Recently, whilst corresponding with a relatively large number of pastors in an internet chat group, I was astonished and alarmed to discover that I was the only correspondent who believed in the true manhood of Christ in His saving work. What sparked off the heated debate was the subject of Christ being tempted by the devil, (Matt. 4:1-11) and my co-correspondents were upset by my contributions to the discussion. I had based my stand on Hebrews 2:18, “For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted” and Hebrews 4:15, “For 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.” My first surprise was to discover that in their interpretations of these texts my fellow-correspondents did not believe that Christ was actually tempted as a man and actually overcome those temptations as a man. He could only overcome temptation because of his divine nature, they argued. In other words, Christ’s human temptations were not real. If the temptations were real, they argued, then Christ could have sinned and it is impossible for Christ to sin. I retaliated with the argument that this was the very thing Christ came to show us, that He as a man amongst men, could withstand the temptations common to all men and yet not sin. Indeed, this was the very reason why Christ became flesh. We read in Rom. 8:3 that God sent His Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, that He might condemn sin in the flesh to make His elect free from the law of sin and death. My internet friends jumped back at me on reading this, saying that Romans 8:3 proves that Christ was not tempted with sin as man because He was only in the ‘likeness of sinful flesh’ and was thus not really mere man in His triumph over the law but was acting as God. No man, they argued, could withstand sin, so Christ withstood all temptation and sin in His capacity as God and not as man. But then, I replied, what was the purpose of the Incarnation? If God could have rescued man from his sins as God, why did Christ have to be Incarnated? Furthermore, Romans 8 was not written to tell us that the Incarnation was merely a mock-up or make-believe act on God’s part as if God wished to disguise His real intentions but the word translated ‘likeness’ (homoiōmati) means that Christ became the same as we are. The same word is used in Philipians 2:7-8 to describe that Christ was in the form of God but took upon Himself the likeness of man. It is also used in Romans 6:5 to describe the death man dies as the same death which Christ died for him. The teaching behind the latter verse is that Christ not only took upon Himself our human nature but He also took upon Himself human death so that we might partake of His resurrection. He became man and died as man that man might share His triumph over death. Of course, if Christ were not truly man, He could never have been put under the law in our stead and never died in our stead. An interesting confirmation of this interpretation is Romans 5:14 which reads in the AV, “Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude (homoiōmati) of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of him that was to come.” Here we see that death reigned over all sinners whether before or after the Mosaic law was given because sin entered the world with Adam’s fall not Moses’ law. However, Paul is also writing about realised prophecy because the Second Adam, foretold in Gen. 3:15, became man but he neither sinned in Adam nor under Moses. The first Adam brought death into the world, the Second Adam life.
Those who will not admit that Christ became truly man have great difficulty explaining Christ’s birth. They cannot accept that Christ had anything to do with ‘sinful flesh’, so they deny that Christ had any physical connection with Mary, His mother. The full conception, they argue, was by the Holy Spirit so that Christ had neither a human mother nor a human father. The foetus which Mary carried in her womb was not bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh, nor even blood of her blood. If we were to analyse Christ’s blood group and DNA, they tell us, there would be no genetic connection with Mary to be found. This would again be a denial of the Incarnation and the great prophecies of the Old Testament which foretell that the Messiah will be a true man of a certain family origin and heredity line.
To be continued:
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