David Bernard: The Doctrine of Christ

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A series of teachings on Christology, it simply means the doctrine of Christ. Webster’s Dictionary defines it as the “theological interpretation of the person and work of Christ.” The heart of Christology is the study of the Incarnation-the union of deity and humanity in Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly teaches, and the Oneness doctrine strongly affirms, the absolute deity of Jesus Christ. “For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Colossians 2:9). “The Word was God” (John 1:1). Many passages refer to Jesus as God Himself) Acknowledging the deity of Christ is essential to salvation. Jesus said, “If ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins” (John 8:24). The Greek text does not contain the pronoun he, and it places extra emphasis on the pronoun L The effect is to identify Jesus with the name God used for Himself in the Old Testament: I AM (Exodus 3:14-16). A few verses later Jesus emphasized this truth: “Verily, verily I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The Jews understood His point; they immediately took up stones to kill Him for claiming to be God (John 8:59; 10:33). Christianity rests on Jesus Christ’s identity as God incarnate. Christians look solely to Jesus as Savior. Only if Jesus is truly God does He have power to save from sin, for no one can forgive sins except God (Isaiah 43:25; Mark 2:7). John 8:24 does not demand a thorough comprehension of the Godhead as a prerequisite for salvation. It is possible and indeed likely for someone to obey John 3:5 and Acts 2:38 without a theologically accurate understanding of the Oneness doctrine. It is impossible, however, to receive remission of sins in the name of Jesus and to receive the Holy Spirit without acknowledging the deity of Jesus Christ. Oneness preachers are sometimes hesitant to call Jesus the Son of God, as if this title were trinitarian. A few refuse to attribute complete humanity to Him. A clear Christology would avoid these problems, enabling Oneness preachers to use biblical themes and phrases with confidence. Scripture emphatically proclaims the genuine and complete humanity of Christ. “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same … For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren” (Hebrews 2:14,16-17). Jesus “was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” (Romans 1:3). Hebrews 5:7-8 graphically portrays One who wrestled with human emotions, weaknesses, and fears: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered.” In whatever way we define the essential components of humanity, Christ had them:

* Flesh. “The Word was made flesh” (John 1:14). This does not mean the Spirit of Christ changed into humanity, as Jehovah’s Witnesses teach, but the Spirit was manifested in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16). It was not a transmutation but an incarnation.

* Body. “Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me … the body of Jesus Christ” (Hebrews 10:5, 10).

* Soul “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matthew 26:38). “His soul was not left in hell” (Acts 2:31).

* Spirit. “And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit” (Luke 2:40). “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit” (Luke 23:46).

* Mind. “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).

* Will. “Not my will, but thine, be done” (Luke 22:42).

Jesus was a perfect human. He was more than a theophany (God in a visible form). He was more than God animating a human body-God in a human shell. He was actually God incarnate-God dwelling and manifesting Himself in true humanity, with everything genuine humanity includes. If Jesus had anything less than complete humanity, the Incarnation would not be real. We could not explain His agony and struggle in Gethsemane. He could not truly be “in all points tempted like as we are” (Hebrews 4:15). His life and death could not adequately substitute for ours. He could not qualify as our kinsman redeemer. His atoning sacrifice could not be sufficient to redeem man. Belief in Christ’s true humanity is essential to salvation. “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist” (I John 4:3). Again, this does not mean a complete theological understanding of Christology, but a belief that Jesus actually came in the flesh. Christ’s humanity is necessary to salvation because without it there is no death, burial, and resurrection for justification, no blood for remission of sin, no sacrifice of atonement.

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