Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Man Christ Jesus

Academic journal article Journal of the Evangelical Theological Society

The Man Christ Jesus

Article excerpt


The theological question that has given rise to the reflections of this paper is as follows: What dimensions of the life, ministry, mission, and work of Jesus Christ can only be accounted for fully and understood rightly when seen through the lens of his humanity? Put differently, while Christ was (and is) fully God and fully man, how do we best account for the way in which he lived his life and fulfilled his calling - by seeing him carrying this out as God, or as man, or as the God-man? I would argue that the most responsible answer biblically and theologically is the last, "as the God-man," but that the emphasis must be placed on the humanity of Christ as the primary reality he expressed in his day-by-day life, ministry, and work.

The instinct in much evangelical theology, both popular and scholarly, is to stress the deity of Christ, but the NT instead puts greater stress, I believe, on his humanity. He came as the second Adam, the seed of Abraham, the son of David, and he lived his life as one of us. Now again, he was fully and unequivocally God, and some of the works of Jesus, in my view, displayed this deity - e.g. his forgiving of sin (Mark 2), the transfiguration of Christ (Matthew 19; Mark 9; Luke 9), his raising of Lazarus from the dead as the one claiming, "I am the resurrection and the life" (John 11), and most importantly the efficacy of his atonement whose payment for our sin, only as God, was of infinite value - these and others show forth the truth that he lived among us also as one who was fully God.

But while he was fully God, and while this is crucial to understanding rightly his full identity, life, and the fulfillment of his atoning work, the predominant reality he experienced day by day, and the predominant means by which he fulfilled his calling, was that of his genuine and full humanity. Paul captures the significance of the humanity of Christ with his assertion, "There is one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Tim 2:5).

In this address, I wish to support this claim by appeal to two features of the life and ministry of Christ.1 Though there are many other factors we could consider, both of these are central to his identity and mission, and both are explicable ultimately as we see them lived out, as it were, through the lens, primarily, of the humanity of Christ. First, we will consider what it means that Jesus came as the long-awaited Spirit-anointed Messiah. Second, we will explore the reality of Jesus' impeccability and consider the means by which he resisted temptation. In both of these features, while the deity of Christ certainly is evident, his humanity is prominent such that apart from his full and integral humanity, we cannot account for these central and pivotal identifying features of his person and work.


One of the clearest and strongest evidences that Jesus lived his life and carried out his mission fundamentally out of his humanity is that Jesus came as the Spirit-anointed Messiah. That is, Jesus was empowered by the Spirit to accomplish the work he came to do. As Gerald Hawthorne claims in his seminal study, The Presence and the Power: The Significance of the Holy Spirit in the Life and Ministry of Jesus, the Holy Spirit's presence and work in Jesus' life is one of the most significant biblical evidences "of the genuineness of his humanity." According to Hawthorne, "the significance of the Spirit in his life lies precisely in this: that the Holy Spirit was the divine power by which Jesus overcame his human limitations, rose above his human weakness, and won out over his human mortality."2

Now, one must ask this question: Why did Jesus need the Spirit? After all, he was fully God, and being fully God, certainly nothing could be added to him, for as God, he possessed already, infinitely and eternally, every quality or perfection that there is. Yet, Jesus was indwelt with the Spirit and ministered in the power of the Spirit. …

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