“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:”
1st Timothy 3:16a
It is with great pause that I enter into the task before me. Describing the nature of Jesus Christ brings both joy and questions at the same time. The more we discover about Who Jesus truly is, the more comfort we have in His eternal power and glory. But at the same time, we discover that there is so much more to this nature than we can ever fully comprehend. And so, we glory in the mystery of the godliness of Jesus Christ.
Paul, having described to Timothy in great detail what type of men should be officers in the church, tells Timothy why it is so important to pay attention to these kind of details. It is because the church is not simply a social gathering of people. It is the house of God. It is the church of the living God. And it is the pillar and ground of the truth. The church has the responsibility to hold up the truth of Who Jesus Christ is to one another and to the world (1st Timothy 3:15).
However, that truth is a huge mystery. The nature of Jesus Christ is a subject that natural man cannot even begin to comprehend. And, as Paul will describe later in his letter to Timothy, it is a mystery that any would believe it!
The godliness of Jesus Christ, or the nature of Who He is, is clearly stated in scripture but that does not mean that it is easily understood. Yet, even though we may not understand it, the Bible shows us that we can fully believe it.
The first thing to observe about the nature of Christ according to scripture is that He is fully God and fully man at the same time. When Jesus was manifest in the flesh, He did not stop being God. Nor did He become half God and half man. Just as the Great Three-One God (Trinity) is three persons in One God, Jesus is 100% God and 100% man at the same time. He has two natures in one Person.
Paul describes Jesus as the “great God” to Titus:
“Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ;”
Further, Paul tells the church of Colosse that Jesus is fully God:
“For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.”
Jesus is fully God. Jesus was fully God when He walked the shores of Galilee and taught throughout Judea and Samaria. But Jesus was also fully man at the same time. He describes His human nature Himself after His resurrection:
“And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you. But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit. And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? And why do thoughts arise in your hearts? Behold my hands and my feet, that it is I myself: handle me, and see; for a spirit hath not flesh and bones, as ye see me have. And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat? And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb. And he took it, and did eat before them.”
God is a spirit (John 4:24) but Jesus is also a man. He proves it to the disciples and us in the above passage. He shows the wounds in His flesh and He eats a meal. These are things of human nature, not Godly nature.
Thomas, who had doubted that the Lord had been resurrected unless he saw Him and touched Him, gives us an excellent picture of how we should view Jesus as God and man. He desired to see and touch the wounds of Jesus in His physical body before he could believe that Jesus was resurrected. In John’s account of the same event recorded in Luke 24, Jesus appears unto Thomas and allows him to see and touch His wounds.
“And after eight days again his disciples were within, and Thomas was with them: then came Jesus, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, Peace be unto you. Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless but believing. And Thomas said unto him, My Lord and my God.”
In this scene, Jesus appears in the midst of the congregation by a miraculous appearing. The doors were shut but He appears anyway. Further, Jesus shows that He is flesh and blood by telling Thomas that not only can he see the wounds, but he can touch them as well. Finally, at the sight of the humanity of Jesus, Thomas proclaims the Deity of Jesus!
As I have already mentioned, the way that Jesus can be fully God and fully man at the same time is not described in detail in scripture. It is simply stated as a fact. I am not sure if there is a way to describe this dual nature to our human minds. In fact, I am not sure we will even understand it in eternity.
So, how should we react to this mysterious truth? Just like Thomas did! The more we see and understand the true nature of Jesus, the more we should declare Him God and Lord.
One of the cornerstones of the gospel is the fact that God became man and dwelt among us. Jesus Christ came in the flesh. The church has the high calling to uphold the truth in an unbelieving world. Its members must therefore know how to recognize truth. Thankfully, the Lord inspired John to show us how to judge the messages and doctrines that we hear:
“Beloved, believed not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus is come in the flesh is not of God” and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”
1st John 4:1-3
Forgive this feeble effort to describe such a Great God and Savior as we have.