Last week, we were introduced to Dr. Stephen Wellum, professor of Christian theology at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. One component of theology is how it speaks to contemporary issues and people, so it's good to read theologians from today, as well.
The previous post dealt with the implicit claims Jesus made about himself. We dealt briefly with performance of miracles, his baptism, commands to worship him, and others. Today we'll learn from Dr. Wellum about the explicit witness Jesus made about himself, when Jesus spoke clearly and decisively about his person and work.
First, Jesus connected the intimacy of the relationship between himself and God the Father. In fact, the usage of the term of "Father" is one of the radical differences between Judaism and Christianity. "The reason for this [Jewish] reticence was due to the fear that one might fail to give proper deference to God's holiness and majesty." This is not a bad instinct. We should be reminded often that our relationship to God is not a relationship of equals. He is God and we are not. There is a clear creator-creature distinction to be made. But Jesus does not have this inhibition. Jesus addresses God as "Abba," the familiar term of a child for his or her father.
And yet, Jesus teaches us to pray by addressing God as "Our Father." "It is only because we are united by faith to the Son that we have access to the Father by the Spirit." It is because of Jesus's relationship to his Father that we have a relationship with the Father at all! God the Son has a unique relationship to God the Father.
Second, Jesus actively identifies as the Son of God. This title is used of Jesus at his baptism, temptation, transfiguration, and by Roman soldiers, priests, and demons. The gospel of John was written "so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God."
Wellum notes that "the New Testament does not hesitate to emphasize a strong functional aspect to Jesus's sonship, rooted in the typological figures of the Old Testament—Adam, Israel, and the Davidic king." All this means is that many important figures in the Old Testament were given to be examples of what Jesus would be, which was, "the last Adam, true Israel, and David's greater son." Reading the Old Testament should make the Christian long even more for Jesus.
Jesus often addressed God as "Father" or "my Father." In Luke 2:49, when his parents didn't know where Jesus was, he answered them by saying, "Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" In Gethsemane, he prayed, "And now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed" John 17:5).
Jesus heals a crippled man on the Sabbath, saying, "My Father is working until now, and I am working" (John 5:17). "So Jesus not only calls God his own Father in intimate terms; he also makes himself equal with God by claiming the same authority as God to work on the Sabbath."
John 5 is an important passage for understanding the relationship of the Father and the Son. "The Son does no less and no more than the Father—they are perfectly united in their works." Jesus says, "For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise" (v.19). Jesus is equal to God but not in the sense of being another god. Jesus is equal to God because he is God.
Verse 20 says, "For the Father loves the Son and shows him all that he himself is doing." There is no creator-creature dynamic between the Father and Son. There is equality and intimacy. There is co-eternality.
Third, Jesus self-identifies as the Son of Man. This is a specific connection to Old Testament prophecies about the coming reign of God. The phrase is often used in the Old Testament to refer to humans and their role in creation. But as the drama of salvation moves forward, Son of Man becomes identified with "one who is unique among humanity." This is most clear in Daniel 7 when "one like a son of man" is held in equality to "the Ancient of Days." Wellum concludes, "so when Jesus steps into this storyline as the self-designated Son of Man, he makes a clear statement regarding his identity." Jesus is to be regarded as the One who sits next to the Ancient of Days. The Son sits at the right hand of the Father.
Fourth, Jesus comes to forgive sins, which only God can do. In Mark 2, Jesus heals a paralyzed man while telling him that his sins are forgiven. The religious elites remind Jesus that forgiveness of sins is only permissible by the one who has been sinned against, namely, God alone. Jesus asks the leaders which is easier to say: get up and be healed, or your sins are forgiven. Clearly the implication is that it's easier to say another person's sins are forgiven, because there's no verifiable way to prove it. However, if a person can say to another, "get up and walk," then that kind of power and authority over nature is reserved for God alone, who also has the authority and power to forgive sins alone.
Fifth, Jesus uses the phrase "I Am" to identify as God. "When Jesus refers to himself as 'I Am' without a predicate, he connects his personal identity with the covenantal identity of Yahweh." God identifies as "I Am" in Exodus 3 to Moses. That name is repeated in Isaiah 40-48 as God's covenantal name, or the name by which people in covenant with him (namely Israel) are to know him. "The 'I Am' is in a category by himself as the eternally self-existent being who alone is sovereign, omniscient, and omnipotent in contrast to the idols and false gods. The Old Testament reserves 'I Am' for Yahweh; by definition, this name cannot apply to any mere man."
There is substantial biblical warrant for knowing that Jesus Christ is fully God and fully man with no admixture of natures. Divinity and humanity do not mix or mingle together to create a third nature. Those two natures coexist perfectly in the God-man Christ Jesus.
This means that as God, Jesus Christ was capable of forgiving the sins of rebellious humanity. As man, Jesus Christ was able to obey the law of God for mankind without any stain of sin. Those two natures together mean the redemption of mankind!
Join us back here next week as we hitch a ride in the theological time machine to visit the past again and learn from the giants on whose shoulders we stand.
Sound off in the comments on how the self-identification of Christ gives you hope and assurance.