- Tuesday, April 07, 2009
The most thorough section of Scripture regarding the incarnation is Philippians 2:5–11:
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Jesus had the divine life and full equality with God in every way, yet he emptied himself of that divine way of living. He who created and rules the universe became a servant. He took on flesh with the same image and likeness of God that Adam had, while keeping his identity as the second person of the Trinity. In that humble state, he obeyed God the Father in every way. He lowered himself even further to the point of shameful death on the cross. So, God exalted him as Messiah and bestowed on him “the Name,” that is, “Yahweh,” the personal name of God that he always had as second person of the Trinity but now has as the God-man, Messiah Jesus.
The confession of Jesus as God come in the flesh is a biblical test of orthodoxy. Any person or group who compromises this ceases to be part of the church and is a false prophet, serving the devil rather than Jesus.9 It is of greatest concern that many professed Christians never confess this truth plainly. They use the name “Jesus” but never clearly declare him to be God in the flesh. On the other hand, some have effectively denied his true humanity in their zeal to protect his divinity. They miss the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus. To understand how Jesus’ life of sinless humility was empowered, we will now investigate his relationship to God the Holy Spirit while he was on the earth.
Jesus grew from infancy to adulthood, lived among a family, worked a job, ate meals, increased his knowledge through learning, told jokes, attended funerals, had male and female friends, celebrated holidays, went to parties, loved his mom, felt the pain of betrayal and lies told about him, and experienced the full range of human emotions from stress to astonishment, joy, compassion, and sorrow. Furthermore, Jesus experienced the same sorts of trials and temptations that we do,10 with the exception that he never did sin.11 Subsequently, Jesus lived the sinless life that we were supposed to live but have not, both in our place and as our example.
Sadly, all of the major creeds compiled during the early church ignore the missional life of Jesus between his birth and death. The Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, and Athanasian Creed all declare that Jesus was born to the Virgin Mary and then skip forward to his suffering under the rule of Pilate without speaking a word about the years in between. What is lost is the example of Jesus’ life, in general, and his exemplary relationship with God the Holy Spirit, in particular.
Regarding the relationship between Jesus and the Holy Spirit, Abraham Kuyper wrote:
This ought to be carefully noticed, especially since the Church has never sufficiently confessed the influence of the Holy Spirit exerted upon the work of Christ. The general impression is that the work of the Holy Spirit begins when the work of the Mediator on earth is finished, as tho [sic] until that time the Holy Spirit celebrated His divine day of rest. Yet the Scripture teaches us again and again that Christ performed His mediatorial work controlled and impelled by the Holy Spirit.12
The empowerment of Jesus through God the Holy Spirit is repeatedly stressed in the Gospel of Luke. There we find that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and given the title “Christ,” which means anointed by the Holy Spirit.13 Jesus’ aunt Elizabeth was “filled with the Holy Spirit” when greeting Jesus’ pregnant mother, Mary, and his uncle Zechariah went on to prophesy that their son John was appointed by God to prepare the way for Jesus.14 An angel had revealed to Mary that she would give birth to Jesus; when Mary asked how that was possible since she was a virgin, the angel said, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you.”15
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