Humanity of Jesus - A Response to Elmer Moore

By Dudley Ross Spears

        Elmer Moore’s piece on the humanity of Jesus (Guardian of Truth, Jan. 21, 1999) appears to refer to things I have published on this topic. As early as 1981, in a speech at Florida College, Temple Terrace, Florida, I have stated and defended the concept, in reference to the humanity of Jesus Christ, that likeness is similarity and not identical sameness. Brother Moore’s concept is the opposite. He believes Jesus was not merely “like an ordinary man,” his humanity was identical in every aspect.

        For those unfamiliar with this issue, you should know that since late 1989, statements such as “Jesus gave up his deity when he came to earth,” or “Jesus will never again be equal with God,” or “Jesus was a man just like us,” or (the most infamous) “He was just a man, an ordinary guy, just like you and me” have been made publicly. Two public debates have been conducted because of these heretical statements. Other debates are scheduled later this year over this issue. It is more than just a preacher fuss. It is serious.

        In fairness to those who have made such derogatory statements about the person of Jesus, of Nazareth, efforts to modify and change, even to repent for having said such things, have been made. Those who have argued that Jesus was just an ordinary guy have confessed their faith in him as God also. After repenting and modifying their statements, they reaffirm faith in his deity, on earth, then directly return to arguments that prove Jesus was just an ordinary man on earth. Brother Moore did the very same thing.

        Brother Moore began his piece by affirming his faith in Jesus, as God, with all the divine attributes that make God what he is. He also affirms Jesus was all that any ordinary man “ought to be.” Like those who began this divisive movement, every argument brother Moore makes, pictures a Jesus who was only a man, not a whit different, in nature, than any of his own disciples. As you read his piece, notice that from the standpoint of nature, Jesus was just another human being. If this is not accurate, I call on brother Moore to tell us in what way Jesus was not just a normal, ordinary man. Tell us, brother Moore, the difference in the nature of the humanity of Jesus Christ, and the nature of the humanity of his disciples.

        There has never been any question at all that Jesus was a human being “like us.” That is not the problem. The problem comes when Moore, and others, add the word “exactly” or “just” to the word like. It is the same as a Baptist who adds “only” to faith, when discussing salvation by faith. Brother Moore cannot speak as the oracles of God (1 Pet. 4:11) and describe Jesus as “exactly like” ordinary men. He confessed ignorance of any biblical description of “how that Jesus was both God and man.” He should also confess ignorance that the Bible nowhere uses the language he used in saying Jesus was just exactly like a normal, ordinary man. If he knows where it is, I call on him to produce it.

“In the Flesh” and “Became Flesh”

        Brother Moore agrees that Jesus came “in the flesh” and “became flesh”, using 1 John 4:2,3 and John 1:14 as proof. Nobody who believes the Bible would deny that Jesus came in the flesh or became flesh. What brother Moore needs to do is identify the being that was made flesh. John tells us it was “the Word” (John 1:1-3, 14). The Word was prior to becoming flesh. The divine Word added humanity to his being. However, he did not “divest himself of his equality with God,” in doing so. In fact, John tells us there was no change in this Word that became flesh — he said the Word was the same before, during, and after he came to earth (Read John 1:1-2 and compare with 1 John 1:1-4).

        Paul said Christ Jesus took humanity to himself. Read it in plain language: “He took upon himself the form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men” (Phil. 2:7). Brother Moore would have to add “exact” to likeness to prove Jesus was just an ordinary man, in the flesh.

        Let’s think about the “flesh” of Christ Jesus, as Elmer dealt with it. Brother Moore’s argument is that Jesus’ flesh (humanity) was that of an ordinary human being. He does this to fortify his confused view that Jesus was exactly like an ordinary man. Let us see if his flesh (humanity) was exactly like ordinary men. Jesus spoke of the flesh of ordinary people, warning his disciples, “the spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak” (Matt. 26:41). Is this a description of the humanity of Jesus? Weak in his humanity? Will brother Moore tell us that Jesus was as weak in his humanity as all ordinary humans? If so, let him explain what that weakness was.

        Paul argued that ordinary men have an internal conflict that pits man’s spirit against his flesh (humanity), which Jesus said was weak. Paul told the Galatians to “Walk in the spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh, so that you do not do the things you wish” (Gal. 5:16-17). I understand spirit here to be man’s spirit — not the Holy Spirit. You may differ, but there can’t be a difference over the fact that an internal conflict is described. Dear friends, Jesus did not have that conflict. If you think he did, find an instance in his life that indicates any weakness in his humanity. Find an instance where he had to resist an evil desire created by his own lust. Paul says that walking in the spirit (willing to do God’s will) is the way to avoid giving in to the lusts of the flesh. I deny this was a problem for our Lord Jesus Christ.

        Brother Moore would tell you Jesus had this internal conflict in exactly the same way ordinary humans do. Again, I deny that because Jesus denied it. Near the end of his time on earth, Jesus told his disciples that he had said about all he intended to tell them, and explained, “for the prince of this world cometh and he hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). Yet brother Moore thinks the devil had as much in Jesus, in the flesh, as he held in any ordinary man! If not, then Jesus was not exactly like ordinary men in temptation, was he? I would appreciate brother Moore trying to harmonize Jesus’ statement here with his own confused idea of how Jesus was tempted just like any ordinary weak mortal.

        Jesus asked a question that only he could ask and know what the answer would be. To his enemies, who constantly tried to find fault in him, he asked, “Which of you convinceth (convicts) me of sin?” (John 8:46). Jesus knew none of his most severe critics could produce one flaw in his holy life. Jesus affirmed the strength of his holy humanity by saying, “And he who sent me is with me. The Father has not left me alone, for I always do those things that please him” (John 8:29). What ordinary man is willing to step forth and make such a declaration? Are you willing, brother Moore? Certainly Jesus was in the flesh, but not weak in his humanity, as all ordinary men are. The divine Word became flesh, but that flesh was not weak and liable to the same weaknesses and lusts that ordinary men develop (Heb. 4:15).

Psalm 8:3-8; Hebrews 2:16-18

        Brother Moore appeals to the expression “man” and “son of man” in Psalm 8 to bolster his assertion that Jesus, in the flesh, was an ordinary human being, no different than all ordinary men. I state again, the issue is not that Jesus was a man, or the “son of man,” but the issue is — was he a “man” or the “son of man” exactly like we are? Of what “man” was he the son, brother Moore? His sole connection with humanity was his earthly mother, Mary. Also, Jesus did not mean Mary when he called himself the son of man. There is a big difference in son of man, and son of a man. As Elmer turns to Hebrews, he realizes that Jesus’ deity is established in chapter 1 and asserts that chapter 2 deals with his humanity. The problem is that he dissects the two chapters, and the Hebrew writer does not.

The Sanctifier and the Sanctified - Heb. 2:11

        Brother Moore affirms that the one who sanctifies and the ones sanctified are all of “one” and concludes this is “one humanity.” That is his conclusion; not a Bible conclusion. He wants to make the sanctifier (Jesus Christ) exactly the same as the sanctified. The two, while alike, are certainly not identical. Jesus never needed the sanctification this passage deals with. While the passage teaches both he that sanctifies, and the ones who are sanctified are “all of one” — it does not say all of one humanity, making Jesus exactly like all ordinary men. One what? Elmer says it is one humanity. This is not necessarily so. Read further.

        All men are the offspring of God. Paul, by inspiration, says so (Acts 17:28-29). Hebrews 2:11 deals origins — descent is implied in the passage. Christ Jesus is not only our sanctifier; he is also our creator (Col.1:16). The relation of the sanctifier and the sanctified is that of one divine origin; they are the result of the same divine purpose. Jesus petitioned the father to sanctify his disciples through truth, and said the word of God is that truth (John 17:17). Look at verse 19 — “And for their sakes, I sanctify myself, that they also may be sanctified through the truth.” This separates Jesus (the sanctifier) from all ordinary men. Jesus also asked that all (the sanctified) be one, as the Father and Son are one (verse 20-22). Brother Moore is wrong on this “one humanity.” His view necessitates this “all of one” be from Adam; the Bible view is that “all of one” are from God, who created Adam.

        Brother Moore’s assessment of why this issue has risen to such intensity parrots the words of those who began this confusion. He thinks the real issue is, “Does man have to sin.” That is not so. It is a smoke screen. One who believes a man can live an absolute sinless life does not need to demote Jesus to the level of an ordinary man. A simple passage of scripture teaching clearly that any ordinary human being can live totally sinless, from the cradle to the grave, would do it. Most of those who have opposed this “ordinary man” heresy agree quickly that no mere man “has” to sin. No man is forced, due to a flaw in his constitution, to commit a sin. All men sin because they choose to sin — they are weak through the flesh, born into a world that is filled with corruption, and all do sin (Matt. 26:41; Eccl. 7:20; 2 Pet. 1:4; 2:20).

        Brother Moore mentioned R.L. Whiteside. He quoted Whiteside saying, “The flesh, the animal part of man, is a bundle of appetites and passions, which lead to sin only when they have enlisted the mind to plan and execute methods of self gratification in an unlawful way.” Folks, remember: Moore is trying to show that Jesus was both humanly constituted and tempted exactly like all ordinary men. The passage from Whiteside deals only with an ordinary human being, not with Christ Jesus, in the flesh. Brother Whiteside’s view of how our Lord was tempted is diametrically opposite that of Elmer Moore. Read it for yourself:

“In what sense was Jesus tempted? His temptation is sometimes compared with the temptation of Eve in the garden. In her temptation there was an appeal to the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye, and the pride of life. In this respect the temptation of the Savior was much like hers; but here the likeness stops. She lent a willing ear to what the devil said; Jesus met every attempt of the devil with an indignant rebuff. And there is no proof that he at any time had the least inclination to do the thing the devil suggested. Can any one believe that the devil stirred up any evil desires in the Savior’s heart? Is not a desire to do an evil thing wrong in itself? (See Matthew 5:27). Can any one believe that Jesus was contaminated by evil thoughts or desires?” - (R.L. Whiteside, Annual Lesson Commentary, 1939, Gospel Advocate Co., page 246.)

          Brother Moore, in brother Whiteside’s words, can you “believe that the devil stirred up any evil desires in the Savior’s heart?” Or, can you “believe that Jesus was contaminated by evil thoughts or desires?” Do you agree with brother Whiteside here? I would like to know.

        More needs to be said about brother Moore’s piece, but this will suffice at this point. I regret he published these heretical notions about Jesus. He has joined forces with those who, while affirming faith in the deity of Jesus, reduce him to the level of an ordinary man while he was on earth, in each and every argument they make. Come back to the truth, Elmer.

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