Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do you say that I am? Today, He asks us the same question. I believe He is the Christ, the Son of the Living God. I believe He is Lord, God in the flesh. He is deity. He is truly God and truly man. For the record, please do not think that I am questioning the deity of Jesus! What I am about to question is how we view the deity of Jesus. What makes Him truly God? What is necessary, and what isn’t? If you are thinking about following Jesus, it’s important to learn who He is.
Back when we looked at Christ’s humanity, we explored some differences between the man Adam and the man Jesus. In this series, let’s look at some differences between God the Father, and God the Son (Jesus). Now before we delve into questions of Immortality, Omnipresence and such, we need to ask another question. Could Jesus lose a divine attribute and still be God? Are you ready to ponder? let’s go for a walk…
God Is Holy & Righteous. Did Jesus Became Unholy And Cursed?
Holiness is a divine outer attribute of God that is linked with righteousness. Jesus began as an incorruptible holy sacrifice without spot or blemish. But then an exchange took place on Calvary. The Father made Jesus who knew no sin to be sin for us so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God–2 Corinthians 5:21. Sin was now “attributed” to Him, and Righteousness was “attributed” to us. We switched attributes. From about the sixth to the ninth hour, darkness covered the land. After 3 hours of darkness Jesus cries out, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Jesus became cursed (Gal. 3:13). Jesus became sin (2 Cor. 5:21). Jesus became the embodiment of all sin (Isa. 53:6). Sin is both unholy and ungodly, and Jesus became sin. The Son of God outwardly became unholy and ungodly. How do you become void of all righteousness and still hold onto that attribute? You don’t. Father God is a God of unyielding truth, and He will not, under any circumstance, allow a cursed vessel of ungodly sin to also remain holy & righteous. If Jesus kept any shred of the outer attribute of holy righteousness then the exchange would have been incomplete. Let’s be clear, He no longer possessed the divine outer attribute of Holiness.
Most orthodox belief systems sort of divide Christ into two natures: Son of God, Son of Man (Chalcedonean Creed). Some theologians believe that Jesus lost many divine attributes at His birth. Pastor Chuck Swindoll said, “When He left heaven and came to this earth, He gave up the voluntary use of His divine attributes.”But, other theologians insist that the “Son of God” side of Jesus was spared from surrendering any attributes. Pastor John Piper says, “For if He were to ever give up any of His divine attributes, He would cease being God.” If you’re going to make that case, the problem is that we didn’t receive the righteousness of a perfect man. Scripture says we received the “righteousness of God”. Jesus surrendered His holiness/righteousness for you and me so that we can stand Holy and Redeemed before the Father. To suggest that the Son of God kept and didn’t exchange this feature would be to rob Christ of His blood-bought Bride. (What’s fascinating is that we kept Christ’s Holy Righteousness, and yet, He became Holy again. Jesus could be stripped of this attribute, but it didn’t strip Him of restoration. I’ll explain this later).
This is so shocking that I feel a need to repeat some things with additional comments. Jesus completely and wholly surrendered every vestige of the outward attribute of Holiness so that He could become sin, AND we could become set apart as the righteousness of God. If He didn’t exchange ALL of His Holiness, then He never truly became sin for us. If He didn’t truly become sin, then in Him, in His sacrifice, we are not the Righteousness of God. Do you believe that Father God would pour out His entire wrath on a vessel that remained partially holy? Jesus became sin…and He was still God. How could Jesus lose the outer attribute of Holy Righteousness and still be God? He never stopped being Love. That is the unfathomable power of Agape. All the sin in the world cannot squelch it’s power. More on this later.
Is He Lord Over His Attributes, Or Are They Lord Over Him?
What is an attribute? It’s a feature. Cars come with features. Do you think that attributes and features are what makes God who He is? God has told us who He is, but some keep trying to identify Him by attributes. They say if you take away His attributes, then He cannot be God. If you take away a car’s A/C system, upholstery, power steering, seat belts, etc, does it stop being a car? Surrendering your attributes is not the same as surrendering your identity. I can surrender my job titles, I can surrender my wealth, I can surrender my keys (primarily to my teenagers), I can surrender everything that empowers me, I could lose my eyesight and ability to read, I could lose my fingers and ability to write, I could lose all my attributes, and in the end I would still be the entire person that I deeply am inside. The truth is, you don’t really know who you are until you’ve lost some things. Although God is worshiped for His attributes, God doesn’t want to just be loved for His grandeur, His position, His powers, His features. He stripped off those things and more so that we could really see Him and love Him for who He really is.
Attribute Or Core Element?
Holiness is an outer attribute, a feature. You can lose a feature, but you cannot lose a core element. Holiness is not a core element. If it was, He could have never become sin for us. It would have stopped Him from being God. Holiness or Holy is always used as an adjective, adverb or in the descriptive manner of the object of a preposition (Spirit of holiness). The Bible declares that God is holy, but it never says “God is holiness”. Never. That makes a big difference.
Holiness is produced from God’s inner core elements. God is Agape Love, and that love is based in Truth (See the post, “God is Love for What?”). God will never stop being Agape, and God cannot lie. Agape Love and Truth are inseparable. These are some of God’s core elements. Holiness cannot produce Love. Love produces Holiness. Think about this: If you focus on love, you fulfill the law; If you focus on fulfilling the law…Good luck, you might become a Pharisee! The job of Holiness is to protect Love. Holiness is like the shell on a snail’s back. The shell is part of the snail, the shell is made from the snail, the shell protects the snail, but the shell doesn’t make the snail.
What Happened On The Cross?
God was hanging naked, uncovered, stricken with our unholy sin. The holiness was all gone! What did we see? We now saw the Truth of Love more clearly and vividly than had ever been seen before or since. Attributes and features had been stripped away until all we could see was the Truth of Agape Love hanging there. But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Sin cannot stand up to Love. Sin tried to swallow Love. But Love swallowed sin. Love covers a multitude of sin. He lost His Holiness, His righteousness, but He never stopped being Love. He never stopped being God. Even though Jesus became sin, He never sinned. His inner core of Love and Truth remained intact. Jesus was indeed the fullness of the Godhead bodily but the Bible also says he emptied Himself for us.
For in Him all the FULLNESS OF DEITY dwells in bodily form–Colossians 2:9
Who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but EMPTIED Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:6-7
So, if He lost the attribute of Holiness and gave it to us, how did He become holy again? God is Love, a love based in Truth. This Love is so intricately attached to Truth (1 Cor 13) that it creates holiness. After love conquered and swallowed up sin, He reigned holy! He conquered sin and death! Sort of like how a snail regrows its shell, except better. His Love endures forever.
Fully God, Fully Man Or Something Better?
Who do you say that He is? I don’t like the words “fully God, fully man” because it implies that He never truly emptied himself at anytime for us, and it creates confusion for people. People get pounded with “fully God” and they read that God is Immortal. Then they read that Jesus died and they wonder how can He be “fully God” if He wasn’t immortal and died? They’ve never been told that because He is truly God, He can lay aside the “fully God” attribute of Immortality and still be God! Jesus said that no man can take his life (Immortality), but that He lays it down when He decides to do it. He’s the boss! Jesus wasn’t controlled by the “fully God” attribute of Immortality, He controlled Immortality! Jesus wasn’t ruled by His attributes, He ruled over His attributes! He controlled them and was not controlled by them. God is not dependent upon His attributes in order to be God. The existence of “fully God” attributes depends on Him being truly God. Belief systems that declare God cannot be separated from His attributes have made His attributes to be Lord over Him! I prefer “truly God, truly man” because that tells His full story.
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