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THE ONLY BEGOTTEN SON OF GOD AND DYING
The Christ, the Christian Church and the Council of Chalcedon
THE GRANDEST TEST OF ALL
See also Ch. 18 Backing the Bible
There are areas which need some care in specifying the death of the only begotten Son of God, Jesus the Christ.
Thus, as to the Communion of the Last Supper as now practised, Christ died once, not more, or He would have more then one death, not a human feature in this world, to which He came (Hebrews 2). The identity who died is the Second Person of the Trinity in His human cladding, display unit, format for sacrificial service. In this, He is pertinently called the Son of Man, the title given in Daniel 7 to the One who is to rule all nations amid glory.
How could such a one die ?
He was able to die because man dies, and to do so for sin, but not His own (Isaiah 52-55); and the man Christ Jesus did that. If you want to speak of His human nature, therefore, then that died; if you want to talk of His divine nature AS HUMAN CLAD, then since Christ died, that died. It is Christ who died; and that is Christ, the only begotten Son of God and not part of Him, who is the Second Person of the Trinity, sent as a man (Philippians 2, Isaiah 48:15ff.).
The Second Person of the Trinity as such did not die, since that is not in itself in the format of a man; but this Person AS poured out into man died, for that is WHO He is, and His identity has not changed, nor does God alter (Malachi 3:6, Psalm 102, Hebrews 1:12). That is what THAT PERSON statedly did. THAT expression of God in human form died, being made susceptible to death by virtue of incarnation. HE was incarnated, not something else. Thus HE introduces Himself in this matter as He who died and is alive, as in Revelation 1:18, Himself the One who has the keys of hell and death (cf. John 5:21-22). My Saviour is thus God, and His sacrificial form is God as man, and as such He died and rose again, breaking the power of mortality in the process as in I Corinthians 15.
Could you then rightfully affirm that the Second Person of the Trinity died ? Of course not; for God is immortal. Indeed, God alone has immortality, dwelling in the light (that is intrinsically so, others gaining immortality by gift only), as in I Timothy 6:16. No man can even approach that.
One reason for the incarnation was to ENABLE GOD HIMSELF to experience the dying, the drab desolation of the worst thing that can befall any man, that is the liability for death imposed without cover; but the experience was not the obliteration, for the being who died was the expression of God in human form, not God Himself as He is in His own form. Thus we have two limits.
It is the SON of GOD who died, the incarnate Son of God. That is never questioned. That is the essence of the gift, issued into human flesh. Whatever you analyse as present in that incarnation of the Almighty, applies to Him and it is He who died. Otherwise the Son of God would not have died, which is contrary to the entire Gospel.
Emphatically then and statedly it is the Son of man who died, since that is whom He became in the definitive expression of God, as a man.
Thus He died in the form of a man, which quit for a time, and rose in the form of a man, just as it was incarnated in that very form, which rose at a given time, but He who committed His Spirit to His Father before death, placed His life elsewhere: God did not die. It is clearly stated that it is His only begotten Son who did. This being a set and summary format, when it did die, the format of His human expression, death could not hold Him (Acts 2). As given, so it came back, as you see clearly in I Corinthians 15:3-4. What was buried is what was moved off from burial. It was not someone, something or some other agency, residue. It was He who died. He was buried, but He rose.
You could say He died pro forma, except that this would undermine the spirit of the action as in John 3, not to mention I John 5. As an expressible item, it seems better therefore to say this, that the Second Person of the Trinity AS INCARNATE died, but His essential Being, in the form of God, did not. For that act, He took upon Himself the form of a servant and humbled Himself even to death (Philippians 2). The format of man and the deadly vulnerability of sinful man were accorded to Him, the latter for the sins of others (I Peter 2). Thus mortality for His body became vicariously possible and He made it actual, receiving great glory, even as in the brilliance before this world was (John 17). Now the agency of purge, He lived, as then He did in the eternities of unsoiled wonder. Now it was not only by eternal nature, but by merit no less than in terms of His nature and identity, as He had been always. What He was and what He showed Himself to be were in glorious accord. Status, test and triumph were of one accord. Glory was everywhere He was and went.
Let us consider further. It does not say that a part of the One who was equal with God (Philippians 2) died: but that He who WAS that, died. His role was to be that, whose nature, took the form of a servant, indeed one of no reputation, susceptible because in that form to suffering and death, and as such died. HE died, the form being that of a servant, of a man, incarnate. As the hymn has it in wonder, "that Thou, my God, should die for me!" That is the intensive wonder and scale of it! (cf. Revelation 1:17, Isaiah 41:1-4). Even though for this mortal and sacrificial purpose He chose a form where death could apply, indeed BECAUSE of it, He accomplished it, it was an event stupendous, and not only rare but utterly unique. Love spoke in this once, and it did it most solemnly, the sounds being echoed backwards to the prophets and forwards in the Gospel.
Thus the Second Person of the Trinity in His eternal form did not and could not die, as noted ; but this same Person, identity, in the form of a man both could and did, this being the cost (cf. II Corinthians 5:17ff.). Just so, the mind of a babe could not contain the operative mind of the eternal Word of God, but this did not stop His identity from taking that form. Nor was it a mere appearance, since identity translation is explicitly taught. He did not dabble, but became.
All that is the lowliness of man. He, though in the form of God, thus could have and so had: this as personal experience, however lowering, yet without sin. This, sin, however, was quite possible in kind for man, as this was the original norm for man as created, to choose; but it was utterly ruled out both in nature and in test-practice, for Him, since deity defines righteousness, and sin is His abhorrence and as far from Him as tar from solution in water. Sin was no matter of mere form, but true of Him in any form, and He was quite willing to put it to the test in the form which as such provided test, sharp and sure. He was not shaken, though pressed (cf. Luke 22:28-32).
Memories, Memorial and Matrix
Thus the experience of what He became was HIS, and He both knew it and bore it. God is patient. Christ Jesus is exalted for its becoming His, even the most horrid, even among a torment of horror, physical and spiritual (Isaiah 50, 53:10-12). The very abhorrence of exhaustion in the death on the cross, the unhallowed horror, the grievous crushing was actually taken, all of that as if He had committed it, and so knowing the experience: (Isaiah 53:11), all this was His. You see this aspect strongly in the Messianic passage in Isaiah 49:14-18.
Of its clamour and acute pangs He became and was aware, experiencing it acutely as when bathing, one passes through some huge aqueous confusion of pounding forces, and is bundled about in the sheer dynamics of its relentless horror till it is done. That it could not be wrought on His pre-incarnate form was one reason for the incarnation; that it was to be wrought on Him was a ground of salvation; that He experienced it by virtue of incarnation, not mere residency, is part of the inglorious penetration of sin into man, and of Christ into that burden of the multiplied sin of others, pounding away till impounded in His death.
He was not on some salvation patrol, but lived as actually being salvation, there being NO OTHER SAVIOUR BUT GOD Himself (Isaiah 43:10-11). Here was the intent of eternity wrought in time. God prepared (Psalm 40), predicted, performed, finished (John 4:34, 19:30).
The Council of Chalcedon, incidentally, has this:
"The Son of God therefore came down from his throne in heaven without withdrawing from his Father's glory, and entered this lower world, born after a new order, by a new mode of birth. After a new order, inasmuch as he is invisible in his own nature, and it became visible in ours; he is incomprehensible ('not spatially circumscribed') and he willed to be be comprehended; continuing to be before time he began to exist in time..."
Thus His intrinsic and beyond-time existence is not threatened by His extrinsic and incarnate existence since time does not determine eternity, being outside its domain. Again, Colossians 2:9 tells us that in Him the completeness of the deity was contained in bodily form; thus if anyone wants to talk of the human nature and the divine nature in Christ Jesus, it is the latter as it is 'spatially circumscribed.' It is the SON of God, of equal status and glory who is incarnate, and who dies; and what cannot be touched is not, while what can be touched by no means lies outside the inherent territory of the format chosen by and for ONE who is eternal. Furthermore, the One who is eternal, is by no means unaware personally of what was experienced in His humiliation: His identity is one, as for a nobleman who chooses to fight as a common soldier. The form does not annul the fact, and with God, the fact is eternal life. Thus is the magnificence whether of power or nature, whether of service or of majesty, whether of existence or testimony, complete.
Thus in answer to the challenge that in the so-called Reformed, Calvinist view in the Lord's Supper, the entire godhead is to be present, but not the physical, there are two important answers.
First, in history, the godhead is present in Jesus Christ, incarnate, but in essence, not in mode of display, so that the fulness of deity is indeed in the contained bodily form, in the very incarnation. But the point is rather that there is no special presence in the Lord's Supper, except what the Lord may choose to do in manifesting Himself to the heart, spiritually. The other is simply that if you are interested in following the Bible and not making a new philosophy (Colossians 2:8), what on earth is the point in making effort to abide by the ultra-biblical claim that the Last Supper is NOT what Christ called it: a remembrance of what He did, of His work and what it was! (Me). Remembering is not re-creating, re-assembly, causing to exist the presence of what is being remembered. Memory is not rehabilitation, incarnation is past and singular, historical.
Efforts to achieve some kind of memorial service which has distinctive dynamics concerning the One remembered merely add to the Bible, distort the simplicity AND the due fulness of the act, in re-rendering it, or wrongly remembering it, like putting stucco over bricks. We are concerned with the bricks, not the stucco, with the remembrance, not enhancement in confusing, additive terms. As to that death and all that preceded and followed around this centre, it is this which is the focus for memory, and memory lies in the heart, to which the Spirit of God may attune it in spiritual experience.
What has that to do with the nature of His being as distinct from simply who He was and sin, namely the Son of God, from God in form begotten through a virgin, so that, as Luke tells us, THEREFORE He is called the Son of God ? (Luke 1:35). Before all thought, this is a definition of the case, so why here make this Mars Hill the Second! It is BECAUSE He was so begotten that the title Son of God is applicable, and indeed requisite.
It is repeatedly precisely THIS Person who is incarnated, who dies, and who is to be remembered. SINCE this Person is He, it is neither a death of the form of God, this being what was first surrendered for the sacrifice, nor of mere man of but of God as man, in the vulnerable format by selection of mode, that enables sacrifice. It is that divinely conjoined reality of the Person and the flesh which dies. Neither is compromised; each is entire; neither is confused, nor is one form to be read as if it were in some way relevant to try to inform it into the other form. As to FORM, the form of deity is definitionally excluded (Philippians 2); as to the reality of deity, the fulness of deity, it is included. Form is a matter of mode of expression, not of what is to be expressed. Such is the form of God in Christ Jesus, biblically speaking.
This explains what is stated in Luke and indeed, paralleled in this, in Titus 2:13, "that great God and our Saviour, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for us" (Titus 2:13). That is His identity. This is the case. In fact He is such that His sacrifice is substitution for the temporary regime of animal sacrifice and for the general requirement of payment for sin by death (Romans 6:23), is sufficient in itself for ransom adequate for mankind (Matthew 20:28, I John 2:1ff.). The infinite contains the finite.
It is indeed a sacrifice made by God with "His own blood" (Acts 20:28), since the body relates to the authentic, intrinsic God, through whom it is the incarnation tool, this with the exclusion both of sin (not divine) and the FORM of deity - Philippians 2. It was indeed an outward exhibition, though its sprinkling is not one available to sensory perception as such, being merely in the Lord's Supper, depicted in statedly memorial format. It is hence in BODILY form that the entirety of or rather the fulness of the godhead dwells, as Colossians informs us, and what He accomplished is the personal work of God Himself (cf. Romans 5:6ff., I John 1). He, Jesus Christ, is both utterly divine because of who it was that was incarnated, and truly human because of what it was into which He was incarnated.
God may choose as to format, as to mode of exhibition, and for this purpose, what He first made in His image (Genesis 1, 3), since He, not by nature being physical, there was then a human facility for such a spiritual constraint (Luke 1:35). He may also choose to do so not at the level of creation, as in Eden, but in incarnation, in that of essential transmission of His status in the maturity of the fleshly format, one that is His by repossession forever as He is forever. Into what is it transmitted ? it is into what is formed especially to display and act in such terms without the benefit of overwhelming glory still on display. Numerous are the figures used of Christ and His work; none give reason for contradiction of the text from the lips of Jesus concerning what is not flesh, but spirit and life, what is not effectual (John 6) in terms post-sacrificial physical presence, in the enduring significance but in this, that ONCE ONLY is redemption carried out through His blood (Romans 9:12). As to Himself, off to heaven is He ( John 6:51-54), while they eat the memorial feast and live with in and through the One resurrected, glorified and alive for evermore.
That is its essential nature (Hebrews 7-10). Far less is the Supper listed for invasions of context above what is in remembrance, into some kind of reconstruction or presencing.
Only Begotten Son of God, then, has the
and the eternity of Being of God
Thus do we hear this word: "our great God and Saviour, Jesus
who gave Himself for us," (Titus 2:13),
in whom "dwells the fulness of the godhead in bodily form,"
God having purchased the Church "with His own blood," Acts 20:28,
though in His own form displaying all His glory,
yet for a unique purpose set aside that form.
The same Person took another cover, exterior, mode of representation, form, not clinging to glorious and normal representation, yet remaining Himself, the identity before us in the text. That new form was obtained by the work of the Holy Spirit so that He was in the human womb of Mary; and the biblically stated CONSEQUENCE was that He is called the Son of God (Luke 1:51). The new work through that form brought new glory to One already so; but it was the glory of demonstration for a great and a godly purpose.
So far from being a separate person, the Son of God is the unique representation, incarnated on earth, of the Second Person of the Trinity, eminently involved, specifically formed for the purpose of manifesting God to man, doing so in human form and dying in the status and stature of God, as an offering sufficient for all, and effectual for those receiving Him as Lord and Saviour in reality. As ever, He is deity; here as adapted in form for a mission, He is in the form of man. As such He is a willing (Psalm 40), divine sacrifice, using at such times and ways as seem good to God, divine attributes where these do not make His manhood unreal, but His mission clear, and to be furthered (as in walking on the water).
This enables His death to be horrendous indeed, without dilution, since it was vicarious, and His bodily resurrection to be imperative and impervious to overthrow or cancellation, since as to death, it is impossible for the One who He is, to be "held by it," Acts 2:23-24. Thus spoke Peter at Pentecost. It is one thing to make Himself vulnerable in form to death, but quite another to be subject to its domain, which He ruptured on arising, distributing eternal life where believing faith received it (John 1:12, I John 1).
This vast victory was wrought by God, through the Son of God, rupturing ruin for all mankind for ever by a temporary humiliation, and achieving a permanent overthrow of mortality for as many as received Him. This is to be manifested in its due time, as was His saving incarnation when this feat was wrought, in its time (Galatians 4:4). When patient seeking of the lost is concerned, God is in no hurry, as if to finish it all off, and be done with it (II Peter 3:9); just as creation is adapted to unity and coherence and a vast movement of many things, and prodigies of speed are often found in that domain.
To make is one; but so to love holds a preparation for a long entrainment. Already this has amounted to two thousand years, but Peter made it clear it could readily be such in that kind of dimension where love extends it, so that we have been well warned of the importance of awaiting the return of Israel to its land (as implied, with Matthew 24:1ff. and Luke 21:24 considered together, cf. Ezekiel 33-33, 36-37); for it is then, when Israel is not only back in its land but oppressed by its neighbours, that this time of His return is declared to be "near" to use the term divinely chosen for it.
The form of a man is wonderfully liable for this purpose also, to receive miraculous help from God, as did Elijah, Elisha, but with Christ it was from an endemic, full base (cf. John 1), an outflow of the inward by its identity, a series of events accompaniment a personal presence of such power and beauty as only reality can provide. Some things the form of a man removes (such as being free from waiting, for time is an invention of God as in Romans 8), and these by definition are not available, and if they were it would spoil the identification with the repentant sinner whereby Christ saves. So is there a just composure and a sure salvation. f
3) The Only Begotten Son of God, then, has the status, stature, and the eternity of Being of God; and as incarnate is entirely one Person, in identity. What the Son suffers, this same God in form now begotten in flesh, is what ? He is as One recipient in divine experience, but not in Being, for then He would change. The saving circuit is therefore experiential and not ontological. But it is HIS, that one PERSON who is entirely aware of the whole nature of the humiliation because it is He who is wearing it, in the form OF the incarnation. It is He who suffers it, and it is HIS! What therefore dies is the-Son-of-God-in-human-form, as in Luke 1, getting that same title BECAUSE it is He incarnate as sent by the Father and rendered incarnate through the Spirit. It was far from foreign to Him whose sacrificial suffering was inward and spiritual as well as outward and physical. Death is embracive of its form, and intimate was its feeling feed-in.
Thus eternal Word of God who in this way is the same Person before incarnate, and knows and wills accordingly AS one Person, received the entirety of the vast saving circuit in Himself; and felt its discharge. While it could not reach Him in His celestial form, itself beyond time and all creation, to dull God, yet it was intimately known to Him in the human formatted weight of its woe. Accordingly, He yet could endure the agony in experience, though not as visibly stricken (God is invisible), being outside the very realm of time, in His own format. Significantly, He could and did as a Person, experience these things by His own will, through the flesh port-hole, telling in time the portent to eternity. .
This He has done, without either ceasing to be the One who in very nature is in the heavenly form, or enduring it IN the illimitable and invisible spiritual dimensions of God. It is as incarnate that the death comes, prior to incarnate that the willingness is found, as incarnate that He distresses and overcomes mortality itself: each mode, each form, taking upon Himself what is in its nature, the matters which pertain to that form. As so often and in much, the form of an entity may change, while its underlying nature does not.
It is entirely personal, the one identity bearing whether in this form or that, what is prepared for that form, one Being taking all. The celestial nature is projected through the terrestrial, neither distorted nor deprived of divinity; but it is in the format for service, restricted as required to perform the service. Yet even here, nothing dulled in reality, but as willingly giving up what is not fitting for the incarnation, it possesses and is freely able to gain what the case actually requires for the establishment of identity, whether in feeding 5000, an advance on the prophets of yore, walking on water, or being resurrected: as He said, Destroy this temple! Then what ?
Just this, that in three days He would rebuild it. So it was to be and so it was. Thus His sufferings in righteousness for those of the lost who would be found, were complete; but His power to complete His resurrection and supply it in its time (II Corinthians 4-5), for His own elect (Matthew 214:31), this too was complete (John 2:19). There was a labour to be done; He did it (cf. John 4:34).There was a death to be accomplished; He yielded His own body for it (Luke 9:31). There was a life to outface death; it did it in the name of the God who has no equal, either in creation or salvation, or in the dynamic of donation of that eternal life to which death has no access, devil no avenue and disaster no freeway.