Romans 11:33-36

Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways! “For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor? Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?” For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Jesus Is God

The deity of Christ has been under attack since the incarnation. As a matter of fact it was questions about His deity which led to His crucifixion. Throughout the generations of church history, heresy after heresy has arisen denying Jesus’ divinity. Even today, groups like the Unitarians and the Jehovah’s Witnesses deny that Jesus is God. Strangely enough, one of the first heresies (and one with the most profound impact) affirmed the divinity of Jesus, but actually denied His humanity. The Gnostics were dualists who believed Jesus was a type of avatar who simply appeared to be human. It would be nice to say that the Councils of Nicea and Chalcedon put the controversy surrounding the issue of Jesus’ divinity to rest, but that has not been the case.

An early heretical group which denied the divinity of Christ was the Arians. Arius was an early fourth century presbyter from Alexandria. He was very articulate, passionate, and had a large following. He, however, did not have a good relationship with his bishop, Alexander. Some histories account this strained relationship to the fact that Arius was jealous of Alexander and wanted his position. Regardless of the personal conflict, they disagreed on key doctrinal issues. The story is told of one day when Alexander was addressing his congregation, telling them that Jesus is co-eternal with the Father, is of His same essence, and is His co-equal, Arius vehemently disagreed. He stated his belief that there was a time when the Son did not exist, since he had been begotten by the Father. This “church feud” was the start of a rift that would ripple through church history for several hundred years. The rift was such that it spread like wildfire throughout Christendom. Finally, to preserve peace in his kingdom, Constantine called the first ecumenical council in 325 – commonly called the Nicean Council. At the council, Arius presented his case which was summed up by his quote: “The Father is a Father; the Son is a Son; therefore, the Father must have existed before the Son; therefore once the Son was not; therefore he was made, like all creatures, of a substance that had not previously existed.” The matter was resolved on paper in the council with the adoption of what has come to be known as the Nicean Creed. The creed affirmed the Biblical notion that Jesus is, “begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made.” Despite the clear teaching of Scripture and the affirmation of orthodoxy, the embers of Arianism continued to smolder for several hundred years. Even today, many modern cultic religions bear witness to the beliefs of Arius.

In contrast to the heresy of Arianism, the creed adopted by the council of Nicea testified to the Biblical fact that Jesus is God. Notice that the Nicean Creed did not create new truth – it affirmed the truth previously laid out in the Bible. Across its pages, the Bible affirms that Jesus is God in every way. As the second Person of the Trinity, He is one God in three persons – co-eternal, co-existent, and sharing the same attributes, qualities, and powers. The Father, Son, and Holy Spirit have existed in perfect relationship for time immemorial. Countless Scriptures confirm Christ's divinity, including Isaiah 40:3, Matthew 3:3, and John 3:31. Jesus disclosed his own deity several times in a discourse with the Jews in John 8. He culminated that discussion by boldly proclaiming, “before Abraham was, I AM (YHWH).” Though many who read the English translations might not recognize the impact of that declaration, the Jews did. They were so incensed, they immediately took up stones with which to execute Him for blasphemy. Paul went on to further elucidate the doctrine in what is perhaps the most emphatic, concise Christological passage in the Bible – Colossians 1:15-20. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” To deny the deity of Christ is to deny the very existence of God. Likewise, the only way to deny that Jesus is God is to deny the Bible as truth.


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