#8 The Incarnation - Jesus Becomes Man
Jesus had been "brought-forth" from the Father before the creation of all life in order that God could commune with free-willed beings who had the capacity to fall from grace. In His brought-forth form Christ had communed with the Angels - so closely that He was even mistaken to be one of their own. When Lucifer rebelled it became necessary for God to "set forth the true position of His Son" and explain, "the relation He [Christ] sustained to all created beings." At this time God also stated that; "Christ was still to exercise divine power, in the creation of the earth and its inhabitants. But in all this He [Christ] would not seek power or exaltation for Himself . . . but would exalt the Father's glory and execute His purposes of beneficence and love." (PP: p. 36, par. 2).
Christ did this when He created this earth and man. Man chose to separate from God by trusting in someone else (Satan) and was plunged into the pit of Sin. This brought with it the curse of death - "For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Rom. 6:23). Christ now embarked on His mission (planned before the creation) to redeem man from this pit of sin. ONLY Christ could fulfill this mission: " None but he could restore to man the moral image of God, which had been lost through transgression" (ST: January 6, 1887; par. 3. - see also SR p.48, par. 1). Christ had already exercised great humility and condescension in His being "brought-forth" as a mediator between God and His creations, but the steps that He would need to take in order to redeem man would require an even greater sacrifice. Man's "redemption" has come "at an inconceivable cost to the Son of God" (Ibid). Christ would now have to become man's substitute. And this would require that the Son of God would need to become the Son of Man - that Christ would now actually have to "become flesh" and dwell among us in order to pay the penalty for our transgression and to restore us to the "image" of God.
Christ had pledged to do this for man and had made clear to Adam that He would do this. The plan of redemption was explained in the Garden of Eden and was passed down from Adam to his descendants orally and in the form of typical services (the slaying and offering of an animal) that graphically demonstrated the horridness of Sin as well as the tremendous cost of sin --which is death. Only two options exist for mankind: We may either accept the substitutionary death of our very "Creator", or the permanent death of ourselves.
After the "Fall" of Adam, and throughout the Old Testament period, Christ was to fulfill the role of the promised "Messiah" (or Savior) and would "reveal" the nature of God to man by speaking to him through the patriarchs and prophets. During this period of time Christ revealed the Law of God's government -- emphasizing it as the Supreme Law of the Universe and the Standard by which all men are judged ( The "Law" not only showed men what they should be doing - it also showed where men fail. Because all men have fallen short (transgressed God's Law), the Law has placed all men under its condemnation - which is death. This "condemnation" makes clear our need for a "Messiah" and so, serves to point us to the "Christ" - Jesus). Also during this time, Christ would continue to reveal Himself as the Savior of mankind through detailed "acted parables" and through the "typical" services of the Sanctuary. All the while Christ was attempting to draw men out of the pit of sin and into a clearer understanding of God's character and purposes - man was retreating further into the realm of darkness. Christ's repeated attempts to bring man to an understanding of God and back into a proper relationship to Him through faith in Christ's atoning sacrifice had gone unheeded. But God would not give up. The time had come for Christ to actually become a human being. The time had come for Christ to show us what we can do through a total surrender of ourselves to God and a complete dependence upon Him. The time had come for Christ to give Himself for us - and to us. Christ was about to make the ultimate sacrifice for the salvation of man.
Sister White tells us over and over again that the study of the "incarnation" is vitally important and that there is much that we may learn and much yet to be revealed concerning what was involved in the incarnation and what actually transpired in order to make the plan of Salvation possible. Why have we been so delinquent and remiss in our responsibility to study these things? Why do we only talk of the incarnation as if it were a mere "historical event"? Why are we content to simply say 'Jesus became a man and died for our sins? Do we really believe that this is all there is to it? Why are we so grossly ignorant of what God has actually done in order to grant us eternal life? Why haven't we "dug deep" into the waters of His Word to discover how great a sacrifice has actually been made in order to redeem us? The "silence" is deafening.
"At no period of time has man learned all that can be learned of the word of God. There are yet new views of truth to be seen, and much to be understood of the character and attributes of God …'And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.' This is a most valuable study, taxing the intellect, and giving strength to the mental ability. After diligently searching the word, hidden treasures are discovered, and the lover of truth breaks out in triumph. Without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: 'God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.' 'Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men'" (Special Testimonies on Education; p. 147, par. 2). The study of the incarnation in the context of the Great Controversy has tremendous things to reveal to us concerning the Godhead, the nature of Christ and the nature of the Holy Spirit - and most importantly, The Plan of Salvation itself. It has much to teach us regarding the "infinite cost to the Father and the Son" (RH: March 10, 1891; par. 2) in making the plan of Salvation available to us. The sacrifice began before the Creation of the world, and step-by-step the Sacrifice of Christ has been greater and ever greater. Now He is about to become a man in order to redeem us. What condescension on the part of Christ! What LOVE is this? Why do we treat this like it is some grocery store transaction?
"At the time when He was most needed, Jesus, the Son of God, the world's Redeemer, laid aside His divinity, and came to earth in the garb of humanity. He came to live out in His life God's holy law that had been misrepresented, and buried beneath human tradition and the commandments of men. Forms and ceremonies had been put in the place of the word of God, until its pure and holy principles were almost extinct." (Bible Echo: October 12, 1896; par. 1. Also repeated in ST: March 18, 1897; par. 3). Christ had parted with much of His own inherent divinity at the time of His being "brought forth" from the Father to act as a mediator between God and His creations ( In Christ's brought forth form He had "parted with" much of His inherent divinity in the sense that He was not walking around with His "pre-creation" glory. He was not Omnipresent, Omniscient, or Omnipotent. In His brought forth form, Christ was subservient to His Father-- yet rightfully the "Son of God." He was still the Creator and still had access to his own "divine power" - but He voluntarily agreed not to use it for His self) - but now He was to "lay aside His divinity" and take on the nature of His Created Human Beings in order to stand in our stead, pay the penalty for our transgression, and to show us how we can be victorious over the power of sin and freed from it's dominion over us. But Christ was to do even more than that. Christ, through His "infinite" Sacrifice, was not only going to restore man to his proper relationship with God - He was going to make man capable of being a partaker of the divine nature! "He is the costly sacrifice that has been given for the reconciliation of man…. Calvary represents his crowning work. It is man's part to respond to his great love, by appropriating the great salvation the blessing of the Lord has made it possible for man to obtain. We are to show our appreciation of the wonderful gift of God by becoming partakers of the divine nature …" (Youth's Instructor: October 17, 1895; par. 2).
In order to become a human being - to become our substitute, example, Savior, Lord, and King - Christ would have to incarnate Himself into the Human Race. Christ had begun this incarnation at the time that He was "brought-forth" from the Father, but now He was to complete His incarnation into a man - a flesh and blood human being. In His brought-forth form Christ was a "Spiritual" being, just as the angels are. Spiritual beings have a form - a body if you will (they exist in and occupy space and are not omnipresent) - but they are not constrained by the limitations of the physical world of matter, as we know it. They do not have to "open" a door, for instance, in order to pass through it as we do. Christ took on this type of nature when He was "brought-forth" but was now about to limit Himself even further by becoming a flesh and blood man. In order to accomplish this Christ had to incarnate Himself into a human being.
It is extremely important to remember that Christ is the one who had to do this. He was the One whom it had been agreed upon would take up this mission and offer this sacrifice to save man. He would have to incarnate Himself into the human race and become one of us. Much of this is a mystery to us. We do not, and perhaps cannot, understand how a God could become a man - but the Bible does tell us some of how it was accomplished. The Bible tells us that the "Holy Spirit" came upon Mary and that the "Power of the Most High" overshadow her and she conceived (Luke 1:35). Matthew 1:18 & 20 tell us that Mary "was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit" and that "the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit." Who was this "Holy Spirit"? Was this some third, independent individual of the Godhead? Was this "Holy Spirit" a separate individual - or was it a separated individual from Christ? Hmmm . . .
I believe that Christ's "Spirit self" implanted His "brought-forth" self into the womb of Mary. That it was Christ's Spirit that overshadowed Mary and she conceived. I believe that this can be shown to be the case. But I will defer the examination of this and other proofs that the Holy Spirit is indeed Christ's Spirit for the next study. For now, all we have to accept is the fact that Christ was implanted into the womb of Mary and that He was in fact born as a human being. He was "incarnated" into human flesh.
In human flesh, Christ would not (and could not) use His own divine power to overcome temptation or to win the victory over His flesh. Christ would have no advantage over us in this regard. Had Christ used His own divinity to overcome the temptations of the flesh then He would have been doing something that we cannot do and would be asking us to do something that it is impossible for us to do! In order for Christ to be our example in how to overcome, He must overcome through dependence on a power outside of Himself - a power that was not of Himself. "If we had to bear anything which Jesus did not endure, then upon this point Satan would represent the power of God as insufficient for us. Therefore Jesus was 'in all points tempted like as we are.' Heb. 4:15. He endured every trial to which we are subject. And He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the strength given Him from God" (DA p. 24, par. 2). To do this, Christ "laid aside His divinity" and would face the Devil and the flesh in the same way that we must face them. Christ would depend wholly upon His Father for guidance, wisdom, strength and power. "He overcame to show man how he may overcome. He announced…'The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because He hath anointed Me to preach the gospel'" (3T: p. 388, par. 2)…."He was not free from temptation…But our Saviour relied upon His heavenly Father for wisdom and strength to resist and overcome the tempter. The Spirit of His Heavenly Father animated and regulated His life. He was sinless." (The Youth's Instructor: February 1, 1873).
We are told that Jesus is our "example in all things" (Bible Echo: September 3, 1900; par. 13). We need to be careful that we do not take this to mean that His life is only an ideal that we are to strive to emulate. We need to understand that we are not to try to live the life of Christ by simply trying to imitate what Christ did -- through our own best efforts. This approach is a subtle form of legalism - it is us attempting to be God - it is us attempting to save ourselves. It cannot be done! This is not what is meant when we are told that Jesus was our "example".
There can be little doubt that Christ fully took on Human Nature. "Christ did not make believe to take human nature; He did verily take it. He did in reality possess human nature" (RH April 5, 1906; par. 4). The Bible often refers to Christ as the "Son of Man." As a "man" Christ was to show us how we can overcome. "Christ…had taken the steps every sinner must take, in conversion, repentance, and baptism…as man's surety, he must meet and resist every temptation with which man is assailed" (ST May 27, 1897). "He endured temptation even as every human being must endure. He believed God as we must believe. He learned obedience even as we are required to learn obedience. And He overcame as we must overcome" (Bible Echo: September 3, 1900; par. 13. See also Hebrews 5:8).
In taking human nature Christ did not come already equipped with a perfect character or with a perfect knowledge of what He was to do or how He was to do it. His life was an unfolding just as our lives are. True, His was unique. Still, Christ had to learn to trust in God. He had to learn how to obey. He had to learn how to take all of the steps that we must take to overcome temptation. These things were not inherently in Himself when He became a man.
Did Christ really take all the steps that the sinner must take in "conversion" and "repentance"? How can this be so? Why would Christ need to be "converted"? Of what would Christ need to "repent"? If Christ were without "sin" (which He was - See Heb. 4:15) then why would He need to do these things? How could He do these things? How could a sinless being be converted and repent? This may require us to re-think our definitions of conversion and repentance!
If repentance is simply "being sorry for committing sin" then Jesus could never have experienced repentance. If repentance is having a "change of mind" and "turning around" (which is the Greek meaning of the word) then it would still be hard to conceive of Jesus "repenting." Did Jesus "change His mind" about anything? Did Jesus "turn and go in another direction"? NO! So how can we understand this? I propose that these things can be understood by reconsidering our definitions of conversion and repentance.
If conversion is understood as: "being fully persuaded as to the 'rightness' of another person's thoughts, morals, and actions - and living one's own life in accordance to that person's principles"; then we can understand that Jesus truly experienced "conversion."
If repentance is understood as: "turning away from one's self (denying one's own thoughts, wishes and desires) and accepting the 'will' of another as the rule for your life"; then we can see that Jesus experienced this also.
Someone once said that if you took the "I" out - there would be no S-I-N. "Sin" is all about "self" and selfishness. Sin IS selfishness! The Bible defines sin as "the transgression of the Law"(1 Jn. 3:4). More succinctly, sin is "lawlessness" (The Greek word used in 1 John 3:4 for the phrase translated in the KJV as "transgression of the Law" is "anomia" and means "Lawlessness."). Lawlessness and selfishness are the same thing. If a person were not "selfish" then they would never think to: dishonor their parents, murder, commit adultery, steal, bear false witness (lie), covet someone else's possessions or position in life, break the Sabbath, take the Lord's name in vain (proclaim to be a Christian but not obey Him), set your heart on things (idols), or put someone else above God. Lucifer would never have sinned had he not become selfish. As fallen human beings we are naturally selfish and must "repent" - or die to "self." Jesus did not commit sin, but He still had to die to "self" in order to accomplish His mission. He had to fulfill His Father's Will even when it was difficult for Himself.
Repentance is an ongoing process. Paul said "I die daily" (1 Cor. 15:31). Christ's entire life was one of repentance! Christ continually denied "self" and lived only for the good of others. Christ continually sought to fulfill His "Father's Will" and not His own. Even when He was suffering under the load of guilt in the Garden of Gethsemane and wished that He would not have to drink the cup of His Father's wrath, still He said: "nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done" (Lk. 22:42). Christ is the ultimate example of "dying to self". And we will see that in Christ's case, He literally died to self.
Conversion and repentance are interrelated. Both involve a mental assent to something and both involve a decision to action. They both involve a submission on the part of the believer, in thought, word, and action, to the Will of God - and a dependence upon God for the power to perform His Will. Christ was a perfect example of these things.
Christ became a man, in part, to demonstrate what we, as men, could accomplish through dependence on God - a power outside of ourselves. While Christ demonstrated this in a very real way (He actually did this) there are some critical differences in what He did and what we are to do. Christ relied upon His Father for the wisdom and strength to resist and overcome temptation. And it was the "Spirit of His Heavenly Father" that enabled Him to do so. It was not His Spirit but the Spirit of His Father upon which He relied. Can we rely upon the "Father's Spirit" to overcome sin? The answer is No! And the reason the answer is "no" involves Christ's nature as compared with our own.
We are sinful -- He is not -- that is, we have committed sin - He never did. We are of created human origin - He is not (Christ was of Divine origin, even in His incarnate state). The Father (God) IS Spirit. If we were to partake of the fullness of the Father's Spirit it would consume us. It would not, and could not consume Christ because of the critical differences between our being and His being (listed above). Christ could fully partake of the Father's Spirit. He was of divine origin and had been brought-forth from the Father. He had never sinned and this fact sets Him apart from us in a very distinct manner. However, it should be noted that this gave Christ no advantage over us. Had Christ committed sin, He would have been consumed - the Father's presence residing in Him would have consumed Him had He sinned. But as long as He remained without sin, Christ could partake of His Father's Spirit and live through complete dependence on His (Father's) strength and power to overcome temptation and sin. We are not in that exact position, but the "way" that we are to resist temptation and be victorious over sin is the same - we must depend on God's Spirit (in this case Christ's Spirit) for the strength and power to overcome. The process is the same for us as it was for Christ even though the direct agency of dependency differs.
Jesus has always pointed us to God the Father as the source of all goodness and of all power. But the Father can only give us these things in and through the person of Jesus Christ. He has appointed Christ as the only medium through which He can bless mankind. "No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him" (Jn. 1:18). "All things have been handed over to Me by My Father; and no one knows the Son except the Father; nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him" (Matt. 11:27).
God's wisdom and strength and power are to flow to us, but they must flow through the agency of Christ. This "power" cannot flow to us through the physical person (man) of Christ. It must flow through Christ's "Spirit." Remember that Christ is the only means of communication between fallen man and God. ALL things must go through Him. "…Man alienated himself from God; earth was cut off from heaven. Across the gulf that lay between, there could be no communion. But through Christ, earth is again linked with heaven…Christ connects fallen man in his weakness and helplessness with the Source of infinite power" (SC: p. 20, par. 2). Even the Angelic messengers are described, by Christ, as coming through Him. In His conversation with Nathanael, Christ said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, you will see the heavens opened and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man" (Jn. 1:51). Christ is the means by which God's graces flow to us. "There is no true excellence of character apart from Him. And the only way to God is Christ" (SC: p. 21, par. 1). "…the communication between God and man…was opened through Jesus Christ alonee" (RH: March 25, 1875; par. 1). Jesus said: "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (Jn. 14:6).
Christ partook of His Father's divine nature and "Christ expects that men will become partakers of His divine nature while in this world, thus not only reflecting His glory to the praise of God, but illumining the darkness of the world with the radiance of heaven" (5T p. 731, par. 1). Christ was dependent upon His heavenly Father - we are to be dependent upon our Heavenly Father, which is Christ Jesus! ("And His name will be called…Eternal Father". [2 Cor. 6:18] "And I will be a Father to you." [Jer. 3:19] "You shall call Me, My Father" [Isa. 9:6]. "through the Spirit, Christ was to abide continually in the hearts of His children" [SC: p. 74]. "This is the mystery of godliness. That Christ should take human nature, and by a life of humiliation elevate man in the scale of moral worth with God; that He should carry His adopted nature to the throne of God, and there present His children to the Father, to have conferred upon them an honour exceeding that conferred upon the angels,--this is the marvel of the heavenly universe, the mystery into which angels desire to look. This is love that melts the sinner's heart." [Australasian Union Conference Record: June 1, 1900; par. 15]).
One of the greatest temptations the Devil brought to Christ was to use or depend upon and use His own divine nature in order to overcome, or to relieve any of the burden and suffering He experienced. In the wilderness, the Devil tempted Christ in just such a manner. "The archdeceiver hoped that under the force of despondency and extreme hunger, Christ would lose faith in his Father, work a miracle in his own behalf, and take Himself out of his Father's hands. [He wanted Christ to take His power back up and use it for Himself] Had He done this, the plan of salvation would have been broken; for it was contrary to its terms that Christ should work a miracle in his own behalf . . . .As man's representative, He was to bear the trials of man, leaving a perfect example of submission and trust in God" (Bible Echo: November 15, 1892; par. 2). "He exercised in His own behalf no power that is not freely offered to us. As man, He met temptation, and overcame in the strength given Him from God." (DA p. 24, par. 2).
When Christ was "brought-forth", prior to the creation, He had undergone a change in His nature - He had separated some part of Himself from the part of Himself that carried the attributes of God (Omnipresence, etc.). However, the brought forth Christ did not completely divorce Himself from using His divine power, but had subjected its use to the Will of the Father. When Christ was fully incarnated as a man, Christ relinquished His prerogative to use His divine power completely. From here on out, the brought-forth - fully incarnated Christ would be forever dependent upon the Father for the source of His power. It should be noted that Christ never relinquished His "RIGHT" to power - which was His by "birth" and by "merit." This fact is made clear by the Father's pronouncement to the heavenly host regarding "the true position of His Son" and "the relationship He sustained to all created beings" (see PP: p. 36, par. 2). Jesus Christ was still the "Son of God" and shall always have "right" to the authority, power, and homage that goes with that title. This is also made clear in the Bible -- for God has appointed Christ "heir of all things" (Heb. 1:2) and "of the Son He says, Thy throne, O GOD, is forever and ever" (Heb. 1:8).
However, after His incarnation as a man, Christ declared: "I can of mine own self do nothing: as I hear, I judge: and my judgment is just; because I seek not mine own will, but the will of the Father which hath sent me" (Jn. 5:30). Even after His resurrection Christ declared that: "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth" (Mat. 28:18). It was His by "right," but it was not inherently His any longer - it now must be given to Him by His Father. Even His authority to rule as "Judge" has been given to Him: "this is the One who has been appointed by God as Judge of the living and the dead" (Acts 10:42; see also Acts 17:31). Things had changed dramatically for the One who, in the beginning, "was with God and was God." Things had changed even more drastically now that Christ had become a "man." And things were about to change irreversibly for the "Son of God."
Up until the point of His death on the Cross, Jesus could have abandoned His plans and picked up His Divine Power - reunited Himself with His divine "Spirit" - and returned to His original relationship with His Father. Had He done so, however, mankind (the entire human race) would have been Lost. "Terrible was the temptation to let the human race bear the consequences of its own guilt, while He stood innocent before God. . . .Christ might even now refuse to drink the cup apportioned to guilty man. It was not yet to late. He might wipe the bloody sweat from His brow, and leave man to perish in his iniquity. He might say, let the transgressor receive the penalty of his sin, and I will go back to My Father. . . .Three times has humanity shrunk from the last, crowning sacrifice. But now the history of the human race comes up before the world's Redeemer. He sees that the transgressors of the law, if left to themselves, must perish. He sees the helplessness of man. . . . He will save man at any cost to Himself. . . .He will not turn from His mission" (DA pp. 688, 690, 693).
When Christ entered into His last hours here on this earth Christ began to feel the full affects of His Sacrifice. "As the substitute and surety for sinful man, Christ was to suffer under divine justice. He was to understand what justice meant. He was to know what it means for sinners to stand before God without an intercessor" (PK: p. 691, par. 1). Christ began to suffer the "total separation" from God that sin brings. "The spotless Son of God took upon Himself the burden of sin. He who had been one with God, felt in His soul the awful separation that sin makes between God and man. This wrung from His lips the anguished cry, "My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken Me?" Matthew 27:46. It was the burden of sin, the sense of its terrible enormity, of its separation of the soul from God -- it was this that broke the heart of the Son of God" (SC, p. 13, par.2).
As a "man" Christ had to bear the burden of the sins of the world. It is true that: "Deity suffered and sank under the agonies of Calvary" (SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 907. [Manuscript #44; 1898]) -- But Christ was redeeming the human race and, as man's surety and substitute, He must do so as the rightful head of the human race -- He would have to accomplish this in His humanity. This meant that He would be "separated" from His Father. "Christ suffered upon the cross. He bore the sins of the whole world upon Him. He was separated from His Father and great bloody sweat came from His brow and moistened the sod of Gethsemane. He said, "If it be possible let this cup pass from me, nevertheless not my will but thine be done." He staggered, and the cup trembled in His hand. The destiny of a lost world was upon Him" (Northern Illinois Recorder: August 17, 1909; par. 14). I really do not believe that we have grasped the enormity or significance of this "separation."
Christ was paying the penalty for man's sin. He was paying the penalty for "lawlessness" - the penalty for man's transgression of the Law of God. The penalty for "lawlessness" (transgressing the Law) is "death." But it is not the mere physical death that all men face. "…to knowingly transgress the holy commandment…is a crime in the sight of heaven which was of such a magnitude under Mosaic law as to require the death of the offender. But this was not all the offender was to suffer, for God would not take a transgressor of His law [a lawless -- "Selfish" person] to heaven. He must suffer the second death, which is the full and final penalty for the transgressor of the law of God" (1T p. 533, par. 1). Although Christ had never sinned, He was taking the guilt of man's transgression upon Himself and, as such, would have to suffer the consequences rightly due to man. The death that Jesus faced (and must experience) was the "second death." We simply cannot escape this conclusion. This is "the full and final penalty for the transgressor of the law of God." If Christ were to truly make a full and final atonement for our sin, He would have to pay the full and final penalty for sin. It could be no other way.
But "The penalty threatened is not mere temporal death, for all must suffer this. It is the second death, the opposite of everlasting life" (SOP vol. 4; p. 364, par. 2). What is the "second death"? If it is the "opposite of everlasting life" then it must be the final, permanent, everlasting death of the individual (or person). This poses a problem for us. If Christ must pay the penalty for sin, and that penalty is the "second death" (the final, permanent and everlasting death) - then how is it that Christ was resurrected? How is it that He "Lives"? The answer lies in what Christ did through the incarnation and through the Cross. We must understand how Christ actually "died" (and what was actually sacrificed) at the Cross. Did it involve only His "physical" human life?
We are told that: "Humanity died: divinity did not die" (Youth's Instructor: August 4, 1898; par. 1). There is an awful lot contained in that short statement! The death that occurred on Calvary was not just the death of one man! All of "humanity" died in the person of Jesus Christ! Christ came to pay the penalty for the whole human race - every man, woman, and child that has ever lived! God has laid "the iniquity of us all" upon Christ" (Isa. 53:6). "For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive" (1 Cor. 15:22). "He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world" (1 John 2: 2). In Christ is the hope of the entire human race.
But the quote says that "Humanity died: divinity did not die." Christ obviously died as a man. It was in His humanity that Christ died. Christ became a man, died as a man, was raised as a man -- and Christ still retains His human nature. "The Son of God, now at the Father's right hand, still pleads as man's intercessor. He still retains His human nature, is still the Saviour of mankind" (ST: July 15, 1908; par. 7). If His "divinity" did not die, then what happened to it? We know that Christ was "raised" in His humanity and that He will forever retain His human nature -- so He could not have returned to His original divine Spirit self. "He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken. Jesus is "not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11); He is our Sacrifice, our Advocate, our Brother, bearing our human form before the Father's throne, and through eternal ages one with the race He has redeemed--the Son of man. And all this that man might be uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin that he might reflect the love of God and share the joy of holiness" (SC p.14). What then became of His divinity - His "divine" self - the "Spirit" self that existed with God in the beginning?
The "death" that Christ suffered was the second death. It had to be. Christ must suffer eternal separation from God. And this separation had to be of a permanent nature for there is no resurrection from the second death (Eternal separation from the life giving Spirit of God is the very nature of the second death). How then, was the man Jesus Christ eternally and permanently separated from God the Father when He died? Wasn't He resurrected, and doesn't He now exist in the Father's presence?
Two things need to be recognized here. First, as a "man" Christ did not sin (individually considered) and therefore the Law could not condemn Him - it could hold no threat of eternal death for Him. The individual person of Christ could be resurrected because He had committed no sin and had no right to death. The man Jesus Christ, the only man who has ever lived without committing Sin, could not be held in the grave for death held no claim on Him. This is why the man Jesus Christ could be "resurrected" and "live." God is a Just God and could not hold an innocent man - a man that had obeyed Him fully and without fail - a man who never sinned - guilty under the penalty of death for something that he had never done. The grave simply could not hold Christ. In Christ, humanity could be resurrected and live eternally.
But Christ had taken on the sins of the world. Christ literally "became Sin" for us, and suffered the results of Sin for us (2 Cor. 5:21 "He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him"). Christ was able to do this because He was of divine origin. "The law of Jehovah, the foundation of His government in heaven and upon earth, was as sacred as God Himself: and for this reason the life of an angel could not be accepted of God as a sacrifice for its transgression . . . .But the Son of God, who had in unison with the Father created man, could make an atonement for man acceptable to God, by giving His life a sacrifice and bearing the wrath of His Father" (Story of Redemption: p. 48, par. 1). "Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin--sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son" (PP p. 63, par. 2). As One who had been equal with God, Christ could take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin - He could stand as man's substitute - but in so doing Christ would suffer the consequences of Sin and would be "separated" from the Father. How? And for how long?
If Christ must suffer the full and final penalty for sin - which is the second death (eternal and permanent separation from God) then He would have to be "separated", in some way, from the Father eternally. How could Christ be separated from the Father eternally? The answer lies in the incarnation and the full effects of the incarnation. In the Beginning Christ had been brought-forth from the Father for the purpose of mediation (communication) between a Perfect and All-Consuming God and the creatures with which He wished to commune. At His birth Christ had laid aside His royal robe - laid down His own divinity - and become a man. He relinquished the use of His own divine Spirit on His own behalf. In effect, He separated Himself from it (it did not reside in Him). At His death, this separation between His brought-forth, Divine Human "Self" and His Divine Spirit "Self" became permanent. Christ was to be "through eternal ages one with the race He has redeemed--the Son of man" (SC p. 14, par. 3). Christ would never again enjoy the intimate Oneness that He had enjoyed with the Father in the beginning when He was "with God and was God."
Why would the Father allow such a thing? How could He part with His Son? "Nothing less than the infinite sacrifice made by Christ in behalf of fallen man could express the Father's love to lost humanity" (Ibid. par. 2). "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (Jn. 3:16).
And why would Christ consent to such humiliation and undergo such condescension? Why would He be willing to leave His Father's side in order to rescue us? Why would Christ be willing to part with His Divine Spirit and eternally become a man? "Christ took upon Himself humanity, and laid down His life a sacrifice, that man, by becoming a partaker of the divine nature, might have eternal life" (Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 141, par. 1). "Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life that was His" (DA p. 25, par. 2).
Christ came in order to demonstrate how man can overcome through faith in God - through a total submission to God's Will. Christ also came in order to demonstrate what "MAN" can become through being a partaker of the divine nature! "The man Christ Jesus was not the Lord God Almighty" (SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1129). Christ had "laid aside His divinity" and would demonstrate to us what being a partaker of the divine nature could actually do in us. In partaking of His Father's divine nature, Christ, as a man, would actually unite divinity with humanity and would incorporate humanity into the Godhead!
Christ had to take on our nature and depend totally upon His Father in order to do this. Christ also had to give up His divine nature in order to give it to (or share it with) us so that we too could be united with God in a way that would actually qualify us to be called "Sonss (and "Daughters") of God" and share His Throne. "Divinity had united with humanity for the purpose of uniting humanity with divinity, that through Christ man might become a partaker of the divine nature" (RH: July 7, 1896; par. 5). Christ came, not only to restore man to his original glory but to elevate man to a state exceeding his original design. "…Christ gave up His life for the human race. This sacrifice was offered for the purpose of restoring man to his original perfection; yea, more. It was offered to give him an entire transformation of character, making him more than a conqueror. Those who in the strength of Christ overcome the great enemy of God and man, will occupy a position in the heavenly courts above angels who have never fallen" (General Conference Bulletins: April 1, 1899; par. 2). This is a tremendous thing! This is a tremendous Honor! "This is the mystery of godliness. That Christ should take human nature, and by a life of humiliation elevate man in the scale of moral worth with God; that He should carry His adopted nature to the throne of God, and there present His children to the Father, to have conferred upon them an honour exceeding that conferred upon the angels,--this is the marvel of the heavenly universe, the mystery into which angels desire to look. This is love that melts the sinner's heart" (Australasian Union Conference Record, June 6, 1900; par.15). Yet we talk of it as though it were a mere novelty. Our appreciation of it is sadly lacking in most circles and our understanding of how this was accomplished is even more disturbing. Christ gave everything for us in order to make this possible - and we sit around like little school children praying for the latter rain and having no clue as to what it is, and what it has cost the "Son of God" to provide it for us.
Christ literally died to "self." He died to the "self" that once existed "with God and as God" in order to save you and me. He became "one" with us (and one of us) in order that we might become "one" with God. Christ not only gave Himself for us, He gave Himself to us! The "Son of Man" now at the Father's Throne, would be forever dependent upon His Father Spirit for divine power. His own divine "Spirit" He has given to us, that we may become partakers of the divine nature. "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me." John 17:22-23.
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