How human was Christ’s humanity?

In our understandable zeal to defend the deity of Christ and exalt His divine glory, we can sometimes neglect or even distort the equally important truth of Christ’s full humanity. There seems to be much confusion especially around His physical, emotional, and intellectual development. Let’s just take the last of these and explore and explore it for a few paragraphs.

First, Christ’s humanity needed teaching. We are not here speaking of Christ’s divine mind – which was all-knowing. We are speaking of His finite and limited human mind. He was not born with perfect knowledge of everything. There were things He did not know – even divine things (Mark 13:32).

Second, Christ grew in knowledge (Luke 2:40). As He aged and matured, He also developed in His knowledge and understanding.

Third, Christ learned by listening, reading, and studying. Although there were undoubtedly times when the Holy Spirit revealed truth directly to His human mind, He usually learned in the normal human way – by listening, reading, etc.

Fourth, Christ’s most important source of knowledge was the Old Testament. The Old Testament was Christ’s most important book. His knowledge of it came to Him through His mother’s teaching, His own reading, and His hearing it read and preached in the synagogue.

Fifth, Christ knew the Old Testament better than anyone ever did. In His short time on this earth he studied it more effectively and with more understanding than anyone before or since. Christopher Wright has thought deeply and written beautifully about this area of Christ’s life, and introduces his own insights with this thought-provoking passage:

In the midst of the many intrinsically fascinating reasons why Old Testament study is so rewarding, the most exciting to me is the way it never fails to add new depths to my understanding of Jesus. I find myself aware that in reading the Hebrew scriptures I am handling something that gives me a closer common link with Jesus than any archaeological artefact could do. For these are the words he read. These were the stories he knew. These were the songs he sang. These were the depths of wisdom and revelation and prophecy that shaped his whole view of “life, the universe and everything”. This is where he found his insights into the mind of his Father God. Above all, this is where he found the shape of his own identity and the goal of his own mission. In short, the deeper you go into understanding the Old Testament, the closer you come to the heart of Jesus. (After all, Jesus never actually read the New Testament!). [1]

Sixth, Jesus knew everything he needed to know and never forgot anything he should have remembered. His sinlessness protected him from foolish, lazy, or sinful ignorance.

Mysterious ordinariness

Many mysteries remain in this area of what Christ knew and how He learned. For example, what effect did the fact that Christ inspired the Old Testament have on His human knowledge of the Scriptures? How much did Christ learn directly, via the ministry of the Spirit? Did His human mind ever “access” His divine mind? etc.

However, whatever answers we suggest, we must jealously guard the normal ordinariness of Christ’s maturing humanity.

In his comments on Luke 2:52, John Macarthur wrote: “Luke is saying that every aspect of Jesus’ development into full manhood (intellectually, spiritually, and socially) was ordinary not extraordinary…His conscious mind was therefore subject to the normal limitations of human finitude. In other words, as Luke says here, Jesus truly learned things. Although He knew everything exhaustively and omnisciently as God, He did not always maintain full awareness of everything in his human consciousness. The questions He asked those rabbis were part of the learning process, not some backhanded way of showing the rabbis up. He was truly learning from them and processing what they taught him.” [2]

Tomorrow we’ll look at some of the specifics of how and what Christ learned.

[1] Christopher Wright, Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament (Downer’s Grove: IVP, 1992) Preface, ix.
[2] John Macarthur, The Jesus you can’t ignore (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2008), 29.

Pastoral Picks (5/31)

Two articles on the limitations of Technology. Timothy Dalrymple on the difficulty of Finding Spiritual Life in a Technological World.  And in Liking is for Cowards. Go for what hurts Jonathan Franzen exposes the folly of substituting relationships with technology. 

Jeff Goins on the Most Overlooked Secret to Influencing People.  My interest in this is its application to evangelism? As my friend Seth Getz puts it: “Just ask.” How many are perishing because we don’t?

Last weekend I watched this powerful example of Job 19 faith. However, this morning, I came across another side to the story, the Job 3-18 and 20-37 side, and I was even more blessed.

Jared Wilson gives us 10 Simple Things Good Pastors say.

The ever practical Brian Croft has four guidelines for pastoring women in a congregation.

Tim Challies opens up his Mac and shares some of the Applications that make his life easier.

Wish I’d read Doug Wilson’s wise article on productivity 12 months ago. Even his first point is pure gold:

The point is fruitfulness, not efficiency. You should want to be fruitful like a tree, not efficient like a machine. But this fruitfulness is a function of God’s blessing, and it is surrendered work that is blessed work. Seek that blessing, and seek it through concrete surrender. Such surrenders are not abstract. Put your Isaacs on the altar. Every interruption is a chance to surrender your work to the only one who can bless your work, particularly when the interruptions come from your kid wanting to play catch.

And my book recommendation for today is:


Conduct Gospel-centered funerals by Brian Croft and Phil Newton.

God’s been hunting me down

“God’s been hunting me down for months.”

That was my immediate and instinctive understanding of why the Lord recently sent multiple blood clots into my leg and lungs (read about it here). Three weeks and two complications later, I’m more convinced than ever that God’s been tracking me for months, with loving arrow after loving arrow, until at last He’s brought me down to the dust. Let me explain.

Up until the last year I’ve lived a more or less healthy and vigorous life. I’m 6′ 3″ and 184 lbs. Although work has pushed out regular daily exercise for a few years now, I still ski, fish, and compete at Tae Kwon Do from time to time. But over the course of the last nine months my medical file has bulged considerably (as my finances have gone the other way). Since September, I’ve had two ongoing health issues, one of which culminated in a major (and very painful) operation in November. Did that all stop me?

Not for very long.

Then came the blood clots.  Top that all off with the discovery of a genetic blood clotting problem and I’m beginning to stagger to the ground (reluctantly). So just to be sure, God sent two further medical complications over recent days (I’ll spare you the gory details), one of which will be with me as long as I’m on this earth.

This is the finger of God.


I’ve stopped.

And I know that’s the main message God has been sending me through these afflictions. STOP!

My life and ministry had been getting faster and faster and faster for years. And since coming to the USA, I’ve added a turbo gear. It’s all good stuff: delivering lectures, preaching sermons, speaking at conferences, writing books, producing DVD’s, etc. But it’s been at the expense of daily intimacy with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Good things replaced the best thing.

I’m not talking so much about neglect of private prayer, Bible reading, family worship, church attendance, etc; all these things have been steady and routine – although definitely too routine. No, my problem has been more about what has not been happening in these regular spiritual disciplines and throughout the working day.

Ministry without spirituality
Let me summarize where I believe I erred: ministry without spirituality. Perfunctory and spiritual disciplines and going from one ministry activity to another to another to another, with hardly a moment to feel dependence upon God, cry for help, and seek the Lord’s blessing before, during, or after. Cramming every waking moment with “productive” activity. And certainly not a second in the day to “be still and know that I am God.”

But now, in the enforced stillness, I hear a loving and concerned God say, “My son, give me your heart.” Not your sermons, not your lectures, not your blogs, not your books, not your meetings, etc. But your heart. YOU!

In the back of my mind I knew that my spirituality was not where it should have been, but I said to myself that I would push through jam-packed March and April and then get back into a good spiritual frame. That was my plan.

At the end of April, I finished the last in that long series of speaking engagements, and settled down into my chair the ne

I am very much alive!

It being Memorial Day here in the USA, I was going to take a day away from the blog. But I’ve just received a phone call from my wife to check if I’m still alive. She was phoned by her family in Scotland to ask if I’d died! Apparently there is an email circulating with rather exaggerated reports of my death. Not sure how I can stop others being unnecessarily distressed by this other than by posting a message on my blog, Facebook, etc., and hoping that the truth reaches my family and friends quicker than the lies.

What a crazy world!

More on preaching without notes

I’ve written before about preaching without (or with less) notes (here and here). Here’s some more advice from Jerry Weissman on how to disconnect from your notes and connect with your hearers.

One CFO showed up for his coaching session at my company with his presentation written out in full sentences. I asked him to reduce each sentence to a four-word bullet and to speak from that. He did and it flowed. Then I asked him to reduce each four-word bullet to one word and to speak from that. He did and it flowed. Then I asked him to speak without any text. He did and it flowed.

Why not try it on Sunday?

At least with one of your points.

You can blame me!