Why did Jesus have to be "God" in the flesh in order to procure our salvation?

I have recently been involved in conversations with several people in regard to the deity of Jesus and whether or not He laid aside His deity when coming to earth. So here are my questions:

Why did Jesus have to be “God” in the flesh in order to procure our salvation?

Why would it not do for Him to be merely a man?

Could He have served as our Redeemer if He were merely a man?

I would really love to hear what thoughts the community has, and any scriptural references you all are willing to share. Thanks!

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Hi! @clark.belle

I think this is a really interesting question and I think Peter in his letter gave us the answer.

“*but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without blemish or spot” 1 Peter 1:19

The nature of man is sinful, that is a fact. Now, because 1 Corinthians 15:21 says that only a man was intended to pay for the men sins, God had to become man to pay for this price. I think the question here is : Why couldn’t he leave his divine nature and be just 100% men? And I see the answer in Peters letter, he had to be a “lamb without spot”. That means a man without sin. And since human nature carries on sin since Adam, that was not possible. He had to bee 100% men and 100% God.

Hope this helps!

God Bless!

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Thank you for your response, Juan. I am especially grateful for the passages you included.

This is exactly the question I am encountering. There seems to be a line of thought that says that when Philippians 2:7 says that Jesus “emptied” Himself, that it is referring to Him laying aside His deity. I would welcome any insights on this passage that you might have.

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The Philippians passage doesn’t say that He actually quit being God. God could never really quit being God! It means that He voluntarily refrained from using all of His “omni-” powers in order to do life as the Son of man.

One of Christ’s reasons for coming to this world was to live the life of a perfect Man as an example for all of us imperfect men to follow. If he were to “cheat”, so to speak, when mortal life became too hard, and start using His divine powers to do things we couldn’t - like, for example, turning stones to bread when He got too hungry - then He wouldn’t have really been an example we could follow after all.

So He never performed a miracle, He never preached a sermon, He never did anything supernatural until after He was baptized with the Holy Spirit - and then He did everything, not in His own supernatural power as the Son of God, but in the power of the Holy Ghost as the Spirit-filled Son of man.

And He tells us to be filled with the Spirit as He was, and to follow His steps - I Peter 2:21.

I hope this will help you!

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This is very helpful because, like @clark.belle, I have heard these arguments used that Christ rid himself of all divinity. Thank you @juansebravo95 and @jlyons for explaining it with this clarity - whilst I agree with what you’ve said, I’ve never found the right words to summarise it until now.

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@clark.belle - I would like to add my two cents from a logical perspective. This will be helpful for practical conversations.

  • When we are sick, why are we seeking a doctor’s help? Have you seen the doctor’s office display their certificate? Why? Why are we not seeking anyone’s help when we are sick but only a doctor?

  • Similarly, when we are in a legal dispute, why do we seek a judge, not even an attorney for the verdict? Why are we getting hope in a judge and not in ordinary people?

  • When we hire an individual for a job, we are not only looking at the person’s qualification, but we are also looking at their background, the reputation of the university that they studied, and many other characters in that individual.

  • Colossians 1:19 - For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Him. When I read this verse, I can only imagine God’s love for us. If we as human knows how to chose what is best for us, God knew what is best for us to be redeemed.

  • 1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the spirit, seen by angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory - The promise from Isaiah 9:6,7 is fulfilled only through Jesus. I love the way 1 Timothy 3:16 qualifies by saying “Without controversy”.

Blessings,

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Thank you, @jlyons . I found this statement helpful / intriguing,

Can you expound on this for me? What do you mean by His “omni-” powers? Are you able to give me other scriptures / examples (along with the one you gave of Jesus refusing to use His power to turn stones to bread in Luke 4:1-4) that support this idea, please?

And I agree that He does serve as the perfect example for us. Some of the dear people I have been engaging in this conversation, are saying that Jesus left behind His deity when He came to earth in order to live merely as a man, so that He could be that perfect example to us. They then go on to say, that because He lived merely as a man (they acknowledge that His miracles were performed through the power of the Holy Spirit) that in following His example we can do everything that He did, if we press in to the Holy Spirit. So if that were to be the case…why did He need to be God? Surely He was more than just a good / perfect example to us of how to live life?

What I am wondering is why wouldn’t a good / perfect man have been enough for that job? Why did it have to be God? And what does any of this tell us about God? @juansebravo95 addressed this part of my question in his very helpful response above. I have to say, I would really like to better understand this idea of “a lamb without blemish or spot”. What does that imagery mean? And why does that imagery point uniquely to Jesus?

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Thank you, @samshankar! This really does make it practical! And thank you for the verses you included. I know what I believe, but sometimes it is good to step back and ask myself, “Why do I believe what I believe?” and, “Is there a Biblical foundation for what I am building my beliefs upon?” and, “How do I share this with others?”

I really appreciate the passages in Colossians 1:19 and I Timothy 3:16 that you referred to, and I agree that “without controversy” is an amazing phrase.

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Hi @clark.belle!

Ok, I’ve read the passage and I think that there is some translation issues. The word “emptied” in Greek is “kenoo” the meaning is "to take away value, to lose strength, to make empty. And I think the correct interpretation is done when you take a look at the whole chapter. This chapter is talking about the attitudes that we have to have in order to be like Jesus. And it is clear that the author wants us to understand that we are worthless, that we do not have value and we lack of strength when we live a life without Jesus.

The other way to understand this is by reading the later verses, for example verse 9 says " Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name". So, If Christ lost his divinity, why here it says that his hame is above every name? If Christ is lost his divine nature?

So, I hope this helps :slight_smile: It is always to take a look at the correct Greek of Hebrew translations and also to take a look at the whole chapter to understand what the author is talking about.

Let me know if I can help in anything else!
God Bless!

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This is very, very helpful, @juansebravo95! Thank you! So the “emptying” was actually a humbling of Himself to step into a human body and submit Himself to death on a cross, rather than emptying Himself of the very essence of who He was/is as God? Is that what you are saying?

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Hi @samshankar. I would like to know your thought regarding this: If Jesus had a certificate on His wall what would it say? What makes Him uniquely qualified to act on our behalf as Saviour?

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@clark.belle - Easy answer but I am not very creative in replying to you. “Jesus Loves you” OR John 3:16 OR “unconditional love of God”.
I was not born as a Christian. But this unconditional love by the creator God is still a mystery to me. In our culture even when something is given for free, it may not be really free. For example, one of the most powerful people in the world is the US President. Even that powerful man is promising something to the people, expecting something from the people. He tracks down what people think or want so as to offer something to their liking so as to become the President. But when you look at the character of God, He had and will always have everything, yet for you and me, He came down to this world with absolutely no expectations from me is a mystery. Even when I rejected His offer many times in the past, He never pushed me to accept something that is good for me. He met me where I was.

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Hi, @clark.belle :wave:

This is the most difficult, yet valid question heading I read here so far. I hope I could share some insight on this subject.

Assuming that the discussion is more of just an enrichment rather than an enlightenment, I think the Bible is unarguably clear in these two things: that (1) only God can save the fallen humanity from eternal damnation, and that (2) humans are practically incapable of self-recovery from his fall.

So, out of inquisitiveness we are asking why. Not that we doubt the fact. It’s just that we somehow want some clarity, or an insight…

  1. Can God save Man without taking on man’s likeness?
    Ans.: Christ’s role as Man’s Representative Head (Second Adam) and Justifier of the ungodly requires Him so.
    Ex.: A man saw doves banging his glass windows in an attempt to get inside his house because of the cold weather. Pitying the birds, the man approached the window to open it for them and let them in. However, upon seeing him, the birds immediately took off away from an unfamiliar figure approaching them.
    The man thought to himself, he could have saved the birds he pitied had he the power of a man but the likeness of a bird.
  2. Why does it have to be God Himself?
    Ans.: For me, the short answer to this is COMMAND RESPONSIBILITY.
    In the military discipline, it is taking the fall for your men if you are answerable to higher authorities.
    God exercising command responsibility without a higher authority to answer to is exercising LOVE more than DUTY.
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Hi! Yes, in a very short sentence yes :slight_smile:

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Hello and thank you for your thought provoking post. You have asked some excellent questions and I commend you for seeking answers through scripture. I am also working through your questions and a lot of my own. My questions and my line of reasoning are open for scrutiny, correction, examination, rebuke, and comment from anyone reading these posts.

As to your first question -

Only the sacrifice of God made for God is acceptable to God. If Jesus was just a man and not fully divine when he was on this earth, then we are still in our sins. The central tenet of our faith - the Gospel - is powerless to save and “we are of all people most to be pitied.” (1 Corinthians 15.19)

Can that which is flesh please God?

The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing. The words I have spoken to you-they are spirit and are life. John 6.63

Is the offering of flesh for sin an adequate payment before God?

It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Hebrews 10.4

Can flesh produce holiness required by God to obtain eternal life?

All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags, we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away. Isaiah 64.6

Does flesh have within itself the ability to produce eternal life?

All flesh is like grass and all their glory is like the flowers of the field; the grass withers and the flowers fall, but the Word of the Lord stands forever. 1 Peter 1.24

Now I declare to you, brothers, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 1 Corinthians 15.50

Based on the verse above, if Jesus was only a man, but not God, would He have inherited the Kingdom? Would we inherit salvation? Eternal life? Anything at all?

The same One who descended from Heaven was going back to Heaven - the Son of Man. (John 3.13)

Who has authority to forgive sins in order to make salvation possible and available to the sinner? Flesh or Deity?

Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.” Matthew 28.18

When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Have courage, son! Your sins are forgiven! Then some of the experts in the law said to themselves, “This man is blaspheming!” When Jesus perceived their thoughts he said, “Why do you respond with evil in your hearts? Which is easier to say, ‘Your sins are forgiven’ or ‘Stand up and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins-he said to the paralytic-”Stand up, take your stretcher, and go home.” So he stood up and went home. (Mark 2)

What was Jesus saying to those present? You are looking at God in the flesh. I am He. Hence, the accusation of blasphemy. It is my opinion that He was also pointing out how cheap talk is. A person can say anything (“your sins are forgiven”), but only God can back it up with action (“Stand up”) to prove Who He is. And Jesus did just that.

Some questions you have raised in your post are directly related to the Theory of Kenosis. Kenotic Theory says:

God the Son laid His deity aside when He became a man.

In essence, this theory teaches that everything Jesus did on this earth - healed, raised the dead, turned water into wine, gave sight to the blind, taught people the ways of God etc., - he did as a man, but not God. A sinless man? Yes. A man who was in a right relationship with His Father? Yes. But not God in the flesh.

Is it true that Christ laid His divinity aside?

“Deity cannot be gained, lost, laid down, or set aside. It either is or it isn’t. Deity is defined as: non-contingent, external existence” (Bob DeWaay, Echo Zoe Ministries blog)

“Jesus could not empty Himself of His Deity. He could not stop being God. He was always God the Son. He could not exchange His Deity for His humanity…The Bible does not say that God changed into a human being but rather that God became a human being without ceasing to be God.” (Blue Letter Bible, Don Stewart: “In What Sense Did Jesus Empty Himself? Kenosis, Condescension of Christ”)

What does the BIble say about Christ and His deity?

Jesus Christ is the same today, yesterday and forever. (Hebrew 13.6)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form. (Colossians 2.9)

For God was pleased to have all His fullness dwell in Him. (Colossians 1.19-20)

I the Lord do not change. (Malachi 3.6)

(Numerous other verses support His deity. These are just a few.) Jesus took on human flesh but He never ceased to be God.

Did He use His divine power as God while on earth?

Omniscience -

John 11.11-14 Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep. But I am going there to awaken him.

Matthew 9.4 Knowing their thoughts, Jesus said, “Why do you entertain evil thoughts in your hearts?’

Luke 9.47 But Jesus, knowing the thoughts of their hearts, took a little child to His side.

Omnipotence -

Matthew 8.29 “What do you want with us, Son of God?” they shouted. “Have you come here to torture us before the appointed time?”

John 10.17-18 I have the authority to lay [my life] down, and I have the authority to take it up again.

Omnipresence-

Matthew 18.20 Where 2 or 3 are gathered in my name, there I am among them.

John 3.13 No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven - the Son of Man.

The questions I ask myself and the personal concerns I have regarding the Theory of Kenosis are:

Does Kenosis elevate man and demote the supremacy of Christ to make Him less than God?

According to Don Pirozok in his book Kingdom Come, the Theory of Kenosis, as espoused in some circles, is in essence a denial of the Person of Christ, a corruption, even. This doctrine becomes about our ability to do what Jesus did with an ‘anointing’ without the focus of the cross, personal sin, our need for repentance and preparing our hearts daily for His return. This comment leads me to another, more important, question.

Does Kenotic Theory make the gospel “another gospel” and Christ ‘a different Jesus’ than the one portrayed in scripture?

If it does, then according to God, I have gone too far. In the book of 1 John, the apostle by the same name tells us that he, along with others, personally saw the One who was from the beginning (eternity). John says he saw and touched Eternal Life in the flesh. (1.1-4) He goes on to warn us in chapter 2 that anyone who denies the Son does not have the Father but what they do have is the “spirit of antichrists”. When I read that verse I personally take it to mean (very literally), that if I don’t believe that Jesus was God and that He came (entered this world) in the flesh as God then I have the same spirit that antichrists have and the Anitchrist will have. I must believe what Jesus says about Himself in order to be saved. I must be “in Him who is true by being in His Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5. 20) (see also 1 John 4 for further warnings about denying the Incarnation - God in the flesh)

Does it compromise the integrity of the Trinity?

I don’t know how Kenotic theory does not compromise the Trinity. To say that Jesus was not fully divine while on this earth would, to me, violate the very nature of God the Son as He is infinite, immortal, eternal, and immutable. Anything that violates a part, violates the whole, as He is One God in three Persons.

Does it compromise the truth and power of the Gospel?

Let me be clear before making the statements that follow. I do believe that when a person receives Christ as their Savior, the Holy Spirit comes and resides in the heart and life of that person sealing them for the Day of Redemption. What I am not yet able to reconcile is, if Kenotic Theory is true in stating that I am anointed by the Holy Spirit in the same way, or equivalent to the way Christ was anointed while on this earth, does that make me a “little god”? How long before I am told that I, too, have the power to forgive my own sins and bring about my own redemption without the need of the Gospel, the Savior, the cross? As stated above, the flesh is powerless to save. The flesh is not an acceptable sacrifice to God. Only God the Son is an acceptable sacrifice and pleasing aroma to God the Father.

Because I firmly believe these are foundational and crucial doctrines to orthodoxy, my statements are open for analysis and debate as earlier stated. If I have offended anyone by what I have written, I ask forgiveness. My purpose and intent for writing is to know the truth. Thank you for these posts.

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This is really beautiful @samshankar! I read this post at the start of my day and I have been pondering it all day. Perhaps one of the most qualifying things about Jesus is this unfathomable love that He has for us!

So I am mulling over the following passages of scripture:
John 15:13
Romans 5:6-8
1 John 4:9-10
1 John 4:19

I think a mere man would not have had the capacity to love us in such a way as to lay down His life for us in the extreme. Only Jesus could love us like this–only God could love us like this! Thank you for getting my mind going in this direction! It truly is beautiful!

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Wow, @DCGotiza! What great illustrations!

Thank God, Jesus put on flesh and came to save those He pitied!

And yes, He did what no man could have done! Command Responsibility is an intriguing analogy, made all the sweeter by your statement:

This reminds me of Ephesians 2:1-10.

Verses 4 & 5 – But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)…

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@MaryBeth1, thank you for your very thorough response! I have a lot to consider here. I am grateful. Thank you!

Thank you, @juansebravo95, @jlyons, @artownsend, @samshankar, @DCGotiza, and @MaryBeth1 for joining me in this discussion. You all have been exceedingly patient with me! Your kindness is so appreciated. My understanding of Jesus is greatly expanded by your contributions! I would be interested to hear any other thoughts you have in regard to this topic. And I truly would love to better understand the imagery of a lamb without blemish or spot, if anyone has the time!

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@clark.belle This is a really great conversation. Thank you for posing the questions. And thank you to @juansebravo95 @jlyons @artownsend @samshankar @DCGotiza @MaryBeth1 for all the contributing reads.

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When I say that Christ deliberately refrained from using all of His divine powers as the Son of God, I mean that He did not operate in His own omniscience or omnipotence. Everything He did that was supernatural, He did through the omniscience and omnipotence of the Holy Spirit Who anointed Him at His baptism - the way any Spirit-anointed follower of his would have to do. All of His miracles and His messages came after His baptism by the Holy Spirit.

Other examples? Sure - sometimes people wonder why the omniscient Son of God would not have known the time of His return in Matthew 24:36. He submitted Himself to foregoing His omniscience in order to know only those things the Father chose to reveal to Him through the Spirit.

Luke 2:52 says that during His childhood, He grew in wisdom. Hebrews 5:8 says that He learned obedience by the things which he suffered.

In John 12:49, He said, I have not spoken of myself - meaning He had not chosen His own words - but the Father which sent me, he gave me a commandment what I should say and what I should speak. Every word He spoke was spoken as the Father directed through the Spirit that anointed Him - not of Himself - not in His own wisdom as the Son of God.

John 6:38, For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me. Every deed He did was done as the Father directed through the Spirit.

So Jesus did life as the Spirit-filled Son of man to be an example for us to follow.

As for why Jesus needed to be God, that was to satisfy the wrath of God over our sins.

God’s holiness is infinite. To violate God’s infinite holiness is an infinite crime. Just one bite of a forbidden fruit is enough to boot otherwise innocent people from paradise and condemn their entire race to hell forever. Sin excites God’s infinite wrath which demands infinite justice which can only be satisfied by the payment of an infinite penalty. No finite mortal could ever satisfy an infinite penalty. That is why hell is forever.

But the infinite Son of God could pay the infinite penalty while suffering on a cross - and it would satisfy God’s infinite wrath against one sin as easily as against an unlimited number of sins. And only God could satisfy the wrath of God.

As for the significance of a lamb, it’s about as harmless and gentle a creature as there is. A lamb was a Kosher, or clean animal that was undefiled. Lambs had been the animals of sacrifice from the earliest chapters of Genesis - pointing to the sacrifice Jesus would eventually make. They were not resistant - as Christ did not resist His Father’s will. Isaiah 53:7 foretold that He would be like a lamb led to the slaughter that was dumb (not protesting) before its shearers.

I hope these thoughts will help you.

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