Jesus Christ: Who is He? Part 8

Jesus Christ:

Who is He?

(Part 8)

Richard Hollerman

 

Thinking Deep Thoughts about God

As we have said above, one of the facts that has given me some perplexity over the years is that the Father is called “God,” the “true God,” the “only true God,” who is the “one God,” and “there is no other.”  If this is true—and we know that it is—how can Jesus also be called God, manifest the characteristics of God, and do the works of God?  Isn’t there a seeming contradiction here?  Think with me for a moment.

We have seen that Scripture teaches that there is only one true God. In prayer to the Father, Jesus said, “. . . that they may know You, the only true God” (John 17:3; cf. 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 John 5:20).  But there are also false “gods” who are idols.  Paul writes:

We know that there is no such thing as an idol in the world, and that there is no God but one.  For even if there are so-called gods whether in heaven or on earth, as indeed there are many gods and many lords (1 Corinthians 8:4b-5).

          These many “gods” and many “lords” may be worshipped and served by millions of people, but they are non-existent and those who worship them actually “sacrifice to demons, and not to God” (10:20).  Many religions in the world today worship false gods and graven images, such as Hinduism, Buddhism, and animistic religions.  But in contrast to these false gods, Paul says:

. . . yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist for Him (1 Corinthians 8:6).

          There is one true God, the Father, and one Lord, Jesus Christ.  But as we have seen, the true God and the true Lord are so united, so one, that they share the identical nature and essence, though they are distinguished as to Person.  (Thus Jesus could say, “I and the Father are one,” in John 10:30.  They are not one person, but unified as to nature and purpose and essence.)  This is important to note:  In this context of 1 Corinthians 8, Paul is contrasting the “one God” with false gods and not with His Son, who also shares the term “God” in other contexts.  Furthermore, when the apostle calls the Father “God,” he does not deny that the Father is also “Lord” (Luke 10:21; Acts 4:24; 17:24).  In the same way, when he calls Jesus “Lord,” He doesn’t deny that He is also “God” in other places.  His point here is not to discuss the deity of Christ, but to emphasize the truth of God’s deity in contrast to the false deities in the first century world.

So how is it that the Father can be called the “one God” and Jesus also be called God (in other contexts)?  Bowman seeks to dispel this enigma by referring to the passage we have mentioned above that presents the Father as the “one God” (1 Corinthians 8:6). He explains, “These texts refer to the Father as ‘God’ not because Jesus Christ is less than God, but simply because the title God was normally used of the Father.”  This writer gives a helpful but limited analogy:

If someone says, “Bush appeared with Barbara,” they do not mean to imply that only George has the name Bush, or that Barbara’s last name is not Bush; their usage is simply determined by the fact that George is the one usually called Bush.  Now, this analogy has a problem, in that George and Barbara are two separate Bushes, whereas the Father and the Son are not two Gods.  But this difference is precisely what we would expect when comparing the infinite God with finite humans.[1]

In a similar way, when Scripture says that the Father is the only true God, it doesn’t rule out that Christ Jesus is also God, for “God” in Scripture generally refers to the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ.  However, if we deny that Jesus is God because the Father is God, this “assumes that the use of a title for one person rules out its application to another.  This cannot be assumed, but must be determined by considering all of the relevant biblical teaching.”[2]

In 1 Timothy 2:5 we read, “There is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”  Since the Father is called the “one God” here, does this mean that Jesus is not also “God” in one sense?  No, not necessarily, any more than saying that we are men excludes Jesus as being man.  In reality, Jesus is both God (having the nature of the one God) and man (having the nature of man).  “Jesus is able to mediate between God and men because he is himself both God and man.”[3]

Let’s consider another but related set of facts here.  To do this, we need to examine four different points:

1.    Scripture teaches that “our only Master and Lord” is “Jesus Christ” (Jude 4).  Does this deny that God is also our Master and Lord?

 

2.    Scripture teaches that we have “one Lord, Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 8:6).  Does this deny that God also is our Lord?

 

3.    Scripture teaches that there is “one Lord” (Ephesians 4:5).  Does this mean that God the Father is not likewise Lord?

 

4.    Scripture teaches that Jesus is the “one shepherd” (John 10:16). Does this mean that God the Father is not also Shepherd?

We learn from this that simply saying that there is “one” and only one Lord, Jesus Christ, does not exclude God from also being Lord (Matthew 11:25; Acts 4:24; 17:24).   Further, if there is “one” Master and Shepherd, Jesus Christ, this does not nullify the fact that God the Father is also our Master and Shepherd (Psalm 23:1).  Conversely, saying that there is “one God” (1 Timothy 2:5), the “true God” (1 Thessalonians 1:9), who is “the only true God” (John 17:3), and the “only Sovereign” (1 Timothy 6:15), does not deny that Jesus also is God and Sovereign (John 1:1, 18; 20:28).

We can see the same idea when we look at God.  James writes, “There is only one Lawgiver and Judge, the One who is able to save and to destroy” (4:12).  If this passage is all we had, we would need to conclude that God alone is “Lawgiver” and “Judge.”  However, we also know that Jesus gave “the Law of Christ,” thus He also is a Lawgiver.  And Jesus also judges (John 5:22, 27; 2 Corinthians 5:10), thus He also is Judge.  We can see that simply because Scripture says that God is the only Lawgiver and Judge does not negate the fact that Jesus also is Lawgiver and Judge.  Similarly, just because Jesus is called the “one” Shepherd, Master, and Lord, doesn’t imply that He alone is this, to the exclusion of God.  To apply this to our discussion, simply because God is the “one” God or the “only” God does not rule out that Jesus also is God (theos).

          In Scripture, there are only two categories—the true God and false “gods.”  What about Jesus Christ?  We must not think of Jesus as being another God, or a lesser God, or a secondary God, for then we would believe that Jesus is a separate, inferior, and even false god!  This cannot be.  Further, we would then believe in two “Gods” which would be polytheism, which is everywhere condemned in Scripture.

Early Conflicts and Departures

As we have observed, discussions, speculations and controversies regarding the nature of Jesus Christ and His relationship with God the Father dominated the established church and also those outside the established church for many centuries after Christ.  Jesus had warned of massive departure from the sound teaching that He and the apostles taught.  In His Olivet discourse, the Lord said, “Many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many” (Matthew 24:5).  He continued, “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” (v. 11).  Jesus also warned, “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.  Behold, I have told you in advance” (vv. 24-25).  Whether we date the fulfillment of these prophecies before the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70 or later, we can see that a massive departure (or apostasy) would occur.

As we come to the remainder of the New Testament writings, we continue to discover statements about false teachings or warnings of such teachings.  These doctrines would pertain to many different matters, but some of them evidently dealt with the person and work of Christ.  The apostle Paul wrote, “Keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away from them.  For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:17-18).  Although the nature of their teaching isn’t identified, perhaps aberrant teaching of Christ was part of it.

Paul writes to the Corinthians about a threat to their spiritual life: “I am afraid that . . . your minds will be led astray from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:3).  He then mentions the threat of “another Jesus,” a “different spirit,” and a “different gospel” (v. 4). He says that his opponents are “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ,” even though Satan is at work in them (vv. 13-15).  It does appear that part of this peril pertained to false views about Jesus.  Further, Paul is probably combating a false teaching in Colossians that denied certain basic truths on Christ Jesus, thus he described true teaching about Christ to fortify their faith (cf. 1:13-20). 

Peter also spoke of departures from the faith that involved views of Christ.  He wrote, “False prophets also arose among the people, just as there will also be false teachers among you, who will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1).  One element of this false teaching was “denying the Master,” Jesus Christ.  John also has much to say about false teachings regarding the Lord Jesus.  He writes, “Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ?  This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son” (1 John 2:22; cf. vv. 23-24).  He goes on to say, “Every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist” (4:3).  The apostle says something similar in 2 John: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.  This is the deceiver and the antichrist” (v. 7; cf. vv. 9-11).  In addition, Jude writes of certain ones in his day who “have crept in unnoticed” and denied “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v. 4).

We attempted to refer only to those passages that deal with departures regarding Christ and we haven’t cited the many other warnings and statements about other false teachings in the first century, such as Judaism.  We may not know the precise nature of the false teachings regarding Jesus Christ that would be promulgated by these teachers and prophets, but it is clear that some of the false teachings definitely did relate to Christ’s nature, position and work.  History records that in the era after the apostolic period there were many false teachings that did arise and numerous people departed from the faith taught by the apostles to follow those false teachings.

The false teachings and false ways that would arise and contaminate the body of Christ, leading to wholesale apostasy, included many different subjects and aspects of belief, life, and practice.   The one we are emphasizing in this booklet pertains to the truth of Christ Jesus and His relationship with the Father.  Notice several of the early movements that arose:

 

Gnosticism.  This movement arose in the first through the third centuries, claiming that Jesus was merely an emanation from God, a lesser “god” than the true God.  The proponents held that flesh was evil and spirit was good, thus Christ could not have come in the flesh nor could He have died on the cross as a man.  Many New Testament books seem to be combating the early stages of this false doctrine.  In about AD 185, the scholarly bishop Irenaeus wrote his chief work, Five Books Against Heresies, mainly refuting the errors of Gnostic belief—or disbelief.  “His refutation of the Gnostic system was thorough and effective.”[4]

Ebionitism.  The Ebionites were Jewish people living east of the Jordan River, professing to be Christians immediately after the New Testament era.  They believed that Jesus was Messiah, but not God.  They further denied His pre-existence, virgin birth, atoning death, and resurrection.  Likewise, they emphasized the Law of Moses, accepted only the false Jewish Gospels, and rejected Paul as a false teacher. (Wikipedia.org/wiki/ebionites).

Nazarenes.  This was a sect of Jews found after the apostolic period. The group was “located in and about Jerusalem which proclaimed Jesus of Nazareth was the promised Messiah and the Son of God.  The Nazarenes were similar to the Ebionites, in that they maintained their adherence to the Torah (Mosaic Law), but unlike the Ebionites, they accepted the virgin birth of Jesus.”  Jerome wrote in the latter fourth century: “What shall I say of the Ebionites who pretend to be Christians? To-day there still exists among the Jews in all the synagogues of the East a heresy which is called that of the Minæans, and which is still condemned by the Pharisees; [its followers] are ordinarily called ‘Nasarenes’; they believe that Christ, the son of God, was born of the Virgin Mary, and they hold him to be the one who suffered under Pontius Pilate and ascended to heaven, and in whom we also believe. But while they pretend to be both Jews and Christians, they are neither.” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazarene_(sect)

Elcesaites.  This was another sect of the Jews that was antichrist. “According to Hippolytus, the teaching of Alcibiades was borrowed from various sources. He taught circumcision, that Christ was a man like others, that he had many times been born on earth of a virgin, that he devoted himself to astrology, magic and incantations. For all sins of impurity, even against nature, a second baptism is enjoined ‘in the name of the great and most high God and in the name of His Son the great King’, with an adjuration of the seven witnesses written in the book, sky, water, the holy spirits, the Angels of prayer, oil, salt and earth” (en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Elcesaites ).  Although some of these sects claimed to be followers of Christ, we can see that they failed to adhere to the sound teaching of Scripture.  They departed drastically from the truth of Christ Jesus.

Cerinthianism. “Cerinthus’s school followed the Jewish law, used the Gospel according to the Hebrews, denied that the Supreme God had made the physical world, and denied the divinity of Jesus. In Cerinthus’ interpretation, the Christ came to Jesus at baptism, guided him in his ministry, but left him at the crucifixion.  He taught that Jesus would establish a thousand-year reign of sensuous pleasure after the Second Coming but before the General Resurrection, a view that was declared heretical by the Council of Nicaea. Cerinthus used a version of the gospel of Matthew as scripture” (wikipedia.org/wiki/cerinthus).

Docetism. “Docetism (from the Greek δοκέω [dokeō], ‘to seem’) is the belief that Jesus’ physical body was an illusion, as was his crucifixion; that is, Jesus only seemed to have a physical body and to physically die, but in reality he was incorporeal, a pure spirit, and hence could not physically die. . . . Docetism has historically been regarded as heretical by most Christian theologians” (wikipedia.org/wiki/doceticm).  “Jesus only appeared to have a physical body; what others saw as a body was actually a phantom or apparition.”[5]

Modalistic Monarchianism. This movement of the second and third centuries held that God was manifested through different “modes” at different times. They did not see a distinction between the Father and the Son, choosing to say that the one God was Yahweh God in the Old Testament era, Jesus Christ in the incarnation, and the Holy Spirit in the present period.  Thus, there was only one person who manifested Himself in three ways through history.  The earlier form of this teaching came from Noetus, Epigonus, and Praxeas, who identified Jesus as the Father Himself.  This led to the charge that they viewed the Father as being incarnate and then crucified, hence patripassianism.  Sabellius, early in the third century in Rome, gives his name to a developed form of modalism, called Sabellianism.  This form of Monarchianism was much more popular than Dynamic Monarchianism (below).[6]

Dynamic Monarchianism.  This belief, sometimes called adoptionism, arose in the second century, taught by Theodotus, which taught that Jesus was born of Joseph and Mary as a normal human being, without a virgin birth.  Thus this view denied Christ’s pre-existence.  Because of His piety, God chose the human Jesus as the Messiah at His baptism, and He became divine and continues to the present as divine.  Paul of Samosata promulgated a more advanced form of this doctrine.  By the end of the second century, this view was condemned and later was condemned by the Council of Nicaea.

Arianism. This is a movement that began in the early fourth century, promulgated by Arius of Alexandria in Egypt.  He claimed that Christ was a creation of God who, in turn, created everything else.  Arius claimed that “there was a time when the Son was not” and that He was a lesser “God,” inferior to God the Father.  They taught that God “created the Son or Logos as a kind of semidivine being to act as his agent in creating the physical universe.”[7]  A large part of the church followed his teachings during the fourth century, although it was condemned by the majority of bishops during the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 and the Council of Constantinople in 381.[8]

Apollinarianism.  Apollinaris, who lived in the mid-fourth century, taught that “Jesus had a body, to be sure, but he did not have a human soul or mind.”  The view denied Christ’s full humanity, and “without a complete and genuine human nature, Jesus could not be a true Savior.”[9] Apollinaris said that “Jesus had a true body and animal soul, but not a rational spirit or mind.  The Logos filled the place of human intelligence.  This view did honor to the deity of Christ, but it had the effect of destroying his full humanity.”[10]

Nestorianism.  This was a view of Christ “as somehow being two persons with two wills and two centers of consciousness, one human and one divine, with one or the other dominating as the circumstances may require.”  It was “condemned as a heresy in the fifth century AD.”[11]

Eutychianism.  “The eutychians were led to the opposite extreme from the Nestorians.  They held that there were not two natures but only one nature in Christ.  All of Christ was divine, even his body.  The divine and the human in Christ were mingled into one, which constituted a third nature.”[12]  Those who held to this view were sometimes called Monophysites.

Some of these views do have an element of truth, however they all had along with this some error.  Some of these sects were far removed from the faith of the New Testament regarding the nature and work of Christ Jesus.  Some of the views overdefined the truth and this resulted in error.  Many were not content with taking Biblical terms to explain Biblical truths, but sought to explain what God did not fully reveal.  Yet, to some measure, there was real error in some of these positions, and in others there was a great amount of error. 

You will notice that some of these false views of Christ came from the ranks of Jews while others were mainly of Gentile origin.  One historian says: “A number of parties sprang up [from the “Christian” Judaizers], taking such names as Ebionites, Nazarenes, and Elkesaites.  They insisted upon regarding Christ as simply a Jewish prophet and Christianity as an extension of Judaism.  Because Judaism had been badly scattered in the destruction of Jerusalem (70) and in the Jewish War (132-135), and because Gentiles soon dominated Christianity, these various Jewish-Christian sects died out within the first few centuries.”[13]  After this period, the false teachings of Christ came from Gentile sources.

Paul had warned, “The Spirit explicitly says that in latter times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons” (1 Timothy 4:1).  He went on to say, “If anyone advocates a different doctrine and does not agree with sound words, those of our Lord Jesus Christ, and with the doctrine conforming to godliness, he is conceited and understands nothing” (6:3-4a).  He encouraged his son in the faith, Timothy, to be approved as a workman for God, “accurately handling the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).  Just as truth was to be a corrective for all of these false views on Christ in the first century, so today we must use the truth of God to expose error and promote the truth regarding the person, nature, and work of Jesus Christ our Lord.  While we may not become deeply involved in the fine points of theology, we can and should know the basic teachings of God’s Word regarding the nature of God and Christ.

Focusing on the Bible Rather than Theology

We have sincerely attempted to be as Scriptural as possible in this book, and this is why so many Biblical references have been given and verses have been quoted.  We wanted this study to rest solidly on the foundation of God’s Word.  God’s Word is the truth, and not human formulations or creedal statements (John 17:17).  Jesus said that His words alone provide the solid foundation to build our faith and life (Matthew 7:21-23 with 24-27). 

Some readers may wish we had delved more into theological formulations than we did.  Although we have referred to different theological views or doctrinal positions, we haven’t endorsed any of them, without qualification.  We haven’t been using the term trinity even once to refer to the Biblical teaching since most theological nomenclature generally comes with theological baggage.  Neither have we used the theological terms homoiousios (similar essence) and homoousios (same essence) that were so much a part of Nicene debates. We haven’t referred to the loaded term Hypostasis and discussed its meaning. Theology itself, can be good, inasmuch as the term literally means “the study of God” (theos and logos).  Sometimes it is used in a broader way to refer to the whole content of God’s revelation in Scripture.  However, theology as we know it, frequently involves great speculation and careful definitions that are not in Biblical terms.  In fact, some scholars believe that Platonic thought influenced some of the post-apostolic doctrinal discussions.  Although I have read many theological works in my life and have learned something from them, I also am cautious about speculative theology that departs from the clear teachings of Scripture.  We will be judged by Christ’s words, thus it is utterly important that we receive our faith from the Scriptures (John 12:48; cf. 1 Timothy 6:3-5; 2 Timothy 1:13-14).

Theology, however, can be used in a more positive sense. It need not refer to dead, lifeless, boring information that is divorced from the living Word of God and vibrant living!  One writer tells of his experience:

He dragged a big, thick, foreboding-looking book from under the podium and held it up high. “I am sick and tired of theology!”  The crowd, with notable exception of my wife and me, seated in the back row, roared its approval.  Yeah, but as soon as you make one statement about Jesus, I thought to myself, you are speaking theology.  I love theology.  Not the cold, stuffy, lifeless stuff you find in some corners of the church, but the living, exciting, Bible-based, life-changing, “wow, isn’t God incredible” theology that you encounter in every verse of the New Testament.[14]

Whether we use the term “theology” or not, we do need to spend much time reading, studying, and assimilating the truths of the Word of God so that we might know His truth and His will, both for our own good and edification as well as for our sharing it with others that they too may know the truth and be saved.

In the years after the apostolic period (ca. AD 30 to 100), doctrinal disputes increased to the point that worldwide or ecumenical councils were held that sometimes included hundreds of “bishops” (the office of bishop itself was far different from the simple position of overseer/elder/shepherd in the early communities of believers).  These included the Council of Nicaea (325), the Council of Constantinople (381), the Council of Chalcedon (451), the Council of Orange (529), the Second Council of Constantinople (553), the Third Council of Constantinople (681), the Council of Nicaea (787), and others.[15]  They produced various ecclesiastical creeds[16] which defined their beliefs against those whom they considered heretics and of whom they pronounced anathemas (God’s curse):

 

·      The Creed of Nicaea

·      The Nicean Creed

·      Chalcedon Creed

·      Athanasian Creed

·      Canons of the Council of Orange

·      Anathemas of the Second Council of Constantinople

·      Statement of Faith of the Third Council of Constantinople

These gatherings were often characterized by strife, discord, pride, and spiritual blindness since, by then, religious apostasy was well under way.  Unwilling to be content with the doctrinal positions of Scripture, these clergymen insisted on overdefinition, refinements, and speculation.  How much better to simply take what Scripture says and allow this to settle disputes.  We wouldn’t say that everything discussed in these gatherings was trivial, by no means; sometimes they discussed matters that had serious consequences.  However, often they departed from the simple statements of Scripture and indulged in points that went beyond Scripture.

We must admit that aspects of the truth of Christ’s identity and nature may elude us.  While we may not be able to explain it, we can accept all that Scripture reveals about Christ and deny all that Scripture denies about Christ.  This is sufficient—and it is safe.  We have heard the slogan: “Speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent.”  This must be our perspective.  Perhaps this is one of those subjects about which Moses wrote: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things revealed belong to us and to our sons forever, that we may observe all the words of this law” (Deuteronomy 29:29).  A full understanding of the nature of Jesus Christ and His relationship with the Father (and the Spirit) is beyond us, but God has revealed enough that we can exercise a saving, loving faith in Him and walk in His ways.

A Summary of our Scriptural Evidence

Let’s summarize some of the evidence that we have examined so far in this little book:

 

1.    Jesus Christ was man and continues to be man, fully human, although He was glorified after His resurrection and ascension.

 

2.    Jesus Christ was and is God or Deity, and this is reflected in His names, position, works, and relationships

 

3.    Jesus Christ is not God the Father, even though He is God.  There is a distinction found in Scripture between the Father and the Son.

 

4.    Jesus Christ was the image of the invisible God and the exact representation of His nature.  Therefore, the Father and the Son share the same nature, essence and character.

 

5.    Jesus Christ is equal with the Father in regard to His essential nature, just as a human son shares the humanity of his earthly father.

 

6.    Jesus Christ is in some mysterious way subject to God the Father, perhaps as this relates to His servant relationship as a man, yet it does continue at present and into the eternal future.

Obviously, a subject as broad and deep as this one could be expanded to a much greater degree, but hopefully this study will help us to have a more accurate and balanced view of our exalted Lord, Jesus Christ.

From the very beginning, after the time of Christ Jesus, men have arisen with aberrant views on His person, nature, and saving work.  Today we also find a variety of different ideas on Jesus Christ.  We must not pass off any faulty view as inconsequential!  Someone has rightly said that we may be honestly wrong about different minor things and still be right with God, but no one who is wrong about Jesus Christ can ever be right with God.  This is why it is absolutely essential that we believe all that Scripture affirms about the Lord Jesus.

For many years I became increasingly concerned with the matter of Christ’s identity and relationship with God the Father.  Finally, years ago I began a serious and extensive study of the Scriptural evidence.  I did a massive amount of research on this very subject.  I studied Genesis to Revelation, especially in respect to the Person of Yahweh and Elohim in the Old Testament and God the Father, Jesus Christ the Lord, and the Holy Spirit in the New Testament.  I also read scores of theological books and even examined defenses of the various views written by those who hold those views.  I researched the spectrum of understandings and positions: Trinitarianism, Binitarianism, Unitarianism, Tritheism, Bitheism, Oneness, Sabellianism, Arianism, Monarchianism, Socinianism, and others.  I examined mainstream Protestant and Catholic theology, as well as some of the more aberrant views held by different groups: Armstrongism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witness doctrine, Sacred Name theology, the Way International, Apostolic views, and others. 

After spending months and even years on this quest to understand, I recognized that I had not carefully examined in depth many dozens of other books, pamphlets, and studies.  I could see from the record of church history that questions regarding Jesus Christ occupied the attention of the established church in the second, third, fourth, fifth, sixth, seventh, and eighth centuries and beyond.  Elaborate and detailed formulations were put in the form of creeds and confessions, the work of official church councils, attended by hundreds of church leaders.

As I pondered all of this information, I concluded that the best and surely the safest course to pursue was to be willing to study the Scriptures themselves and simply take God’s Word for what it says.  I was aware that many people tend to accept their favorite verses from the Bible and then overlook or close their eyes to other verses that seem to contradict their position.  I was aware that Peter said that Paul wrote “some things hard to understand,” which “the untaught and unstable distort, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures” (2 Peter 3:16-17).  In my earnest desire to arrive at some understanding of Christ and His saving work, I wanted to avoid “distorting” or “twisting” God’s Word.  Therefore, I concluded that I should make a decision:

I determined to affirm all that Scripture affirms about Jesus Christ and likewise deny all that Scripture denies about Jesus Christ.  I purposed to take God’s Word seriously and pray fervently for His enlightenment to understand His truth. 

This seemed to be the safest of all choices since we must be judged by the word of God on the great Day of Judgment (cf. John 12:48).  I believe that it can be unwise and even dangerous to speculate too greatly about Christ’s nature and relationship with God the Father or the Holy Spirit.  When we depart from the actual teaching of Scripture and begin to apply human reason to a spiritual topic, we risk coming to unscriptural conclusions.  Often people become dishonest with parts of the truth that they don’t understand and can’t fit into their theological construction.  They are willing to overlook one set of truths so that they can cling to another set of truths.  The object of truth-seeking is to be willing to accept all that Scripture teaches on any given subject, especially this weighty and far-reaching topic of God’s nature, Christ’s nature, and their relationship with each other.

 



[1] Robert M. Bowman, Jr., Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, pp. 72-73.

[2] Ibid., p. 73.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Robert A. Baker, A Summary of Christian History, p. 31.

[5] Jack Cottrell, The Faith Once for All, p. 229.

[6] C. A. Blaising, “Monarchianism,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 727.

[7] Cottrell, Ibid., p. 242.

[8] Although Constantine promoted the Trinitarian cause of Athanasius against Arius, “Constantine reversed himself in A.D. 332, seven years after the Council of Nicea, and supported Arius.  For 45 of the next 49 years the Arians were in favor with the Roman emperors. . . . But in 381 the emperor Theodosius, who held to the Trinity, declared trinitarian Christianity the official religion of the empire and convened the Council of Constantinople, where an even more explicit trinitarian creed was adopted” (Robert M. Bowman, Why You Should Believe in the Trinity, p. 40).

[9] Ibid. p. 230.

[10] Henry C. Thiessen, Lextures in Systematic Theology, 207.

[11] Cottrell,  Ibid., p. 250.

[12] Thiessen, Ibid., p. 208.

[13] Robert A. Baker, A Summary of Christian History, p. 28.

[14] James R. White, The Forgotten Trinity, p. 33.

[15] A listing of these may be found at: www.spurgeon.org/~phil/creeds.htm.

[16] Although G. W. Bromley sees value in creeds, he also sees their danger: “The dangers of creed-making are obvious.  Creeds can become formal, complex, and abstract.  They can be almost illimitably expanded.  They can be superimposed on Scripture” (“Creed,” Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 284.


 

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