At the beginning of my Christian life, I wondered why God did not save us in a fast way, in a way like His work in creation. When I asked my pastor about this, he told me that because we are human beings it was necessary for our Savior to become a man. In creation, of course, there was no need for God to become a man. But in salvation it certainly was necessary for Him to become a man.
It was easier for God to create man than it was for Him to become a man. In creating man God had no difficulty; He simply did the work of creation. But God became involved with certain difficulties when He became a man. In His creation God merely did certain things. But in His salvation He not only did things—He became a man.
As I considered God’s incarnation for our salvation, I realized that it was logical for God to become a man in order to save us. But I still did not understand why He needed to live on earth for thirty-three and a half years. Why did He not become a man, stay on earth for a short period of time, perhaps a month, and then go to the cross to accomplish redemption? Why did He need to become a baby growing day by day? Luke 2:40 says, “And the little child grew and became strong, being filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was upon Him.” Here we see that the Lord Jesus grew in a normal way; He did not grow to full stature in a short period of time. Furthermore, instead of preaching for only several days and then dying for our redemption, the Lord Jesus ministered for three and a half years before going to the cross to accomplish redemption.
In the four Gospels we have a lengthy record of the Lord’s life and ministry. The Gospel of Matthew, for example, contains twenty-eight chapters. Instead of simply telling that the Lord Jesus was born and that He died for our redemption and was resurrected, Matthew records many other matters. In the Gospels we see that the Man-Savior did not grow up miraculously; on the contrary, He grew up in a normal way. But why was this necessary? Because we were fallen and sinful, we needed the Lord Jesus to die for us. He suffered a vicarious death for our salvation. But why did He need to suffer so many things during the thirty-three and a half years of His life?
Actually, only the last three hours on the cross were hours of vicarious suffering. During the first three hours He did not suffer vicariously. During the second period of three hours, God came in to judge the Man-Savior as our Substitute, “and darkness came over the whole land until the ninth hour” (Luke 23:44). Why, then, did He need to suffer during His first three hours on the cross, since that suffering was not for our sins?
For years I tried to find answers to these questions in books, but I failed to do so in full. Answers in full to these questions came only as a result of more than fifty years of personal, direct study of the Word, especially during the last ten years in which we have been carrying on the Life-study of the New Testament, a study that will be completed with the book of Acts.
Let us compare two possible ways of saving people. First, suppose God simply stretches forth His hand, snatches a sinner out of hell, and brings him to heaven. This way of saving a person would be easy. The second way, the way taken by God, is much more difficult. According to His way, God became a man and lived a human life on earth.
Through His incarnation God brought the divine attributes into the human virtues, filling, restoring, recovering, sanctifying, and transforming them. Consider how much time it required for man’s virtues to be uplifted and transformed in this way. In His salvation, God does not simply snatch people out of hell and bring them into heaven. Rather, for our salvation the saving God became a man and lived the kind of life on earth that qualified Him to save us. This life also became the basic factor of the Man-Savior’s dynamic salvation. The procedure that qualified the Man-Savior required a long period of time.
The first step of God’s salvation was to become a man, live on earth, die on the cross, and be resurrected. In the second step, the Man-Savior comes into the saved ones, lives in us, and grows in us, repeating His life in us.
Not only does the Lord grow gradually in the believers; He has also been spreading gradually throughout the world. Instead of suddenly spreading everywhere, the Lord has spread gradually from place to place. At first, His spread was only in the area of the Mediterranean Sea, and eventually He spread to North America and to China. One day, He came into me and you. Fifty-nine years ago, in 1925, the Man-Savior came into me. From that time onward, He has been living in me and growing in me.
How shall we speak of the Lord’s saving us by coming into us and living in us? We may say that this is salvation in life. However, the term “salvation in life” has been damaged by some Bible teachers who actually do not know adequately what it means to be saved in life (Rom. 5:10). According to the Bible, life is God Himself coming into us to live in us. It takes time for us to be saved in this way.
The Man-Savior went through a long process not to save us by snatching us out of hell, but to carry out His dynamic salvation. The term “dynamic salvation” means that God became a man and lived a man’s life to express God. Although He lived a man’s life, He did not express man—He expressed God. As the Man-Savior lived such a life on earth, the angels and demons could testify that He was man living a human life for the expression of God. This is the Man-Savior’s God-man living. The four Gospels tell us of the One who lived the life of a God-man.
In Luke 2:40-52 we see the Man-Savior growing and advancing. When He became twelve years old, He went with His parents to Jerusalem at the feast of the Passover according to custom (vv. 41-42). Luke also tells us that the Lord Jesus began His ministry when He was about thirty years old (3:23). Only in the Gospel of Luke are we told what happened to the Lord Jesus at the ages of twelve and thirty. The reason is that Luke presents the Lord Jesus as a genuine and typical man. In the Gospel of Luke we see that the Lord was a real man, a normal man; He was not a magical person. The Lord grew in a normal, human way. Eventually, at the age of thirty, He had come to maturity for the divine ministry. According to the Old Testament, a Levite had to be thirty years of age before he could enter fully into the priesthood. Likewise, the Man-Savior was fully grown when He entered into His ministry.
The Man-Savior’s living was a God-man living. When He was on the earth, the Lord Jesus lived a God-man. This living is a fact recorded in the Bible. We thank the Lord that we can study the account of the Lord’s God-man living recorded in the Gospels. The more I study the four Gospels and the more messages I give on them, the more convinced I become that the Lord Jesus truly was the God-man.
We have seen that the Man-Savior did not live a life expressing man. He lived a man’s life, yet this life expressed God. Hence, the Lord’s living was a God-man living. He lived a life in which God was expressed through man.
We have used the illustration of a hand and a glove to show how God was expressed through the Man-Savior’s humanity. A glove contains the hand and expresses the hand. When the hand in the glove moves, the glove also moves. But as the glove moves, it does not express the glove; it expresses the hand. In a similar way, the Lord Jesus lived on earth as a man, but He did not express man; He expressed God. He lived a life expressing God. When people saw Him, they saw a genuine man. Nevertheless, what they saw in Him was the expression of God. They did not see a man expressing man; they saw a man expressing God.
Concerning the expression of God in the Lord Jesus, John says, “We beheld His glory, glory as of an only begotten from a father” (John 1:14). Glory is the expression of God. Therefore, when the disciples saw the Lord’s glory, they saw the expression of God.
The Apostle John was one of the sons of thunder (Mark 3:17). Although he was bold and impetuous, he was attracted to the Man-Savior and followed Him. He and his brother James were the second group attracted to the Lord Jesus. (The first group was composed of Peter and Andrew.) When the Lord called John and James, they were “in the boat with Zebedee their father mending their nets” (Matt. 4:21). But they were attracted to the Lord and left the boat and their father and followed Him (Matt. 4:22). For the next three and a half years they saw the God-man’s living, although they did not understand what they were seeing. But after the Man-Savior’s resurrection, their eyes were opened, and they began to understand the Man-Savior’s God-man living.
When John wrote his Gospel, he was very old, probably in his nineties. He testified that God became flesh and that they beheld His glory. A man was living and walking with them, and in this One they saw the glory of God. When He was with them in the flesh, they did not understand that the Lord was a man living a human life to express God. But after His resurrection they came to realize that they had seen God expressed in Jesus the Nazarene.
The Gospels record the history of the Man-Savior’s God-man living. Now this history needs to be written into our being. In a forthcoming message we shall see that God’s desire is to reproduce in us the Man-Savior and His God-man living.
In this message we shall continue to consider the Man-Savior’s God-man living.
The Man-Savior is a genuine man with the real human nature and the perfect human virtues. Here we use three adjectives to describe the Man-Savior in His humanity: genuine, real, and perfect. As a man, the Man-Savior is genuine. His nature is real; that is, He was a real human being, not a phantom. Furthermore, the Man-Savior’s human virtues are perfect. In order to be qualified to be man’s Savior, the Lord Jesus had to be a genuine man with a real human nature and the perfect human virtues. Because He is genuine as a man, real in His human nature, and perfect in His human virtues, He is qualified to be the Man-Savior.
The Man-Savior was not only a genuine man; He was also the complete God. As the complete God, He had the true divine nature and the excellent divine attributes.
Orthodox theologians and fundamental Bible teachers agree that Christ is the complete God. However, some will not admit that this One is not only the Son of God but also the Father and the Spirit. On the one hand, they teach that Christ is the complete God; on the other hand, they teach that Christ is only part of the Trinity. Hence, with these theologians and teachers there is a contradiction. If you say that Christ is only part of the Trinity, then He is not the complete God. Rather, He is simply a part of the complete God. The complete God is not merely the Father or merely the Spirit or merely the Son. The complete God is the Triune God—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit.
We would emphasize the fact that the Man-Savior is both a genuine man and the complete God. He is a genuine man with the real human nature and the perfect human virtues, and He is the complete God with the true divine nature and the excellent divine attributes. We have seen that with respect to His humanity the Man-Savior is genuine, real, and perfect. Now we need to see that with respect to His divinity He is complete, true, and excellent. He is the complete God, He has the true divine nature, and He has the excellent divine attributes. His human virtues are perfect, but His divine attributes are excellent; His attributes are superior, surpassing.
The Man-Savior’s divine nature and excellent divine attributes empower and ensure His ability to save man. In His humanity there is the capacity to save us, the capacity for salvation. But this capacity is empowered and ensured by His divinity. His ability to save us is guaranteed by His divinity.
When some hear that the Man-Savior’s divine nature and attributes empower and ensure His ability to save us, they may say, “Is there any verse in the Bible that says this? Have you read a book that teaches this?” I must answer both questions with a no. Apparently, there is not a verse in the Bible that teaches this, and I have never read a book that uses these expressions. Perhaps you are wondering why I have the boldness to speak this way. My answer is that this kind of teaching is the result of more than a half century of the study of the Bible. In particular, it is the result of a ten-year Life-study of the New Testament, a study that will soon be completed with the book of Acts. According to the divine revelation in the Scriptures, the Man-Savior’s divine nature and divine attributes empower and ensure His saving ability. The Bible as a whole certainly reveals that the Lord’s divinity empowers His saving capacity, which is in His humanity.
First John 1:7 conveys the thought that the divinity of Christ empowers and ensures the saving capacity within His humanity. This verse says, “The blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” Here the name “Jesus” denotes the Lord’s humanity, which is needed for the shedding of the redeeming blood, and the title “His Son” denotes the Lord’s divinity, which is needed for the eternal efficacy of the redeeming blood. Thus, “the blood of Jesus His Son” indicates that this blood is the proper blood of a genuine man for redeeming God’s fallen creatures with divine surety for its eternal efficacy, an efficacy that is all-prevailing in space and everlasting in time.
According to 1 John 1:7, the blood shed by the Man-Savior on the cross was not only the blood of Jesus but also the blood of the Son of God. It was the blood of one with a dual status, the status of both man and God. The blood of Jesus was the genuine blood of a real man required for our redemption. The efficacy of this blood is ensured by the Man-Savior’s divinity. Divinity makes the blood of Jesus eternal. Apart from the Lord’s divinity, His redemption could not be eternal.
The Lord’s true divinity with His excellent attributes empowers and ensures His ability to save man. Humanity qualifies Him to save us, and divinity empowers Him to save us. His divinity also ensures His ability to save man.