The True Jesus of the Bible

An excerpt from Hijacking the Historical Jesus

The True Jesus of the Bible—Four Key Doctrines

It is now time for us to examine the biblical portrait of Jesus, the traditional Jesus. The Bible teaches that Jesus always existed as God, the second Person of the Trinity (John 1:1, 14; Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1). At a point in time, He became a man by adding to His Person a human nature (John 1:14; 1 Timothy 2:5; Philippians 2:5-8). He did this without ceasing to be God. Four key doctrines proclaimed by the early church may help shed light on the biblical perspective of Jesus. It is important to note that these doctrines were not “created” by church leaders, nor did these doctrines slowly evolve into existence. The components of these doctrines were clearly and originally taught in the New Testament, but had to be systematized in a coherent fashion in order to refute false views of Jesus.

TrinityThe Doctrine of the Trinity teaches that there is only one true God, but that this one true God exists throughout all eternity as three co-equal Persons (the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). Jesus is the second Person of the Trinity. Only He became a man. The Father did not become a man, nor did the Holy Spirit become a man. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are three distinct Persons; yet they are only one God. They are not each one-third God; they are each fully God. Still, though they are one in nature, they are three in Personhood. Throughout all eternity, they existed as three distinct Persons, yet as only one God.

Though no single passage of Scripture exhaustively teaches the doctrine of the Trinity, the sub-points that comprise the doctrine of the Trinity are clearly taught throughout the Bible, especially in the New Testament. The Bible repeatedly and unambiguously teaches us that there is only one true God (Isaiah 43:10; 44:6; 46:9; 1 Timothy 2:5). The Father is called God (Galatians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:1-2). The Son is called God (Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1; Philippians 2:6; Romans 9:5; Colossians 2:9; John 1:1; 20:28; Isaiah 7:14; 9:6; Jeremiah 23:5-6; Zechariah 14:5). And, the Holy Spirit is called God (Acts 5:3-4; 1 Cor 3:16). Yet, they are spoken of as three distinct Persons (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; Matthew 3:16-17; Isaiah 48:16). Therefore, the one true God exists throughout all eternity as three equal Persons. It would be a contradiction to say that God is one God, but three Gods. It would also be a contradiction to say that God is one Person, but three Persons. But, it is not a contradiction to say that God is one God, but three Persons. God is one in nature, yet three in Personhood. Hence, according to the Bible, God is three Persons, and Jesus is fully God, the second Person of the Trinity.

The Incarnation is the doctrine of the Bible that teaches that God the Son became a man. Several passages mention this truth (Philippians 2:5-8; John 1:1, 14; 1 Timothy 3:16; Luke 1:35; Matthew 1:22-23; Galatians 4:4). It is not a contradiction to believe that God the second Person of the Trinity, while retaining His infinite divine nature, became a man by adding a finite human nature.

Ravenna Mosaic of Jesus ChristThe Hypostatic Union teaches that Jesus is one Person with two distinct natures forever. In other words, He is fully God and fully man. To be fully God, Jesus continues to have all the attributes or characteristics that are essential for God to have. To be fully man, Jesus has to have all the characteristics that are essential for humans to have.

It is not possible for God to cease to be God. We know that Jesus retained His divine nature while becoming a man, since Scripture commands us and the angels to worship Him even after He became a man (John 5:22-23; Hebrews 1:6), and He continued to be called “God” after He became a man (Titus 2:13; 2 Peter 1:1). As a man, He still claimed to be equal to the Father (John 5:17-18; 10:30-33). He also claimed to be omnipresent (Matthew 28:20). The Biblical portrait of Jesus clearly indicates that He is fully God.

Still, Scripture also declares Jesus to be fully a man. He is called a man (1 Timothy 2:5), was born of a woman (Galatians 4:4), and experienced the limitations of human existence (Mark 13:32; Luke 2:52; John 4:6; 19:28); yet, He was without sin (Hebrews 4:15).

Therefore, Jesus had two natures: one human and one divine. These two natures remained distinct; they did not blend. If His natures blended, He would not be fully man or fully God; He would be a hybrid. Jesus is not half-God and half-man, but fully God and fully man. Was Jesus limited? Yes, but only in His human nature (Mark 13:32). Was Jesus unlimited? Yes, but only in His divine nature (Matthew 28:20). Jesus is one Person with two distinct natures forever.

Jesus and the Children stained glass from St. Michaels ChurchThe Kenosis is the doctrine that teaches that Jesus veiled His glory and humbled Himself by becoming a man (Philippians 2:5-8). Though Jesus did not cease to be God when He became a man and though He retained all of His divine attributes, He voluntarily chose to refrain from using some of His divine attributes while on earth. Instead, He depended on the Father for any supernatural assistance He needed (John 5:19-21, 30). Jesus did not use His divine powers to His advantage while on earth. In His human nature He could learn things and grow in knowledge (Luke 2:52). Even though He continued to be the all-knowing God, He chose to not tap into His divine wisdom while on earth.

These four doctrines are biblically based. They help us to understand the true identity of the Jesus of the Bible. The Bible teaches that there is only one God, but this one God is three Persons (the Trinity). God the Son became a man (the incarnation) to save mankind by dying for our sins. The Son added a human nature without losing His divine nature. Therefore, Jesus is fully God and fully man (the hypostatic union). Still, He veiled His glory by choosing to not utilize some of His divine powers while on earth (the kenosis). Instead, He lived a life of total reliance on the Father and the Father’s will.