Samuel M. Frost, Th.M.
For anyone following the recent explosive topic on Facebook concerning matters of what is called, Christology, you will have noticed the constant appeal by me to Chalcedon, 451 AD. Since my opponents now openly and explicitly admit they deny this cherished Statement of the Christian Faith, one of them stating that the union between Man and God in the Son, “ceased”, it behooved me to begin an article or two on the subject. It marks the end of that discussion for me with these deniers.
The Apostle Paul wrote what is perhaps his most clearest attempt to honor two theologically perplexing problems. Jesus is a man “born of a woman” (Romans 1.2) and is genealogically speaking, of the family of King David. Paul consistently calls this Jesus a man. However, there are also passages wherein Paul unmistakably relates Jesus to God Himself. How can this be?
“…Christ Jesus, who being in nature of God, did not think being equal with God something to hold” (Philippians 2.6, 7). In other words, Messiah Yeshuah, his earthly name, and the name by which, as we shall see, he is to be forever called, while on earth was equal to God. This was not something he had to “grab”, or “take” (hold) for himself. He is equal to God (where the main verb “being” is present). “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal [same word in Paul] with God” (John 5.18). It is perhaps from John that Paul took his cue.
Before we go any further in this verse, and finally in this articles to Chalcedon, let us immediately note that we are talking about two, distinct beings: God, and Christ Jesus. John introduces God, the Father. Jesus is the son. The Father is invisible, spirit, heavenly, eternal. Jesus is a man, flesh, and his feet got dirty. God does not have feet. You get the picture. The antagonizers of Jesus got the picture: he is claiming to be equal to God. “Equal” as a term requires two things in order to compare/contrast the claim: they are equals. Thus, Christ Jesus, as a man, had no problems in his mind thinking that he is equal with God. How can a man think that he is equal to God? That God is his direct father? Hopefully, you can begin to see the issue: God, Father, Son, Jesus, thinking, man.
“…but did empty himself, the nature of a servant having taken, in the likeness of men having been made, and in fashion having been found as a man, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death — death even of a cross” (Philippians 2.7,8). But, this Jesus, the Messiah (the Christ), the one who has no issues thinking that he is equal to God Himself, he emptied himself. The verb κενοω (kenoo) means to lay aside something that one has. Jeremiah 14.2 says, “Judah is in mourning, Her settlements languish” where the Greek verb used for the Hebrew is kenoo. Her gates themselves are laid aside. She has gates. They are just laid aside and not being used. Some translations have, as the one above, “emptied himself” which again carries with it the notion of laid aside, not used, emptied out, tossed. The point here is the Jesus, the Messiah, the son of Mary, who did not think it any issue to be equal with God, laid aside that equality, did not use it to further his own mission. He knew he was equal to God, but did not cash in on that equality. It’s like this: “Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels? But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?….Then those who had seized Jesus led him to Caiaphas the high priest” (Matthew 26.55-ff). He was sentenced to death.
Get it? The next part of the clause, “having taken the nature of a servant” runs into ambiguity at first. The verb, “taken” has a subject acting on another thing; in this case someone is taking something. In order for someone to take something, someone must exist prior to the taking. We know that Jesus of Nazareth was born. There was a time when he was not. However, there was not time when God was not; He is Eternal. The man, Christ Jesus, was not born into the world, then at some point decided to “take” to himself equality with God. That’s absurd. So, who did the taking here? Who took to himself “the nature of a servant, in the likeness of man was made”? If someone “was made” something, and this same someone “took” something to himself before he was made, else nobody took anything, then by logic of the verb, the text, God took to Himself the nature of man, and in that nature made a man (who did not exist prior to) and was found, after fashioning this man, one who was a man equal to Himself.
Now, we know that the Bible uses the terms, “father and son” repeatedly for Jesus and the Father. But, we know that Jesus, the man, was made, created – had no existence prior to. We also know that the Son of God is Eternal, is God Himself, the Son. Therefore, the Son, who is God, took to Himself human nature, and in that Nature fashioned a man, with a human soul and a human body. This man, Christ Jesus, Messiah, is in union with the Son of God, Who Is God Himself. This man, knowing his equality with the Son of God, knowing that he himself was made of his mother and Spirit, laid aside that which he is in union with, and lived his life solely in terms of what he was: a created man. He did not draw upon his being in union with God, equal to God, to “bail him out” of what he had to face: death on a cross. He did not draw his strength from temptation by relying on his equality with God, but rather resisted it as a man drawing on his faith in God. He did not use his power, which was equal to God, since he is in union with God, to cause him not to sleep, to hunger, to weep. God never sleeps. God never hungers. God has no stomach. God is spirit-essence. He did not use his equality with God, who is Omniscient, to express his teachings: for the son of man did not know the day or hour of “that day” when heaven and earth would pass away. But, he said, “the Father knows” – who he is equal to.
So, what we have here, then, is Father, Son, son of man, Jesus Christ, human nature, man. The man, Christ Jesus, who is equal to God, as a man did not think it any problem being equal to God. The man laid aside that equality. God the Son took to Himself human nature and out of that nature made a man, Yeshua Messiah – a man with a soul and a body just like yours and mine. Back hair and all. This human being, this Jesus, the son of man, did not think it a problem that he was equal to God because he knew that God the Father was his Father. The Son of God, the Eternal certainly has no issue being equal with God for He is God, the Son, and knows the Father, eternally. Therefore, since the Son of God, Eternal, took to Himself human nature and fashioned a human being, the son of man, the son of man, being a soul and body, knew that he was in union with God, directly. When we get to the Chalcedonian expressions it will become at once clear how they, like Paul, were trying to express what Paul here is saying. Hang on. It is important, however, at this point that we have fulfilled two requirements which was the utmost concern to the ancient fathers of our Christian Faith: 1. That no logical contradiction occurs in our description. 2. That no contradiction in our description contradicts the Revelation, the Bible. These were the two “tests”. Write them down. Hang it on your wall. Memorize it.
Now, again, he humbled himself, having become obedient unto death — death even of a cross.” As the man, Christ Jesus, emptied himself, or laid aside that drawing of strength of being equal to God and rather depending on his drawing of the strength of his human faith (like us), so also he humbled himself. It is here that Paul, before he said all of this, stated “have this thinking in you that is in Christ Jesus, who being in the nature of God…” Be like Jesus, the man, who humbled himself. Who, as a man is equal to God, but laid aside such honor, and as a man obeyed God, humbled himself, put those who he went to the cross for before himself. Be like that. Now, this Jesus, the son of man, did die. And this simply cannot possibly be said of God, who he is equal to. This can however absolutely be said of the human being, Jesus of Bethlehem. He died. His soul was separated from his body, and James 2.26 gives us a most explicit definition of death, “the body without the spirit is dead.” No brainer.
“Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (2.9-11). It was to the “glory of the Father” that the man, Jesus, was made by God, and that God took to himself human nature in union with Himself and fashioned the son of man. God did not “exalt himself” – God, the Son, Eternal, did not die, nor was he “highly exalted” after he made the man, Christ Jesus. The Son of God, Eternal, is eternally exalted, eternally God. The exaltation of is for “him” – the one that died and was raised from the dead, the son of man, body and soul – human nature. Every knee will bow to King Jesus, the Son of David, King of Jerusalem. Those on the earth (the living), those under the earth (the dead, the bodies of the dead that belong to those who have died – this is Paul talk for resurrection of the dead by the One who was raised from the dead, Jesus, the son of man, Son of God).
In conclusion, in a day or two, I will post comments on the Chalcedon Creed, 451 AD. The words of that Creed are an exposition of these verses we have considered here (and several more). After such, it will become quite plain that the men who penned this Creed were devout believers of the Scriptures, had wrestled through them with great pain (literally), and struck upon a formulation that, in spite of our dissensions and differences and words against one another, have united us all together in this One Confession of the Faith.