The Pharisees and Sadducees were sternly rebuked by Jesus. The Pharisees in particular denied the deity of Christ. For such thinking Jesus condemned them as sons of the devil. The Bible has much to say about the deity of Christ. For Christ to be deity was absolutely necessary for God to execute His plan for man. Specifically the Bible reveals Jesus to be the very image of the invisible God.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…who being the…express image of His person…” Hebrews 1:1-3
The writer of Hebrews was so emphatic about this truth that he used two words in sequence that have exactly the same meaning, i.e. ‘express’ and ‘image’. Both terms mean the perfect expression of divine essence. Another common synonym for image is ‘likeness’. The writer is explaining that God revealed Himself in ages past by speaking through prophets. In the current age, however, God revealed Himself visibly in the God/Man Jesus.
Paul in his letter to the church at Colosse likewise referred to Jesus as the perfect expression of divine essence.
“He (the Son) is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation.” Colossians 1:15
By using the term ‘firstborn’ Paul was stating that Jesus was preeminent over all creation. He wasn’t created, He was the Creator. He so stated that fact in the very next verse.
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible…” Colossians 1:16
While Jesus was unquestionably the visible manifestation of the invisible God, He took on the form of man to accomplish God’s immutable purpose for man.
“… (Christ Jesus) made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” Philippians 2:5-8
Jesus relinquished His glory for a season to take on the form of a man, i.e. visible, with shape, and outward appearance. ‘Likeness’ also means equal, alike in quality, and dignity. In other words essentially, Jesus became a man.
The Scriptures reveal why it was necessary for Jesus to become a man.
“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:17-18
Note the phrase ‘He had to be made like His brethren’. God required of man a standard of righteousness that natural man could not achieve beginning with Adam and Eve in the garden.
The writer of Hebrews confirms that it was an act of grace for Jesus to take on the form of a man in order to do that which no other man could do.
“But we see Jesus, who was made lower than the angels for a little while… that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone.” Hebrews 2:9
Paul was explaining that man was not capable of obeying the law, and recall that a single transgression meant failure of the entire law. And by the way, nothing has changed.
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin; He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us…” Romans 8:3-4
Paul was explaining that while a man, even though born again and filled with the Spirit, is still confined to a natural body which is innately prone to sin.
A major question is why God would be so gracious to sinful man. For that answer we need to go back to the beginning of man as described in the early chapters of Genesis.
To be concluded next week.