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Ask the Pastor

† Theological musings and answers to selected questions by a confessional Lutheran pastor.

23 April 2011

Christ’s Humiliation Ends in the Tomb

Reposted Thoughts for Holy Saturday

Dead Christ in TombQ: An elder in my church said that Jesus is a little lower than God. Where is Jesus in relationship to God?

A: Sometimes the Bible uses “God” and “Father” almost interchangeably. At other times, Scripture makes it clear that Jesus is God, as are the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus is “lower” than the Father only in that He is eternally begotten of the Father and will always serve and obey Him. However, He is also the Father’s equal as touches His being God and possessing all divine attributes, including omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, and the like. Jesus says of Himself in John 10:30, “I and the Father are One.”

Regarding His incarnation and birth, the Bible (e.g., Psalm 8 and Hebrews 2) testifies to the Messiah, Jesus, being made lower than the heavenly beings or angels “for a little while. (Hebrews 2:7)” This is sometimes called Christ’s “state of humiliation” by the Christian Church. In this state, even though He remained fully God, He did not fully use all His divine powers. “Now in putting everything in subjection to him, he left nothing outside his control. At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him. But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. (Hebrews 2:8-9)”

Corresponding to His humiliation, we have a term for the Son’s condition before His incarnation and after His resurrection. This the Church calls Christ’s “state of exaltation.”

Here in the quiet between Good Friday and the celebration of Christ’s resurrection in the coming services, we straddle the border between Christ’s humiliation and His exaltation. His Sabbath rest came after He fulfilled the fullness of the Law and suffered on our behalf. At some point during His time in the tomb, the Father granted Him life once again. Most likely, this is when He — the now exalted Son of God — descended into Hell to proclaim His victory over sin, death, and Satan.

I invite you to read some of what I wrote previously concerning Jesus being God and about His descent into Hell in these following posts:

   § Jesus Christ: True God
   § Questions about God and Jesus
   § The Humanity and Deity of Christ
   § He Descended into Hell

You can find more by browsing this blog if you use the search box at the top of this blog with the terms Jesus and God.

Scripture quoted from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version™, © 2001 by Crossway Bibles.

Send email to Ask the Pastor.

Walter Snyder is the pastor of Holy Cross Lutheran Church, Emma, Missouri and coauthor of the book What Do Lutherans Believe.

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