Today, we're going to talk about Jesus. Doesn't everyone like to talk about Jesus? When we talk about defending our Christian convictions, one of the main things that makes us Christian is Jesus: his person and his work. If we get those wrong, we may not actually be Christian. We need to be prepared to talk about the importance of different doctrines dealing with Jesus and how they fit together. That last point is incredibly key.
I can remember when I was starting to learn about apologetics and theology. It was like one of those games where there's a map, and it starts out, and your character can only see what it's standing on. Everything else around the character is black. You can't see anything on the map. Then, you might learn something that's up in the top right hand corner. Then, you might learn something that's bottom left.
You still don't really know anything. You don't how these things connect. Are there mountains in between them? Is there a river? How do these connect to where you're at? As you slowly start to learn more and more, you start to connect more and more of the light areas, and you start to understand, "Oh. Okay. There's a community over here. There's a mountain range over here." At some point, things start linking up sufficiently well that you have a feel for the whole landscape.
Now, I'm not claiming to understand every single thing in theology. That's not my point. But at some point, you get a lay of the land, and you know your way around, and you know what connects to what. That's really important when it comes to Christianity and theology, because every thing connects to almost everything else. There are no isolated points. You can't get one area of doctrine wrong and not have, probably, several others wrong. You can't say one thing isn't important without actually implying or directly leading to several other things not being important.
Theology is done in such a way, and the Bible is actually written in such a way, where things link together so tightly, so incredibly well. Not just a few things, but many, many, many, things. Yet, today, there are many people who are starting to say, "Well, it's not important if you believe in the virgin birth." They might say, "I, personally, believe in it, but it's not that important." They might say, "It's not that important that Jesus actually knew everything, that he had all of the attributes of being God," or, "Well, we don't need to disagree about what Jesus actually accomplished on the cross." Well, actually, these things are really important, because they have to do with how well many other doctrines in Christianity fit together.
Today, let's talk about just some of the biblical doctrines dealing with Jesus. I think it'll be really helpful for us to understand his person and his work. Those are the two really important areas to understand about Jesus, his person, who he was, his attributes, and what he did. What we will see is you can't actually separate those. If you get some things wrong about who Jesus was, you will necessarily get things wrong about what he did, or you'll be inconsistent. If you get things wrong about what he did, you will probably end up getting things wrong about his person. Once again, theological topics are very linked.
The Virgin Birth
Let's talk about the virgin birth. Basically, the reason the virgin birth is important, aside from scripture saying it happened, which would be enough, is that it shows and demonstrates that Jesus was truly God and truly man. He wasn't just a man. He was truly God and truly man.
He was fully God, you might say. He had everything of what it means to be God, as we see in Colossians 1, "The fullness of God dwelt in bodily form in Jesus," but he was also truly human. Galatian 4:4 says this,
”When the appropriate time had come, God sent out his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we may be adopted as Sons with full rights."
It goes on to say more than that. There is so much in this sentence here. “When the appropriate time had come,” which means there was a time when God chose to send the Son into the world, and the Son chose to come. The Son had always existed. Jesus has eternally been the Son.
The Son was not “born” as in “he came into existence.” The Son was actually sent. You'll see the next clause there, he was born of a woman. When Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, it was the eternal Son of God who was inside of her. We see the eternal Son, and then he was born of a woman. He was also born under the law. This is where we're starting to transition from who he was to what he did, because a key part of what Jesus came to do was to redeem those who were born under the law, to redeem all of his people. That's what we see in verse five.
How did he redeem those who were under the law? Well, he had to have been born under the law, and not just any man could redeem everyone. He needed to be the eternal Son. Actually, every phrase, so far in this sentence, from Paul, is essential. It's either telling us who Jesus was, or what he did, or transitioning between the two, because they're linked.
I think of a passage we often read at Christmas time from Isaiah, which says, "To us a child is born and a Son is given." You will note, the child is born, but the Son was not created in that way. The Son was actually given. That's what Paul's talking about here. He was sent out. I think that's incredibly important. Jesus has always existed. He did not come into existence at his conception or at his birth. He was the eternal Son, who took on human nature alongside his divine nature, was born of a woman, was born under the law, so that he could then redeem those who were under the law, so that those people he redeemed would be adopted as Sons of God with full rights. There's so much there.
You'll see that the virgin birth is incredibly essential, because it actually explains and upholds this truth, that he could not have just had a normal earthly father and mother, because then he would not have been truly God. He would not have been the eternal Son. A person who is just simply human, and only truly human, could not have been the one to be perfect under the law, to redeem those under the law. His personhood and his work are entirely linked.
God Couldn’t Die, But Man Could
We see in Matthew 20:18-19, this is Jesus speaking,
”Look. We are going up to Jerusalem and the son of man will be handed over to the chief priest and the experts in the law, and they will condemn him to death, and will turn him over to the gentiles to be mocked and flogged severely and crucified. Yet, on the third day, he will be raised."
What are some other important things about Jesus, his person and his work? Well, if he were not man, he could not die. God cannot die, by definition. He exists in and of himself. His existence is not contingent on something else. He exists, necessarily. God cannot cease to exist. God cannot die. Men can die. Women can die. Humans can die.
In order for Jesus to be the sacrifice for sin, he didn't just need to live under the law, he needed to actually be able to die, in his humanity. We see, here, another affirmation of something that flows from the two natures of Christ, that he was truly God and truly man. He's going to live under the law, and he's going to die.
The reason he can die is because he is man. Isn't it interesting, here, he's actually prophesying about this. He's saying, this is what is going to happen. They will condemn him to death. They will turn him over to the gentiles. He will be mocked. On the third day, he will rise. He's saying what will happen happening.
No mere man can tell the future, apart from the work of God. We see, here, once again, an affirmation of Jesus's humanity, that he is this person who will be crucified. In his humanity, that can actually happen. In his divinity, he's also telling us what will happen. He is telling the future and it will necessarily come to pass. It's not a guess, because God decrees the future. He knows what is going to happen. Once again, his person and his work are linked.
Jesus Ransoms His People
Let's talk a little more about what actually happened in that crucifixion and resurrection. 1 Peter 1:8 is a great passage.
”You know that, from your empty way of life inherited from your ancestors, you were ransomed, not by perishable things, like silver and gold, but by precious blood, like that of an unblemished and spotless lamb, namely Christ."
Christ is the one, who, by his blood, ransomed his people. He freed them from captivity and bondage. His blood actually directly led to that ransom. It was the price.
Now, that ransom is applied, you might say, at a specific point in time. It was provided for at the cross. His blood, none of it was wasted. It all directly leads to people being ransomed from their sin. Once again, you can't have someone who dies as the ransom from sin if they are not human. His humanity and his divinity are important.
Let's think back, quickly, about the Old Testament sacrificial system. Often, I think, we misunderstand Jesus and his work, because we do not understand our Old Testament. Jesus was the last sacrifice of the Old Testament. He's called the lamb, here, a spotless, unblemished, lamb. Sacrifices, in the Old Testament, were offered on behalf of a people. They were offered by a high priest. They, at least temporarily, removed the punishment for sin for the people they were offered for, and that is what Jesus did. He's linking, here, this Old Testament imagery of Jesus being a lamb with how the lambs were in the Old Testament.
When we start thinking about substitution, which is what Jesus did. He was the substitute in our place. He provided for the ransom of a specific people. Because of that, he also goes on to be the high priest, or the mediator, for those. That's what we see in Hebrews 4,
”For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things, as we were, yet without sin."
We see in numerous passages today, that Jesus is actually the one who was without sin. That's how we can be credited with his righteousness.
We see that in Romans that we don't just have our guilt removed by this offering that he was as the unblemished lamb. No, actually, we are credited, the technical theological term would be “imputed,” with the righteousness of Jesus Christ. Not just the guilt that is removed from us, though that's a great thing, we also are credited with his righteousness. That's because, at that cross, he was credited with our sin. He was not actually made sin. He did take on the guilt, and, you might say, the credit of our sin. We, at the same time, are not actually made righteous, at least not right when we are saved. Although, ultimately, when we are glorified, we will be in a sense. We are credited with the righteousness of Christ. Positionally, we are righteous in God's eyes, even though we are simultaneously sinners.
Jesus is High Priest
This passage, once again, speaks of another role of Jesus, that of high priest. Then, as the one who atoned for his people, he then goes on to intercede for those. If Jesus atoned for you, if he paid the ransom for you, the argument, in Hebrews from chapter 4 through chapter 10, is that he will be the one who also mediates for you, is the go-between between you and the Father. He intercedes for you. He is your high priest. His duty, in offering the sacrifice, which is something the priest did, is also something we see linked with his duty in mediating for the people. Just like the Old Testament high priest offered sacrifices on behalf of their people, just like they were the go-between between their people and God, so Jesus is the one who offers a sacrifice for his people. Jesus is the one who mediates between his people and God. That's very connected to him also being the lamb. Jesus is both the lamb and the high priest.
It All Links
All of this connects back to where we started with the virgin birth and the fact that he's truly God and truly man. Isn't that just interesting, that we couldn't get to him being our high priest, if he weren't the one who offered himself on the cross? He couldn't have offered himself on the cross and it be effective, if he were only a man, because he would've had his own sins to pay for. He coudn't have done it if he were only God, because God cannot die. God did not live under the law. A man needed to live under the law. Once again, the two natures of Jesus are important.
Well, how do you get the two natures of Jesus? The virgin birth. That is where we see that, yes, the eternal Son, who has always existed, became and took on humanity. He was truly a man in that way. He was born of a woman, and such, he could represent us. Adam represented us poorly (although, I think all of us would've done the same thing.) We needed another one of our kind to represent us, and that is where Jesus comes in.
We could trace so many more themes and connections with theological topics. Just looking at Jesus (and only some of the doctrines about Jesus) we see that they all connect, from the virgin birth, to who he was, to what he did, to what he did on the cross, to what he continues to do today, and how all of those things, from start to finish, are linked. If you get one of those wrong, you'll get other ones wrong.
Theology is incredibly interconnected. We need to start thinking about it that way, because there is great explanatory power when we understand that the more things we learn, the more things that that actually makes sense of, if that makes sense itself. Well, I hope this has been helpful, and I'll talk with you next week on Unapologetic.