Fully God, Fully Man, Full of Grace and Truth
By Greg Wright
Preached At Grace Baptist Church on December 2, 2007
Expanded and Preached Again at Grace Bible Fellowship on December 27, 2009
Good morning. Please turn in your Bibles to the first chapter of the Gospel of John. The first eighteen verses are called John’s prologue. They provide a concise summary of the entire Gospel of John. We will read the first eighteen verses together, but our focus will be upon verse 14. This verse deals with the incarnation – that wonderful miracle where the divine person of the Son of God was joined to a human nature.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
4 In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.
5 The Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not comprehend it.
6 There came a man sent from God, whose name was John.
7 He came as a witness, to testify about the Light, so that all might believe through him.
8 He was not the Light, but he came to testify about the Light.
9 There was the true Light which, coming into the world, enlightens every man.
10 He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him.
11 He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him.
12 But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name,
13 who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.
14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.
15 John testified about Him and cried out, saying, "This was He of whom I said, 'He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.'"
16 For of His fullness we have all received, and grace upon grace.
17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.
18 No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.
Let us pray:
Dear heavenly Father, as we consider the incarnation, I pray that both doctrine and encouragement will be conveyed. May the doctrine of the incarnation be conveyed in a way that both clarifies the truth and protects us against heresy; may the comfort of the incarnation be conveyed in a way that encourages our hearts and strengthens our faith; and in all of this, and through all of this, may we be further drawn to love you and to seek you with all our hearts. Amen.
It is timely that we are addressing the subject of the incarnation during the winter holiday season. The Thanksgiving and Christmas holidays are past, and New Years day is just a few days away. Whether or not you celebrate these holidays, I believe that everyone feels the sentimental weight of them. This is a time when many families travel across the country to be together. Our minds are filled with sentimental thoughts and treasured memories of relatives and friends. These thoughts can make the season joyful, or sad, or a mixture of both.
I think, especially, of those who have recently lost loved ones. For them the season can be overwhelming. The loneliness and sorrow can be paralyzing. Therefore, when it comes to the winter holidays:
- Don’t give me sentiment.
- Don’t give me mythology.
- Don’t give me warm and fuzzy fictional stories.
- Don’t give me sweet allegories that presume to explain a dark providence.
- Don’t even give me true stories – stories of tragedies with happy endings – if the intention is to suggest that all our trials will be resolved with happy endings in this life.
No, give me grace and truth. Give me Jesus: fully God, fully man, full of grace and truth.
- Fully God, He is able to intercede on your behalf before the Father.
- Fully man, He knows from experience the kinds of trials you are going through.
- Full of grace and truth, both His deity and His humanity are fully joined together in one person, one person who upholds you at a personal level, leading, guiding, and encouraging you through the Holy Spirit. In His grace He has loved you with an everlasting love, and in His truth He who already has shown His faithfulness at the cross will be faithful to the end. He will preserve your soul through this life and lead you safely into the life to come.
The assertions I just made – fully God, fully man, and one person – have to do with the doctrine of the incarnation. The technical, theological term for this doctrine is the hypostatic union. The term hypostatic union comes from the Greek word hypostasis which means being. The theologian Wayne Grudem defines hypostatic union as “The union of Christ’s human and divine natures in one person.”
The 1689 London Baptist Confession further explains this concept. As you know, our church claims the 1689 London Baptist Confession, for the most part, as a summary statement of its basic doctrinal positions. You can find this document under the doctrine section on the church web site. The name of the church web site is gbfmj.org: GBF for Grace Bible Fellowship and MJ for Mount Juliet. We use a version of that confession that is rewritten in modern English. Chapter eight discusses Christ the Mediator. Paragraph three in that chapter deals with the incarnation. I would like to read that paragraph for you now. I will break it down according to the aspects of the hypostatic union that it affirms.
First, there is the full deity of Jesus.
The divine Person who made the world, and upholds and governs all things that He has made, is the Son of God, the second Person of the Holy Trinity. He is true and eternal God, the 'brightness of the Father's glory', of the same substance (or essence) as the Father, and equal with Him.
Second, there is the full humanity of Jesus.
It is He who, at the appointed time, took upon Himself the nature of man, with all its essential characteristics and its common infirmities, [except for sin]. He was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, a woman who belonged to the tribe of Judah, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her and the power of God most High overshadowing her. And so, as the Scripture tells us, He was made of a woman, a descendant of Abraham and David.
Third, there is the union of deity and humanity in one person.
In this way it came about that the two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the divine and the human, were inseparably joined together in one Person, without the conversion of the one nature into the other, and without the mixing, as it were, of one nature with the other; in other words, without confusion. Thus the Son of God is now both true God and true man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
Throughout the history of the church, people have struggled to understand what kind of being Jesus was when He lived among people on the earth. We will consider this question under three headings: fully God, fully man, and full of grace and truth. Now, if this were merely a theological discussion, my third point would be one person rather than full of grace and truth. However, this morning I want to emphasize that not only is Jesus one person, but He is personal. He manifests His grace and truth in personal ways, and because of this, no matter what life throws at you, spiritually you are going to be okay as long as you cling to Jesus.
Again, the primary text is John 1:14 which says, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
Support for Jesus’ full deity.
Our first point is we affirm that Jesus is fully God. Scripture supports the full deity of Christ in at least six ways:
- He is clearly stated to be God by scripture.
- He is eternal, an attribute only God can have.
- He was addressed in scripture as God.
- He confessed His deity before the High Priest.
- He possessed divine powers.
- He received worship.
First, Jesus is clearly stated to be God.
Did you notice that the word Jesus is not used in John 1 until verse seventeen. Before that, starting with verse one, Jesus is referred to as the Word. The Greek expression for word is logos. By using this word John reaches out to both Jews and Greeks. To the Stoic Greeks, logos was an impersonal, rational principle that gave meaning and order to the universe. To the Jews, most of which relied upon a Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint or LXX, the Hebrew word dabar had been translated as logos. They were used to hearing the phrase logos of the Lord. More than that, they were used to hearing that phrase in personified and animated ways, for example, the logos of the Lord came. Thus, they sometimes saw the Logos of God as not only divine speech but as some kind of power, force, or angel. Nevertheless, the Jews did not see the Logos of God as God. This is where John brings an understanding of logos that neither the Jews nor the Greeks had known. In the first three verses John defends the deity of the Word or logos, first by calling the Word God and second by placing the Word in eternity before creation. Consider the first three verses again.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 He was in the beginning with God.
3 All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.
In the first verse John affirms that the Word was both with God and was God. He was distinct from the Father; yet He was God, just as the Father was God.
Second, Jesus is eternal, an attribute only God can have.
John shows that Jesus is uncreated by making use of very accessible, common sense logic. Every created thing was created by Jesus; yet Jesus surely did not create Himself. If He is uncreated – if He has always existed – then He must be God.
Third, Jesus was addressed as God.
We see this in the use of the Greek word theos which means God. It is usually reserved for God the Father. However, we find several places where it is also used of Jesus, including John 1:18, John 20:28-29, Titus 2:13, and 2 Peter 1:1.
Fourth, Jesus confessed His deity before the High Priest.
In Matthew 26:62-66 we read:
The high priest stood up and said to Him, "Do You not answer? What is it that these men are testifying against You?" But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest said to Him, "I adjure You by the living God, that You tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God." Jesus said to him, "You have said it yourself; nevertheless I tell you, hereafter you will see THE SON OF MAN SITTING AT THE RIGHT HAND OF POWER, and COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF HEAVEN." Then the high priest tore his robes and said, "He has blasphemed! What further need do we have of witnesses? Behold, you have now heard the blasphemy; what do you think?" They answered, "He deserves death!"
Fifth, Jesus possessed divine powers.
Jesus possessed powers that were not part of human nature. In John 2:1-11, Jesus changed water into wine. In Matthew 14:15-21, Jesus took two fishes and five loaves and created enough food to feed five thousand people. In Matthew 8:27, Jesus stopped a storm.
Sixth, Jesus received worship.
In the ninth chapter of John Jesus healed a blind man, after which He let that man worship Him. Prior to this, the blind man had defended the character of Jesus before the Pharisees, and the Pharisees had reacted by putting the blind man out of the temple. Taking up the story at John 9:35 we read:
Jesus heard that they had put him out, and finding him, He said, "Do you believe in the Son of Man?" He answered, "Who is He, Lord, that I may believe in Him?" Jesus said to him, "You have both seen Him, and He is the one who is talking with you." And he said, "Lord, I believe." And he worshiped Him.
Opposition to Jesus' full deity.
In spite of the biblical evidence, some deny that Jesus is fully God. Some claim that the Bible implicitly denies the full deity of Jesus, since in Matthew 24:36 Jesus did not know when He would return. They ask, “How could He be God if there were gaps in His knowledge of the future?”
However, this objection need not trouble us if we understand that Jesus deliberately restrained Himself from exercising some divine prerogatives in order to obey His Father and to accomplish His mission.
In His divine nature, He had the same powers as the Father and the Holy Spirit. But having divine powers and using divine powers are two different things. To be fully God, He merely had to have these powers -- He did not have to always use them. Jesus mission was to live a life of perfect obedience primarily in His human nature. Where the first Adam failed, Jesus was the second Adam who succeeded. Jesus lived in dependence upon the leadership of the Holy Spirit, just as we are supposed to live. Any inappropriate use of divine powers would have defeated Jesus' mission.
So although Jesus was fully God, because of His mission and purpose, He was willing, in obedience to the Father, to restrict His use of divine powers and to limit His access to some facts about the future, such as when He would return.
Having established that Jesus is fully God, we now consider the scriptural support for the position that Jesus is also fully man:
- He was human in His birth.
- He was human in His weaknesses and limitations.
- He was human but sinless.
- He will be human forever.
Human birth -- supernatural conception.
The humanity of Jesus is partly seen through the way He was born. Although Jesus had a super-natural conception – He was conceived through the Holy Spirit in the womb of a virgin – He, nevertheless, developed in His mother's womb in the normal way and was born in the normal way.
Human weaknesses and limitations.
The humanity of Jesus is also seen through His personal experience of human frailty. Our text says, "The word became flesh," not "The word became man." In choosing the word for flesh, sarx, John is not using the word flesh the way Paul sometimes uses it. He is not talking about an internal principle of sin. Rather, John is saying that Jesus experienced humanity in its weaknesses and limitations.
First, He had a human body and mind.
We read in Luke 2:7, "The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him." He started out short, and He became tall. He started out weak, and He became strong. He started out reasoning like a child, and He learned to reason like an adult.
Second, He had a human soul and emotions.
This had been predicted in Isaiah 53:3 where it says He was "a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief."
Third, He had a human appearance.
To other people, Jesus looked like just another man. Isaiah 53:2 predicted the commonness of His appearance, saying, "He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him."
Human but sinless.
I have just rehearsed aspects of Jesus' humanity in which He was like us. Now I come to an aspect of Jesus' humanity in which He was not like us at all – Jesus was sinless.
Jesus was aware of His sinlessness. In John 8:46 when Jesus confronted the Pharisees, He asked, "Which one of you convicts Me of sin?"
Why was Jesus sinless? It was not because He had an easy road to travel. Indeed, the temptations Jesus experienced were thorough. In Hebrews 4:14-16 we read:
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore, let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.
Jesus was tempted in all things common to man. This is one of the places where the truth of the incarnation is especially sweet. Your personal struggles may be a mystery to your family, your church, and your loved ones. Even your closest friends might not understand. But there is one who does understand -- Jesus. Because of what He suffered in His time on earth, He can sympathize, and He can help.
Moreover, the humanity of Jesus was not a short-term commitment. Jesus will forever be the God-man. When he ascended to heaven He did not leave His humanity behind. For example, He is still able to eat. When He instituted the Lord's Supper in Matthew 26:29 he said, “I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father's kingdom." In addition, He still has a body. Remember what happened in John 20:27 when he appeared to Thomas. Jesus said, “Reach here your finger, and see My hands; and reach here your hand, and put it into My side; and be not unbelieving, but believing.”
Full of Grace and Truth
The glory of grace and truth.
Having considered the full deity and full humanity of Jesus, we move on to consider his glory, a glory described by John “as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The first thing John says about Jesus’ glory is that He is the only begotten of the Father. In strictly human contexts the word begotten means born. In this context, however, begotten pertains to Jesus’ eternal sonship. There was never a time when Jesus was not the Son of God. Human relationships begin and end in time, but Jesus’ filial relationship to His Father is eternal. It never began, and it will never end. It has always been and forever will be. This does not mean that Jesus is less God than the Father; it means that in terms of hierarchy of personal relationship in the Trinity, Jesus forever stands in the relationship of Son.
The second thing John says about Jesus’ glory is that it is full of grace and truth. John uses the word for grace four times in His gospel. In John 1:16 the phrase “grace upon grace” employs a commercial concept, where in exchange for grace we just get more grace. In John 1:17, while the law came through Moses, grace and truth were realized, brought about into reality, through Jesus Christ.
While John uses the word for grace sparingly, he uses the words for truth all over the place. The idea of truth is used in three main ways in scripture: truth as fact, truth as fullness, and truth as faithfulness. We are most familiar with thinking of truth in terms of correspondence to facts. Truth as fullness is a little more complicated. In scripture we find truth as fullness with respect to types, genuineness, satisfaction, explanation, or compliance. Truth as faithfulness is seen in expressions like, “He is a true friend.” While Jesus is the truth in all these ways – fact, fullness, and faithfulness – the emphasis in John 1:14 is truth as faithfulness, and the word is aletheia.
The word pair, grace and truth, reminds us of another word pair we see throughout the Old Testament – chesed and emeth. It is often translated as lovingkindness and faithfulness or lovingkindness and truth. Those words are used in Psalm 86:15 where we read, “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness and truth.” It seems that John chose the word grace – charitos – to express the idea he wanted to convey regarding chesed or lovingkindness.
In John 1:14, as Jesus dwelt among the disciples, they were able to testify that His glory was full of grace and truth. There was another time when someone was able to testify to the glory of God. In Exodus 33:18 Moses asked God to show him His glory. Do you remember what God said as His glory passed by Moses? In Exodus 34:6-7 he said:
And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children's children, unto the third and to the fourth generation.
The problem of grace and truth.
How could God forgive without clearing guilty people? Have you ever thought about that? Human judges are either just or merciful, but they can’t be both at the same time. A merciful judge must sacrifice justice for leniency. A just judge must sacrifice mercy for fairness. What a problem! How could God forgive our sins without violating his justice? This was a God-sized problem, but God had the solution – the God-man, Jesus Christ. Only one who was fully God and fully man could pay for our sins and free us from our guilt. Only through the substitutionery atonement could God convey the grace of forgiveness, while at the same time being true to the righteous demands of His justice. But there is even more – only one who is fully God and fully man could serve as our mediator. Let’s unpack this.
The problem overcome by Jesus’ divinity.
Jesus had to be fully God. There are at least four reasons.
First, the magnitude of the penalty.
When Jesus suffered on the cross He bore the penalty for the sins of all of the elect: past, present, and future. This is more than any finite human being could bear. Only an infinite being could bear wrath of this magnitude.
Second, the magnitude of the offense.
As God, Jesus’ life had infinite value, and only a sacrifice of infinite value could compensate for an offense against infinite deity.
Third, the source of salvation.
Scripture is clear that ultimately salvation is from the Lord. Psalm 146:3 says, “Do not trust in princes, in mortal man, in whom there is no salvation.” Lamentations 3:25-26 says, “The LORD is good to those who wait for Him, to the person who seeks Him. It is good that he waits silently for the salvation of the Lord.”
Fourth, Jesus' knowledge of the Father.
A mediator has to know both parties. Because of Jesus’ unique relationship to the Father, He was able to explain the Father to us, as we read in John 1:18, “No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
The problem overcome by Jesus’ humanity.
That is why it was necessary for Jesus to be fully God. It was also necessary for Jesus to be fully human. There are at least five reasons.
First, to be our sympathetic high priest.
Of course, in His deity Jesus already had access to all facts about human suffering. He even had access to knowledge of the special circumstances of each individual. But Jesus chose not only to know about suffering but also to experience it Himself. To draw near to another person in order to understand how they are suffering is a wonderful thing, but to share their experience of suffering: to endure their pain, to feel their losses, to know their sorrows -- this is how the Savior has loved you, and this is how He reaches out to you, even now.
Second, to be our representative in perfect obedience.
In the Garden of Eden, Adam was our representative head. As a result, when Adam fell, we fell with Him. The guilt we all share through Adam is called Original Sin. We not only share his nature, but we share his guilt. This seems terribly unfair, unless you stop to consider that Jesus is our new representative head. Just as we all died through Adam, we can all live through Christ. Romans 5:18-19 explains this:
So then as through one transgression there resulted condemnation to all men, even so through one act of righteousness there resulted justification of life to all men. For as through the one man's disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous.
Third, to be our substitute sacrifice.
Jesus had to be human, so He could be a substitute sacrifice to God on behalf of humans. We find this in Hebrews 2:14-15:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives.
Fourth, to be our mediator.
Jesus' full humanity was necessary so He could be the mediator between God and man. We find this in Hebrews 2:17-18:
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.
The humanity of the mediator is emphasized also in 1 Timothy 2:5 where we read, "There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."
Fifth, to be our example.
Jesus' full humanity was necessary so He could be a pattern and example for the way we should live. Scripture does clearly teach us to follow Christ's example. Here are a few verses that do that:
· The one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked. 1 John 2:6
· For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; Romans 8:29
· For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps. 1 Peter 2:21
The problem overcome by Jesus incarnation as one person.
Thus, in order to be our savior and mediator, Jesus had to be fully God and fully man. But there is more – Jesus had to be one person. Jesus is one person with two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, and between those two natures there is no conversion, composition, or confusion. One cannot deny this without doing violence to the doctrine of the atonement.
For example, one group believed that the only human part of Jesus was his body. They thought His mind and spirit were from His divine nature. But the early church realized that it was not just our bodies that needed salvation but our minds and spirits as well.
Another group believed there were two separate persons in Christ’s one body, a human person and a divine person. But in scripture you never see anything like that with Jesus. Different actions might spring more from one nature than the other, but you never find Jesus’ human nature having a conversation with His divine nature. More than that, if there really were two persons in Jesus, which one suffered on the cross? Both divinity and humanity were required for the atonement.
Another group believed Jesus had only one nature, a nature which was a combination of His human nature and His divine nature, forming a new kind of nature. However, if that were true Jesus could not have represented us on the cross as humans, and the atonement would have been impossible.
By God’s grace, the issue of the person and nature of Christ was resolved by the early church in A.D. 451 at a city near Constantinople (modern Istanbul). The city was Chalcedon, and the resolution was called the Chalcedonian Definition. The language of the definition is consolidated in the Westminster Confession and in the 1689 London Baptist Confession.
It is important to note what the people at that council did not do. They did not explain the atonement; they fenced the mystery. That is what we need to do when it comes to mysteries like the Trinity and the Atonement – take what scripture clearly says and implies and do not add to it.
Why is this important? Knowledge of the decisions of the early church regarding the person and nature of Christ will help to protect you from modern day heresies:
- It will protect you from Oneness Pentecostalism, which denies that all three persons of the Trinity exist in their different persons at the same time.
- It will protect you from Jehovah’s Witnesses who downplay the deity of Christ.
- It will protect you from the so-called Christian Scientists who downplay the humanity of Christ.
- It will protect you from the influence of popular, touchy-feely books like The Shack, books that convey erroneous ideas about the Trinity and the Incarnation.
For this reason, I would encourage everyone to become more familiar with the London Baptist Confession. Confessions are like that noise you hear when you veer too far to the right on the side of a road. Many roads now have shoulder rumble strips that make a noise when you drive on them. That noise does not force you to stay in the road, but it does let you know when you are about to leave the road. If you leave the safe road of orthodoxy mapped out in our confession, let it not be by accident or ignorance.
The problem overcome through Jesus’ continual personal interaction.
As our confession states and scripture affirms, for the grace and truth that Jesus wanted to bring about, He had to be fully God, fully man, and one person. But there is more. Not only is Jesus one person, but Jesus is also personal.
Jesus was personal in His incarnation. In 1 John 1:1 He is described as, “That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, of the Word of life.” Now that’s personal.
Of course, it is no surprise that the disciples were able to see the grace and truth of the glory of Jesus – He was right there with them, but what about us? Jesus is physically in heaven, seated at the right hand of the Father, and we are still here. How are we to experience the grace and truth of Jesus in a personal way?
Now, the fact that Jesus is seated at the right hand of the Father in heaven is no small thing. Jesus is your mediator – your prophet, priest, and king. Your case is heard in heaven, because Jesus is there interceding on your behalf. This is huge, but there is more. Jesus is not just working on your behalf like a faraway lawyer; He is personally and intimately involved in your life. But how is that possible if Jesus is physically in heaven?
Jesus took care of this problem before He ascended. In John 14:16-17 He said, "I will ask the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may be with you forever; that is the Spirit of truth, whom the world cannot receive, because it does not see Him or know Him, but you know Him because He abides with you and will be in you.”
Jesus says the Holy Spirit is with you now, and after I leave He will be in you. In you, now that’s personal, but that is the Holy Spirit. What about Jesus? It is Jesus we are asking about.
Further clarification is offered in John 16:14. Speaking of the Holy Spirit Jesus says, “He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you.”
So the Holy Spirit does not interact with you on His own behalf but on behalf of Christ. Now we begin to understand. Part of the Holy Spirit’s role is to make Christ known to you. So much does He make Christ known to you, so personal is this mediation, that at the end of Matthew 28:20 Jesus says, “Lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” How was Jesus able to say when He was getting ready to ascend to heaven? He could say this, because when the Holy Spirit is inside of you He reveals Christ.
At the same time, the Holy Spirit is still fully God, He is the third person of the Trinity, and He shares the same nature as the Father and the Son. Nothing I have said undermines His deity. But each person of the Trinity has different roles. Part of the Holy Spirit’s role is to make Christ known to you, not just for salvation but through every issue and challenge of your life. That is why He is sometimes called the Spirit of Christ. Indeed, we find in both 1 Peter 1:11 and in Romans 8:9 that He is actually called the Spirit of Christ, and in Galatians 4:6 He is referred to as the Spirit of God’s Son.
Therefore Jesus, even though He is physically in heaven, continues to shower us with His grace and truth in personal ways through the ongoing work of the Holy Spirit.
Jesus’ ongoing ministry of grace and truth through the Holy Spirit – H.O.P.E.
Knowing this should encourage your hearts, but I would like to encourage you even more by discussing some of the ways in which we experience the grace and truth of Christ through the Holy Spirit.
To do this I would like to employ the word hope, letting hope be an acronym for four words: Helper, Opener, Pleader, and Encourager.
First, the Holy Spirit is a helper:
- He helps you by strengthening your faith when you are weak.
- He helps you by building up your faith when you are tempted to doubt.
- He helps you by filling you with joy – not happiness but joy – at the same time that you are overwhelmed with sadness.
Next, the Holy Spirit is an opener – kind of like a can opener:
- He opens the eyes of your heart so you can receive the Gospel, believe the Gospel, and keep on believing it.
- He opens the archives of your memory so you can recall God's faithfulness in the past, thereby finding motivation to trust Him in the present.
- He opens the understanding of your mind so that you can better comprehend scripture.
Next, the Holy Spirit is a pleader – a personal prayer warrior:
- He prays for you.
- He prays through you.
- He prays with you.
Romans 8:26-27 tells us that “. . . the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.”
Finally, the Holy Spirit is an encourager:
- He encourages you through the people He brings into your lives to help you.
- He encourages you through the various public and private means of grace, for example, preaching, teaching, prayer, scripture reading, singing, and the ordinances.
- He encourages you through the light of His countenance. This is where God sometimes – at times of His own choosing – makes His presence so strongly manifest that you can feel it. Thus, some of the older writers referred to this as His sensible presence or His felt presence.
So there you go – H.O.P.E. Yes, Jesus is physically in heaven, but spiritually, through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, Jesus is your helper, your opener, your pleader, and your encourager.
This is why I don’t want sentiment during the winter holidays. No, give me Jesus: fully God, fully man, full of grace and truth. If Jesus is your Lord, and you are hurting right now, Jesus is upholding you, He is carrying you, and He is not going to let go until He gets you safely home.
Let us pray:
Dear Heavenly Father, thank you for the reasons you have given us for hope and peace. May this Doctrine of the Incarnation be always protected in our minds and treasured in our hearts. Amen.