Everyone who reads the Bible is aware that God the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14). Expressed alternatively, Jesus, the man, pre-existed as God in the form of God (Phil. 2:5-11). If we ask why he changed his nature and became man made in the image of God, the answer is simply to save sinners, as his name implies (Mt. 1:21). More fully expressed, he came to save mankind from the world, the flesh and the devil (1 John 2:14-17). History had proved that no one had been capable of gaining the glory of God (cf. Rom. 2:7,10) by keeping the law which was the precondition of salvation (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5, etc.). All to the very last man and woman had come short (Rom. 3:23, cf. 5:12; 6:23). So, in order to gain the righteousness that the salvation or regeneration of man required, God in Christ came to achieve it on man’s behalf. In other words, as a true man himself he had to serve as man’s representative and achieve the perfection of God in the flesh (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14f.).
Historically speaking, the church has misconceived what the incarnation involved. It has tended to believe a la Augustine that originally God created a perfect world which was marred by man’s sin and also that man himself was initially perfect but “fell” bringing about a cosmic curse from which redemption is required. The truth is, however, that the visible creation, which had a beginning (Gen. 1:1), was naturally perishable (corruptible, subject to decay) and temporary (Rom. 8:20; 2 Cor. 4:18; Heb. 1:11) from the start as was (the) flesh that derives from it (Gen. 1:24; 2:7,19). So in order to serve as the second Adam Jesus began (cf. Isa. 7:15f.) where Adam began (Gen. 2:17; 3:5,22) in complete innocence (cf. Dt. 1:39) with the intention of achieving the perfection (Mt. 5:48) or glory of God from scratch. Though created like all human beings in the image of God (Gen. 1:26, basic capacity), he had to gain his complete likeness through testing in the course of his development and maturation (Gen. 17:1; Ex. 15:25; Dt. 8:2,16; 30:15-20, etc.).
If this is in fact the case, we can expect to see the human career of Jesus delineated in Scripture in more detail. It should be obvious to all that he did not begin perfect (complete, mature) either morally or physically. In fact he was necessarily like his first human forebear, Adam, who (as has already been implied) has absurdly been regarded as initially perfect instead of morally innocent as one who did not know good and evil (Gen. 3:22, cf. Isa. 7:15f.) and physically undeveloped. Perfection (completeness or maturity) had to be acquired as he evolved with the passage of time and sought the glory and honour required by his Father (Rom. 2:7,10; Heb. 2:9). While it may be true that Jesus is presented to us correctly in Scripture as the perfect image of God (Rom. 8:29; Col. 1:15, etc.), it is more accurate and intelligible to say that he was perfectED as such (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28, cf. Gal. 3:3; Phil. 3:12-14, etc.). Clearly a process was involved.
The Creation of Jesus
A process, development or evolution, however, needs a beginning, and while the eternal Word was not created Arian-wise, his incarnation as man involved his being given a created body of flesh fashioned from his heavenly Father’s seed in his earthly mother’s womb (Heb. 10:5, cf. Ps. 139:13; John 1:14).
Jesus’ Human Development
So, at his incarnation in the image of both God and man (Gen. 1:26-28; 5:1-3), Jesus as the seed of his Father (1 John 5:18b) was conceived in a woman’s womb which recapitulated the Garden of Eden where the first Adam had originally been placed. In other words, he did not begin as seed created literally in the ground as Adam had been (Gen. 2:7, cf. Ps. 139:15f.), but in order to retain his link with mankind in general (cf. Mt. 1:1-11; Luke 3:23-38) as the seed of his Father he necessarily gestated in the womb of the Virgin Mary (cf. Jer. 1:5) who herself derived ultimately from Adam (Gen. 2:21-23). He was thus born of woman who as flesh and the mother of all living (Gen. 3:20) re-enacted the role of mother earth in procreation. In this way, he recapitulated the experience of Adam as second and replacement Adam (cf. Ps. 139:15f.; Eph. 4:9f.; Heb. 10:9b).
(Note: It perhaps needs explaining at this point that Adam was manufactured (made by hand) as seed in the ground, cf. Ps. 139:15; Gen. 2:7, and was therefore perishable seed, cf. 1 Pet. 1:23; 1 Cor. 15:47a. By contrast, Jesus as the Son of God stemmed from imperishable seed from heaven, 1 Cor. 15:47b, and so had indestructible life, Heb. 7:16, even before as flesh he was born again, John 3:7. However, he gained his perishable humanity from his mother, Gen. 3:15, and though permanently alive in the spirit, he died in the flesh, 1 Pet. 3:18, or ‘in Adam’, 1 Cor. 15:21f. It was as perishable flesh that he was first resurrected, then transformed at his ascension so as to become a life-giving spirit, 1 Cor. 15:45.)
Gestation and Birth
As the seed of his Father, Jesus gestated in the Virgin’s womb for the standard nine months (cf. Luke 1:36) before finally being ‘born of woman’ (Gal. 4:4). Of course, at this stage there was no outward sign of his being different from any other baby, though his identity was in some sense revealed to representative people like neighbouring shepherds and visiting wise men (foreign astrologers). Needless to add, he underwent Jewish rites like circumcision and presentation in the temple that were common to male children of the chosen race. As usual, his infancy and weaning were otherwise uneventful and relatively inconspicuous.
Under the Covenant with Noah
It is important to note, however, that this meant that his early life was uncovenanted like that of his forebears in general. On the racial level, what eventually became the covenant with Noah had not been established at the beginning doubtless because the condition of the immediate descendants of Adam, the antediluvians, was infantile despite their physical maturity. For a covenant, pact or agreement to operate, an element of development (perfection) was intrinsically necessary. Without this, mutuality, agreement or reciprocation no matter how minimal was impossible, for babies lacking conscious intelligence resemble undiscerning irrational animals. So, since the Israelites as a race had, as ‘children’, been enslaved in Egypt, Jesus relived or recapitulated their experience in his own childhood (Mt. 2:15, cf. Gal. 4:1f.). In light of this, we may assume that rather like Moses before him Jesus grew and increased in wisdom during his period of childlike bondage (Acts 7:22, cf. Luke 2:40).
Under the Covenant with Moses
On his return to his own country, Jesus doubtless having been apprised of the covenant promises made to his forefather Abraham continued his progress towards perfection under the law of Moses (cf. Gal. 3:23-25; 4:2), as Luke indicates (Luke 2:41-52). It was at this time that his circumcision which was a national marker took effect and as a teen-ager he became a son of the commandment. He now had to take personal responsibility for keeping the law which was the precondition of life (Gen. 2:17; Lev. 18:5; Mt. 19:17,21, etc.). It was also during his stint under the law that he would have appreciated the significance of his relationship with David (cf. Mt. 1:1). For he was not simply going to be representative of his people as the children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob (Israel) but also as their promised Davidic King (cf. 2 Sam. 7; Ps. 89; Jer. 23:5; Mark 15:18; John 19:19).
Under the New Covenant
Life under the law was intended only as a stepping stone. By its very nature as instruction it was temporary and provisional (2 Cor. 3; Heb. 8). However, no one in the history of Israel had ever transcended it for the simple reason that no one had ever succeeded in keeping it (1 K. 8:46; Eccl. 7:20, etc.). The Jews as sinners all (1 Kings 8:46, etc.) were thus prisoners of hope (Zech. 9:12), and Jesus as the first and only one to keep the law was uniquely to embody that hope (Col. 1:27). Having pleased his Father, he was baptized by (with) the Spirit and fitted to fulfil all righteousness as God’s regenerate Son (Mt. 3:13-17). Filled with the Spirit (John 1:32; 3:34; 6:27) he was now able to pioneer the regenerate life (that is, live a heavenly life here on earth doing his Father’s will, cf. Mt. 6:10,33), but to do this effectively he had to empower those who believed in him to do the same. He achieved this, first, by laying down his fleshly life to cover their sins and thereby to inaugurate the new covenant, and, secondly, by sending the Spirit to sanctify them (Eph. 1:13f., cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; John 17:17).
Resurrection and Transformation
Jesus’ death for his people’s sins necessarily required his resurrection and as a consequence God raised him up demonstrating acceptance of his sacrifice (Acts 2:23f.). But since flesh and blood cannot by nature inherit the kingdom of God, his physical resurrection required in turn a bodily transformation (1 Cor. 15:50). And it was only after his ascension transformation and session at the right hand of God that Jesus was able to send his Spirit to complete his work on earth (John 14:15-31; Acts 2). However, he was now the perfected man, the complete image of God and seated as such at God’s right hand (Heb. 1:3). He had not only regained his pre-incarnation glory (John 17:5) but he was also empowered as man who had received the generic nature of God to exercise universal rule (Mt. 11:27; 28:18; Eph. 1:21; 1 Pet. 3:22, cf. Rom. 1:4).
Jesus Man Perfected
In sum, Jesus, the Word made flesh, had evolved from ground to glory (Eph. 4:9f., cf. John 3:13; 13:3, etc.), and seated at God’s right hand he had been made perfect (Heb. 2:10; 5:9; 7:28, etc.) like his heavenly Father (cf. Mt. 5:48; 19:21). Alternatively expressed, as man he had achieved the perfection of the glory he enjoyed before the foundation of the world (John 17:5; Rev. 22:4) and was now in a position to ensure that his disciples would see that glory (John 17:24). Little wonder that we are called to be conformed to his image and to be glorified in our turn (Rom. 8:29f.; 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 3:21). As our human representative and Saviour he had blazed a trail for us into heaven and the very presence of God (Heb. 2:5-18; 9:11,24; 12:2).
The final truth is, then, that Jesus, having achieved perfection in the image of God as man, epitomizes the creation and evolution (perfection) of mankind as both individual and race. (1* If he is the vine, we are the branches, John 15:5. If he is the Son, we also are sons, fellow heirs, Rom. 8:14-17, and brothers to boot, Heb. 2:10-18.) Most significantly, Jesus is Lord (1 Cor. 12:3, cf. Phil. 2:9-11) and to him we all owe allegiance (Rom. 10:9) just as we do to God the Father (cf. 1 John 2:23; 5:1).
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