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?
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.
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.
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.