By Bob Owen
By the standards of the world, my college professor was an unusually “nice guy.” Holding a Ph.D. in Theology from a major European university and being a licensed, ordained minister in a major denomination, and heading the Religion Department in a major state university, surely he is representative of mainstream attitudes for religious leaders. We had become mutually respectful friends from our many hours of after-class discussions. I was pleased when he asked me to accompany him to a nearby town and show his slides as he spoke to a civic club about the Dead Sea scrolls. Not surprisingly, he worked into the talk his view that “Jesus was not really born of a virgin. When they said he’s the Son of God, it was just the ancients’ way of saying, `He’s such a great man his father must have been a God! ‘
Nothing could be more critical to our personal salvation than his divinity. Satan recognized this when he asked, “If thou be the Son of God. . . ” (Matt. 4:1-11). The demons knew him and “cried out saying, what have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time?” (Matt. 8:29) Was he just a man? A good man? Or uniquely the Son of God?
The angel told Mary, “that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Lk. 1:35). Almost a hundred names and titles are given to Jesus in Scripture and none with more significance than Son. Reflecting not only an intimate relationship, Sonship denotes identity in nature or character. This is explicitly claimed for him in Hebrews 1:3 as “the very image of his [God’s] substance.” Used here only in Scripture, this term presents Jesus as the exact representation of God’s nature (Arndt and Gingrich) and according to Vine, the phrase shows Jesus to be distinct from yet “literally equal to” the Father.
Word Became Flesh
The well known history in John 1 describes divinity becoming flesh. Devastating the Gnostics of the day and giving an anchor of faith for all times, John begins his gospel with three powerful and interrelated clauses:
In the beginning was the Word
And the Word was with God
And the Word was God!
The focus in this verse is obvious: the Word. The Word, without beginning was “in the beginning.” “The Word was God” emphasizes not the time element but the character or nature of God. Whatever God is, the Word is. Some religions today profess a “faith” in Jesus but teach he is a created being: “a god” but not “the God.”
John further relates “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….” (1:14) The One who existed “in the form of God … emptied himself … being made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, [obeyed] even unto death” (Phil. 2:6-8) Was he God or was he man? Clearly the Scripture claims both. He was God “manifested in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16).
This dual nature of the Christ has been questioned by men for ages. In 1950, discussing the Christology of the New Testament writings, Benjamin Warfield noted,
One of the most portentous symptoms of the decay of vital sympathy with historical Christianity which is observable in present-day academic circles is the wide-spread tendency in recent Christological discussion to revolt from the doctrine of the Two Natures in the Person of Christ . . . voices are raised all about us declaring the conception of two natures in Christ no longer admissible” (Person and Work of Christ, 211).
Some among us in an apparent attempt to answer a false position on the necessity of man sinning have denied the divinity of Jesus affirming him to be a man only like other men while on earth. He was “fully man” but not “just a man.” When some ask, “How could he be 100% divine and 100% man? That’s 200%!” they are limiting God to our standards. We cannot understand eternity, the resurrected body, or a host of other things but we accept them by faith.
“My Lord and My God”
How can we know he was God’s Son? First, of course, by what God says of him. At the baptism and at the transfiguration God proclaimed, “This is my beloved Son.” Repeatedly, Jesus claimed to be the Son and affirmed that he and the Father functioned as one. When Philip asked him to show them the Father, Jesus said, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Jn. 14:9).
The testimony of the disciples also confirms Sonship. Peter’s confession, “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16) was not of human wisdom. Jesus said, “My father” is the one who revealed it (Matt. 16:17).
The ultimate evidence for his divinity is the resurrection. Paul ties together his dual nature when he says of the Son, “. . .who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead, even Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom. 1:3-4). God has left abundant evidence for the resurrection: the prophets, the empty tomb, the scores of eye witnesses, the remarkable change in the lives of the apostles. Yes, “.. . declared to be the Son of God with power.”
A conservative Presbyterian preacher in that civic club took exception publicly to my professor’s statement about the virgin birth. (I heard most of the members apologize for his actions after the meeting was over.) As we drove home, I asked the professor if he believed there would be a resurrection. After evading several times he finally said, “I just don’t know, but I don’t think it makes any difference.” No difference? God says it makes all the difference.
The book of Mark opens with the simple but powerful statement, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mk. 1:1). After recounting (by inspiration) his life, Mark describes the death of our Lord and records the words of the centurion, “Truly this man was the Son of God” (Mk. 15:39). Do we dare say less?
Guardian of Truth XXXVIII, No. 23, p. 2
December 1, 1994