In This We See God’s Nearness to Us!
The Manhood of Christ
By Al Stoner
“Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God” (I Jn. 4:2-3).
The humanity, or manhood, of the Lord Jesus Christ is a subject that is both wonderful and necessary for us to consider. It is something that every follower of the Lord Jesus Christ confesses, as can be seen in the text above. Here it is that we behold somewhat of the great lengths to which God, in redemption, has gone to identify with us. And here it is that we see Christ to be that blessed “Friend that sticketh closer than a brother” (Prov. 18:24).
We shall, in this article, devote attention to three passages of Scripture taken from Psalms and Isaiah. In each of them there is recorded a dialogue between the Father and the Son, where the Father is holding before the Son the necessary incentives that would enable Him to endure “the Cross, despising the shame” (Heb. 12:2). Passages such as these were, no doubt, of great consolation and a source of great enstrengthenment to the Lord Jesus Christ in the days of His flesh as the prospect of going to the Cross loomed ever before Him. Let us consider these three portions of Scripture now.
The Second Psalm. Verses 7 through 10 of the second Psalm are words spoken by the Father to the Son, or more precisely, those of the Son recounting what the Father had declared unto Him. “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto Me, Thou art My Son; this day have I begotten Thee. Ask of Me, and I shall give Thee the heathen for Thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for Thy possession” (Ps. 2:7-8).
This was a decree that was declared by the God of Heaven for the purpose of recovering lost humanity. As God’s Son, Jesus Christ would be made in the likeness of men, doing the Father’s good pleasure. He would lay down His life a ransom for many, and He would become the Head of a new and eternal order of redeemed men in the world to come (cf. Acts 13:33; Rev. 3:14; Col. 1:15).
We see here in the words of the Psalmist some of the “behind the scenes” involvements of the calling of the Gentiles and of the love of God for a lost and dying humanity. They were lost to Him because of sin and transgression. They were lost from the joys that are everlasting and from the blessed communion with, and service to, the living God.
Words of the Scripture such as this also instruct us that God does not consider the heathen to be nameless persons who shall in the end be arbitrarily discarded by Himself. Men who are created in the image and likeness of God are God's offspring (Acts 17:28-29), and in the gospel of His Son God has made abundant provision for the salvation of all men, even unto the uttermost parts of the earth.
But if some men reject Him (cf. Rom. 3:3), He will have no choice but to cast them away from His Presence forever. All the rejecters of the gospel shall taste of God’s sore displeasure. He shall “break them with a rod of iron” and shall “dash them in pieces like a potter's vessel” (Ps. 2:9).
The One Hundred Second Psalm. “He weakened My strength in the way; He shortened My days. I said, O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days: Thy years are throughout all generations. Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth: and the heavens are the work of Thy hands. They shall perish, but Thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt Thou change them, and they shall be changed: But Thou art the same, and Thy years shall have no end” (Ps. 102:23-27).
This is the Son of God speaking here, the thoughts of His heart being recorded beforehand by the Holy Spirit in the Psalms. This is a commentary on the humanity of the Son of God, and how that He was “made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7), perhaps more so than we would now dare to imagine.
Christ Jesus was "crucified through weakness" (II Cor. 13:4), as it is declared by the Apostle, so that He might live by the power of God. In our judgment the Son of God partook of weakness that is unimaginable and incomprehensible, when He humbled Himself, and made Himself of no reputation.
The strength of the Son of God was “weakened” somewhat when the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us. It is written that He “emptied Himself” (Phil. 2:7, RSV). Christ’s Deity was put, as it were, in escrow during His tenure here in this world. His strength was further weakened when He went to the Cross and layed down His life a ransom for many. But this weakening was so that Christ would have to depend absolutely and entirely upon the Father for the accomplishment of the work of redemption, and also so “that God in all things may be glorified through” (I Pet. 4:11) the Son.
In the Way. It appears that the Son, in the days of His flesh, started out, if we may speak this way, as a robust young man, being a carpenter. But when He had fully embarked on the mission of redemption at His baptism, it seems that the Father began to weaken His strength, making the Son constantly and acutely aware of His dependence upon the Father. This was the strength that Christ had by virtue of His humanity.
The Shortening of Christ’s Days. In the days of Christ's flesh there was a sense in which Christ thought of His days in the flesh just as you and I think of our days in the flesh. We are speaking now of the appointed “threescore and ten” (Ps. 90:10) years.
Speaking as a man (cf. Rom. 3:5), Christ was “cut off” at a relatively young age. God had shortened His days. The normal tenure for men in this world is three score and ten years, and if by reason of strength, four score years. It is as though the Father had said to Him, “Son, We must get on with the work of redemption, and of putting away the sins of the world so that We can bring the children home.”
If men are ever tempted to minimize or think lightly of the Son's humanity and of His being tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin, then let them consider well the words of the Lord Jesus Christ as, prophetically through the Psalmist, He makes this plea unto the Father. “O My God, take Me not away in the midst of My days”. Words such as these speak volumes as to the degree that the Son humbled Himself in order to save us. Christ was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Such matters as these can only begin to be comprehended with a believing heart.
The Father’s Response to the Son. The following words (Thy years are throughout all generations . . .) through verse 27 are the Father's reply to the Son, comforting Him with unfathomable billows of everlasting consolation in His time of great weakness. The Father was putting Christ in mind of His eternal status. Jesus Christ is the same, yesterday, today, and forever!
Thy Throne, O God, is For ever and Ever. We are not left to conjecture about the matter of the connection between Psalms 45 and 102 with Hebrews 1. Paul, in Hebrews 1:8-12, tells us that, starting at this point in the Psalm, this is the Father speaking to the Son. "But unto the Son He saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Thy kingdom. Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; therefore God, even Thy God, hath anointed Thee with the oil of gladness above Thy fellows (Psalm 45:6-7). And, [here begins the text from Psalm 102, the Father yet speaking to the Son] Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the earth; and the heavens are the works of Thine hands: They shall perish; but Thou remainest; and they all shall wax old as doth a garment; And as a vesture shalt Thou fold them up, and they shall be changed: but Thou art the same, and Thy years shall not fail."
The Momentary Obscurement. This conversation between the Father and the Son, among other things, demonstrates the jeopardy that is involved in simply being flesh and blood and living in this present evil world. At this particular point in time, the Son's grasp of His heavenly and eternal status had been momentarily obscured to Him and the Father was reassuring Him here of these blessed realities. The Lord Jesus Christ was living by faith in the days of His flesh and was made subject to all the jeopardies and liabilities that we presently are subject to.
Let us also learn from this that we too are destined to inherit a blessed eternal and exalted status in the world to come, but living in the body of this death sometimes has the effect of eclipsing, or obscuring, the glory that shall soon be revealed in us (cf. Rom. 8:18)!
Something else that we learn from these words is this: One of the greatest favors that one can do for fellow saints is to seek divine assistance to effectually put them in remembrance of their eternal destiny and status in Christ Jesus by the ministration of the Word of God to them.
A Critical Question. And something that all men must ask themselves is this. Is being put in mind of the eternal world a strong enough incentive, of itself, to make you want to heartily take possession of it? It certainly was with the Son of God. The thought of such a blessed prospect ought to be an abundantly sufficient incentive for those professing godliness. By way of contrast, however, wherever earthly incentives are being employed by men to supposedly attract other men to the faith, there men are being deceived. They are being sold a false bill of goods. The knowledge of God and the things of God, of themselves, are exceedingly precious and they must be the things that do the attracting!
Of old hast Thou laid the foundation of the earth. These were the words of the Father to the Son, spoken to comfort Him in the days of His flesh. The Son had indeed laid the earth’s foundation, but because He had “emptied Himself” and taken upon Himself “the form of a servant” (Phil. 2:7), His awareness of that reality was then only by faith. And when the angel appeared unto the Lord Jesus Christ, “strengthening Him” (Lk. 22:43), it is very possible that he was comforting Him by putting Him in remembrance of eternal realities such as these recorded in the Psalms and Isaiah.
This word, regarding the foundation of the earth, has reference, of course, to the occasion when the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God (the holy angels) shouted for joy (Job 38:7; see also vv. 1-6) at the prospect of the launching of the great human enterprise, as some have been known to call it.
All of them shall wax old like a garment. Things of the creation apparently did not wax old before the entrance of sin into the world. This is part of the curse. And men who are caught up in the course of this world are deceived, for this is a realm that is appointed to destruction by fire (cf. II Pet. 3:7) because of sin. And this is very evident to those who, by faith in the Word of God, have the eternal perspective!
Thy years shall have no end. This was an accommodation to Christ's time in the flesh. While in the flesh men are shut up to thinking in terms of days, weeks, months, and years and so the Father assured the Son that His years would have no end. But in the ages to come we shall speak of and measure the "passage of time" in eternal units and with the language of eternity.
The Isaiah Forty-Nine Text. “And (He, the Father) said unto Me, Thou art My servant, O Israel (speaking here of Christ), in whom I will be glorified. Then I said, I have labored in vain, I have spent My strength for nought, and in vain: yet surely My judgment is with the LORD, and My work with My God. And now, saith the LORD that formed Me from the womb to be His servant, to bring Jacob again to Him, Though Israel be not gathered, yet shall I be glorious in the eyes of the LORD, and My God shall be my strength. And He said, It is a light thing that Thou shouldest be my servant to raise up the tribes of Jacob, and to restore the preserved of Israel: I will also give Thee for a light to the Gentiles, that Thou mayest be My salvation unto the end of the earth” (Isa. 49:3-6).
The Father is here again addressing the Son regarding the mission upon which He was sent to redeem lost humanity. He was assuring the Lord Jesus that, in spite of all the rejection that He faced, His labor was not in vain. Verse 4 is the Son's reply to the Father. These words were recorded by Isaiah the prophet some 800 years before the entrance of Christ into the world, no doubt, to comfort the Son and to enable Him to continue steadfastly through His time of temptation in the flesh unto His death of the Cross.
When Christ was here in this world in the days of His flesh, He was subjected to great temptation and discouragement. “He came unto His own, and His own received Him not” (Jn. 1:11). The Savior of men was “despised and rejected of men, a Man of sorrows and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3). Men tried to catch Him in His words (Mk. 12:13). They attempted to stone Him (Jn. 10:31) and to throw Him over the brow of a hill (cf. Lk. 4:29). (But His hour was not yet come.) He was mocked (Mt. 27:29), and scourged (Mk. 15:15), and shamefully treated (Mt. 26:67), and finally crucified (Mt. 27:35). And in the midst of all this rejection and opposition the Son of God was sorely tempted to think that He had labored in vain and spent His strength for nothing.
As a side note, we want to see clearly that Christ, when He came into the world, was not acting arbitrarily and was not being somehow mechanically propelled along through His tenure here with divine power. No, He was sorely tempted! He had to draw on the strength of His Father in the precise same way that we do. Christ Jesus was made to feel the extremities of rejection, sorrow, pain, hunger, thirst, and weakness, more than you and I will ever feel or know. His human strength failed Him, thus causing Him to rely implicitly upon the strength of His Father. And so, in this time of being cast down, as recorded here in Isaiah 49, Christ commits His judgment and His work unto His Father.
The Father’s Reply of Comfort. Verses 5 and 6 are the Son's recounting of the Father's reply of comfort and consolation to Him. Here we see that with the outworking of the Divine purpose, everything is right on schedule. In these words we can see the Divine foreknowledge of the Jew's rejection of Christ, of the calling of the Gentiles, and of the later salvation of all Israel. God was not taken by surprise by the Jew's rejection of Christ, as some theologies teach. [Incidentally, if God could be taken by surprise, He would not be God, for God declares the end from the beginning (cf. Isa. 46:10)].
And God was not, at this point, switching from plan A to plan B as some men teach, the calling of the Jews being plan A, and the calling of the Gentiles, plan B. Men who propagate such foolishness as this ought not to be given an audience, no not for an hour!
Conclusion. What we are saying in all these things is that Christ Jesus was tempted in all points like as we are, yet without sin. He has identified with our plight of fallen humanity much more than is generally thought. He is, and ever shall be, our near Kinsman, by the grace of God, and the Friend that sticketh closer than a brother. Let us then seek to glorify God by our faith while we are yet here in this world, and to earnestly wait for our near Kinsman to return from Heaven.