In this episode of the systematic theology mini-series, Phylicia looks at christology. Why does it matter that Jesus is human AND divine? Did He exist before He came to earth, and if so why? Did Jesus make a claim to be God or was that made up by His disciples? All these and more answered in this episode of the Every Woman a Theologian launch series!
This episode is based on chapter four of the book. Preorder here and grab you free bonuses! https://everywomanatheologian.com
Welcome to Verity podcast. I’m your host, Phylicia Masonheimer. I’m here to teach you how to know what you believe, to live it boldly, and to communicate it graciously to the world around you. I believe that women are ready to go deeper in their faith than ever before and they don’t have to go to seminary to do it. I am so glad you’re here. And I hope you’ll join me on this journey, because every woman is a theologian.
Hello, friends. Would it surprise you to know that it took me four years to remember Josh’s birthday? It’s very embarrassing, but it’s true. For four years of our dating and early marriage relationship, I could not remember Josh’s birthday. I always got the days mixed up. Now, this is a pattern for me. I do have a hard time with dates and remembering dates. I literally have no less than four calendars. I have a planner, a Google Calendar, a whiteboard calendar on my fridge, and a chalkboard calendar over by my entryway. So, yes, remembering details is hard for me but [laughs] when you’re married to someone, you should remember their birthday. Here I am, years and years married to Josh, and still unable to remember his birthday. At one point he was like, look, I’m going to make the passcode to your phone my birthday, so that you have to remember what day it is. That actually helped, but I don’t recommend it. It’s not secure and we no longer do that. [laughs] It did help me for a period of time. All of this to say, it’s possible to know someone and not really know them. You could know someone’s birthday but not know them intimately, as a friend or you could know someone, like be married to them, like me, and not know their birthday.
So many of us treat Jesus in this way. We know Him, we know facts about Him, we memorize verses about Him and his actions, but we don’t really know Him. So, if we were asked, who is Jesus? What did he do? Why do you follow him? A lot of us actually would have a hard time answering that question. We might be like, “Well, he saves me from my sins.” But why? And how exactly? How do you know? These are the questions that we really need to be able to answer to share the Gospel effectively in our world. I have a vision for women, Christian women, to be sharing their faith as naturally as breathing. To do that, you have to have internalized the truth of Christ, not just head knowledge, but heart knowledge and not just an emotional relationship with God, but an understanding of how the gospel functions.
It’s the head and the heart together. They’re both necessary. That’s why I wrote Every Woman a Theologian, which is what this whole podcast series is about. It’s based on the content of the book that we need to not just have feelings about God, but a rational and reasoned faith because God expects us to use our minds and at the same time, doctrine leads to devotion. We’re not separating these two, as so often happens.
So often, we see people who talk about the movement of God and the feeling of being in His presence, this kind of sensational experience of God. Yet when you try to pin down their theology, there’s not a whole lot of substance. On the other end of the spectrum, you have these people who they know theology and they know these words about God, and they know these facts and truths, and they know scripture and yet when you really get to know them, you see that the fruit in their life and in their attitude and their growth, it’s not there. Because they don’t have an actual devotion to God, they have a devotion to the idea of God. That’s why I am trying imperfectly to unite these two in this book. In a way that is approachable and yet deep for the woman who is ready to go out, and live her faith the way Christ has called us to live our faith. To live our faith in a way that is compelling and attractive to unbelievers. All of this leads me to a song that I sing to my girls at night. I sing to my girls every evening. They get to pick what song or hymn they want to hear. One of their favourite’s is, What a Friend We Have in Jesus. You’ll have to pardon me; I’m going to sing it for you because I think you need to hear the tune.
It goes like this. What a friend we have in Jesus, all our sins and griefs to bear! What a privilege to carry everything to God in prayer! O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer! Okay, so pardon me for having to sing it for you, but I want you to hear it because this song is something that my girls really love and it’s such a beautiful message. This is the friend that we have in Jesus, all of our sins and griefs to bear. Every time we come to Him, it’s a privilege. We get to take Him all of our burdens and yet so many of us don’t understand the friendship of Christ. We don’t understand what it means to be His friend. We think that it means that He’s our bro, our yes man, that He’s just going to be down for a party. He’ll approve of whatever we do. He never challenges us. Jesus is not that kind of friend. He loves us, but He’s not going to let us make Him small. He is, after all, the Alpha and Omega. He’s the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. So, when Jesus calls us friends that’s not because we’re such great people or He just is going to overlook everything that we’ve done. It’s in spite of us he is willing to be our friend because He loves us even in our sin and in our unworthiness. It’s a statement about His grace and His goodness. But why do we need to understand Christ in general as our friend and as our Lord? What difference does that make?
Well, it makes a huge difference because when you don’t understand Christ rightly, you can bend Him into any shape you want Him to be. There’s a lot I want to say about Jesus, but the chapter of the book about Christology will get into all of those details. I’m not going to cover everything because I want to leave some for the book when you read it. What I do want to share is a little bit about Christ’s deity, His humanity, and His specific claim to be God. Because what we’re seeing today are statements like, “Jesus never claimed to be God.” The apostles made that up after He died or Jesus was God, but he wasn’t fully human. He wasn’t this God-man or Jesus didn’t really resurrect from the dead. There’re all sorts of specific claims that are being made about aspects of the gospel story. If you take away any one of those pieces of the Gospel story, you distort even just one of them, what you end up with is a twisted gospel with an impact that reverberates throughout the rest of the salvation story. This is why we need it to be cohesive and we need to understand what are the core doctrines of Christianity, and how does that impact me today? Again, the whole reason I wrote Every Woman of Theologian.
Let’s start with who Jesus is as the fulfilment of Old Testament prophecy. We see that Jesus is the fulfilment of God’s desire to dwell with humanity okay. It’s in Eden, as I talked about last week in our episode on Cosmology. In Eden, God dwelled with humans in perfect love, after Eden, God then dwelled with Seth and Noah and Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, through all of these specific revelations of Himself. Then God, dwells in a tabernacle and we get into Exodus, our Bible in the year club ladies are in Exodus this next month. In Exodus, God dwells in a tabernacle and then when Solomon comes to the throne of Israel, God dwells with Israel in a permanent temple. Even as Israel operated as his city on a hill, which meant it was a light to the nations around them, it was not protected from sin. It’s still full of sinful people. Eventually they rebelled against God, and God allowed the temple to be destroyed. After this, what seems like hopeless period of time, a new indwelling [chuckles] comes. A new temple and that’s Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ came into the temple, if you will, of a human body, and He dwelt among us. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, John 1 says. And then after Jesus ascends, he leaves the Holy Spirit to make temples of each individual Christian on earth.
Over and over again, God is trying to dwell with His people and He’s doing it in different ways in different periods of time. As you look at the span of time, what keeps happening, it gets more and more expansive, more and more far reaching, the influence of this temple, this presence of God on earth. Now we have the presence of God via the Holy Spirit, indwelling Christians all over the entire world under the New Covenant in Jesus. This was the goal, God’s presence on earth, available for everyone to experience. This was predicted in the Old Testament. We have this type, this prototype being given over and over and over through the Old Testament, pointing forward to what Christ is going to do. We have prophecies that are in the Old Testament pointing to when Jesus would come. For instance, Numbers 24:17 says, “Jesus would be from the line of Jacob.” Isaiah 11:1 says, “The Messiah would be born from the family of Jesse.” Jeremiah 23 says, “He would be David’s kingly heir.” Micah 5:2, “He’ll be born in Bethlehem.” Jeremiah 31, “A king would murder children in an attempt to kill Jesus.” All of these and so many more are in scripture telling us, look, these are prophecies of the Messiah, the one to come, and the Christian church looks on those as prophecies about Jesus Christ.
Jesus came to earth and fulfilled these prophecies in Himself. Some of these prophecies are what’s called double or dual fulfillment prophecies. The first fulfillment is found in a person or event close to when that prophet spoke for God. There was a fulfillment in that period of time, but there was also a long-term fulfillment, or an ultimate fulfillment through Christ. I have a list of those particular prophecies in the book as well. We see that God prophesied that the Messiah would be coming, and He gave all of these hints throughout the course of history up to the point that Jesus arrives. We have this truth that’s pointing to Christ. The question then becomes how does Jesus fulfill these? Who is this God-man? How do we know that’s who He is?
If someone ask you to explain the gospel, could you do it? If your co-worker came to you with questions about why Jesus had to die or your child asked you to define the Trinity, could you provide an answer? Regardless of whether or not we are in formal ministry, all of us are called to be witnesses for Christ. If you’re nervous, you’re not alone. The ministry of Every Woman a Theologian exists to equip you for this task. Now we have a cornerstone resource to make that happen. My brand-new book and video study is available for preorder January 9th. Every Woman a Theologian, Know What You Believe, Live It Confidently, and Communicate It Graciously is almost here. This book is everything you need to know in order to share your faith without anxiety in today’s world. I wrote this to equip you with a confident and educated faith. The workbook and eight-week video study will also be available, and you can preorder through Christian Book, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, or your local Indie Bookstore and lock in the lowest launch price. We are the generation that will stand on both conviction, and love. Because we know what we believe, and why we believe it, and how to explain it well to the world. Join me this spring by ordering, Every Woman a Theologian at bookstores near you.
Let’s talk about the origin of Jesus. Jesus preexisted His life on earth. You might be thinking, okay, that’s really bizarre and kind of weird, my mind’s kind of blown. This is inception. Yes, this is a tough doctrine, but we have to think about this. Where was Jesus before the incarnation? This has to do with Jesus’ preexistence. He existed in reality before He entered our world through the incarnation. This is important because if Jesus did not exist with God before He was born of Mary, He would not be equal with God. He would be a creation of God. So, like a Greek mythology demigod, this would then undermine Jesus’ statements of His own deity and equality with God. But the most immediate consequence of believing that Jesus did not exist with God before becoming human has to do with God’s love. I love what Douglas McCready wrote. He says, “The doctrine of preexistence means Jesus finds His identity on the side of God, before He finds it as a human and explains why the incarnation is an expression of God’s love for fallen humanity.” Because Jesus finds Himself His identity who He is with God first. The fact that He would come as a human is an expression of God’s love and His intent to save humanity. While this might seem really irrelevant to you, I can promise you it is very relevant. Not just because it means that God was intentionally sending Jesus to save you. There’s that [laughs] as our baseline, but also there are two different religions at least that believe Jesus was like a god, a creation of God, Mormonism, Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, and Jehovah’s Witnesses.
My friend Jeremy Jenkins, at All Things, All People, talks a lot about these. He’s very helpful if you want to learn more. Essentially, both of them deny the deity of Christ and the pre-existence of Christ. That’s foundational not just to our salvation, but also to the Christian ethic of love, and the early church fought for this doctrine. Okay, let’s move on to the humanity of Jesus. How do we know Jesus was actually human? How do we know that He wasn’t just a God, or was He just a spirit, and He appeared to be human? There have been people throughout history who’ve tried to make that argument. Jesus came in the body of a Jewish male child, complete with all the facets of human nature and its limitations, and He did this without surrendering His Godness. So, in taking on a human form, Jesus became what Paul, called the last Adam 1 Corinthians 15. He’s the perfect representative to reverse what Adam had done. Jesus is an example of perfectly holy humanity, but He’s more than that. He is the God who became king. You might remember if you followed me a while a couple of years ago, I guess it’d be three years now, the summer that I broke my leg. I was signed up for a progressive Christianity class at a local Methodist community, Liberal Methodist community. I decided to go because I wanted to hear their perspective. I was like, I just want to know, what do you guys believe and what do you think? I went in hoping to just listen. I didn’t want to go in there to disrupt anything, to argue, I just wanted to listen. They’re very discussion based, which I commend, they’re very welcoming, and they’re very kind. I went in to listen, and they kept bringing this up.
It was a very interactive kind of environment. They would ask, like, “What do you want Jesus to be, essentially?” One of the things that kept coming up among the people who are attending, there’re probably 15 to 18 of us was that they believed Jesus was a great example of humanity. He was almost a perfect example of how to be a human being. If we followed His example that would be good enough to God. Also, that Jesus was a perfect human, but He probably wasn’t God. Because of that, He probably didn’t resurrect from the dead. All of this was being spoken about in this class. Now, obviously, this is a pretty far left version of progressive Christianity. I would say this is almost like, as far as you can go, [chuckles] extreme. But sitting in that class, what I came away with was, we have dismantled everything related to the gospel until there’s literally nothing left. At one point in the class, one of the attendees was talking about a Unitarian church that they had visited, and the Unitarian church that they had visited had denied the resurrection and all of these things. And they said, “I went and I don’t know. I felt like there just wasn’t a lot to hear about, because all we talked about was recycling.” [laughs] I tried so hard not to laugh out loud, because that’s what you have left. If you dismantle the gospel in this way, if Jesus is just this nice guy that you want to emulate, all you have left out of the gospel is recycling, take care of the earth, be a good person, that’s it. And yet the Gospel offers so much more.
I hope you do recycle; I hope you do take care of the earth, but there’s so much more to this than that. This is what happens when we start to parse Jesus apart into, “Well, I like His humanity, but I don’t like that He’s God, or I like that He’s God, but I don’t think He was a human.” Whatever it is that people are tearing apart at this doctrine, there is a reverberating impact. And that impact is on your eternal soul and the souls of every person that you try to communicate the gospel to. If Jesus was just a nice person, a good person like Gandhi, there is no cost for you on this earth, and therefore there is no eternal benefit or gain. It goes back to this work-based salvation. If I’m a good enough person, if I do enough good things to outweigh the bad things, all we’re looking at is karma. That is not how the gospel functions. The gospel functions in a way where it says, “You can’t earn your way and you don’t have to.” You don’t have to; you get to rest in the fact that God knows you can’t earn it and He wants to save you. He could have said, “You can’t earn it, and I’m going to do nothing about it.” But He didn’t. He says, “You can’t do it and I want to do something about it.” And then, you know what? I am going to do something about it. I’m going to send myself and that’s what happened through Christ.
The identity of Jesus is essential, it’s important. You can’t parse it out into the pieces you like and dislike. What the creeds like the Apostles’ Creed affirm, what the churches affirm for all of these years, is what we base our faith on, what Scripture says about who Christ is. We Christians affirm that the one who had his being eternally within the unity of the Godhead became man at a point in time without relinquishing his oneness with God. So, coming in the flesh isn’t just a physical body, but a complete human personality. All throughout the New Testament, John 1, Luke 2, Hebrews 2, Hebrews 4, 1 Timothy 3, Colossians 2, we see scripture saying, this is exactly what happened. Here’s the neat thing about Jesus coming in bodily form, being a human, it has a lot of different effects on us, doctrinally and personally. Because Jesus fully experienced the suffering of humanity, He’s qualified to be our high priest, and intercede for our suffering. The fact that God came in a physical form is evidence that He values and honors human bodies. He does not consider the spiritual more important than the physical. He sees the two as impacting each other, because Jesus came as God in a physical body. He is a perfect sinless substitute for humans and our sin. He is the last Adam redeeming all things. Jesus coming as a human is so so important and we need to understand it, and we need to accept it if we want to accept a holistic gospel. We also need to accept the deity of Jesus and that brings us to Jesus’ claim to be God. It’s important that Jesus is God. I’ve already told you why it’s important that He’s a human, but here’s why it’s important that He is God.
A lot rests on this question. Did Jesus believe He was God? Did He claim to be God? Because that would be our foundation for understanding His deity. There are people today who say, “Jesus didn’t come to create this new religion.” The apostles all made it up. They stole his body. Which is, ironically, the same lie that was being told in the first century, still being told today. Skeptics of Jesus deity argue that the gospels do not say that Jesus is God. Here’s the thing they’re actually kind of right. Jesus did not outright say, “I’m God.” Like, He didn’t just be like, “Hey, everyone. FYI, Sermon on the Mount, I am God.” It’s not in that plane of terms, it’s not written in that Western English-speaking way that we would recognize. He did make a claim to be God multiple times. In Mark and John, Jesus engages with the Jewish leaders in debates over Old Testament doctrine. He quotes titles and phrases about God taken from the messianic prophecies in reference to Himself. You remember we talked about those messianic prophecies in the Old Testament. Oh, we’re back there again. The Jewish leaders, the spiritual leaders and His Jewish listeners knew these passages. They were waiting for this messiah to come and Jesus quotes those passages about Himself. This was unique. Jesus’ intentional use of God’s name in reference to Himself was appropriate for His Jewish context and audience because He came into the world as a Jewish Messiah.
It follows that He would use Jewish references to express His divine identity. Unless we engage with the cultural and historical context of Jesus words, we can draw conclusions about Him that aren’t true. I will say I find it kind of ironic. I don’t know if that’s the correct word. Maybe it is ironic that a lot of the people who are talking about understanding culture and honoring culture, which all of you know is very important to me. People who are talking about understanding that Christianity is not a white man’s religion, that it began in the Middle East and that it has spread around the entire world and have respect for Asian Christianity and South American Christianity and all of these beautiful expressions, native American Christianity, these beautiful ways that Christianity has met culture okay. A lot of times, the very people who want culture honored are the ones who deny that Jesus claimed to be God. In doing so, they are disrespecting the Jewish culture, and the Jewish context in which Jesus made His claim to be God. That bothers me, maybe it shouldn’t, but it does. Okay, so in one of the boldest statements Jesus made about Himself, we see this point illustrated. To understand it, we have to go all the way back to Exodus 3. Moses, who at the time was a humble shepherd in the wilderness of Midian, had this miraculous meeting with God in a burning bush. God told Moses he would rescue Israel from Egyptian slavery. Bible in a Year girls, listen up, we’re getting to this in February. Moses was concerned the Israelites wouldn’t believe Him, so He asked God to identify Himself. “Moses said to God, suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, “The God of your Father has sent me to you,” and they ask me, “What is his name?” Then what shall I tell them?” God said to Moses, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites, I am has sent me to you.'” Exodus 3:13-14.
This name for God became foundational truth of Judaism, and it’s marked by great honor and reverence. You may note that in some of your Bibles or sometimes maybe you see this in the social media, the name of God will be written with a “YHWH” for the name Yahweh, in Judaism, it’s such a holy name, you don’t even say it. So, fast forward then to John chapter 8. Here’s Jesus talking, “If I glorify myself, my glory means nothing. My Father, whom you claim as your God, is the one who glorifies me. Though you do not know Him, I know Him. If I said I did not, I would be a liar like you, but I do know Him and obey His word.” Your Father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing my day. He saw it and was glad. You are not yet 50 years old, they said to Him, and you have seen Abraham very truly, I tell you, Jesus answered before Abraham was born, I am. So, when Jesus said this, they picked up stones to kill Him. Why? Why they want to kill Him? Because He claimed to be God. He claimed to be God? He says my father sent me. He says, before Abraham was, I am. Not I was, I was alive, no, I am. This is a direct reference to Exodus 3. Later on, we see Jesus mostly in the Gospel of Mark, use the title “Son of man” for Himself. The “Son of man” did not come to be served, but to serve. This is taken from a prophecy in Daniel 7 and behold one like the Son of man coming with the clouds of heaven. He came to the “Ancient of Days” and they brought Him near before Him. To Him was given dominion and glory in a kingdom that all people, nations, and languages should serve Him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion which shall not pass away, and His kingdom the one which shall not be destroyed. These are undeniable claims to divinity.
Though we’re separated from Jesus’ culture and time by thousands of years, understanding the context of His engagement with the Jewish leaders reveals what He believed about Himself. I love what J. Warner Wallace, says about this. He says, “When Jesus took on God’s holy title as His own, He was stating the modern equivalent of I am God.” He did this repeatedly over the course of his ministry. While you may not find the expression, “I am God and the Gospels,” you’ll certainly find the ancient equivalent. It is no wonder that the Jewish religious leadership would eventually want Him executed and that’s what happened. The incarnate God was too offensive for the people He came to save and they sentenced Him to death. Jesus claimed to be God. He claimed to be God on earth. Why? Because He was coming to save His own. He was dwelling with his people. Can you believe that for the first time since Eden, God was walking and talking with humans on earth in a bodily form. Like we see in Genesis 1-3, where God’s walking in the garden in the cool of the day, people got to experience that with Jesus. That’s wild. I’m not going to get into the death of Jesus and His resurrection, because, again, that’s in the book, Every Woman a Theologian. But understanding that Jesus claimed to be God is grounded in the whole council of scripture.
We can then look at the death of Jesus and we can look at his resurrection for what it is. The victorious power of God over death and sin and the devil to free His people from that bondage. There’s so much I want to say about that, but I’m going to save that for next week when we talk about why Jesus had to die. For today, I hope that this is just a reminder for you that God loved you that much that He was willing to come in this helpless form and submit Himself to be carried in the womb of this teenage girl to be born into a world where a king was trying to kill him, to be raised in Egypt and then brought home as a child. Lost in the city of Jerusalem by His parents [laughs] while He’s teaching in the temple. Raised as the adopted son of a carpenter, so He could spend three years ministering to us and then dying a painful death to bridge the gap between us and God. So much humility. so much love, and so much grace. He is the last Adam. He is the one who gave up everything to come in a human form so He could be a human substitute and that is grace.
Thank you so much for listening to this week’s episode of Verity podcast. If you enjoyed this episode, would you take the time to leave us a review? It helps so many other women around the world find out about Verity and about Every Woman a Theologian, as a ministry and a shop. We appreciate you and I hope you’ll be back next week as we continue to go deeper into God’s Word and the heart of Jesus Christ.