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2 John 1:7 by Robert Dean
Series:2nd John (2002)
Duration:1 hr 3 mins 42 secs

The Hypostatic Union/Kenosis; 2 John 7


2 John 1:7 NASB "For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ {as} coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist."

These deceivers had denied the true humanity of Jesus Christ. What Jesus was doing in the incarnation was showing that in His humanity, born perfect as Adam was created, He was going to overcome the testings whereas Adam had failed. In order for the testings and the solutions to be equivalent He had to handle it in His humanity, and he did it by relying upon God the Holy Spirit. That does not mean that Jesus didn't perform certain things from His deity. He did perform many miracles out of His own deity in order to demonstrate that He was fully God. If Jesus didn't do anything out of His deity then He would have given no evidence that he was God. God never makes a claim anywhere in Scripture, Old Testament of New, without backing it up with empirical evidence. When Jesus changed the water into wine He was demonstrating that He is the creator. At the end of His ministry when the Roman guards came to arrest Him they sought to grab Him in order to control the situation. There was a burst of His glory and they just fell down, knocked down and knocked out. That came from His deity. Jesus Christ did a number of things from His deity but they were not to solve problems related to His spiritual life—handling testing and temptation—they had to do with demonstrating who He was as the qualified God-Man to go to the cross to pay the penalty for our sins.

Anselm lived during the time of Charlemagne. He was a famous theologian because of one particular work that he wrote called "Why the God-Man." In that he writes as a conclusion:

"Therefore, none but God can make this satisfaction [the importance of the atonement as a satisfaction. None but someone who was perfectly righteous could satisfy the perfect righteousness of God in terms of the sacrifice], but none but man ought to do this. [No one but man can do this. He is recognising the principle that only true humanity can pay a substitutionary price] Otherwise man does not make the satisfaction. If it be necessary therefore, as it appears, that the heavenly kingdom be made up of men, and this cannot be effected unless the aforesaid satisfaction is made, which none but God can make and none but man ought to make, it is necessary for the God-Man to make it."

What he is saying there: a) if the heavenly kingdom is to be made up of human beings; b) If this can only be effected by a satisfaction being made to God's character; c) No one but God can make and no one but God ought to make it. The only conclusion that can be arrived at is that it is necessary for the God-Man to make it.

This is the historical foundation for understanding the hypostatic union. In fact, it is in this writing that Anselm is the first person in church history to clearly articulate the doctrine of a substitutionary atonement. This doesn't mean that this wasn't understood in some vague sense before; it clearly was. But in terms of really understanding it and technically developing the implications of it, of explaining it in ways other than just repeating Scriptural terminology, Anselm is the first to understand this.    

The hypostatic union: The term "hypostatic" is based on the Greek word hupostasis [u(postasij]. It has to do with a substance or in some case essence. In the hypostatic union what we have is the union of undiminished deity and true humanity in one person where there is no mixture or confusion of attributes, so that that which pertains to deity stays deity and that which pertains to humanity stays humanity. When Jesus is operating in His humanity He is not relying on His divine attributes to solve His problems. On the other hand, when Jesus is functioning in relationship to His deity—for example on the Mount of Transfiguration—it is not bleeding over into His humanity. If those attributes/natures mixed then He wouldn't be fully God and He wouldn't be fully man. What He does from His humanity the entire person does, and what He does from His deity the entire person does. So it is almost wrong to say He did this from His deity and that from His humanity because that makes it sound like there are two persons. There is one person who is composed of two essences. It is better to say "Jesus hungered" because that demonstrates His true humanity; Jesus changed the water into wine, and that demonstrates that He is true deity. Forgiveness of sins isn't a function of man, it is a function of deity.

The biblical documentation

John 1:1 NASB "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." The word that is translated "Word" derives from the Greek word logos [logoj]. If we look this word up in a standard classical Greek dictionary we will find eighteen or more definitions for this word. It means reason, thought, communication, word. It is the Greek word from which we get the ending of a word like biology, zoology, psychology. Anything with "logy" comes from this Greek word logos which means the study of something; it has to be with reason, thought, rationality. All of these concepts are packed into this one word which is used by John as a title for the Lord Jesus Christ. It is important to recognise that the first phrase of John chapter one is also the first phrase in the Bible, in Genesis 1:1, so that when John says "in the beginning" the first thing that is going to pop into the mind of a reader of the Gospel is Genesis 1:1. This is when everything starts, and we would say that this is the time that God would invent the space-time continuum. Space and time are related. The space-time continuum is not the same as the universe, it is that space in which the universe operates. Before that there is no time, so we can't talk about beginning prior to that because "beginning" is a temporally found word. So at this point in time God created the space-time universe. Before that He had already created the angels and according to Job 38 the angels were present when God laid the foundations for the earth.

At this point in time John uses a word that is translated "was" in the English, but the English "was" just doesn't carry the punch that the Greek word carries. The Greek word is in the imperfect tense. In Greek there are two past tenses, the imperfect and the aorist. The aorist is a summary tense; the imperfect expresses continuous action. The difference is that the imperfect represents a video—continuous action. The aorist is going to just take a snapshot of that action. John uses the imperfect tense of the verb eimi [e)imi] in the Greek which is equivalent to our word "is." The verb "is" is also called an existential verb because when you are saying that some is you are saying that something exists. So John says at that beginning point when everything began, when space-time began, at that point in time "was," i.e. the logos already was continuously existing. It is a very strong statement. In Greek philosophy when they kept pushing things back, pushing things back, and asked What created that? Where did that come from? Where did you get that? they didn't really know what came before "that" and they just called it the first principle, and this was the Greek term arche [a)rxh].  So John says when you go back as far as you can go, at that point in time the logos was already existing and continuously existing. That is a powerful statement and it can only apply to God. It indicates His eternality. If he had used the aorist tense it would just mean He existed, so it is important to emphasise the tense here. The idea of continuous indicates that it was going on forever and ever and it is an indication of the eternality of the logos.

In the next clause John says, "and the logos was with God." This phrase "with God" indicates that there must be a distinction in personality between the logos and God; they are two distinct persons. He uses the preposition pros [proj] in the Greek, which indicates that He was face to face with God; they were together; it intimates a unity, not a distinction. Then he says, "and the Word was God." They are distinct but they are identical. There is embedded in this verse the idea that will come to be known as the Trinity. There are distinctions of personality in the deity but they are nevertheless one in essence. In each of these statements John uses the same verb in the same tense, indicating in the beginning the logos continuously existed, the logos was continuously with God in the past, and the logos was continuously God. This indicates the full deity of the logos.

The so-called Jehovah's Witnesses don't understand good grammar very well, and they come along and say there is no definite article there in the Greek, and therefore it should be translated that there is just "a god." In other words, a subordinate deity. The problem there is that in Greek there are certain nouns, just as we do in English, that are inherently definite; you don't have to put a definite article with it for it to be definite. For example, the British say, "I am going to hospital" or "I am going to university." In American English the tendency is to put a definite article in and say, "I am going to the hospital" or "I am going to the university." In British English "hospital" and "university" are inherently definite, so the definite article is not added. Furthermore, in Greek when the article is taken out and you just have the noun it often emphasises the quality or essence of the noun. So by not having an article here what John is saying is that the logos is equal in essence to God, and that is a profound statement. The fact that there is no article there emphasises the full deity of the logos.

Then in verse 2 John goes on to say: "He was in the beginning with God." So at the beginning point of creation we see that the logos was present with God. He was in the beginning with God; He was involved with the creation at the beginning. This is further emphasised in Colossians 1:16, 17 NASB "For by Him all things were created, {both} in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

Then John comes back to talk about the incarnation. John 1:14 NASB "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth." John doesn't go into the virgin birth. Only Matthew and Luke discuss the virgin conception/birth. This same word, this same logos, became flesh, became man. He entered human history; the infinite became finite; the eternal became part of time; the one who is omnipresent became localised in space-time history as Jesus of Nazareth. "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us," is a phrase that is common to us, one that we are so used to that somehow we just run past it without stopping to pay attention to the uniqueness of it. There is nothing comparable to this, that the eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent God has become a man, has taken on true humanity and lived among us.  "…and we saw His glory."

There are two different ways to approach glory. There is the Old Testament approach to the glory of God which is the Shekinah and referenced the dwelling of God between the cherubim on the ark of the covenant in the holy of holies in the tabernacle, and later in the temple. That was a glory that became visible in the pillar of fire and in the cloud. That was a physical manifestation of glory. But this referred to by John is a different kind of glory. The Greek word here for "dwelt among us" is skene [skhnh], the etymological cognate of Shekinah. Shekinah is a word that is never used in the Old Testament but it is a Hebrew word that means dwelling. It is the Shekinah of the Old Testament that now lives among us in this incarnation of Jesus Christ. But now this incarnation is muted, there is no visible glory. When Jesus was walking through Nazareth when He was twelve years old there wasn't this visible glory around Him. So when John says they beheld His glory he is not talking about that kind of glory that was manifested in the Old Testament, he is talking about  a different kind of manifestation of glory, and this is a glory that reveals the character of God. To understand John's concept of the glory of God we need to look into the next chapter, chapter two. After Jesus turned he water into wine, John 2:11 NASB "This beginning of {His} signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him." John's concept of Jesus' glory is not of an overt glory but a glory manifested through His words and His works, a glory that is manifested in His character. So we see here that John begins to teach us about the incarnation, that it is the eternal logos who was fully God who becomes man and dwells among us as a true human being.    

Hebrews 1:3 NASB "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power…" The word "radiance" is the Greek word apaugasma [a)paugasma] which has to do with the flashing forth of His character. He is the demonstration, the representation of who He is; He is the radiance of His glory. This is the writer of Hebrews emphasising something slightly different in terms of glory but he is still saying that it is the glory of God that is manifested in the second person of the Trinity. He is the flashing forth of His glory. And there is a parallelism here, notice he says, "and the exact representation of His nature." The writer of Hebrews is connecting the glory of God to His character. The English word "character" is a direct transliteration of the Greek word charakter [xarakthr]. So in Hebrews 1:3 Jesus is the radiance, the flashing forth of His glory and the exact representation of His character. The writer is paralleling these two concepts, so for the writer of Hebrews the glory of Jesus Christ is that He is demonstrating the essence and character of God in the flesh. So by looking at Jesus Christ we can come to know who God is. The "exact representation of His nature" means that He partakes of all of the elements of deity, including eternality and infinity. So if Jesus partakes of all of those elements then He is undiminished deity, and He, too, is eternal and equally God with God the Father. "and upholds all things by the word of His power…" It is the Lord Jesus Christ who sustains everything.

From verse 6 on in Philippians chapter two we have an illustration to help us understand the command in verse 5. Philippians 2:5 NASB "Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus." Paul is challenging the Philippian believers to be humble, to have true and genuine humility as part of their makeup. This is a mindset. He uses the Greek word phroneo [fronew] which means to think a certain way, to have a certain mindset, to think about life in a certain way, to think about ourselves a certain way. So how are we to understand what true humility is? By looking at Jesus Christ. Humility has to do with power under control, it is not the idea of someone who is just a doormat or who just conforms his life to whatever people want him to be. It is someone who has power under control , under authority, understands his place in life, and is totally oriented to it.

Our illustration of humility comes in the person of Jesus Christ in the act of incarnation. Philippians 2:6 NASB "who, although He existed [participle: existing] in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped." The participle "existing" emphasises continuous existence in eternity past. The word "form" is morphe [morph]. Plato thought that what we see on the plane of creation was a reflection, just a shadow of an ultimate reality which existed somewhere "out there," and he called that "out there" the form. The idea of morphe is Greek philosophical terminology and background has to do with the essence of a thing. What Paul is saying here is that although Jesus Christ was existing in the form or essence of God… it is emphasising that he continually existed in the essence of God, partaking of all of the attributes of God. Although he was fully God, in other words, with all the rights and privileges God has, He did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. He wasn't asserting Himself. Jesus had all the rights and privileges of deity and yet He is not going to emphasise it. The contrast here is that in the garden of Eden when God put the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil there and forbad the eating of it or they would die, Satan came along and said that would not happen; that God doesn't want them to eat of it because if they did they would be like Him. So they grasped at it. In contrast, Jesus is God but He doesn't grab for it.

Philippians 2:7 NASB "but emptied Himself, taking the form [morphe] of a bond-servant, {and} being made in the likeness of men." Jesus said He came not to be served but to serve and to give His life as a ransom for all. The word translated "likeness" is the Greek word schema [sxhma] from which we get our English word "scheme," the scheme or them plan of something. schema has to do with the outward form and indicates the genuine humanity of the Lord Jesus Christ. What does it means that He "emptied" Himself? This is the Greek verb kenoo [kenow]. The noun form is kenosis [kenosij]. So this is known technically in theology as the Kenosis. A brief definition: It means to deprive one's self of a rightful function. It doesn't mean that he gave it up but that He limits the exercise of His deity.  

Definition of Kenosis:  The second person of the Trinity condescended to become true humanity while not relinquishing any attribute of deity. The main idea here is that during the incarnation Jesus Christ willingly restricted the independent use of His divine attributes in compliance with the Father's plan for the incarnation.

There is a problem with that definition, and that is with the word "independent." The second person of the Trinity never ever independently operates. He never operated independently of the Father's plan for anything because the Father and the Son are one. So we have to work on this definition a little bit. The idea that is trying to be communicated here is what the Lord does in emptying Himself is to limit the immediate manifestation of His divine attributes in His human life. They are, as it were, veiled so that they are not seen by those around Him. He chose to appear as a man and to conduct His life as a man without it being obvious to anyone around. In the incarnation the logos gave up the external manifestation of His divine attributes and perfections in the given realm. On other words, He maintains His divine attributes and all of the activities of His deity, but they are masked to the finite observer. In a crowd there was not anything that made Him stand out, but at the same time He is holding the universe together. In accepting the incarnate state He chose not to externally manifest His divine attributes in the human realm apart from the Father's will and the Spirit's leading. He was always in complete accord with the Father and he is always led by the Spirit. But He does function in His deity and there are times when His glory is manifested, as on the Mount of Transfiguration where His glory was manifested to John, Peter and James. It is interesting that Jesus' full glory was manifested to John on the mount but when John talks about glory he never talks about that because his focus on glory is character. That, incidentally, is how we reflect the glory of God, and how we glorify God is by letting the Holy Spirit transform our character into the character of Christ. As we mature spiritually under the filling ministry of the Holy Spirit He produces the fruit of the Spirit in our life which is the character of Christ, and as that is manifest it reflects the glory of God in our life, i.e. character.

Philippians 2:8 NASB "Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross." This is what humility is. It is not asserting our own rights. The word for humility here is tapeinophrosune [tapeinophrosunh] which was not a positive quality in Greek culture. The idea in Greek culture was that you asserted yourself, you did not stand back and let somebody else be the one who praised you. Jesus had every right to be worshipped as deity and yet he becomes a man and completely shrouds His deity so that He goes through all of the suffering, sees all the suffering, and goes through all the difficulties of human existence for the purpose of going to the cross, to die on the cross for our sins. This was crucial to accomplish salvation, but it goes beyond simply the accomplishment of salvation, it lays the foundation for the precedent for the spiritual life for the church age. The spiritual life of the church age is designed to produce something worthy of reward at the judgment seat of Christ so that we will not be ashamed at His coming. That is why John moves from the incarnation and its importance in 2 John 7 to 2 John 8 where he brings in the spiritual life in terms of rewards, because we are preparing ourselves for what we will be in eternity.