The Victory of Christ / The Humanity of Christ
We read in Philippians 2:3-8: “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves.4 Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: 6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: 7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: 8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
In considering the phrase here “Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God”, the context of this is stating that Christ humbled Himself in His humanity, and lived as an actual man lived, despite the fact that equality with God is something which He possessed. The rights and privileges which God has by virtue of the fact that He created all things, and rightfully owns everything, fully belonged to Christ as the Word of God and the 2nd person of the Trinity. And yet He put these rights and privileges aside in taking upon Him humanity, though retaining these would not have been robbery. He did this in order to do the will of His Father and accomplish our redemption.
This is mysterious for sure, but another Scripture (1 Corinthians 15:21) says “For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.”
And in another Scripture (Hebrews 2:9-10) we are told “ But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man. 10 For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.”
To do the will of His Father and accomplish His mission Christ had to live a perfect life as a man and die as a man. To be the perfect sin offering who could truly make an acceptable atonement and indeed taste death for every man He had to be a perfect sin offering. And to be that He had to overcome temptation as a man, which necessarily involved living in a human body with the basic limitations which all humans are subject to by virtue of their humanity.
It’s only logical then, and the testimony of Scripture as a whole bears witness to this, that Jesus in running His race to accomplish what He was sent by the Father to accomplish, would have had no advantages over Adam in doing this. Again, 1 Corinthians 15:21 ““For since by man came death, by man came also the resurrection of the dead.” Jesus actually had it much harder than Adam due to the much more difficult and complicated circumstances He had to overcome in the midst of in order to be faithful. There was obviously a great price to pay, and it was a tremendously great thing overall (to say the least), to reverse the curse brought on by Adam’s sin, which was committed in very ideal circumstances for righteousness to be fulfilled.
There is never a truly, good legitimate reason to sin- but there are still reasons to sin. Human desires, passions, goals, etc combined with the suffering involved in not acting upon those whenever pursuing them would be unlawful before God, leave people with plenty of reasons which they can produce to attempt to justify sinning (remember 1 John 3:4 “sin is the transgression of the law.”) I don’t believe there will be temptation like this in heaven for those who are ultimately saved, but obviously there is temptation on earth. That is especially true since the Fall of man, but it was even true before the Fall. The Garden of Eden before man fell was much closer to heaven than the world fallen man lives in now, but it sure was not heaven. And Christ, in His mission to restore man from the Fall, had to face and faithfully endure the trials of earth as a man on the earth. And this had to happen in the environment of earth after man fell, and was kicked out of the Garden, which was much, much less conducive to faithful righteous living than the world before the Fall.
If you take nothing else out of this study, take out of it that Jesus didn’t not sin because He was above temptation; He rather never sinned because His perfect character caused Him to choose righteousness at all times, despite much real temptation to do otherwise and much actual suffering involved in those choices (not to mention how making righteous choices often brought on harder choices, which involved even more suffering to yet make the right choice in). And this not only is in itself as great a wonder as anything on earth can be, it also ultimately means, when understood in its proper light, that we each have as great a help to walk righteously as we can ever hope to have, as well as no excuse to succumb to sin.
The Book of Hebrews is a book of Scripture which especially emphasizes these things. It begins:
Hebrews 1:1-9 “God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, 2 Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; 3 Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high: 4 Being made so much better than the angels, as he hath by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they. 5 For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee? And again, I will be to him a Father, and he shall be to me a Son? 6 And again, when he bringeth in the firstbegotten into the world, he saith, And let all the angels of God worship him. 7 And of the angels he saith, Who maketh his angels spirits, and his ministers a flame of fire. 8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom. 9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity (i.e. lawlessness- for sin is the transgression of the law); therefore God, even thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows.”
Jesus really had to demonstrate as a man His utter love of righteousness and utter hatred of lawlessness- in order to redeem us and be the captain of our salvation. Jesus said in John 6:38 “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.” (And by the way, this is a great rebuke also to the Oneness people who deny the Trinity and say that Jesus and the Father are one and the same person. One person cannot have two different wills). And then we see another heresy rebuked in the verses that we’re about to look at, sometimes called Docetism, even though many who believe this don’t call themselves Docetists. Docetism is the concept that Jesus didn’t have an actual physical body, but that His sufferings were only apparent. And we see that concept refuted in Hebrews chapter 2:14-18, almost directly following the Hebrews 2:9-10 passage which we’ve already looked at.
Hebrews 2:14-18: “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood (we’ll see in a few verses that means He was made human in all things), he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 And deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. 16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. 17 Wherefore in all things it behoved (i.e. it was appropriate and fitting for) him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour (come to the aid of) them that are tempted.”
So how then do people say that Christ wasn’t tempted? Or how do some say that temptation was easy for Him to overcome because He was God? His character was perfect and His willingness to suffer for righteousness was absolute and utterly unconditional, yet He still had to suffer to do righteousness. He still had to overcome temptation as a man. When He was tempted in the wilderness by the devil, that is said because it was truly temptation. Anyone who has been brought to extremes when it comes to hunger, pain, or loneliness; or possibly in being deprived of other things which an individual particularly values, there is a natural tendency to be willing to do just about anything to get out of such. Or anyone being given an unlawful opportunity to get out of a duty which they see as particularly unpleasant, it is very difficult not to take such an opportunity when such is offered.
History is filled with stories of insane things people did in such moments of extremity, even Bible history. Unless someone in such moments loves the right choice to the point that they are willing to suffer immensely to make it, then doing lawlessness (sin) is inevitable. Those who deny Jesus’ humanity, and how He was tempted in all points as we are and needed to overcome sin as man, rob Him of the glory He is due for His sufferings! And they also rob the Christian, or the potential Christian, of the greatest help and encouragement at their disposal to run their own race faithfully in doing the will of God.
We are then told along these lines (these are the immediate verses after Hebrews 2:14-18 which we’ve already looked at- remember there are no chapter breaks in the original):
Hebrews 3:1-6 “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus; 2 Who was faithful to him that appointed him, as also Moses was faithful in all his house. 3 For this man was counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honor than the house. 4 For every house is builded by some man; but he that built all things is God. 5 And Moses verily was faithful in all his house, as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken after; 6 But Christ as a son over his own house; whose house are we, if we hold fast the confidence and the rejoicing of the hope firm unto the end.”
Christ is not only our greatest example of faithfulness to God and overcoming temptation, He is the one whom all things are for and whom we should ultimately live to. And He also lives now to help us overcome sin and live acceptably to God. There is not a temptation we might face which Christ does not understand our own weakness in facing nor one He has also not overcome Himself, at least in principle.
We read not too long afterwards in Hebrews 4:14-16: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession (i.e. our Christian profession- this was spoken to those who had such in truth, as we saw in Hebrews 3:1). 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities (i.e. it is impossible for Christ to not be touched with the feeling of our infirmities); but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.”
Yet there are aspects to Christ’s own suffering to overcome temptation which we cannot fully understand or appreciate. Resisting temptation faithfully can bring advanced temptations that are more nuanced and tricky to overcome. Some who are listening have known the tricky issues which doing right consistently can bring, as well as the opposition from the world sometimes associated with that. Yet none of us have ever known, or will ever know, this on the scale which Christ did as a man. He had to go to lengths to never give into sin which are not only totally foreign to sinners, but even beyond the comprehension of the righteous (and we will soon get to the vast contrast between the righteous and the wicked, which I am not trying to minimize). And I believe the closing verse of John’s Gospel, which is also the very last verse of the four Gospel accounts, is dealing with this truth.
John 21:25: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.”
If we knew every length which Jesus had to go to, and every way He had to suffer in order to do the will of His Father and 100 percent obey the law of God, it would be more than we could handle! And yet, as we’ll talk about more shortly, surrendering to Him and following Him diligently to do the will of God and resist sin (like we indeed need to do to profit from His redemption) will grant a person better insight into what Christ suffered, as they walk forward on that narrow path. New heights and depths of Christian experience in going forward on Christ’s narrow way which leads to life will bring glimpses of this. Truths related to such glimpses can be things which even some real Christians cannot bear and/or comprehend too well. This is related to how Hebrews 5:14 says: “But strong meat belongeth to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.”
And there is much related significance in the following verses.
Philippians 3:7-16: “But what things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ. 8 Yea doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, 9 And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law (i.e. the sacrifices of the Mosaic law), but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: 10 That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; 11 If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. 12 Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but I follow after, if that I may apprehend that for which also I am apprehended of Christ Jesus. 13 Brethren, I count not myself to have apprehended: but this one thing I do, forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, 14 I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus. 15 Let us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded: and if in any thing ye be otherwise minded, God shall reveal even this unto you. 16 Nevertheless, whereto we have already attained, let us walk by the same rule, let us mind the same thing.” (What we ought to do whether our Christian experience has made us ready for strong meat at the moment or not).
Like John 21:25 describes Christ’s great accomplishment of righteousness as a man in a succinct way without going into detail, it is much the same with His suffering associated with His doing righteousness in the various situations He overcame in. That is especially so regarding His suffering in making the atonement for our sins on the cross. The Bible could go into great detail to express how horrible it was- but there are certain things which words cannot come close to fully expressing. We do know that physical sufferings alone could not make atonement for sin. Christ, in His humanity, had to be cut off from His Father in His soul, in order to be an adequate offering for sin and for the blood that He shed to have the necessary significance in the context of redemption- an entire life poured out to God.
Leviticus 17:11: “For the life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it to you upon the altar to make an atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh an atonement for the soul.” (See especially Isaiah 53:10 also which speaks of Christ’s soul being made an offering for sin).
Pain of the body can be unbearable. Crucifixion would have to be a candidate for the greatest way to inflict pain upon a person and cause them a slow, conscious, torturous death. And pain of the soul can be a lot worse than physical pain. And the nature of Christ’s pain in this must have been excruciating. And then you combine the pain of the body on the cross, the cruelty of His enemies, and the pain of the soul in the Father turning away from Him there (think of Abraham taking Isaac to the altar with the fire and the knife to slay him, which obviously was a type of what the Father’s relationship to the Son would be when He was dying as a sin offering). No words can fully describe this.
Yet perhaps the best hint we’re given about how awful what Christ suffered on the cross was, as well as insight we’re given of His zeal to do His Father’s will, is in His conflict and agony about going to the cross when He prayed in the Garden of Gethsemane (very shortly before His arrest).
Matthew 26:36-44: “Then cometh Jesus with them unto a place called Gethsemane, and saith unto the disciples, Sit ye here, while I go and pray yonder. 37 And he took with him Peter and the two sons of Zebedee, and began to be sorrowful and very heavy. 38 Then saith he unto them, My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death: tarry ye here, and watch with me. 39 And he went a little farther, and fell on his face, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt. 40 And he cometh unto the disciples, and findeth them asleep, and saith unto Peter, What, could ye not watch with me one hour? 41 Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation: the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak (He knew this firsthand since He partook of flesh and blood). 42 He went away again the second time, and prayed, saying, O my Father, if this cup may not pass away from me, except I drink it, thy will be done. 43 And he came and found them asleep again: for their eyes were heavy. 44 And he left them, and went away again, and prayed the third time, saying the same words.”
And maybe the best descriptions of what Christ experienced as He was dying on the cross are seen in Psalm 88 and Psalm 22. A lot of insights about His life are seen in Old Testament prophecies, especially the Psalms.
Psalm 88: “O lord God of my salvation, I have cried day and night before thee (and to say that Christ experienced many days worth of affliction in one day would be an understatement): 2 Let my prayer come before thee: incline thine ear unto my cry; 3 For my soul is full of troubles: and my life draweth nigh unto the grave. 4 I am counted with them that go down into the pit: I am as a man that hath no strength: 5 Free among the dead, like the slain that lie in the grave, whom thou rememberest no more: and they are cut off from thy hand. 6 Thou hast laid me in the lowest pit, in darkness, in the deeps. 7 Thy wrath lieth hard upon me, and thou hast afflicted me with all thy waves. Selah. 8 Thou hast put away mine acquaintance far from me; thou hast made me an abomination unto them: I am shut up, and I cannot come forth. 9 Mine eye mourneth by reason of affliction: Lord, I have called daily upon thee, I have stretched out my hands unto thee. 10 Wilt thou shew wonders to the dead? shall the dead arise and praise thee? Selah. 11 Shall thy lovingkindness be declared in the grave? or thy faithfulness in destruction? 12 Shall thy wonders be known in the dark? and thy righteousness in the land of forgetfulness? 13 But unto thee have I cried, O Lord; and in the morning shall my prayer prevent thee. 14 Lord, why castest thou off my soul? why hidest thou thy face from me? 15 I am afflicted and ready to die from my youth up: while I suffer thy terrors I am distracted. 16 Thy fierce wrath goeth over me; thy terrors have cut me off. 17 They came round about me daily like water; they compassed me about together. 18 Lover and friend hast thou put far from me, and mine acquaintance into darkness.”
Psalm 22:1-21: “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me? why art thou so far from helping me, and from the words of my roaring? 2 O my God, I cry in the day time, but thou hearest not; and in the night season, and am not silent. 3 But thou art holy, O thou that inhabitest the praises of Israel. 4 Our fathers trusted in thee: they trusted, and thou didst deliver them. 5 They cried unto thee, and were delivered: they trusted in thee, and were not confounded. 6 But I am a worm, and no man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people. 7 All they that see me laugh me to scorn: they shoot out the lip, they shake the head, saying, 8 He trusted on the Lord that he would deliver him: let him deliver him, seeing he delighted in him. 9 But thou art he that took me out of the womb: thou didst make me hope when I was upon my mother’s breasts. 10 I was cast upon thee from the womb: thou art my God from my mother’s belly. 11 Be not far from me; for trouble is near; for there is none to help. 12 Many bulls have compassed me: strong bulls of Bashan have beset me round. 13 They gaped upon me with their mouths, as a ravening and a roaring lion. 14 I am poured out like water, and all my bones are out of joint: my heart is like wax; it is melted in the midst of my bowels. 15 My strength is dried up like a potsherd; and my tongue cleaveth to my jaws; and thou hast brought me into the dust of death. 16 For dogs have compassed me: the assembly of the wicked have inclosed me: they pierced my hands and my feet. 17 I may tell all my bones: they look and stare upon me. 18 They part my garments among them, and cast lots upon my vesture. 19 But be not thou far from me, O Lord: O my strength, haste thee to help me. 20 Deliver my soul from the sword; my darling from the power of the dog. 21 Save me from the lion’s mouth: for thou hast heard me from the horns of the unicorns.” (And we know that the rest of the Psalm foretells Christ’s resurrection and its glorious consequences).
Even while on the cross, Christ chose to do the will of God in faithfully executing His duties at this time before God and men. He could have taken the wine mingled with myrrh, which was offered to Him by the soldiers and could have dulled His pain some, but He refused this due to His need to be alert to do His duties. He took care to speak and act in line with the Law of God, which led to the conversion to righteousness and salvation of one of the thieves executed with Him. He made arrangements for the care of His earthly mother (basically appointing His disciple John to care for her going forward). This was all in spite of the shame He was experiencing and the extreme difficulty of focusing His mind due to the spiritual, emotional, and physical anguish which He was simultaneously experiencing. His cry “It is finished”, in virtually His final moment, was no mockery. Jesus had an excruciatingly difficult task in completing the ministry on earth which He was sent to complete. Since this is so, it can truly be said that He overcame. Victory in a struggle or conflict is the very definition of overcoming. And the concept of overcoming without a struggle or conflict is a mockery and a joke.
Christian suffering is not suffering to atone for sin (to attempt to do such a thing is anti-christ). Christian suffering is submitting to God in repentance from sin in order to be delivered from sin, pleading for God’s mercy through the blood of Christ as your means of atonement and forgiveness. To make such a plea without repentance and submitting to Christ’s Word (i.e. submitting to the Christian race, keeping the entire package of Christianity) is to treat Christ’s blood as an unholy thing and do spite to the Spirit of grace (see Hebrews 10:29). To turn to Christ in submission to deliver you from your sins, in hope of His atonement being applied to you, is proper. And because Christ overcame as a man in flesh and blood to obtain our redemption, we can be redeemed to God, delivered from the devil’s power, and be restored to God’s image in Him. The Bible constantly relates Christ’s race to make an atonement for our sins with our need to be faithful to God through Him to actualize His purpose in us, to complete our own race of faith, and so partake of His redemption.
Jesus is not only the Lord and Savior, He is in truth also the Forerunner (see Hebrews 6:20) to those who in truth turn to Him as their Lord and Savior. He already overcame in His flesh and blood agony which He had to endure to faithfully do the will of His Father. This was actually more stringent and arduous for Him than anything we’d ever have to go through for righteousness’ sake, in following Him. His race had the most at stake, with zero margin for error, and He definitely never got to take one shortcut.
1 Peter 4:1-2 says: “Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind: for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin; 2 That he no longer should live the rest of his time in the flesh to the lusts of men, but to the will of God.”
Revelation 3:20: “To him that overcometh will I grant to sit with me in my throne, even as I also overcame, and am set down with my Father in his throne.”
Is that speaking of salvation? It sure is.
Revelation 2:10-11: “Fear none of those things which thou shalt suffer: behold, the devil shall cast some of you into prison, that ye may be tried; and ye shall have tribulation ten days: be thou faithful unto death, and I will give thee a crown of life. 11 He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; He that overcometh shall not be hurt of the second death.”
Hebrews 12:9 (study in the context of Hebrews 12:1-9) “Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live?”
Hebrews 5:7-10: “Who in the days of his flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto him that was able to save him from death, and was heard in that he feared; 8 Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered (i.e. Christ experienced and learned firsthand the details related to suffering in order to faithfully obey His Father); 9 And being made perfect, he became the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him; 10 Called of God an high priest after the order of Melchisedec.”
For any questions or clarification on this study, contact bro Aaron at [email protected].