I have argued elsewhere that, according to Scripture, the Word of God became flesh or man (John 1:14; Phil. 2:7), specifically Jesus, the son of God born of woman in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) (see my Still Docetic, The Ecclesiastical Christ.) . I deliberately express the issue this way since I am intent on denying that the person or Word of God in becoming incarnate retained his divine nature. Rather, contrary to the Chalcedonian creed, he became a genuine human being, a man like us in every respect (Heb. 2:14,17). In changing his nature he became totally dependent on his heavenly Father as ultimately all human beings are. (1* See further my Did Jesus Perform Miracles?.)
Jesus the Son
The Virgin Birth
Since he became truly and fully human, the second Adam, Jesus’ sonship like ours was progressive or subject to development. It began by his being conceived by and born of the Virgin Mary (Mt.1:20f.; Luke 1:31; Heb. 10:5). As such he was inevitably made a little lower than the angels (Heb. 2:7,9) with the intention of doing the will of God in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.; 10:7,9) in a way that no one had previously proved capable of doing (cf. e.g. 1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20). The reason for this is that he purposed by keeping the law as man to gain the righteousness which was the precondition of eternal life. This God had originally promised Adam, who was the first man made in the divine image, in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17, cf. Lev. 18:5). So, just as God had spoken to his people by the prophets, he finally sent his own Son not merely to speak and reveal but ultimately to redeem (Heb. 1:1-3, cf. Gal. 4:4).
Jesus then like Adam was the Son of God by physical birth (cf. Luke 3:38), and like all children he was subject to perfection, that is, development, growth and maturation (Luke 2:42-52, cf. Gal. 4:1-7). As a child he necessarily passed through the stages of infant ignorance (Dt. 1:39, cf. Isa. 7:15f.; 8:4) and childlike ‘heathenism’ under the covenant with Noah by recapitulating the history of his forebears. Like Israel the vine (Ps. 80:8), Jesus the true vine (John 15:1) spent time in and was called out of Egypt (Mt. 2:15). On his return to the Promised Land he underwent his bar mitzvah and lived as a Son of the Commandment. As such he was called to total obedience to the whole law. By achieving this to perfection he pleased his Father who acknowledged and confirmed him as his Son at his baptism (Mt. 3:13-17). In this way, as man he uniquely and permanently received the Spirit, that is, eternal life (John 1:32, cf. 3:34), new birth or birth from above. His baptism signified the first fulfillment of the promise originally made by God to Adam in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 2:17, cf. Leviticus 18:5, etc.).
In view of traditional misunderstanding it is vital to stress and clarify this. Like all human beings Jesus had natural, animal* or temporal life at his birth of woman (Gal. 4:4, cf. Rom. 7:9) but like Adam (Gen. 2:17) needed eternal life if he was to achieve perfection and attain to heaven. This he gained when he fulfilled the God-ordained precondition which involved keeping the commandment/law (Lev. 18:5, etc.).
* It should not go unnoticed that as a baby, as flesh born of woman, Jesus was nursed in a manger (Luke 2:7,12) and categorized with the animals (Luke 13:15; 14:5, NRSV).
Jesus’ Sonship was further confirmed at his transfiguration described in Matthew 17:1-8. Here God refers to him and bears testimony to him as his beloved Son (cf. 2 Pet. 1:17). That he is his human Son emerges from the fact that his Father claims to be well pleased with him (17:5) as he had been at his baptism. This inference is confirmed by Jesus’ double self-designation as the Son of Man who is to suffer (v.12) and be raised from the dead (v.10). But before he could serve as the perfect sacrifice for the sins of his people, he had to qualify himself by remaining completely unblemished and acceptable in the sight of his Father (cf. 1 Pet. 1:19). This the first Adam had failed to do.
The resurrection of Jesus is the resurrection of the human Son by his Father (Acts 2:24). Of course, it might be argued on the basis of John 10:17f., where Jesus says he has the power to take his life again, that he has retained his divine nature but even here he claims to have the authority of his Father to do so. A dead man cannot be raised apart from the authority of God. He must be divinely vindicated (Acts 2:22-24, cf. Rom. 4:25) and the vindication in question is that of his Father. However, the situation is clarified in Acts 13:32f., for example, where it is the Son, begotten in time (today) not in eternity, who is raised in accordance with the promise God made to the fathers. That this passage has the human Son in view is further emphasized by the fact that he is said to be raised from the dead no more to return to corruption (13:34). It is only as the incarnate Son that Jesus experienced corruption (aging, decay) and, once he had ascended to heaven, his days of corruption and contact with it were terminated forever (Heb. 7:26, cf. 4:14). He had been made flesh only for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9, cf. 5:7) with the salvation of his people in view.
Paul tells us that flesh and blood cannot (by nature) inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50, cf. John 3:6) and that we must all be changed (1 Cor. 15:51). Now since Jesus was truly flesh, he too had to be changed even as he had been spiritually born again at his baptism and this change clearly took place at his ascension (cf. John 20:17) and not, as is widely claimed, at his resurrection from the dead (pace e.g. Stott, pp.70ff., Harris, pp.xxv, etc., Carson, p. 557, and many others). It is as the incarnate Son of God that Jesus fully achieved the image and likeness of God (Heb. 1:3, cf. 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15), indeed his very perfection (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28). If this were not the case, how could he be regarded as our pioneer and trail blazer into the very presence of God (Heb. 6:20; 9:24; 12:2, cf. Dan. 7:13f.), our elder brother (Heb. 2:10-13) to whose image we must be conformed (Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18).
The Second Adam
Since Adam was the human son of God, so is Jesus or he could not possibly have been the second Adam. If Adam was a type of the one who was to come (Rom. 5:14), it follows that the antitype was also human flesh and blood by nature and divine only in person or identity (cf. Luke 3:38). If Adam was made from the ground or mother earth, Jesus derived from his mother’s flesh whose original source through Adam was the ground (Ps. 78:39; 103:14, cf. Job 10:8f., etc.). Mary was not theotokos or mother of God since God is eternal (cf. Heb. 7:3) but the mother of the human Jesus, genuine flesh and blood. Thus it was in the flesh that Jesus, God’s human Son born of woman, overcame (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.,17f.).
So we can safely conclude that just as Jesus the Son attains to heaven and the presence of his Father God (Eph. 2:18) as our pioneer (Heb. 9:24; 12:2), so do we, his fellows. By faith in him, the Son of God, and by regeneration (cf. 2 Pet. 1:3f.) we overcome the world (1 John 5:4f.) as he himself overcame (John 16:33). So, as a Son himself he brings his brothers to glory (Heb. 2:10) and guarantees them a share in the inheritance (Rom. 8:17).
Ecce Homo, Behold the Man
At the beginning of his gospel John tells us in clear language that in the beginning was the Word (cf. Gen. 1:1), and that the Word was with God and was God. In verse 14 he adds that this Word who brought creation into being came to his own (John 1:11), became flesh and lived (tabernacled) with men and women. We learn elsewhere that as flesh and descended from David (Mt. 1:1; Rom. 1:3) he was born of the Virgin Mary (cf. Luke 1:27; John 7:42). Through her he clearly became a son of man, God incarnate. Since he is born of woman (cf. Gal. 4:4) who herself is dust, he too is truly a Son of Adam, the archetypal man, who was created from the earth in the image of God (Luke 3:38). In this way he became the second Adam (1 Cor. 15:45-49), the replacement of the first (cf. Heb. 10:9). As such he was both God in person and man in nature (Heb. 2:14,17; 10:5-7). John goes on significantly to inform his readers that he and his fellow apostles have seen his glory as the only Son from the Father, and in verse 17 he noticeably differentiates between the old and the new covenants when he says that the law was given through Moses but grace and truth through Jesus Christ. Again, in a passage reminiscent of John 1, the same apostle (we assume) claims to have physically heard, seen and touched the life which was with the Father (as the Word was with God) on the basis of which eternal life is proclaimed (1 John 1:1-3). This stress on hearing, seeing and touching, highlighted in John 20:27-29 and Hebrews 12:18-21, is of prime importance since it points to the genuineness of Jesus’ human nature as flesh and blood prior to his ascension transformation and glorification (cf. 1 Cor. 15:50-53).
Conqueror in the Flesh
It was then as man that Jesus of Nazareth is presented to us in Scripture as going about doing good (Acts 10:38) overcoming sin in the flesh (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22, cf. Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14) and as a man (Gk andra) being approved by God (Acts 2:22). Since God had originally promised Adam, the man made in his image, eternal life if he kept the commandment, only in this way could Jesus triumph over the devil and deliver those enslaved by him (Heb. 2:14f.). Thus in the book of Revelation it is Jesus the man, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, but significantly also the root of David, who conquers (Rev. 5:5). And it is as a Lamb who has been slain that he stands among the elders (5:6. cf. v.9), sits at God’s right hand and receives glory along with him (5:13, cf. 4:11; John 17:5,24), for he, the man, is now King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14; 19:16).
The apostle Paul who like John described Jesus as having shared the nature of God in eternity (Phil. 2:6) in 1 Timothy 2:5 describes him as a man (Gk anthropos) who is the mediator between God and man. The author of Hebrews goes further and adds that Jesus is the guarantor or surety of a better covenant (Heb. 7:22) than that served by Moses (cf. Gal.3:19). A guarantor bears a greater burden than a mediator because he is responsible for the fulfillment of his obligation (see e.g. Bruce, p.151 n.70). As both God in person and man by nature Jesus fulfils his role to perfection.
It is as man that Jesus became a priest replacing Aaron. At first blush it might be assumed that this was impossible because he belonged to the wrong tribe of Israel (Heb. 7:14). But this problem is overcome by a change in the law as well as the priesthood (Heb. 7:12) and Jesus is appointed a priest by an oath after the order of Melchisedek (Heb. 7:21). As the Word in eternity, like Melchisedek Jesus had neither father nor mother, neither beginning nor end whereas as man on earth he had both. And it was as man the Son of God that he gained an eternal priesthood (Heb. 7:3) because he continues forever (Heb. 7:16,24,28).
Propitiator, Intercessor and Sympathizer
Paul makes it clear in Romans 3:25 that it is by shedding his (human) blood that Jesus serves as the propitiator of his Father whose wrath was revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men (Rom. 1:18). The mere fact that all died reflected the fact that all personally sinned (Rom. 3:23; 5:12; 6:23) and did not simply fall prey to original sin as our baleful (Augustinian) tradition would have it. Thus all were in need of someone to make propitiation for them (1 John 2:2, cf. Heb. 1:3), to intercede on their behalf (Rom. 8:34) and to sympathize with them (Heb. 2:17).
The Inheritor, the Messiah, the King of Kings and Lord of Lords
If the Word played his part in the creation of the world, clearly all belonged to him as Creator (cf. John 1:11). In the words of Paul, all things were created through him and for him (Col. 1:17). The last asseveration, like that of the ultimate reconciliation referred to in verse 20, is pregnant with significance. For if all was his by creation, the implication is that he was to inherit all as man (Rom. 8:17, cf. Gen. 17:4-6; Gal. 3:14,29; Rom. 4:13). The devil himself seemed to realize this (Mt. 4:9) as he had when he tempted the first Adam (Gen. 3:1-6). That this promise was fulfilled is made clear in Hebrews 1:3f. where we learn that having made purification for sins Jesus sat down at the right hand of God, regained his superiority to the angels (Heb. 1:4) temporarily forfeited (cf. Heb. 2:7,9) and inherited a more excellent name than theirs. He who once endured extreme humiliation on earth (Phil. 2:7f.) is now exalted above the heavens (Heb. 4:14) as King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14; 19:16).
Jesus the Righteous One and the Author of Life
It is worthy of note that Jesus the man is designated the Righteous One on various occasions (3:14; 7:52; 22:14, cf. 1 Pet. 3:18; 1 John 2:1). This of course harmonizes with his sinlessness (cf. 1 Pet. 2:22, etc.). In Acts 3:15 he is called the Author of life. This also presumably relates to his humanity for it was as man that he spilt his blood on our behalf and brought to light immortality and incorruption (2 Tim. 1:10). Apart from him we would all have been left in our sins, incapable of achieving the righteousness necessary for life (Lev. 18:5). It is by him that we must be saved or not at all (Acts 4:12). To have him is to have the Father also (John 14:6; 1 John 2:23; 4:15; 2 John 9)
Life Giver and Judge
In John 5:26 we read that Jesus was given life in himself (cf. 1 Cor. 15:45) along with the power to judge (John 5:22,27; Acts 17:31). This can only mean that he received these delegated powers as man (John 3:34f, 5:20), the human Son of God since in his eternal state as Creator he already had them (cf. John 1:4, pace e.g. Carson, The Son, pp.62ff.; John pp.256f.)
It is a sad fact that our Augustinian tradition has taught us that creation, including man the creature, was created perfect rather than ‘good’, that is, useful or fit to serve a purpose (cf. Gen. 3:6 where food is portrayed as being edible, cf. 2:9). In other words, Augustine confused the beginning with the end. The truth is that man like a baby was created imperfect, that is, immature, knowing neither good nor evil. As such he had to be made perfect. Since the law being weak and useless could not make anything perfect, mankind was forced to find a better hope by which to draw near to God (Heb. 7:11,18f.; 8:7). That better hope was provided by Jesus, the man, who in accordance with the divine purpose uniquely achieved perfection (Lev. 11:44f.; 19:2; Mt. 5:48, cf. Phil. 3:12-14), the perfection of God (Heb. 1:3; 2:10; 5:9; 7:28). He thus became the pioneer and perfecter of his people (Heb. 12:2). Through him and in him we also attain to the presence of God (Heb. 12:22-24; Rev. 3:21, cf. John 14:2f.), the fullness of our salvation.
F.F.Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews, London, 1964.
D.A.Carson, Jesus The Son of God, Wheaton, 2012.
D.A.Carson, The Gospel According to John, Leicester/Grand Rapids, 1991.
Outline of the Word’s Incarnation and his Exaltation as Man
1. The Word was God (John 1:1) and therefore equal with God (Phil. 2:6).
2. Superior to angels by nature as eternal Creator.
3. Became flesh (man) (John 1:14) and so changed his nature (Phil. 2:7).
4. Made less than angels for a little while (Heb. 2:7,9).
5. Sought glory and honour (Rom. 2:7,10; Acts 10:38, cf. 1 Pet.1:7).
6. Succeeded, so was raised in power (Rom. 1:4) and crowned with glory and honour (Heb. 2:9).
7. Superior to angels (Heb. 1:4,6; 1 Pet. 3:22).
8. The exact image of God (Heb. 1:3; 2 Cor. 4:4; Col. 1:15).
9. Jesus the man is the Lord of Glory (1 Cor. 2:8. cf. James 2:1) who sits with God on his throne (Rev. 3:21, cf. Mt. 28:18; Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 4:11-14).
10. At his return he exercises as man the power of God (Mt. 28:18; Rom. 1:4) and sends out his angels to gather the elect from the four winds (Mt. 24:30f.; Heb. 9:28).