“…who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power…” (Hebrews 1:3).
In November, I preached a sermon on Calvinism and Arminianism from John chapter six, entitled, “If I Were a Tricky Theologian.” Among my recent sermons, this one has perhaps generated the most interest. In short, the point of the sermon was that I could quote half the Bible’s data, and make you think that I was giving the whole picture. Worse, I could quote half the Bible’s data, and then make wrong logical inferences, and lead you to a conclusion that is contrary to the other half of the Bible’s data. If I did so, I would be a tricky theologian.
This tendency to draw wrong inferences is perhaps most easily seen in the Incarnation, which is the grand fact that God the Son added humanity to His divinity, forever uniting human nature with divine nature in one divine Person. Regarding the Incarnation, there are verses that speak of Christ’s ignorance–not just that He had to learn as other children do (Luke 2:52), but even that He did not know the hour of His return (Mark 13:32). To a tricky theologian, it would not be difficult to infer that since God knows all things, and since Jesus did not know all things, Jesus cannot be God. Beware of such inferences, O son of man! It was just such inferences that got Job and his friends into such trouble before the Lord. Where is the mystery of the Incarnation, if our little mind can wrap itself around this grand reality? Should we not expect our mind to be overawed by the Reality of God?
Before responding, it should be noted, as Benjamin Warfield did years ago, that Jesus honored Himself at the same time that He confessed His ignorance. In saying, “But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” (Mark 13:32), Jesus did not classify Himself with “man”, but placed Himself higher than the angels. This by itself is significant. Moreover, in saying that Jesus did not know something, we must also reckon with the verses that flat-out say that Jesus knows all things (John 16:30; 21:17), which is an ability the same evangelist elsewhere ascribes to God (1 John 3:20). If someone were to object against using John to explain Mark, then let it be noted from Mark’s gospel that Jesus “perceived in his spirit” what other men were reasoning (Mark 2:8), and that on the same occasion Jesus asserted His authority to forgive sins, which belongs properly to God alone (2:7, 10). Something is very mysterious about Jesus. That is the point. Those who try to unravel the mystery end up in heresy.
Regarding Jesus’ ignorance, let it be remembered that in becoming human, God the Son added humanity to His divinity (Philippians 2:7; John 1:14). To His omniscience (in His divine nature), the Son added ignorance (in His human nature). As a result, the one divine Person–the “Word”, as John calls Him–could simultaneously experience omniscience and ignorance, each in its proper nature. If we object and say that this is impossible, let us remember the message of Christmas: “With God nothing shall be impossible” (Luke 1:37). Let me ask, Do we really believe God can do anything? If we do, then is it far-fetched to believe that through His human nature God the Son can add the ability to suffer not only ignorance, but even death itself? This is at the core of our faith. We believe that Jesus of Nazareth, a real human being, is in truth Lord, which is the name of God Himself (Romans 10:9, 13). Only those led by the Holy Spirit can affirm this truth (1 Corinthians 12:3; cf. Matthew 16:17). Indeed, as Paul confessed, “Great is the mystery of godliness” (1 Timothy 3:16).
Therefore, let it be firmly established, that inferences are misleading in dealing with the interrelationship of the divine and the human in the Incarnation of the Son, the inspiration of the Bible, and the sovereignty of God in the salvation of the sinner. In each interrelationship, there is a real divine aspect, a real human aspect, and a divine superintendence that ultimately gives God all the credit for everything: Jesus is God, the Bible is God’s word, and salvation is God’s work. In each instance, it is way too easy to quote half the data, draw a simple inference, and end up contradicting the other half of the data or the divine superintendence. Can I reconcile all the data? No, but neither can I explain the Incarnation. It is a fact that I adore; and exploration must never exceed adoration.
This Christmas, when you see a very realistic replica of the baby Jesus in a nativity scene, ponder the wonder of the Incarnation, and think to yourself, as Martin Luther did so many years ago, That Baby was still holding the Universe together by the word of His power. Believer, this same Christ now holds your life. Merry Christmas!