This article on Lord's Day 6 of the Heidelberg Catechism is about the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ.

Source: The Outlook, 2003. 4 pages.

John 1:14 – Jesus Christ is God and Man

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father full of grace and truth.

John 1:14

There are many people who claim to be Christians who will ask you: “Who cares if Jesus was just a man or if He was just God? Why does He have to be both God and man? That is a hard thing for us to understand and believe. What difference does it make so long as you believe in Jesus? After all is said and done, that’s all that is important. That you believe in Jesus.”

But who is this Jesus in whom you believe? You may confess that Jesus saves you from your sin, but why is He able to save you when you cannot save yourself and when others are also unable to save you?

Through the centuries there have been many people who have tried to answer that question. Many of them have advocated either the deity or the humanity of Jesus – confessing one and denying the other. Through the centuries we have seen how wrong these teachings are.

One of these teachers who denied the divinity of Jesus was Paul of Samosata, a bishop of Antioch in 260 AD. He advocated that Jesus was born a human, the son of Joseph and Mary, who was adopted by God the Father at the baptism of Jesus. Another was named Arius who believed that Jesus was created by the Father before the heavens and the earth. As created, Jesus would be subordinate to the Father and certainly not equal to the Father.

Those who denied the humanity of Jesus were the second century Gnostics. They believed anything made out of matter was evil. Therefore, they reasoned, if Jesus were human, he would be made out of matter and He would be evil. Since Jesus was perfect and without sin, he could not be evil, and therefore He had to be truly God, but not human.

In the third century, Sabellus taught that there was only one Person in the Godhead who manifested Himself in different ways. When God created, He was the Father; when He redeemed, He was the Son; and when He sanctifies, He is the Holy Spirit. But, reasoned Sabellus, God is always the same Person.

One may argue today that this is all ancient history. Nobody thinks that way anymore. Have you ever had a Jehovah’s Witness knock on your door? Ask him if he believes in the divinity of Jesus Christ. He will say that he does not. He believes the same thing Arius did. Other cults that deny the divinity of Christ include the Moonies, Mormons, Christian Science, and the World-wide Church of God, to name a few. The list that denies the humanity of Jesus is equally long. All of them are around today boldly proclaiming that which is not true.

An Important Truth🔗

It is vital for us to know the truth. We cannot make the mistake of thinking that it doesn’t matter who Jesus is, as long as we believe in Him. Once a person is exposed to the truth of God’s Word, he has the responsibility to receive that Word. To reject God’s truth is to reject salvation.

Question and Answer 16 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks why it is so important that we believe that Jesus is truly human. The answer is clear. Man sinned and man must pay for his sin. The Bible is very clear that the wages of sin is death. Man must die. Human flesh must pay the penalty. Before the beginning, in the eternal counsels of God, Jesus foresaw all human history and knew that He was the One who would redeem the chosen children of God. In the fullness of time, in the days of Herod, the Second Person of the Trinity took upon Himself flesh and blood – a body – so that He could offer up that body as the perfect sacrifice for Man’s sin.

The death of Jesus is the theme of the Old Testament beginning already in Genesis 3. The sacrifices of the Old Testament prefigure the sacrifice of Christ; the prophets foretell what the Messiah would accomplish. Paul writes that Abraham was saved because of his faith in God’s promise of a coming Savior.

In the New Testament, the angel announced that the Christ was to be given the name “Jesus” because He would save His people from their sins. Jesus often spoke of the suffering that He would have to endure. The success of His mission was the crucifixion. In light of all that the Word of God teaches, the most important reason for the humanity of Jesus was that it made it possible for Him to die for our sin.

Truly Righteous🔗

It was not enough that Jesus died as a human. If that were all that was necessary, He could have been born in the manger and died before the wise men ever met Him. Jesus also had to live as a human; He had to suffer as a human; and He had to be obedient to His Father as a human.

A sinner cannot pay for the sins of another sinner. Sinners have enough trouble of their own. They cannot pay for their own sins let alone someone else’s sins. What we need as sinners is someone who is holy, blameless, and unstained to pay for our sin. We need a sinless human being.

Hebrews 4 points out that Jesus was tempted at all points as we are, and yet He was without sin. There were no supernatural advantages for Jesus. He felt pain. He became hungry and tired. There were no celestial angels rescuing Jesus from the power of evil men. Christ’s agony upon the cross was not lessened by some superhuman anesthetic. We cannot begin to imagine the anguish that caused Jesus to sweat drops of blood in the Garden of Gethsemane, nor the anguish He must have felt as He cried out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?”

It is in His suffering that we are set free. In His weariness, His disappointments, in His being misunderstood, and in the pain of His life that we can know Jesus, the Christ, as truly human. In His humanity, He is able to understand us when we grow weary, when we are disappointed, and when we are misunderstood. Because He was tempted in every way that we are tempted, He is able to understand us when we are tempted.

As the perfect sinless human, Jesus is able to understand us. He experienced all that we will ever experience. And so much more. As the perfect sin offering upon the cross, Jesus experienced the wrath of God for our sin so that we should never have to experience that wrath. Jesus took upon Himself our sin as a truly righteous being. By doing that, He fulfilled the demands of God’s justice.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.John 1:1

Last month we saw that Jesus was truly human and truly righteous. If Jesus was only a man, then you could safely forget about Him. However, if He is also God, as Christians confess Him to be, then you should give careful thought to Him.

In his gospel, John reveals Jesus as the eternal pre-existing Son of God who became Man in order to restore us to the Father through His own death and resurrection.

John writes, Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His Name.John 20:30,31

Throughout his gospel, John reveals Jesus as the Lord of Glory, the Son of the Almighty God. He is very God of very God.

The Pre-Existing Christ🔗

How does John set forth his proofs that Jesus is God? The first thing John writes in his account of the life of Christ is that He was pre-existing. The “in the beginning” of John is before the “in the beginning” of Genesis. John tells us as much when he reports that “all things came into being by Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being” (John 1:3). John is telling us that when we begin to talk about Jesus Christ, we can only do so correctly by going beyond the beginning of creation all the way into eternity past.

John is not the only one to emphasize the deity of the Christ. The Prophet Micah informs us that the one born in Bethlehem would be “from the days of eternity” (Micah 5:2). The author of Hebrews also reminds us of Christ’s presence at creation in Hebrews 1:1, 2. And, in the Book of Revelation, Jesus claims to be the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last. Through these passages and more, we can be assured that Christ was there before all things.

But that is the same thing that the Jehovah’s Witnesses believe. They do not believe that Jesus is God; they believe that Jesus is the very first thing that God created. It would logically follow, they argue, that if God created Jesus first, He would be there before the creation of everything else. But it does not make Him God.

The Personhood of Christ🔗

However, the very next thing that John writes is that Jesus was not just standing there along side of the Father as the Father created. John affirms the separate personhood of Christ within the Godhead by writing “and the Word was God.” Apart from their separate tasks, everything you can say about the Father, you can say about the Son. They are equal in wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth.

One may well ask why it is so important to believe that Jesus is very God of very God. Understand that there are some very practical applications to this.

First of all, to say that Jesus Christ is God is to say that we can know some things about God. We can know what God is like. The opposite is also true. Apart from Christ, you can never know what God is really like. Is God the god of Plato’s imagination? Is God the god of Immanuel Kant’s philosophy? Is God the god of the mystics? Not if you know God in light of Jesus Christ. If you want to know more about the love of God, the compassion of God, the goodness of God, the power of God, then look to Jesus because He is God.

The Power of Christ🔗

Another important aspect of Jesus Christ being God comes at Calvary. Because Jesus is God, His death on the cross becomes very important to us.

If you were to make the statement that you would like to die for the sins of another person it would not do any good. You are a sinner. The only sin that you can die for is your own. Even then your death would not be enough to satisfy the justice of God. You would be utterly destroyed. Human flesh is finite. Dust we are and to dust we will return. The wrath of God against our sin, on the other hand, is infinite. No human being, no matter how strong or powerful, could ever withstand the almighty wrath of God to the finish. Because of this, God will measure out His wrath in small doses, a little bit at a time. That being the case, we would be forever burning in hell, carrying the weight of God’s wrath, for all eternity.

How necessary for us to find a Savior who is able to withstand God’s wrath; One who can endure the punishment completely. How necessary for that Savior to be as powerful as God Himself! Only an infinitely powerful Being, very God of very God, can withstand the infinite wrath of God. That, dear readers, is what sets Jesus of Nazareth apart from all others who claim to be saviors. Jesus Christ, who is God as John points out in his gospel, can endure the wrath of God.

The Propitiation of Christ🔗

In addition, the catechism teaches us that our Savior must be truly God in order to earn for us righteousness and life. In order for us to be right with God, we must be righteous before God. But we are not. We are sinful. We could sacrifice animals like they did in the Old Testament, but animals are only finite creatures who cannot atone for the sins of man. Instead, there must be a perfect, holy sacrifice made for us by one who is sinless and obedient to the will of God from the very beginning.

Such a sacrifice would have infinite value. It would exonerate us if we would place our hope and trust in such a sacrifice. Such a sacrifice was found in Jesus Christ. Paul writes:

He who had no sin, was made to be sin for us, so that we might be the righteousness of God.II Corinthians 5:21

Jesus had no sin. That made His death on the cross a sacrifice for sin. Not His sin, because He had no sin, but our sin when we acknowledge Him as our Savior.

It takes an omnipotent power to restore us into God’s favor. We need a Mediator! We need a Savior! Jesus must actually give us His righteousness. He must give us life. Out of His infinite love and power Jesus is able to give to us eternal life.

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