Section 4: Jesus
Week 2: Jesus Is Fully God
Day 2: Jesus Did Not Cease to Be God When He Became Human
Jesus is fully God. As we saw yesterday, that means he has always existed. There was never a time when God the Son did not exist. The same cannot be said of the human Jesus. Jesus the human being came into existence at a specific point in time. Before his conception, the human Jesus did not exist. Theologians refer to the process by which the Son became human as the Incarnation. What happened in that process? Did the Son have to give up some of his divine attributes to become human? Some have thought so. In part that’s because Paul describes the Incarnation this way in Philippians 2:6-7:
[Jesus] being in the 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.
That sounds like the Son was no longer equal to God after the Incarnation; by becoming human, he became something less than he was before. At first glance, that makes some sense. Human beings do not possess all the attributes God does. We aren’t omnipotent. We aren’t omniscient. We aren’t eternal. So is Paul saying Jesus had to give those things up in order to become fully human?
No. Paul is talking about something entirely different. That Jesus didn’t consider equality with God something to be grasped doesn’t mean that he let go of his equality with God. The word the NIV has translated with the phrase “something to be grasped” means “something to be taken advantage of.”[i] So Paul is saying Jesus did not consider his equality with God to be something that he would use for his own advantage. Rather than being concerned about what was to his advantage, Jesus was concerned about what was to our advantage. That is why he was willing to become human. He knew we needed him to.
If Jesus didn’t give up equality with God, that means he remained fully God, even after the Incarnation. That’s what makes the Incarnation so miraculous. Jesus did not give up any of the attributes that made him God, yet somehow took on all of the attributes that make us human. In other words, “Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.”[ii]
Read Philippians 2:5-11 again. List the human terms that are used for Jesus. List the God terms that are used for Jesus.
When you think of Jesus living in the flesh, what images come to mind? Do you think of him in more human terms or more in God terms? Why do you think you focus on one more than the other?
[i]Gordon D. Fee, Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. 1995), 206-209.
[ii] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Doctrine (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House 1994), 563.