Some people claim that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man throughout His incarnation on earth. However, several scripture passages indicate otherwise.
[Note: When we quote Scripture in this article, we use the wording in the New King James Version of the Bible.]
According to Matthew 8:5-10, Jesus Christ “marveled” on at least one occasion. This scripture passages states,
Now when Jesus had entered Capernaum, a centurion came to Him, pleading with Him, saying, “Lord, my servant is lying at home paralyzed, dreadfully tormented.” And Jesus said to him, “I will come and heal him.” The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goes; and to another, ‘Come,’ and he comes; and to my servant, ‘Do this,’ and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!
If Jesus Christ was fully God throughout the time He was in human form, He would have known before he met the centurion in person that the centurion had great faith, because God is omniscient. Thus, Jesus would not have marveled (i.e., been astonished or surprised) about the great faith of the centurion during His meeting with him. However, Jesus did marvel, which indicates that during His incarnation on earth, He was not fully God. [To learn more about God’s omniscience, click on “Is God Really Omnipotent and Omniscient?”]
On another occasion, which is recorded in Mark 13:30-32, Jesus Christ, in reference to what is often referred to as “the End Times,” said He did not know when certain future events will occur and that only God (the Father) knows when those events will take place. In this passage, Jesus declares,
Assuredly, I say to you, this generation will by no means pass away till all these things take place. Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away. “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
As we previously stated, if Jesus Christ was fully God throughout His incarnation, He would have been omniscient. Thus, Jesus would have known when the End Times events will occur. Since He did not know, Jesus must not have been fully God at that time.
Furthermore, the Bible indicates that God is eternal and immortal; He has always existed and it is impossible for Him to die. Therefore, if Jesus Christ had been fully God throughout the time He was on earth as a man, He could not have died physically. However, Jesus did experience physical death on a cross, as indicated in a number of the scripture passages in the New Testament. This is another reason to believe that Jesus was not fully God while He was in human form. (The fact that Jesus was subsequently resurrected from death is not relevant insofar as the particular matter that this article is addressing.)
Philippians 2:5-8 may help to explain why Jesus Christ was not fully God while He was in human form. This scripture passage states,
Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.
This scripture indicates that Jesus Christ willingly gave up at least some of His divine attributes so He could become the necessary perfect sacrifice required by God to atone for the sins of mankind. And, because Jesus did so, 1 Corinthians 15:3b declares, “Christ died for our sins. . . .” If Jesus had remained fully God throughout His incarnation on earth, He could not have died for our sins, because it is impossible for God to die, as we previously stated.
Given the preceding considerations, we believe it is incorrect to say that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man throughout the time He was on earth. More importantly, regardless of what a person believes in this regard, the Bible makes it sufficiently clear that Jesus Christ was not just an extraordinarily good (i.e., holy) man. [For a discussion of Jesus’ deity and related matters, click on “Was Jesus Christ More than a Prophet?”]