Many of the entries in this blog over the past few months have focused on lines of biblical evidence for the pre-existence of Christ: that Christ personally existed as a divine being prior to his birth as a human being.
The pre-existence of Christ has long been a hotly debated subject among Christian thinkers and students of the Bible. For some Christians, however, such a topic might seem confined to the realm of theologians and philosophers. Pre-existence is an odd enough idea; and why does it matter whether Christ pre-existed? How is it relevant to my life as a follower of Jesus Christ?
In this blog we want to briefly touch on five reasons why the pre-existence of Christ matters, and how an understanding of this doctrine could enrich your faith and your spiritual walk.
- It increases God’s sacrificial involvement in our salvation. God did not merely create a special man to die for our sins; he sent his already existent Son whom he loved. Within a Trinitarian framework it could even be said that God himself became flesh to save us. “He saw that there was no man, and wondered that there was no one to intercede; then his own arm brought him salvation, and his righteousness upheld him” (Isaiah 59:16).
- It adds another dimension to Jesus’ sacrifice. He did not simply learn as he grew up that he was a man designed for a special mission. He made a conscious choice to embark on that mission, and in doing so he gave up the prerogatives of heavenly divinity to live within the constraints of a mortal human body in a fallen creation. As Paul wrote in Philippians 2:4-8 (and more concisely in 2 Corinthians 8:9), this was the ultimate example of humility.
- It makes salvation a divine gift, not a human achievement. If Jesus was merely a human being, albeit a Spirit-filled one, then God’s plan of salvation depended on a man to deliver the victory. A creature is the hero of the salvation epic, not the Creator. This contradicts many passages about salvation belonging to the Lord (Jonah 2:9), glory belonging to God alone (Isaiah 42:8), and the vanity of human achievement (1 Corinthians1:29-31). If Christ himself was a pre-existent, uncreated divine being, however, everything he achieved can be credited to God.
- It justifies worship of Jesus Christ. The New Testament is full of praise, worship, and prayer to the exalted Lord Jesus Christ (e.g. Revelation 5:13), and these practices continue amongst Christians today. Have we ever stopped to ask why these practices arose, and still persist, with respect to a human being? The strict monotheism of the Old Testament does not allow for the deification of a human being; this would be a blasphemous affront to the sovereignty of God. But if this human being was in fact a pre-existent being who had always belonged to the identity of the God of Israel, problem solved.
- It marks the Christian faith’s uniqueness. In this age of religious pluralism, it is often said that each religion is a different, but equally valid, path by which humans may find God or the higher principle. If the pre-existence of Christ is true, however, then trying to find God is missing the point because God has come to us on our own terms. As we explored in a previous blog, the pre-existence makes Christ a two-way ladder connecting God and man, heaven and earth (John 1:51).
In summary, then, the pre-existence of Christ is not just an abstract notion for Christian philosophers and theological think tanks. It is at the heart of the gospel message and has real implications for how we relate to God and how we live out our faith.