Offering a fresh look at Christ’s humanity, Bruce Ware’s The Man Christ Jesus is a timely and stirring contribution to the church.
While Ware agrees that Christ’s deity must still be articulated and defended today, he believes that evangelicals tend to have a better understanding of His divinity than His humanity. In this relatively small book, he attempts to show the reality and significance of Jesus’ humanity.
Beginning with a study of Philippians 2:5-8, Ware firmly establishes the divinity of the Son, but then addresses the nature of His self-emptying (kenosis in Greek). Christ didn’t lose or give up anything of His divinity, and Ware’s thesis is that He chose to live fundamentally (though not necessarily exclusively) with the restrictions of humanity. This involved self-limitation, and in this way He lived a truly human life like ours.
The majority of Jesus’ obedience and miracles, then, were not performed by Christ ‘tapping in’ to His divine power divinity, but rather through being empowered by the Spirit (see Acts 10:38, Isaiah 11:1-4). Building upon these observations, Ware suggests that Jesus’ childhood growth, devotional life and obedience were all truly experienced; that Christ learned the Scripture and resisted temptation as a man empowered by the power of the Spirit.
Once establishing the how of Christ’s humanity, two chapters divert slightly to show why He was human, the first giving twelve reasons why the Saviour had to be male and next showing why our sacrifice for sin had to be both God and man.
The final chapter moves from the past to the present and the future – Jesus was raised, is currently reigning, and will return, all as man.
I’ll begin with my more critical reactions since this book was very powerful for me; I want to end this review on a positive note. I have four related comments:
1. Ware’s thesis that Christ lived fundamentally as a man empowered by the Spirit, left me with a number of unanswered questions. Partly this is the sign of a good book – it shows that I was very engaged! However, I think important implications could have been addressed so I’ll have to be on the lookout for a longer, more extensive discussion of this – any recommendations?
2. Here’s an example. In line with 1 Peter 2:21-23, Ware constantly brings the reader to application in light of Christ’s very real humanity and obedience. However, sometimes the level of corollary between Christ and the believer isn’t explained. For example, if Christ lived a sinless life solely in human dependence upon the Spirit, then why isn’t sinlessness in this life to expected for the believer? It’s questions like this that I wished Ware had addressed.
3. While Ware has a significant section on Christ’s perfect obedience and impeccability (inability to sin), the absence of a sin nature in Jesus was not substantially discussed. This might have avoided the above confusion regarding the relationship of the Christian’s obedience to Christ’s obedience.
4. There has been a suggestion that Ware may have slipped into Nestorian error – emphasizing too great a distinction between Christ’s divine and human natures. While I’m not convinced that this is in fact the case, I admit that I’m not equipped to say for certain, so it will be interesting to see how this pans out. I would enjoy to see more Scriptural and theological interaction with Ware’s thesis.
Those issues aside, for such a short work Ware has given a number of weighty concepts to ponder. Topics such as impeccability and hypostatic union could easily overwhelm many readers, but Ware’s clear writing, personal tone and constant devotional application ably navigate the reader through these issues. There are no unimportant discussions here. Each chapter ends with application and discussion questions, calling the reader to praise and response.
I don’t want my above comments to imply that I didn’t like this book, in fact it’s probably the most impacting book I read in 2012 (how can Christ not impact you?). In proportion to what I received from this book, my concerns are small. The depiction of Christ’s human experience and obedience was truly powerful and devotionally effective. I admit to overlooking Christ’s humanity, so this helpful corrective kept me in awe of Jesus’ life, it encouraged in my reliance upon the Spirit, and contributed to my eagerness to focus on the Gospels this year and seek how to follow His example of obedience.
I would wholeheartedly recommend The Man Christ Jesus to any Christian, and expect to be giving out many copies in the near future.
Many thanks to Angie Cheatham and Crossway for providing a review copy and a giveaway copy of this book!
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It is for this reason that I postponed releasing my review until I could get a free copy from Crossway to give away! Follow the instructions below for a chance to win.