Over the last 2 weeks we have been exploring our series For, With, One of, In. 2 weeks ago Matt kicked off our series by looking at John 3:16-17 and sharing with us the fact that God is for us (and for all people, not just followers of Jesus) and that because he is for people, that we should be for people as well.
Last week we talked about the idea that God is with us. That the ultimate reality of that fact is Emmanuel..God with us, in the form and life of Jesus. We talked about the Israelites leaving Egypt and going into the wilderness on their way to the promised land. On that journey the tangible presence of God was with them guiding, directing and being with them in the form of a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. We talked about God being with the Israelites in the wilderness and how he is with us in our times of wilderness. We also talked about the idea that if God is with us, and that we are vessels of the Holy Spirit and seeking to follow in the footsteps of our Lord, Savior, and Redeemer, then we need to be with people as well.
Today we are entering the 3rd of the 4 weeks and looking at One of. Next week we’ll round out our series by looking at In.
To dig into this idea of One of, we could go many places. Obviously the first and best place to start in relation to the fact that God was one of us is in relation to the incarnation of Jesus, that we celebrate at Christmas time. And while we won’t be using the Scripture narratives from Matthew and Luke regarding that first Christmas, we’ll be using 2 other Scriptures that shed light in what it means and what it meant for God to be one of us, in the person of Jesus.
First, let’s turn to Colossians 2:9 and see what the Apostle Paul says to the Colossian church regarding Jesus, the incarnation and the fact that God was one of us in Jesus. Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form”
To understand what Paul is getting at in this text we need to do a little historical research on why Paul was writing the letter to the church at Colossae in the first place. You see the Colossian church was being besieged with some beliefs about Jesus that weren’t correct and Paul was seeking to combat the erroneous beliefs that had infiltrated the Colossian church. Colossians 2:9 is a declaration of the full deity of Jesus. Paul is saying that all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Jesus and that Jesus couldn’t have been halfway God or a junior God. You see there were three prominent heretical views about Jesus that were making their rounds in the early church and these views needed to be combated with a strong message that Jesus was fully God and fully human at the same time, as hard is that for us to believe at times. 100% human. 100% God.
One of the false teachings among the Colossian Christians was something like an early form of Gnosticism, that would come later. This belief made a radical separation between the spiritual and the physical. That the spirit is 100% good and the physical is 100% evil. So Jesus, if he was 100% good couldn’t have been physically human. That is why Paul says, “fullness of Deity in bodily form.” That Jesus literally took on the bodily form of humanity and not in some strange mystical, spiritual sense.
Another false teaching of the day that some in Colossae may have held to was called Docetism, coming from the Greek word dokeĩn which means to seem. Docetism claims that Jesus wasn’t truly human, he only seemed human. That he didn’t have an actual human body, and that he only seemed to have a human body.
Lastly, the other false teaching was called Cerinthianism and it taught that “Jesus the man” was separate and distinct from “the Spirit of Christ.”
Hopefully knowing what teachings the early church was struggling through, we can see why Paul was strongly stating the fact that, unlike all the other teachings that we looked at, that “in Jesus all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” The Apostle Paul was saying that Jesus literally became human, he became one of us. But at the same time, even though he became one of us, a human, he still retained his deity. It wasn’t like he had to give up his divinity in order to take on his humanity. God became one of us in the person of Jesus. And that this Jesus who came from heaven to walk among people, was also fully divine.
The Apostle Paul talks a lot about the intersection of Jesus’ divinity and his humanity. It seems like, to me, that this was one of Paul’s central doctrine of his faith. That Jesus was truly God and truly man. As I said a lot of the book of Colossians deals with the supremacy and primacy of Jesus and his divine and human nature, but Paul also writes about this in other letters.
One of the letters where he tackles what happened when Jesus took on flesh and blood is found in Philippians. Let’s look at Philippians 2:5-11 and see what this might say to us about how God became one of us in the person of Jesus.
Philippians 2:5-11 says, “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; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
In this text, which many theologians believe is a ancient hymn, Paul talks about the nature of Jesus’ humanity and his divinity. In verse 6 we read, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;” First, it is openly clear from this verse that Paul is not denying the fact that Jesus was in his very nature God. But at the same time Jesus did not cling to the privileges of deity. It wasn’t that Jesus was trying to achieve equality with God the Father, he already had it and he chose not to cling to it. This is a crucial statement because it is the reason that he became one of us. That he didn’t cling to the privileges of deity. He could have stayed with his Father, ruling and reigning from heaven, without ever putting one foot on the soil of his creation. He could have pronounced us redeemed, set right, forgiven, and whole all the while sitting at the right hand of the Father. But he didn’t. He chose not to use equality with God to his own advantage. No, he submitted himself to the will of the Father and took on the flesh and blood of his creation. Entered into our reality. Entered into the mess of humanity. Became one of us. Understanding everything we go through. Understanding the brokenness that we struggle with. If you ever ask the question “Does God understand what I’m going through” all we need to do is to look at Jesus and his incarnation, his becoming human to walk among his creation and experience everything that his creation experiences.
NT Wright has this to say about verses 6-7 and the fact that Jesus while becoming human didn’t stop being divine, “Let’s clear one misunderstanding out of the way in case it still confuses anybody. In verse 7 Paul says that Jesus ‘emptied himself’. People have sometimes thought that this means that Jesus, having been divine up to that point, somehow stopped being divine when he became human, and then went back to being divine again. This is, in fact, completely un-true to what Paul has in mind. The point of verse 6 is that Jesus was indeed already equal with God; somehow Paul is saying that Jesus already existed even before he became a human being (verse 7). But the decision to become human, and to go all the way along the road of obedience, obedience to the divine plan of salvation, yes, all the way was not a decision to stop being divine. It was a decision about what it really meant to be divine.”
Jesus, in all respects, was in appearance and likeness, a man. If you cut Jesus, he bled like any other human. It’s not like some of the artwork we see where it’s almost like if you cut him, light would come shining through because he just put on the outer form of humanity over his divinity. No, he was human through and through. You cut him, he bled. When he was tired, he slept. When he hurt for people, he cried. He was one of us. The song that we listened to at the beginning of our gathering was a question, “what if God was one of us?” And the answer has to be, he was one of us. Jesus was one of us. But at the same time, as hard as it is to fathom, Jesus was at the same time God. He was God in the flesh. God and Human all wrapped up together in the package of Jesus.
Now was does it mean to you and I that God was one of us in the person of Jesus? What does it mean to us as followers of Jesus in this time and in this place? Let me throw out some thoughts about what the incarnation means and how to apply it to our lives before we open it up for our discussion time.
First, as I mentioned above, Jesus entered into our reality. He entered into the mess of what it means to be truly human. He enters into our mess. He enters into our struggles, our pains, our darkness. He isn’t afraid to get dirty. He understands what it means to be human. To struggle, to be tempted as we are tempted (though he didn’t sin), to be in pain, to hurt. He can not only sympathize with you in your struggles, he can also empathize with you. He has been where you are. He meets us where we are because he was and is one of us.
Secondly, because God came in the flesh in the person of Jesus, when we become followers of Jesus, than he calls us to incarnate him into the world. To be one of. Who are you called to be one of? To incarnate the gospel of Jesus into the people of which you are already a part of? As followers of Jesus, he commissions us to love the people we are one of. Who is it for you? Who are you already one of? There are a few of you who are college students. Love the students you are already one of. Love and live like Jesus on the F&M, Millersville, and HACC campus. What about being one of those who live in your neighborhood? Love and be a blessing to the neighborhood that you are already a part of. Throw a party. Invite people to dinner. Get a bunch of your neighbors together and serve together. Serve someone in your neighborhood who could use some help.
What neighborhood or network of people are you already one of? As we have talked together over the last 3 weeks, does that network of people or neighborhood known that you are for them? Are you with them? Do you actually like them? Maybe some better questions would be things like: Would the people in my network or neighborhood say that I am for them? Would they say that I am with them? And would they consider me to be one of them?
Let’s talk about what the incarnation of Jesus into the world, taking on flesh and blood and moving into the neighborhood means personally for you and I. Let’s talk about what it means to be one of. Let’s ask the question about who we are one of and how we can be for, with, and one of. Let’s talk about the incarnation and how Jesus calls us to be incarnational.
1. What thoughts, comments, insights, questions, etc.. does these Scriptures and the message bring up in your mind?
2. What does it mean to you that God became one of us in Jesus? How does this impact you on a daily basis? How does it feel to know that God has entered into our mess and our reality?
3. Who are you already one of? How is God calling you to incarnate the love of Jesus in the networks that you are already one of? How can you love, serve and bless who you are already one of?
4. What is God saying to you and what are you going to do about it? What is God saying to us and what should we do about it?