Christ’s Humanity and Omnipresence

In Random Stuff on August 26, 2011 by The Spillover

This is an interesting topic for discussions being tackled by Phil Johnson at the Pyromaniacs Blog. Let’s huddle and consider: did Jesus give up his omnipresence in order to become a man?

Philippians 2:7 says Jesus “emptied Himself” (NASB)—or if you’re using the ESV, He “made himself nothing.” Those are both legitimate translations of the Greek verb κενόω, (kenóō) but they must be interpreted carefully in a way that does not contradict the rest of Scripture.

Specifically, because we know that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8), Philippians 2:7cannot mean that Jesus emptied himself of His deity or laid aside any of His divine attributes when He took on humanity. That is the view of “Kenotic” theology, which is seriously heterodox.

So what about Jesus’ omnipresence? Did He not have to divest Himself of that attribute in order to be incarnated in a real human body? Didn’t he need to cease being everywhere present so that He could enter this world as a Man? Wasn’t His omnipresence necessarily suspended when He was placed in a manger?

Strictly speaking, no.

The Spirit of Christ was no more physically confined to His human body during the incarnation than He is now. Remember that at His ascension He rose bodily and is seated at the right hand of God the Father. From thence He shall come—bodily—to judge the quick and the dead. In other words, He has not abandoned His humanity, even now that He is glorified. And yet He is present wherever two or three are gathered together in His Name (Matthew 18:20). He is “with [us] always, to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:20). And He has promised never to leave us or forsake us (Hebrews 13:5).

So Scripture expressly affirms that Christ is omnipresent. When He assumed a human nature He did not have to give up that (or any other) aspect of His divine nature. The incarnation was a miracle of addition, not subtraction. Jesus took on humanity; He did not divest himself of deity.

In the words of Peter Lewis:

We must be very careful here not to imagine, as some have done, that at the incarnation our Lord “left behind” something of his Godhead or its attributes. God exists in the perfection of his attributes. Take away any of his perfections and you no longer have God. You cannot have reduced Godhead. There is God and there is not-God: but there is nothing in-between! . . . In respect of his divine nature our Lord continued even during his incarnate life to fill the heavens and the earth with his power and presence. [The Glory of Christ, 233.]

John Calvin said something similar. He wrote this:

[Although] the Word in his immeasurable essence united with the nature of man into one person, we do not imagine that he was confined therein. Here is something marvelous: the Son of God descended from heaven in such a way that, without leaving heaven, he willed to be home in the virgin’s womb, to go about the earth, and to hang upon the cross; yet he continuously filled the world even as he had done from the beginning! [Institutes, 2:13:4.]

Hope that helps.

One Response to “Christ’s Humanity and Omnipresence”

  1. I think it’s best not to spend ALL (or even most) our time dissecting theological puzzles…but on occasion it’s fun 🙂

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