Category: (02) What is Christology?

The word “Christology” comes from two Greek words meaning “Christ / Messiah” and  “word” – which combine to mean “the study of Christ.” Christology is the study  of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. There are numerous important questions  that Christology answers:

Who is Jesus  Christ? Almost every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet, or a  good teacher, or a godly man. The problem is, the Bible tells us that Jesus was  infinitely more than a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.

Is  Jesus God?  Did Jesus ever claim to be God? Although Jesus never uttered the  words “I am God,” He made many other statements that can’t be properly  interpreted to mean anything else.

What  is the hypostatic union? How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time? The Bible teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is  no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person,  forever.

Why is the virgin birth so  important? The virgin birth is a crucial biblical doctrine because it  accounts for the circumvention of the transmission of the sin nature and allowed  the eternal God to become a perfect man.

What  does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus is not God’s Son in the  sense of  how we think of a father/son relationship. God did not get married and  have a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in  human form (John 1:1,14).

A Biblical  understanding of Jesus Christ is crucial to our salvation. Many cults and world  religions claim to believe in Jesus Christ. The problem is that they do not  believe in the Jesus Christ presented in the Bible. That is why Christology is  so important. It helps us to understand the significance of the deity of Christ.  It demonstrates why Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Christology  teaches us that Jesus had to be man so that He could die – and had to be God so  that His death would pay for our sins. It is perhaps the most important area of  theology. Without a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He  accomplished, all other areas of theology will be errant as well.

An  in-depth study of Christology has incredible personal impact on the believer’s  daily life. As we delve into the heart of Jesus, we begin to grasp the amazing  concept that He, being fully Man and fully God, loves each of us with a  never-ending love the extent of which is hard for us to imagine. The various  titles and names of Christ in the Scriptures give insight into who He is and how  He relates to us. He is our Good Shepherd, leading, protecting and caring for us  as one of His own (John 10:11,14); He is the Light of the  world, illuminating our pathway through a sometimes dark and uncertain world (John 8:12); He is the Prince  of Peace (Isaiah 9:6),  bringing tranquility into our tumultuous lives; and He is our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4),  the immovable and secure base who we can trust to keep us safe and secure in  Him.

The Bible never records Jesus saying the precise words, “I am God.” That does  not mean, however, that He did not proclaim that He is God. Take for example  Jesus’ words in John 10:30,  “I and the Father are one.” We need only to look at the Jews’ reaction to His  statement to know He was claiming to be God. They tried to stone Him for this  very reason: “You, a mere man, claim to be God” (John 10:33).  The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was claiming—deity. When Jesus declared,  “I and the Father are one,” He was saying that He and the Father are of one  nature and essence. John 8:58 is  another example. Jesus declared, “I tell you the truth … before Abraham was  born, I am!” Jews who heard this statement responded by taking up stones to kill  Him for blasphemy, as the Mosaic Law commanded (Leviticus  24:16).

John reiterates the concept of Jesus’ deity: “The Word  [Jesus] was God” and “the Word became flesh” (John 1:1, 14). These verses clearly  indicate that Jesus is God in the flesh. Acts 20:28 tells us, “Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own  blood.” Who bought the church with His own blood? Jesus Christ. And this same  verse declares that God purchased His church with His own blood. Therefore,  Jesus is God!

Thomas the disciple declared concerning Jesus, “My Lord  and my God” (John 20:28).  Jesus does not correct him. Titus 2:13 encourages us to wait for the coming of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ (see  also 2 Peter  1:1). In Hebrews 1:8,  the Father declares of Jesus, “But about the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God,  will last forever and ever, and righteousness will be the scepter of your  kingdom.’” The Father refers to Jesus as “O God,” indicating that Jesus is  indeed God.

In Revelation, an angel instructed the apostle John to only  worship God (Revelation  19:10). Several times in Scripture Jesus receives worship (Matthew 2:11; 14:33; 28:9, 17; Luke 24:52; John 9:38). He  never rebukes people for worshiping Him. If Jesus were not God, He would have  told people to not worship Him, just as the angel in Revelation did. There are  many other passages of Scripture that argue for Jesus’ deity.

The most  important reason that Jesus has to be God is that, if He is not God, His death  would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the world (1 John 2:2). A created being,  which Jesus would be if He were not God, could not pay the infinite penalty  required for sin against an infinite God. Only God could pay such an infinite  penalty. Only God could take on the sins of the world (2 Corinthians 5:21),  die, and be resurrected, proving His victory over sin and death.

How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time?”

The hypostatic union is the term used to describe how God the Son, Jesus Christ,  took on a human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time. Jesus always  had been God (John 8:58, 10:30), but at the  incarnation Jesus became a human being (John 1:14).  The addition of the human nature to the divine nature is Jesus, the God-man.  This is the hypostatic union, Jesus Christ, one Person, fully God and fully  man.

Jesus’ two natures, human and divine, are inseparable. Jesus will  forever be the God-man, fully God and fully human, two distinct natures in one  Person. Jesus’ humanity and divinity are not mixed, but are united without loss  of separate identity. Jesus sometimes operated with the limitations of humanity  (John 4:6, 19:28) and other times in the power of His deity (John 11:43; Matthew 14:18-21). In  both, Jesus’ actions were from His one Person. Jesus had two natures, but only  one personality.

The doctrine of the hypostatic union is an attempt to  explain how Jesus could be both God and man at the same time. It is ultimately,  though, a doctrine we are incapable of fully understanding. It is impossible for  us to fully understand how God works. We, as human beings with finite minds,  should not expect to totally comprehend an infinite God. Jesus is God’s Son in  that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35).  But that does not mean Jesus did not exist before He was conceived. Jesus has  always existed (John 8:58, 10:30). When Jesus was  conceived, He became a human being in addition to being God (John 1:1, 14).

Jesus is both God and man. Jesus has always been God, but He did not become a  human being until He was conceived in Mary. Jesus became a human being in order  to identify with us in our struggles (Hebrews  2:17) and, more importantly, so that He could die on the cross to pay the  penalty for our sins (Philippians 2:5-11). In summary, the hypostatic union  teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no  mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person,  forever.

The doctrine of the virgin birth is crucially important (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew  1:23; Luke 1:27, 34). First, let’s look at how  Scripture describes the event. In response to Mary’s question, “How will this  be?” (Luke 1:34),  Gabriel says, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most  High will overshadow you” (Luke 1:35).  The angel encourages Joseph to not fear marrying Mary with these words: “What is  conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit” (Matthew  1:20). Matthew states that the virgin “was found to be with child through  the Holy Spirit” (Matthew  1:18). Galatians  4:4 also teaches the Virgin Birth: “God sent His Son, born of a  woman.”

From these passages, it is certainly clear that Jesus’ birth was  the result of the Holy Spirit working within Mary’s body. The immaterial (the  Spirit) and the material (Mary’s womb) were both involved. Mary, of course,  could not impregnate herself, and in that sense she was simply a “vessel.” Only  God could perform the miracle of the Incarnation.

However, denying a  physical connection between Mary and Jesus would imply that Jesus was not truly  human. Scripture teaches that Jesus was fully human, with a physical body like  ours. This He received from Mary. At the same time, Jesus was fully God, with an  eternal, sinless nature (John 1:14; 1 Timothy  3:16; Hebrews  2:14-17.)

Jesus was not born in sin; that is, He had no sin nature  (Hebrews  7:26). It would seem that the sin nature is passed down from generation to  generation through the father (Romans 5:1217, 19). The Virgin Birth circumvented the transmission of  the sin nature and allowed the eternal God to become a perfect man.

Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of a human father and a son. God did not get  married and have a son. God did not mate with Mary and, together with her,  produce a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in  human form (John 1:1, 14). Jesus is God’s Son in  that He was conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit. Luke 1:35 declares, “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the  power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be  called the Son of God.’”

During His trial before the Jewish leaders, the  High Priest demanded of Jesus, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell  us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Matthew  26:63). “’Yes, it is as you say,’ Jesus replied. ‘But I say to all of you:  In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the  Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven’” (Matthew  26:64). The Jewish leaders responded by accusing Jesus of blasphemy (Matthew  26:65-66). Later, before Pontius Pilate, “The Jews insisted, ‘We have a law,  and according to that law He must die, because He claimed to be the Son of God’”  (John 19:7). Why would His  claiming to be the Son of God be considered blasphemy and be worthy of a death  sentence? The Jewish leaders understood exactly what Jesus meant by the phrase  “Son of God.” To be the Son of God is to be of the same nature as God. The Son  of God is “of God.” The claim to be of the same nature as God—to in fact be  God—was blasphemy to the Jewish leaders; therefore, they demanded Jesus’ death,  in keeping with Leviticus  24:15. Hebrews 1:3 expresses this very clearly, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the  exact representation of His being.”

Another example can be found in John 17:12 where Judas is  described as the “son of perdition.” John 6:71 tells us that Judas  was the son of Simon. What does John 17:12 mean by describing Judas as the “son of perdition”? The word perdition means “destruction, ruin, waste.” Judas was not the literal son of “ruin,  destruction, and waste,” but those things were the identity of Judas’ life.  Judas was a manifestation of perdition. In this same way, Jesus is the Son of  God. The Son of God is God. Jesus is God made manifest (John 1:1, 14).

Who is Jesus Christ?

Unlike the question “Does God exist?” very few  people question whether Jesus Christ existed. It is generally accepted that  Jesus was truly a man who walked on the earth in Israel 2000 years ago. The  debate begins when the subject of Jesus’ full identity is discussed. Almost  every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet or a good teacher or a  godly man. The problem is that the Bible tells us that Jesus was infinitely more  than a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.

C.S. Lewis in his book  Mere Christianity writes the following: “I am trying here to prevent  anyone from saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him  [Jesus Christ]: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t  accept his claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who  was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great  moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with a man who says he is  a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of hell. You must make your choice.  Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something  worse. You can shut him up for fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a  demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not  come up with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He  has not left that option open to us. He did not intend to.”

So, who did  Jesus claim to be? Who does the Bible say He is? First, let’s look at Jesus’  words in John 10:30,  “I and the Father are one.” At first glance, this might not seem to be a claim  to be God. However, look at the Jews’ reaction to His statement, “‘We are not  stoning you for any of these,’ replied the Jews, ‘but for blasphemy, because  you, a mere man, claim to be God’” (John 10:33).  The Jews understood Jesus’ statement as a claim to be God. In the following  verses, Jesus never corrects the Jews by saying, “I did not claim to be God.”  That indicates Jesus was truly saying He was God by declaring, “I and the Father  are one” (John 10:30).  John 8:58 is another example:  “‘I tell you the truth,’ Jesus answered, ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’”  Again, in response, the Jews took up stones in an attempt to stone Jesus (John 8:59). Jesus’ announcing  His identity as “I am” is a direct application of the Old Testament name for God  (Exodus 3:14). Why would the  Jews again want to stone Jesus if He had not said something they believed to be  blasphemous, namely, a claim to be God?

John 1:1 says  “the Word was God.” John 1:14 says  “the Word became flesh.” This clearly indicates that Jesus is God in the flesh.  Thomas the disciple declared to Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Jesus does not correct him. The apostle Paul  describes Him as, “…our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). The apostle Peter says the same, “…our God  and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Peter  1:1). God the Father is witness of Jesus’ full identity as well, “But about  the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever, and  righteousness will be the scepter of your kingdom.’” Old Testament prophecies of  Christ announce His deity, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and  the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful  Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace” (Isaiah 9:6).

So, as C.S. Lewis argued, believing  Jesus to be only a good teacher is not an option. Jesus clearly and undeniably  claimed to be God. If He is not God, then He is a liar, and therefore not a  prophet, good teacher, or godly man. In attempts to explain away the words of  Jesus, modern “scholars” claim the “true historical Jesus” did not say many of  the things the Bible attributes to Him. Who are we to argue with God’s Word  concerning what Jesus did or did not say? How can a “scholar” two thousand years  removed from Jesus have better insight into what Jesus did or did not say than  those who lived with, served with, and were taught by Jesus Himself (John 14:26)?

Why is the question over Jesus’ true  identity so important? Why does it matter whether or not Jesus is God? The most  important reason that Jesus has to be God is that if He is not God, His death  would not have been sufficient to pay the penalty for the sins of the whole  world (1 John 2:2).  Only God could pay such an infinite penalty (Romans 5:82  Corinthians 5:21). Jesus had to be God so that He could pay our debt. Jesus  had to be man so He could die. Salvation is available only through faith in  Jesus Christ. Jesus’ deity is why He is the only way of salvation. Jesus’ deity  is why He proclaimed, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to  the Father except through me” (John  14:6).