What did Jesus do for us?
Jesus, God’s only begotten son, died on a cross, taking all our sin and shame, that we might believe in him and be saved.
That is the standard Evangelical stance on salvation by grace. There’s nothing wrong with it; it is absolutely true. But Jesus (the Greek translation of his Hebrew name, Yeshua) did more than die on a cross for us, not that that isn’t a monumental sacrifice already!
What Jesus did:
1. Jesus gave up his Godhead (Philippians 2:7-8)
2. Jesus came in human form (Matthew 1:8)
3. Jesus died on a cross, having never sinned (John 19:17; 2 Corinthians 5:21)
4. Jesus was resurrected but did not remain on earth. He returned to heaven and sent the Holy Spirit that all Believers might receive the indwelling of the Holy Spirit to lead, convict, empower and guide us (John 14:3; John 14:25-27).
When Jesus came as Messiah to his Jewish brethren, he came not only for them, but for Gentiles as well (Isaiah 49:6),
“Indeed, he [GOD] says, “It is too light a thing that you should be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob,
and to restore the preserved of Israel.
I will also give you as a light to the nations,
that you may be my salvation to the end of the earth.”
Who Jesus is:
In the beginning was the Word of GOD (John 1:1) and it is that part of GOD that became flesh and was born of a virgin, Mary, being fathered not by sinful man, descended from Adam, but fathered by the Holy Spirit of GOD (Genesis 1:2). He was not Jesus when he was in heaven, but he was named Jesus — Emmanuel, God with us — at his birth.
Some believe Jesus is God-man. Others believe he remained as God for, as a man, he could not have had the authority to offer salvation to mankind; he took the form of a man but was not a man. Still others believe he gave up his Godly person and became man once and for all. Our finite minds can’t get our heads round all concerning his divine nature, though as Believers we believe it. But personally, I fit into this latter category, believing that, as Jesus, he was and always will be, a man. If you believe I’m a heretic*, I can offer you two suggestions: either stop reading or allow me to show you scripture that says the Word of GOD (John 1:1) surrendered his Godhead (Philippians 2:7-8) and became a man. Never does it say he regained his Godhead after ascension but it does say that he returned to heaven and is seated at the right hand of GOD (1 Peter 3:22) and is the lamb (Revelation 5:13b). I believe he was — and is still a man. This is important in order to recognise fully the extent of his sacrifice and what he has given to us through that sacrifice.
Jesus did not give up his divinity. He was, is, and always will be divine. But he gave up his deity — a huge sacrifice, significant, even greater than dying on the cross. This is one point perhaps where our human minds can’t grasp the difference, but I’m convinced that somehow, there is a distinct difference between deity and divinity, and in that difference lies the sacrifice of the Godhead and the reality of what our inheritance and responsibility is In Christ. Jesus was and is God and yet, he gave up being God in order for our salvation.
Why is it important to recognise a man overcame sin and the devil?
Jesus asks us to believe and follow him. He has overcome sin and the devil. But just as Adam, a man, brought sin into the world, so must a man defeat sin. It is a legal matter. A man sinned and therefore another man must defeat sin. If Jesus was not a man, then GOD simply trumped the devil and that is not legally just.
How is this possible – and not heretical?
GOD is outside of time. So when Jesus said, “before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58) it was completely true — but he was referring to a different time frame to the current time when he was addressing the Jewish leaders.
What was the consequence for the Word of GOD, known on earth as Jesus?
As the lamb of God — Father GOD being the God who sits on the throne — Jesus gave up his Godhead for our sake. Though the pain of the cross is a tremendous sacrifice, relinquishing his Godly authority to do only as the Father tells him, is even more huge! (John 5:19)
What is the consequence for us?
If Jesus walked the earth as a man, albeit sinless and perfect, what does that mean is possible for us?
This is important because if we allow ourselves to believe Jesus became a man, we can recognise the authority he has given to us, his fellow men**, to overcome the evil one. We have the same authority that Jesus had while he walked the earth, when we believe and trust in him.
“I’m only human” doesn’t wash any more as an excuse for our behaviour, when we realise GOD, through Jesus, has given us all that Jesus had. Just as Jesus has encouraged us to “be perfect” so it must be possible. This is not a reason to berate ourselves when we fail, but rather to encourage ourselves to carry on. Philippians 3:12-14 gives some of my favourite words from scripture,
“Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect; but I press on, that I may take hold of that for which also I was taken hold of by Christ Jesus. Brothers, I don’t regard myself as yet having taken hold, but one thing I do: forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.”
We press on, not because we are failures, but because Jesus (and Paul in the letter) encourages us to persevere, to look forward, to ‘keep on keeping on’.
Jesus said, “Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect.” (Matthew 5:48)
Actually, we are without excuse: perfection is possible — albeit improbable as even Paul did not attain it (Philippians 3:12).
Only as Jesus is a man can he command us — with expectation — to be perfect.
Allow this to resonate:
If you can allow yourself to consider that Jesus was a man (divine – yes, son of GOD – yes, but a man as he walked the earth), you might begin to fathom more of the sacrifice he made for you, and more of the power and authority GOD has given you for good. This does not mean we are gods, but it means we are sons of GOD by inheritance, with all access to the power and authority given to Jesus, and access to the goodness that he was and is.
I find that inspiring and hopeful and amazing (and not heretical). Oh what love he has for us, what amazing love!
Jews and Muslims find it particular difficult, even offensive, to hear that God came to earth and died. But when we accurately explain GOD cannot die and did not die, but gave His son who was a man, that does not present the same stumbling block that the confused message that GOD or a GOD-man came and died.
John, Chapters 14 – 17:
As a final point, I urge you to read John 14 – 17 in contemplation. In this teaching and prayer, Jesus is both loving us and encouraging us as he speaks to his disciples before his arrest.
We are to abide in him as he abides in the Father. We are to receive the Holy Spirit as our Helper, who will glorify Jesus. As to his own identity, Jesus says, “I am in My Father, and you in Me, and I in you” (John 14:20) and “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28b). By including us you may choose to contemplate how this is possible, if both Father and Son are GOD.
Scripture says in John 10, “I and the Father are one.” And yet in 1 Corinthians 15:28 it is written, “Now when all things are made subject to Him [GOD], then the Son Himself will also be subject to Him who put all things under Him, that GOD may be all in all.” Does scripture contradict? No. As a man, Jesus was subject to the Father and yet, he had the inheritance from his father to be as the Father is.
This is a part of the mystery, the unfathomable by the finite human mind. And yet, I am convinced, that recognising Jesus as a man does not contradict but in fact magnifies his sacrifice and our responsibility and authority in and through his salvation.
Every blessing to you as you contemplate, study scripture, and grow in the grace of GOD and the power of His Holy Spirit, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
* Nowhere in scripture does it say, “GOD the Father, GOD the Son, GOD the Holy Spirit”. It is a nice parallel structure that has been inserted into the doctrine of some churches. So I am not contradicting scripture when I say Jesus is a man.
** Men, man and mankind are all generic terms which include all humankind. This is not to exclude women nor to denigrate them to a lower status. It is simply linguistic custom, and I mean nothing further in using it.