THE HUMANITY OF CHRIST

The introductory biographies of Christ all mention the body, soul, and spirit of Jesus Christ. The Scriptures testify that Jesus’ body possessed both flesh and blood (Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 4:2, 3). One of the most detailed accounts of Christ’s humanity is recorded in Luke 2:52, “And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men.” Luke tactfully uses this phrase in context to the childhood of Samuel (1 Samuel 2:26) to stress the point that Jesus was truly human (as was Samuel the prophet). Elsewhere the gospels record Jesus was hungry (Matthew 4:2), thirsty (John 19:28), tested (Matthew 4), and suffered and died on the cross (Luke 19:10).

Gregory Boyd and Paul Eddy provide a succinct breakdown of the humanity of Christ,

For example, Jesus had to grow intellectually as well as physically (Luke 2:52). As a human, there were certain things Jesus did not know (Mark 13:32). As a human, his character had to mature through suffering (Heb. 2:10; 5:8, 9). As a human, Jesus had to submit to the Father (Matt. 26:39; Jn. 6:38), pray to the Father (Luke 6:12), and remain utterly dependent on the Father at all times. Though he was morally perfect, as a genuine human, Jesus experienced all the emotions that other humans experience: anger, sorrow, loneliness, and even fear (e.g., John 2:13-17; 11:35; Mark 15:34; Luke 22:41-44).[1]

Thus, as in the words of the great scholar, N.T. Wright, “Adam, in arrogance, thought to become like God:  Christ, in humility, became man.”[2] There is no mistaking that the writers of Jesus’ life whole-heartedly believed that He was indeed of human flesh. This can be seen more copiously in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ

The term “incarnation” is of Latin origin, and carries the meaning to “become in the flesh.” Though the word is not written in the Bible, the scriptural truth and reality of the incarnation are overwhelmingly covered in the history and fulfillment of Christ. The Christian teaching of the incarnation expresses that Jesus Christ (Second Person of the Trinity) is the Eternal Word who took on humanity (second nature) without diminishing His undiminished divine nature as God.

This doctrinal view has come down uniformly through the church based solely on the acceptance of the literal virginal conception of Christ in the Matthean (back to Abraham) and Lukan (back to Adam) genealogies. Joseph was told in a dream by an angel, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:20, 21).” Paul writes in Galatians, “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman (4:4).”

John expressed that Christ “became flesh and dwelt among us (1:14).” Though Christ was sinless, John uses a very crude word “flesh” (egneto) to stress the point that Christ was human. The influential French Theologian, John Calvin, asserted this in regards to the Incarnation of Christ:

When it is said that the Word was made flesh, we must not understand it as if he were either changed into flesh, or confusedly intermingled with flesh, but that he made choice of the Virgin’s womb as a temple in which he might dwell. He who was the Son of God became Son of man, not by confusion of substance, but by unity of person. For we maintain, that the divinity was so conjoined and united with the humanity, that the entire properties of each nature remain entire, and yet the two natures constitute only one Christ.”[3]

Calvin pungently observed in his writings that Jesus Christ distinctively had two natures, one divine and one human (a unity of person and a duality of natures). He points out that the role each uniquely played, both separate in the directive of divinity and humanity, but also affirmed the working together of both natures without complete separation and isolation of one another.

In essence, in becoming “flesh,” Jesus did not cease to be the Eternal Word, but released Himself to take on the mode of humanity, without becoming a new being Peter Lewis makes this comment in his book, The Glory of Christ, “Humanity is what the Word assumed (took up into union with Himself) at the Incarnation: He did not emerge from it, He entered into it; He came, and unlike us He chose to come (John 6:38, 51; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 10:7).”[4]

Charles Ryrie notes, “Though our Lord was not inactive in His preincarnate state, His greatest works necessitated the Incarnation. Nevertheless, He stands magnificent in His person as the eternal God, but, as it were, in the shadows, waiting the spotlight of the Incarnation to reveal His glory and grace (John 1:17; Titus 2:11).”[5] Therefore, the incarnation of Jesus Christ retained the total complexity of both divine and human attributes that essentially made up a perfect human being, and who is now and forever will be composed of this perfect body.

 

[1]. Gregory Boyd and Paul R. Eddy, Across the Spectrum: Understanding Issues in Evangelical Theology (Grand Rapids: Baker Academy, 2002), 103.

[2]. Bowman and Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ, 83.

[3]. John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, trans. Henry Beveridge (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers, 2008).

[4]. Peter Lewis, The Glory of Christ (Chicago: Moody Press, 1997), 152.

[5]. Ryrie, Basic Theology: A Popular Systematic Guide to Understanding Biblical Truth, 276.