“The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ, and through Christ to God. This is to be our study.”
Selected Messages, Book 1, 244
We started this series several months ago with 1 Timothy 3:16: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” Another text speaks of the same mystery found in 1 Timothy, but the language is completely different. “I now rejoice in my sufferings for you, and fill up in my flesh what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ, for the sake of His body, which is the church, of which I became a minister according to the stewardship from God which was given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God, the mystery which has been hidden from ages and from generations, but now has been revealed to His saints. To them God willed to make known what are the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles: which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.” Colossians 1:24–27
Friends, if I do not understand the truth about the nature of Christ, then I will not understand what it means for Christ to be in me, the hope of glory, and that has serious implications.
Let’s continue our study of the mystery of godliness, focusing on Galatians 4, starting with verses 4 and 5.
“But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”
This is a simple and straightforward text, yet there is, in Adventism, tremendous controversy and misunderstanding over it. This is because we often read into the text something that it does not actually say. Some Adventists have interpreted that when the Bible says “God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law,” as meaning that Christ was born under the law of sin. You and I are born under the law of sin; in fact, every human being, save One, that has ever lived and is alive in the world today is born under the law of sin. The Spirit of Prophecy talks at great length about this and I challenge you to search it out for yourself.
In the Bible, the word law can apply to a number of different things and this is where the problem arises among conservative, Protestant Christians. They take New Testament texts that refer to the law or laws and apply them to the ten commandments—the law of God—when the texts could be referring to the law of the Lord, the law of Moses, or even the Torah. We have to be careful which interpretation of the word law we are adopting when we speak of the nature of Christ. Jesus was born under the law, just not the law of sin.
The first section of the Hebrew Bible is called the Torah. The Torah is the law, written by Moses and followed by the Jews as the law. The ten commandments are contained within the Torah, and oftentimes, the New Testament talks about the Torah, referring to it as the whole law of Moses. So, it is important to know which law the Bible is referring to: the law of the Lord, the law of God (the ten commandments), or the law of Moses.
But Paul writes in Romans 7 about “another” law which is not one of these three, but rather the law of sin. If you recall, we previously learned that Adam was originally created and lived in perfect harmony, not only with the law of God, but also with the nature of God. The principles of righteousness were written on his heart. Adam’s natural thoughts and feelings, his disposition and affections were in harmony with the nature and law of God; he reflected the character of God. Adam was created under the law of God.
But when he sinned, his nature, once governed by the principles of righteousness, was changed, and thereafter governed by the principles of selfishness. This new nature, governed by the law of sin, became the nature of all mankind.
We are born under the law of sin, but Jesus was born under the law of God. He was born to be the embodiment of the law of God. How could He be the ultimate example of a life lived in perfect obedience to the law of God if He was not born under the law of sin, the same law that governs us?
Let’s see how this can be true. “Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent by God to a city of Galilee named Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David. The virgin’s name was Mary. And having come in, the angel said to her, ‘Rejoice, highly favored one, the Lord is with you; blessed are you among women!’ But when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and considered what manner of greeting this was. Then the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ Then Mary said to the angel, ‘How can this be, since I do not know a man?’ And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’ ” Luke 1:26–35
What these texts say cannot be said about any human being except Jesus Christ. “He was born without a taint of sin, but came into the world in like manner as the human family.” Lift Him Up, 345. He grew in His mother’s womb and when the fullness of time was accomplished, He was delivered into this world, born with a physical body the same as all human beings.
Jesus was born of the Holy Spirit and a human woman. So here’s the question, what did He inherit from Mary? We find the answer in Romans 1:3, “Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh.” And Hebrews 10:5, 10, “Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me.’ … By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
Remember, that the words flesh, nature, and law can have more than one meaning, and to know the correct meaning, we have to know the context of the scripture. So, what does the word flesh in Romans 1:3 refer to?
This is what Ellen White says are the attributes of human beings: “We have reason, conscience, memory, will, affections—all the attributes a human being can possess.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 6, 112
Now let’s look at what she says about Christ:
“We should consider the fact that to Christ our nature was a robe of humiliation and suffering. He humbled Himself to become a man, so that a body should be found, a Lamb without blemish should be provided as a sinless offering, that God might be just and the Justifier of him that believeth in Jesus. Humanity was in union with divinity.” The Signs of the Times, June 18, 1896
“He had not taken on Him even the nature of the angels, but humanity, perfectly identical with our own nature, except without the taint of sin. A human body, a human mind, with all the peculiar properties, He was bone, brain, and muscle. A man of our flesh, He was compassed with the weakness of humanity.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 182
These two references make it clear that the word flesh, in this context, refer to His physical, human body and mind.
“The circumstances of His life were of that character that He was exposed to all the inconveniences that belong to men, not in wealth, not in ease, but in poverty and want and humiliation. He breathed the very air man must breathe. He trod our earth as a man. He had reason, conscience, memory, will, and affections of the human soul which was united with His divine nature.” Ibid.
So from our reading in Galatians 4 and from Inspiration, we find that Jesus received from His mother a human body and mind—prepared by God—with all the attributes possible for a human being to possess. He was made to be the Lamb without blemish, without the taint of sin, that a sanctified offering might be found. Christ’s humanity did not exist before He was conceived and born of Mary.
“His [Christ’s] human nature was created; it did not even possess the angelic powers. It was human, identical with our own.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 6, 111
Jesus had existed as a divine person throughout the ceaseless ages. In His divinity, He was not under the law of God. As the author of the law, He was above it. But when He was made of a woman, He was made in subjection to the law of God. He became a child of humanity, instructed by the Holy Spirit as every child may be, and a servant under the government of His Father until the time appointed for Him to receive His kingdom.
The foundation of God’s government in heaven and throughout His earthly dominion is His law, and it has two ruling principles: to love God supremely and to love our fellow human beings as ourselves. “The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness of all created beings depended upon their perfect accord with its great principles of righteousness. God desires from all His creatures the service of love—homage that springs from an intelligent appreciation of His character.” The Great Controversy, 493. The authority of God is backed by His law which requires all created intelligences to be in subjection to its claims.
God sent His Son made under the law, placed under the jurisdiction, power, and control of His government and His law. To be subject to God’s law, Jesus had to have a human body, because in His divinity alone, He was not under or subject to the law.
This raised the question in Ellen White’s time, and still today, when Jesus was tempted, was it possible for Him to yield to the temptation? In fact, there are many Protestant theologians who believe that it was impossible for Christ to fail, impossible for Him to yield to temptation.
But Mrs. White says in answer to this question: “The point you inquire of me is, In our Lord’s great scene of conflict in the wilderness, apparently under the power of Satan and his angels, was He capable, in His human nature, of yielding to these temptations?
“I will try to answer this important question: As God He could not be tempted: but as a man He could be tempted, and that strongly, and could yield to the temptations.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 129
Notice how particular and definite she is in detail. Was Christ God? Yes He was. In His divine nature as God He could not be tempted (James 1:13–15).
“For a period of time Christ was on probation. He took humanity on Himself, to stand the test and trial which the first Adam failed to endure. Had He failed in His test and trial, He would have been disobedient to the voice of God, and the world would have been lost.” The Signs of the Times, May 10, 1899
From these references we can know that Christ was identical to us in His humanity, including not only bone, brain and muscle, but also all the attributes a human being can possess—conscience, memory, will, and affections—with the vital exception that His humanity did not possess the taint of sin.
We have studied that the law of God is an expression of His very nature, the embodiment of the great principle of love, the foundation of His government in heaven and earth. Mrs. White says that His law is a transcript of His character and the only correct standard of holiness.
“Righteousness is holiness, likeness to God, and ‘God is love.’ 1 John 4:16. It is conformity to the law of God, for ‘all Thy commandments are righteousness’ (Psalm 119:172), and ‘love is the fulfilling of the law’ (Romans 13:10). Righteousness is love, and love is the light and the life of God.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 18
God’s law is truth, the embodiment of the great principle of love, the foundation of His government in heaven and on earth, a transcript of His character, the security of life, happiness, and peace. God’s law is righteousness and the only correct standard of holiness, but to sinners that law is a ministry of condemnation and death.
The law of God is broad in its requirements, and man is under the obligation to keep it, not only outwardly, but in his thoughts, emotions, intents, and feelings of the heart and soul.
“If the law extended to the outward conduct only, men would not be guilty in their wrong thoughts, desires, and designs. But the law requires that the soul itself be pure and the mind holy, that the thoughts and feelings may be in accordance with the standard of love and righteousness.” The Review and Herald, April 5, 1898
Notice that the soul and the mind are closely connected. “The mind controls the whole man. All our actions, good or bad, have their source in the mind. It is the mind that worships God, and allies us to heavenly beings.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 426. The law of God requires that the soul itself—the inward thoughts, feelings, motives, and desires—not just the outward actions, be pure and in harmony with it.
There are two powers seeking to control in this world. Satan is in a vicious and violent battle to control the minds and souls of men. He spends all of his time trying to figure out how to accomplish it. We need to understand this warfare and how we must cooperate with the heavenly agencies.
“The law requires righteousness—a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law.” The Desire of Ages, 762
The reason we cannot meet the claims of God’s law is not complicated. When Adam yielded to temptation, man became carnal, and when he had a son, his son was then born in his carnal image. All of us are born as partakers of the satanic nature. Adam’s natural allegiance belonged to his Creator, but he became a traitor, and as the legal representative of the race, laid its homage as a willing offering at the feet of the enemy, who then took control of man’s mind. Knowing this, it is easy to look back through history and understand how man was, and still is, capable of some of the most horrendous thoughts and actions.
How is it that mankind has become so degraded? There is but one explanation: the devil controls the human mind. Selfishness is the law of Satan’s kingdom, and when man chose him as his ruler, he came under the jurisdiction of the law of self, the law of sin. Selfishness replaced love in man’s heart and became the ruling principle of his life.
The law of God requires righteousness, and not one of Adam’s posterity is born inheriting righteousness, because Adam disobeyed and entailed sin upon his posterity (Manuscript Releases, Vol. 6, 3). Righteousness is holiness, a likeness to God. “No man inherits holiness as a birthright, nor can he, by any methods that he can devise, become loyal to God.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 310. From the moment of conception, we are, by nature, transgressors of God’s law. We do not possess the righteousness, the holiness, nor the allegiance to God that the law demands.
But what does the Bible say regarding the humanity of the only begotten Son from the moment that He was conceived? “And the angel answered and said to her, ‘The Holy Ghost will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you: therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.’ ” Luke 1:35
Referring to this scripture, Mrs. White says, “These words do not refer to any human being, except to the Son of the infinite God.” The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 5, 1128. It was essential that from the moment of conception, Jesus had to be righteous, holy, and have an allegiance to God, all the things which the law demands. He had to meet the claims and the requirements of the law of God from the moment of conception, because He came to fulfill the law. “Jesus volunteered to meet the highest claims of the law, that He might be the justifier of all who believe on Him. We look to the cross, and see in Jesus a fully satisfied and reconciled God.” The Review and Herald, September 2, 1890
“Christ did not possess the same sinful, corrupt, fallen disloyalty we possess, for then He could not be a perfect offering.” Selected Messages, Book 3, 131. From the moment of His conception, Jesus Christ had not one sinful thought, desire, or propensity. If He had, it would be impossible for Him to be our Saviour; He would be unable to justify us, nor to forgive our sins.
Paul, speaking of Jesus, says, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power.” Colossians 2:9, 10
“The glory of Christ is His character, and His character is an expression of the law of God. He fulfilled the law in its every specification.” The Signs of the Times, December 12, 1895
“The facts of this history are not fable, but a living, acting, experience. To deny this would rob Jesus of His greatest glory—allegiance to God—which enshrouded Him as a garment in this world on the field of battle with the relentless foe, and He is not reckoned with the transgressor.” Manuscript Releases, Vol. 16, 183
Jesus came to this world to reveal what the apostle Paul says was hidden in the mind of God from the beginning. The inhabitants of the unfallen worlds could not understand it; the devil and the people of this world do not understand it; but Jesus came to reveal it.
He couldn’t do it as an angel, and He couldn’t do it as God. “Christ came in human form to show the inhabitants of the unfallen worlds and of the fallen world that ample provision has been made to enable human beings to live in loyalty to their Creator.” Selected Messages, Book 1, 227. What a wonderful promise!
“Christ came to vindicate the sacred claims of the law.” Pacific Union Recorder, December 17, 1903
“He came to manifest the nature of His law, to reveal in His own character the beauty of holiness.” Education, 76
There is attractiveness like no other in studying the life and character of Jesus. People who lack spiritual understanding might say He was just a good man. He was a man, but He was a perfect man, for in His humanity, “God embodied His own attributes in His Son.” The Youth’s Instructor, September 16, 1897
Jesus, as a man, was God’s goodness, wisdom, power, purity, truthfulness, spirituality, benevolence, and love. “In Him, though human, all perfection of character, all divine excellence, dwelt.
“The words of Christ were full of deep meaning as He put forth the claim that He and the Father were of one substance, possessing the same attributes.” The Signs of the Times, November 27, 1893
“The righteousness of God is embodied in Christ. We receive righteousness by receiving Him.” Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, 18
From childhood to manhood, Christ taught that the kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the Truth because He did not, by one act of disobedience, separate Himself from God. The source of His peace was the power of the Holy Spirit who was upon Him and in control of His mind. Disobedience would have separated Him from God, just as disobedience separated the first Adam from God.
“Christ is called the second Adam. In purity and holiness, connected with God and beloved by God, He began where the first Adam began.” The Youth’s Instructor, June 2, 1898
Christ’s obedience to the law, was not merely an outward compliance. Jesus was the very expression of God’s law in His nature, with the great principle of love in His heart. If we have this same principle of love implanted in our hearts, then the image of our Saviour will be reflected in us, and we will be ready for Jesus to come again.
“Let it never be forgotten that the teacher must be what he desires his pupils to become.” Fundamentals of Christian Education, 58 [Author’s emphasis.]
“None need fail of attaining, in his sphere, to perfection of Christian character. By the sacrifice of Christ, provision has been made for the believer to receive all things that pertain to life and godliness. God calls upon us to reach the standard of perfection and places before us the example of Christ’s character. In His humanity, perfected by a life of constant resistance to evil, the Saviour showed that through cooperation with Divinity, human beings may in this life attain to perfection of character. This is God’s assurance to us that we, too, may obtain complete victory.” The Acts of the Apostles, 531
In closing, Galatians 4:4 says, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law.”
Born of a woman, embodied with the very attributes of God’s nature, born under the law of God, filled with love, righteousness, and holiness, Jesus came to confront the master deceiver and save mankind.
We must understand who Jesus is, what He is like and then, we must claim the promise that His character will be worked out in us, and we will be perfected by the power of the Holy Spirit. Alone, we are helpless, but with His divine grace and power, our hearts and minds can be changed to be in harmony with His.
Pastor John J. Grosboll is Director of Steps to Life and pastors the Prairie Meadows Church in Wichita, Kansas. He may be contacted by email at: firstname.lastname@example.org, or by telephone at: 316-788-5559.