Tag Archives: Jesus as human

Are we saved through Jesus’ divine nature alone?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Dr. Heller,

You said it was due to Jesus’ human nature that we are saved, and not through some account of a “magic Jesus.” I disagree. It was due to Jesus’ divine nature that we are saved. In 1 Peter 3:18 it reads, “For Christ died for sins once and for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God. He was put to death in the body but made alive by the spirit.” If a human were to die it would not pay for the sins of humanity; the covenant between God and man would still require sacrifices. Yes, God can forgive sins without the death of Jesus or an animal sacrifice, but in order to bring him the most glory he has chosen this system so we can recognize his justice and recognize the greatness of the gift of his son Jesus. Jesus had to be God in order to pay for all the sins. The only reason he had to be human is so he could die because God cannot be killed. As it says in 1 Peter his death was in the body but he was made alive again in the spirit. Jesus was fully God and fully man. He knew who he was and what he came to do from a very young age. He died because he was man, but paid the price for all sins because he is God. This is how I believe the scriptures tell the story.

– Brendan

Dear Brendan,

Dr. Karin Heller

Thank you for your quick feedback. Well, if we were saved by Jesus’ divinity only, then there was no need for Jesus to become man. He could have just saved us with one word out of heaven. However, you, yourself write, that Jesus’ human body was necessary for salvation because only Jesus’ body can die! In other words, you reduce Jesus’ body to a mere instrument of death in his work of salvation. In this case, Jesus could have died at the age five from disease or at the age of 12 in an accident! It was just a matter of death of his human body. The circumstances were secondary, although God willed, and just a matter of greater glory to be given to God. This hypothesis overlooks that Jesus did not save us merely by his death. He saved us through his personal salvation history. He came to accomplish all that was written about him (Luke 24:27). And what was written about him was a totally human history, starting with Jesus’ conception in his mother’s womb, his birth, his growing up, his earthly ministry, his death, his resurrection, his ascension into heaven and his gift of the Holy Spirit to his church! Sorry, you narrow down Jesus’ saving acts to his only death, which is contrary to scripture. You are, however, right when you write, “If any human were to die it would not pay for the sins of humanity, the covenant between God and man would still require sacrifices.” Yes, all human flesh fails to pay for the sins of humankind. There is only one exception —Jesus’ flesh! That’s what you fail to see and recognize.

What you do not grasp is the fact that Jesus’ human flesh is Adam’s, which means human flesh before the fall. Protestants, and also many Catholics, tend to think that Jesus’ flesh is the flesh of you and me with the exception that he did not sin in this flesh because he was God! That’s a very bad shortcut with disastrous theological consequences. When the theological statement of “soli Deo Gloria” (to God alone all glory) is pushed to an extreme, it tends to reduce the importance of the human body to a minimum and transforms Jesus into “a man above mankind.” It also leads to the rejection of a correct understanding of the Catholic and Orthodox doctrine of Jesus’ presence in bread and wine at the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, or Eucharist, and it progressively eliminates the belief in the resurrection of the body. If one does not believe God can create a truly human flesh that can save us, then one progressively drifts away from sound biblical teaching, especially Genesis 1 and 2. It’s precisely this belief that gives greater glory to God.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University. Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

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What Catholic Council decided that Jesus had to discover He was God by reading Scriptures?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Dear Dr. Heller,

What Catholic Council decided that Jesus, as a young man, had to discover that he, in fact, was God by reading scriptures and that he did not innately know? And what scripture does it cite to enforce its doctrine?

Brendan

Dear Brendan,

Thank you for your message.

Dr. Karin Heller

A council did not “decide” this. A council always responds to questions raised by Christians during a certain time period. It comes up with responses subject to discussions and better understandings throughout the centuries. The specific question you relate to concerns the relationship between the divine and the human nature in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. These relationships were in debate at the Council of Chalcedon in the fifth century. So, here is what the council teaches (sorry for the technical language, but that’s how councils work and here you see that councils do not merely decide this or that!).

“Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same son, our Lord Jesus Christ, as once complete in godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body, of one substance with the father as regards his godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from his sin; as regards his godhead, begotten of the father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, son, Lord, only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, (emphasis mine!); the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same son and only-begotten God the word, Lord Jesus Christ…,” the Council of Chalcedon reads.

Wikipedia Photo

So, in a nutshell, the Council of Chalcedon teaches the unity of one person and the distinction of two natures in Jesus. The two natures in Jesus are not subject to change. His divine nature, in particular, could not overrun his human nature or give him some advantage over his human nature. Paul himself teaches by quoting a Christian hymn handed down to him that Jesus, “did not cling to his equality with God, but emptied himself, to assume the condition of a slave … ” (Philippians 2:6-7). In other words, with the Incarnation, Jesus gave up all of his divine privileges. Therefore, Jesus fully assumed a human physical, psychological and spiritual life. He discovered the world like any baby of this world. He learned to speak, to read and to write, interacted with his father and mother, went to school, learned a profession and asked the three existential questions each human being asks: Where do I come from? Who am I? Where do I go? Jesus turned to his teachers, the pharisees, with such questions, who in turn taught him about salvation history in Scripture. Through the Scriptures Jesus discovered his particular identity as son of God, called to save human kind through his human nature. It’s through Jesus’ human nature that we are saved, not on account of a magic Jesus mixing divine and human elements.

– Karin

Dr. Karin Heller is a professor on the theology faculty at Whitworth University.Her blog, Table Talk with Dr. Karin Heller, features her responses to questions that students have asked her over the years.  Check back each week to see new posts, and if you have a question leave it in the comment section below.

Why would Jesus want to go through what we go through?

By Contributor Dr. Karin Heller

Karin,

After our discussion today I’m still stuck on the fact that Jesus was man first. Since he’s God, I get the picture that he was all-knowing, even at birth, and knew that he was God from the start. Did he became man because he wanted to feel like a person and experience temptations like we do and be like us to see what we go through? Why would he want to? Did he not always know his fate and his impact on the world, even at birth? I can’t seem to wrap my head around this.

Thank you, professor.

– Travis

Dear Travis,

Dr. Karin Heller

Thank you for your great question. Like many Christians, you struggle with the two natures of Jesus Christ. Jesus became truly human, which means that he was not all-knowing from his birth to his resurrection. The Gospel of Luke states, “Jesus increased in wisdom, in stature and in  favor with God and men.” Jesus had to grow in wisdom! He did not know everything from the beginning and didn’t know the impact he would make on the world. Jesus studied the Scriptures. God spoke to him through the Scriptures (just as God speaks to you and me through the Scriptures) and through Scriptures Jesus learned about who he was!

If he knew about everything beforehand  there would be no need for Jesus to go to John the Baptist, be baptized and receive through baptism the confirmation that he is the beloved Son of God! As a human being, Jesus had to believe that he is  the son of  God.  Jesus also experienced rejection. He was not always successful when he preached and healed. He tried out different ministry styles. This means that it was not always crystal clear to him how to carry on his mission. In the Gospel of Luke we see  he started his ministry without any help, then he associated disciples to his ministry. Jesus had to believe God, his father, and he had to pray to God, just like of all other human beings.

Your image of Jesus has to come down to earth, otherwise you put your faith in a Jesus of your dreams and not the real Jesus. This will heavily affect your faith. Your faith will not be faith in Jesus, but in your image of Jesus! Jesus shared in the human condition to the very end, which meant a death sentence, even though he was totally innocent. In this way even the most unfortunate of the human beings can say, “What I go through, Jesus went it through, too.” Such an experience can lead a human being to develop sentiments of gratitude and love for Jesus.   We are called to stop believing in Jesus the same way we believe in Santa Claus! All false gods or Santa Claus figures pretend to act in man’s favor in a supernatural way. Only the true God who is the living one, acts in our favor in a complete, human  way! That’s how we can distinguish the true God from all the false gods. The false gods would never save us in a human way.

– Karin