Wednesday, December 23, 2009

God Becomes A Man! Part 1 of 3

Mark Twain wrote The Prince and the Pauper, the story of a prince who meets a poor boy who looks like him. The boys trade places so the pauper may experience royal life as the prince experiences the life of a commoner.

Christians believe that something like this really happened when God became a man.

God experienced human life so that human beings could experience eternal life.

Jesus was a Jew who claimed to be God (see John 10:24-34).

He was a rabbi, that is to say, a teacher.

He claimed to be the Son of David, the legitimate King of Israel.

Christians believe that He was fully man.

Christians also believe that this God-man, Jesus Christ, offered a way that human beings could become God’s immortal companions.

We believe that as King of Israel, Christ has granted citizenship – the covenant of Abraham -- to all who believe in Him.

In other words, Christians believe that the Christian church is the spiritual continuation of the ancient nation of Israel. Christians are citizens of that nation.

Sound preposterous?

It is preposterous...unless it is true!

The legitimacy of Christian faith rests on these teachings.

They also mold the ways Christians read the Bible, Old and New Testaments.

Since many of you plan to read with me through the Bible in the coming year, I thought I would give you a quick outline of the scriptures – a sort of Cliff Notes of the Bible.

The Bible uses narrative, poetry, allegory, prayers and apocalyptic literature to tell the spiritual history of Israel, the moral code of those who follow God, the life and teachings of Christ, and the history and teachings of the early Christian Church.

We Christians build the foundation of our faith on the Old Testament, which is God’s revelation of Himself to the ancient Hebrews.

However, we read and interpret the Old Testament through the writings of the New Testament. This second Testament tells us about the life, teachings, death and resurrection of Christ. It also introduces the Church, which God has called to shepherd believers as they learn how to follow Jesus Christ, grow in Him, and spread the news of his life, death, resurrection and teachings to the nations of the world.

It is important to realize that early Christians were building upon the teachings of God’s ancient Hebrew people. The early Christians certainly did not think of their faith as “a new religion.”

This commitment to the ancient Hebrew covenant created a major theological problem: what to do about their doctrine of God.

As Jews, the early Christian leaders often prayed a special prayer, called the shma. It served as sort of “Creed” in Jewish faith and says, “Hear O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is One.” (Deuteronomy 6:1-4).

That prayer establishes our faith upon the belief of monotheism (the belief that there is only one God). It is a pledge of fidelity to One, Invisible and Almighty God.

Jews have always been willing to die for this belief, in ancient and modern times.

Christians had a dilemma.

They believed in God, to whom Jesus had prayed and called “Father”.

They also believed that Jesus was God who had “come in the flesh” (as St. John puts it (in 1 John 4:2,3).

They believed in the Holy Spirit, whom they had experienced after the resurrection of Christ. The Holy Spirit too was God!

So, did that not make Christians tritheists (believers in three gods)?

Were Christians monotheists or tritheists?

What a problem!

Christians believed in one God. However, they believed that the Father was God, Jesus was God and the Holy Spirit was God.

They believed that Father, Son, and Holy Spirit were somehow distinct from one another.

Christians fiercely asserted that there were not three gods … only one!

Their Jewish brothers were continually asking “What could they possibly mean?”

How these questions were settled would require much more space and time than a blog can give! In coming days, I hope to keep your attention as we discuss such things.

For now, let’s just say that this is the heart of the Christmas season: God became a man. Not in appearance only, as a person might put on a new suit or assume a new role. God became a man in every way.

He was hungry.

He was thirsty.

He was tempted.

He was disappointed.

He was killed.

For us sinners he came down from heaven and was made man, as the creed puts it.

The prince became a pauper so that paupers might become princes.

Once again, I offer a Christmas carol as the best available statement on this subject.

In 1739, Charles Wesley wrote the lyrics to Hark the Herald Angels Sing. In 1840, the great composer, Felix Mendelssohn wrote the tune that we now use to sing Wesley lyrics. Read the stanza below and meditate on the words. If you allow the lyrics to sing deep into your heart, you will begin to understand the importance and the beauty of the doctrine of the Incarnation – that is to say the “enfleshment” – of God in Jesus Christ.

Christ by highest heav'n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come
Offspring of a Virgin's womb
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with man to dwell
Jesus, our Emmanuel
Hark! The herald angels sing
"Glory to the newborn King!"


Anonymous said...

In his human life, Jesus was also the following:

He was offended.
He was obedient.

He was lonely.
He was lowly.

He was compassionate.
He was forgiving.

He was understanding.
He was misunderstood.

He was patient.
He was kind.

He was submissive.
He was confident.

He was loving.
He was single.

He had friends.
He had enemies.

He was without bias.
He was without sin.

Adam Pastor said...

Greetings Pastor Dan Scott

On the subject of
God becoming a man;
I recommend this video:
The Human Jesus

Take a couple of hours to watch it; and prayerfully it will aid you in your quest for truth.

Yours In Messiah
Adam Pastor