The Humanity of Christ

Some recent discussions with varying Christians have prompted me to really consider a particular aspect of Christ that we might not usually give much attention to – his humanity. I have thought about this aspect of Christ before, but I’ve never really reflected on it a great deal.

Let me start off by saying I believe that Christ was both fully divine and fully human. Thus, I accept the decisions of the early major councils that established both the full divinity of Christ and his full humanity, or in more theological terms, I concur with the teaching of the hypostatic union.

But, in specific, I’ve recently been pondering the practical reality of what it meant for Christ to be fully human.

I know that, as an orthodox Christian, one must adhere to the teaching about Christ’s humanity, at least in a black ink on white paper sense. If one does not hold to this, they might be labelled as a Eutychian. That’s basically big theological terminology for heretic.

But I think all true Christians will confess that they believe in Christ’s humanity. For such, we would easily point to many Scriptures such as:

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us… (John 1:14)

But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman… (Galatians 4:6)

…but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men… (Philippians 2:7)

This is how you can recognise the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:2)

And we could go on listing other passages for quite a while, right?

Still, it’s hard to practically grasp what it really meant for the Son of God to be fully human, if we do try and grasp such. And, if we attempt to consider this, we will probably find ourselves carefully guarding against walking down some heretical path, steering clear of somehow denying his divinity. We don’t want to deny that.

But, still, I’m really thinking through the full humanity of Christ, or trying to. Really, what did that mean?

Of course, the easy thing would be to say, ‘Well, let’s just not think about. Let’s just recognise Jesus was both divine and human, and leave it at that.’

And, you know, I’m ok with that, for I really don’t think we could fully solve the quandary of understanding what it meant for the divine Son to also be human. So I know we are not going to be able to comprehend this whole thing. Yet, for me, I have wanted to reflect on this. And maybe there are others like me who think about Christ’s humanity and all its implications.

So after thinking about this for some days now, here is where I am at right now: I do believe that we are a little too afraid to admit to what it really meant for Jesus to be human. Oh, yes, we do it from an honourable heart, wanting to uphold his worthiness as the divine Son of God. And, again, such is of great importance to our faith.

Yet, in all practicality, I believe that it’s quite easy for us to believe that Jesus was somehow more divine than human. Or we at least talk about him in a way that says he was more divine than human.

Sure, some might go overboard and view Christ almost as if he floated a couple inches above the ground while everyone else walked on terra firma, meaning, we solely focus on his divinity. But most try and embrace both natures of Christ.

But, I’ll be honest. I believe we still kind of give more credit to Christ’s divine nature, almost setting aside his human nature at times. In a sense, we think that he was the divine Son and, thus, he couldn’t experience certain things, couldn’t go through certain things.

Yet, we must be honest and recognise that this can cut at an important part of Christ – his humanity.

So, what did it mean for Christ to be human, that is, fully human. This might not be a nice thought for some people, but I think the starting point for us is to consider what it is like for us to be humans.

‘Now wait a second, Scott. That is not the starting point. We are sinners and Christ never sinned, never could sin. So that’s not the starting point.’

Well, let me say that, with my statement above, I’m not referring to sin at all. Such is unacceptable. Christ was absolutely sinless.

Hebrews 4:15 is very clear here:

For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.

‘Yet without sin.’ That’s important.

But I also like the phrase, ‘as we are,’ or ‘tempted as we are’.

He really lived life like us. The divine Son completely subjected himself to what it meant to be human. Again, he never sinned, ever. But I believe that to recognise Christ’s humanity is to recognise that he had to go through everything we did. He did not get a ‘get-out-of-jail-free card’. I don’t even believe he got such a card with regards to sin. Remember, he never sinned. But he still had to deal with everything, I mean everything that would actually tempt one to sin. Hence, Hebrews 4:15.

Think about what you and I go through. Think about what it means to be one who is fully human. To do so, I believe Christ would have had to lay aside every aspect of his divinity. Thus, these words of Paul make sense:

…who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped… (Philippians 2:6)

I believe Christ, in his human incarnation, laid aside his omniscience, his omnipresence and his omnipotence. All of it! Hence, his complete reliance on the Father through the work of the Spirit. And, beautifully, the Trinity continued working together even in the incarnation.

So, Jesus was listening to the Father all the time (John 5:19) and he only spoke what the Father gave him (John 8:28, 38). He was the human prototype, showing what it meant to truly walk with the Father, empowered by the Spirit.

So, we find that the Son had to grow in wisdom:

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)

Remember, he really had to grow in wisdom.

Thus, I don’t think Jesus, in his full humanity, knew everything in either of these senses 1) with regards to omniscience and 2) with regards to having some kind of download of all information. Most will recognise that Christ laid down his omniscience. But we still think he kind of had this downloadable program in his brain by which the Father just inserted information into him to give him knowledge, or something like that.

Of course the Father communicated with Jesus, the Son. I’m not denying that. But there was a sense in which he had to learn how to hear the Father. I’m not sure it was an all-of-sudden thing for Jesus.

So, he had to study, he had to memorise the Hebrew Scriptures, he had to learn.

People will say, ‘Ah, but he was the author of Scripture. So he could have easily known all of Scripture.’

But I just want to be honest and say that is rubbish. It’s a cop-out in which we throw Jesus’ divinity out there as the trump card. And I don’t think it is fair in regards to fully recognising his humanity.

Again, remember, I believe Jesus was, is and always has been the divine Son. But, I think if we want to stay faithful to the human aspect of Christ, then we have to treat him with regards to what it really meant to be fully human, to lay aside any grasp on what it was to be divine.

He had to seek the Father, pray to the Father, get time away in quietness to clear his mind and reflect. And here was one who was faithful to walk this out, that prototype of what it really meant to be human as God meant.

And, for those who are having a hard time with comparing Christ’s humanity with our humanity as fallen people, then I just point out the only other example we have of unfallen humans – Adam and Eve.

Think about them. They were completely sinless, but they did not receive all information at creation. They had to learn. They had to walk with the Father back in the Garden to know him. Of course, they messed that one up. And thankfully Christ did not.

But the second Adam was human like the first Adam. The second Adam submitted himself to what it meant to be Adam, that is, man. He never sinned, praise God! And that allowed him to be the perfect lamb and faithful high priest at the same time. But he was completely human and submitted himself to what it meant to be fully human.

Not to mention that I’m sure Jesus woke up with morning breath, stubbed his toe at times, and probably even passed gas.

I’m not trying to be crass here. I’m just trying to be completely real. And I’m not doing this so I can somehow fit into the cool, liberal group of theologians. I don’t hang with any of those people (as if they would want me to).

But I’m really trying to faithfully consider what all this means for Jesus to have been fully human. And as I have pondered what it meant for Jesus to be fully human, to lay aside his divinity in the incarnation, to not know everything outside what he heard the Father say as he sought the Father in prayer, I am awestruck.

Matter of fact, knowing such draws me into greater worship of the Son. How absolutely beautiful to consider this truth about the Christ who was both fully divine and fully human. He was not more divine than human, nor was he more human than divine. He was both in all their fullness. But it’s his humanity that we can relate to the most.

So let’s not be afraid to think about Christ’s humanity and what that meant. Let’s not be afraid to confess what that might have meant in those 30 or so years. And knowing what it really meant for him to be human, I find strength in what he has called us to be as his followers. We have a great example. Yes, more than just an example as the divine Son. But an example nonetheless.

The God-Man is worthy of our worship.

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4 thoughts on “The Humanity of Christ

  1. Haha! You have got to be kidding me! I was JUST about to write a note about this exact same thing! I just read this on Facebook and I stumbled across it when I was going to the “Notes” section of Facebook in order to open up a new note to write about this very topic. The humanity and humanness of Christ.

    I just recently read a couple of books which have gotten me started on the subject. They’ll probably interest you.

    The first is titled “The Manliness of Christ” published in 1896 by Thomas Hughes. This one is completely devoted to this topic. The second is “The Life and Teachings of Christ, Volume II: His Early Years and Ministry” by Gordon Lindsay. This one covers His whole early years and ministry, as it says, but it touches on and has some good insights into His humanness.

    What interests me, specifically, about this topic is His boyhood and those 18 years during which He was “growing” in wisdom and preparing for His ministry.

    When did He realize that He was the Messiah?

    Thomas Hughes says in “Manliness”, “He had only the same means as the rest of us of becoming conscious of his relationship to God.”

    But surely Mary and Joseph told Him about the virgin birth and the prophesies of Gabriel and Elizabeth and Simeon and Anna in the temple that said that He was the Son of God and the “savior” of Israel! Surely she didn’t “treasure these things and pondered them in her heart” for all those eighteen years and even keep them from Jesus when they were ABOUT Him! And Joseph and their families and neighbors knew these stories, too! Surely Jesus knew these things.

    Surely in His studies of the scriptures in His boyhood He would have recognized prophesies concerning Himself and the story of His birth.

    In this article, you said, “I believe Christ, in his human incarnation, laid aside his omniscience, his omnipresence and his omnipotence.” I believe these things, too. But then the question keeps entering my mind, “What about His holy spirit?”

    Jesus is a spirit and we, being spirits, are made in His image. And we, like Jesus, are living in a shell called “body”.

    So, if the Holy Spirit IS Jesus’ spirit, then when He lived on the earth in bodily form the Holy Spirit would be confined in His body like our spirits are confined in our bodies, correct?

    If that were so in the case of Jesus, then the Holy Spirit would not be able to fill or lead or speak to another other human except through the mouth of Jesus when Jesus was on earth in bodily form.

    But…we know that that’s NOT the case because Elizabeth, Zechariah, Simeon, Anna, and John were all either filled, led, or spoke by the Holy Spirit after Jesus was conceived. Then, of course, the Holy Spirit came down in the bodily form of a dove and rested on Jesus at John’s baptism.

    So, is it that after Jesus was conceived His spirit WAS the Holy Spirit?

    If so, would His holy spirit have the knowledge that He was God? Then He would have known from the time He was humanly able to think that He was the Messiah.

    If His spirit was NOT the Holy Spirit from the time of conception but, say, came upon Him at the baptism, would the Holy Spirit not speak to Him and reveal that He was the Messiah/God?

    Or did Jesus just learn, for SURE, that He was the Messiah AFTER the baptism and the confirmation of the Holy Spirit coming upon Him and the heavens opening and the voice of God and all that?

    At what point did Jesus know that He was the Messiah? At what point did He know that He was God?

    Of course, these things don’t entirely matter all too much. As Gordon Lindsay said in his book that I mentioned “It was His ministry and message that were significant, not His boyhood days.”

    But I know that there are answers to these questions and I know that we, with the revelation of God’s Word and His Holy Spirit, can find them out.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Jachin. You’ve got a lot of questions, all that I am not sure I can answer or that we could have the full answers to anytime soon.

    One major questions you asked is this: When did He realize that He was the Messiah? And you said Thomas Hughes states this: “He had only the same means as the rest of us of becoming conscious of his relationship to God.”

    I believe most Christians would say he always knew, but I think it worth considering if there was a ‘discovery’ process, if I can use that terminology. I have pondered whether or not he always knew, in the sense of a solid, certain understanding from the beginning of his human life.

    First off, I would say there was never a time when Jesus was not the divine Messiah. He always was. So, I’m not denying that. But I believe that in becoming a human, he might have had to grow in understanding this. I am sure some of the great help were the words shared with him by his father and mother, his own personal reading and study of the Scriptures, his own seeking the Father. But I am not sure we can say he just knew from day 1, for what baby knows anything from day 1?

    Was there a certain date he just knew – age 5, age 10, age 12 in the temple with the religious leaders, age 18, etc? I don’t know. Maybe. For me, this is all just consideration of what it really meant for Jesus to be fully human. But I don’t think he ‘just knew’. I think he might have come to understanding this through the normal, ordinary means that humans come to understand such.

    But such is a scary thought for most evangelicals, almost as if somehow we are dishonouring Jesus’ divinity. But I don’t think we have to be afraid of this. I don’t believe such denies his divinity.

    With regards to the Holy Spirit being the ‘Spirit of Christ’, as he is called such in Scripture (Acts 16:7; Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Philippians 1:19), I am not sure this means that the human spirit Christ had was always the Holy Spirit. As a human, Christ would have had a spirit-soul like us, but whether that spirit was the third person of the Trinity, I am not sure. But, being omnipresent, the Holy Spirit could have been the spirit within the human Christ.

    But I still am not sure this would have made everything immediately known to Christ. I think there was still a sense in growing in the normal, ordinary means of what it meant to listen and hear from the Spirit that indwelt him. Again, Jesus had to submit to the limits of being human. He didn’t submit to sin, but he submitted to being a finite human.

    Just as a side note, you said: Jesus is a spirit and we, being spirits, are made in His image. And we, like Jesus, are living in a shell called “body”.

    I would say that we, just as the incarnated Christ, are whole beings. So Jesus wasn’t only spirit and we are not only spirit. You might have not meant it, but I just thought I would point out that our bodies are not bad things. Our bodies have taken on the effects of sin, and that is what is bad, but one day our bodies (these bodies) will be renewed in the new earth. But we will still always have bodies, as our Lord still has a body. We should celebrate our bodies.

    Thanks again.

  3. Interesting article, Scott. I liked where you talked about Christ’s sinlessness. I remember hearing a pastor say that Christ never having succumbed to sin was akin to a weight lifter bearing up a tremendous weight without letting it fall. In other words, it’s not like he never had to deal with temptation (which we know is biblically false), rather he not only dealt with it, but succeeded where we failed.

    One of my favorite verses on the humanity of Jesus is also the shortest verse in the NT, John 11:35. Jesus weeps at the tomb of Lazarus. Similar to your journey here, I pondered “why did he weep knowing he would raise him up shortly?” The only answer I could come up with was he wept because he was sad: sad at the fact that his friend was dead; sad at what his death meant to his family; etc. Much more so than Bill Clinton, he “felt our pain” and wept.

    Thanks for the read!

  4. Pingback: Inspiration and Incarnation – Book Review Part 1 of 2 | The Prodigal Thought

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