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[Rom 8:3 NKJV] (3) For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God [did] by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh,

[Rom 8:3 MGNT] (3) τὸ γὰρ ἀδύνατον τοῦ νόμου ἐν ᾧ ἠσθένει διὰ τῆς σαρκός ὁ θεὸς τὸν ἑαυτοῦ υἱὸν πέμψας ἐν ὁμοιώματι σαρκὸς ἁμαρτίας καὶ περὶ ἁμαρτίας κατέκρινεν τὴν ἁμαρτίαν ἐν τῇ σαρκί

I'm particularly interested in knowing the extent of "in the likeness of sinful flesh". How similar was that to us and what was different?

I get that Jesus became human and was vulnerable to sin (except that he did not sin) and that "likeness" might point to the idea that it's not exactly like us (one of the differences is that Jesus did not have an earthly father).

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This will only give the briefest possible introduction to the HUGE topic that the Christian church has debated for 2000 years and was the topic of Church councils, etc. So here I will only quote a few verses and show the main problems. For a more extensive discussion - see the material on the debates at all the church councils where topics such as the nature of Christ (first council of Nicea, Turkey, in 325), the relationship between divinity and humanity of Christ (council of Chalcedon, Turkey, in 451), the human and divine wills of Jesus (third council of Constantinople, Turkey, in 680-681), ...

Jesus was definitely Human:

  • “the Word” (= Jesus in this passage”) became flesh (John 1:14)
  • Attended social functions (John 2:1-11)
  • Became angry & passionate (John 2:12-25)
  • Nicodemus saw Him as a man (John 3:1-21)
  • Tired, hungry & thirsty (John 4:1-42)
  • Jesus referred to Himself as a man (John 8:40) See also Rom 5:15, Acts 2:22, Acts 17:31, 1 Tim 2:5,
  • Jewish leaders definitely saw Jesus as a man (John 10:33)
  • Wept with human passion (John 11:1-57)
  • Prays for divine strength (John 17)
  • Feels pain and bleeds (John 18:12ff)
  • Pilate said, "Behold the Man" (John 19:5)
  • Called, “The Son of Man” (John 1:51, 3:13, 5:27, 6:27, 53, 62, 8:28, 9:35, 12:23, 34, 13:31)
  • Dies (John 19:17-42), etc, etc.
  • Phil 2:5-8 - Christ Jesus: Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to death—even death on a cross.
  • Heb 4:15 - For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who was tempted in every way that we are, yet was without sin.
  • 1 John 4:2 - This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God
  • 2 John 7 - many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world.

The fact that Jesus became human, as clearly stated in Phil 2:5-8, does not detract from the fact that Jesus remained God in the fullest sense. That is, Jesus is BOTH fully God and fully man.

What Type of Humanity?

If Jesus is fully human, this creates another question – What type of human? There have been two answers to this question; either –

  • Fallen human nature just like our own (eg, Rom 3:10-18), or,
  • Unfallen human nature like Adam before the fall.

In attempting to decide between these two, let us assemble the Bible evidence:

  1. Jesus was tempted in all points just as we are, Heb 4:15
  2. Jesus was also “perfect”, Luke 1:35, Heb 7:26, John 14:30

The solution is simpler than it appears. Let us contrast Jesus’ humanity with ours:

Fallen humanity = us Jesus’ humanity
We are born in sin and sinners from birth, Ps 51:5, 1 John 1:8 Jesus was untainted by sin, Luke 1:35, Heb 7:26, 27, John 14:30
We have all sinned, Rom 3:10-18, 23, 1 John 1:10 Jesus never sinned, 1 Cor 5:21, Heb 9:14
Sin surrounds us, 2 Kings 17:15, Ps 40:12 Jesus came from heaven, unpolluted, John 3:31, 17:24
We inherit Adam’s sinful tendencies, Rom 5:12, 16-19 Jesus is the second, perfect Adam without sin, Rom 5:17-19

We should recall that the Bible teaches that we are sinners because of what we have done (1 John 1:10) and because of what we are (1 John 1:8, Ps 51:5). We have done sinful acts and have sinful natures/tendencies.

Thus, if Jesus had a sinful nature (as per 1 John 1:8 and Ps 51:5), then He would also need a saviour. Then what are we to do with the clear statement in Heb 4:15 about Jesus being “tempted in all point just as we are”? If Jesus was perfect (like Adam before sin) why or even how could He sin?

James 1:14, 15 - But each one is tempted when by his own evil desires he is lured away and enticed. Then after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.

Jesus was tempted in different ways:

  • In Matt 4:3, 4, where Jesus, after fasting 40 days, is tempted, via His natural human hunger, to turn stones into bread. For any other human, this would not have even been a temptation but it was to Jesus because he had the divine power, but chose to model our complete dependence on the Father.
  • In Matt 27:40 Jesus is tempted to come down from the cross. Again, this is no temptation to ordinary humans as they could not, but Jesus could have. However, he voluntarily submitted (Phil 2:5-8) Himself to the father’s will just as we must.
  • In Matt 26:36-40 we read about Jesus’ pleas to the Father to release Him from the trial of the cross. Humanity’s feet hung in the balance; eventually, Jesus submitted by saying, “Your will be done!”
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    Wish there was a way I could support all your dedication to this community... Very grateful to God for you being in my life. Got a lot to go through here in this answer! – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Jan 4 at 21:47
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    @TiagoMartinsPeres李大仁 - I am honored to be of some service and help. Thanks for your kindness. – Dottard Jan 4 at 21:49
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    «Jesus is BOTH fully God and fully man», should we include in front of it the term theanthropos? – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Jan 6 at 9:56
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    @TiagoMartinsPeres李大仁 - I believe that "theantropos" is a Greeko-English portmanteau and definitely not a theological technical term. My phrase is less ambiguous – Dottard Jan 6 at 10:09
  • thank you for the clarification! – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Jan 6 at 10:18
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"Likeness of sinful flesh" here means in a certain sense 100% likeness, if we consider a) the human nature of Jesus, which, after Incarnation, the divine eternal Logos had completely in Himself and b) the mortality and susceptibility to illnesses and death, which He allowed His human nature to be susceptible voluntarily and not out of any natural necessity, because Jesus, who healed others from all maladies, of course could make it that no malady may have touched Him, and He who vivified the dead, could make Himself exempt from dying, but He voluntarily subjected Himself to pain and death; and, although the Gospels do not say anything about it, I cannot be surprised to know that in His childhood Jesus had caught cold and had a sore throat or a running nose, and if accidentally trodden upon by His friends during plays, He felt pain in His foot just as any other kid.

Thus, He fully took everything upon Himself: a) the human nature and b) even those aspects of human nature that accrued to it only after the Adam's fall, namely: the frailty and susceptibility to illnesses, pain and death. To be clear on this point: He voluntarily took the fleshly condition of humans under consequences of Adam's sin, not the sin itself and neither sinful inclinations that beset all humans, but Him. This is that He took likeness of our "sinful flesh" in 100%.

And this brings us to the final point as to in what He differed from us, all the rest of the mankind. But I have already answered it: He had 0% of and was totally exempt from sin/sinfulness, that is human general condition after Adam's fall, and thus He was totally devoid of also sinful inclinations which are just an aspect, a particularity of sin/sinfulness which is a more generic category.

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In Romans 8:3, what is the extent of the likeness in “in the likeness of sinful flesh”?

Jesus Fleshy Body:

Since a perfect human life was lost, no imperfect human could ever buy it back.

Psalm 49:7-8 (NET Bible)

7 Certainly a man cannot rescue his brother; he cannot pay God an adequate ransom price 8 (the ransom price for a human life is too high, and people go to their final destiny),

What was needed was a ransom equal in value to what was lost, for the atoning of our sins.

1 John 4:9-10 NET Bible

9 By this the love of God is revealed in us: that God has sent his one and only Son into the world so that we may live through him. 10 In this is love: not that we have loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

So God sent his begotten Son, who willingly left His heavenly home to become a perfect human, by means of the holy spirit, God transferred the life of His Son to the womb of Mary.

Luke 1:35 (NET Bible)

35 The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called the Son of God.

Jesus Fleshy Body

Thus Jesus, the " Word" became flesh, (John 1:14) he was no longer a spirit, notice he did not merely assume a fleshy body, as angels have done in the past, (Genesis 18:1-3, Joshua 5:13-15) this is attested by apostle John, who says that one is antichrist who denies that Jesus came "in the flesh.

The Antichrist. Is the one who denies that Jesus came in the flesh.

1 John 4:2-3 (NET Bible)

2 By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses Jesus as the Christ who has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that refuses to confess Jesus, that spirit is not from God, and this is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming, and now is already in the world.

In the days of his flesh

Jesus was born of a woman- no incarnation, the Bible tells us this: " Since, therefore, the children share flesh and blood, he (Jesus) himself likewise shared the same things. (Heb. 2:14-16)

Hebrews 2:14-16 (NET Bible)

14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, he likewise shared in their humanity, so that through death he could destroy[c] the one who holds the power of death (that is, the devil), 15 and set free those who were held in slavery all their lives by their fear of death. 16 For surely his concern is not for angels, but he is concerned for Abraham’s descendants.

Hebrews 5:7 (NRSV)

7 In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to the one who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission.

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Scripture informs that ‘logos became flesh. This is not Jesus in John 1:1, Jesus is not ‘in the beginning’.

Jesus did not become human, Jesus was born human ~4bc as the result of the occurrence of ‘the logos became flesh’.

Mary became pregnant and carried the child to be born and named Jesus. He was also named Immanuel, but he is not called this anywhere. The title apparently means, ‘God with us’, this does not mean Jesus is God, just that God is present in the man who is His son and has His holy nature, but by no means His substance. (The child in Isaiah was also so named, he wasn’t God either)

Scripture clearly, consistently and explicitly tells us all we need to know.

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the representation of His nature Heb 1:3

it was necessary for him to be made in every respect like us Heb 2:17

There are many verses that speak of Jesus’ humanity, there are none explicitly saying he is God. Neither are there any explicitly saying Jesus pre-existed his conception.

Gen 3:15 refers to the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent. There is the potential for this to refer to many who were of God, but is ultimately fulfilled in Christ who would crush the devil’s project of destroying mankind once and for all - time and people.

Clearly the seed of a woman is human and not somehow God!

Passages like some perennial favourites of Jude 5, ‭John‬ ‭8:58 etc, these require an imaginative interpretation of the text to support a construct not in harmony with the remaining text. How could Jesus have lived before Abraham if we are plainly told when he was born?

Jesus was like us in every respect. Except, he was without sin. Born without the sin of Adam, and remaining sinless by his consistent submission of his own WILL to God’s. (How God can have two wills is a bizarre concept, Jesus said a house divided cannot stand)

Rom 5 explains much of this, particularly v15

...the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ

We are neither told anywhere of Jesus having two natures, this too is an imaginative construct.

Jesus was like us, he could be tempted like us, sin like us, die like us, be raised from death like us.

Jesus cannot be tempted if he cannot sin – if he can sin, he isn’t God

The plan of God, from before the beginning, centred on Jesus - being that which all things become complete.

Jesus is the plan or word of God in human form, who through death, reconciled all to the one great God.

John 17:31 he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.

1 Tim 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus

How we can read this small sampling of texts stating the nature of Jesus and still get that he is not just human but also God is testament to the confusion that beset the early church when forces acted to hide and suppress truth, replacing it with a construct not at all like the original revelation.

1 Cor 15:47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven.

Of course, Jesus has a God, the same as we do, John 20:17, Rev 22:1, 1:6, Acts 2:33 surely this one fact, consistently expressed, makes Jesus not God.

Therefore, indeed made like us in every way, yet without sin. Why? Because he was to finish what the first Adam had failed at, defeat sin and evil as a man under trusting obedience to the one true God.

God could have used any man, and in type He did through those like Joshua, David etc, but He needed the saviour to begin without sin or the corruption that passed from Adam.

Jesus is in our likeness of flesh - which is typically sinful, as Rom 8:3 expresses. He however, as we know, without the sin. There need be no other explanation of who Jesus is - a man like us in every way - except sin.

Having died and defeated evil, he became the ‘firstborn from the dead’ for all who would follow.

Made like us that we would be made like him.

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  • John 1:14 - The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us. 2 John 7 - I say this because many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. 1 John 4:2 - By this you will know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, – Dottard Jan 5 at 8:15
  • Phil 2:6-8 - Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man ... – Dottard Jan 5 at 8:18
  • What was Jesus before he became human? Are you suggesting Jesus had no pre-incarnation existence? – Dottard Jan 5 at 8:23
  • What was Jesus before he became human? A plan, a prophecy, a promise.——— Are you suggesting Jesus had no pre-incarnation existence? Precisely. I’m not suggesting, that’s what the bible says – user48152 Jan 5 at 9:36
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    «There are many verses that speak of Jesus’ humanity, there are none explicitly saying he is God.». For instance, John 8:58 (in reference to God's name in Exodus 3:14). – Tiago Martins Peres 李大仁 Jan 6 at 9:19

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