Christology

From the Archives: Christmas Marvel

Seven hundred years before Christ (i.e., Messiah) was born, the prophet Isaiah was told that He would be one person with two natures—divine and human.

At a time of great crisis for Israel, the house of David was given a great promise. “Then he said, ‘Hear now, O house of David! Is it a small thing for you to weary men, but will you weary my God also? Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son [i.e., fully human], and shall call His name Immanuel [i.e., God with us, fully divine]’” (Isa. 7:13-14). In the very next chapter, the prophet is told that the God of Israel is “Immanuel” (Isa. 8:8; cf. 8:10).

But how could a virgin have a child? That was the urgent question that Mary asked Gabriel, the messenger-angel sent from God: “How can this be, since I do not know a man?” (Luke 1:34). The answer was astounding, and is recorded by Luke, “the beloved physician” (Col. 4:14): “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit [i.e., the third person of the triune God] will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God…. For with God nothing will be impossible’ ” (Luke 1:35-37).

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Nazareth and the Royal Line

Although the Christmas tree has pagan origins, Christians have embraced its beauty for centuries as an important centerpiece of Christmas décor. I suggest that the Christmas tree branch should stir us most. Why is that?

Although we associate Christmas with Bethlehem, our Lord was conceived and reared in the small village of Nazareth in Israel’s northern province, Galilee. This is where Mary and Joseph grew up and lived. This is where an angel appeared to Mary and announced that she would mother the Messiah. This is where Joseph received a vision in a dream, assuring him that Mary truly had conceived while yet a virgin. The espoused couple travelled to the original city of David, Bethlehem, leaving what might be called the new village of David’s heirs, Nazareth.

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The Person and Work of Jesus Christ

(About this series)

CHAPTER VII THE PERSON AND WORK OF JESUS CHRIST

FROM “SOME RECENT PHASES OF GERMAN THEOLOGY,”*

BY BISHOP JOHN L. NUELSEN, D. D., M. E. CHURCH, OMAHA, NEB.

Every Old Testament problem becomes in course of time a New Testament question. Every Biblical question places us after a while face to face with Him who is the center of the whole Bible, with Jesus Christ. In the present discussion over the person and Gospel of Jesus Christ, I shall confine myself to pointing out briefly some of the most interesting and important features of this subject.

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The God-Man

(About this series)

CHAPTER V: THE GOD-MAN*

BY THE LATE JOHN STOCK

Jesus of Nazareth was not mere man, excelling others in purity of life and conduct and in sincerity of purpose, simply distinguished from other teachers by the fullness of His knowledge. He is the God-man. Such view of the person of Messiah is the assured foundation of the entire Scriptural testimony to Him, and it is to be irresistibly inferred from the style and strain in which He habitually spake of Himself. Of this inferential argument of the Saviour we can give here the salient points only in briefest presentation.

1. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God. We meet with this title in the Book of Daniel. It was used by Nebuchadnezzar to describe that fourth wonderful personage who walked with the three Hebrew confessors in the fire (3:25), and who was, doubtless, the Lord Jesus Christ revealing Himself in an assumed bodily form to His heroic servants. This majestic title is repeatedly appropriated to Himself by our Master. (See John 5:25; 9:35; 11:4, etc.) In His interview with Nicodemus He designated Himself, “The Only Begotten Son of God” (John 3:18).

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Did Jesus Descend into Hell?

Did Jesus “descend into Hell”? We discussed this one Wednesday night in our Doctrinal Disciples class. Here is a summary of the issue.

A commonly held view is that Jesus descended into Hades between His death and resurrection. Its popularity stems from the statement “he descended into hell” in one version of the Apostles Creed affirmed in many churches. It also appears to be supported by some NT texts such as Ephesians 4:9 and 1 Peter 3:19. This view usually argues that Jesus emptied the compartment of Sheol/Hades that contained the OT saints, whom He then transferred to heaven (“he led captivity captive” Eph. 4:8).

First, a little history. The earliest form of the Apostles Creed (2nd century AD) did not contain this statement. It appeared first in a Latin text of the Creed in the 6th century AD (descendit ad inferos, “he descended into the lower regions”). From there it began to appear in Greek versions of the Creed and finally morphed into “he descended into hell” in the Middle Ages. This statement was not included in the more detailed Nicene Creed which dates from 325 AD. Thus it appeared in no creed before the 6th century AD. It may have been mentioned by some of the fathers, but it definitely was not a distinctive doctrine confessed by the early church. The view developed quite fully in the Middle Ages. The expression “the harrowing of hell” describes his supposed action in emptying hell of its righteous OT inhabitants. They were supposedly the ones on the other side of that “great gulf” between the righteous and the wicked. But if it was such an important aspect of our Lord’s saving activity, why did it develop so late in church history?

If someone asks me what happened to Jesus after his death, I simply quote what Jesus stated and leave it at that: “Father into your hands I commit my spirit” (Luke 23:46). Why is that so difficult to understand?

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The Testimony of Christ to the Old Testament

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CHAPTER II THE TESTIMONY OF CHRIST TO THE OLD TESTAMENT

BY WILLIAM CAVEN, D. D., LL. D., LATE PRINCIPAL OF KNOX COLLEGE, TORONTO, CANADA

Both Jews and Christians receive the Old Testament as containing a revelation from God, while the latter regard it as standing in close and vital relationship to the New Testament. Everything connected with the Old Testament has, of recent years, been subjected to the closest scrutiny—the authorship of its several books, the time when they were written, their style, their historical value, their religious and ethical teachings. Apart from the veneration with which we regard the Old Testament writings on their own account, the intimate connection which they have with the Christian Scriptures necessarily gives us the deepest interest in the conclusions which may be reached by Old Testament criticism. For us the New Testament Dispensation presupposes and grows out of the Mosaic, so the books of the New Testament touch those of the Old at every point: In vetere testamento novum latet, et in novo vetus patet. (In the Old Testament the New is concealed, and in the New the Old is revealed.)

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