Jesus the Christ: Fully God & Fully Man
Sunday, Pastor Eric preached on John 1:1-18. In his message, he emphasized the idea that Jesus was both fully God, and fully man. To a modern Christian, this may not seem that out of the ordinary to make such a statement. However, the idea of the essense of Christ was a steady battle through the early years of Christianity. Two early views were Docetism and Ebionism.
Docetism - did not confess Jesus as the Christ and denied that the Son had come in the flesh. 1 John addresses this belief in 1 John 2:22 and in 1 John 4:2-3. It is addressed again in 2 John 7. This view was influenced by Gnosticism which taught that salvation is achieved through mystical knowledge, and that matter or flesh is inferior.
To continue this perspective, docetists "denied the reality of Jesus' body as well as his sufferings and death. Jesus only appeared to have a body." (Akin, A Theology for the Church, p. 421). In an attempt to further separate the Holy God from the sinful flesh, gnosticism asserted that "This Christ cannot be incarnate, however, for this would involve his taking to himself sinful and evil matter (flesh). Christ then only appeared to have a body (Docetism), something John refutes in John 1:1, 14, 18; and 1 John 1:1-4, or the Christ temporarily adopted the man Jesus (Cerinthianism)" (Akin, 421).
Cerinthianism viewed the Christ coming upon Jesus at his baptism and then left prior to his death on the cross. This heresy is refuted by John in 1 John 5:6-8.
Ebionism - rejected the reality of the incarnation and the deity of Jesus. Ebionism considered Jesus to be the prophet predicted by Moses in Deuteronomy, but was not the preexistent Son of God. Like a form of adoptionism, Jesus was considered to have been chosen due to his perfect obedience to the law.
In an attempt to clarify the idea of Jesus being both fully God and fully man, and to refute the claims by Arius that Jesus had his godlike nature poured into him at his baptism, making him a mere man that was given God-like powers, the Council of Nicea met in 325AD. The debate would center around the term "homoousia" clarifying that Jesus was both fully divine and of the same substance/essence as the Father.
As a result of this council came the Nicene Creed:
We believe in one God, the Father All Governing, Creator of all things visible and invisible;
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, begotten of the Father as only begotten, that is, from the essence of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not created, of the same essence [homoousion] as the Father, through whom all things came into being, both in heaven and earth; Who for us men and for our salvation came down and was incarnate, becoming human. He suffered and the third day he rose, and ascended into the heavens. And he will come to judge both the living and the dead...
But, those who say, Once he was not, or he was not before his generation, or he came to be out of nothing, or who assert that he, the Son of God, is of a different hypostasis or ousia, or that he is a creature, or changeable, or mutable, the Catholic and Apostolic Church anathematizes them.
In relation to what the Scripture attributes to Jesus, CS Lewis writes,
"I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about him, 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept his claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic - on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg - or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God; or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon; or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to."
In "A Theology for the Church" by Danny Akin, he adds to Lewis's famous trilemma by including one more possible answer to the question "Who is Jesus?"
1) Liar - He was not who he said he was, and he knew it.
2) Lunatic - He was not who he thought he was and did not know it.
3) Legend - He was not who others later imagined him to be.
4) Lord - He was who he said he was; and his life, death, and resurrection prove it to be so.
Who is Jesus to you: a liar, a lunatic, a legend, or Lord?