Understanding the humanity of Christ

This is one of those topics I had struggled with really comprehending for years. I blogged a bit about this before in a partial review of Gordon Fee’s book Pauline Christology. I just wanted to chat a bit more about this topic.

In Philippians 2:5-7

TNIV: 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.
HCSB: 6 who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage. 7 Instead He emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men. And when He had come as a man in His external form

Here is my summary of what I think these verses mean:

Jesus had existed in the form of God, and did not take advantage of his divinity to assist in his humanity.

This summary and the specific translations cited above helps me to relate to Christ’s humanity in way that I never really could.  I think that Jesus could have used his divinity to help him when he fasted and was tempted, but he did not.  He could have used his divinity to help him when he was suffering before and during his crucifixion but he did not.

This understanding allows me to better understand verses like Heb. 2:18 “Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.” TNIV I always struggled with this because elsewhere it says that God cannot be tempted James 1:13  I would wonder well how can Jesus really be tempted if he is God?  Well now this makes sense, at least it does to me.  Also it gives me some sort of renewed hope that I can or will someday be fully transformed.

What are your thoughts regarding this? I really would like to hear from some you on how you understand his humanity.


10 thoughts on “Understanding the humanity of Christ

  1. I understand Jesus’ humanity to be real, genuine, and in every way like mine (and yours) except he was without sin. It’s funny because there is a great tendency towards docetism (the belief that Christ merely ‘appeared’ to be human) in our churches today. I have a number of friends who have problems accepting that Christ was truly man. They can’t fathom how he could not know something (like the hour of his return), yet they have no problem with his dying on the cross. It’s a strange disconnect.

  2. Nick,

    I have always accepted his divinity / humanity but for many years I just didn’t understand it. I totally agree with your explanation as well.

    I was hoping that this simplification would help others, like your friends that may be struggling to comprehend it.

  3. Robert,

    I’ve consciously avoided thinking about the disconnect between Jesus divinity and his humanity. I think there is a lot of paradox in our faith that cannot be understood in this lifetime, things like the trinity and Christ’s divinity/humanity. Nevertheless, they are true, and I think this is an elegant presentation of the issue.


    I think the reason people have trouble grasping these issues (to the point of docetism etc.) is because our modern ‘enlightened’ scientific perspective leaves no room for paradox, as I just mentioned. If we don’t realise that our faith is paradoxical in many ways (and that this is ok, that it doesn’t deny our faith), then it’s hard to accept many traditionally orthodox doctrine.

  4. Jeff, thanks, and your right this is a great example on how the TNIV, is better than the NIV.

    Damian, I totally agree that much of what we know to be true in scripture is paradoxical, but we should not start there. If that is where we end up, then so be it. But to often we begin there and will work hard at trying to understand. Anyhow, I plan to blog on this hopefully this week, on my continued review of Roger Olson’s book “Questions to all your answers”

  5. Robert, in a context that is addresses the need of putting the interests of others before yourself in the Jesus community, Paul points to the perfect example: Jesus setting aside his glory to wrap himself in human form for the sake of sinful humanity.

  6. Yes, I must agree with Nick. I too believe Jesus was 100% human. Here’s the thing: he was the perfect human, but sinful humanity is still grapple with that concept, even those of us destined for glory.

    But all will be made clear (1 Cor 13:12).

  7. a very strategic passage in the Bible to begin with the Christological discussion…Phil.2:6-10 provides the almost entire way of understanding Jesus as both God and man….

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