Home About Us Apostolic Free Library Questions & Answers Guestbook Order Online Search The Network

Additional comments on Jesus heavenly flesh.

Submitted: 11/8/2010
Post a comment or
ask a follow-up question
Question: You write: I say, this, in my opinion, is where his theology breaks down. The rest is debatable. We believe he is incorrect, but we are all probably in error on one thing or another. Thankfully God forgives. However, this one point is, I fear, a grave heresy. He is trying to assert that God did not actually need to become human at all to atone for sin. My response: You are misrepresenting my words here by taking one remark out of context. God is omnipotent, so in principle He is capable of doing everything that is not illogical or in any way against His nature of love and goodness. God in the end had to put on flesh to save mankind. That is a fact. However, taking on flesh does not necessarily mean that His flesh was in every way the same as ours. Coming in a body in our likeness or form is also the method He chose from the beginning, when He said: “let us create man after our own image”. That prophecy was fulfilled after the resurrection of Christ, when Adam (who is a shadow of Him to come, Rom 5:14) could put on the new man created after righteousness (Christ is called the firstborn of many brethren, the fist begotten from the dead). Man is created truly in the image of God only after he has put on the body of Jesus in the new birth. Before that, Adam is just a shadow of the image of God. Christ can never be Adamic in nature, because Christ took the shadow away. You write: He uses the adjective 'corrupt' to describe humanity's 'nature' (rightly so), but then declares, 'God can suffer for us outside of His flesh just as well.' Do you see my point? Isaiah 63:16 says nothing about God suffering. Perhaps he wrote an incorrect Scripture passage, but I don't find his analogy of emotional sorrow of the Spirit to equate with the physical death of Jesus Christ in atoning for my sin. If God's sorrow was enough to atone for sin, then there was no need for Christ. My response: Isaiah 63:9 reads: “In all their affliction he was afflicted, and the angel of his presence saved them: in his love and in his pity he redeemed them; and he bare them, and carried them all the days of old.” Looking at the context and verses 10 and beyond, it is clear that this passage is speaking about the Lord Yehovah as Spirit before the birth of Christ. God is suffering for the sins of His children. The same Spirit that was in Christ suffered for us even before He robed Himself in flesh. I am not saying that God’s sorrow in itself is enough to save mankind. But God is One and He is capable of suffering and lamenting for us because He is a living God from eternity to eternity. Look at Romans 8:26 and put it together with 2 Cor 5:19. The deep mystery of God manifesting in flesh comes alight here. God was in Christ, reconciling us to Himself. The same Spirit is in us, making intercession. To whom is the Spirit praying? Not to a dual nature or distinct person, but to Himself. The mystery of Christ is that God Himself took on flesh and cried and sorrowed and suffered for us on earth as He had been doing in heaven. You write: However, I did cover this point in the writing of Paul at 1 Corinthians 15. The Bible may not distinctly address this issue, but we can also assume that the writers did not feel this was even necessary. When John wrote, 'and the Word was made flesh' in opposition to Docetic Gnosticism, any rational person would have understood the natural meaning of that passage. It is when we attempt to over-spiritualize the text that we miss the obvious. My response: You seem to be unable to command this debate without employing some Gnostic mud-slinging. If you feel like labeling me as some type of heretic, please go ahead, I have been called worse than that for preaching this truth . (Let me just add that I consider you a brother in Christ). For your information, (and hopefully putting that issue to rest and focus on the facts instead) I am not a docetist. The docetists believed that Jesus was a ghost of some kind. I am using pure Biblical Language. Jesus is the Father manifested in flesh, the Word of God made flesh. His flesh was glorious, incorruptible, and the bread from heaven as the Bible says. The apostle Paul says there are different kinds of flesh, and all the angels worshipped the Son (the flesh aspect). The flesh of Jesus is a covering for our sin, so the real logic would be in trying to find out why the Son is so special and called “the only begotten Son” and not just a corruptible human being indwelt by the Spirit as oneness theology would imply. Br Johannes from Den Haag

Answer: I certainly apologize if I have misunderstood your intended statement, but your original point seemed to be quite clear: “God can suffer for us outside of His flesh just as well.” This implies that an atonement was unnecessary. You then confirm this implication by saying, “God makes it clear that He suffers from our sins. That was written long before the Son was begotten. Jesus had real flesh and blood, but the fact that the Father took on flesh is not the reason He can suffer. God from the beginning is in sorrow for our failure to be holy.” This further illustrates the idea that an atonement was unnecessary. If this wasn’t what you meant to say, then you should be more careful with your words.

The atonement was absolutely necessary. The Bible speaks clearly of “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Rev. 13:8). From the very beginning, God’s plan of redemption was set forth. The atonement was necessary, and that atonement was to be Christ Jesus the Lord. The atonement required the complete death of the sacrifice (Heb. 9:22). Total death requires a complete cessation of all metabolic function, which in turn, allows entropy to run its full course in a closed system. Therefore, Jesus Christ’s body would have decayed if the resurrection had not occurred. To say otherwise is to deny his actual death. To deny his death is deny his sacrifice, and to deny his sacrifice is to deny him altogether.

You use the phrase “dust-flesh” repeatedly. Adam was formed from the dust of the ground (Gen. 2:7), but he was the only person to be formed in such manner. The rest of humanity has been born of woman (cf. 1 Cor. 11:12), including Jesus Christ. I understand that you believe Jesus, having been born of Mary, had to somehow be protected from adopting her “flesh,” but to do so robs Jesus of his own human kinship. If the Son of Man had been fashioned in a similar manner as Adam, i.e., God forming him outside of any relationship with other human beings, then Christ could not be the necessary atonement for humanity’s sin. However, because Christ was subjected to the same flesh as the rest of humanity, being born of a woman, he could perform the much needed task of redemption.

It appears you presume that God formed the zygote inside Mary’s woman without using any of Mary’s DNA. However, you don’t consider the rest of the gestation process by which the developing embryo receives nourishment, antibodies, etc. During the process of implantation, where the embryo attaches itself to the mother’s uterus, the placenta is formed linking blood vessels to allow the transfer and sharing of oxygen and nutrients from the mother’s bloodstream. Embryos cannot survive long-term apart from implantation. The developing embryo of Jesus Christ also followed this same process within the womb of Mary. Regardless of whether Christ shared Mary’s DNA (which I believe he did), he still shared Mary’s body because of the gestation process. The body of Christ and Mary were linked.

Furthermore, the “dust of the ground” can be understood in light of modern biology. We know that our bodies are comprised of various protein chains based on the carbon atom. When our bodies cease to intake the proper essentials to sustain life, we die and entropy ensues. Our bodies decay and return to the base elements of which we are comprised. So too was the body of Christ. Like us, his body was composed of the various carbon protein chains so that, when his body died, entropy commenced. To deny this is to deny his true humanity.

You corrected your Scriptural reference from Isaiah 63:16 to v. 9, thank you. But that still does not alter my point. The analogy of emotional suffering does not equate with the physical death that was required to atone for sin. You claim, “I am not saying that God’s sorrow in itself is enough to save mankind. But God is One and He is capable of suffering and lamenting for us.” The use of 'but' weakens your preceding statement; it doesn’t strengthen it. Your point here is irrelevant to the issue at hand. Christ had to become fully human in order to die as our atonement. Being fully human required Christ’s body to be subject to entropy.

You fail to understand the comparison with your theology with Gnosticism. This is not ad homonym; it is not a personal attack. The Docetic Gnostics argued that Christ was not fully human—that he was a spirit (as you’ve mentioned). I understand that you do not share that same belief; you are not a Docetic Gnostic, and no one has called you one. The comparison is merely that most Gnostics, regardless of any particular persuasion, argued their point on the same principle that you argue yours, i.e., Christ could not be subject to corrupted flesh. You believe that Jesus did not possess the physiology of mankind—-that Jesus’ physiology was somehow superior: divine, heavenly “flesh,” using “biblical language” as you put it. All of this is merely fancy verbiage to dance around the real issue. Did Jesus Christ have a truly human body or not? If not, then he could not be the true sacrifice for sin.

You want to distinguish, using Paul’s reference in 1 Corinthians 15, between the “flesh” of man and the “flesh” of Christ: “all flesh is not the same flesh” (v. 39). You also appeal to the usage of “biblical language.” Well then, let’s look at the passage in true biblical context. οὐ πᾶσα σὰρξ ἡ αὐτὴ σάρξ. Paul’s distinguishes between various kinds of σάρξ, noting that there exists one ἀνθρώπων (of men), another κτηνῶν (of animals), another ἰχθύων (of fish), and yet another πτηνῶν (of birds). However, in this passage, there is nothing special said about σὰρξ Χριστοῦ (flesh of Christ). Therefore, we can only conclude that Paul understood the body of Christ to be that ἀνθρώπων (of men).

I am sure that you will want to appeal to the next verse (v. 40) which denotes a distinction between celestial and terrestrial bodies: σώματα ἐπουράνια καὶ σώματα ἐπίγεια. Yet again, we must note that there is no special designation regarding σώματα Χριστοῦ. Thus, we must conclude that Christ, before his death, was subject to σώματα ἐπίγεια as all other men. At his resurrection, he received σώματα ἐπουράνια as we also shall receive because Jesus was the firstfruits of the resurrection (1 Cor. 15:20-23). For truly Paul writes, “δι᾽ ἀνθρώπου ὁ θάνατος καὶ δι᾽ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν,” by man, the death -– and by man, resurrection of the dead (v. 21, noting the consistent usage of ἀνθρώπου for both Adam and Jesus). The distinction between the celestial and terrestrial should be obvious to most, but you want to mystify the issue by saying that Christ’s physical body was actually celestial, thereby totally destroying the significance of the words’ separateness.

σάρξ and σῶμα are not the same words; there is a distinction between them. Thayer writes regarding σάρξ, “the body, not designating it, however, as a skillful combination of related parts (‘an organism,’ which is denoted by the word σῶμα), but signifying the material or substance of the living body,” and then supports his point by referencing the Greek Aeschylus’ writings of the 4th century BC and the Greek Septuagint. According to Vine, σῶμα (as used in Paul’s writing at 1 Cor. 15) means “the body as a whole, the instrument of life.” He notes also that σάρξ (in 1 Cor. 15) is “the substance of the body.” Both Vine and Thayer note a distinction in the words.

In conclusion, as Paul clearly writes, “God [sent] his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” He was made in the same reality as our flesh, but only in the 'ikeness' of its sinful condition. As I’ve already illustrated, Jesus’ physical body was, in all manner, the same as yours and mine. The difference was that, unlike you and me, he did not sin.

I fully realize that, ultimately, you have already committed yourself to your presuppositions. Those presuppositions determine how you will read Scripture and what you allow yourself to believe. As such, I do not expect you to be swayed by anything I have said. I write these things to show the difference between your belief and mine so that others will be able to make up their own minds. God bless.