Friday, October 19, 2012

One Christ

The Spirit of Christ and the Christ in the Flesh

The False Teaching:

One of the central aspects of the false teacher’s arguments was that the "Spirit of Christ" had come but that the "Christ in the Flesh" was yet to come. They said that the Spirit of Christ provided salvation in the afterlife for the Gentiles.

In contrast, the false teachers said that Christ in the Flesh would come on the Day of Destruction and would conquer the Gentile nations and set up the Kingdom of God over all the earth. In order for Gentiles to have salvation during the Day of Destruction, they must follow the Way of the flesh.

New Testament Response:

New Testament writers point out that Christ had come in the flesh:
1 John 4:1-3
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit who confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit who doesn’t confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God, and this is the spirit of the Antichrist, of whom you have heard that it comes. Now it is in the world already.

Romans 8:3
...sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin...

Romans 9:5
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ…
Also, when using the word "Christ" by itself, New Testament writers almost always use it in a way that shows human (flesh) aspects:

Christ suffered (Acts 3:18, 26:23, 1 Pet. 2:21, 1 Pet 4:1,13, 5:1)
Christ died (Romans 5:8, 6:8, 8:34, 14:15, 1 Cor. 8:11, 15:3, Gal. 2:21, Col. 2:20)
Christ crucified (1 Cor. 1:23, Gal. 2:20), blood of Christ (1 Cor. 10:16, Heb. 9:14, 1 Pet. 1:19)
cross of Christ (Philippians 3:18).

Christ was more than a spirit

The False Teaching:

There is evidence that the false teachers were saying that the Spirit of Christ was an angel and simply manifested himself like angels are able to do. This may explain the emphasis in Hebrews that Jesus was not an angel. They may also have said that Jesus was a human and the Spirit of Christ descended upon him at some point during his life. This may explain John pointing out that is was the Holy Spirit that descended on Jesus at his baptism. Perhaps New Testament writers were dealing with both scenarios.

New Testament Response:

New Testament writers also show that Jesus was not a spirit.
Luke 24:39
See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have.

Mark 6:49
But when they saw him walking upon the sea, they supposed it had been a spirit
The Greek word used in Mark is not the usual word used for spirit but makes the same point. In addition, the Greek word that is used is "phantasma" and the belief at that time was that phantasmas could not walk on water.

Related Verses in Ephesians: