by James R. Baker, Scotland.
The word ‘human’ refers, by definition, to that which is of, or belonging to, man. ‘Humanity’ as a plural noun, refers to the attributes which characterise the human race. Neither of these words is found in the Bible but as with many other truths within the sacred volume, the humanity of the Son of God is a vital matter to consider and understand. Such consideration is extremely important in light of the unique complexity of the person of Christ. He is, in His person both God and man, and this in Scripture, is referred to as "the mystery of godliness" 1 Tim. 3.16. In broad and succinct summary, it has been said that, at His Incarnation, our Lord Jesus Christ became what He had never been before, without ceasing to be what He had been eternally. Also, what He did become at Bethlehem He will never cease to be. These short statements briefly describe the marvel and Incarnation of our glorious Lord. They also point to the exalted Man at the right hand of God in Whose Person is presently and eternally dwelling "all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" Col. 2.9.
"And the LORD God said unto the serpent, Because thou hast done this, thou art cursed above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shalt thou go, and dust shalt thou eat all the days of thy life: And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel" Gen.3.14,15. These first recorded words of God to the serpent in the Garden of Eden refer to "thy seed and her seed" Gen.3.15. It should be noted that this expression is also the first recorded prophecy in the Bible. Whilst the detail of the of the Son of God coming into flesh cannot be seen in such a passage, yet it cannot be ignored that the term which is used is most significant and is the first mention of the truth of the Virgin Birth. The ‘seed’ of both procreation and progeny is described generally in Scripture as coming from the man, but in this passage God is indicating to Satan that in addition to the curse that would immediately come upon him he would eventually, and finally, be bruised in the head, by the promised Deliverer who would come into the world through the woman. He would be the promised Messiah who is the only one described as the Seed of the woman. More will be written later about the Virgin Birth of Christ but this first Scriptural reference to it, is clear and has long been recognised as such by the godly of all ages.
Isaiah 7 and Matthew 1
"Ask thee a sign of the LORD thy God; ask it either in the depth, or in the height above. But Ahaz said, I will not ask, neither will I tempt the LORD. And he said, Hear ye now, O house of David; Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will ye weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" Isa.7.11-14. "Now all this was done, that it might be fulfilled which was spoken of the Lord by the prophet, saying, Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a Son, and they shall call His name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" Matt.1.22-23. These inspired words of Isaiah are quite specific and contain a remarkable prophecy. Ahaz the wicked king of Judah had been offered advice from Jehovah concerning the threatening powers which were advancing on Jerusalem at that time. The offered sign that this evil man refused turned out to be the most fundamental promise that Jehovah ever made to the house of David. A brief reading of 2 Kings chapter 16 will reveal the general contempt with which Ahaz regarded the holy things of the house of God and is consistent with his action in Isaiah chapter 7.
The sign referred to was greater than that which would meet the local and temporary need of Isaiah’s day. The use of the phrase "the house of David" should be carefully noted in relation to the context of the whole chapter. It reveals that Jehovah was looking on to His Divine and final provision for His chosen people. All who have attempted to expound this section have admitted difficulty, and whatever the complexities of the passage, the New Testament reference, Matt.1.18-25, makes abundantly clear that the Virgin Birth of Christ was the specific fulfilment of this Old Testament passage. It is not a matter of application, the inspired statement is plain: "Now all this was done that it might be fulfilled …". Much claim has been made that the Hebrew word alma, is used elsewhere of a maiden who is not necessarily a virgin. Some modern versions have even altered their text to reflect this. The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament comments on this as follows: "There is no instance where it can be proved that ‘alma’ designates a young woman who is not a virgin. The fact of virginity is obvious in Gen.24.43 where ‘alma’ is used of one who was being sought as a bride for Isaac. Also obvious is Ex 3.8. S of S.6.8 refers to three types of women, two of whom are called queens and concubines. It could be only reasonable to understand the name of the third group, for which the plural of alma is used, as meaning virgins." Even if there had been a doubt about the word used in Isaiah, it is hard to understand why some translators have made the change to ‘a maiden’ or ‘a young woman’, in light of the clarity of Matthew chapter 1. The passage is full of evidences that Mary was a virgin and this is confirmed by the words of the Angel to Joseph. It is well-known that every virgin is a maiden but not every maiden is a virgin. The teaching of both passages is to reveal that a most remarkable and humanly impossible event had taken place, and through it the Child Who was born was completely free from all taint of sin. The miracle of the Incarnation is in the conception which took place within the womb of Mary.
"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever" Isa.9.6-7. This further prophecy confirms, in promise, the detail of what has already been considered. The Holy Spirit through Isaiah reveals that the mention of ‘a child’ being born confirms the true humanity of the child. It is just as clear that this child is ‘the Son’ who was given. This same truth is expounded by Paul: "But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under the law" Gal.4.4.
The Purpose Federally
"Nevertheless death reigned from Adam to Moses, even over them that had not sinned after the similitude of Adam’s transgression, who is the figure of Him that was to come. But not as the offence, so also is the free gift. For if through the offence of one many be dead, much more the grace of God, and the gift by grace, which is by one man, Jesus Christ, hath abounded unto many" Rom.5.14,15. Adam was originally placed as federal head of the human race, and in his original personal act of sin; he brought the whole race into a state of sin and by it into a state of spiritual death. The whole argument pursued by the apostle Paul is very clear and important to grasp, and within it is revealed the requirement for a new federal head that would bring about the means by which members of that race could be made righteous before God. This is the import of the expression "the figure of Him that was to come." All that was lost in the first Adam was regained, and far more, in the last Adam Who is our Lord Jesus Christ. The series of contrasts between the two ‘federal heads’ is most instructive and is worthy of detailed consideration.
The Purpose Doctrinally
"Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, 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; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage" Heb.2.14,15. The background to this aspect lies in such Scriptural statements as, "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief" 1 Tim.1.15; and, "He was manifested to take away our sins" 1 Jn.3.5, and "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" 1 Jn.3.8. Without the true manhood of Christ these aspects of Divine purpose would have been impossible. This is the import of the words referred to in Hebrews chapter 2, where men and women generally, are spoken of as ‘common sharers’ in flesh and blood. Whilst throughout humanity there are differing features of colour and other aspects of appearance; there is in each, the common basic nature that the writer is describing. The words are used carefully and indicate that His coming into flesh was voluntary and that His humanity was real. Thus we are Scripturally informed that He was possessed of spirit, soul and body, Jn.11.33; Jn.12.27 and Heb.10.5-7, and that He wept and slept and hungered and thirsted. Much theological discussion has taken place about these aspects of our Lord’s humanity, and theological terms have been coined in an attempt to give a clear explanation of matters which have been stated in Scripture but not explained.
Of the Incarnation, James McBroom has observed: "Having come among men He is all that man should be. All was perfectly in order; there was nothing to distinguish Him from other men, ‘Like as the children were partakers of flesh and blood He also took part in the same’; it was the simplicity and beauty of a man with all the sensibilities proper to humanity, in a condition unimpaired by sin. He is the ‘Son of Man’, and as such passed through every stage of human life, from the manger to the cross. In Matthew He is the kingliest of all kings, in Mark the most faithful of all servants, in Luke the most gracious and tender of all men, and in John while these are present, He is the only begotten of the Father full of grace and truth." The words of the apostle Paul to Timothy, further emphasise the doctrinal requirement of the Lord’s humanity: "For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" 1 Tim.2.5. The apostle is emphasising that He who came was ‘Himself man’ and therefore entirely competent to be the only suitable Mediator. Allied to these considerations are the important and well-known words of Paul to the Philippians: "Who, being in the form of God … took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." He did not dispense with or exchange being in the form of God. Thus what He was essentially and eternally, remained; but in addition, He assumed holy humanity which will be His eternally. The wonder, mystery and glory of the Person of Christ abide in the fact that: "in Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily."
The Purpose Dispensationally
The comparison of the Lord Jesus with angels is the continuation of a theme set from the beginning of Hebrews chapter 2. There it has already been taught that the millennial age to come will not be under the administrative control of angels but rather under the rule of a man. The writer then refers to Psalm 8 which has in view the first Adam, and reveals the initial position of supremacy of one man over the whole of creation. In the description given in the Psalm, there is no hint of the fall of Adam or of the entrance of sin into the garden.
The Hebrews passage, however, makes clear reference to the entrance of sin and its subsequent effects and emphasises that the administrative control of creation has been lost because of sin and the Fall. A comparison of Hebrews chapter 2 with other relevant NT passages will show that in the future millennial day the whole world will be turned into a most wonderful garden and its sovereign Controller will be the last Adam, our Lord Jesus Christ. The significance of Heb.2.16 is to show that His sacrificial work was not to undertake the cause of angels but rather the cause of the seed of Abraham. Although the reign of Christ is dealt with in more detail elsewhere in this volume, it should be pointed out that the future introduction of Christ reigning on earth was not an after-thought following the introduction of sin into the world. Rather, it was at the centre of Divine purpose that Adam would be but the figure of Him that was to come. God’s purpose ever was that Christ would be all in all. This is explained in the words of the Ephesian epistle: "Having made known unto us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He hath purposed in Himself: That in the dispensation of the fulness of times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in Him: In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of Him who worketh all things after the counsel of His own will" Eph.1.9-11.
The Purpose Morally
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit" Rom.8.3, 4. It is clear from the historical record of the Fall, and from the N.T. references to it, that the introduction of sin into the world radically altered the state of man as he lived under the all-seeing eye of God, and there was constant failure and sin which created a barrier. This condition marked humanity for many centuries, and after the formation and redemption of the nation of Israel, they, the chosen people of God, said before and after, the Law was given, that "all the words which the LORD hath said will we do", Ex.24.3. They were obediently prepared to become a people who had put themselves under law to Jehovah. In this they failed miserably, and on the very day that the tables of stone were being brought by Moses from God, they were worshipping the idol of the golden calf given to them by Aaron, and as a result 3,000 died in one day. The subsequent ongoing history of Israel proved without doubt their inability to keep the promise they had made.
In the early chapters of the epistle to the Romans the writer clearly proves the moral condition and failure of all mankind. It is shown that the profligate and the scholar have within them the same fallen ruined nature as the Jew, because in Adam all have originally sinned. No form of effort either intellectually or, in the case of the Jew, religiously, can effect a change; all are sinners before God. In chapter 7 it has been revealed that the Law of God is absolutely holy but is also helpless, in that it has no power in itself to give relief from the power and penalty of human sin. In the passage cited from chapter 8, there is God’s moral answer to what the Law could not do. Man in the flesh could not meet the Divinely given standard of the Decalogue. But when God sent His own Son, He came in the likeness of sinful flesh. He did not come in ‘the likeness of flesh’ for that would have denied the reality of true humanity and presented just an imitation of what human beings are. His was true humanity but it was also holy humanity. In the case of Adam, God had created innocent humanity without a stain of sin. It must, of course, be appreciated that innocent humanity proved to be susceptible to sin, but the holy humanity of Christ the Son of God was completely impervious to sin.
It should be understood that the contrast of holy humanity and innocent humanity is vital and involves the contrast between the first man and the second Man. The first man capitulated to the temptation which was offered by Satan, but the second Man condemned sin in the very realm where it normally operates – the flesh. This fact is true in considering the holy life of Christ. His was a life lived amongst unholy humanity for well over 30 years. Every form of testing was raised against Him apart from sin. Thus the Lord Jesus revealed in His life the power of a holy life over sin, and then accomplished the sacrificial atoning death for sin on the Cross. This teaching in the epistle to the Romans is introduced after the great doctrines of the gospel have been established and expounded.
The moral aspect of the humanity of Christ should not only be considered in relation to the sin principle but also in respect to the result of sin in humanity. The many moral features seen in the life of our Lord Jesus Christ reveal the plenitude of graces which were originally desired by God, and which can bring pleasure to the heart of God in looking at men on earth. Traces of such features are seen in various people whose lives are recorded in Scripture, but in each example there is short-coming because of the fallen nature within each person described. In the life of our Lord Jesus Christ there was the perfect balance of grace and truth. He spoke of the gentleness and lowliness of His own heart and the writers of other Scriptures use His walk, love, humility, faithfulness, patient endurance, gentleness and obedience in addition to other features, as examples in their exhortations to saints. This gives a picture of what God intended mankind to be morally. How fitting and pleasing it is to God when He sees these very features produced in those who have been redeemed by the precious blood of Christ and empowered by the indwelling Holy Spirit of God.
"Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec" Heb.6.20. In these closing verses of the chapter, the writer is emphasising that the genuine believer in Christ has a strong consolation having "fled for refuge to lay hold upon the hope set before us" Heb.6.18. In light of the many references to the Old Testament in this epistle, there may be here an allusion to those in the past who, in the hour of need, had fled into the sanctuary and laid hold upon the horns of the altar. The weakness in that action had been proved in such a case as Joab who was slain, even as he held on to those very horns, 1 Kgs.2.28-34. The "hope set before us" in Hebrews chapter 6 is the safe ground of refuge we have in our "Lord Jesus Christ which is our hope" 1 Tim.1.1. He is now within the veil and by faith we have laid hold upon Him. He is not within the veil of an earthly sanctuary but rather in heaven itself and is the only anchor of the soul Who has "entered into that within the veil" Heb.6.19. But He is not only there as our anchor of the soul. He has gone in as the forerunner.
The Lord Jesus Christ in His resurrection became the "firstfruits of them that slept", 1 Cor.15.20, and at His ascension into heaven He entered as the "forerunner." The first aspect assures the believer that all will be raised out from among the dead, because He became the first of all such at the time of His bodily resurrection. The second aspect gives similar assurance to the believer, that all will arrive in the presence of God in association with He Who has first entered. In both of these aspects we see that the movement described was not just in spirit but was bodily action. The verse we have considered teaches that a real man has gone in first; He has taken humanity into heaven and sits as a man upon the throne of God. Four times within the Hebrew epistle there is a reference to the throne, and four times to the fact that He has sat down. These great truths are not restricted to the epistle to the Hebrews but are sufficient to mention here.
"Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted Him, and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father" Phil.2.6-11. Parts of this wonderful passage have been commented on earlier in this chapter and in other parts of this book also. The reason it is quoted here is to emphasise that the steps of humiliation entered into voluntarily by the Lord Jesus are all answered to, within the passage, by God His Father. But it must also be appreciated that it is clear that He did not dispense with one ‘form’ for another ‘form’, but rather He "took upon Him the form of a servant" v.9. Thus the stages of honour and glory which are described are given by God to the Servant in His manhood. To Him every knee will bow and every tongue confess that He is Lord; He is the ‘highly exalted One’. At the time of His ascension and exaltation Jehovah invited Him to sit at His right hand; the place of honour and priority.
The prophecy of Isaiah predicts the future glory of the Messiah of Israel. "He shall be exalted and extolled, and be very high" 52.13. Also in the song of Asaph "Let Thy hand be upon the man of Thy right hand, upon the son of man whom Thou madest strong for Thyself" Ps.80.17. The inspired words of Isaiah, in prophecy, summarise the pre-eminent glory of the Man Christ Jesus, "For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this" Isa.9.6, 7.
Thus, as we conclude we must bow before this all-glorious Man and worship our God for The Promise, The Purpose, The Perpetuity and The Pre-Eminence of His Humanity.