Books of Bible
The Nature of Christ
By John G. Priola
This lecture deals with the nature of Christ. By nature, I mean the "inherent character or basic constitution of a person or thing." Therefore, I am discussing the character of Christ. The life of Christ is a grand study. The Bible teaches that Christ far excels all men. He excels Jonah (Matt. 12:41), Abraham (Jno. 8:50-58), and Moses (Heb. 3:1-6). Thus, I am discussing the life and character of a great individual.
Before God ever created and placed man in the garden, he had already prepared a plan by which man could be saved, if, and when, man sinned. This plan involved the sacrifice of Christ upon the cross. Man sinned (Gen. 3), and God's plan began to unfold. "When the fulness of time was come [approx. 4,000 years, JGP], God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law" (Gal. 4:4). Christ was born at Bethlehem.
Christ did not come into existence at Bethlehem - that is where he became God in the flesh, not where he came into existence. Christ existed prior to his birth of the virgin Mary. Many passages bear testimony to this simple, yet vital truth. For example, Jesus, in his prayer to the Father, said, "And now, Father, glorify thou me with the glory which I had with thee before the world was," (Jno. 17:5). John wrote, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father) full of grace and truth" (Jno. 1:1,14). A summary of these passages reveals: (1) Christ existed prior to his birth of the virgin Mary; (2) Christ is God; and (3) Christ is from the beginning - there was no time when he was not.
Christ left the glory of heaven and earth. Although he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich (2 Cor. 8:9). He was born of the virgin Mary, and for thirty-three years his residence was here upon earth. While here, he was tempted in all. points like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). He was without spot and blemish(2 Pet. 1: 19). In due time he died for us (Rom. 5:6). His life was the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit (I Pet. 3:18). He was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him (2 Cor. 5:21). He died on Calvary as our sin offering, and was buried in a borrowed grave. He arose from the grave the third day, spent some forty days more on earth, and then ascended back to heaven, where he now sits at the right hand of God and reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords.
Peter says he left us an example that we should follow in his steps (I Pet. 2:22). Paul instructs us to "let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus" (Phil. 2:5). John writes, "He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also to walk, even as he walked" (I Jno. 2:6). Since we are to follow in his steps, have his mind, and walk as he walked, it necessitates our giving serious consideration to his nature in order that we emulate it the best we can. This is exactly what Paul, meant when he wrote, "Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ" (I Cor. 11:1). What kind of individual was our Lord?
He Was A Loving Individual
Paul writes, "I am crucified with Christ- nevertheless I live; yet not 1, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me"(Gal. 2:20). Christ loved us enough to give himself for us. In fact, he loved us to the greatest possible degree because self-sacrifice is the highest test of love. Jesus said, "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends" (Jno. 15:13), and Jesus laid down his life for us; therefore, he loved us to the greatest degree. John says, Hereby perceive we the love of God, because he laid down his life for us . . . " (I Jno. 3:16). Notice the reason for his laying down his life. FOR US!!! The preposition "for" sheds much light on the nature of Christ's love. It is translated from the Greek word "huper," which means "in behalf of" Brother Guy N. Woods, commenting on this word, says:
The picture in the preposition is of one who sees, for example, another who has fallen, wounded, in grave danger, and about to perish, and who rushes to him, stands over him, fights in his behalf, and enters the fray in his stead. This, and more. Jesus did for us in his death on the cross.
If we are to follow in the steps of Jesus, have his mind, and walk as he walked, then we are going to have to love as he loved. Jesus said, "A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you, that ye also love one another" (Jno. 13:34). Jesus' love involved sacrifice, and our love, if it is to be like his, must involve sacrifice. Think of how many problems in the Lord's church could be solved if we all would sacrifice in behalf of others. How many problems are created by envy, jealousy and self-interests? These all would quickly vanish if we practiced sacrificial love. Sacrificial love will lead one to: (1) prefer another instead of self (Rom. 12:10); (2) esteem others better than self (Phil. 2:3); (3) look on the things of others (Phil. 2:4); (4) seek another's welfare (I Cor. 10:24); (5) seek another's profit (I Cor. 10:33); and (6) lay down his life for his brethren (I Jno. 3:16). Can we say, as did Paul, that we will very gladly spend and be spent for others (2 Cor. 12:15)?
Christ's love was not only sacrificial, it was also obedient. In John 13:3 1, Jesus said, "But that the world may know that I love the Father; and as the Father gave me commandment, even so I do . . . " Jesus linked love and obedience together. Proper love will motivate one to obey. Jesus' love of the Father led him to say, "O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Love for the Father motivated the Lord to say, "Lo I come to do thy will, 0 God." What about those of us who claim to love Christ? Are we as eager to obey him as he was to obey the Father? Real, genuine love is an incentive to obey. The best way of showing love is by obedience. "For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments: and his commandments are not grievous" (I John 5:3). The acid test of our love for God is not how much we may verbalize about such, but rather how persistent we are in keeping his commandments. The link between love and obedience comes most frequently and clearly in the words of Jesus. In the final hours before Calvary, Jesus, with constant repetition, linked love and obedience together. Note these verses: John 14:15, "If ye love me, keep my commandments"; John 14;21, "He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and manifest myself to him"; John 15:10, "if ye keep my commandments, ye shall abide in my love; even as I have kept my Father's commandments, and abide in his love." Compare also John 14:23,24. In these last hours, one of the things Jesus wants to impress permanently upon his disciples is that love and obedience go together; we cannot talk of love without obeying. Here is the heart of it all. Yes, Jesus was a loving individual, and manifested his love by self-sacrifice and obedience. How we need to give serious consideration to his commandment: "That ye love one another as I have loved you." May we all strive to incorporate in our lives the kind of love which our Lord displayed.
He Was A Compassionate Individual
The New Testament has a rich vocabulary to show the place of compassion in the life of Christ, and also in the life of those who follow in his steps. The English word "compassion" is translated from five different Greek words. These words are used almost interchangeably. Sometimes instead of being translated "compassion," the word "mercy" or "pity" is used. This should impress us of the closeness that exists between these words. The compassionate individual will be moved to show mercy and pity. This principle is illustrated in Matthew 18:23-35. In verse 27, the text says the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt. The servant then went and found a fellow servant who owed him very little in comparison to what the servant owed the lord. The servant, being void of compassion, demanded payment of the fellow servant, and cast him into prison when he could not pay. In verse 34 the lord asked the servant, "Shouldest not thou also had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?" Verse 27 says the lord was moved with compassion, while verse 34 says he had pity. The compassionate person will show pity and mercy.
Those who met Jesus in the flesh saw the depth of his compassion. Five times the record says he saw a crowd of people in need and was moved with compassion for them. Three times when he performed a physical miracle, not only the miracle but also the compassion is emphasized. Many things in the life of our Lord showed compassion, but the events surrounding the death of Lazarus is one of the best examples. Jesus loved Mary, Martha, and Lazarus. Lazarus became ill and the sisters sent for our Lord. He remained where he was until Lazarus died. He then went to Bethany. Martha went to meet the Lord, and after pouring her heart out to him, went her way and called Mary, for whom the Lord had called. John 11:32-35 records that when the Lord saw Mary and the Jews weeping, he groaned in the spirit, and was troubled. Verse 35 simply says, "Jesus wept." Why would Jesus, the master of death, weep? G. C. Brewer says:
There is only one answer my friends, and that is sympathy! Pure human sympathy! He felt Mary's grief, his heart was touched by her weeping and he wept with her! How sublimely sweet and touching is that picture!
And so it is!! Anyone who has ever gone through such a sadness knows how much the sympathy of friends means. Just to know that there are others suffering and weeping with us is worth worlds. Words count little at times like that, but the touch of a hand or the presence of a friend means so much. Peter, in I Pet. 3:8, says we are to have "compassion one of another." The Greek word translated compassion is the word from which we get our English word sympathy. We are to be sympathetic toward one another. We are to rejoice with them that do rejoice, and weep with them that weep (Rom. 12:15). And do not ever forget that Christ, in the comforting words of brother Brewer:
knows every sigh that heaves our bosoms and understands every emotion that shakes our frames. He knows the bitter, briny tear and the groan that is too deep for utterance. He knows it all.
Not only does he know our infirmities, but he is also touched by them. "For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin" (Heb. 4:15). "Touched with the feeling" is translated from the same word that is translated compassion in I Pet. 3:8. The Greek term literally means "to suffer with." Lightfoot says the Greek word suggests an intensity that is lost in the English word sympathy. He says this Greek word sees the suffering of another not from the outside, but rather it is the feeling of one who enters into the suffering and makes it his own. How much do we make the sufferings of others our own? How touched are we by the sufferings of others? Are we the priest, Levite, or compassionate Samaritan in the parable of the Good Samaritan? Do we see others in need and shut up our bowels of compassion from them? If so, how dwelleth the love of God in us (I Jno. 3:17)? "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal. 6:10). To walk as our Lord walked, we must be compassionate individuals. We must have a genuine interest in people's problems, and be ready and willing to serve them as we can. This can open doors to teach them the truth of the gospel.
He Was A Courageous Individual
From the beginning of Christ's earthly ministry unto the end, his life exemplified courage. He had the courage to, cleanse the temple when an attempt was made to make the Father's house an house of merchandise. He had the courage to expose the hypocrisies of men. Read Matthew 23 and see how our Lord had the courage to issue his stinging renunciation of the hypocrisy of the scribes and Pharisees. Read Matthew 15 and see how he had the courage to stand against his disciples when they were afraid he had offended the Pharisees. Take your Bible and study it to see how our Lord reacted when his teaching was attacked. Some people refer to our Lord as "the lamb of God," while others refer to him as "the lion out of the tribe of Judah." Both designations are scriptural. He was a lamb when men attacked him personally, but he was a lion when men attacked his teaching. The gentle lamb became the roaring lion when men attacked his teaching. And make no bones about it - when the lion roared, he could be heard from Dan to Beersheba. Far too many people think it somewhat sissy to be a Christian. Nothing has every been farther from the truth. It takes a courageous person to be a Christian. It takes a courageous person to walk as Christ walked. Our Lord fought, and he fought hard when his doctrine was under fire. I would to God that every Christian would take his New Testament and study carefully how Christ, with logical precision, withstood the attacks being made against his teaching. Too many people believe that if one engages in religious controversy, he is not Christ-like. To believe such is to miss much of what the New Testament teaches concerning the life of Christ. Our Lord stood against those who opposed his teaching. The Christian is to do likewise when the teaching of the Scriptures is being attacked. It is a device of Satan to make people think that it is wrong to contend for the faith; and we must not be ignorant of his devices (2 Cor. 2:11). We need men who will join the battle and fight as Christ fought. We need men who will prepare for battle, and who will fight the good fight of faith. Study Matthew 12, John 8, and many other passages to see how Jesus spared nothing in his defense of the truth. One would do well to study Matthew 21-23. This is one of the most extended accounts of the Christ confronting error. I emphasize the need to analyze our Lord's arguments to see the soundness of them. One who does so will quickly see how fiercely the Lord combatted error.
Brethren, the word of God is referred to as "the sword of the Spirit" (Eph. 6:17). What is a sword used for? It is used for battle. Then the child of God ought to expect to do battle. Alexander Campbell wrote an article dealing with religious controversy. In it he said:
If there was no error in principle or practice, then controversy, which is only another name for opposition to error, real or supposed, would be unnecessary. If it were lawful, or if it were benevolent, to make a truce with error, then opposition to it would be both unjust and unkind. If error were innocent and harmless, then we might permit it to find its own quietus, or to immortalize itself. But so long as it is confessed that error is more or less injurious to the welfare of society, individually and collectively considered, then no man can be considered benevolent who does not set his face against it. In proportion as a person is intelligent and benevolent, he will be controversial, if error exists around him. Hence the Prince of Peace never sheathed the sword of the Spirit while he lived. He drew it on the banks of the Jordan and threw the scabbard away.
To those who think it is not Christ-like to engage in religious controversy, Campbell wrote:
Admit for a moment that it were so, and what would be the consequence? it would unsaint and unchristianize every distinguished Patriarch, Jew, and Christian enrolled in the sacred annals of the world. For who of the Bible's great and good men was not engaged in religious controversy! Togo no farther back than the Jewish lawgiver, I ask, What was his character? I need not specify. Whenever it was necessary, all - yes, all the renowned men of antiquity were religious controversialists. Moses long contended with the Egyptian magi. He overcame Jannes and Jambres too. Elijah encountered the prophets of Baal. Job long debated with the princes of Edom. The Jewish prophets and the idolatrous kings of Israel waged a long and arduous controversy. John the Harbinger, and the Scribes and Pharisees, met in conflict. Jesus, and the Rabbis, and the Priesthood, long debated. The Apostles and the Sanhedrin; the Evangelists and the Doctors of Divinity Paul and the Sceptics, engaged in many a conflict; and even Michael fought in "wordy debate" with the Devil about the body of Moses. yet who was more meek than Moses - more zealous for God than Elijah - more patient than Job - more devout than Paul - more benevolent than John?
To walk as the Lord walked, we must "keep that which is committed to thy trust... "(I Tim. 6:20). May we ever have the courage needed to stand against the enemies of truth, be they friend, family or others. In the words of Campbell, we would exhort:
To your posts, then, O Israel!..."Fight the good fight of faith." Keep your eyes upon the Captain, and when the conflict is over he will cover you with laurels which will never wither, and bestow upon you a crown of righteousness which fadeth not away.
He Was A Teaching Individual
Jesus was an individual who took advantage of opportunities to teach others. A number of passages reveal how often he was found teaching (Cf. Matt. 4:23; 5:1; 9:35; Jno. 3:2; etc.). He was truly the Master Teacher. If we would take our Bibles and notice his characteristics as a teacher, and then apply them to our lives, our teaching would profit from it.
The Lord knew the scriptures. In Matthew 4, when he was tempted of the devil three times, he answered each temptation by quoting scripture. If we are ever to be effective teachers, we must be knowledgeable in the scriptures. Diligent study is needed to become knowledgeable. Why not resolve today to start your study of the scriptures? Be able to teach the plan of salvation to others. Be able to show others about the establishment and oneness of the Lord's church. Have the ability to discuss the work and operation of the Holy Spirit in conversion. Be able to show passages of scripture that deal with worship. The first requirement of teaching is knowledge of the subject.
The Lord practiced what he preached. Luke mentions "of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach". We must be doers of the word and not teachers only. We need to be examples for others. We are the light of the world and the salt of the earth. Let others see us live what we teach. Let us both do and teach.
Jesus loved his pupils. When the rich young ruler came to Jesus and asked him what must he do to inherit eternal life, the record states that Jesus loved him. Do we have a love for the souls of people we teach? Paul said, "Brethren my heart's desire and prayer to God for Israel is, that they may be saved" (Rom. 10: 1). Is that the kind of love that we have for people? Do we possess a deep passion for souls?
Jesus was impartial in his teaching. He was impartial when it came to the size of the group he taught. It did not matter to him if it were one or a multitude. I believe I know some who are much more interested in teaching multitudes than they are small groups. Jesus was also impartial when it came to the status of the individual he taught. He taught the chief rulers, rich young ruler, Nicodemus, an adulterous woman, and a Samaritan woman. One of the charges made against Jesus was that he "receiveth sinners, and eateth with them" (Lk. 15:2). In John 4, when Jesus taught the woman at the well, he did not stay within the boundaries set by racial barriers. Neither can we!! The gospel is for every creature (Mk. 16:15-16). He did not allow the woman's character to keep him from trying to save her. That is not to say that he overlooked her character at all. In fact, this example shows that Jesus tried to change people by making them see their sins. He made her face her life, and see the need for change. How impartial are we in our teaching? Are we ever tempted to stay within some racial barrier? Do we ever allow an individual's character to keep us from trying to teach him? Do we try to make people see their sins, and the need to change their lives? If we are to walk as he walked, we must.
Jesus also went to people. His earthly ministry is an example of one going to teach others. What a lesson for us. If we are ever going to convert the world, we must go to them. In some places we are allowing our buildings to shut us up on the inside. We msut go to people, not wait for them to come to our buildings. It is nice to build proper facilities, but we must not allow them to deceive us. If we build nice facilities, and then wait for people to come, we are deceived. We must go and harvest them. Jesus said, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few" (Matt. 9:37). Could that be the problem in the 20th century? No one would build a barn and then wait for the harvest to come to the barn, but how many brethren have built excellent facilities and then waited for people to come? It will not work. We must go to them. "Go ye therefore and teach all nations. . . " It has been properly said that the first two letters of gospel are GO!
Jesus was a great individual, who left us an example to follow. May we, as children of God, strive to walk as he walked, and have the mind that he had. If we do, we will be loving, compassionate, courageous, and will teach others.
Feature Book: Questions and Answers
Soft cover, 381 pages
$14.95 + shipping and taxes if applicable