Jesus' humbled state and what it means

Many of the non-Christian cults attack the deity of Christ by citing verses such as Jesus not knowing something (Matt. 24:36), where He is growing in wisdom (Luke 2:52), or says that the Father is greater than He (John 14:28). They claim that if Jesus was God He would know all things, would not grow in wisdom, and would not be lesser than the Father -- and this is where their analysis stops. Unfortunately, they either purposely (because it doesn't suit them) or accidentally (through ignorance) skip the biblical references dealing with Jesus in His humbled state where He functioned completely as a man under the Law of God.

Furthermore, those in cults very often fail to incorporate the standard Christian response to their criticisms of Jesus' deity. That is, instead of responding to and including the Christian answers, they continue to ask the same questions and raise the same points ignoring the answers to their objections. Sometimes they say that the Christian answers don't make any sense. But that is almost always a blanket complaint to brush away our answers because they do not like them or understand them, not because they are illogical or unbiblical.

Nevertheless, I will address those scriptures and concepts the cults raise to deny the deity of Christ and show why their reasoning is incorrect. I will do this by relating to the fact that Jesus was in a humbled state and under the Law.

  1. Jesus' incarnation: God in flesh. Hypostatic Union
  2. The nature and natural effects of Jesus' humbled state
  3. Scriptures dealing with Jesus in His humbled state

1. Jesus' incarnation: God in flesh. The Hypostatic Union

Perhaps the most commonly misunderstood Christian doctrines among the cults is the Hypostatic Union; that is, that in the single person of Jesus there are two natures: human and divine. John 1:1,14 says, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."

There is absolutely no logical reason why Jesus cannot be both human and divine at the same time. It is not a logical impossibility. The question is whether or not it is a biblical teaching. What does the Bible say?

  • John 1:1,14, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God....14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."
  • John 20:28, "Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!”
  • Col. 2:9, "For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form."
  • Col. 1:19, "For it was the Father’s good pleasure for all the fullness to dwell in Him,"
  • Phil. 2:6-8, "...although He [Jesus] existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
  • Heb. 1:8, "But of the Son He says, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the righteous scepter is the scepter of His kingdom."

Following is a small chart referencing the Scriptures that support the doctrine that Jesus is both God and Man at the same time. It is not exhaustive but it can help you quickly see that scripture points to both Jesus' humanity as well as His deity.

Jesus as God Jesus as Man
He is worshiped (Matt. 2:2,11; 14:33). He worshiped the Father (John 17).
He was called God (John 20:28; Heb. 1:8) He was called man (Mark 15:39; John 19:5).
He was called Son of God (Mark 1:1) He was called Son of Man (John 9:35-37)
He is prayed to (Acts 7:59; 1 Cor. 1:2). He prayed to the Father (John 17).
He is sinless (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15). He was tempted (Matt. 4:1).
He knows all things (John 21:17). He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52).
He gives eternal life (John 10:28). He died (Rom. 5:8).
All the fullness of deity dwells in Him (Col. 2:9). He has a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39).

Therefore, Jesus is one person with two natures: divine and human. This is not a logical impossibility and it is something that is supported in scripture.

2. The nature and natural effects of Jesus' humbled state

As a man and as a Jew, Jesus was in a humbled state, under the Law, and lower than the angels. As a result of these conditions, Jesus had to operate in agreement with His humbled condition; that is, He had to act as a man, completely as a man who was under the Law of God. Let's review:

  1. Incarnation of Jesus means that the Word became flesh, became a man.
    1. John 1:1,14, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...14And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."
  2. Jesus emptied Himself
    1. Phil. 2:5-8, "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross."
  3. As a man, Jesus is under the Law
    1. Gal. 4:4, "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law,"
  4. As a man, Jesus was made for a while lower than the angels
    1. Heb. 2:9, "But we do see Him who has been made for a little while lower than the angels..."

We have already seen that Jesus is the incarnate Word (that was God) made flesh (John 1:1,14; Col. 2:9), found in appearance as a man, and that He humbled Himself to the point of death (Phil. 2:8). What we also need to understand is that He was made under the Law (Gal. 4:4) and that He was lower than the angels (Heb. 2:9). This is very important because it will tell us what to expect from Jesus as He walks the earth doing His Father's will (John 5:30).

Being under the Law means that Jesus was subject to the Law. This is natural because He was a man, a good Jew who would properly be subject to the Torah, the Law. Also, since He is God in flesh, and since as God He authored the Law, He would naturally be subject to it. Let me clarify this.

God spoke the Law. The Law is a reflection of the character of God. It is wrong to lie because God cannot lie. It is wrong to bear false witness because God cannot bear false witness. The Law reflects God's nature and character. God spoke it to us as a revelation of moral truth. Jesus said that we speak out of the abundance of our hearts (Matt. 12:34). Therefore, Jesus, as God in flesh, would naturally live and reflect that Law which God had given so long ago which God spoke out of the abundance of His own heart.

Under the Law

In order for the Word (John 1:1) to be under the Law (Gal. 4:4), He would have to become a man, born of a woman. To be under the Law would mean that Jesus would have to be circumcised. This can only happen if He was a baby. He would then grow in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). It means that He would be subject to His parents per Exodus 20:12. It means that He would have to wait until the appropriate time in His life to enter into the ministry to accomplish the will of the Father who sent Him. None of these things negates His divine nature.

Being under the Law necessitates that He be a man, that He behave as a man, and that being a man means that all the limitations and qualities of being a man are also His -- at least to the extent that the Divine allows itself to experience limitation while incarnated. Again, this does not mean that He does not possess a divine nature. It means that as He emptied Himself to become a man (Phil. 2:7) and that He cooperated with the limitations of being a man under the Law. Furthermore, Jesus did all His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit.

By the Power of the Holy Spirit

Jesus was baptized to enter into the Melchizedek Priesthood. This is very significant because it means that Jesus was anointed with the Holy Spirit and did all His miracles by the Power of the Holy Spirit -- because He was a man made completely under the Law. Let me lay this out for you here.

Jesus was baptized because He had to fulfill the legal requirements for entering into the priesthood. He was a priest after the order of Melchizedek (Psalm 110:4; Heb. 5:8-10; 6:20). Priests offered sacrifice to God on behalf of the people. Jesus became a sacrifice for our sin (1 Pet. 2:24; 2 Cor. 5:21) in His role as priest. To be consecrated as a priest, He had to be washed with water (Lev. 8:6; Exodus 29:4, Matt. 3:16); This was fulfilled in the water of baptism when Jesus was baptized. He had to be anointed with oil (Lev. 8:12; Exodus 29:7; Matt. 3:16), This is fulfilled when the Holy Spirit came upon Jesus as a dove. Both of these were bestowed upon Jesus at His baptism. Additionally, He may have needed to be 30 years old - (Num. 4:3).

Now, if we look at Matt. 12:22-32 we see the account of Jesus casting out demons. The Pharisees said He did it by the power of the devil. But, Jesus responds by stating that you could insult the Father and the Son and be forgiven. But, if you insult the Holy Spirit, that would not be forgiven. Why? Because Jesus was doing His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit because Jesus was completely a man under the Law and functioned as a man just as we would -- with the Holy Spirit working through us.

Lower than the Angels

Heb. 2:9 says that Jesus was made for a while lower than the angels. This means that Jesus was in a humbled position. The angels are far greater creatures than humans in power and mental abilities. Jesus was made lower than them. That is, He was made a man. He was not exercising His Lordship over all of creation. This further means that Jesus was operating, walking, talking, living, and acting as a man who was subject to the Law.

What does this mean?

Because Jesus was made lower than the angels, as a man, there are certain ramifications to this humbled and emptied condition.

  • That Jesus was subject to the Law, (Gal. 4:4).
  • Jesus was subject to the Father who sent Him, (John 5:30).
  • Jesus would be circumcised, (Luke 1:59).
  • Jesus would grow in wisdom and stature, (Luke 2:52).
  • Jesus would not know all things (Mark 13:32).
  • etc.

The above facts do not negate the deity of Christ. God could easily become a man, humble Himself, join Himself to human nature and then be subject to the Law, to grow, to learn, etc. This would be a natural result of being a man, wouldn't it? And, it would not negate the deity of Christ at all. It only demonstrates that the Word made flesh was fully a man. Col. 2:9 says, "For in Him [Jesus] all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form."

Now, let's look at those verses that exemplify the above stated information and see how we might comment about them.

3. Scriptures dealing with Jesus in His humbled state

  1. Matthew 20:23, "My cup you shall drink; but to sit on My right and on My left, this is not Mine to give, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared by My Father."
    1. Jesus was sent by the Father to accomplish what the Father had given Jesus to do (John 5:30; 1 John 4:10). Since Jesus is the Word made flesh with all the fullness of deity dwelling in Him, this statement of Jesus in no way negates Jesus' deity. He was completely a man and as a man, He would naturally be subject to the Father.
  2. Mark 13:32, "But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone."
    1. Jesus had emptied Himself and was cooperating with the limitations of being a man. Therefore, He did not know all things. However....
    2. In John 21:17, Peter says that Jesus knows all things and Jesus does not correct him. The point is that before the resurrection of Jesus, it is said of Him that He did not know all things. But, after Jesus' resurrection, Jesus knew all things -- and He was still a man since He was resurrected bodily (John 2:19-21; Luke 24:39).
  3. Luke 2:52, "And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men."
    1. Jesus was born from His mother Mary. Phil. 2:5-8 says that though he was in the form of God He had emptied Himself and became a man. To be a man, he had to be born. If He is born of a woman, then He would naturally grow up and learn. This is perfectly consistent with what it would mean for the Word (which was God - John 1:1) to become flesh (v. 14) and grow up as a man.
    2. If Jesus has two natures, and if Jesus was cooperating with the limitations of being a man, it would also mean that Jesus' divine nature was subjected to the human and its limitations.
  4. Luke 18:19, "Why do you call Me good? No one is good except God alone."
    1. Was Jesus saying that He was not good? Of course not. Jesus says He is good when He says He is the Good Shepherd (John 10:11). Jesus is not denying His deity. If only God is Good and Jesus says that He is the Good Shepherd, then Jesus must be God.
  5. John 5:19, "Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing; for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner."
    1. Jesus, as a man, was performing His miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. This is why He did only what He saw the Father doing. Also, can an angel of a mere man do whatever God the Father does? Hardly! Jesus, God in flesh, can do what God the Father can do.
    2. Not doing anything of Himself simply means He was willingly subject to the Father to do the Father's will -- because He emptied Himself to become a man (Phil. 2:5-8). This was the necessary state of Him being a man, lower than the angels, and under the Law.
    3. Interestingly, can we do anything of ourselves? Of course we can. We can walk and talk freely. So did Jesus. So what did He mean by His statement? Probably that since He came for the purpose of doing's God's will, that He could do nothing of His own will.
  6. John 5:20, "For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and greater works than these will He show Him, that you may marvel."
    1. As a man and naturally being subject to the Father, the Father would show Him all things.
    2. Interesting to note that the Father does not show all things to anyone else. Only the Son? Why? Perhaps because as God in flesh, Jesus could then know and comprehend all things shown to Him.
  7. John 5:22, "For not even the Father judges anyone, but He has given all judgment to the Son,"
    1. Judgment was indeed given to the Son. The reason was because Jesus had humbled Himself by becoming a man and made under the Law. Therefore, the Father would give Him the act of Judging people. This is a natural consequence of being human. It does not mean that Jesus is not divine. It means that Jesus was human.
    2. Also, isn't God the judge of all men? How could such judgment be given to an angel or a mere man? In order to righteously judge all people, the one judging would have to know all things about that person's life. Only God has such knowledge. Remember, after the resurrection Peter said that Jesus knew all things, (John 21:17).
  8. John 5:26, "For just as the Father has life in Himself, even so He gave to the Son also to have life in Himself."
    1. Jesus, as a man under the Law, was moving and acting as a man who was doing the will of the Father (John 5:30). This is proper since Jesus was a man. Therefore, as a man, life would be given to Him from the Father. Jesus is speaking of His humanity, not His divinity.
  9. John 5:27, "and He gave Him authority to execute judgment, because He is the Son of Man."
    1. Jesus, as a man under the Law, cooperated with the limitations of being a man. As a man, authority would have to be given Him. Remember, Jesus was not moving out of His divine nature, but was moving and walking as a man in order to fulfill the Law completely and properly.
  10. John 5:30, "I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
    1. Because Jesus came to do the will of the Father, He could do nothing of His own initiative because it wasn't His purpose to do His own will. Instead, He did whatever He saw the Father do (John 5:19). His food was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). This doesn't mean that Jesus isn't God. It means that Jesus was completely a man just as the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union teaches.
  11. John 6:38, "For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me."
    1. What about this verse means that Jesus is not divine as well as human? Nothing. The Christian doctrine of the incarnation is that Jesus is both divine and human and that Jesus humbled Himself to become a man. As a man He didn't come to do His own will. Jesus simply states that He came from heaven to do the will of the Father. This means that Jesus (the Word) was in heaven with the Father before He came a man.
  12. John 8:28, "Jesus therefore said, “When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me."
    1. Because Jesus came to do the will of the Father, He could do nothing of His own initiative because it wasn't His purpose to do His own will. Instead, He did whatever He saw the Father do (John 5:19). His food was to do the will of the Father (John 4:34). This doesn't mean that Jesus isn't God. It means that Jesus was completely a man just as the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union teaches.
  13. John 14:28, “The Father is greater than I.”
    1. Because Jesus was in a lower position that the Father, He could say that the Father was greater than He. This is not denying Jesus deity any more than saying a wife is in a lesser position than her husband (speaking of authority in the family) means that she is different in nature than her husband.
    2. Jesus was simply speaking of position, not nature. Jesus did say, after all, that He and the Father were one (John 10:30) and after say that, the Jews wanted to kill Him because they said He was claiming to be God.
  14. John 17:3, "And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent."
    1. As a man, Jesus would naturally and properly have someone He would call his God. In this case, He called the Father the only true God because that is the proper thing for a Jew, in this case Jesus, to say.
    2. If the word "only" here means that Jesus cannot then be God, then that same logic applied to Jude 4 means that God is not our Lord. "...ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ." This verse using the word "only" must necessarily mean that God is not our Master and Lord -- if we use the same logic used by the critics of Jesus' deity who cite John 17:3. But, of course, we know that to make a doctrine out of one verse is an improper way to do theology.
  15. Acts 2:36, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ—this Jesus whom you crucified."
    1. Jesus was sent from the Father (1 John 4:10). He was made flesh (John 1:1,14). Therefore, He was made both Lord and Christ by the Father since Jesus position had been humbled, lowered, made under the Law. The incarnation of the Word meant that Jesus was made both Lord and Christ.
    2. Some say that if Jesus is God then He would not have to be made Lord and Christ. But this implies that the terms "lord" and "Christ" both mean God since if He is God He would already be "Lord". The only way that would be a valid complaint would be if the word "Lord" meant divine. If that was the case then the statement "Jesus is Lord" would mean Jesus is God. Jesus is Lord and Jesus is Christ.
  16. 1 Corinthians 11:3, "But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ."
    1. Because Jesus was in a lower position than the Father, due to His incarnation, the God the Father would be His Head. This is a natural proper condition of being made a man under the Law. Incidentally, Jesus is eternally a man, (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:25).
  17. 1 Corinthians 15:28, "And when all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, that God may be all in all."
    1. Jesus is a man (1 Tim. 2:5). He is eternally a High Priest after the order of Melchizedek so that He can eternally offer intercession for us (Heb. 7:25). As a man He would eternally be subject to the One He calls His Father. This is a result of His humility that resulted in our redemption. This is consistent with the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union which states that within the one person of Christ are two natures: human and divine.
  18. Hebrews 2:10, "For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings."
    1. As a man, Jesus was perfected though suffering. As a man, he was made perfect; that is, He was as a completed sacrifice by the finished work of propitiation. Heb. 10:14 says, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."
  19. Hebrews 2:17, "Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people."
    1. This is necessary because Jesus is both human and divine. As a man He was made like His brethren in all things. In no way does this negate the divinity of Christ.
  20. Hebrews 4:15, "For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin."
    1. Some say that Jesus could not be God because He was tempted and God cannot be tempted. But the truth is that God can be tempted. Psalm 106:13-15 says, "They quickly forgot His works; They did not wait for His counsel, 14But craved intensely in the wilderness, and tempted God in the desert. 15So He gave them their request, but sent a wasting disease among them." The manner that God was tempted was that someone was presented to Him. In the same way Jesus was tempted. So, as God can be tempted, so can Jesus.
  21. Hebrews 5:9, "And having been made perfect, He became to all those who obey Him the source of eternal salvation."
    1. As a man, Jesus was perfected though suffering. As a man, he was made perfect; that is, He was as a completed sacrifice by the finished work of propitiation. Heb. 10:14 says, "For by one offering He has perfected for all time those who are sanctified."

Conclusion

The fact that Jesus moved in a limited context while accomplishing His ministry does not mean that He is not God. It means that He cooperated with the limitations of being a man so that He could do what He had to do. He has two natures: God and man. He emptied Himself to become a man (Phil. 2:7) and He cooperated with the limitations of being a man under the Law. This explains the verses that show His limitedness.

Finally, if the cults want to say that the limited aspect of Jesus' behavior means that He cannot be divine, then what do they do with the scriptures that teach that He is all knowing and ever-present?

  1. John 21:17, "And he [Peter] said to Him, 'Lord, You know all things; You know that I love You.' Jesus *said to him, 'Tend My sheep.'"
    1. After Jesus' resurrection, so Jesus was in His glorified body, Peter states that Jesus knew all things...and Jesus did not correct him.
  2. Matt. 28:20, "...I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
    1. Jesus spoke this to His disciples, and therefore to all Christians. He stated that He would be with them always. This is only possible if He is omnipresent.

If Jesus is not God because He learned, then He must be God if He knew all things. If Jesus is not God because He was a man, then He must be God since He will be with all disciples everywhere.

 

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