The Man Jesus Christ is the latest installment from the pen of Southern Seminary professor, Dr. Bruce Ware. The subtitle accurately describes the essence of the book – Theological Reflections on the Humanity of Christ. The author sets the tone for the book in the preface by reminding readers that the purpose is to examine the humanity of Christ. While never minimizing the deity of Christ, the author intends to unfold the facts of Christ’s humanity in a way that is understanding, compelling, and biblical. What follows is eight chapters of thought-provoking, Christ-exalting reflections on the humanity of Christ.
The nature of the kenosis (self-emptying) of Jesus is explained and the typical errors that surround the kenosis are confronted: “It is a ‘subtraction’ (i.e., a pouring out, an emptying) by adding human nature to his divine nature. He came, then, to become the God-man – the one whose very divine nature took on fully the existence of a created human nature.” Ware also addresses the erroneous notion that Christ’s submission to the Father began at the point of the incarnation. Much to the contrary, we find that Jesus has submitted to the Father from all eternity: “In short, the eternal Son submitted to and obeyed the will of his Father prior to his becoming incarnate.”
The author discusses the importance of Christ’s Spirit-empowered earthly ministry. Here we find that while the Spirit does not contribute anything to the deity of Christ, the Spirit does contribute to the humanity of Christ: “The only way to make sense, then, of the fact that Jesus came in the power of the Spirit is to understand that he lived his life fundamentally as a man, and as such, he relied on the Spirit to provide the power, grace, knowledge, wisdom, direction, and enablement he needed, moment by moment and day by day, to fulfill the mission the Father sent him to accomplish … At the heart of who he is, we must see him [Jesus] as coming in the power of the Spirit.” Surely, readers will not only be encouraged to gaze upon the God-man as he relies upon the Holy Spirit during his earthly ministry and seek to emulate Christ’s dependence on the Spirit.
Additionally, readers see how Jesus grew in wisdom as a man during his earthly ministry. “… His knowledge was not out of his divine nature per se. Rather, his human nature had to acquire the knowledge and wisdom that he later evidenced, whether at the age of twelve or thirty.” And as Jesus grew in wisdom, so must we – always remembering that the Spirit of God, uses the Word of God to transform the people of God.
Several subjects are explored including the impeccability of Christ, penal substitutionary atonement, and three crucial realities – the resurrection, reign, and return of Christ. Over and over again, the author reminds readers about the importance of Jesus’s humanity. For example, the author writes the following about the death and resurrection of Christ: “Just as God as God cannot die, so God as God cannot be raised from the dead. But in Jesus, the God-man, we see that God as man has died for our sin, and likewise God as man has been raised from the dead. The atoning death of Christ requires his full humanity, and the resurrection of Christ does likewise.”
One of the greatest strengths of The Man Jesus Christ is that it addresses some common Evangelical presuppositions that have been smuggled into the church. These presuppositions are graciously exposed and the biblical worldview is advanced. Dr. Bruce Ware presents a side of Christology (the humanity of Jesus) that has been neglected both in the church and the academy. Joel Beeke rightly remarks, “… Christology must affect not only the mind but also take aim at the heart” (A Puritan Theology:Doctrine for Life, 977). In The Man Jesus Christ, Ware targets the mind with scholarly precision and sets his sights on the heart with the Godward affections of a caring shepherd.
This is a book that seeks, in the final analysis, to encourage and motivate believers to live a Christ-centered life. One of the final pages summarizes these thoughts nicely: “Oh, how our obedience matters! So, how wrong it is of us to appeal to grace as license to disobey, just as it is equally wrong to appeal to our obedience as the basis for our right standing before God! … May we see that just as his relentless and perfect obedience, rendered in the power of the Spirit and in faith, brought him the full approval of his Father and the reward of his exaltation, so our obedience, rendered in the power of the Spirit and in faith, likewise, will be seen and rewarded by our gracious and benevolent God. Let us learn from Jesus that obedience matters.”