The PERSON of JESUS CHRIST
Outline Studies By Fred G. Zaspel
INTRODUCTION: Historical Observations
*The issue which faced the early church is the same which has faced the church ever since. It was overwhelmingly evident that Jesus of Nazareth was in many ways entirely different from any other person. Explaining this difference was a puzzle to those who heard him and to the church fathers of the early centuries. Consequently, the early church was filled with speculations about the nature and person of Jesus. What follows is a brief overview of some of the opinions which have been held.
I. Early Heresies & Their Successors
*Product of an early Gnostic-type philosophy; 1st century
*From the Greek word dokeo, "to seem, to appear"
*Distinctive Teaching: Christ merely seemed human, a
phantom or appearance of some kind, His physical
appearance was not real.
B. Ebionism (2nd century)
*Denial of Deity of Christ
C. Monarchians (Sabellians, Modalists, Patripassians; 3rd century)
*God exists in three different modes (Father, Son,
Holy Spirit), but only one mode at a time.
D. Arianism (early 4th century; modern Jehovah's Witnesses)
*Denial of Deity of Christ; Christ the highest created being
*Condemned by Council of Nicea, 325
E. Apollinarianism (4th century)
*Jesus had a body but it was not at all like ours
*Condemned by Council of Constantinople, 381
F. Nestorianism (5th century)
*Great emphasis on the fact of Jesus' physical body
*A reaction to Apollinaris
*Condemned by Council of Ephesus, 431
G. Eutychianism (Monophysitism; 5th century)
*A confusion of Jesus' humanity & deity, the combination
producing a different nature entirely
*Condemned by Council of Chalcedon, 451
H. Socinianism (late 16th century; modern Unitarianism)
*Denial of Deity of Christ
*Christ the "spirit-child of God"
*Christ is "a God" but not full deity in the Trinitarian sense
J. Christian Science
*Christ had no real body
*Jesus and the Christ are distinct persons
K. The Way International
*Denial of Christ's Deity
L. Liberal Protestantism
*c.f. various "kenosis" theories
*Cf, Orthodoxy (historic Christianity; defined at Chalcedon, 451)
*Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man
*His two natures unite in one Person
*He is truly the God-Man
II. Affirmations of the Councils & Creeds
A. Nicea I (325)
*Led by Athanasius, Condemned Arianism
*Affirmed Deity of Christ --declared the Son homoousios
with the Father (of the same essence, being)
B. Constantinople I (381)
*Reaffirmed Nicea I plus Pneumatology
*Concluded Arian controversy
C. Ephesus (431)
*Affirmed the hypostatic union
D. Chalcedon (451)
*Approved the Nicene Creed
*Complete discussion & confirmation of the hypostatic
*Affirmed the doctrine of the Trinity
E. The Athanasian Creed (late 5th century)
*Directed against Modalism and Arianism
*Affirmed the procession of the Spirit filioque, "from the
F. Constantinople II (553)
*Forcibly suppressed Monophysitism
G. Constantinople III (680-681)
*Condemned monothelitism (that Christ had but one will)
*Affirmed that Christ had both a human and a divine will
III. Scriptural Conclusions
*I Jn.4:1-3 & II Jn.7-10 (Humanity)
*I Jn.5:20 (Deity)
*Col.2:9 (Hypostatic Union)
A. Doctrines subjected to neglect soon give way to heresy.
B. The attempt to render all the intracacies of a doctrine
thoroughly comprehensible may also result in heresy.
C. The statements of Scripture must be faced honestly and
PART ONE: His Deity
I. Evidence From Jesus Himself
A. His BEHAVIOR
1. He Accepted & Encouraged Worship (c.f. Mt.4:10)
Mt.14:33; 16:16; 21:15-16; 28:9, 17; Mk.14:3-9;
2. He Granted Forgiveness & Salvation (c.f. Is. 43:25)
Mk.2:1-12; Lk.7:47-50; Jn.10:9; 14:6
3. He Displayed Omniscience
B. His CLAIMS
1. Messiahship (See IV, "The Teaching of the OT Writers")
2. Divine Prerogatives
a. Salvation, Forgiveness, & Judgment (cf, Jonah 2:9)
Mt.7:21-23; Jn.5:22; 10:9; 14:6
c. Send the Holy Spirit
3. Divine Attributes
Jn. 8:58; Rev. 1:8
Mt.11:27; Mk.2:1-12 (c.f. Is.43:25); 14:61-64;
Jn.5:16-18, 23; Jn. 8:58; 10:11, 15, 24-33; 12:45;
c.f. 14:8-10; 15:23; 17:5; Jn. 18:4-6
Conclusion--a Trilemma: In light of these direct claims of Jesus, the modern assertion that He was not God but rather a good man, is entirely implausible. Having claimed deity, Jesus is either God, or He is a liar, or He is a mad-man (who thinks He is God when He is not). He is either Lord, lunatic, or liar; there are no other alternatives. Jesus' behavior and His claims attest to His deity.
II. Evidence from Jesus' Contemporaries
A. How They UNDERSTOOD Him
1. His Enemies
Mk.2:1-12; 14:61-64; Jn.5:16-18; 8:59; 10:30ff
2. His Friends
B. How They RESPONDED To Him
(see "His Enemies" above)
(see "His Friends" above)
Conclusion: Jesus' contemporaries--both friends & enemies--agreed on this point; namely, that Jesus claimed deity. Their disagreement was only in their acceptance or rejection of the claim. Again, this is in contrast to the modern idea that Jesus never claimed deity. The understanding of those who heard Him was that He did indeed claim to be God.
III. Evidence from the New Testament Writers
A. DIVINE ATTRIBUTES ascribed to Him
Mt.12:25; Mk.2:8; Jn.21:17; Col.2:3
Is.9:6; Mic.5:2; Col.1:17; Heb.1:7-8; 7:24-25;
B. DIVINE WORKS Ascribed to Him
1. Creation (c.f. Is. 42:5)
Jn.1:43; Eph.3:9; Col. 1:16
I Cor. 15:22
C. DIVINE WORSHIP Ascribed to Him
1. Worship by men
Mt.14:33; 16:16; 21:15; 28:9, 17; Jn.20:28; Jude 24-25
2. Worship by angels
3. Prayer directed to Him
D. DIVINE NAMES & TITLES Ascribed to Him
1. Son of God
Mt.16:16; 26:61-64; Lk.22:67-71; Jn.1:34
Is. 7:14; Mt.1:23
Mt.12:8; 22:43-45; Lk.6:46; Jn.20:28; I Pet.3:15
Is. 9:6; Jn.1:1, 18; 20:28; Rom.9:5; I Tim. 3:16;
Tit.2:13; Heb.1:3, 8; I Jn.5:20; Rev. 4:8
E. DEITY Ascribed to Him
Phil.2:6, 11; Col.1:15, 19; 2:9; I Tim. 3:16; Jude 25
Conclusion: The New Testament Writers unanimously & consistently ascribe deity to Jesus Christ. Their understanding was that Jesus of Nazareth is God.
IV. Evidence from the Old Testament Writers
FOCUS: The Promised Messiah
A. The DEITY of The Messiah
Gen.3:15 (c.f. 4:1); Ps.45:6-7; 110:1; Is.7:14; 9:6; 40:3-4,
9-11; 53:12; Jer.23:5-6; Dan.7:13; Hos.1:7; Mic.5:2;
Zech. 12:10; 13:7 (cf., Jn. 10:30 & Phil. 2:6); 14:3-4, 9;
B. The IDENTITY of the Messiah (The Messiahship of Jesus)
1. The Messiah's Credentials/Requirements
a. His Place of Birth
Mic. 5:2 - Mt. 2:1
*Note also: Nazareth--Mt. 2:23; and
Egypt--Hos. 11:1 - Mt. 2:15
b. The Manner of His Birth
Is. 7:14 - Mt. 1:18
c. The Time of His Birth
Gen. 49:10 = A.D. 12? 44? 70? (No later)
Dan. 9:24ff = A.D. 33
d. His Ancestry
*Gen. 12:2-3 (Abraham)
*II Sam. 7:12-16 (David) - Mt. 1:1
e. His Reception
Jer. 31:15 - Mt. 2:16
Is. 53:3 - Jn. 1:11
f. His Ministry
1) Preceded by Forerunner
Is. 40:3; Mal. 3:1 - Jn. 1:23
2) Perform Miracles
Is. 35:5-6 - Jn. 20:30-31
3) Speak in Parables
Ps. 78:2 - Mt. 13:3, etc.
4) Enter the Temple Suddenly
Mal. 3:1 - Mt. 21:12ff
5) Enter Jerusalem on a Donkey
Zech. 9:9 - Jn. 12:12ff
g. His Betrayal by a Friend
Ps. 41:9 - Mt. 10:4
(c.f. Zech. 11:12 - Mt. 26:15;
Zech. 11:13 - Mt. 27:5, 7)
h. His Forsakenness
1) By His Disciples
Zech. 13:7 - Mk. 14:50
2) By God
Ps. 22:1 - Mt. 27:46
i. His False Accusers
Ps. 35:11 - Mt. 26:59-60
j. His Silence before his accusers
Is. 53:7 - Mt. 27:12
k. His Sufferings
Is. 53:4 - Mt. 8:17
Is. 50:6 - Mt. 26:67
Ps. 22:7-8 - Mt. 27:31
Ps. 22:16 - Lk. 23:33 & Jn. 20:25
Ps. 22:18 - Jn. 19:23-24
Ps. 34:20 - Jn. 19:33
Is. 53:12 - Mt. 27:38
l. His Death
Is. 53:8; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 12:10 - Jn. 19, etc.
m. His Resurrection
Ps. 16:10 - Acts 2:31
n. His Ascension
Ps. 68:18 - Acts 1:9
2. The Claims of Jesus
Mt.5:17; 11:10; 13:14; 21:42; 26:5, 56; Mk.13:26;
Lk.4:20-21; 22:37; 24:27, 44; Jn.5:39, 46; 15:25
3. The Claims of the NT writers
Mt. 1:1; 16:16; Gal.4:4
Conclusion: The Old Testament writers consistently & unanimously ascribe deity to the promised Messiah. Furthermore, only Jesus of Nazareth has the credentials and fits the requirements for the Messiah. Therefore, the testimony of the Old Testament to Jesus is that He is God.
V. Evidence from the NT Interpretation of the OT
Ps. 68:18 - Eph. 4:7-8
Ps. 97:7 - Heb. 1:6
Ps. 102:12, 25-27 - Heb. 1:10-12
Is. 6:1, 3 - Jn. 12:41
Is. 8:13 - I Pet. 3:15
Is. 40:3 & Mal. 3:1) - Mt. 3:3 & Lk. 3:4)
Is. 41:4 & 44:6 - Rev. 1:8, 17, 2:8
Is. 45:21-25 - Phil. 2:10-11
Joel 2:32 - Rom. 10:13
Zech. 12:10 - Rev. 1:7
Conclusion: The New Testament writers consistently interpret Old Testament references to Jehovah as speaking of Jesus Christ. Clearly, they understood Jesus to be God Himself, the incarnation of Jehovah.
VI. "Problem Passages"
A. Proverbs 8:22
"Wisdom," it is claimed (referring to Jesus), is here said to have had a beginning. Nothing, however, is mentioned which would indicate that this is a reference to Jesus (as is I Cor. 1:24); rather this is simply a personification of God's attribute of wisdom. Furthermore, this does not state that wisdom had a beginning ("possessed" in the KJV is the accurate translation of the Hebrew qanah), but that it was with God from the beginning, as the following verses make clear. This passage merely states in poetic fashion that wisdom has always been a part of God's nature.
B. John 5:19
It is claimed that in this verse Jesus is correcting the "misunderstanding" of those who thought he was claiming deity (v.18). However, Jesus is here establishing that very thing! That He could "do nothing of Himself" means that He never acted apart from the Father's will. He is expressing His closeness and oneness with the Father (cf., v.20). The following verses make it plain that Jesus claimed to do what the Father does. They acted together in perfect oneness. Jesus is reemphasizing (not denying) their charge that He claimed deity.
C. John 10:35-36
A. T. Robertson stated that a man without a sense of humor would not know how to read this passage. In it Jesus is under attack for His claim of deity (cf, vv.30ff). In response to His enemy, Jesus appeals to Psalm 82:6 which refers to men (judges, men who in this respect act in behalf of God) as "gods." Jesus' very clever point is simply that if even the Scriptures could use such language of men, then they surely could not attack Him for His clam to be "the Son of God" (v.36). To be sure, His claim implied more than the text he cited (vv.37-38), and this explains the continued effort to slay Him (v.39).
D. John 14:28
*This is merely a statement of Jesus' subordination to the
will of the Father.
E. I Corinthians 11:3
*This is also a mere statement of positional subordination,
not an inferiority of nature.
F. I Corinthians 15:28
*This is again a statement of Jesus's subordination to the
Father, nothing more.
G. Philippians 2:7 ("kenosis")
The statement here that Christ Jesus "emptied Himself" (KJV, "made Himself of no reputation"), does not indicate in any way that at His incarnation Jesus became anything less than full deity. He did not empty Himself of anything (such as His deity, etc.) but merely "emptied Himself," which must be taken figuratively as a dramatic statement of His marvelous condescension in assuming humanity (cf., vv. 5-11).
H. Colossians 1:15
The reference to Jesus as "firstborn" is a declaration of His position with reference to all creation (as this and the following verses explain). He has sovereignty over it all by reason of the fact that He created and sustains it all and that it all is His.
I. Revelation 3:14
The translation here should not read that Jesus is "the beginning of the creation of God" but that He is the One who Himself began it! He is the creator of all creation (cf, John's words in Jn.1:3).
Conclusion: Biblical passages alledged to contradict the deity of Jesus Christ, when considered in their context and the light of all the related Scriptural data, are seen rather to establish, not contradict, Jesus' Deity.
That Jesus claimed to be God is nowhere questioned in the Bible but rather consistently affirmed. That He is God was continually recognized by all of His followers and questioned only by His enemies. The deity of Jesus Christ is a fact which is faithfully attested in the Scriptures.
PART TWO: His Humanity
A. A Human Body
B. A Human Soul
II. Observations From History
(see Introduction above)
III. Scriptural Data
A. Biblical Evidences of Jesus' Humanity
1. His Human Body
Lk.2:52, Mt.4:2, Jn.19:28, Mt.8:24
2. His Human Names & Titles
Jesus, Son of Man, Son of Abraham, Son of David,
Man of Sorrows
3. His Human Claims
4. His Human Soul
Mt.26:38, Lk.23:46, Jn.13:21
5. Old Testament Predictions Regarding the Humanity of
Gen.3:15, Is.7:14, Is.53:1-2
6. New Testament Statements Regarding the Humanity of
I Tim.2:5, Jn.1:14, Rom.9:5, Phil.2:8, Heb.2:17
B. Biblical Expressions of Jesus' Humanity
1. The Gospels
a. His Growth
b. His Fatigue
c. His Hunger
d. His Thirst
e. His Testings
f. His Praying
g. His Anger
h. His Helpless Compassion
i. His Sorrowful Compassion
. . . . . . 2. The Epistles
. . . . . . . . . . a. He died our death
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Heb.2:9-10
. . . . . . . . . . b. He calls us brethren
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Heb.2:11
. . . . . . . . . . c. He was made like us in order to be our priest
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Heb.2:17-18
. . . . . . . . . . d. He is personally acquainted with our weaknesses and so can help
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Heb.4:15-16
. . . . . . . . . . e. He learned the restrictions of life
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . Heb.5:8
. . . . . . . . . . f. He is man's mediator with God
. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1Tim.2:5
Conclusion: Jesus is truly human in the fullest sense of the term. He became all that we are, in every detail except sin. (Sin is not essential to true humanity; cf. Adam & Eve before the fall.)
IV. The Importance of Christ's Humanity
. . . . . A. Concerning His Example
. . . . . . . . . . *I Pet.2:21
. . . . . . . . . . *As man He provided for us the pattern for living as men.
. . . . . B. Concerning His Everlasting Priesthood
. . . . . . . . . *Heb.2:17-18
. . . . . . . . . *Only as man can Jesus be able to faithfully represent men to God.
. . . . . C. Concerning His Daily Provision of Grace
. . . . . . . . . . *Heb.2:17-18; 4:15-16
. . . . . . . . . . *He understands our lives because He has lived it also.
. . . . . . . . . . *Because He understands, coming to Him we "obtain mercy and find grace to help in
. . . . . . . . . . . . . time of need."
V. Practical Observations
. . . . . . A. Our physical and bodily limitations are aspects of real humanity.
. . . . . . . . . *The physical weaknesses and limits which we experience are not in themselves sinful
. . . . . . . . . . . or shameful but are merely aspects of humanity with which our Lord Himself is
. . . . . . . . . . . personally acquainted.
. . . . . . B. Our psychological & emotional makeup are likewise aspects of real humanity.
. . . . . . . . . *Laughter, crying, anger, etc., are all very proper expressions of our humanity.
. . . . . . C. Our natural human &bodily functions are proper but must be subject to the will of God.
. . . . . . . . . . *Human appetites are not sinful, although the way in which we satisfy them may be.
. . . . . . D. Jesus Christ is Himself the living model and pattern for our lives.
. . . . . . . . . . *We must think of Him more in this way!
PART THREE: Summary
I. Summary Statement
The New Testament teaching and the historic Christian position regarding the Person of Christ is that Jesus is truly God and truly man in the fullest sense of the terms. In His Person is a union of two distinct natures--human and divine. In this union the two natures did not combine or confuse so as to produce a unique, third kind of nature; nor was there a dual personality. Rather, the product was a single unique Person, a Person with two natures.
II. Key Terms & Clarifications
. . . . . A. Incarnation -- God "became flesh"
. . . . . B. Duality of Natures -- two distinct natures, human and divine
. . . . . C. Hypostatic Union -- union of the two natures in one Person
. . . . . D. Theanthropic Person -- the "person" is both "God" and "Man" (the theanthropos)
. . . . . E. Note the Distinction between "Person" and "Nature"
III. Key Texts
I Tim. 3:16
IV. Council of Chalcedon (451)
"Following the holy fathers, we unanimously teach one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, complete as to His Godhead, and complete as to His manhood; truly God, and truly man, of a reasonable soul and human flesh subsisting; consubstantial with the Father as to His Godhead, and consubstantial with us as to His manhood; like unto us in all things, yet without sin; as to His Godhead begotten of the Father before all worlds, but as to His manhood, in these last days born, for us men and for our salvation, of the virgin Mary...known in (of) two natures, without confusion, without conversion, without severance, and without division; the distinction of the natures being in no wise abolished by their union but the peculiarity of each nature being maintained, and both concurring in one person and hypostasis."
. . . . . A. Regarding The Person & Work of Christ
. . . . . . . . . 1. The Dignity of His Position
. . . . . . . . . . . . . *Lordship
. . . . . . . . . 2. The Quality of His Life
. . . . . . . . . . . . . *Sinless
. . . . . . . . . . . . . *Impeccable
. . . . . . . . . 3. The Nature & Value of His Sacrifice
. . . . . B. Regarding The Life of the Christian
"Nor voice can sing, nor heart can frame,
Nor can the memory find
A sweeter sound than Thy blest name,
O Savior of mankind!"
. . . . . . .