Christ's Nature

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The Nature Of Christ

 

Original Sin—The Problem

 A misunderstanding of Original Sin in the early church has triggered a litany of doctrinal errors among the churches over the years.  These errors have come in the related subjects of righteousness by faith, the incarnation of Jesus, and victory over sin.   

The misunderstanding in the beginning was that the human family all share Adam’s guilt.  There is an important difference between the inclination to sin and the guilt of sin.  The bible very clearly says,  "The son shall not bear the iniquity of the father, neither shall the father bear the iniquity of the son." Ezekiel 18:20.  So the bible does not teach that we are born guilty of our parent’s sins.  To be subject to or inclined to sin does not mean that you are guilty of it.  Jesus was tempted in the same way we are, yet He never once yielded to or entertained sin. He never developed any propensities toward sin by giving way to it.

This belief that every son actually bears the guilt of his ancestor’s sins led to the practice of Infant Baptism in the Catholic church.  Also, assuming Jesus had the nature of Adam before he fell because He was sinless they had to come up with a way to excuse Him from the guilt of Original Sin—hence the doctrine of The Immaculate Conception.  Additionally, if Jesus did not share our fallen nature and inclination to sin—if He did not dwell in our fallen flesh, then the ladder had not been let down from heaven to earth. The gulf still had not been bridged between a holy God and fallen humanity.  This consequently brought on an illegitimate continuation of the human priesthood, mediation of dead saints and the intercessory status of angels and Mary.

The other Christian churches took a different approach to take care of this problem.   Although they rejected the Catholic tradition of the Immaculate Conception and the system of intercessors, they invented a doctrine which is equally unscriptural and which removes Christ totally from the fallen family of Adam.

This view declared that Jesus was incarnated in a special manner that preserved Him from partaking of the nature of Adam's descendants. Instead, He was born in the nature of Adam before he fell and lived His holy life in the uncorrupted state of sinless humanity.  He did come in human nature, they say, but it had to be in Adam's unfallen nature in order to protect Him from the pollution of original sin.

Two Extremes

This belief that Jesus came in the pre-fall nature of Adam has resulted in two extremes in thought.  One is that it is possible for us to live a sinless life in the nature of unfallen Adam.  Assuming, correctly, that His victorious experience in the flesh can be imparted to every Christian through faith, why can’t we attain that very same untainted life of sinless Adam? This fanatical view has led some to believe that they could reproduce the absolute holiness and perfection of unfallen Adam.

The other extremity to which men are led by accepting the error of Christ's pre-fall nature is exactly the opposite of the "holy flesh" theory. They simply assert that since Jesus overcame in Adam's sinless nature, we cannot possibly hope to share His victory while still in bodies of sinful flesh. Christ could only impart what He had to give, and since He had no victory over sin in our fallen nature, He could not share it with us. Therefore, it is impossible to overcome as Christ overcame.

But Christ Was Like Us!

The main problem with this teaching is that it is diametrically opposed to the clear teaching of the Bible.  In the first place Jesus depended on His Father for His power.  Before he fell, Adam had no battles to fight against hereditary tendencies. He had the power in himself to choose always not to sin.  But Jesus never had that kind of power as a man. He said, "I do nothing of myself; but as my Father hath taught me, I speak these things." John 8:28.  Repeatedly, Christ spoke of being dependent on His Father for everything He said and what He did.

Second, again and again the bible assures us that Jesus had a human nature exactly like ours. In Hebrews 2:11 it says, "For both he that sanctifieth and they who are sanctified are all of one: for which cause he is not ashamed to call them brethren." Brothers are of one flesh and family nature. Christ is the one who sanctifies, and we are being sanctified; and we are all of one flesh so that He can call us His brothers. This establishes the point beyond any question.

"For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham." Hebrews 2:16.  And Paul also declared that Jesus "was made of the seed of David according to the flesh." Romans 1:3.  How could He partake of Abraham's seed and David’s seed if He took on Him the nature of unfallen Adam? The emphasis here is that He did not take on some exotic, sinless nature such as angels or holy Adam might have had but the same nature that Abraham's children possessed. They had sin-weakened bodies and minds. So did He.

"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit."

"Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God." Hebrews 2:17.  Do the words "in all things" really mean "in all things"? 

And once more, just to hammer it home, we read, "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same." Hebrews 2:14. Notice how the inspired writer emphasized the sameness of the body of Christ with man. HE - ALSO - HIMSELF - LIKEWISE. These four words are used consecutively even though they are repetitive and redundant. WHY? In order to impress us that Jesus really did enter into the SAME nature man possessed. Just like children partake of the same flesh and blood, HE ALSO HIMSELF LIKEWISE took the SAME!  How can this unambiguous language confuse anyone? 

Is Obedience Possible?

 This was the crux of the battle between Jeus and satan in the wilderness.  If satan could have succeeded in causing Jesus to use His power as God , he could have used the facts to sustain his charges that God required an obedience that no man in the flesh could produce. If Jesus had failed to overcome the tempter in the same nature we have and by the same means available to us, the devil would have proven that obedience is indeed an impossible requirement.  What a sweet victory it would have been for him.

How Does This Help Me?

But beyond proving that it was possible for men to overcome sin in the flesh, His ultimate purpose was to help us to actually do it!  What I need to know is that I can overcome sin, my nature being what it is.  If He had not been born in the same flesh and nature as I, how could He understand my weaknesses and inclinations toward sin, and be a merciful High Priest for me?

The obvious truth of the nature of Jesus brings us to one of the great problems in holding to the pre-fall human nature of Christ.  If His victory over Satan, in the flesh, was for the purpose of enabling me to fulfill the requirements of the law, how could His victory help me at all if it was obtained in some other flesh than mine? Here is where this false doctrine strikes at the beautiful principle of righteousness by faith.

Righteousness by faith is the imputing and imparting of the results of His sinless life and atoning death. It includes both justification and sanctification. Through His sacrifice He imputes, or credits, to us the merits of His sinless experience and gives us a new birth that forgives our past sins and delivers us from their penalty. This is justification. To deliver us from the power of sin, He does not merely reckon us as righteous, but as our High Priest He actually imparts the strength to overcome sin and live right in the present and future.  In either case, He can only bestow upon us what He attained through His own incarnate experience as the Saviour of the world.

The purpose of the incarnation was to redeem fallen man—not sinless man. To do so He had to "condemn sin in the flesh." Romans 8:3. Our sins, which proceed from the flesh, had to be condemned by Him, and the only way this could be done was to conquer that sinful flesh and submit it to the death of the cross.

Jesus came to take away the sin of the world, as John declared. How could He take away sin that was not even there in the flesh He assumed? To be more precise, how could he "condemn sin in the flesh" in a sinless flesh?

Paul said, "I am crucified with Christ." Galatians 2:20. Why does he further state that we "were baptized into his death"? Romans 6:3. Every sinner must pass, by faith, through the crucifixion and resurrection experience with Christ. In order to pass from death to life, every one of us must identify with the One who represented us as the second Adam. Our sins were in Him. When He died, we died; and the penalty against our sins was satisfied and exhausted.

He had to carry our own fallen nature to that cross in order to make it possible for our sinful nature to be put to death.  Anything less would have failed to satisfy the justice of God.  Christ had to surrender condemned humanity to the full wages of sin on that cross in order to make atonement possible for us. Otherwise, we could not identify with Him or be crucified with Him.  I can’t see it any other way.  Redemption requires that Jesus live and die with the nature of fallen man in order to provide the vital link of our justification and sanctification.  

How Did He Overcome in Sinful Flesh?

 I guess I have wondered why, if Jesus actually inherited the compromised nature of Adam, He didn't sin like the rest of Adam's descendants.  But I think the answer is that He was filled with the Holy Spirit, possessing a fully surrendered will and sanctified human nature from the womb.  We are born again from our decision to follow Jesus (baptism) and not from birth like Jesus.  However, this fully surrendered will and sanctified human nature is available to us in real time in the same way that it was available to Him so that we can overcome sin in the same way that He overcame it.  Jesus, in living His life of victory over sin, did not utilize His divinity but confined Himself to the same power available to us through conversion and sanctification. 

Christ’s Victory—Our Victory

Sanctification is not a mere crediting or accounting. It is the imparting of something to us. Just as He imputes justification to deliver us from the guilt of sin, He now imparts sanctification to deliver us from the power of sin. What is the sanctification He imparts? It is our actual participation in the victory of Christ over sin. By faith we enter into and appropriate the strength of the victory He experienced in the flesh. In other words, He is able and willing to live out in us the same overcoming life that He lived as a man on this earth. He will reproduce in us His own sinless experience. This is sanctification.

If Jesus came into the world with Adam's unfallen nature in order to manifest a sinless life, how could that unfallen nature be reproduced in me? Fallen men are not sanctified by participating in Adam's unfallen experience. They are sanctified by overcoming sin in their fallen nature through the same power Jesus used in overcoming sin. There is no way for us to participate in the unfallen experience of Adam. If that is the means by which Jesus overcame Satan, there is no way for Him to impart it to me. But if Jesus gained the victory over Satan in the fallen nature of Adam's descendants, then I can participate in it with Him. That kind of victory can be superimposed upon my own life, because it was gained in the same nature I possess.

A sinless experience lived in some alien, unfallen nature could not be credited to me, nor could it ever be possessed by me. Fallen nature can never, in this life, be restored to the state of unfallen man. But we may receive the victory over sin which Jesus gained in the flesh as one of us.

Living Without Sin?

The Bible answer is clear that even in the weakness of our flesh we can cast down every thing in our lives that is evil and bring into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ: "For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war after the flesh: (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God)... Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." 2 Corinthians 10:3-5.

The Word of God assures us that we may partake of the divine nature of Jesus and have the "mind of Christ." His sinless experience in the flesh is a guarantee that any of us may have the same victory if we will depend upon the Father as He did.  This means that in overcoming sin He had no advantage over us. He fought the enemy in the same nature and with the same spiritual weapons that are available to us.

This doesn’t mean we can equal the perfect pattern of Jesus' sinless life. All of us have degraded human nature further by giving way to the flesh—making ourselves more vulnerable to Satan by cooperating with him. Jesus never responded to a single sinful stimulus and Satan could find nothing in Him. He lived all His life with the surrendered mind and will of the fully sanctified. He committed no sins to be atoned for.

But even though we cannot equal the pattern, we should seek earnestly to reflect that holy life of Jesus as fully as possible. By the grace of God, we may put away every known sin and be perfect in our sphere with no consciousness of cherished wrong doing.

Does that mean we will be boasting about living without sin? On the contrary, the closer we come to Christ, the more we will sense our unworthiness. Those who attain the standard of Christ will be the last ever to recognize it, much less boast of it.

Is Obedience Possible?  Final Vindication

By stepping down into a fallen human body and overcoming everything satan could hurl at Him, Jesus vindicated Himself and proved satan wrong.  Everyone can see that it is possible, in fallen flesh, to be obedient through dependence on the Father. But God’s final vindication will take place when the character of Christ has been reproduced in a persecuted little remnant who remain faithful through the firestorm of Armageddon and beyond. Long after Satan's knee has bowed to acknowledge the righteousness of God and eons after he and his followers have tasted the eternal consequences of their sin, the 144,000 will still be bearing witness to the honor and integrity of God's government.

It is easy to understand why that little group who sing the song of Moses and the Lamb will be so signally honored as they stand nearest to God's throne. It is through their experience that God's character will be vindicated at last.

In Summary? 

In summary, we can see that the ancient error of Adam's imputed guilt has led to a chain of related deceptions. The most significant truths of salvation have been cleverly counterfeited. The humanity of Jesus has been denied, the imparted righteousness of Christ has been challenged, and the possibility of victory over sin has been ridiculed. It is only as we recognize the basic falsehood that we can avoid the perversions that follow.