The Doctrine of Christ
COPYRIGHT ©2011 - James M. Frye
All scripture quotations are taken from the Authorized King James Bible. Any deviations are not intentional. All underlines, bold and words within brackets are the author's.
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2 John 1:9 Whosoever transgresseth, and abideth not in the doctrine of Christ, hath not God. He that abideth in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son.
According to the above verse, we must have the correct doctrine about Jesus Christ or we do not have God (are not saved). The Bible tells us that there are some people who are preaching another (false) Jesus.
2 Cor. 11:4 For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.
Believing in Jesus as the scriptures describe Him to be is essential for salvation. We may not change the Biblical teaching about Jesus Christ or we are believing in "another Jesus" and do not have God (the true God). In my article on the deity of Christ, I wrote the following:
"This passage warns us that not every "Jesus" that people believe in is necessarily the Jesus of the Bible. Let me give you an example to make my point. Let's suppose that I come to you and tell you about Jesus. I tell you that Jesus was a fruit farmer from Florida who taught that if you could pick 100 oranges in an hour, you would then be saved. Could you be saved by believing in such a Jesus? Of course not! But why not? After all, you would be professing to believe in "Jesus".
This rather extreme illustration serves to make a point. Believing in someone called "Jesus" is not enough. It must be the right Jesus. It must be the Jesus of the Bible, for only he can save us from our sins."
So, we must believe what the Bible teaches (doctrine) about Jesus Christ, or we are worshiping a false Jesus who doesn’t exist and can’t save anyone. In this article, we will be looking at some of the main Biblical teachings about Jesus Christ.
His Full Humanity
In the early years of Christianity, there was a false doctrine known as "Docetism". Docetism taught that Jesus did not really have a human body but was only an apparition who just appeared to have a human body. It is really hard to understand how anyone could believe such a thing, especially since the scriptures are so clear on the matter.
Matt. 26:10, 12 When Jesus understood it, he said unto them ... For in that she hath poured this ointment on my body, she did it for my burial.
Luke 23:52 This man went unto Pilate, and begged the body of Jesus.
One of the chief proponents of Docetism, the Gnostics, believed that everything physical or fleshly was sinful and only things that were immaterial or spiritual could be holy. So they allowed that false belief to cloud what they believed about Jesus. We must be careful not to impose our misconceptions upon scripture but rather draw all of our beliefs from scripture alone.
John 6:51 I am the living bread which came down from heaven: if any man eat of this bread, he shall live for ever: and the bread that I will give is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.
Jesus' sacrifice for sins had to do with the sacrifice of His flesh (body).
1 Pet. 2:24 Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.
Scripture couldn't be more clear. Jesus had a physical body. He was born physically, and He died physically.
Heb. 10:4-5 For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he [Christ] cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared me:
If Jesus did not have a physical body, then the scriptures would be false, and Jesus would not have atoned for anyone's sins. God forbid!
Being fully human, Jesus, not only had a physical body, but He also had a human mind and spirit as well. Another heresy from the 4th century was Appolinarianism. Appolinarianism taught that Jesus did not have a human mind and spirit, but that the mind and spirit of Christ were from His divine nature and not His human nature. Such an idea is not Biblical.
Hebrews 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
Hebrews 2:17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
The above verses tell us that in being made “flesh and blood” (human), Jesus was made “like unto his brethren” and that He “likewise (in the same way) took part in the same”. In other words, Christ’s became fully human in the same way we are. We have both a human mind and spirit, and so does Christ.
Think about it for a moment. Was it just our bodies that needed to be redeemed, or was it our spirits as well? Scripture tells us that we have not only sinned outwardly in our bodies, but also inwardly in our hearts (minds & spirits) - Matt. 15:19. It is the whole of man that needs redemption. If Jesus wouldn’t have been fully human (body, mind, and spirit), He couldn’t have fully redeemed us (body, mind, and spirit). Such a proposal strikes at the very heart of the gospel.
His Deity and Eternality
One of the clearest teachings of scripture is the teaching that Jesus Christ is not only a man but that He is also divine (God) as well.
1 Timothy 3:16 And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.
John 1:1, 14 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.
Colossians 2:8-9 Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily.
Heb. 1:8 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.
Philippians 2:5-8 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
In the beginning, before Jesus came to earth, He was "in the form of God" and "equal with God" (He was God). But then, in coming to earth, He took upon himself the "form of a servant" and was made in the "likeness of men" (He became a man also). For more information on this subject, see my article "Is Jesus Christ God?".
Because Jesus is God, He is also eternal.
Micah 5:2 But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting.
According to Matt. 2:6, this passage refers to Jesus' birth in Bethlehem. Physically, Jesus was made flesh and born as a man, but in Spirit He is God and is, therefore, eternal.
Jesus Christ is one person (the second person of the trinity), but has two natures - one human and the other divine. We shall look at this in more detail later.
His Virgin Birth
Matt. 1:23 Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us.
Apart from fulfilling prophecy, what was the purpose of the virgin birth? The virgin birth was necessary because mankind is a sinful, fallen race. Men are not only sinners because they sin, they are also sinners by nature. It is beyond the scope of this article to explore this issue in detail, but scripture teaches that all men are born in sin and with a sinful nature.
Psa. 51:5 Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me.
Eph. 2:3 Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.
The above verse is talking about Christians before they were saved. It says that they "were by nature the children of wrath". By their very nature, and in their very being, men are sinful and justly under the wrath and condemnation of a holy God (John 3:36). In their first birth, men are born "in Adam" (1 Cor. 15:22) and are born with a sinful nature. This is why scripture tells us that men must be "born again" (John 3:3, 5). We must be reborn "in Christ" thus becoming a new creature (2 Cor. 5:17).
Since this sinful nature is passed on by parents to their offspring (Gen. 5:13), it was necessary that Jesus be conceived in a supernatural way outside of the normal order of things.
26-27 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin's name was Mary.
30-31 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
34-35 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Matthew's gospel puts it this way:
Matt. 1:20 But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the LORD appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost.
In other words, Jesus was not conceived by natural generation but was placed in the womb of Mary by the Holy Spirit. It this way, He was born without a sinful nature, and there was no sin in Him.
1 John 3:5 And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin.
His Sinless Life
In order to be an acceptable sacrifice for our sins, Jesus not only had to be virgin born and thus free of the sinful nature of man, He also had to live a perfect and sinless life.
1 Pet. 1:18-19 Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; But with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot:
Under the Old Covenant, worshippers were required by the law to offer a sacrifice for their sins. That sacrifice was to be "without blemish and without spot" (Exod. 12:5). This "spotless" sacrificial lamb was a type and shadow of the sinlessness of Christ (John 1:29). Jesus was the only man who ever kept God's holy law perfectly and resisted all temptation to sin (Matt. 4). Jesus never sinned.
2 Cor. 5:21 For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.
When we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ's one-time sacrifice upon the cross for our sins, we not only partake of His death for our sins, but we also partake of the perfectly righteous (sin free) life that He lived. His righteousness (the righteousness of God) is credited to our account and we are made the righteousness of God in Him.
1 Pet. 2:21-22 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth:
Many in our day believe in a Jesus who was little different than any other man. They believe that He did sin, some of them even making blasphemous movies about Him. No one can be saved by believing in such a Jesus! This is not the Jesus of the Bible, and such a "Jesus" could never save anyone from their sins. If Jesus had sinned, He couldn’t have died as a substitute for anyone else's sins, but would have had to die for His own sins. He most certainly couldn't have qualified to be the "lamb without blemish and without spot".
His Substitutionary Death (Atonement)
As stated in the previous section, Jesus never sinned. So when He died, He was dying for the sins of all those who will put their faith and trust in Him for salvation (John 3:16).
Rom. 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
1 Cor. 5:7 Purge out therefore the old leaven, that ye may be a new lump, as ye are unleavened. For even Christ our passover is sacrificed for us:
1 Thes. 5:9-10 For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ, Who died for us, that, whether we wake or sleep, we should live together with him.
Tit 2:13-14 ... our Saviour Jesus Christ; Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works.
When we say that Christ's death was "substitutionary" we are saying just that - that He died for (in the place of) others. The Bible teaches us that men were separated from God because of their sins.
Isaiah 59:2 But your iniquities have separated between you and your God, and your sins have hid his face from you, that he will not hear.
This separation between God and man is spoken of in the Bible as spiritual "death". There are 3 types of death in the Bible.
1. Physical death - separation of the spirit from the body (Jam. 2:26).
2. Eternal death (the second death) - separation from God for all eternity in the lake of fire (Rev. 20:14; 21:8).
3. Spiritual death - separation from God because of sin (Isa. 59:2).
It is this third kind of death that God had in mind when He told Adam that he would "die" in the day that he ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. He did not die physically that day, but he died spiritually. That is why both he and Eve were put out of the Garden of Eden and "separated" from the presence of God.
Since the fall, all men in their natural state are separated from God because of sin. That is why in scripture, salvation is spoken of as being "reconciled" to God.
Col. 1:21-22 And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:
2 Cor. 5:18 And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation;
This reconciliation is referred to as the atonement.
Rom. 5:11 And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement.
To understand this word "atonement" let's think of it as "at-one-ment." We were separated from God through our sins, but now through Christ's death we are reunited unto Him (at-one-ment).
So, Christ's death was substitutionary and it made atonement for mens sins and brought about a reconciliation with God for all who believe. Believers are, therefore, no longer under the wrath of God but are at peace with Him.
Rom. 5:1 Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ:
His Bodily Resurrection and Ascension
Some cults in our day, the Jehovah's Witnesses for example, deny that Jesus rose from the dead in a physical body. They instead say that his "spirit" was raised from the dead. Such a teaching presupposes the following three false doctrines:
1. The mortality of the soul/spirit.
2. That Jesus' spirit somehow died.
3. That Jesus' spirit was then resurrected to life again.
There is more wrong with that teaching than we could ever cover in an article this size. As a matter of fact, those false doctrines are so bad it was painful to even type them. Rather than taking the time to refute all three from scripture, let's simply look at what the Bible teaches.
We have already seen in our previous sections how Jesus died physically and that His sacrifice for sin involved the death of His body. But how did He rise from the dead? Was His resurrection a physical one? Did He have a physical body, or did He rise as some sort of spirit?
36 And as they thus spake, Jesus himself stood in the midst of them, and saith unto them, Peace be unto you.
37 But they were terrified and affrighted, and supposed that they had seen a spirit.
38 And he said unto them, Why are ye troubled? and why do thoughts arise in your hearts?
39 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.
40 And when he had thus spoken, he shewed them his hands and his feet.
41 And while they yet believed not for joy, and wondered, he said unto them, Have ye here any meat?
42 And they gave him a piece of a broiled fish, and of an honeycomb.
43 And he took it, and did eat before them.
The Bible is so clear on these things it is hard to see how anyone could miss it. When the disciples saw Jesus, they mistakenly thought He was just a spirit and didn’t have a physical body since He suddenly appeared in the room with them. But Jesus said that He did have a physical body and showed them the scars from His crucifixion to prove it. He also had them touch Him to prove it. And not only that, He also ate food to prove it.
Scripture couldn't be more clear. Jesus rose in a physical body! Jesus provided the disciples with three evidences that He had risen in a physical body. Although His body had been changed and was now in a glorified immortal state due to His resurrection, it was still the same body that had died (been crucified) which had been raised. After all, His body still bore the scars from the nails in His hands and in His feet.
Jesus not only rose in a physical body, but He also ascended to heaven in that same physical body. Just a few verses after the ones we just looked at above, we read:
Luke 24:50-51 And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.
The context is very clear. After showing them His physical body, Jesus then ascended into heaven in that same physical body.
His Literal, Visible, Bodily Second Coming
Jesus not only rose and ascended in a physical body, but He will also come again bodily.
Acts 1:9-11 And when he had spoken these things, while they beheld, he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven as he went up, behold, two men stood by them in white apparel; Which also said, Ye men of Galilee, why stand ye gazing up into heaven? this same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven.
This passage tells us that Jesus will come again in like manner (in the same way) that they saw Him go. How did they see Him go? His ascension was visible, and it was bodily (He ascended in a literal body). How then will He come again? His second coming will be a literal, bodily, visible coming.
Scripture is very clear that the second coming of Christ will be a visible coming.
Mark 13:26 And then shall they see the Son of man coming in the clouds with great power and glory.
Revelation 1:7 Behold, he cometh with clouds; and every eye shall see him, and they also which pierced him: and all kindreds of the earth shall wail because of him. Even so, Amen.
The Bible even warns us not to be deceived by those who would claim that Jesus has returned secretly in this place or that.
Matt. 24:26-27 Wherefore if they shall say unto you, Behold, he is in the desert; go not forth: behold, he is in the secret chambers; believe it not. For as the lightning cometh out of the east, and shineth even unto the west; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be.
In other words, His coming will be visible, and no one will miss seeing it. As the scriptures say, every eye shall see Him.
Other Errors Regarding Christ
Earlier in this article, we saw that Jesus is one person with two natures - one human and the other divine. Both of these facts must be kept clear lest we pervert the Biblical doctrine of Christ. In this section, I would like to briefly address two other doctrinal errors regarding this matter.
Nestorianism was a false teaching that developed in the 5th century which taught that Jesus was two persons (one human and the other divine), thus denying that Christ is one person. But Jesus is not two persons. He is one person with two natures. They taught that it was the human person who died upon the cross.
For starters, scripture never speaks of Christ as being more than one person. Jesus speaks of Himself as “I”, not “We”. Plus, if the death of Jesus was only the act of a human person and not of God as well, then that death would not be sufficient to atone for the sins of all believers. It would only at best atone for a single person. Scripture teaches that (in the person of Christ) both His divine and human natures were involved in the atonement.
Acts 20:28 Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood.
Now, we know that God is a spirit and does not have blood, so this verse must be talking about the physical death of Christ in shedding His human blood. But it is spoken of as the blood of God because the two natures are inseparable in the one person of Christ. So, when a person sheds Christ’s human blood, they are shedding the blood of God (the God-man).
Zechariah 12:10 And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.
In the above passage, God is speaking through the prophet Zechariah and saying "They shall look upon me (God) whom they have pierced." God is the one who is spoken of as being “pierced” in the passage. In the New Testament, this passage is said to be fulfilled when they pierced Jesus (John 19:34-37). God is a spirit (John 4:24) and does not have a physical body. So, one can’t actually pierce “God”. But the human and divine natures are inseparable in the one person of Christ. So, when a person pierced Christ’s human flesh (who is the God-man) they were piercing God.
Eutychianism was a false teaching also in the 5th century which taught that Christ only had one nature and not two natures. Eutychius taught that both natures of Christ (the human and the divine) were combined into a single new third nature.
But if Christ had a single nature that was neither fully man, nor fully God, He could not have redeemed believers as the “God man” as scripture portrays. Here is a passage we looked at earlier.
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
According to the above passage, before Jesus came to Earth, He was "in the form of God" and "equal with God". In nature He was divine. But then, in coming to Earth, He took upon himself an additional human nature in the "form of a servant" and was made in the "likeness of men". Before coming to earth, Jesus was one person with one nature, but in His incarnation, He took upon Himself an additional nature and became one person with two natures.
Before the incarnation – One person with one nature.
After the incarnation – One person with two natures.
So, we must be careful to maintain both truths (one person and two natures) lest we believe or teach heretical doctrines concerning Christ. He is as the scriptures declare Him to be, not as we may choose to try and remake Him.
Nestorianism denied the one person of Christ.
Eutychianism denied the two natures of Christ.
Any teaching in our day that denies that Christ is one person with two natures (one human and the other divine) is heretical as well.
At the beginning of this article, we saw that we must believe in the Biblical doctrine about Jesus Christ or they do not have God (are not saved). While we have not examined all that the Bible teaches us about Jesus, we have learned the following:
1. Jesus is fully human and has both a human/physical body and a human spirit.
2. Jesus is also God (divine) and is, therefore, eternal.
3. Jesus was virgin born without a sinful nature.
4. Jesus kept God's law perfectly and lived a sin free life.
5. Jesus' death was substitutionary. He died for the sins of all those who would believe in Him.
6. Jesus rose from the dead in the same body that had died. He then ascended to heaven in that same body.
7. Jesus' second coming will be a literal, visible, bodily coming. Every eye will see Him at His coming.
8. Jesus is one person with two natures