Son of Man

Son of Man – Matthew 16:13-17      12/10/19 We’re spending this Advent season exploring the significance of the incarnation.  Today we’ll be exploring the doctrine of the incarnation in terms of Jesus’ human nature, a child born in history some 2000 years ago, born in a specific geographical locations, in Israel, in Bethlehem, in a barn.  Now, the expression, “incarnation,” is not some new kind of flower.  This is simply a fancy word with a fairly straight forward meaning, it means the act of assuming flesh.[1]  When we think about what was involved for the infinite and eternal God to assume flesh, it includes the miracle of the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.[2] The text we’ll use to start our study is Matthew 16:13-17, which as usual I leave to you to look up.  The question being addressed in this passage is, “Who is this Jesus?”  This is a vitally important question.  He claims to be the Son of Man… what does that mean?  This passage stands at the conclusion of an important conversation between Jesus and his disciples.[3]  From a literary perspective, it flows logically from what previously happened with the Pharisees and Sadducees, who demanded a sign from heaven before they’d accept Jesus’ words[4] back in Matthew 16:1. Jesus refers to Himself as “the Son of Man.”  The use of (τὸν υἱὸν τοῦ ἀνθρώπου) “the Son of Man,” was likely intended to serve as a circumlocution for the first-personal pronoun, “I.”[5]  It’s intentionally vague in meaning and occurs frequently in the Gospels.[6]  In fact, it was Jesus’ favorite title for Himself.[7]  The phrase was not used by the rabbis of Jesus’ day; and consequently had no nationalistic or militaristic implications.[8]  It seems clear that the expression was used to underscore Jesus’ humanity.[9] Jesus the Son of Man is human, born of a woman and headed toward suffering and execution.[10]  The preexistent God the Son took on a human life.[11]  The Scriptures clearly assert that Jesus was conceived in the womb of His mother Mary by a miraculous work of the Holy Spirit.[12]  Further, the clear testimony of Scripture is that Jesus was a man.[13]  As a human, He experienced the same physical limitations we all experience.  He grew tired, felt pain, got angry, grieved, got thirsty and hungry.[14]  He grew and developed, he learned and matured.[15]  He experienced life in the same way we do, with one exception, He was free of sin.[16] At the same time, there was something different about Him.  In His existence outside of time and space, the divine nature was identical with the Person of God the Son.[17]  As a human, Jesus’ nature included a human soul created by God and infused into Jesus’ human body.[18]  Yet, God the Son did not cease to live in intimate relationship with the Father within the divine perfection of the Trinity, His divine work and power remained intact as God the Son.[19]  The Sons’ divine functions did not cease as the Creator and Sustainer of all things.[20] And yet, in the midst of this divine activity, the Son adds all of the functions and limitations proper to being a complete human being.[21]  The incarnation is the entirety of the Word’s life translated into bodily form.[22]  Just as the Christ has two natures, He therefore also has two modes of activity as God and as man.[23]  But these two natures are perfectly and indivisibly united in a single Person.[24]  Jesus’ humanity begins with the common basis of birth, Jesus was born into the world.[25] The virgin birth was the medium used to unite full deity with full humanity in a single person.[26]  It makes possible the necessary sinless-ness of Jesus; He was truly human without inherited sin.[27]  The fact that He did not have a human father means that the line of Adam was partially interrupted, leaving Jesus free of the moral corruption common to mankind.[28]  The continuity with the fallen race of humankind is taken through Mary, the discontinuity required is taken through the pre-incarnate person of the Christ.[29] The ultimate purpose of the incarnation is the re-creation of the human race.[30]  Currently, humanity lives under the reign of evil and death; God’s solution was for Jesus to take these onto Himself… in our place.[31]  The assumption of a human nature by the pre-existing Son, the doctrine of the virginal conception and sinless nature, these precisely correspond to the requirements for a Savior.[32]  Jesus’ full humanity is crucial to His role as Savior.[33] Only one who was fully human, totally identified with us, could offer the appropriate sacrifice, nothing else would do.[34]  It was only as a man that Jesus could die in our places as a substitute and take our punishment.[35]  As a human He is able to stand before God as humanity’s representative.[36]  Christ, as one of us, functioned as the representative of universal man.[37]  As our representative, Jesus completed the actual payment of our debt on the cross.[38]  Just as it was necessary to assume manhood to complete His mission, it was also necessary that the very same manhood be sacrificed.[39] The problem is, this may be nothing more to you than simply an objective fact that’s not incorporated into your life.  Does the fact that your sins have been paid for, and that there is now nothing that you need to do, or in fact could do, to be any more forgiven than what God offers right now, impact how you live? Salvation is a free-gift, which we’re invited to receive.  But the reality and power of Jesus’ sacrifice is more than a cold satisfaction of the law.  It is an offer to take our broken lives, and make them new in Him.  He invites us to be remade, restored to what our species was always intended to be. Have you had the courage to accept that offer? 

[1] The People’s Bible Encyclopedia: Biographical, Geographical, Historical, and Doctrinal, ed., Charles Barnes, (The People’s Publication Society, Chicago, IL.: 1924), 524.

[2] The People’s Bible Encyclopedia: Biographical, Geographical, Historical, and Doctrinal, ed., Charles Barnes, (The People’s Publication Society, Chicago, IL.: 1924), 524.

[3] Iain D. Campbell, Opening up Matthew, Opening Up Commentary (Leominster: Day One Publications, 2008), 97.

[4] Roger Hahn, Matthew: A Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Bible Commentary Series, gen. publisher, Donald Cady, exec. ed., David Holdren, eds., Lawrence Wilson, Stephen Lennox, and Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 203.

[5] Donald A. Hagner, Matthew 14–28, vol. 33B, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1995), 467.

[6] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume One: God, the World, and Redemption, in Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Three Volumes in One, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 328.

[7] Roger Hahn, Matthew: A Commentary for Bible Students, Wesleyan Bible Commentary Series, gen. publisher, Donald Cady, exec. ed., David Holdren, eds., Lawrence Wilson, Stephen Lennox, and Darlene Teague, (Wesleyan Publishing House, Indianapolis, IN.: 2007), 203.

[8] Robert James Utley, The First Christian Primer: Matthew, vol. Volume 9, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2000), 139.

[9] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume One: God, the World, and Redemption, in Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Three Volumes in One, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 331.

[10] D.A Carson, Matthew, in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Volume 8, Matthew, Mark, Luke, gen. ed., Frank Gaebelein, assoc. ed., J.D. Douglas, NT eds., James Boice, Merrill Tenney, and manuscript ed., Richard Polcyn, (Regency Reference Library, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1984), 213.

[11] Ian McFarland, The Word Made Flesh: A Theology of the Incarnation, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 2019), 8.

[12] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI.: 1994), 529.

[13] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume One: God, the World, and Redemption, in Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Three Volumes in One, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 328.

[14] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI.: 1994), 533.

[15] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI.: 1994), 533.

[16] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI.: 1994), 534.

[17] Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, trans., R.A. Wilson and John Bowden, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN.:1993), 231.

[18] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 2.

[19] Ian McFarland, The Word Made Flesh: A Theology of the Incarnation, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 2019), 79.

[20] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 15.

[21] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 15-16.

[22] Ian McFarland, The Word Made Flesh: A Theology of the Incarnation, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 2019), 79.

[23] Ian McFarland, The Word Made Flesh: A Theology of the Incarnation, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 2019), 91.

[24] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 18.

[25] Ian McFarland, The Word Made Flesh: A Theology of the Incarnation, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 2019), 130.

[26] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI.: 1994), 530.

[27] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI.: 1994), 530.

[28] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI.: 1994), 531.

[29] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 3.

[30] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 15.

[31] Jürgen Moltmann, The Crucified God: The Cross of Christ as the Foundation and Criticism of Christian Theology, trans., R.A. Wilson and John Bowden, (Fortress Press, Minneapolis, MN.:1993), 226.

[32] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 3.

[33] Ian McFarland, The Word Made Flesh: A Theology of the Incarnation, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 2019), 128.

[34] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume One: God, the World, and Redemption, in Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Three Volumes in One, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 341.

[35] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids MI.: 1994), 540.

[36] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume One: God, the World, and Redemption, in Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Three Volumes in One, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 331.

[37] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 75.

[38] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 76.

[39] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 76.

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