Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Paradox of the Manger: That Baby is the World's Sustainer - Part Two

You can read part one here.

His Divine Nature

Philippians 2:4 Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. 5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

“A Thing to be Grasped”

Jesus did not consider His equality to the Father something be desperately clung to, like a baby clinging to his toy in the nursery. The “equality” that he did not cling to was an equality in glory, in worship. For Jesus to become anything less than fully God is incomprehensible – God is perfect and any diminishing of His perfection would be to stop being God – a logical fallacy!

“He Made Himself Nothing”

This phrase is defined by its context. For Jesus to make Himself nothing, “to empty Himself,” was to take on human flesh and to be born in the likeness of men. In doing this, Jesus set aside the glory that was His with the Father in heaven – it was this glory that He did not grasp at. His privilege as Son of God was laid aside. He did not cease being all-powerful or stop being all-knowing in his divine nature. There has never been a time that the Person of Christ was less than fully God.

Hebrews 13:8 Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

Therefore, in His divine nature, His true deity was never altered or shrunk or mixed or shelved or lessened in any way.

His Human Nature

But His human nature was genuine, too. While he lay in that manger, as genuine Person, in His human nature He was not directing world affairs and maintaining the orderly working of the cosmos. He was being an infant. As one author writes, “the infant Jesus was not lying in the manger directing the physics of the universe he had created.” Not in his human nature. No, the condescension of God was such that He was a real and genuine infant born to neglected parents. He was a real baby. And there are numerous texts that speak of change in his human nature over time – of growth and development.

Luke 2:40 And the child grew and became strong, filled with wisdom. And the favor of God was upon him. (as a young boy)

Luke 2:52 And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (at 12 years old)

He had a real human body

· Tired – Jn 4:6

· Thirsty – Jn 19:28

· Hungry – Mt 4:1

· Crucified – Lk 23:46

He experienced real human emotion

· Wept – Jn 11:35

· Troubled – Jn 13:21

· Sorrowful – Mt 26:38

Most amazing of all – he “learned obedience”

Hebrews 5:7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. 8 Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. 9 And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him...

As He grew physically, He was able to take on more responsibility and to obey the increasingly difficult commands from His Father. Hebrews 2:18 “For because he himself has suffered when tempted...” He did not learn obedience out of disobedience (the way you and I do) – but obedience out of obedience (the way Adam should have). He was tested and tempted by the Devil himself... and yet, “he never sinned.” This was his very real suffering – being genuinely tempted day after day and remaining obedient to the Father.

Someone might very well ask, “But how can the omniscient God increase in wisdom or learn obedience? Was this just some elaborate charade?”

To which we answer, the only way for our small minds to comprehend this remarkable miracle is to think in terms of His two natures:

Divine Nature

Human Nature

Cannot be tempted (Jas 1:13)

Tempted 40 days... all his life


Grew in wisdom

All the “omni’s”

Learned obedience


Became strong.. increased in wisdom and stature... learned obedience

YET ONE PERSON: so whatever is true of one nature is true of the One Person

Jesus – can calm a storm, walk on water... and not know day of His Return!

Jesus is One Person

So, in His incarnation, Jesus imposed limitations on himself that enabled Him to live a truly human life. His divine nature never ceased to hold all the attributes of deity – but Jesus the man willfully accepted the limitations of genuine humanity so that he might be truly man and eventually, truly our substitute.

In 451 (1555 years ago), a large church council made up of Christians from many countries and backgrounds, gathered together to summarize the Bible’s teaching on the Son of God. That statement describes what is called the hypostatic (being) union:

The Chalcedonian Creed

Therefore, following the Holy Fathers,

we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge

one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ,

at once complete in Godhead and complete in Manhood,

truly God and truly man,

consisting also of a rational soul and body;

of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead,

and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his Manhood;

like us in all respects, apart from sin;

as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his Manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer;

one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only begotten,

recognized in two natures,

without confusion, without change,

without division, without separation;

the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ;

even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him,

and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us,

and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us.

Two Natures / One Person

You might say, “Give me an analogy!” There are none! They all fail! They all take away from His glory. So, you must stretch your brain a little and think of two natures, one person.

And think of this: how wonderfully the virgin birth of Jesus preserves both His deity and His humanity. As Grudem writes, if he had human parents and were somehow made God: we would always doubt is deity. If were made a man in heaven and transported to earth: we would always doubt his humanity. Behold the wisdom of God!