By Colin and Russell Standish
God's Word defines plainly that Christ took upon Himself our fallen, sinful nature.
Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh (Romans 1:3).
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:3-4).
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 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 behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:14-18).
But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:4-5).
While taking upon Himself our fallen nature, He in no way participated in our sin.
For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
Augustine and the Human Nature of Christ
Jesus by His life gained victory over sin, and by His resurrection gained victory over the result of sin-death. We might well ask how Evangelicals were led to the false view that Christ came in the pre-fall nature of Adam, when the Bible plainly teaches that He accepted sinful human nature. Once again, this error can be traced to Augustinian theology.
Augustine and his followers had a gigantic problem. Having assumed that we sin because we are sinners as a result of original sin, they were confronted with the fact that there is no way that Christ can be referred to as a sinner. Therefore, in order to support his false hypothesis, Augustine was prepared to postulate that Christ had an altogether different nature from that of the rest of the human race; otherwise He, too, would have been a sinner. Thus they rejected the clear testimony of the Word of God that we are sinners because "all have sinned and come short of the glory of God" (Romans 3:23). They also appear to have ignored the clearest definition possible for sin:
Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4).
Having ignored this definition, the adherents of Augustinian doctrine found it necessary to incorporate in their theology a Christ who had taken upon Himself the nature of unfallen man. As a result, they placed "Christ" wholly outside the deeper experience of humanity. Paul clarifies the humanity with which Christ came to this earth.
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: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
Some have incorrectly argued that this text, together with Romans 8:3, refers to Christ "like man" or in the "likeness" of sinful flesh. But the word translated "like" is the Greek word homoioma from which today we get the word homogeneity meaning "of the same order." Christ was made of the same order "as man" or "He was made of the same order as sinful flesh." True understanding of the human nature of Christ leads us to a much fuller understanding of the wonderful sacrifice that Jesus made in behalf of humanity. It would indeed have been an unbelievable humiliation for the Son of God to take upon Himself the nature of created angels. It certainly would also have been an even greater condescension to take upon Himself the nature of Adam before his transgression. But to take upon Himself the nature of fallen humanity was the ultimate evidence of His identification with the human race. The only divine strength He had was not resident within Himself, as it would have been if He had taken upon Himself unfallen nature, but His strength was from His Father alone.
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 (John 5:30).
Representative of the beliefs of some Evangelicals is the following:
For centuries Christians have argued about the human nature of Christ. Some have believed that He could have sinned; but he did not. Others, including this writer, that He could not have sinned (Martin, W., The Kingdom of the Cults, Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1985, p. 433).
The Incarnation of Christ: A Mystery
It has been argued that though Jesus took the physical form of a degenerate human being, He did not take the spiritual form of such. But this reasoning would demand an allegiance to the Greek pagan concept of the dichotomy of body and soul-that the body is evil and the soul is pure. This Greek philosophy easily found a nesting place within apostate Christianity through the acceptance of Augustinian concepts. But there is not one shred of evidence in the Word of God that Jesus took other than our own nature, and it was through the power of His heavenly Father that He was able to resist every temptation of Satan. Indeed, not for one incipient moment during His life did Christ ever lose His relationship with God. In this one sense alone was He different from the rest of humanity. Matthew states,
Now the birth of Jesus Christ was on this wise: When as his mother Mary was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Ghost (Matthew 1:18).
And Luke records,
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).
There is no human way to explain the conception of Jesus as a result of the overshadowing of the Holy Spirit, yet in faith we accept that Mary indeed was a virgin, having never had sexual relationships with any man. This fact allowed the babe to be totally overshadowed by the Holy Spirit, thus beginning His life and ending His life in complete conformity to the will of God. However, the same experience of Jesus from His conception is ours when, in the new-birth experience, we are born of the Spirit. Some have rationally argued that Luke 1:35 placed Jesus in an altogether different experience from that of normal humanity, because it was declared that Jesus was "that holy thing." This view, of course, is a reference to His unbroken life of sanctification. However, a simple comparison of scripture with scripture from the same author, Luke, demonstrates that this term was not unique even to the perfect Son of God.
(As it is written in the law of the Lord, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord) (Luke 2:23).
While undoubtedly this statement had a unique application to Christ, who indeed never once failed to repulse the persistent temptations of Satan, nevertheless as it is noted by Luke, every male that was born was considered holy unto the Lord. Contemplating this fact, we can well understand another text sometimes used to support the concept that Christ had altogether a different nature from ours.
For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (Hebrews 7:26).
This text, however, is referring to Jesus in his High Priestly ministry after His ascension, and after He had been received by the Father. However, it would not be incorrect to apply this text in part to Jesus before His crucifixion, for indeed, unlike the rest of the human race, He remained "undefiled and separate from sinners" in that He was without sin, although upon earth He was not made higher than the heavens.
The Human and the Divine Nature
Let us look at this issue in greater depth. Christ possessed a dual nature, human and divine. Many, following part of the Augustinian package of falsehood, teach that Christ's human nature was unfallen, having misunderstood the true human nature of our Savior. Yet Augustine's position was established upon the false premise of man's original sin, which naturally led him to wrongly postulate that Christ could not have inherited man's fallen nature. Many times, inconclusive statements have been used to deny the certainty of conclusive statements of Inspiration which establish the human nature of Christ. There is little doubt that this topic has been greatly weakened by serious errors of judgment by many who claim to be dividers of the truth.
We developed a carnal nature because we each have sinned. But when we are transformed by the new birth, our carnal mind is replaced by the spiritual mind.
For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh: but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God. But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His. And if Christ be in you, the body is dead because of sin; but the Spirit is life because of righteousness. But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you. Therefore, brethren, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live after the flesh. For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live (Romans 8:5-13).
Because Christ was plagued by the weaknesses of His fallen nature, it was far harder for Him to obey than it was for our first parents in the Garden of Eden. But by the constant infilling of the Holy Spirit, indeed He did obey, and obey perfectly. When these facts are appreciated, any concept that Christ had an advantage over us entirely loses its force.
Why is the Nature of Christ so Important?
We might well ask why Christ's nature is so important to our understanding of the gospel. What we believe colors our understanding of truth. In order to support the false concept that man cannot obey the commandments of the Word, it was necessary to postulate that Christ, who we all agree did obey perfectly, had a nature which cannot be ours. For if Christ obeyed in a nature that could be ours, there would be no excuse for sinning, and a central theme of most evangelical Protestants is that we will continue in sin until the return of Jesus. If Christ had the same fallen nature as ours, the theory that a Spirit-filled man cannot obey God's law would collapse. But the Bible speaks unequivocally of Christ's nature and declares it to be identical with ours.
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 (John 1:14).
Here, as in other passages to which we will be referring, the common Greek word sarx is used for flesh. In some translations sarx is translated as nature. The flesh or nature of Christ was no different from that of ordinary human beings. Paul clearly states:
Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself took part of the same; that through death He might destroy Him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 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 behoved Him to be make like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted (Hebrews 2:14-18).
It will be noted here that He was born of the seed of Abraham. Abraham has been acknowledged as the father of the faithful. Nevertheless he was also a man who seriously flawed his life's experience by faithlessness in respect of the promise of God in the birth of his son, and in lying to the king of Egypt. There is no doubt that Paul understood that Christ took upon Himself our human nature. Indeed, one of the most powerful statements of the saving grace of Jesus again confirms this truth.
There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit (Romans 8:1-4, emphasis added).
Here we see that Christ came in the likeness of sinful flesh and condemned sin in the flesh [sarx] so that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. This text in a most remarkable way places the nature of Christ in the context of the victory we too can have, if day-by-day and moment-by-moment our whole strength is secured in the power of the Divine. When we understand this promise, there is no excuse for sinning. But even more powerfully, Paul gives us an understanding of the human nature of Christ in his letter to the Galatians.
Even so we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world: but when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons (Galatians 4:3-5).
Here it will be seen that Christ is made under the law that He might redeem those who are under the law. There is no disputing the fact that Christ was made under the law so that He could redeem us who were under the bondage of the law. Consequently, Paul could write so confidently of the High Priestly ministry of Christ for each of us.
For we have not an High Priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15).
The Greatest Gift
To understand what Christ was willing to do for each one of us that we might be saved, reveals the love that draws us to Him. It draws us to Him, and with a deeper and greater understanding of what it meant for God to give His only begotten Son to the human race that we might have eternal life. In the illumination of this truth, we can understand the following texts with a depth of meaning not otherwise comprehended.
But God commendeth His love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. . . . For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:8, 10).
Now linking this truth from Romans 8:1-4 with the final call to the human race in Revelation chapter 3, no question remains as to the reason that Christ overcame in man's sinful nature. Jesus overcame in our sinful nature to provide strength for us to overcome Satan's temptations.
To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with Me in My throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with My Father in His throne (Revelation 3:21).
To learn more about the danger of the false doctrines seen in the Evangelical movement today and the extent of their spread order your own copy of the entire book The Evangelical Dilemma, by Colin and Russell Standish, from which this article was taken. This book is available through Hartland Publications: PO Box 1, Rapidan, VA, 22733. Phone: 1-800-774-3566. Or order online at www.hartland.edu
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