Thursday, April 16, 2015

“Who is Jesus Christ”

Insights #3 April 18, 2015
Second Quarter 2015 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
"Who is Jesus Christ"
For the week of April 18, 2015

Jesus was, and is, known as Carpenter, Lamb, Priest, Prophet, King, Rabbi, Teacher, Messiah, God, Savior, Word, Creator, Redeemer and much more. His name, Jesus, means Savior as recorded by Matthew in chapter 1:21: "You shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins." A name in Bible times displayed distinctive qualities of character. Jesus is introduced as the Savior. Other qualities of His character are listed in Gal 5:22-3-23 – as the fruit of the Spirit.

Christ's "kindness, goodness [and] faithfulness" was revealed in how He cared for people. The memory text for this week follows the record of the feeding of bread and fish to a great multitude who followed Him. It was after this miracle that Jesus presented two questions to His disciples, regarding who He is. The first was, "Who do the crowds say I am?" (Luke 9:19). The answer: John the Baptist or Elijah or some other prophet. Then came the question to Christ's disciples: "But who do you say that I am?" (Luke 9:20). "The Christ of God" replied Peter.

The term "Christ" means Anointed One (Messiah). It is a title that acknowledged He was the expected Messiah of Israel. In the Gospels, Jesus is usually identified as "the Christ." The composite name joins the historic Person, Jesus, with Christ – the Messianic role that prophetic expectation and early Christianity knew He possessed.

Jesus is truly God and truly man. His title "Son of God" is a declaration of His divinity. Another title "Son of Man" is a declaration of His humanity. This title was a favorite of His. It was evidently taken from Dan 7:13 which prophesied that "the Son of Man went into a place in heaven where the "Ancient of Days" was located. The context is that of an investigative judgment favoring believers (v. 22). Jesus is presented as the Representative of mankind, especially of the believer. The everlasting kingdom and its dominion were given to Him (v. 14). In turn He bestows this kingdom on His people (v. 18). It will be possessed after the investigative judgment finishes its work on behalf of the "saints" (v. 27).

Returning to Christ's title "Son of God" (in the singular), it refers to Jesus in all places except one. It is used of Adam in Luke 3:38 where Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus back to Adam. Adam was not born a human; he was created as one. On the other hand, Jesus was born into the human family. Adam did not choose to be created or to be born. Jesus chose to be born. The term Adam means man or mankind. He was not only the father of humanity, he was also our representative. Jesus was the second and last Adam (1 Cor 15:45). He now is the Head and Representative of the human race.

After Luke traced the genealogy of Jesus back to the first Adam, he next presents Jesus in deadly conflict with Satan who first overcame Adam on the point of appetite. Appetite was again the temptation with Christ as the Second Adam and as the "Son of God" (Luke 4:1-3). However, Jesus was tested and tempted by the devil for forty days, whereas the first Adam was not. Adam was not tempted from within as was Jesus. Adam, without any need for indulgence of appetite, followed his deceived wife's lead, deliberately choosing to eat forbidden food. Jesus, while suffering hunger in the extreme, was tempted to indulge His appetite with food desperately needed by Him at this time.

The devil tempted Jesus' divinity in saying, "If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread" (Luke 4:3). But Jesus answered him as Man: "It is written, 'Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God' " (v. 4). Jesus quoted Deut 8:3 and in this verse the word "man" in Hebrew is "Adam." Jesus had to, and did, overcome the enemy of God and man as our Representative. He met the temptation upon appetite and overcame, and this under a much more severe temptation than Adam.

The paragraph under "Further Study" on Friday's lesson is in a letter to Elder William Baker and his wife from Mrs. White. Most people admit that this is "a very controversial letter." One person stated incorrectly, "It's one in which Ellen White addresses the nature of Christ more specifically, more directly, more extensively than just about any other place." This is a highly interpretive statement. The place where she "addresses the nature of Christ more specifically, more directly" and "more extensively" than "any other place" is in The Desire of Ages. That book is a clear Biblically, theologically accurate, and philosophically sound statement. And it was published for public use for the express purpose of giving the correct viewpoint regarding the human nature of Christ. This book is not private correspondence to correct an aberration of the doctrine of Christ. The Baker letter is.

In the letter Mrs. White cautioned Elder Baker concerning his presentations about the humanity of Christ. Some critics of Jones and Waggoner have wrongfully used the Baker letter to suggest that Mrs. White was rebuking those two men for their teaching on this subject.  However, not a shred of evidence has been given to support the allegation. Jones and Waggoner presented Christ as One who entered the human family and was tempted as every human being is tempted. Heb 4:15 unequivocally states that "we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin."

George Knight correctly contends that the discovery of the Baker letter was "one major stimulus for a shift in the position of several denominational thought leaders in the 1950s" (From 1888 to Apostasy, p. 140). This shift was from the 1888 emphasis on the human nature of Christ, as a fallen human nature, to the popular evangelical christ who can never be tempted from within as with the rest of humanity. Following is a contrast between the two Adams as categorized from the Baker letter:

ADAM                          JESUS

was created a pure, sinless being took upon Himself human nature
was . . . without a taint of sin upon him [no] taint of . . . corruption rested  upon Him
was assailed with temptations was assailed with temptations
was tempted in all points as human nature is tempted
he could fall    He could have fallen
he did fall through transgression He held fast to God and His Word
Among all the similarities listed above, the one difference (highlighted) is conspicuously absent in regard to Adam. He was not "tempted in all points as human nature is tempted" as was Jesus and as we are. Another sentence that needs to be studied contextually is: "He could have sinned; He could have fallen, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity."

". . . not for one moment . . ." Christ "could have fallen, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity" is not a statement exempting Him from the working of the law of heredity. The phrase "not for one moment" has to do with duration of time. Furthermore, this statement is not a denial of Christ inheriting tendencies to sin. That statement should be compared with others in this section of the letter:

". . . His faith in His Father's goodness, mercy, and love did not waver for one moment."

". . . not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity" is equivalent to saying that "His faith . . . did not waver for one moment."

If Christ's faith had wavered "for one moment" there would have been "in Him an evil propensity" which would have caused His damnation and eternal destruction. Even though Christ "had all the strength of the passion of humanity" (ST Nov 21, 1892), He did not cross the line between sin and righteousness. Temptation is not a sin.

A commentator gave the following unbiblical assertion regarding Jesus and temptation. He wrote, "Like us, Jesus could be tempted from without … But unlike us, He could not be tempted from within… Despite Jesus' inability to sin, the temptation was very real. It was possible for Him to be faced with enticements to sin [from without], but it was morally impossible for Him to yield." William MacDonald. Edited by Art Farstad. (1995). Believer's Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments (p. 1212). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Tempted from within is the believer's strongest temptation. We are commanded to overcome this temptation. If Jesus could only be tempted from without, but never from within, we have no hope of overcoming and the command to overcome is cruel mockery. If Jesus had no ability to sin, His temptations were never real. If what MacDonald said is true, then Christ's being tempted in all things was illusionary. If we must overcome, then it has to be done by our own resources. This is legalism at its worst. Temptation from within is where mankind needs help most. If Christ refused to battle with temptation from within, His indicative to overcome as He did is nonsense.

But O! Since it is true that He met, withstood, and overcame the powerful temptations that come from within our fallen nature, we may know and have the blessed assurance that we can overcome by depending on His divine power as He overcame as He did by depending on the power of God.

Rom 8:3 is the answer to overcoming sin: "God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh." This answers the sin from within question. Every time Jesus said "No!" to sin by God's power given to Him through grace, by faith, He condemned sin at its root – from within. Had Christ not been able to meet and to overcome sin at its root level, we are without hope in this world and the next.
Every time we overcome tendencies to sin from within, by the super abounding grace of God, we condemn sin in our fallen flesh (nature). On the other hand, every time we commit sin we justify it. If Christ did not and could not defeat sin the devil's lair, there is absolutely no possibility of our overcoming sin from within.

Speaking about the importance of the human fallen nature Christ assumed, Jones taught that ". . . the salvation of God for human beings lies in just that one thing" A. T. Jones, "The Third Angel's Message", No. 13, General Conference Bulletin, 1895, p. 233.

Again: "He is a complete Saviour. He is a Saviour from sins committed and the Conqueror of the tendencies to commit sins. In Him we have the victory. We are no more responsible for these tendencies being in us than we are responsible for the sun shining, but every man on earth is responsible for these things appearing in open action…" Ibid., p. 267.

Waggoner, earlier made the connection between our justification and the human nature of Christ: "God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, to condemn sin in the flesh, that He might justify us." "Bible Study in the Book of Romans" #12, General Conference Bulletin, 1891.
-Jerry Finneman

Raul Diaz