, nor did the human be absorbed into the divine - it wasn't a shaken-up cocktail of a mixture, and God and man in the one person. That's not what it was - and the Son of God was not changed into a human being, nor did the man Jesus rise to the state of deity, as some believe - listen to what Spurgeon says: 'Remember, Christ was not a deified man, neither was He a humanised God. He was perfectly God and, at the same time, perfectly man'. Robert Clarke said this: 'As to His deity, He had no mother. And as to His humanity, He had no father'. And these two natures were so really bound together, as to constitute them in one person acting with a single consciousness, a single will. So we shouldn't really call Him both God and man, as if there were two persons residing in this body - but He is the God-man! And although He possessed these separate and distinct natures, He didn't act sometimes by His human nature, as a man, and other times by His divine nature only - He acted in all things as one person! Let me illustrate it for you: He's asleep in the stern of the boat - why is He asleep? Because, like you after a day's work, He's weary. He's lying in the stern after a day's service - and in a moment around Him, there's a squall that rises, a storm. And the raging storm bursts, and the disciples panic and waken the Saviour - and, in a moment, He stands and stills the raging storm! Thus the reality of His humanity is seen against the background of His divine power and prerogatives.
Chrysostom, the great church father, put it in a beautiful paragraph, and I want to read it to you: 'I do not think of Christ as God alone, or man alone, but both together. For I know He was hungry, yet I know that with five loaves He fed 5000. I know He was thirsty, and I know yet that He turned the water into wine. I know that He was carried in a ship, yet I know that He walked upon the sea. I know that He died, yet I know that He raised the dead Himself. I know that He was set before Pilate, and I know that He sits with the Father in His throne. I know that He was worshipped by angels, yet I know that He was stoned by the Jews. And truly, some of these I ascribe to the human, others to the divine nature - for by reason of this He is said to have been both God and man'. So we cannot say that when Christ stilled the storm He was divine, and when He was asleep in the boat He was human. He was human, because in everything He did He was the God-man, two natures in one person - you can see it in John 3 verse 13, where we read this: 'He that came down from heaven', Jesus Christ, 'even the Son of man which is in heaven'. Do you know what that's saying? That where He stood, and in John 3 where He utters those words, at the same time He is in heaven. Now you explain that to me...the only way that it can be explained is this: that the two natures of God and man dwelt within this one single person. Richard Glover said this: 'Jesus Christ is completely God as if He were not man, and completely man as if He were not God'.
But let's see, again, the two natures are not only mysterious, but they're necessary - and this is so important that you grasp this, and if you don't listen to anything else I say all of today, listen to this: the value of the atonement, the death of the Lord Jesus Christ, His efficacious shedding of blood on our behalf - it only makes sense if Christ is both God and man, because the atonement must have value for God, and have value for man. And had He only been man, His death would have meant no more than that of another martyr who gave his life for others. And if He had only been divine, He would have had no real link with humanity, and His death would have been devoid of any redeeming quality. But in the union of these two natures, the atonement, the death of Christ, becomes - not only available - but infinite in its efficacy. Apart from it, Christ could not have been a proper mediator between God and men, if He was not both God and man. The fact that He is both God and man is essential to His priesthood - because you must have a priest that is a man, He had to be a man to be a priest. He had to be God, however, to have an everlasting priesthood after the order of Melchizedek.
Are you hurting today? Are you? Are you sad? Listen: His twofold nature enables Him to touch the worlds of both God and man simultaneously, and His deity affords Him an equal dignity with God, while His humanity gives Him a perfect sympathy with man! Listen: 'Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, or tested, he is able to succour them that are tested...For we have not an high priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted, and tested, like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need'.
Robert Stevenson was a famous Scottish engineer, and he was the grandfather of the well-known writer and author Robert Louis Stevenson, and a hundred years after his birth a great demonstration was held in Newcastle-upon-Tyne to commemorate his death. And there was a huge procession with banners honouring the distinguished engineer, and in the procession was a group of peasants who carried a small banner on which was written the words: 'He was one of us'. They were citizens of the tiny village of his birth, and they had come to do him honour. They had a right to call him one of them because he was - really - one of them.
Back in 1959 a man called John Howard Griffin changed himself from a white man into a black man. And, feeling that he could never understand the plight of the blacks in America unless he became one of them, he darkened his skin with oral medicine, and sunlamp treatment and stains, and he became a black man. And he travelled through the whole of the south of the nation of America, and the results to him were unbelievable: he received treatment that was almost inhumane, there were vehicles which he wasn't allowed to ride in, there were restaurants he couldn't eat in, there were hotels he couldn't sleep in, there were toilets that he couldn't go in! He was persecuted, he was slighted, he was cheated - and Griffin wrote about his treatment in a book, and he entitles it this: 'Black Like Me'. And Jesus says to you today, 'I am human, like you'.
But suppose - and we're closing now - suppose He had been only human, only human. How could He have helped us? Because His sympathy would have been of little avail - we need not only human sympathy, we need divine power! And when we're assured of His human sympathy, we know that He's willing to help and save us. But when we are assured of His divine power - we know that He is able to save us! And His willingness, and His ability combined make Him our all-sufficient Saviour!
There was a Harvard graduate, and he was a man of letters - James Eds (sp?) - and he used to sell newspapers every day at the corner of 12th and Olive Streets in St. Louis, and he said this: 'I've begun selling papers among the newsboys of the downtown streets because I want to be one of them, to share their trials, to better understand their lives that I may possibly benefit them'. Do you know what Napoleon said? He was no Christian...'The nature of Christ's existence is mysterious I admit, but the mystery meets the wants of man'.
Now let me - I said I was going to finish, but I told a wee lie there - just one more thing: the two natures of Christ are eternal, and this possibly is the greatest thing. Jesus neither laid aside His deity when He came to the earth, nor His humanity when He returned to heaven. He remained a man, and it's the teaching - the clear teaching of Scripture - that the Son of God assumed, forever, humanity of which He partook at His virgin birth, and His incarnation is in perpetuity - it's forever! Now listen to this: in the Ascension of Christ, humanity attained the throne of the universe! Forever, clasped permanently together in an eternal embrace that never shall be sundered, is the humanity and the deity of Jesus Christ - and we can say 'Hallelujah', that there is a Man in the Glory.
'The night was long, the shadows spread as far as the eye could see,
And I stretched my hands to the human Christ, and He walked through the dark with me.
Out of the dimness at last we came, our feet on the dawn-warmed sod,
And I saw by the light of His wondrous eyes, that I walked with the Son of God'.
Lord Jesus, we fall at Thy feet, and we exclaim in worship and adoration, 'My Lord and my God'. And may, Lord Jesus Christ, we know Thee more, follow Thee more nearly, and love Thee more dearly - and help us not to squander the knowledge of Thyself that Thou hast given to us - and take us with Thy blessing now, in Thy dear name. Amen.
Preach The Word.
This sermon was delivered at The Iron Hall Assembly in Belfast, Northern Ireland, by Pastor David Legge. It was transcribed from the third tape in his Man Of The Millennium series, titled "The Humanity Of Christ" - Transcribed by Andrew Watkins, Preach The Word.
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