Non-Worship of the Incarnate Christ During His Humiliation - Culpable Ignorance?

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Gwallard

Puritan Board Freshman
Brothers in Christ,
I'm not quite sure how to come about this Christological question:
Would seeing Jesus in his human nature during his earthly ministry be enough cause for God to expect worship from everyone who saw him, and held them in sin if they did not?

A friend and I had a good discussion today about images and Christ. It was my contention that if we see Jesus, we ought to fall down and worship him – and this is the case for how he ought to have been regarded for his whole earthly ministry. Since very few worshipped him on earth, everyone who did not recognize him as God sinned by not worshipping him and therefore was culpably ignorant in regard to him. This culpable ignorance was due mostly to the sinful nature of the person receiving the clear revelation of Jesus Christ as the image of God and rejecting it as a rebel, and not due to either the inability of images to portray the truth or primarily Christ’s veiling of himself in his messianic office or Christ’s veiling the human mind during his earthly ministry. Although we do not see the essence of God in the human nature of Jesus Christ, we do see God truly and rightfully represented without complication in the human nature of Jesus Christ, just not as God knows himself (comprehensively). The righteous angels and even the demons immediately bowed down before him in recognition of his divinity during his earthly ministry, and at his transfiguration he revealed his glory, but these were not absent in his life or disguised, just veiled.

Creaturely capacity is not the issue, parables are not the issue, his humiliation is not the issue, it is mainly and properly sin which is the issue of their non-worship of the incarnate Christ, and therefore they are "culpably ignorant." Those who saw Christ in his whole life – although bowing down may not be the only avenue of worship – ought to have worshipped Christ when they saw him, or else they sinned.

My friend disagreed, saying that Christ veiled himself while on earth- as part of the messianic secret - so that the ignorance was intended by God during his earthly ministry to be a special dispensation (so to speak). That is, his transfiguration and his revelation of himself in the book of Revelation caused everyone to bow down before him in awe; but when he was at the temple as a teenager, he did not expect everyone there to bow down to him because he kept his identity somewhat of a secret, and did not expect them to bow down (preceptively expect, as far as I can understand). This was part of his humiliation, to be found in the form of a servant, such that it would be unexpected for people to bow down. Further, the messianic secret was a necessary part of the office and his humiliation, something Christ maintained in order to do his work effectively. This falling-down-to-worship upon seeing Christ would also be impractical, as how would anyone get anything done?

And, although the angels and demons worshipped him immediately, they have more than human capacity in recognizing Jesus Christ as God, as they are purely spiritual beings and had no fleshly veil over their eyes.

It was a great conversation! I would love to hear your understanding of all of this.


A few questions that rose up in my mind:

Is the revelation of Christ’s divinity in his human nature any more clear after his glorification and during his transfiguration than in his earthly ministry?

Where does un-clear-ness come from in reference to God’s Word or General Revelation? Would Adam have immediately understood all revelation faced him? Would he understand it in a creaturely capacity, but some things would mysteriously be beyond him, yet would not therefore be unclear, but just incomprehensible? (i.e. incomprehensibility doesn’t equal un-cler-ness)

What was the nature of the veil upon the hearts of the people during Christ’s earthly ministry?

Did Christ’s flesh veil him in some way? Why were the demons – evil, sinful beings – immediately recognize him, if the veiling of human eyes was from sin?

Did the veil over their eyes make them any less culpable in their “ignorance”?



My response and attempt to answer these questions:

I’m idealizing our conversation and trying to make his argument as strong as possible. As the image of God is always clear, and his revelation always gets through to us and makes us respond in such a way that we are without excuse, that is, a culpable ignorance. So, too, a response to Christ’s incarnation as a special revelation of God through his incarnate image is a culpable response, and a response of “ignorance” is a culpable ignorance, even if expected by God in his messianic work. I say the messianic secret was part of his office as prophet, priest, and king: fulfilling the Old Testament prophecies about him

First, I see this culpable ignorance as a response to revelation as no different than Isaiah 6 as Jesus speaks of it in Matthew 13 – the eyes of the people are veiled, Jesus himself is not veiled (he is clearly reveals the Father by his being), and the apostles are “Blessed”(verse 16) because their veil is taken off somewhat as the Old Testament “prophets and righteous people” had their veil taken off and therefore longed to see Christ. Therefore, The Revelation of Jesus Christ as God through his human nature was clear – yet the eyes, ears, and hearts of the people were veiled by sin, not by creaturely capacity, or even mainly by God’s obscuring of it through parables (as Matthew 13 deals with parables).

On Parables, Jesus says in Mark 4:11 “to you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables,” which I’d argue would mean everything is veiled to them through sin, it’s not merely the parable work of Jesus being spoken about, it’s the nature of the reception of objectively clear revelation received by those who are sinful, and therefore understand it as if it were not clear. To subjectively understand something as clear is different than it being objectively clear, and those to whom it is “given” to understand – the spiritual – we understand by having the veil taken off, not by having the revelation made more clear. It is as clear as can be; we must change, not it. This is why Jesus speaks of the parable of the soil – the seed is just as much a good seed in the good soil as it is when upon the rocky soil – the problem is not the seed, it is the soil which receives it. The good soil receives the seed of “the word” (Luke 8:15) as it ought to be received and “hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience.”

Second, I see this culpable ignorance in response to revelation as no different than Isaiah 6 as Paul speaks of it in Acts 28 – as Paul becomes exasperated with the Jews in Rome because he testified to Jesus Christ and his kingdom. Attempting “to convince them about Jesus both from the Law of Moses and from the Prophets” (v23), Paul reacts to their disagreements among one another with Isaiah 6, saying in effect that God’s revelation is utterly clear, and God has veiled your faces to the truth, to which you are culpably ignorant, but has supernaturally let it be known to the Gentiles, who “will listen.” This is not to show the superiority of the Gentiles, but the sinful veil upon the eyes of the Jews, who refused to see Christ clearly shown from the Old Testament. Therefore, The Revelation of Jesus Christ was clear in OT Special Revelation, yet the eyes, ears, and hearts of the people were veiled mainly by sin, not by creaturely capacity or by the “being found in the form of a servant” of Christ’s humiliation.

It was that “God gave [ethnic Israel] a spirit of stupor, eyes that would not see, and ears that would not hear, down to this very day.” (Romans 11:8 from Isa 6), there was nothing wrong with the revelation of Jesus Christ in his incarnation – he is and was before his incarnation the perfect image of the Father. This incarnated image is therefore unable to be fully veiled, and is therefore utterly potent (powerful) to evoke worship – the only reason it does not is because not a lack of knowledge, but because of the presence of sin.

I would call the 2nd Person of the trinity (Hebrews 1:3) “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature,” and (Colossians 1:15) “He is the image of the invisible God” The first of these two verses I would explain as an “asarkos” (without flesh) explanation of the Son’s relationship with the Father, and the second as an “ensarkos” (enfleshed) explanation of the Son’s relationship to men as revealer. For asarkos, the Son is the “reflection of the Father’s glory” and as such is God himself, yet distinguished from the Father; and “the exact imprint of his nature” which shows equality of persons yet distinct in personhood (see Vos’s Reformed Dogmatics, 68-69). Therefore, the 2nd person proves images can capture the essence of the thing imaged: there is one God, and the 2nd person of the Trinity is that God; the 2nd person of the Trinity images God for us, and the greatest and yet final revelation of that image of God to us is through the incarnation. That is what Colossians 1:15 and 2 Corinthians 4:4 is saying: “Christ, who is the image of God” tells us that Christ – the incarnate (aka ensarkos) Messiah – is the image of God. But Hebrews 1:3 speaks of the “asarkos” 2nd person as the image of the God. That is, “image” is an essential attribute of what being the 2nd person of the Trinity means, it is not accidental or “free” part of the Pactum Salutis.

I’m still working through these things myself, critique me!
 
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That there is a difference in how Jesus was to be recognized (hence worshiped) in his time on earth is clear in scripture. Some examples:

He repeatedly says his time has not yet come. Specific examples are seen in places like John 2:4 and John 7:6. He also instructs people he has healed to tell no-one such as the family of the girl in Luke 8:56.

Even his most intimate associates don't recognize his full authority in events such as his calming of the sea in Luke 8. The disciples ask who can command the wind and the sea? Jesus doesn't appear to rebuke them for not knowing and worshipping, though there are times he sounds exasperated, perhaps like a parent.

The temptations by Satan suggest a difference between what Jesus is during his earthly ministry and his time otherwise. Satan illicitily promises powers and authorities that Jesus was not enjoying in full measure in the wilderness.

Even after his resurrection, those most intimately familiar with Jesus do not immediately recognize him -- see Mary in the garden, the discipes and others in John 20. In that situation, Mary responds with a familiar and endearing term: "Raboni!" Thomas gives the most worshipful: "my Lord and my God!" None is corrected.
 
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If you are a believing OT Israelite/Jew in 1C Judea, sincerely waiting for Messiah, studying Holy Scripture in order to be able to recognize Messiah when he appears (if he should appear while you live)--is there any room in your proposal for a "growing realization" that this person you met is the Expected One? I mean, without initially being guilty of rejecting the Christ because upon introduction, neither he nor anyone else suggested unambiguously: I am/He is the Christ!

I'm trying to figure out if you think there is an innate recognition hard-wired into the human constitution, a "sixth sense" activated in truly spiritual people whereby they just know the God-man when he enters minimum range. If it isn't operating, or operating at efficiency, is that the "sinful" situation?

It's simply that I'm not clear what you think is sinful, if Jesus wasn't immediately known for everything he was born to be, and everything he already was divinely, though evidently disguised. I would think the purpose of each of the Gospels is, at base, an invitation to follow the path of conviction followed (at different paces) by the original disciples of Jesus, and move from a position of indifference, to curiosity, to weighing the proposal, to gaining more information, to conviction. As well as moving from the position: this someone I have just met and know nothing about, to this person is interesting, to this person is wise (kind, bold, patient, etc.), to this person is a great man, to this person fulfills prophecy, to this person is the greatest man ever, to this is more than a man even my Lord and my God.

Why must any position short of the final one constitute a guilty failure of some kind, "culpable ignorance?" Once arrived, should everyone look back in self-loathing at the idiot-sinner he was while achieving the intermediate milestones? The really righteous person should just get there the quickest? Maybe I've not grasped your intent by the inquiry. I can't help but wonder if the division of all men into the categories of "doesn't get it" (sinfully) and "gets it" (saintly) ends up oversimplifying a complex web which is human understanding--something about us that (thankfully) God our Creator grasps perfectly.
 
If you are a believing OT Israelite/Jew in 1C Judea, sincerely waiting for Messiah, studying Holy Scripture in order to be able to recognize Messiah when he appears (if he should appear while you live)--is there any room in your proposal for a "growing realization" that this person you met is the Expected One? I mean, without initially being guilty of rejecting the Christ because upon introduction, neither he nor anyone else suggested unambiguously: I am/He is the Christ!

I'm trying to figure out if you think there is an innate recognition hard-wired into the human constitution, a "sixth sense" activated in truly spiritual people whereby they just know the God-man when he enters minimum range. If it isn't operating, or operating at efficiency, is that the "sinful" situation?

It's simply that I'm not clear what you think is sinful, if Jesus wasn't immediately known for everything he was born to be, and everything he already was divinely, though evidently disguised. I would think the purpose of each of the Gospels is, at base, an invitation to follow the path of conviction followed (at different paces) by the original disciples of Jesus, and move from a position of indifference, to curiosity, to weighing the proposal, to gaining more information, to conviction. As well as moving from the position: this someone I have just met and know nothing about, to this person is interesting, to this person is wise (kind, bold, patient, etc.), to this person is a great man, to this person fulfills prophecy, to this person is the greatest man ever, to this is more than a man even my Lord and my God.

Why must any position short of the final one constitute a guilty failure of some kind, "culpable ignorance?" Once arrived, should everyone look back in self-loathing at the idiot-sinner he was while achieving the intermediate milestones? The really righteous person should just get there the quickest? Maybe I've not grasped your intent by the inquiry. I can't help but wonder if the division of all men into the categories of "doesn't get it" (sinfully) and "gets it" (saintly) ends up oversimplifying a complex web which is human understanding--something about us that (thankfully) God our Creator grasps perfectly.

That is a good point about not having a category for "growing realization" that Jesus is the Christ. That's part of the difficulty for me. The pre-incarnate Christ was awesome and recognized as such, first by Balaam's donkey then by Balaam in Numbers 22. Once the angel of the Lord was revealed, (v31) "he bowed down and fell on his face" even as an unbeliever.

It would make most sense to me that each interaction with Christ would be of this character - like Isaiah 6, you fall down and worship him, or, like Revelation, John falls down as if dead before his glory.

But I am not sure how to figure say, Samson's parents in Judges 13, who saw the angel of the Lord, yet they misunderstood him as "a man of God" but still called his appearance "very awesome." I'm not sure how to explain by what mechanism God's glory is veiled in these cases. Balaam was blind to the spiritual reality until his eyes were opened - I understand that mechanism. However, the seemingly faithful parents of Samson could not recognize God himself when He was in their presence? And by whose or what's veiling? Once they realize he is God himself, they bow down and worship and fear for their lives as they ought (vs. 20-23), although it seems like God's merciful will for them keeps them from dying.

What I think is sinful is this - anywhere God is, he ought to be treated like God, and if he is not treated like God, then it is sinful. The way we treat God correctly as creatures is by worshipping him.

So, a growing realization is good, just as I grew to realize the truth of Christ's Lordship subjectively in my own life. In that case, I had been sinning each step of the way because I did not treat God as God - how much moreso is that the case when in the presence of the incarnate Christ? I believe all creatures have an innate immediate understanding of who God is by the image of God within them as Covenant creatures. But on the other end, on God's end, I don't know how God could "hide" himself, when he reveals himself everywhere - it seems like if Christ is God's image, then he reveals the Father as a matter of course. Before the fall, there was no difficulty knowing who was God by sight; after the fall seems to begin the difficulty. After Christ's ascension, there seems to be no difficulty as well knowing Jesus is God simply by sight. I'm saying that man in sin does not recognize what is patently obvious before him with Christ. Had pre-sin Adam seen Christ, my contention is that he would have recognized him immediately as God and fallen down in worship and fellowship.

I'd say that the way Christ is dealing with the people of his day is in overwhelming mercy. Everyone understands at some level that this man is God when they come in contact with him - I don't think I can answer about how far and etc... that's beyond my ability. The sight even of Jesus' human nature ought to have been enough to make someone fall to their knees. That's why I spent time examining the concept of "image." If we are made to see God, ought to see God, and in fact see God, doesn't that make us sinful if we don't recognize him when he's right before us and don't worship him?

I'm sorry if that's not helpful. I don't have much more time right now to answer better than that!
 
The angels who came on earth (Matt 4) ought to be the first to do so, if it was to be done… but they didn’t..
 
The angels who came on earth (Matt 4) ought to be the first to do so, if it was to be done… but they didn’t..
What do you mean by that, though? I'm not saying all worship ought to be falling down - the angels attended to him in obedience, that's part of our worship, too, just not formal worship.
 
It would make most sense to me that each interaction with Christ would be of this character - like Isaiah 6, you fall down and worship him, or, like Revelation, John falls down as if dead before his glory.
This is a "glory story," which is manifestly not the way the Christ comes at first. Surely, the Second Coming is in power and great glory, but not the first. The first is all paradox. The Maker becomes incarnate. The power of God needs a shield, protectors as ordinary as a poor mother and a father-figure. God's strength is made perfect in weakness. The Son of God is enthroned on a cross, an instrument of torture. The Giver of Life is made to suffer and die.

Is.53:2, "He has no form or comeliness;
And when we see Him,
There is no beauty that we should desire Him."

Christ comes to his own, but his own do not receive him, they do not recognize him. Yes, they must be given the eyes to see and the ears to hear, and that they have them not in the first condition is a factor of the sin that is already present in all ordinary flesh. But the whole of the coming into a place that is a cattle shed, to the humble origins of David's birth-city, and not to the citadel of the City of David that he won by conquest and beautified and magnified, and which saw the thrones of God and of the monarchy sat side-by-side... this and much, much more is abundant proof that there was design in forcing men to think, reason, and compel of them a choice:

Believe not your eyes, but your ears. Believe not what fails to impress you in terms of earthly glory, but believe the divine word of promise. Believe not in armies and political maneuvers, but in the Spirit. "Not by might, nor by power..." Believe in the opposite of what standard expectations demand of you, inasmuch as God has chosen the weak, the foolish, the base, and the sorrowful--in other words the nothings, in order to nullify the somethings.

The Incarnation was the antithesis of pride and glory, deliberately subverting these avenues. The wisdom of God will not be discovered by the greatest minds, but by the meek and lowly. If the great will know the Christ, they must come by the same path as the despised. Naaman the Syrian was healed because his servants persuaded him to listen to the prophet, and not despise the path he was assigned (when what he wanted was a quest worthy of his skills and energy). But no, it was not obvious to the eye that the modest Jordan River hid the Spirit of God which waited for the seventh dip of this particular man to act on his behalf.

I think you should appreciate the fact that until men's spiritual eye's are opened, they do not see Jesus as he is behind the veil of his flesh. And even when the scales have begun to fall away, there continues to be this contention between expectation and reality that is fitting for the Incarnation--but is not always and forever fitting. The practice of true faith is still true faith if less than perfect. None of our works (not even faith) is untainted by sin, but works of faith are not properly sin. So it is with the faith that seeks understanding.

Isaiah predicts that the Servant who comes will not stand head-and-shoulders above other men, as Saul did who was made Israel's first king. No one who saw the shepherd boy David (and for a long time after those days) instantly recognized their future king. Jesus Christ was recognized by many for his office; but it took each person his own path to acknowledgment, paths that took varying amounts of time and effort. The stories we read in the Bible don't often tell us what meditations preceded the event, admissions that may seem to burst instantly on the scene.
 
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