Monday, July 07, 2014

“The Son of God”

Third Quarter 2014 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"The Son of God"
For the week of July 12, 2014
This week's lesson was a rich blessing.  I was particularly blessed by a highlight I had never seen before.  In Tuesday's lesson the author points out that Jesus never said, "I am God or I am the Messiah" for had He done so, His life could have immediately been taken.  When He clearly identified himself as God without using those words, "The Jews took up stones again to stone him" (John 10:31).  Yet what was quite enlightening to me was the author's comments on the identifying phrase that Jesus used most of all for Himself, "The Son of man."  "He referred to Himself as Son of man more than eighty times" (July 6, Sabbath School Lesson).  

This has also been my favorite designation for Christ.  I have always felt comforted by the thought that He was identifying with us.  He is "not ashamed to call [us] brethren" (Heb. 2:11).  After all, we have no hang-ups about the fact that He is God.  What deeply impresses and even astounds us is the fact that He willingly became a man.  Yet, I was astounded anew as I read in this week's lesson that when Jesus used that phrase, "Son of man," He was also brilliantly identifying Himself as God, and as the Messiah. He is the "Son of man." This cryptic phrase is clearly an allusion to Daniel 7:13:

I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him (Dan. 7:13).

In the book of Daniel it is clear that the One who comes to the "Ancient of Days," in the vision of Daniel 7, is a divine personage.  He is given "dominion and glory and a kingdom, that all peoples, nations, and languages should serve Him" (Dan. 7:14).  This must be the Son of God.  And this must also be a prophecy that He will become a human being.  I had never even considered that Jesus was telling the Jews who He really was.

As I reveled in the joy of this new insight, and pondered its significance my joy was suddenly turned to sorrow as I realized that there is a most serious lack in our Sabbath School lesson for this week.  In fact, a quick scan of the entire quarterly confirmed my fears.  The lesson for this quarter will focus upon and emphasize the truth that most Christians already know and accept.  And it will carefully avoid communicating the truth that many of our brothers and sisters in Christ need to understand.

You see, we have a problem today that is actually the exact opposite of the problem that the Jews of Christ's day had.  The Jews of Christ's day looked at Christ and saw a son of man.  Many of them thought He was just a man and nothing more.  This is hard for us to grasp when we consider the many mighty miracles that He performed. We smugly assume that we are much more enlightened than they were.  Yet many of us have an equally serious problem.  We tend to think of Christ as the Son of God, the Son of God and nothing more.  Sometimes we reveal a tendency to merge His humanity into His divinity and fail to keep the two natures separate and distinct.  It appears that we have not fully appreciated the fact that Jesus has two natures.  His divinity did not enhance or elevate His humanity.  And His humanity did not degrade or compromise His divinity.  He is fully God and fully man and the two never meet.

Hebrews chapter one is dedicated to the objective of presenting the idea that Jesus is God.  Hebrews chapter two is dedicated to presenting the idea that Jesus is man.  Chapter one teaches us that there is not a shadow of the slightest difference between Christ and the divine nature.  It does this in order to facilitate the presentation of the idea in chapter two that there is not a shadow of the slightest difference between the human nature of Christ and the human nature of those whom He came to redeem.  He is fully God and fully man with no shadow of any difference between the divine nature of Christ and the nature of God and no shadow of any difference between the human nature of Christ and the nature of mankind.  To compromise one is to compromise the other.  He was "in all things made like His brethren" (Heb. 2:17).  This detail is essential to the plan of redemption.

This is the truth that our Sabbath School Lesson fails to mention.  It tells us that "He was born as a baby, grew up as a child (increasing in wisdom and in stature [Luke 2:40, 52]), and had sisters and brothers (Matt. 13:55, 56).  He ate (Matt. 9:11), slept (Luke 8:23), was tired (John 19:28), and suffered hunger and thirst (Matt. 4:2, John 19:28).  He also experienced sorrow and distress (Matt. 26:37)."  Unfortunately our lesson ends its description of the humanity of our Saviour here, just short of what is needed to redeem a lost race, just short of what is needed for Him to be victorious in His conflict with Satan.  All that is presented is true, wonderfully true.  Yet, it stops short of mentioning the characteristic that is absolutely necessary to qualify Him to be our Substitute and our righteousness.  It stops just short of fully identifying Him with us and thus leaves room for an incorrect understanding of the humanity of Christ.

Do not forget . . . that the mystery of God is not God manifest in sinless flesh, but God manifest in sinful flesh. There could never be any mystery about God's manifesting himself in sinless flesh—in one who had no connection whatever with sin. That would be plain enough. But that he can manifest himself in flesh laden with sin and with all the tendencies of sin, such as ours is—that is a mystery. Yea, it is the mystery of God. And it is a glorious fact, thank the Lord! Believe it. And before all the world, and for the joy of every person in the world, in Jesus Christ he has demonstrated that this great mystery is indeed a fact in human experience. For "as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." "In all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren." And therefore God "made him to be sin for us." "He hath laid on him the iniquity of us all." Thus, in our flesh, having our nature, laden with iniquity, and himself made to be sin, Christ Jesus lived in this world, tempted in all points like as we are; and yet God always caused him to triumph in him, and made manifest the savor of his knowledge by him in every place. Thus God was manifest in the flesh,—in our flesh, in human flesh laden with sin,—and made to be sin in itself, weak and tempted as ours is. And thus the mystery of God was made known to all nations for the obedience of faith. O, believe it! (A.T. Jones, Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, September 29, 1896).
"This truth is an essential part of "the message that God commanded to be given to the world" (E.G. White, Evangelism, p. 192).  It is part of the gospel (See Romans 1:1-4).  It is good news that we must carry to the world.

If Christ had not taken our nature, He could not be tempted in all points "like as we are" (Heb. 4:15); He could not be the "merciful and faithful High Priest" (Heb. 2:17) that we need; He could not be "the Saviour of the world" (John 4:42).  We have been told:

The divinity of Christ is our assurance of eternal life (E.G. White, Youth Instructor, Feb. 11, 1897).  

And we have also been told:

The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God (E.G. White, Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 245).

Both the divine and the human natures of Christ are essential to the plan of redemption.  We must not hesitate to declare what the Bible says concerning both.
-Mark Duncan