It is relatively easy to describe the attributes of the first Adam, his soulish nature, his false sense of independence and his slavery to indwelling sin. In fact, many non-believing philosophers and psychologists have done an admirable job of describing the good and evil attributes of man as descended from the first Adam, albeit the idea of slavery to indwelling sin is generally not recognized.
When it comes to describing the last Adam, Jesus Christ, we find that there is much disagreement among believers as to the significance and meaning of Jesus’ humanity and even of His work on the Cross. It is my intention to divide this into two writings, the first dealing with His humanity up to the time of the Cross and the second dealing with the significance of the Cross.
Jesus’ humanity: I remember as a young Baptist, whenever Jesus was held up as an example of how to please God, thinking to myself “yeah but He was God, so give me a break.” Well He was God BUT when He came to earth as a baby, He was fully human, having set aside His Divinity. He was not simply going through the motions of being a baby, a child, a teenager and finally a man while all the time possessing omniscience, omnipotence and omnipresence. Quite the contrary! He was a man “who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.”(Php 2:6-7 NASB) “HE DID NOT REGARD EQUALITY WITH GOD A THING TO BE GRASPED!” Immediately it is significant to notice the obvious contrast with Adam and Eve who desired “to be like God!” (Gen 3:5)
Isaiah spoke of Jesus in this way: “He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him.”(Isa 53:2-3 NASB)
The description of Isaiah differs a bit from the portraits and statues of Jesus Christ that we often see but what is of greater concern is how much our own imagination of Jesus as a human being might differ from reality. After all He is the model Christian or as someone has said, the ONLY Christian. Therefore if how we imagine Him to be is unreal then our expectations of what it means to be transformed into His image will be unrealistic. It is essential that in all things to do with our life on this earth, we be most concerned with an ongoing revelation of the true knowledge of Christ. As Paul puts it:
“…that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of Him.” (Eph 1:17 NASB)
As the last Adam, Jesus did not eat from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil but instead ate from a different tree, that of the indwelling Life of His Father. In His humanity, Jesus was the perfect man not living out of His own feelings, reasonings and volition but in all things living in subjection to the Life of His Father in His Spirit. THIS is the Jesus we are to imitate! Not imitating His words and actions, but imitating the reality of Him living His life by the Spirit of the Father who indwelt him.
His life was a visible display of “the obedience of faith” (Rom 1:5 & 16:26 NASB). It was characterized by the obedience that proceeds from faith. This is important to understand for two reasons. The first is that it is too easy for us to forget that Jesus was fully a man of faith, notwithstanding his Divinity. Somehow we tend to think that because He was not only man but God also, that faith on His part was not necessary. This is to forget that in His humanity Jesus set aside His divine attributes to fully enter into the weakness (not sinfulness) of our humanity. The second reason this is important is that if His faith is denied then we are left with an example of obedience without faith! This would be obedience by His own efforts as a man which is unthinkable except to the legalistic religious mindset. If the first Adam had exercised faith in God he would never have been disobedient. As Romans 14:23 NASB puts it: “whatever is not of faith is sin.”
There are a number of places in the New Testament that affirm Jesus Christ’s Life of faith and there are two that are quite significant. The first is Romans 3:21-23 quoted from Young’s Literal translation:
“And now apart from law has the righteousness of God been manifested, testified to by the law and the prophets, and the righteousness of God is through the faith of Jesus Christ to all, and upon all those believing, –for there is no difference, for all did sin, and are come short of the glory of God— “
The second is found in Hebrews right after the writer has listed what we refer to as “the heroes of faith.” It reads:
“Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.” (Heb 12:1-2 NASB)
The success and power of His Life was that His obedience was the result of never wavering in faith, living by the Life of His Father. He was the Father’s Son (as are we!) and He always lived as the Father’s Son (as can we!). ALL the temptations that confronted Him persistently tried to get Him to move into unbelief, living out of His own humanity. The tempter only needed one success with Jesus to derail His plan for the redemption of mankind. He lived by faith in His Father. His life was the “obedience of faith” and not that faith that without works is dead (cf. Jas 2:17)
Today as we stand as the Body of Christ sharing with a dying world, we are continually tempted to act out of our natural human resources, and it is at this point that something else must be said before returning to the humanity of Christ. There is no end of activity in the name of Christ: whether it is our personal prayers, fastings, exercises of the gifts of the Spirit, worship or praise practices or disciplined lifestyles, or our coming together to do church, missions or any other of the endless endeavours Christians have come up with. Yet no matter how “good” any of the preceding might appear, and no matter how positive the results that God in His mercy might allow, they are but “wood, hay & stubble” in His sight!!! Only that which originates out of the indwelling Spirit of Christ has eternal value. Jesus said: “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment” (Joh 7:24 NASB) and Paul said something similar when He wrote: “Therefore from now on we recognize no one according to the flesh; even though we have known Christ according to the flesh, yet now we know Him in this way no longer. Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2Co 5:16-17 NASB)
Many of us carry around with us a mental picture of a phantom Christian that does not resemble Jesus at all in His humanity. The “phantom Christian” is the person we are constantly trying to be in order to be loved and accepted by God. Much of this comes from what we were taught by the Christian religion of unbelief that continually reinforces the idea that our relationship with God depends on the actions we initiate with God. This is an absolute perversion of the Gospel and puts on believers as much or more bondage than they were initially delivered from. Jesus said: “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30 NASB) The yoke of religion continues to make many believers “weary and heavy-laden!” In Acts, Peter asks: “Now therefore why do you put God to the test by placing upon the neck of the disciples a yoke which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?” (Act 15:10 NASB) How serious an issue this is cannot be over emphasised. Jesus’ humanity on this earth expressed only the Life of His Father and He did not use “obedience” to gain His Father’s favour. His obedience was the result of living His humanity as God had originally intended, that is, out of His union and communion with the Father. We are to live out of our union and communion with the Son in whom the Godhead dwells. The distinction must be recognized and emphasized because much of Christianity fails to recognize the Life they have in union with Christ. Because of unbelief the focus remains on the externals: what they think, how they feel and what they decide.
Looking at the humanity of Jesus that we can relate to as revealed all through the gospels we find that we have much in common despite the fact that He was not born enslaved to sin. In John 11:35, in the story of the raising of Lazarus from death, it says simply that “Jesus wept.” Whether He wept because of the state of His friend Lazarus, the distress of Lazarus’ sisters or the unbelief of the Jews is irrelevant as the point is that they ALL represent the kinds of situations we find ourselves in – the death of someone dear to us, the sharing in the sorrows of those who have lost a loved one or the unbelief so prevalent in this sin sick world around us. Or how about when He said: “Jerusalem, Jerusalem, who kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to her! How often I wanted to gather your children together, the way a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, and you were unwilling”(Mat 23:37 NASB)? Have you ever felt that way when confronted by the hardness and unbelief of friends, relatives and family members?
Jesus became hungry (Mar 11:12), weary (Joh 4:6) and thirsty (Joh 4:7), yet in John 4, even though He was weary and thirsty, He still put the will of His Father first, as He only said and did what the Father in Him was doing (Joh 14:10), and He ministered to the Samaritan woman before satisfying His own physical needs. Are we not all called on to do the same? Yet how much is preached about “our” joy, “our” health, “our” wealth “our” well-being – all of it in the face of the fact that Jesus lived His life by the Father for OTHERS and NOT Himself.
But Jesus’ human experience goes even deeper, as Hebrews 14:15 states: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” In fact, the account of Jesus’ temptations in the wilderness (Mat 4, Mar 1 & Luk 4) is a perfect example of what James was talking about in his letter when he wrote:
“Blessed is a man who perseveres under trial; for once he has been approved, he will receive the crown of life which the Lord has promised to those who love Him. Let no one say when he is tempted, “I am being tempted by God”; for God cannot be tempted by evil, and He Himself does not tempt anyone. But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death.”(Jas 1:12-15 NASB)
Jesus in His humanity was tempted not as God who cannot be tempted by evil but as a human (with the indwelling Spirit) – just as we are. It was not a sin for Jesus to be tempted and it is not a sin for us to be tempted! What is temptation? It is when we are carried away and tempted by our own lust (strong desire). In the temptation to turn stones into bread, Jesus was carried away and enticed by the devil who tried to use His lust, which was simply His strong desire for food, as He would have experienced intense hunger after forty days without food. But He did not permit His lust to conceive of being satisfied through the devil’s enticement to take matters into His own hands and turn the stones into bread. No, instead He did not allow His soulish desires to usurp the authority of the Spirit within. This was His “way of escape.” He was indeed the blessed Man who persevered under trial (the same Greek word as used for temptation)! What an encouragement that is to us!
No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it. (1Co 10:13 NASB) – the way being the indwelling Spirit of Christ not a self-discipline of our flesh!
Finally, we have never gone through the agony to the extent Jesus experienced when “He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will” (Mat 26:39 NASB) or when “at the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, “ELOI, ELOI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” which is translated, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” (Mar 15:34 NASB) However in our Christian experience we do experience many things of our Father which cause us much grief in our souls, sometimes even to the point of feeling like we might die or worse yet, be forsaken by the Father. Is this not so?
How did the Word become flesh? How did He come to earth not as a fully developed man but as a normal baby and go through the whole process of growing in wisdom and understanding, eventually coming to the point where He knew who He was and why God had sent Him? I do not know. But this I do know, that as a human man on earth He represented God’s will for us “because as He is, so also are we in this world” and with God all things are possible.
Jesus was fully human and showed us the kind of life we are intended to live as sons and daughters of God. He was a Man of the Spirit, AS ARE WE by way of the new birth. In the next writing we will look at how this was accomplished for us on the cross when “God made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2Co 5:21 NASB)