Is Jesus really like God?

Jesus is loving, God (and by this we normally mean, the ‘first’ Person of the Trinity, and so the one who is really God(!!)) we just are no sure about. It can also be underlined by such passages as the hymn of Philippians 2 – the ‘humbled himself’ lines.

Here are a few translations. First my favourite translation the New Revised Standard Version:

Let the same mind be in you that was in Christ Jesus,
who, though he was in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God
as something to be exploited (NRSV).
In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:
Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage (NIV).
Think of yourselves the way Christ Jesus thought of himself. He had equal status with God but didn’t think so much of himself that he had to cling to the advantages of that status no matter what (The Message).
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped (ESV).
You should have the same attitude toward one another that Christ Jesus had,
who though he existed in the form of God
did not regard equality with God
as something to be grasped (The NET Translation).

In all the above the NIV does the best! I have emboldened a word that really snuck in with some of the translations – the word ‘though’. That word subtly gives the impression that he acts somewhat different to the divine nature. A bit like ‘Although I am a law-abiding citizen, I chose to break the law…’ An ‘in spite of’ phraseology. So let’s dig just a little:

ὃς ἐν μορφῇ θεοῦ – literally BEING IN THE FORM OF GOD, not though but if one were to add a word of emphasis it would be the word BECAUSE he was in the form of God. His act of self-humbling is because he was God not in spite of being God. This early hymn is so deeply significant; God was ‘re-defined’ forever through the incarnation of Jesus. The high and lofty one is the humble one, always has been and always will be.

Another similar passage is in 2 Cor. 8:9

For you know the generous act of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that by his poverty you might become rich.

Here again the word ‘though’ creeps in. John Barclay has argued that if we add a word here to bring out the meaning it really should be the word ‘because’. There is no ‘though’, we simply have ‘being rich’ (πλούσιος ὤν), hence Barclay’s argument – and as these clever people can be, rather a large argument on the grammar construction – is for the sense of BECAUSE.

Jesus does not act ‘in spite of’, there is no ‘though’. His action is the action of God. Never is there a divided Trinity. Jesus is the way he is, because God is that way. God is the kenotic God.

Mistakes… learning… perfect

The making mistakes gift

‘In the image of God’… perfect? No, but good. Humanity was never ‘created’ perfect (aside: nor ‘given’ an immortal soul). Such ideas are not formed from the earthy theology of the Bible, but the ‘ideal’ world of the Greeks. The theology that looks for a way out; God is always searching for a way in.

The incarnation. Jesus is sinless, but not ‘perfect’. Or, at least, he is not intrinsically perfect in the sense the word is used of humans in Scripture, the sense of ‘mature’. To arrive at maturity is a process. And it was a process also for Jesus.

It was fitting that God, for whom and through whom all things exist, in bringing many children to glory, should make the pioneer of their salvation perfect through sufferings (Heb. 2:10).

Although he was a Son, he learned obedience through what he suffered; and having been made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him (Heb. 4:8,9).

And Jesus increased in wisdom and in years, and in divine and human favour (Luke 2:52).

A growth in wisdom, a path toward maturity. True humanity, that which Jesus exhibited, is not ‘perfection’ as suggested to us from our infected-by-Hellenistic-philosophy theology, but it is one that embraces mistakes, of holding to a position that has to be later abandoned, and moved on from it. We are all influenced by our culture, the wider cultures and the closer culture of the faith we have embraced.

Jesus learned.

Perfection is not the measure of true humanness, but learning, adapting, changing is the measure.

We know the classic example of Jesus learning from the Syro-Phoenician woman’s response; or when we consider the ‘who knew better?’ question related to Jesus or his mother in John 2! Or maybe the washing of feet of the disciples (John 13) was provoked by the washing of his feet by Mary of Bethany earlier (John 12).

Did Jesus learn in those situations? I reply with a resounding ‘for sure’. For sure, not simply because I wish to affirm his humanity, but because I wish to affirm his (sinless) true humanness.

This post might only be for me… To learn to embrace mistakes, not to see them as ‘sin’, as ‘failure’ but as the door provided to enable me to mature.

One of God’s good gifts to humanity is the ability to make mistakes.

God is God, and sadly we project on to God our humanity. ‘Anger’, ‘slow to forgive without proper repayment and forgiveness’; we tend to make God in our image, or the ‘idealised’ image of humanity (with all our imperfections). The two above examples are classic: wrath, but never are the anger of humans and the anger of God compared… and forgiveness… hence we end up with a transactional cross and a divided Trinity. Then we tend to make Jesus, as human, into ‘our’ God as human, so true humanness becomes something that provokes us to become even less human than we are! As if!!!

In the Garden we were tempted to become ‘as God’… the problem has always been a desire to become like the ‘God’ we perceive! Hence the purification we go through to act with power. The theology that sanctifies getting to the ‘top’.

It is all cut down when God becomes like us, the incarnation. Here is the image of God; here indeed is God.

(And the get to the top ideology is somewhat mocked in the tower of Babel story. The tower will reach heaven… God in heaven has to come ‘down’ to see it. Not so high after all. Hence, all the centres of power are not what they seem, they will all be unfinished, they will not reach the heights they proclaim. The small stone is always more effective than the great image that is created.)

The incarnation. And God in human form learns.

Long live mistakes. (Again written for me.) I guess it is not likely I hit the bulls eye today.