The Deity of Christ While on Earth

Text: Philippians 2:5-8


I.         A debate arose among brethren concerning the nature of Christ several decades ago

            A.        I watched the debates rage. It is easy to see that both sides stretch the position of the other as they attempt to justify their belief.

                        1.         It does not affect a person’s salvation directly.

                        2.         It doesn’t affect a person’s obedience to God.

                        3.         It is more a philosophical or theological debate.

                        4.         However, the ultimate consequences of belief on this issue can lead a person to accept false conclusions.

                                    a.         It is this fear of what might come as a result of this belief that had brethren up in arms.

II.        The issue revolves around the understanding of two sets of passages

            A.        Philippians 2:5-8 - What did Jesus empty himself of when He came to earth?

            B.        Hebrews 4:15 and James 1:13 - If Jesus was God while on earth, then how could he have been tempted?

            C.        Both sides acknowledge that Jesus is God and has been God.

                        1.         Most will even acknowledge that he remained God in title while on earth.

                        2.         But some say that Jesus gave up or took on limitations to his powers of deity so as to fully experience being a human.

III.       The answer can be easily found, if people will just approach the Scriptures is a logical manner.

            A.        Does the Bible indicate that Jesus was less than God while on earth?

                        1.         John 1:1-2, 10, 14 - God took on flesh and lived among us. Can you imagine the power of that statement? The being who shaped this universe from nothing, by simply speaking, actually walked among us!

                        2.         John 5:16-18

                                    a.         Jesus claims to be directly related to God the Father.

                                    b.         But notice that Jesus said that the Father has been working in this universe and that Jesus is also continuing to work.

                                    c.         Jesus is making himself equal to God!

                                    d.         The Jews understood Jesus’ claim. It is the reason they sought to kill him.

                        3.         John 8:56-59 - Jesus claims the name “I AM”, the name God used to identify himself in Ex 3:14

                        4.         John 14:8-10 - The disciples ask to see God, but Jesus said that seeing him showed God to them because they are in fellowship.

                        5.         John 20:28-29 - Thomas calls Jesus his God, and is praised to acknowledging it.

                        6.         But as we said, most acknowledge that Jesus was God here on earth.

            B.        Was Jesus missing any of the attributes of deity while on earth?

                        1.         Eternal - John 8:56-59 - Jesus’ claim of being I AM

                        2.         Omnipresent - God’s presence is everywhere

                                    a.         Nathaniel - John 1:45-49

                                    b.         Lazarus’ death - John 11:3-15

                        3.         Omniscient - God is all knowing

                                    a.         Woman at the well - John 4:16-19

                                    b.         John 2:24-25 - Jesus knew the hearts of all men

                                    c.         John 16:30 - The disciples testified that Jesus knew all things

                        4.         Omnipotent - God is all powerful

                                    a.         Power to heal - Throughout the Gospels

                                                (1)       Sure others healed, but not with the magnitude of Jesus

                                    b.         Power to raise the dead - John 11

                                    c.         Power to control the weather - Luke 8:25

                                    d.         Power to forgive sins - Matthew 9:6

                                    e.         Power to sustain the world

                                                (1)       Hebrews 1:3 - Upholding all things

                                                (2)       Colossians 1:17 - In Jesus all things hold together

                                                (3)       John 5:16-18 - Jesus continued his work while on earth

                        5.         Name one attribute of God that Jesus did not have while on earth.

                                    a.         I cannot think of one, unless you want to count the power to create.

                                    b.         Even here, God only used that power at the beginning.

                                                (1)       The fact that he is not continuing to use that particular power does not mean He gave up the power or that He no longer has that power.

            C.        Truly, in Jesus was the full representation of the Godhead

                        1.         Colossians 2:9 - The fullness of deity in bodily form

IV.      So what did Jesus empty himself of in Philippians 2:5-8?

            A.        We established that Jesus was fully God while on earth. He did not give up the attributes of deity while on Earth.

            B.        Rather Jesus took on, or added to himself the likeness of man.

                        1.         Becoming a man was an addition to his previous state of being.

            C.        What Jesus did give up is stated clearly in this passage.

                        1.         Jesus was God, but he became a servant

                        2.         Jesus gave up his exalted position.

                        3.         He did not change his nature. He did not change who he was. He changed his position - he humbled himself.

                                    a.         Humbled - tepeinoo - “to bring low, abase, or to make oneself of low condition”

                                    b.         It is the opposite of “to exalt oneself, lift up, or to become haughty, proud, or elevated above others.

            D.        To state that he gave up his powers or his divinity is to add something that is not in this passage.

V.        How can God be tempted?

            A.        God in his pure spiritual form cannot be tempted.

            B.        Temptation comes from three avenues - I John 2:16

                        1.         Lust of the flesh — God has no flesh, so He cannot be tempted.

                        2.         Lust of the eyes — God created and owns everything, so He cannot be tempted

                        3.         Pride of life — God is above everything, so He cannot be tempted with something greater

            C.        But when God took on the likeness of man

                        1.         He added flesh, which can be used for a temptation because the flesh has desires.

                        2.         He gave up his position of power, which Satan could use to offer some back.

                        3.         He humbled himself, which Satan could then offer something greater.

            D.        God cannot be tempted, but God in the form of man could be and was tempted.

            E.        One of our problems is with our assumption that temptation requires a desire to do evil.

                        1.         The word in Matthew 4:1 and Hebrews 4:15 means to try, to put to the test

                        2.         While God cannot be tempted, man can wrongfully put God to the test - I Corinthians 10:9, Hebrews 3:9

                        3.         Note that James 1:13 says God cannot be tempted with evil.

                                    a.         In other words, God cannot be tried so as to sin

                                    b.         Neither does God try man to cause man to sin.

                                    c.         But God does try (same word) men - Hebrews 11:17

                        4.         We usually call the desire to do wrong lust and lust in that sense is a sin - Matthew 5:28, I Corinthians 10:6

                                    a.         If Jesus had desired to do evil, he would have sinned.

                                    b.         Yet Jesus was without sin - Hebrews 4:15

                        5.         How was Jesus tempted in all points like us – because Satan used every avenue at his disposable to put Jesus to the test.

                                    a.         Yet, unlike every man who ever lived, Jesus did not sin.

                                    b.         Note that particular point. All men sin - Romans 3:23

                                    c.         Yet Jesus did not sin. This places Jesus in a category separate from man.

                                    d.         Because God, being Deity, is holy - I Peter 1:16

                                                (1)       There is not a trace of unrighteousness in God - I John 1:5

                                                (2)       Yet men cannot make the same claim - I John 1:8

                                                (3)       The lack of sin in Jesus is another proof of his deity

VI.      Jesus is Immanuel - “God with us” - Matthew 1:23

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