Nature of Christ
by Glen Striemer
By: Glen Striemer, April 10, 2014
If there is one sermon which is taboo to preach within the confines of the SDA Church, that subject has to be on the subject of The Nature of Christ. It is deemed too divisive and often evokes a tumult between good standing members at the topic’s mere mention. Often the Ellen White card is pulled out with reference to an obscure letter she wrote to a minister named Baker, where she told the man to “be exceedingly careful” how he presented the matter of Christ assuming human nature. We have generally concluded that as a church we should not discuss this delicate matter. We seem content to wait it out until the Second Coming, waiting in dead silence until the day we can ask our Saviour, “Which of the two natures did you assume in Your humanity?” Seriously, when is the last time you heard a sermon from an SDA minister on the subject of the nature of Christ? Our early Bible Readings For the Home Circle sold by colporteurs stated Christ assumed our fallen nature. Newer versions ignore the subject totally. However, if you Google critics of the SDA Church and listen to their rants against Ellen White, they almost always include references to her stating Christ took upon Himself our fallen, polluted nature. This is strange since many leaders in our church conclude Ellen White’s writings to be inconclusive even though her references to the fallen nature of Christ overwhelmingly outweigh her odd statement indicating that Jesus took the unfallen nature of Adam. So, in fairness of this study, Ellen White quotes will not be used as proof of position, but the Bible and the Bible alone will verify which nature Christ assumed. According to Scripture it is seriously flawed to adapt a mute position on the nature of Christ.
“Without controversy great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). It appears if we can determine which flesh God’s son was manifested in, then the subject is not controversial. There is only one flesh mentioned in the entire Strong’s Concordance when it comes to humanity. The word is sarx, and in the King James concordance here is the translation: carnal flesh. When the Bible says, “The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us,” (John 1:14), it says the Word was made sarx. In order to find “the Word was made unfallen flesh,” you must head to the concordances printed for the newer translations which of course concur with the scholars who wrote this flesh of Jesus was without any suggestion of depravity.
The apostle John wrote dynamically about the flesh of Jesus. “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh [sarx] is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not that Jeus Christ is come in the flesh [sarx] 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” (1 John 3:2-3). Does the Antichrist have a position on the nature of Christ? Absolutely, and a cornerstone: Mary, the mother of God, the Queen of Heaven, was born with immaculate flesh in order that her son Jesus would be born immaculate, untainted by carnal human flesh. When the Protestant world believes this theory it adapts its understanding of doctrine and accepts one of the signature marks of the spirit of the antichrist.
The sad thing about Adam’s fall is that it took place while he possessed unfallen flesh. The beautiful thing about the Second Adam was He came in the fallen flesh of humanity. Adam was created by the hand of God out of dust. Had Jesus appeared like unfallen Adam, He too would have been made out of dust and probably walked into Jerusalem in the lofty and noble manhood of Adam’s creation, where every soul would have bowed in reverence to their perfect Messiah. Instead, the prophecies were fulfilled regarding the heavenly seed, “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4). Mary, from the royal line of King David’s seed, was the best of all women chosen, but by no means was she immaculate. God chose to introduce the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world as merged with something He could not create—fallen, depraved, polluted, carnal flesh. “That Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall come upon thee and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee” (Luke 1: 35).
Satan thought he had Jesus ripe for a fall when he knew Jesus had assumed the continuously defeated nature of mankind. But God’s perfect plan of salvation would demonstrate once for all what happens when a born again carnal flesh meets temptation head on. Jesus never yielded to temptation by thought or deed. There have been occasions when we ourselves, full of the Holy Ghost have met vicious temptations head on and walked away victorious. Examining the miracles of Jesus, there doesn’t appear to be one that hasn’t somewhere been duplicated by a Bible character with fallen flesh—reading minds, axe heads floating on water, the dead raised, seas parted, people being miraculously fed, and the list goes on. The Reformation is also full of men going to the stake and rack full of the Holy Ghost and bravely choosing death before dishonouring Christ. It is the mystery of godliness at work in mankind.
Here is the mystery of iniquity as found in the Book of Daniel: “It is a rare thing that the king requireth and there is none other that can shew it before the king, except the gods whose dwelling is not with flesh” (Dan. 2:11). The absolute proof text of the antichrist will always be “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Ps. 51:5). Behold the severe lamentation of a king who had committed one of the most grievous crimes a man could construe: to steal away another man’s wife, and then have the husband killed in order to keep her. David was the chosen anointed King of Israel, once the man after God’s own heart, author of the Psalms and the type of Christ to come. How could he conclude anything other regarding his existence after such a pitfall from grace? If King David with so much privilege and favour could fall so far, then it must be the lot of all men to do likewise due to birth itself. Because of this verse, most baptisms in the world have been for babies deemed too sinful to launch their lives without it. Yea, the antichrist concludes like David did that it is a sin to be born, even a sin to have been conceived. That is depressing. A common sense rendering of this verse would be that all human conception and birth is saddled with the restrictions of fallen, corrupted, sinful flesh.
In any discussion of how much Jesus was “like” us, it is only fair to mention all the ways in which He is so unlike us. It would fill many books. Only Jesus was the Son of God, equal with His Father from eternity; only Jesus took humanity into Him from before the foundation of the world; He created the worlds and by Him these same worlds exist; only He could be the Lamb slain in the Garden of Eden; only He gave purpose to the Holy Spirit of the Godhead through which the Bible was written; only through Him do prayers of the saints ascend; only He became incarnate; only He could die on a cross and use His shed blood to forgive all manner of sin; only He is the Saviour of the world; only He is coming back again; and only He sacrificed His omnipresence in becoming us. Thus, in any discussion regarding the nature of Christ it is an error to dwell solely upon how much He is just like us. We need to see how much Jesus is unlike us in order to appreciate the fallen nature He assumed.
What is the purpose of Christ assuming fallen flesh? Primarily it is so believers can know of a certainty when Christ dwells within our hearts with His faith, there is not a single sin or temptation that can overpower us in our fallen flesh. A born again flesh overcomes sin every time. In the case of Jesus it lasted His entire life. What father would counsel his enquiring daughter before her first date: “My child, when you go out tonight, I must inform you that in spite of your best efforts to be good, you will end up doing the things you don’t want to do and you will be unable to do the things you have been taught from your childhood.” Even a child would know this thinking is messed up. What missionary would knock on a door and tell the people: “I have something wonderful to share. If you follow the God of this Bible, you will continually fall short of the mark, and your flesh will rule in spite of your best intentions to change your life.” They would look at you and say, “Don’t need it; I’ve got this experience already.”
Seven times in Revelation chapters 2 and 3, Jesus lays down the victory challenge available to believers:
What Jesus promises His followers is the power to be victorious over sin even whilst labouring within a carnal tent of flesh. Otherwise, Jesus is asking us to do something which He Himself dared not to attempt—live a victorious life in sinful flesh. When the question is finally asked Jesus in heaven, “Which nature did You assume?” there are only two possible answers: “It is true, I am not ashamed to be called your brethren because I took your sinful flesh.” But what if Jesus answers, “There is no way I could have been victorious on earth unless I took Adam’s unfallen flesh.” If so, the next logical question would be, “Then why did you ask me to do something You wouldn’t attempt?”
There is a world of difference in attitude between thinking “I am doomed to fail in fighting sin” and “I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me” (Phil. 4:13).
From the beginning it has always been about the Seed of Promise. To assume Christ took the unfallen nature then we have a situation whereby Mary is a surrogate mother with an implantation in her uterus of a pre-fertilized egg via the Holy Spirit. Or you could go with the spirit of the antichrist whereby Mary’s nature was immaculate, joined by the immaculate Holy Ghost? Anything else picks up the fallen human nature.
There is an undeniable prophetic emphasis placed on the human aspect of the seed’s participation as it journeys towards Mary. The chosen seed twists and winds down through time from fallen Adam, onto the ark, and we’ll join the storyline where God is prophesying to Moses: “The Lord thy God will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto Me; and unto Him ye shall hearken…. I will raise them up a Prophet from among their brethren, like unto thee, and will put My words in His mouth” (Deut. 18:15, 18). “Hath not the Scripture said, That Christ cometh of the seed of David, and out of the town of Bethlehem?” (John 7:42). In the two New Testament genealogies leading to Christ, one strain concludes with Mary, the other for good measure ends with stepfather Joseph.
In every discussion concerning the nature of Christ comes the inevitable question: “If Christ had a fallen nature then who was His Saviour?” Of course this query falsely assumes it is a sin to be born. After Adam sinned in the Garden, he became the benefactor of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. Adam lost the world; however, Christ won the world to the point where a child is not a sinner by being born. Therefore Christ could enter into this world saddled down with a born-again human flesh and not be called a sinner. Nonetheless, to answer this objection we point you to the Saviour, whom Christ depended upon for everything. “Thou art My Son…. Thou art a priest forever…. Who in the days of His flesh, when he had offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him that was able to save Him from death and was heard in that He feared” (Heb. 5:5-7). Just how much did Jesus rely on His Father while on earth? Although all the disciples heard it, the beloved John was the one disciple who made it a point to report strongly upon it: “I can of My own self do nothing…because I seek the will of the Father which hath sent Me” (John 5:30). “The Father that dwelleth in Me, He doeth the works” (John 14:10). “The Son can do nothing of Himself, but what He seeth the Father do” (John 5:19). “Father, the hour is come; glorify Thy Son as Thou hast given Him power over all flesh” (John 17:1-2).
There is a global church which has built a foundation upon the false premise that Jesus was in some way inferior to His Father, in that He was created. They stand not alone upon the idea that Jesus was created. This was the mainstay belief of the SDA Church back in the beginning, with the notable exception of Ellen G. White, who came from a Trinity-believing Methodist background and W.W. Prescott who wrote the famous phrase which ended up in the Desire of Ages: “In Christ is life…unborrowed, underived.” The Jehovah’s Witness look to Philippians 2:5-8 to prove their subservient position of Christ. We look to Philippians to prove the Divine became man. Here are three translations declaring the Divine nature of Christ: “The divine nature was His from the beginning” (20th Century NT); “He has always been God by nature” (Philips); “His nature is from the first divine” (Knox). “Yet, did not cling to His prerogatives as God’s equal” (Philips), “but stripped Himself of His glory” (Conybeare) “and took upon Him the nature of a bondservant” (Weymouth NT) “and to be born like other men” (Norlie NT). “And being recognized as truly human” (Weymouth NT), “He lived obediently” (Berkeley NT) “going so far as to actually die a criminal’s death on a cross” (Taylor).
If you wish to accurately describe the life Christ assumed on earth, then Peter lays it out in terms we can all understand: “Whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises; that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (2 Pet. 1:4).
We need to praise and exalt our Lord for coming to us with a divine nature which assumed the nature of the bondservant, yet still found a way to never yield to the pull of the flesh. Yet, the Jehovah's Witnesses demean Him by saying He was not equal with God. Our Saviour stooped so low and gave up equality as not something to grasp to retain, and we dare question His equality with the Father? God understood the sacrifice and declared He had “highly exalted Him, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow” (Phil. 2:9-10). Instead of marvelling at what Jesus did and the victory He won in defective flesh, some men say He is not equal with God, while others say He did it with superior flesh. And to this end we are ashamed to write their reports.
Much has been said about the missing comma found in the story of the thief on the cross, where churches place the man into heaven before Christ got there. There is another missing comma with equally important ramifications in our study on the nature of Christ. It is found in Romans 8:3. The KJV reads: “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” According to this comma placement, the text strongly indicates there is no way the law could be kept in the weakness of flesh, so God sent His Son in a look-alike nature to finally defeat this persistent flesh. Now, watch what happens to our understanding when we reissue the comma where it is wont to be: “For what the law could not do in that it was weak, through the flesh, God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh.” It is the law which is declared weak in that it cannot save anybody. It is the plan of God to send His Son in the only flesh spoken of in the Concordance, the sarx, where He defeated the flesh once for all by a perfect performance! That is the Gospel truth.
Most Christians do not think there was any chance that Christ could have failed His mission. Most Adventists believe Christ could have failed when operating in the sinless flesh wherein untainted Adam fell. However, if God were to have given Adam and Eve a second chance and said for them to start over, chances are they never would have failed, for the Bible says the “affliction shall not rise up the second time.” So, if we are expected to live forever in glorified natures and choose to never sin again, then Jesus coming in the nature of pre-fall Adam, His fight against Satan and sin would have been a cakewalk. There is no way He sins. Satan would have given up his fight early on. However, if Jesus came to us in the post-fall nature of Adam, it is “game on” for Satan’s crew.
Here is a misunderstood verse that shows from the beginning it was always a divine risk to send Jesus in our fallen flesh. God says to King David (most assume the prophecy is about his son Solomon but it is speaking of an eternal throne, thus Jesus is the focus): “I will set up thy seed after thee, which shall proceed out of thy bowels, and I will establish His kingdom. He shall build an house for My name, and I will stablish the throne of His kingdom forever. I will be His Father, and He shall be My Son. If He commit iniquity, I will chasten Him with the rod of men, and with the stripes of the children of men: But My mercy shall not depart away from Him…. And thine house and thy kingdom shall be established fore ever before thee” (2 Sam. 7:12-16). The possibility to fail His mission was very real. This was no actor’s script Jesus was to follow. This was the battle of eternity to see if One assuming fallen humanity could redeem mankind.
In speculation, what if Jesus had stumbled and sinned? Then the common death of mankind was his lot. There is no sacrifice for sin. There is no resurrection, no hope for humanity. Satan wins; God loses. But that is not the end. “By Him all things consist” (Col. 1:17). All of His creations begin to fall apart. The Holy Spirit who lives to tell us about Jesus has no longer any purpose. And who is there to show and tell us of the Father’s love in living, breathing form? Satan is deemed to be more powerful than God. It is far more than Jesus simply retreating to heaven with 10,000 angels as the vanquished One. You might conclude, “God so loved the world, that He risked His own existence to save it.”
Understanding the nature Christ took upon Himself is a life changing experience. Before this fight is over and Christ returns, something wonderful is going to take place on this earth among people filled with the divine nature of Jesus. It has been prophesied from old: “A seed shall serve Him; it shall be accounted to the Lord for a generation. They shall come, and shall declare His righteousness unto a people that shall be born, that He hath done this” (Ps. 22:30-31). How long this generation lasts is not important. There will be a final group who will demonstrate to Satan and the unfallen worlds that commandment-keeping people of sinful flesh who are full of the divine nature would rather die than sin, even if for a short season. They will not know how great their performance is because they will feel too unworthy to notice.
While this is going on, the priestly robes are laid aside in heaven and the announcement is made that it is time. While on earth this special group of believers “sing a new song” yea, one that has never been sung before, a song of victory over the flesh. “These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins.” The doctrines of the antichrist are not what they live by. It’s pure gospel time. “These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. These were redeemed among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Rev. 14:1-5). Reformers dying at the stake were not the firstfruits; the pioneers of the Advent movement were not the firstfruits. Even the apostles of Christ never sang this song. The final piece to the puzzle is Jesus waiting for one united group at the end of time to demonstrate the born again divine nature operating victoriously within the tabernacle of the fallen flesh. It starts with belief. It ends with belief. It’s Christ in our sinful flesh, the hope of glory.
Do not try to improve your performance, simply get to the mindset where you would rather die than willingly and premeditatedly sin. To adapt the common position that we are going to sin until Jesus comes and fall repeatedly into the pattern of Sin-Confess-Repent is right where the antichrist lives. And he wants to live a long time. Do not say you have no sin, lest you be called a liar. Your whole life has been nothing but sin. But there is a glorious prophecy awaiting fulfilment in you, a season that will shut the mouth of the antichrist forevermore, and it will take place in the sinful fallen flesh our Saviour assumed. The faith of Christ is a wonderful thing operating within us. It causes the Father to declare: “That man was perfect…. Job sinned not, nor charged God foolishly” (Job 1:1, 22).