The man Christ Jesus: theological reflections on the humanity of Christ
Bruce A. Ware
Bruce Ware contends that evangelicals understand Christ’s deity better than they do his humanity. We assume that he was able to perfectly obey God and do miracles because he was fully God. But is there more to it than that? And if not, how can we be called to follow him if he had access to a power source that isn’t available to us?
In this very helpful book Ware wrestles with questions like those, showing especially the role that the Holy Spirit played in Jesus’ life, and reminding us that we have access to the same Spirit. If it sounds like heavy going, it’s actually remarkable easy to read (I finished it in a minibus on the way to Jaffna). Ware seeks to bring these issues home to bear in the life of the reader, ending each chapter with an application section and discussion questions. He also comes up with some great illustrations to help get these difficult truths across. For example, to explain Jesus ’emptying himself’ (Phil 2:5-8) he uses the example of a king learning what it’s like to beg – he can’t live according to his rights and privileges while living genuinely and authentically as a beggar.
Throughout, Ware interacts with some difficult texts that we can tend to pass over. What does it mean that the Son of God increased in wisdom? (Ware’s answer – he was the Psalm 1 prototype). What does it mean that he learned obedience through what he suffered? The reader probably won’t agree with all his conclusions, but he certainly raises interesting questions, such as whether Jesus could have faced Gethsemane successfully at the ages of 12 or 30 (Ware says not).
As the subtitle suggests, the book is made up of various reflections on Christ’s humanity, so it’s not all to do with the role of the Spirit, and individual chapters are only loosely related to each other. For example, in ch 6 he asks whether Jesus had to be male – and shows how recent versions of the NIV obscure some of the verses that help us understand why the answer must be yes. The penultimate chapter, ‘Dying in our Place’, comes with a great illustration about how God forgave people in the OT. Just like credit card purchases are legally yours but they are only paid for when the credit card bill is paid, so God forgave the sins of OT saints on credit.
There’s much here to encourage and stretch anyone who wants to learn more about their Saviour. This book is a perfect example of how theological discussion is good for us, rather than harmful. To give the last words to Ware himself:
“So often we consider theological discussion a waste of time or, worse, divisive and hurtful. But, oh, how our understanding of theological discussion needs to change. We should see such discussions of weighty biblical truths as opportunities for growth in our understanding of God and his Word, along with subsequent growth in our application of that Word to our lives and ministries. As with every other good thing in life, theological discussion can deteriorate into something harmful. But it need not and should not. Rather it can be the very thing that God would call us to do for the sake of being refined in our understanding and encouraged in our faith.”
Thanks to Crossway for a complimentary copy of this book through their Beyond the Page review programme.