MA Theology essay – Cruciform Theology

Cruciform Theology

This has been an interesting week. A couple of times during these courses at GGS over the years there have been things happening in my life or around me that coincided with the course I am taking. Two things happened this week that coincided with my Cruciform Theology courses. First, a friend and my sister in law both sent me these “prophetic” warning dream videos from a pastor in Kentucky. And second, I heard a teaching from a friend on the debated issue over whether there was a virgin birth or not. 

I didn’t even know that was an issue until I heard it from him. I just assumed there was and had no reason to ever question it. This course was on Cruciform Theology and dealt with subjects like the cross, soteriology (doctrine of salvation), God’s wrath and judgment, and the vicarious faith OF Christ. It was a perfect time for me to look into this debate of the virgin birth more closely and decide for myself what I believe, and WHY I believe what I believe not only about the virgin birth, but about the entire Incarnation… His birth, life, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, and seated-ness. And so after studying this subject out for myself I didn’t think there is enough evidence to deny the virgin birth. And I came to realize that what I believe about the virgin birth of Immanuel is critical in my understanding of the Incarnation. 

The debate of the validity of the virgin birth comes down to this…. Isaiah didn’t use the word virgin in his prophecy in Isaiah 7:14. Oh, I know our English translations say virgin, but the Hebrew text uses the word almah. This debate has been going on for centuries by both Jewish scholars as well as Christian scholars…. And there isn’t an agreed consensus in either group. The word almah appears nine times in the Old Testament and always means a young maiden, an unmarried girl. In those days though it would’ve been understood that an unmarried girl was a virgin. Why didn’t Isaiah just use the word virgin? Wouldn’t that have made life much easier? There would’ve been nothing to debate. He could’ve used the word betulah which means virgin! He was familiar with the word and used it in other places such as 47:1. 

I love the Hebrew language! There are layers, upon layers in each word, each letter, each name, etcetera. The root of the word means to be concealed, hidden, or covered. So if you read the verse with that understanding it looks like this… Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign. Behold, the concealed one shall conceive and bear a son, and she shall call his name Immanuel. The concealed one! I like that! Was there a concealed or hidden message in Isaiah’s prophecy? Let’s keep looking. The word behold is hinneh which means behold, look, there is. While the word behold or hinneh is calling attention to something that is happening, calling attention to the following noun which in this case is ha’almah or the maiden (the concealed one!). The root of hinneh is hen and means lo, behold, and also expressing surprise. It’s an interesting word. Hinneh at its ancient root means HERE. And hen at its ancient root means THERE! Wow.. behold here AND there! Hen is made up of two Hebrew letters, hey and nun. The pictograph of hey represents the idea of looking toward something of interest. Hey also represents grace, goodness, and the transforming breath of Holy Spirit (as in when hey was added to Sarai and Abram’s name making). It represents the supernatural power of God. And the nun is a seed representing continuation, offspring, heir. Hen at its root is a picture of arms extended out and saying “look!” It is when one sees a great site close by or in the distance, and he extends his arms out and sighs as if saying, “Ah, look or behold that!” It’s a looking toward a breathtaking sight or action. It’s a sigh of desire or a sigh of pain. A continually looking toward something desired…. Toward “THERE.” I believe Isaiah is saying look “here” at an event that was happening in his day which is why this verse was not regarded as being messianic in nature. But I also believe that Isaiah was also drawing our attention to THERE… to an event so breathtaking, of such magnitude, so glorious in that it would change mankind forever! Change how they viewed God and how they viewed themselves. An event that would usher in a new FINISHED creation!

I believe Isaiah saw not only what was in his “now” view… behold HERE (prophesying to Ahaz to encourage him that God is with him), but also saw THERE (Genesis 3:15 the Seed of a woman), which held within it the mystery of Immanuel – God with us in the future for those who had ears to hear or eyes to see it. I’m not even sure Isaiah saw it. Daniel 12:8 says I heard, but I didn’t understand. And Peter said in 1 Peter 1 that the prophets didn’t understand what they heard concerning this salvation. Remember the very word hen (root of behold) is hey and nun and nun is seed! Behold the supernatural power, the grace, the goodness, the breath of the Spirit (all meanings of hey) THE Seed (nun) of the woman. 

A second hint at the virgin birth is given a few chapters later in Isaiah 9:7 which is without a doubt a Messianic prophecy. Verse 6 tells us that a child will be born, a son will be given, and the government will be upon His shoulders and He will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace (another translation says Master of Wholeness! I love that!!). Then verse 7 says, “To the increase of His order (government) and peace is no boundary; upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to solidify it, and to support it with justice, and with righteousness from now until obscurity. The zeal of Yahweh of armies shall perform this. The word increase is the Hebrew word l’marbeh and should be written like this – לְמַרְבֵּ֨ה. The second letter מַ is called mem in Hebrew. In this verse it is written like this —  לםרבה. What is the difference? The second letter here is ם, which is a final form or sofit form of mem. It is only used at the end of a word. The letter mem in Jewish thought is associated with the womb, and the final mem is associated with a closed womb.  The Talmud over 1500 years ago puzzeled over why Isaiah used a closed mem. Yehuda Liebes of Hebrew University notes that this caused some to see a connection between the closed ‘mem’, and the womb of a ‘virgin’ (almah) in Is. 7: 14.4 (Note: Though some Hebrew Bibles use a corrected spelling; the most authoritative Masoretic text, the Aleppo Codex, has the unique final mem: לםרבה).

The Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint (abbreviated LXX meaning the 70) translated almah as parthenos(Greek word for virgin) which shows that some Jews already two hundred years before Christ favored an interpretation in which this immediate fulfillment was not seen as exhausting Isaiah’s prophecy. There is so much more you could dig out of these verses in Isaiah. But I don’t want this essay to be a study on Isaiah 7:14 but rather an essay on Cruciform Theology! I like how N.T. Wright (Professor of New Testament and Early Christianity in the School of Divinity, at the University of St. Andrews, Scotland) sums up an understanding of the virgin birth. ) In an article he wrote, regarding the virgin birth [The Virgin Birth and the Constraints of History], he says this, “no “proof” is possible either way. No one can prove, historically, that Mary was a virgin when Jesus was conceived. No one can prove, historically, that she wasn’t.” He went on to say, “If the first two chapters of Matthew and the first two of Luke had never existed, I do not suppose that my own Christian faith, or that of the church to which I belong, would have been very different. But since they do, and since for quite other reasons I have come to believe that the God of Israel, the world’s creator, was personally and fully revealed in and as Jesus of Nazareth, I hold open my historical judgment and say: If that’s what God deemed appropriate, who am I to object?” 

By the time God came in the flesh (Immanuel), men had a wrong understanding of themselves and of God. A wrong understanding of life as God had designed it for them. After Adam’s fall mankind declined in their thinking. They no longer saw themselves as sons made in the image and likeness of God. And they forgot the Rock from which they were hewn. They became natural minded and no longer walked in the awareness of the origin of their birth…. From above! An eternal existence IN Christ! 1 Peter 1 tells us that they walked in an empty (futile) way of life (a life void of purpose – God’s original purposes and blueprint) passed down by the fathers. One translation says they walked in the vain conversations passed down by their ancestors. They walked in matais manner of life inherited or handed down generation to generation. Matais in Greek is ineffectual, unreal, godless, idols. Of course they weren’t godless, but they were walking without a sense of God’s purpose in their lives as sons… designed to reflect Him on the earth. One translation of matais is worthless… they were living not realizing their value, their true worth as sons. Another translation is transitory (temporary)…not walking in the reality of eternal, of the eternal truths that defined who they were and who God is. 

And yet God is always pursuing them in love. Always assuring them that He is always WITH THEM (Immanuel!)…. For example in Genesis 28:15, Exodus 33:14, Numbers 14:9, 2 Chronicles 13:12, Psalm 46:7, Haggai 2:4, and Leviticus 26:11-12. And yet with all of these declarations of love from the Father through the prophets to mankind that He was always WITH THEM (Immanuel), they didn’t truly believe it. In their estimation (and sadly ours today!) God was far from them, separated from them because of sin. The time had come… the FULLNESS of time had come to not only declare He is God WITH THEM but to actually, physically, walk WITH THEM showing them who He truly is and who they truly are and setting them free from ALL that was hindering them from living life as sons in the image and likeness of Him. 

John 3:16 defines God’s absolute LOVE for ALL mankind… He gave His only begotten Son. The Son is His gift of love in the person of the God Man – Jesus Christ! God gave God!! God became flesh… Jesus is the humanity of God! Mankind had fallen in their minds; they had their own idea of who God was… they had their own false image of God. This was the world that Immanuel was born into! 

And so the real God, the ONE true and living God, came to show us who He is in God the Son. God came and sat WITH US (Immanuel!) in the darkness, the corruption, the blindness, and the wild imaginations ALL of which were hostile to God. He came and sat as one WITH US (Immanuel!)… God inside ALL of that! He came and looked through our eyes, heard what we hear, felt what we feel. He saw the way we saw and understood God in ALL it’s twistedness and distortedness  — in EVERY way He joined Himself to us! He didn’t look at us from the outside as a God up there somewhere NO He came and joined us where we were – He totally joined us and from WITHIN us does that which we could not do! 

He had to get inside human flesh and experience the bombardment of our thoughts, in all their darkness and hostility and REFUSE to follow the path of Adam! Right there in our brokenness and in our darkness, He was the ONE who believed the Father, trusts the Father, receives the love of the Father, refuses the God that mankind invented… ALL of this He did AS us! He is the Last Adam! He assumed ALL that the first Adam had introduced into the world, ALL the darkness, and He summed it up within Himself and carried us back to where we had originally come from (our eternal selves!) through His death and resurrection. 

Jesus, the Last Adam, walked us back to the relationship with the Father that Adam never reached. His perfect obedience released us from the grip of sin and death. His resurrection was not merely a rising from the dead. His resurrection was the COMPLETE undoing of ALL of Adam… no part of Adam came out of the grave with Him. He completely took away sin from the world and destroyed death! And He came out of the tomb as a new human race… a completed, FINISHED creation! And in His ascension He carried us to the Father where we sit with Him IN the Father, and IN the Holy Spirit – participating in Their love and fellowship, sharing with Him in His rule, authority, and headship. And finally being able to participate in their divine nature that was always ours from before time began… sons who are image and likeness of their Father. His Divinity is our divinity. An understanding we need to get back to!

This wasn’t treated as heresy but only as absolute dogma in the early church. The incarnation not only restored us to what Adam and Eve had lost or had been, but to what Christ the Last Adam has become: a glorified, incorruptible, immortal human participating in the divine nature. An inheritance that Adam and Eve had not yet received but were destined for. It was their eternal inheritance but to partake of that they needed to eat from the Tree of Life. Truth is that these truths are eternal, not bound by time. Mankind could have walked in them at any time in history prior to the cross because even the cross is eternal (He was the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world!). But because Adam ate from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, he released sin and death into the world and that passed upon all men. It didn’t change their nature and it didn’t separate them from God… NO, we need to completely toss out that false doctrine! It changed their thinking, their perception… they LOST sight of who God said they were – image and likeness of Him. And Jesus by becoming the Word made flesh (Immanuel!) completely restored what had been LOST. As God, by assuming our fallen humanity (our fallen mindset!), He assumed ALL to heal ALL and He experienced ALL to overcome ALL.  

Jesus wasn’t just a man who was born and lived a righteous life for us, and never forgot His eternal identity as a son… NO! He IS God! Not just image and likeness of God… but GOD! He IS Creator of the Universe! As John declared He was the Word who was in the beginning, the Word who was WITH God, the Word who IS God, He is the ONE through whom ALL things were made, He is the Life that is the light of ALL men. He wasn’t just a reflection or expression of God WITH US… NO! He was and IS the Ancient of Days, the I AM that was before Abraham, the Resurrection and the Life, Yahweh, the Lord of Heaven, etcetera! 

He came to earth as Immanuel – God WITH us. Creator WITH us, Elohim (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) WITH us, the Resurrection and the Life WITH us, the Ancient of Days WITH us, I AM WITH us, the Lord our Healer WITH us, Yahweh (the Name they thought was too holy to say!) WITH us. You could go on and on adding His Names. The Master of Wholeness took on human flesh and joined WITH us. That is absolutely mind blowing!! And His birth was the first glimpse of God in flesh, in human skin. The first glimpse of the God Man… 100% God and 100% man WITH us (Immanuel!). That day 2000 + years ago when the angels declared His birth to the shepherds in the field, man saw God! The very fact that God took on human flesh is an amazing supernatural fact so why would we be surprised that His birth was anything but supernatural. I like what Luke said in describing the virgin birth, is anything too difficult for God! The word for difficult or impossible is rooted in dunamis. ALL is possible for God, it is His dunamis, His power, His strength, His empowering ability! It is the tangible, raw, explosive, miracle working power of God! 

Luke said that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and the power of the Highest would overshadow Mary. This word was used by both Luke and Matthew to describe the appearance of God in a cloud on the Mount of Transfiguration. The Voice in the cloud spoke saying, “This is THE Son, My Son, the chosen (or rather the ek lego: the Word spoken out from – that definitely echoes John 1!) hear Him.” It’s also the word used by Luke to describe the healing power that came from Peter in the book of acts (his shadow overshadowed or fell on people, healing them). It also echoes Genesis 1 – the Holy Spirit hovered over the earth (all of creation was a result of that hovering!). 

Why would we think the virgin birth would be so impossible, so unnecessary for God? N.T. Wright said in his article that the birth without visible parentage is difficult – unless of course you believe in miracles. Which most people, he says, who disbelieve in the virginal conception do not. Was it impossible? NO! Was it necessary? I don’t know. Maybe it was necessary for man, similar to the cross being necessary for man. God didn’t need the cross, man did. Their law said there was no remission, no forgiveness of sins, without the shedding of blood. The writer of Hebrews was clear that this is what THEY believed not what God desired. Isaiah said that WE esteemed Him stricken of God. It wasn’t God who struck Him and crucified Him… man did that. He became the FINAL sacrifice because they needed a sacrifice to understand that their sins were forgiven. He became the FINAL sacrifice to end ALL sacrifices. 

Maybe the same was for the virgin birth. Perhaps man needed that because of an erroneous belief in a sin nature. Had He been born a natural conception that occurred between a man and a woman maybe we would have had difficulty seeing that He was the God Man… Immanuel. Or maybe because God can only be conceived and take on flesh through a virgin birth, maybe it takes a supernatural, power of the Most High overshadowing, kind of conception. I don’t know… I just believe it. 

Why Mary? Maybe because God knew she would wholeheartedly say YES without understanding, without weighing the consequences, without thinking in the natural and reasoning. Was it because she was a perpetual virgin born herself of an immaculate conception? NO! That’s an erroneous Catholic doctrine. Mary did not stay a virgin, she had other children with Joseph. And I don’t think Mary was born an immaculate conception… that’s preposterous. Why would she need to? Jesus was born 100% man (mankind)… Mary fulfills that by being human, by being a part of mankind. He was to be the Seed of a woman (Gen 3:15 – an ordinary woman!) not the Seed of a woman born from an immaculate conception. That’s a Catholic doctrine to explain away the false doctrine of sin nature. Mary didn’t have a sin nature, just like ALL of mankind didn’t have a sin nature – they had a fallen mindset that was in bondage to sin and death. 

What about Joseph? He became the father of Jesus by the Law. In fact, both Matthew and Luke mention him in Jesus’ genealogy but not the same way that they mention other fathers in the list. Matthew says and Jacob begot Josephthe husband of Mary of (ek – denoting source) whom was born Jesus who is called the Christ. And Luke begins Jesus’ lineage saying that Jesus Himself began His ministry at about 30 years old, being the son as was supposed of Joseph. As was supposed…. Nomizo. Nomizo comes from nomos which means law. To suppose means to assume a prevailing custom. Joseph became Jesus’ father by the custom of the Law. 

If we are offended by the supernatural means of His birth, chances are we will be equally offended by the supernatural means of our new birth! If we naturalize His miraculous, by grace alone, birth, we will also be inclined to naturalize our miraculous, by grace alone, new birth!  Outside of Holy Spirit’s enlightenment we won’t understand the vastness of the Incarnation (His birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension and seated-ness). Jesus told His disciples that there was so MUCH MORE He wanted to tell them, but they were unable to bear it. They weren’t able to carry it, endure it, receive it, or even declare it. 

But when the Holy Spirit was poured out upon ALL flesh, they were ALL filled with the Spirit. The word filled means permeated, saturated. He FILLED every part! There is NOT one part of man that is not FILLED with Holy Spirit… or as Colossians 1 says we are complete IN Him… FILLED with the fullness of the Godhead – Father, Son, and Spirit. He is our Teacher and Guide into ALL truth. A guide is one who directs you through unknown territory. Jeremiah 33:3 says that He will show us great and mighty things. Great and incomprehensible things which we do not know… which we are not intimately familiar with. Holy Spirit walks with us in this unfamiliar territory of FINISHED.  Colossians 1:10 in the Mirror Bible says, Go on a walkabout tour to explore the extent of the land that is yours under His Lordship. Holy Spirit is our Guide on our walkabout tour in this Promise Land called FINISHED!

He’s there IN us, around us, WITH us, ahead of us, behind us, and He’s forever actively leading and guiding! Oh the joy when we realize that, wake up to it, and converse with Him as He guides us. Malcolm Smith says it so well, “We’re standing on the edge of words we hardly know the meaning of, they stutter on the edge of our tongue like the grace of God, Holy Trinity, Incarnation, the loving kindness of God, the faithfulness of God, the unchangeableness of God, etcetera. And we look at this vast universe that we’ve never gone into – the fact of a Living God and a Present God and a NOW God – and at the same time to look at myself and know that I was crucified with Christ, done deal, fact, history!

OH the beauty of CO! Co-crucified, co-resurrected, co-ascended, and co-seated! It is the beauty of Immanuel – He was God in the flesh WITH us so that we could be WITH Him in His death, burial, resurrection, and ascension and then sit down WITH Him. We came out of the tomb when Jesus came out of the tomb, we came out WITH HimIt’s our history, our rebirth, our resurrection into the New Covenant that is HIM. We were there through ALL of it IN HIM. And as He stepped into the glory of His ascension into the other half of the universe and sat down at the very center of cosmos of all that is, we sat WITH Him! And we saw the beaming smile of the Father and we heard OUR Father IN Christ who IS love came to His Son AND to us as ONE LOVE – and we heard Him say My Beloved son in whom I AM well pleased! And we knew He was talking about us!! 

That’s unknown territory – we can only see that through His guiding us. Holy Spirit joined us, put adventure in us, and we go WITH Him where we’ve never gone before (in our understanding!). He takes us on our own personal Lech Lecha a journey where we discover who we have always been and what our place is in this world. He brings us into this love dance of the Holy Trinity. Into the world where we are never alone. Into the experiential existence of living in union with the always together Three – Father, Son, and Spirit.  He brings us into the understanding that we are WHOLE, FINISHED, and COMPLETE IN Them. 

Paul prayed that the eyes of our understanding would be enlightened. The eyes of our understanding or our heart. The mind operates piece by piece and with reason. But the heart just simply KNOWS! And it takes time for our minds to catch up with our hearts. The Amplified version says that the eyes of our heart would be FLOODED with light! So that we would know the hope of our calling. Knowing that we have been called by the family of God – we are ONE with Them in the Spirit. And that we would know the riches of the His glorious inheritance in the saints. WE are HIS inheritance! You were His delight before time began! We are His inheritance – His delight. 

And that we would know the surpassing greatness of His power toward us. Ugh! Our language is insufficient sometimes to handle what God is saying…. Surpassing, great. Both great adjectives but they are trying to convey LIMITLESS. He used all of the Greek words for power available at the time…. Four different words. FULL Power!! Unlimited Power!! Father, Son, and Spirit POWER!! Then in verse 20 Paul says this concentration of power beyond all human concepts of power, and beyond all we could use in terms of measuring that power is what He brought about in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms which He exerted in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly realms! 

This is the power that DESTROYED death! That DESTROYED sickness and disease, poverty and lack, etc. In the death of Jesus, death DIED!! And in His resurrection a  new life, a FINISHED life that had never been seen before, came out of the tomb. A life that couldn’t die because His life triumphed over death. A life that can’t die because WE also triumphed over death… His death was our death… His victory was and IS our victory. And it says He came out of the tomb FAR ABOVE! Far above ALL rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named not only in the present age but also in the one to come. FAR ABOVE!! Even warfare falls under the category of FINISHED…. Completely, 100% FINISHED! 

FINISHED doesn’t mean it’s all over – NO, now begins the wild adventure of working this out in a world that does not know what has happened. In a world that still only knows it’s darkness, it’s vain illusions and imaginations. In a world that doesn’t understand this unfamiliar territory of FINISHED, we get to live our lives reflecting Him, knowing Holy Spirit is IN us – in ALL of us… every single part – FILLED!!! Knowing our body is the temple of the Holy Spirit!!! Knowing that ALL of our life is bound up in the Holy Trinity. 

I love that my friends study of the validity of the virgin birth started with the question, why the need for a virgin birth? God is not offended with our questions… rather He welcomes them! And He places questions like these in our hearts so that He can bring us up higher in our awareness of who we are IN Christ. So that He can raise our level of thinking regarding our new, FINISHED, lives… our resurrection life… Zoe life IN us, AS us, and flowing THROUGH us! We FULLY resurrected with Him, WHOLE, complete, FINISHED. We resurrected JUST LIKE Him… incorruptible, immortal, ageless, divine. 

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