Fully God, Fully HumanBy Nathan Mates
Jesus stands alone in history as the only person that was at once fully human, but also fully God in the flesh as well. Paul said it quite clearly in his letters: "[re Jesus Christ] Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness." [Philippians 2:6-7]
First, consider Jesus's humanity: the gospels of Matthew and Luke give two lineages (Matthew 1, Luke 3) of Jesus going back to David, Abraham, and then to Adam in Luke's gospel. [The two lists do diverge at places, such as either Solomon or Nathan as the sons of David, and the accepted explanation is that Matthew traces Joseph's ancestry, and Luke traces Mary's.] Jesus was a son born to a very human mother. Jesus walked the lands of Israel. He ate food, slept, drank, and his body was whipped, pierced, and damaged just before and on the cross.
On the flipside, Jesus was also God. Jesus created all, Jesus sustains all, and Jesus redeems all who believe: "He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross." [Colossians 1:15-20]
Jesus needed to be both God and Man at once. Only a man could die as a sacrificial atonement for sins, only one born of a woman could crush Satan's power [Genesis 3:14-15]. Only God could be the perfect, flawless, sinless sacrifice for perfect atonement of sins. Only God could Satan correctly identify as the son of God and try to tempt him. [Matthew 4:1-11]. Many false teachings and mistakes have at their root the denial of this basic fundamental fact that Jesus was both God and Man at once.
One such false teaching I've heard occasionally today is that "Jesus was just a nice guy who said some moral things, not God." In other words, these people would put him in a category just like Moses, Buddha, Joseph Smith, or other religious leaders in history. Sure, those other guys said some nice things. But, there's one big difference: they didn't get nailed to a cross for it. Jesus said some "harmless" (so some think) things. Jesus also ripped the local religious establishment to shreds [Matthew 23], Jesus also said quite plainly that the only way to heaven was through him [John 14:6], and that he was the son of God, the messiah. [Mark 14:61-62]
If you accept Jesus as having some useful statements, then you have to consider not some, but all of his words. If Jesus's "harsh" words are thrown out, then why bother listening to any "nice" words as well? You need to consider Jesus as the entire package: the "nice" and the "harsh" cannot be separated. As one person I know put it, "Nobody would crucify Mr. Rogers." Jesus's death on the cross really happened. Jesus's death was for a reason, and those who try and avoid the "harshness" of that fact-- the greatest act of love in history-- are trying to avoid dealing with their own sin and necessity for repentance.
The opposite problem is that of denying that Jesus was also fully human. This hit the early Church in the guise of the 'Gnostic' heresy-- they denied that Jesus had been human, fleshly, and present in this world. The gnostics' core problem was that they believed that all matter was evil, and thus a Holy and perfect God could not have anything to do with a human body made of matter. Thus, to them, Jesus might have appeared present to those around him, but was only an illusion. To them, Jesus hadn't come in the flesh. Jesus hadn't been hurt by the crucifixion. Jesus hadn't died on the cross-- how could a God allow that?
The gnostic belief was spread as "secret knowledge," or "additional" information that they added to the gospel. John's writings (Gospel of John, 1-3 John) refute this in many ways, that Jesus had been present in the world as a human. In addition, since the Gnostics believed that flesh was sinful anyhow, this gave them reason to sin all they wanted as it wouldn't affect them anymore.
Alternatively, some believed that through faith in Jesus, they were sinless on this earth. John also addresses this point: "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives." [1 John 1:8-10] In short, except for Jesus, everyone sins. Jesus's atoning work will cover our sins on Judgment day, Jesus's will make us perfect in Heaven-- but not here and now on this earth. We have the promise of perfection, but the reality that we must still deal with the sin in our lives.
Both of the problems above lead to a breaking point at one place: the cross. The cross was necessary-- without the shedding of blood, there can be no atonement for sin. [Hebrews 9:22] That's Jesus's human side. Without a perfect, blameless sacrifice, the sacrifice is useless. [1 Peter 1:18-19, Hebrews 10:4]. That's Jesus's Godly side. Both were necessary at once, and in the same place to have any power. Only God could do such a thing in making himself fully both at once; such a thing must be chalked up as another miracle of his. Trying to limit God by denying his ability to be fully God and fully human in the form of Jesus leads to many other problems.