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ʻAND THE WORD WAS MADE FLESHʼ

John 1: 14

By A. Prentice

 

All Scripture references are to the King James (Authorised) Version, unless stated otherwise.

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THE WORD who was ʻmade fleshʼ is denoted in the Greek text as logos, the one who spoke and acted for God, as though God Himself. This logos existed ʻin the beginning with Godʼ (John 1: 2). In v. 14 the Apostle John identifies this logos as Christ Jesus, who ʻdwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truthʼ.

 

The function, attributes and office of the logos remain a matter of profound mystery and theological contention. Apart from the specific and startling information passed on to us by the Apostle John – the source of which would seem to have been divine revelation – there are hints scattered throughout both Old and New Testaments. None of these details could have been reasonably understood without Jesusʼ testimony about His own person, His mission and the nature of His relationship with His Heavenly Father.

 

To the question posed by Jesus to His disciples, ʻWhom say ye that I am?ʼ (Matt. 16: 15), most Christians will answer, ʻYou are God, the second Person of the triune Godheadʼ. So deeply entrenched in church orthodoxy is the doctrine of the Trinity that those who refuse to acknowledge it are esteemed to be non-Christian, heretics, and are shunned.

 

Orthodoxy Prevails

Out of the debates which took place at the Council of Nice in 325 the Nicene Creed emerged. Among other matters, it pronounced on what has become the official doctrine of the Trinity, rejecting the contrary opinion of Arius, who held that God and Christ are separate and not – in the words of the majority opinion of the Council – ʻconsubstantialʼ.

 

Nonetheless, the teachings of Arius (Arianism) persisted in various forms until about the seventh century. But as one of the central tenets of the Roman Catholic church, the doctrine of the Trinity was enforced by her against those individuals and communities who dissented from it. And despite the wide-ranging defection from Rome during the Reformation of the sixteenth century, the Trinity doctrine survived the reactionary mood and was ferried across the theological divide. Having imported it into their own reformed creeds, the new Protestant denominations in their turn continued to punish those who dissented on this point. One of the most shameful examples was the burning at the stake in 1553 of the anti-Trinitarian Michael Servetus, in which his adversary John Calvin exercised an influential role.

 

The Effect of the Curse On the Search for Truth

 

Our sun's wide glare, our heaven's shining blue,

We owe to fog and dust they fumble through;

And our rich wisdom that we treasure so,

Shines from a thousand things that we don't know.

               

– Heroism (Charlotte (Anna) Perkins Gilman; 1860-1935)

 

With Godʼs pronouncement of the curse and the death sentence on Adam and his descendants, and mankind's subsequent separation from Godʼs fellowship, the acquiring of knowledge – theological and secular – has been an imperfect pursuit, fraught with error. In every era of history, mankind's understanding on any subject is of the sort described by St. Paul – as seeing through a glass ʻdarklyʼ (ʻa poor reflectionʼ, NIV-UK) (1 Cor. 13: 12).

 

But despite our inherited mental imperfections or personal inability to comprehend heavenly truth with total clarity, one may – under the guidance of the Word and the influence of the holy spirit – understand tolerably well for the purposes of salvation. But we should remember that the degree of understanding necessary for the sanctification of the believer has varied over the centuries: from the simplicity and purity of the Apostlesʼ day, to the centralisation of church practice and evisceration of biblical truth during the Apostasy, to the partial restoration of essential truths at the Reformation and onwards.

 

Like filtered daylight, the doctrine of Three-Persons-In-One has served to distort the truth about Christ's nature and the scope and effects of the salvation process. Nonetheless, the winsome character and virtue of Christ shines through the smog of ignorance and penetrates the mind and heart of all who claim Him as Saviour and King, regardless of doctrinal affiliation. All such are Brothers and Sisters in Christ, even though they occasionally evict one another from their preferred temples (John 16: 2, 3).

 

To misquote Bagehot, it is not letting daylight in upon mystery to argue that Christ is not God. There is still enough mystery to go around without complicating matters unnecessarily. Regardless of how much we learn about the character of Jehovah God – the singular, Supreme Being – we will never fully understand Him. He is unfathomable, straddling Eternity past and future, whose methods and procedures transcend human wisdom (Psa. 145: 3; Rom. 11: 33, 34). Nonetheless, to analyse the role and subordinate position of Christ as the Saviour – that is, the means by which salvation is accomplished – is by no means an attempt to denigrate the grandeur of the process, the most stupendous thing in the Universe.

 

Behold the Man

As the ʻransom for allʼ, Jesus was a replica of the first perfect man, Adam. But unlike the first Adam, Jesus as the second Adam was obedient to death (1 Cor. 15: 45). Having been thus tested and tried and proved victorious, God promoted Him to a nature He had not previously held as the logos, and from then on He was seated at the right hand of God (Phil. 2: 8-11).

 

It is worth noting that in order to satisfy all the Scripture texts bearing on the humanity of Christ – and thus tipping a hat to the Arians among us – many adherents of the Trinity doctrine are obliged to describe Christ as a dual entity, declaring that He was simultaneously wholly God and wholly Man. Thus they indirectly concede that Jesus in the flesh was confronted with the hazard of fallibility and the possibility of failure, a thing difficult to reconcile with a role in the Trinity. As the noted Bible scholar, R. C. Sproule has observed:

 

Could Jesus have wanted to sin? Theologians are divided on this point. I would say yes, I think he could have. I think that's part of being made after the likeness of Adam. When we're in heaven and are totally glorified, then we will no longer have the power and ability to sin. That's what we look forward to; that's what Jesus earned for himself and for us through his perfect obedience. Christ's perfect obedience was not a charade. He actually was victorious over every conceivable temptation that was thrown his way.

            – Now, That’s a Good Question! (1996)

 

The Ransom-Sacrifice: A Corresponding Price

Christ's death purchases the believing sinner in a unique demonstration of Godʼs justice: Adam the perfect man sinned and God passed the sentence of death on him. Jesus the perfect man offered Himself in place of Adam, prospectively releasing Adam and his offspring from this curse and all its consequences. This is the ʻransom for allʼ mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:

 

5 [T]here is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6 Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time.

 

The Apostle Paul lays emphasis on this principle of equivalence in 1 Corinthians 15:

 

22 For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive.

 

That is to say, all those affected by the curse on Adam – the entire human family, past, present and future – will receive the saving merit of Christ's death once they believe in Him as their Saviour. Some will avail themselves of the privilege now; the vast majority will take their opportunity later, in Christ's earthly Kingdom, following a general resurrection.

 

The stark conclusion is that the Ransom-sacrifice as a transaction of equivalence is not feasible under the doctrine of the Trinity.

 

Christ Alone, By Faith Alone

The Ransom-sacrifice of Christ guarantees an opportunity for all people to become right with God through faith, to have their sins forgiven, and to enter into a contract of grace. There can be no salvation outside this arrangement. Only the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross furnishes the basis for forgiveness and eternal life. God cannot pardon sin except on a righteous basis. And only the Ransom-sacrifice of Christ the Man explains the process through which God expunges sin's condemnation and yet remains just and fair.

 

To sum up: Christ does not save because He belongs to a Trinity, but because He does not.

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Copyright October 2013 ukbiblestudents.co.uk

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