Saviour of the World
by E.H. “Jack” Sequeira

Chapter 12 — The Significance of Christ’s Humanity to Us

At the heart of the Christian faith is the affirmation that Christ, the Son of God, became man in order to be the Saviour of the world.  Ellen White declared that:

SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 904
The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us.  It is the golden linked chain which binds our souls to Christ and through Christ to God.  This is to be our study.

She also wrote:

Selected Messages, 1:252
In assuming humanity Christ took the part of every human being.  He was the head of humanity.  A Being divine and human, with His long human arm He could encircle humanity, while with His divine arm He could lay hold of the throne of the Infinite.

But mystery has always surrounded the coming of the Son of God in human flesh.  We can never fully comprehend it, yet our finite minds must endeavor, within the limits of divine revelation, to grasp this central truth of our faith.  For what Christ accomplished in His humanity is “everything to us,” concerning our redemption — our justification, sanctification, and glorification.

If we are to appreciate the full significance of Christ’s humanity to us, it is essential that we answer two vital questions concerning that humanity.  First, “What was the primary purpose for which Christ was made flesh?”  And second, “How did Christ, in His humanity, save mankind from sin?”  Let’s look at each question in turn.

What was the primary purpose for which Christ was made flesh?  The answer to this question is the starting point of a true understanding of Christ’s nature and of the incarnation.  Within Adventism today, three answers are being given to this question.  They are:  (1) to prove human beings can keep God’s law; (2) to be our example in sinless living; and (3) to redeem mankind from sin.  Let us examine each of these three answers.

  1. To prove human beings can keep God’s law.  This answer is, of course, part of the “great controversy” doctrine, a unique understanding of Adventism.  But in expounding this idea, many have often emphasized the letter of the law rather than its spirit.  The result has been that a great number of God’s people have failed to see the real issue in the great controversy.  Instead, their understanding of the “great controversy” doctrine has led them into legalism.

    The real issue between God and Satan in the great controversy is not so much a matter of obedience to the letter of the law as it is a battle between God’s nature and character of agape love — a love that “is not self-seeking” and which is the law of His government —

    1 Corinthians 13:5
    It [Love] does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
    1 John 4:8, 16
    Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.  ...And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.  God is love.  Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.

    ...and the principle of self, introduced by Lucifer when iniquity entered his heart and he became Satan:

    Ezekiel 28:15
    You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you.
    Isaiah 14:12-14
    How you have fallen from heaven, morning star, son of the dawn!  You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!  You said in your heart, “I will ascend to the heavens; I will raise my throne above the stars of God; I will sit enthroned on the mount of assembly, on the utmost heights of Mount Zaphon.  I will ascend above the tops of the clouds; I will make myself like the Most High.”

    Ellen White’s opening and closing statements of her famous “Conflict of the Ages” series says it all:

    Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 33
    “God is love.” 1 John 4:16.  His nature, His law, is love.  It ever has been; it ever will be....  Every manifestation of creative power is an expression of infinite love.
    The Great Controversy, p.  678
    The great controversy is ended.  Sin and sinners are no more.  The entire universe is clean.  One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation....  From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.

    Between these two sublime statements lies the great controversy between God, the Creator of the universe, and Satan, the originator of sin.  This is the “Conflict of the Ages.”  So one reason Christ became a man was to manifest God’s love, His glory, in human flesh:

    John 1:14; 17:4
    The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.  ...I have brought you glory on earth by finishing the work you gave me to do.

    But the Bible does not present this as the primary reason Christ assumed our humanity.

    Likewise, the fact that Christ perfectly kept the law in His humanity did prove that human beings, controlled by God’s Spirit, can fully meet the law’s demands, that is, fully reflect God’s love (see Galatians 5:14; Revelation 14:12). 

    Galatians 5:14
    For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command:  “Love your neighbor as yourself.”
    Revelation 14:12
    This calls for patient endurance on the part of the people of God who keep his commands and remain faithful to Jesus.

    But, again, the Bible does not teach that this is the primary reason Christ became a man.

  2. To be our example in sinless living.  This answer to the question of why Jesus became a man is the answer given by most of the independent ministries as they attempt to prepare God’s people to stand in the final crisis “without a mediator.”  Of course, the Bible does point to Christ as our example:

    1 Peter 2:21
    To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in his steps.  [KEY PTS.]
    Philippians 2:5
    In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus....  [KEY PTS.]

    However, as already pointed out in Chapter 10, it does not present Him as the example for the whole human race, but only for believers who have accepted Him as their Saviour, who have experienced the “peace with God” that comes through justification by faith alone and who are standing under the grace of God:

    Romans 5:1
    Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ....

    To such, Christ’s strength and power are made available because they have experienced the new birth:

    2 Corinthians 12:9
    But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”  Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me.
    2 Peter 1:1-4
    Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who through the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours:  Grace and peace be yours in abundance through the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord.  His divine power has given us everything we need for a godly life through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature, having escaped the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.

    The independent ministries within Adventism that are presenting this answer to our question see themselves as standing against the “creeping compromise” that is infiltrating the church.  But those who emphasize Christ as our Example, without first clearly presenting Him as the Saviour of the world, give the impression that they are teaching the “example theory” of the atonement — the idea that we are saved by following Christ’s example rather than by what He did for us some 2,000 years ago.  This is why they are often accused of the heresy of perfectionism or legalism (see, for example, “From Controversy to Crisis” by Kenneth Samples, Christian Research Journal, summer 1988, p. 9).

    Again, although the Bible does present Christ as an example for born-again believers, it does not give this as the primary reason He assumed our humanity.

  3. To redeem mankind from sin.  At the very heart of the doctrine of Christology is the glorious truth that Christ assumed humanity so that He could be the Saviour of the world.  Scripture presents this as the primary reason the Son of God became a man:

    Matthew 1:21
    “She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  [KEY PTS.]
    Galatians 4:4-5
    But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.  [KEY PTS.]
    Hebrews 2:14-17
    Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

Only to those who have first experienced that redemption, who have received Him as their Saviour, and who are basking in His righteousness as the only hope of their salvation — only to those, does Jesus stand in His humanity as an example.

Once we have established that the primary reason Christ became a man was to redeem fallen humanity from every aspect of sin, this leads us to the second important question raised above:

How did Christ, in His humanity, save mankind from sin?  Christianity (and Adventism) have given two answers to this question:  (1) Christ saved mankind “vicariously.”  (2) Christ saved mankind “in actuality.”  While the issue of vicarious and actual substitution was discussed in some detail in Chapter 6, it deserves further attention here since each of these answers demands a different view on the human nature of Christ.

  1. Christ saved mankind “vicariously.”  The word vicarious means “in the place of,” or “one person acting in place of another.”  The Reformers in the sixteenth century believed that Christ saved mankind vicariously.  So do most Evangelical Christians today.  Most of those who hold this view teach that Christ took on the sinless human nature Adam had before the Fall.  Here is their basic argument:

    Sin, they say, is a dual problem.  It is, first of all, a condition or a state of being.  A sinful nature is, by definition, one that is indwelt by sin and that, therefore, stands condemned.  So if Christ took on Himself the nature of Adam after the Fall — a nature that is indwelt by sin — He would have been a sinner Himself, even though He did not commit a single act of sin.  Consequently, they argue, Christ had to assume a sinless human nature in order to vicariously substitute His sinless nature for our sinful nature which stands condemned.  They insist that, if Christ had taken our sinful nature as we know it, He would have needed a Saviour Himself.

    Second, they say, sin is also an act, the transgression of the law.  So the perfect life of Christ and His sacrificial death on the cross was the vicarious substitute for our sinful performance.  Thus, according to this view, Christ’s sinless human nature was the vicarious substitute for our sinful nature; His perfect performance, His doing and dying, was the vicarious substitute for our sinful performance.  And on this basis, Christ redeemed mankind from sin (see diagram in Chapter 6).

    This is the traditional view of the Christian church, and it has been accepted by Adventism at large, especially by those who hold to the pre-Fall view of the human nature of Christ.  But this vicarious view of how Christ saved mankind presents a twofold problem:

    1. It makes the gospel unethical.  No law, God’s or man’s, will allow guilt or righteousness to be transferred from one person to another.  Therefore, those who teach “vicarious” substitution are rightly accused of teaching a “legal fiction” or a make-believe righteousness, an “as-if-passed-on righteousness.”  Osiender and Newman in the counter-reformation made these accusations against the idea of a vicarious substitution, as do Islamic scholars today.

      For some Adventist scholars, too, these problems with the idea that Christ saved humanity by a vicarious substitution are becoming more of a real issue.  So they are turning to a modified form of “the moral influence theory of the atonement” to answer the question:  Why did Christ have to die?  In The Remnant in Crisis, Dr. Jack Provonsha clearly rejects forensic justification as taught by the Reformation, charging that it is based on faulty Roman law (see pages 116-118).  Incidentally, the “moral influence theory” is not heretical in what it teaches (that Christ died to influence us), since His death clearly does demonstrate God’s love for sinners.  Rather, it is heretical in what it denies (that Christ’s death was legally essential for our justification).

      How, then, do we answer the ethical problem created by the idea of a vicarious substitution as the basis for our salvation?  How do we solve the ethical problem of an innocent man who died instead of sinful human beings?

      All attempts to solve this ethical problem by saying such things as “Christ is above the law,” or “it is ethical since He volunteered to die in man’s stead as his Creator,” are unacceptable.  Not even God’s law will allow sin to be transferred from the guilty to the innocent:

      Deuteronomy 24:16
      Parents are not to be put to death for their children, nor children put to death for their parents; each will die for their own sin.
      Ezekiel 18:1-20
      The word of the Lord came to me:  “What do you people mean by quoting this proverb about the land of Israel:  ‘The parents eat sour grapes, and the children’s teeth are set on edge’?  As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign Lord, you will no longer quote this proverb in Israel.  For everyone belongs to me, the parent as well as the child — both alike belong to me.  The one who sins is the one who will die.
      “Suppose there is a righteous man who does what is just and right.  He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel.  He does not defile his neighbor’s wife or have sexual relations with a woman during her period.  He does not oppress anyone, but returns what he took in pledge for a loan.  He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.  He does not lend to them at interest or take a profit from them.  He withholds his hand from doing wrong and judges fairly between two parties.  He follows my decrees and faithfully keeps my laws.  That man is righteous; he will surely live, declares the Sovereign Lord.
      “Suppose he has a violent son, who sheds blood or does any of these other things (though the father has done none of them):  He eats at the mountain shrines.  He defiles his neighbor’s wife.  He oppresses the poor and needy.  He commits robbery.  He does not return what he took in pledge.  He looks to the idols.  He does detestable things.  He lends at interest and takes a profit.  Will such a man live?  He will not!  Because he has done all these detestable things, he is to be put to death; his blood will be on his own head.
      “But suppose this son has a son who sees all the sins his father commits, and though he sees them, he does not do such things:  He does not eat at the mountain shrines or look to the idols of Israel.  He does not defile his neighbor’s wife.  He does not oppress anyone or require a pledge for a loan.  He does not commit robbery but gives his food to the hungry and provides clothing for the naked.  He withholds his hand from mistreating the poor and takes no interest or profit from them.  He keeps my laws and follows my decrees.  He will not die for his father’s sin; he will surely live.  But his father will die for his own sin, because he practiced extortion, robbed his brother and did what was wrong among his people.
      “Yet you ask, ‘Why does the son not share the guilt of his father?’  Since the son has done what is just and right and has been careful to keep all my decrees, he will surely live.  The one who sins is the one who will die.  The child will not share the guilt of the parent, nor will the parent share the guilt of the child.  The righteousness of the righteous will be credited to them, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against them.”

      Yet, as we saw in chapter six, the idea of substitution is biblical.  The New Testament clearly teaches that Christ died “for us” and “in place of us.”  But the real question is:  What qualified Him to die for us or instead of us?

      Christ could die for us only if He assumed our self-same corporate humanity that needed redeeming.  He had to be “made sin,” “made under the law,” before He could redeem humanity from the “curse of the law”:

      2 Corinthians 5:21
      God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
      Galatians 3:13; 4:4-5
      Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written:  “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”  ...But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, that we might receive adoption to sonship.

      Only when His humanity and our corporate humanity that needed redeeming are linked together does Christ qualify to be the second Adam.  Only then could he die for us or in our stead.  This is the only context in which the substitution theory of the atonement becomes legally acceptable.

    2. It very easily turns the gospel into cheap grace.  This is the second problem with the “vicarious” view of how Christ redeemed mankind.  If Christ did it all without having to identify Himself with us, if He lived and died instead of us without first assuming our sinful humanity that needed redeeming, then we can receive the blessings of His holy history without identifying ourselves with Him and Him crucified as true faith and baptism demand.

      Galatians 2:19-20
      For through the law I died to the law so that I might live for God.  I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
      Romans 6:1-8
      What shall we say, then?  Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase?  By no means!  We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?  Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.
      Colossians 2:11-13
      In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands.  Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.  When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ.  He forgave us all our sins....

      We can be saved by a faith which is defined as a mere mental assent to truth.  In short, the vicarious view can very easily turn the gospel into cheap grace.

      The fruit of cheap grace has given Christianity a bad name and continues to be one of the reasons so many are turning their backs on Christ and accepting man-made religions, all of which teach salvation by works.

  2. Christ saved mankind in actuality.  This is the second answer Christianity (and Adventism) have given to the question of how Christ, in His humanity, has saved mankind from sin.  This was the view presented in the 1888 message.  Those who take this position generally teach the post-Fall view of the human nature of Christ.  They argue that since Christ came to save fallen humanity, He had to assume the same fallen, sinful humanity that needed redeeming.  Thus by identifying Himself in every way with our corporate, fallen humanity, Christ qualified Himself to be the second Adam; He was, thus, legally qualified to be our Substitute in His saving mission.

    According to this view, Christ did not simply live a perfect life in our place; He did not simply die instead of us.  Rather, His doing and dying, His perfect life and sacrificial death, actually changed mankind’s history.  All humanity was legally justified at the cross because all humanity was in Christ.  When He lived a perfect life, all humanity lived a perfect life in Him.  When He died, all humanity died in Him.  This is very different than defining the gospel as only a provisional salvation, as do those who teach the vicarious view of substitution.

    The concept of substitutionary atonement presently taught by evangelical Christianity, as well as within Adventism, does not take us far enough in understanding the profound truth of the atonement, especially as taught by the apostle Paul.  Substitution, generally understood, is an exchanged experience.  I once read of a woman who died under the wheels of a bus, saving the life of a child; her death can truly be described as substitutionary, since she died in order that the child might live.  But this definition of substitution is inadequate when it comes to explaining the true meaning of the atonement.  It is for this reason, I believe, the word substitute is not used in the Bible to explain the atonement.

    Christ did not die so that in exchange we might live; rather He died and rose as us in order that we might by faith share in His death and resurrection.  By assuming our corporate sinful condemned humanity that needed redeeming, Christ was made sin, what we are, in order that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him:

    2 Corinthians 5:21
    God made him who had no sin to be sin[a] for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

    As the second Adam (mankind), Christ took our place and died our death in order that we might be identified with Him, both in His death and resurrection.  This is what our baptism was all about:

    Romans 6:3-11
    Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.  For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly also be united with him in a resurrection like his.  For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body ruled by sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin — because anyone who has died has been set free from sin.  Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him.  For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him.  The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.

This is where vicarious substitution and actual substitution part company.  The former teaches an exchanged experience, while the latter teaches a shared experience.  Only when we by faith identify ourselves with the cross of Christ does the gospel become the power of God unto salvation in our lives:

Galatians 2:20; 6:14
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.  ...May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.

This is the true significance of baptism by immersion which saves:

Mark 16:15-16
He said to them, “Go into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation.  Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved, but whoever does not believe will be condemned.”

But this actual substitution does not mean that all humanity is automatically saved experientially.  This is the heresy of universalism.  This legal justification is God’s supreme gift to mankind:

John 3:16
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

In addition, God created human beings with a free will:

Acts 5:3-4
Then Peter said, “Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?  Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold?  And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?  What made you think of doing such a thing?  You have not lied just to human beings but to God.”

His supreme gift demands a human response in order for it to be made effective:

Romans 5:17
For if, by the trespass of the one man, death reigned through that one man, how much more will those who receive God’s abundant provision of grace and of the gift of righteousness reign in life through the one man, Jesus Christ!

That necessary response is faith.  Justification by faith is making effective in the life of the believer the legal justification Christ achieved for all mankind by His actual substitution.

In this view, faith becomes more than a mere mental assent to the truth of the gospel.  It is a heart-felt appreciation for what God did to us and for us in Christ.  That appreciation, in turn, demands obedience, a total surrender of the will, to the truth as it is in Christ:

Romans 1:5; 6:17; 10:16
Through him we received grace and apostleship to call all the Gentiles to the obedience that comes from faith for his name’s sake.  ...But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you have come to obey from your heart the pattern of teaching that has now claimed your allegiance.  ...But not all the Israelites accepted the good news.  For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed our message?”  [KEY PTS.]
Galatians 5:7
You were running a good race.  Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth?   [KEY PTS.]
2 Thessalonians 1:7-8
...And give relief to you who are troubled, and to us as well.  This will happen when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven in blazing fire with his powerful angels.  He will punish those who do not know God and do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.   [KEY PTS.]

Such obedience of faith is the basis of true holy living, the fruits of justification by faith:

Galatians 2:20
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.  The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.
Romans 6:10-13
The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God.  In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.  Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires.  Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.

According to the apostle Paul, baptism, which is the believer’s outward confession of his or her faith-obedience to the gospel, is always “into Christ”:

Romans 6:3
Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?
Galatians 3:27
...For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.

He means that, by this act, the believer is confessing what Paul expresses in these words:

Colossians 2:11-12
In him [Christ] you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands.  Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead.

Clearly, this subjective experience of salvation is based on what God actually did to humanity in Christ.  Our corporate, sinful nature that Christ assumed at the incarnation, was put off at the cross and replaced by the righteous life of Christ in the resurrection.  This certainly could not have been done vicariously.  This is what righteousness by faith is all about — “not I, but Christ,” the fruits of which is holiness of living.

However, those holding the “vicarious” view make a serious charge against this idea that Christ saved mankind in actuality.  They insist that, if Christ fully identified Himself with our sinful human nature — which they believe stands condemned under sin — then we are dragging Christ into sin and making Him a sinner like us and in need of a Saviour Himself.

Note how William G. Johnsson, editor of the Adventist Review, put it:

Adventist Review, 26 August 1993
In a penetrating analysis, Paul describes sin as a force, an indwelling principle, a state — ‘sin living in me’:
Romans 7:14-20
We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin.  I do not understand what I do.  For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.  And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good.  As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me.  For I know that good itself does not dwell in me, that is, in my sinful nature.  For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out.  For I do not do the good I want to do, but the evil I do not want to do — this I keep on doing.  Now if I do what I do not want to do, it is no longer I who do it, but it is sin living in me that does it.
So not only are our acts sinful; our very nature is at war with God....  Did Jesus have such a nature?  ...No.  If He had, He would Himself need a Saviour.

This serious charge deserves an answer.  Johnsson is correct in defining sin as “an indwelling principle” and not merely sinful acts.  Paul clearly teaches that our sinful human nature is indwelt by sin and that, therefore, we are “by nature children of wrath”:

Romans 7:23
But I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me.
Ephesians 2:3
All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our flesh and following its desires and thoughts.  Like the rest, we were by nature deserving of wrath.

Yet the Bible also clearly teaches that Christ assumed the same flesh as that of the human race He came to redeem:

Hebrews 2:14-17
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.   [KEY PTS.]

So how do we solve the problem the Adventist Review editor raises?

The correct solution is not to water down Christ’s full identification with the sinful race He came to redeem.  Nor is the solution to undermine the sin problem, limiting it only to a choice or an act, as do some who teach the post-Fall view of the human nature of Christ.  Instead, the solution lies in taking note of the qualifying word used by the New Testament writers when they refer to the humanity of Christ:

John 1:14a
The Word became [or “was made”] flesh and made his dwelling among us.
Galatians 4:4
But when the set time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law....
2 Corinthians 5:21
God made him [Christ] who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

These three key texts that refer to the humanity of Christ all use the word made in reference to the human nature of Christ.  What does this word, made, mean?

The Greek words translated in these texts as made mean “to become.”  When Christ became a man, He actually became what He was not.  The sinful nature He assumed was not His by native right, but something He took upon Himself, or assumed, or was made to be.  He did this in order to redeem that sinful nature.  Ellen White says:

Medical Ministry, 181
He [Christ] took upon His sinless [divine] nature our sinful [human] nature, that He might know how to succor those that are tempted.

The words took part [or shared] and the word likeness carry the same connotation as the word made.

Hebrews 2:14
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — ....
Romans 8:3
For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....

Had Christ consented to the sinful desires of that nature which He assumed, even by a thought, then He would have become a sinner in need of a Saviour Himself.  That is why it must be stressed, as did Waggoner and Jones in the 1888 message, that, in dealing with the human nature of Christ, we must be “exceedingly careful” not to drag His mind or His will into sin, or say that He “had” a sinful nature.  I believe this is the reason Ellen White condemned Baker for his views on the human nature of Christ.  Apparently, this evangelist from “down under” was making Christ “altogether like us.”  Ellen White told him that this can never be.  Christ was God who was “made flesh” in order that He could qualify to be the Saviour of the world.  He fully identified Himself with our sin problem, but He did not in any way participate in our sin, not even by a thought:

Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15
Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death — that is, the devil — and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason he had to be made like them, fully human in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.  ...For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are — yet he did not sin.
1 Peter 4:1-2
Therefore, since Christ suffered in his body, arm yourselves also with the same attitude, because whoever suffers in the body is done with sin.  As a result, they do not live the rest of their earthly lives for evil human desires, but rather for the will of God.

The fact is that Christ did actually assume our condemned, sinful nature — the nature that “is enmity against God” and “not subject to the law of God”:

Romans 8:7
The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so.

But, in His case, He totally defeated “the law of sin and death” that resided in that sinful human nature, and then He executed that condemned nature on the cross:

Romans 8:2
...Because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.

As we saw in Chapter 9, this is Paul’s main thought in Romans 8:1-3...

Romans 8:1-3
Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus, because through Christ Jesus the law of the Spirit who gives life has set you free from the law of sin and death.  For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering.  And so he condemned sin in the flesh....

...which is his explanation of Romans 7:24-25:

Romans 7:24-25
What a wretched man I am!  Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?  Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord!  So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin.

By assuming our corporate, sinful humanity at the incarnation, Christ was qualified to be the second Adam, the second head and representative of mankind (the word Adam in Hebrew means “mankind”).  Thus, in His doing and dying as our Substitute, He wrought out a redemption that was full and complete for all humanity:

1 Corinthians 1:30-31
It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God — that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption.  Therefore, as it is written:  “Let the one who boasts boast in the Lord.”
Ephesians 1:3-6
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us in the heavenly realms with every spiritual blessing in Christ.  For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight.  In love he predestined us for adoption to sonship through Jesus Christ, in accordance with his pleasure and will — to the praise of his glorious grace, which he has freely given us in the One he loves.

This is the good news of the gospel.

But in identifying Himself with fallen humanity, He also demonstrated that man, as he is after the Fall, born and controlled by God’s Spirit, can live a life of total obedience to the law of love (see 1 Corinthians 13).  This is why the New Testament presents Christ also as the believer’s Example.  Such a life of complete obedience should be the hope and goal of Christian living:

John 13:34-35
“A new command I give you:  Love one another.  As I have loved you, so you must love one another.  By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

This was the emphasis of the 1888 message.

We may, therefore, conclude that the primary purpose of the Incarnation was to qualify Christ to be the second Adam, so that He could lawfully substitute Himself for, and represent, fallen mankind in His redemptive work.  The secondary purpose for which He assumed our fallen humanity was to become the believer’s Example and Surety in restoring God’s image in man.  This is the twofold purpose of the Incarnation we must keep in mind as we examine the humanity of Christ.


Key Points in Chapter 12
• The Significance of Christ’s Humanity to Us •
  1. Within Adventism today, three answers are being given to the question:  What was the primary purpose for which Christ was made flesh?
    1. To prove humans can keep God’s law.  This answer is part of the “great controversy” doctrine, a unique understanding of Adventism.  But the Bible does not teach that this is the primary reason Christ became a man.
    2. To be our example in sinless living.  The Bible does point to Christ as our example (see 1 Peter 2:21; Philippians 2:5).  However it does not present Him as the example for the whole human race, but only for believers who have accepted Him as their Saviour.  And it does not give this as the primary reason He assumed our humanity.
    3. To redeem mankind from sin.  Scripture presents this as the primary reason the Son of God became a man (see Matthew 1:21; Galatians 4:4-5; Hebrews 2:14-17).

  2. Likewise, Adventism today gives two answers to the question:  How did Christ, in His humanity, save mankind from sin?
    1. Christ saved mankind “vicariously.”  The word vicarious means “in the place of.”  Those who give this answer argue that Christ had to assume a sinless human nature in order to vicariously substitute His sinless human nature for our sinful, condemned nature.  They insist that, if Christ had taken our sinful nature, He would have needed a saviour Himself.
      According to this view, Christ’s sinless human nature was the vicarious substitute for our sinful nature; His perfect performance was the vicarious substitute for our sinful performance.  But this view has two problems:  First, It makes the gospel unethical and teaches a “legal fiction” or a “make believe” righteousness.  Guilt and righteousness cannot simply be transferred from one person to another.  Second, it can easily turn the gospel into cheap grace.  If Christ lived and died instead of us, we can be saved by a faith that is simply a mental assent to truth.
    2. Christ saved mankind in actuality.  Those who give this answer argue that Christ had to assume the same fallen, sinful humanity that needed redeeming.  According to this view, Christ did not simply live a perfect life in our place; He did not simply die instead of us.  Rather, all humanity was legally justified at the cross because all humanity was in Christ.  When He lived a perfect life, all humanity lived a perfect life in Him.  When He died, all humanity died in Him.
      This does not mean all humanity is automatically saved.  God’s supreme gift demands a human response of faith in order to be effective.  And this faith is more than a mere mental assent to the truth of the gospel; it is a heartfelt appreciation that demands a total obedience and surrender to the truth as it is in Christ (see Romans 1:5; 6:17; 10:16; Galatians 5:7; 2 Thessalonians 1:7-8).

  3. By assuming our corporate, sinful humanity, Christ was qualified to be the second Adam, the second representative head of the human race.  Thus in His doing and dying as our Substitute, He wrought out a redemption that was full and complete for all humanity.

  4. The primary purpose of the incarnation was to qualify Christ to be the second Adam so that He could lawfully substitute Himself for fallen mankind in His redemptive work.

  5. The secondary purpose for which Christ assumed our fallen humanity was to become the believer’s Example and Surety in restoring God’s image in man.
    Home
    Study Materials
     
    Back
     
    Next