WHAT THINK YE OF CHRIST?
The Christian religion centers in a person; that Person is revealed for us in a Book; the teaching of the Book concerning the Person is embodied in numerous creeds.
The Book is to us the Word of God, and contains all needed teaching for faith and practice in Christian experience. The creeds are venerated by us as the considered thought of men whose work we esteem. Yet neither the creeds nor even the Book is Christianity's central fact. The central fact of the Christian religion is Christ himself.
It is recorded of the Hindu Christian mystic, Sundar Singh, that when visiting one of the universities of his country he was asked by a professor of comparative religions, "What did you find in Christianity that we do not have in our own religion?" He replied, "I found Christ." "But," said the professor, pressing the question further, "what teaching did you find there that could not have been found in our own religion?" Again the Sadhu quietly replied, "I found Christ."
In our autograph album one of God's choice saints wrote the following lines:
It is not doctrine; it is not creed;
It is a living Christ we need.
Forms, doctrines, creeds, and ritual
Are but emptiness after all;
Christ Jesus is the soul's sincere repose.
These other things are leaves around the Rose.
The central fact of Christianity is the Rose, the Christ, a living Person from whom all else proceeds.
It is here, however, that the fight really begins. In the days of His flesh, our Lord flung out to His hearers a simple but challenging question: "What think ye of Christ?" That simple question puzzled them. It has puzzled men in every age. It puzzles men today. They cannot explain Him, yet they cannot leave Him alone. Every new generation finds Him confronting them. They discuss Him; some eulogize Him; others snub Him; but they cannot dismiss Him. There, in the court of human consciousness, He ever stands, the inevitable Christ.
Concerning the person of Jesus Christ three things are to be considered: (1) What God says about Him. (2) What men have said about Him. (3) The formulation of the creeds concerning Him.
WHAT GOD SAYS ABOUT HIM
1. AS TO HIS DEITY
For our knowledge concerning the person of Christ we are entirely dependent on the Word of God, for it is in the Scriptures that the Holy Spirit reveals the facts concerning Him.
It will be noted that in the caption of this section we have used the word deity rather than divinity. We have done so with definite reason and of set purpose. It has become customary with theologians of these modern days to use the word divinity in a much lighter sense than our fathers understood it when applied to the person of our Lord, thereby robbing it of its weight in argument concerning Him.
"Jesus Christ is divine," say we. "So is every man," say they. "But Christ is the Son of God," say we. "So are all men sons of God," say they; "it is simply a matter of degree." This claim of universal sonship we cannot, of course, admit. Yet it becomes necessary to fortify our position regarding the unique sonship of Jesus by using the strongest possible case, and therefore we do not say merely that Christ was divine, much as we feel that this word in itself should meet the case; we are compelled to become more emphatic, and to insist that in a peculiar sense, in equality of position, in nature and power, without any qualification or reservation, Jesus Christ was and is of the Deity. He stands alone, in solitary dignity and lonely grandeur; He is the phenomenon of the ages -- God manifest in the flesh.
a. Some general proofs may be suggested. The arguments which we shall here advance are timeworn and old-fashioned, the subject having been so often thrashed over that new arguments might not be easy to find. The more modern-minded will doubtless smile at our simplicity as we reiterate "such old stuff" as they choose to call it, but it is the best we know.
(1) Divine names are given to Him.
(a) He is "the Son of God." This name is used at least forty times, besides which we have frequent synonymous expressions, such as "his Son," "my Son," etc. That this designation carried the thought of deity is seen in John 5:18. "Therefore the Jews sought ... to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God."
From this and other passages it is evident that those about Him plainly understood Jesus as claiming a unique divine relationship. See Matt. 27:40, 43; Mark 14:61-62; John 5:25; 10: 36; 11: 4.
- (b) He is "the only begotten Son." This expression occurs five times, namely, John 1:14; 1:18; 3:16; 3:18; I John 4:9. It was a favorite expression with John.
(c) He is "the Lord." During His earth life men called Him "Lord," but after His resurrection and ascension this became an established designation, as is seen in both the Book of Acts and also the Epistles. Not merely is He called "the Lord," but "Lord of all" (Acts 10:36), and "the Lord of glory" (I Cor. 2:8). Paul's writings abound with kindred expressions. Compare here the designations of Jehovah in Ps. 24:8-10.
(d) He is "the first and the last." This title, claimed by Him in His risen capacity, is applied in the Old Testament to Israel's Jehovah. Rev. 1:17; compare Isa. 41:4; 44:6.
(e) He is "the Alpha and Omega" (Rev. 1:8; 22:13).
(f) He is "the Holy One." This again is one of the Old Testament names used of Jehovah. Acts 3:14. Compare Isa. 12:6; Hos. 11:9.
(g) He is "Emmanuel," "God with us" (Matt. 1:23).
(h) He is "God" (Heb. 1:8).
(i) He is "our great God" (Titus 2:14, R.V.).
(j) He is "God blessed for evermore" (Rom. 9:15)
- (2) Old Testament descriptions of God are applied to Him. We shall notice only four examples and these may be extended indefinitely by the student.
(a) Ps. 110:1. "The Lord said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool." This scripture is quoted three times in the New Testament, and each time it is applied directly to Jesus Christ. First our Lord quotes it and applies it to himself (Matt. 22:44). Then on the Day of Pentecost, Peter quotes it, and applies it to Jesus as the risen, glorified Lord (Acts 2:34-35). Finally, the writer to the Hebrews quotes it, and applies it to Jesus as the divine Son (Heb. 1:3). From this passage with its New Testament references it becomes evident that Jesus is the One whom David in the Spirit is said to have called Lord.
(b) Isa. 6:1. "In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple." John, making reference to Jesus, takes up this very chapter, and concerning it he says: "These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him" (John 12:41). Can there be any doubt that "the Lord," seen by Isaiah, is the Christ whom we adore?
(c) Isa. 7:14. "Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel." Matthew, recording the birth of Christ, quotes this passage and interprets the name, saying, "Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us" (Matt. 1:23). What is this but another way of stating the fact recorded in John's great prologue, "The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14)?
(d) Ps. 68:18. "Thou hast ascended on high, thou hast led captivity captive: thou hast received gifts for men; yea, for the rebellious also, that the Lord God might dwell among them."
There can be no question that in this passage the psalmist has reference to God. Paul, however, takes this very scripture and unhesitatingly applies it to Jesus, saying, "But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ. Wherefore he saith, When he ascended up on high, he led captivity captive, and gave gifts unto men" (Eph. 4:7-8).
Adding to these scriptures, the student should also make the following comparisons: Ps. 102:24-27 with Heb. 1:10-12; Isa. 40:3-4 with Luke 1:68-69, 76; Isa. 60:19 with Luke 2:32; Isa. 8: 13-14 with I Pet. 2:7-8; Isa. 40:10-11; with John 10:11; Ezek. 34:11-12, 18 with Luke 19:10.
(3) The names of both Father and Spirit are used as equal with Him. The student should carefully read such scripture passages as Matt. 28:19; John 5:23; 14:1; 17:3; Acts 2:38; I Cor. 1:3; 12:4-6; II Cor. 13:14; Eph. 5:5; I Thess. 3:11; Rev. 20:6; 22:3.
The striking thing about these passages is the naturalness and obvious lack of embarrassment with which the various scripture writers associate the three names of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is no excuse, no apology, not even an explanation. To them, the Godhead is the place to which Jesus naturally belongs and without ceremony they acknowledge Him as being there.
(4) The attributes of God are ascribed to Him.
(a) He is the Source of life. John 1:4; 14:6.
(b) He is self-existent. John 5:26; Heb. 7:16.
(c) He is eternal. Isa. 9:6; Mic. 2:5; John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5; Col. 1:17; Heb. 13:8; I John 1: 1.
(d) He is immutable. Heb. 1:12; 13:8.
(e) He is omnipotent. Matt. 8:16, 26-27; Luke 4:35-36, 39, 41; 7:14-15; 8:54-55; Eph. 1: 20- 23; Heb. 1:3.
(f) He is omniscient. Mark 2:8; Luke 5:4-6, 22; 22:10-12; John 1:48; 6:64; 13:1; 16:30; 21:17; Col. 2:3; Jude 25; Rev. 2:23.
(g) He is omnipresent. Matt. 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13; 14:20; II Cor. 13:5; Eph. 1:23.
(h) He is the Embodiment of holiness. Luke 1:35; Heb. 7:26.
(i) He is the manifested Truth. John 14:6; 1 John 5:20.
(j) He is the Expression of love. John 3:16.
(5) The works of God are accredited to Him.
(a) He is credited with the act of creation. John 1:3; II Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:10.
(b) To Him is attributed the fact of preservation. Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3.
(c) He is seen as raising the dead. John 5:27-29; 6:39, 44.
(d) He is to refashion the believer's body at His return. Phil. 3:21.
(e) It is His prerogative to bestow eternal life. John 10:28; 17:2.
(6) The prerogatives of God are accorded Him.
(a) He has authority to forgive sins. Matt. 1:21; 9:2-6; Mark 2:5-10; Acts 2:38.
(b) He it is who is to judge the world. Matt. 25:31-36; John 5:27-29; Acts 17:31; II Tim. 4:1.
(c) He is to exercise universal dominion. Others have striven for it, not hesitating to drench the world in blood to accomplish their purpose, but every contestant for world rule has perished by the sword he has unsheathed. Not so with our Christ, for His right it is to reign. He must reign until He has put all enemies under His feet. Isa. 9:7; Dan. 7:13-14; John 3:31; I Cor. 15:25; Heb. 1:8; Rev. 1:5; 17:14; 19:16.
(7) Honor and worship due only to God are received by Him. Matt. 14:33; 28:9; (contrast here Matt. 4:9-10; Acts 10:25-26; 14:11-18; Rev. 22:8-9); Luke 24:52; John 5:23; 14:14; 20:28; Acts 7:59; 9:10; I Cor. 11:24-25; Phil. 2:9-11; II Tim. 4:8; Heb. 13:21; Rev. 5:12-14. Could any mere creature place himself or be placed in such a position without the most obvious blasphemy?
(8) Equality with God is expressly claimed for Him.
(a) By himself. John 5:18; 14:9.
(b) By His apostles. John 1:1; Acts 20:28; Phil. 2:6.
(9) Christian experience corroborates all that is said both by Him and about Him. Those who know Him in saving power have no doubt whatever that Jesus Christ is God.
b. Some specific facts may also be stated. All the evidence thus far presented has convinced us of one great fact, namely, that Jesus Christ is God. As God, but now made known to us as man, two further facts are to be recognized.
(1) The fact of His pre-existence. As God, He of necessity existed before His appearing in His redemptive capacity as Jesus the Man. This has been indicated inferentially under the previous section, but we must now definitely state the fact.
(a) This is clearly seen in the Old Testament.
It is manifested in the theophanies. By a theophany we mean, of course, the manifestation of Deity in material shape. Sometimes the appearance was in the form of an angel, and sometimes that of a man, but always there was about it the suggestion of a Presence which was greater than the appearance. This Presence is known by such familiar designations as "mine Angel," "the angel of the Lord," "the angel of his presence," and so on.
He appeared to Abraham -- Gen. 12:7; 17:1; 18:1; 22:11, 12; compare John 8:56-58; to Jacob -- Gen. 31:11-13; 32:24-32; 35:9-15; to Moses -- Exod. 3:1-14; to Joshua -- Josh. 5:13-15; to Gideon -- Judges 6; to Manoah and his wife -- Judges 13. He is seen also in II Kings 19:35; Zech. 14:1-4; I Chron. 21:15-16; Ps. 37:7.
It is recorded in the prophecies.* See, for instance, Isa. 9:6, 7; Mic. 2:5. The Old Testament abounds with prophecies concerning the Coming One, but in these passages especially are emphasized the fact of the identity of the One who is to come and from whence He should come. There can be no doubt about the prophet's emphasis. He is to come out of a past existence, for He is "the Father of eternity," and has been "from everlasting."
(b) This is emphatically stated in the New Testament. The New Testament writers see Jesus, not as a Man who became God, but as God who became Man. See such passages as John 1: 1-4; 1:30; 3:13; 3:31; 6:33; 6:51; 6:62; 7:29; 8:23; 8:42; 8:58; 10:32-36; 13:3; 14:1-11; 16:27-28, 30; 17: 5, 8; Phil. 2:6; Heb. 1:3. This Mysterious Being, sometimes Man, sometimes Angel, but in reality God, is felt by all spiritually minded students of God's Word to be none other than "the Word," who later "was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (John 1:14).
(2) The fact of His incarnation. As pre-existent God, He voluntarily became Man. Thus we may say that in this act, according to the plain teaching of Scripture, the Jehovah of the Old Testament became the Jesus of the New Testament.
This is clearly anticipated in the Old Testament -- as we have seen in such passages as Isa.
9:6 and Mic. 5:2. It is definitely stated in the New Testament -- as seen in such passages as Matt. 1:18- 25; Luke 1:26-35; John 1:14; Rom. 8:3-4; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-8; I Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:14-16.
In this unique fact of "God manifest in the flesh" we have the miracle of the ages, paralleled only by His atoning death and glorious resurrection, all of which, of course, go to make up that one grand, divinely executed scheme which we call redemption.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT
Jesus Christ is God! We firmly believe it, but we must be ready to prove it, and to combat
whatever arguments may be brought to the contrary. Be sure that you are ready for this. Read
further on the subject.
- On what source are we dependent for our knowledge concerning the person of Christ?
- Distinguish between the use of the words divinity and deity.
- State some general proofs of Christ's deity.
- What two further specific facts should be stated? State and explain each of these.
2. AS TO HIS HUMANITY
According to the plain teaching of the Scriptures, "God... manifest in the flesh" took upon Him a real human nature. This is seen from the following facts clearly indicated in the New Testament:
a. He was born of, and nursed by, a human mother. Matt. 1:18; 2:11; 13:55; Gal. 4:4.
It would not have been impossible for God in human flesh to have appeared without a human birth. The first Adam was not born; he was created. The creation of a Second Adam would have been just as possible, and in Him God could have been seen to dwell. This, however, would not have met the need of redemption. The mystery of godliness is that God was manifest in the flesh -- in our flesh -- one of us, that He might legitimately represent us.
b. He was expressly called, and called himself, "a man" and "the man." Isa. 53:3; John 8:40; Acts 2:22; Rom. 5:15; I Cor. 15:21; I Tim. 2:5.
c. He possessed the essential elements which made Him a Man. He had a human body and rational soul. Matt. 26:12; 27:57-60; Luke 23:46; 24:39; Heb. 2:14; 4:15; I John 1:1.
d. He became subject to the same laws as other humans. These are plainly seen in the Gospel narratives: growth, Luke 2:52; learning, Luke 2:40, 46; hunger, Matt. 4:2; thirst, John 4:7; 19:28; weariness, Matt. 8:24; John 4:6; emotion, Matt. 9:36; Mark 3:5; 10:21; John 11:33, 35; 12:27; sensitiveness to pain, Heb. 2:10, 18; 5:8; 13:12; liability to temptation, Matt. 4:1; Mark 1:13; Luke 4:2; Heb. 2:18; 4:15.
e. It is evident that His appearance was that of a man, and even suggested nationality. John 4:9; 20:15; 21:4-5.
f. He found it necessary to spend time in prayer. A review of the life of Jesus as the Son of Man will reveal an amazing amount of time spent in intercession. Do we ask why? The answer can only be this. As a man He realized His need of prayer, and consequently gave himself to it, praying early, Mark 1:35; late, Matt. 14:23; all night, Luke 6:12; before important events, Luke 6: 12-13; for His friends, Luke 22:32; John 17:9; for His enemies, Luke 23:34; until heaven opened, Luke 3:21; until transfigured, Luke 9:28-29; when prayer was agony, Luke 22:44; even as He died, Luke 23:46. Why did He pray? His humanity demanded it.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT
In Christ, God became Man. In doing so, what did He leave? -- and what did He assume? Does the Bible throw any light on these questions? Read further on the Incarnation.
- Name from memory the six arguments for the humanity of Jesus.
- Take up each argument separately and develop it, giving scripture proof.
WHAT MEN HAVE SAID ABOUT HIM
1. EARLY ATTACKS
At first it may come as a shock to some when they learn of the vicissitudes through which the doctrine of our Lord's deity has passed. Satan is ever the sworn foe of the Christ, and through the ages he has done his utmost to discredit Him.
Beginning in the days of His flesh, continuing through the early centuries of the Church's history, and reviving again in these later days, the devil has used every conceivable tactic of subtle attack to encompass our Lord's defeat. Concerning the person of Christ, the first five centuries were a battleground of contending theories. Error after error lifted its head, and attacking each successive error, blow after blow was struck by the champions of truth. These errors may be generally classified in four sections, namely: (1) Those denying the human element in Christ's nature. (2) Those denying the divine element. (3) Those denying the unity of Person embracing both natures. (4) Those denying the distinctions in the Godhead.
a. The errors denying the human element. Of those errors denying the human element, two are outstanding.
(1) Docetism -- The teaching that Jesus did not possess a human body.
This teaching flourished for about one hundred years (A.D. 70-170). It appeared before the New Testament had reached its completion, and is said to have been the first known heresy in the Christian Church. It is thought by some that the apostolic insistence on the fact that Christ was "born of a woman" and was "partaker of flesh and blood" -- for which, see such passages as Gal. 4:4; Rom. 1:3; 9:5; Heb. 2:14 -- was directed against this error.
The name Docetism means, literally, to seem, or to appear. These heresy teachers, like the Gnostics, whose teaching was a corollary of the Docetic system, denied the reality of Christ's material body and His human nature, insisting that, though He so appeared, He was never really a man at all, but a Divine Being in disguise. His apparent acceptance of the ordinary laws which govern our lives, such as birth and death, eating and drinking, were mere illusions. Matter, they argued, is evil, while Christ was pure; Christ therefore could not have possessed a human body, but must have been phantasmal.
Needless to say, the teaching of Docetism was a pagan philosophy introduced into the Christian Church; some have thought Simon Magus to have been its sponsor. It has been called "baptized heathenism."
(2) Apollinarianism -- the teaching that Jesus did not possess a human mind.
This error came into the Church through one known as Apollinaris the Younger, a scholar, poet, and ardent defender of the faith. His heresy came in his endeavor to combat another. He was fighting Arianism, which we shall later consider, and facing the perplexing question, How could the Divine Logos be joined to a human nature?
In reply he attempted to save the unity of Christ's person, but at the expense of His human nature, and consequently denied His real humanity altogether. He was certain that in the person of Jesus God became man. He felt also that the whole divine nature could not be joined to the whole nature of a man. Two perfect natures, he argued, must always remain separate persons, for two perfect beings could never become one.
He met the problem by asserting that although Jesus had a body He had no human mind, its place being taken by the Logos.
The mind in man, according to Apollinaris, was the center of sin, and must be replaced by the divine. This, it would seem, would make Christ to be neither God nor man, but a perplexing puzzle between the two.
b. The errors denying the divine element. Of these errors denying the divine element, we shall discuss three.
(1) Ebionism -- the teaching that Jesus was a man, on whom the Christhood came.
Ebionism is the name given to certain tendencies of thought which finally crystallized into sects within Judaeo-Christian circles in the early centuries of Christianity. The exact meaning of the name seems to be uncertain. Some have suggested that it means "poor," and that possibly the name was given, or taken, because they were a company of oppressed and persecuted souls.
Defining Ebionism, Dr. A. H. Strong says, "Ebionism was simply Judaism within the pale of the Christian Church, and its denial of Christ's Godhead was occasioned by the incompatibility of this doctrine with monotheism."
As a general statement, the Ebionite doctrine of Christ may be put as follows: These errorists regarded Christ merely as a man. They denied the reality of His divine nature and held Him to be merely human, whether naturally or supernaturally conceived. The man Jesus, however, held a peculiar relation to God, in that, from the time of His baptism, an immeasured fullness of the Divine Spirit rested upon Him.
Ebionism seems to have divided itself into three sections:
(a) The Nazarenes. These held to the supernatural birth of Christ, yet did not admit Him to be the divine Son.
(b) The Cerinthian Ebionites. These denied the supernatural birth of Christ and in its place insisted that the Christhood came at His baptism. That He should be born of the Virgin seemed to them to be a heathenish fable. To them there was no personal union between the divine and human in Christ; and the emanation which descended upon Him at His baptism left Him before His crucifixion.
(c) The Gnostic Ebionism of the Pseudo-Clementines. In order to destroy the idea of the deity of Christ and save the pure monotheism, so called, of primitive religion, these are said to have given up much of the Old Testament scriptures. God and man were conceived as external to each other; God could not become man; therefore, they insisted, Christ was no more than a prophet or teacher who from the time of His baptism was especially endowed with the Spirit of God.
(2) Arianism -- the teaching that Jesus was a demigod.
The heresy of Arius and those who followed him might be summarized as the dilemma that produced the demigod. Refusing Christ a place within the Godhead and yet being compelled to recognize Him as more than an ordinary man, they attempted to solve their problem by regarding Him as a created being, lower than God but higher than man. They regarded the Logos who was declared to have united himself with the humanity of Jesus as not being possessed of absolute Godhead but as being the first and highest of created beings. Christ was "the Son," but He was not eternal. He was the Mediator of creation, but He himself was created before the beginning of time. This Logos took the place of the human soul in the person of Jesus; the Christ therefore, thus formed, was neither man nor God, but a demigod.
The view of Arius has been rightly evaluated as having originated in a misinterpretation of the scriptural accounts of Christ's state of humiliation, and in mistaking the temporary subordination for original and permanent inequality. It might also be said that, seeking to uphold the monotheistic idea, he could not see the possibility of three Persons in the Godhead.
(3) Adoptionism -- Jesus was a man who became God.
This was seemingly an early error, but has also had later manifestations. According to this theory, the Logos existed in Jesus, not as a person, but as a quality. The personality of Jesus was human. It was not the Son of God who came down from heaven, but the Son of Man who ascended into heaven. By the descent of the Holy Spirit upon Him Jesus was adopted as the Son of God, and because of His spiritual merits He was elevated to divine rank. Thus it was not God becoming man, but man becoming God.
c. Errors denying the unity of the Person embracing two natures.
Again we shall note three.
(1) Nestorianism. The Nestorian error came as the result of an effort on the part of Nestorious to avoid the danger of Apollinarianism.
There is something pathetic about these men as they are seeking to pick their way through the maze of erroneous thought, and in seeking to avoid one error, striking another. Apollinaris, seeking to avoid the peril of Arianism, struck the rock in the other extreme, while Nestorious, in his endeavor to avoid the Apollinarian error, ran aground elsewhere. The Nestorians denied the real union between the human and the divine natures in Christ, asserting that in Him were two complete personalities, one distinctly human and the other distinctly divine -- the eternal personality of the Logos and the human personality born of Mary. Some say that Nestorious himself never went to this extreme, but his name is always associated with the teaching, and he was removed from his position as bishop of Constantinople on account of it (A.D. 431).
(2) Eutychianism (U-tik'-i-an-ism). Eutyches, an abbot of Constantinople, attacked the error of Nestorious, but in doing so he evolved another heresy, denying the distinction between and coexistence of the two natures, and held to a mingling of both into one, which when clearly defined really constituted a third. To the Eutychians there was only one nature in Christ -- God became flesh. This mystifying mixture of a humanized Logos, a defied man, or whatever it really was, was condemned at Chalcedon (A.D. 451).
(3) Monophysitism. This was a later development of Eutychianism after the Council of Chalcedon.
d. Errors denying distinctions in the Godhead. The fourth section of errors concerning the person of Jesus are those which deny any vital distinction at all within the Godhead. Outstanding here is the teaching of Sabellianism. It is also called modalist monarchianism, or Patripassianism, although some distinguish between these two, making Sabellianism a development of one or the other.
As stated in our discussion on the doctrine of the Trinity, the teaching of Sabellius was that in the divine nature there could be no distinction of persons, the terms "Father," "Son," and "Spirit" being intended to represent the divine Being under different aspects or relations; just as a man might be called father, son, brother, uncle, and so forth, by different people, according to their individual relationship, yet all the time he could continue to be one and the same person, there being no change whatever except in relationship.
According to Sabellius, the Son was just an "aspect" of the Godhead.
All this led to the necessity of a formulated statement by an authoritative body, and thus we have in the creed of Chalcedon (A.D. 451), which later we shall consider.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT
At first it will not be easy to remember these errors. First learn the names, so as to be able to recite them from memory; then take them one at a time and master what is said about them. The more advanced student will naturally want to read further on each, and will find valuable information in the larger works concerning them.
- Name the errors denying the human element.
- Name the errors denying the divine element.
- Name the errors denying the unity of the Person embracing both natures.
- Name the errors denying the distinctions in the Godhead.
- Take up each error which you are now able to name and write a concise
explanation of its teaching.
CHART (LIST) OF ERRORS
This list was originally in chart form, but for ease of digitizing it has been changed to a list form. DRM The Voice of the Nazarene, Inc. In order that the student might take in the errors at a glance we have prepared the following chart -- (list).
Errors Denying The Human Element
1. Docetism Did not possess a human body. His seeming humanity was an illusion Jesus was wholly divine.
2. Apollinarianism Did not possess a human mind. Its place taken by the Logos Jesus was neither God nor man.
Errors Denying The Divine Element
1. Ebionism The Spirit given at baptism as an endowment for His Messianic work Jesus was human.
2. Arianism Lower than God, higher than man. The first of god's creation Jesus was demigod.
3. Adoptionism By the descent of the Holy spirit upon Him, He was adopted into the Godhead Man who became God.
Errors Denying The unity Of The Person Embracing Two Natures
1. Nestorianism Logos, Human Jesus had two separate natures.
2. Eutychianism A mystifying mixture Jesus a mingling of two natures which constituted a third.
3. Monophysitism Eutychianism plus Fusion, confusion.
Errors Denying Distinctions In The Godhead
Sabellianism Father (God), Son, Spirit Modal manifestations of one Person.
2. LATER ATTACKS
So intense is the hatred of the powers of darkness against the Son of God that their attacks have never been relinquished.
The early decades of the nineteenth century saw a revival of Christological criticism, attacking not only the deity of our Lord but also His humanity. Broadly, these attacks may be divided into two sections, which, for want of a better way of expressing it, we shall call the scholastic and the religious.
a. The scholastic attack. By the term scholastic here we mean to indicate, not the thought of mental superiority, but rather that of intellectual snobbery; the pitiful piffle that has been handed out from some of our colleges and universities in the name of higher education. Volumes have been written to support their contention -- woeful waste of good paper. Especially among the German element, some daring and blasphemous suggestions have been made.
Jesus has been described as an ecstatic; a person of heights and depths of spirit, often passionately impetuous, then again calmly composed. This ecstasy is declared to belong to the unusual psychic phenomena which lie on the borderland between mental health and malady. By another He has been declared to be an epileptic; a great reformer, but a person mentally morbid and worthy of our deep pity and sympathy. By still another He is seen as a paranoiac whose intellect was gradually impaired and whose life was characterized by systematic delusions. Then again He is described as a case of nerves; a poetic nature, fond of rural surroundings and possessing a romantic and one-sided optimism. His strongly stimulated fancy is said to have accounted for His illusions in the desert, which are to be understood only in the light of excessive nervousness. Other writers have bluntly called Him a fanatic.
But then, after all, these things are not surprising. The critical mind must seek to establish some sort of theory; Jesus of Nazareth must be accounted for somehow. He is a perpetual challenge to each succeeding age. Critics are not prepared to acknowledge His deity, yet they cannot let Him alone. He will not be let alone. There is no adequate explanation for Jesus of Nazareth except one -- He is the Son of God.
b. The religious attack. Strange as it may seem, the most subtle attacks on the person of our Lord have been made under the cover of a professed religious attitude.
(1) Within the Church. This attack has come within the Church itself. The attitude and teaching of what has come to be known as the higher critical position are now so well known that we shall not pause here to comment, except to say that the Christ of liberal theology is not the Christ of the New Testament. Reduced to the level of an ordinary man -- though it is generally admitted He is somewhat better than the rest of us -- His pre-existence is repudiated, His supernatural birth is sneered at, His sinless life is questioned, His atoning death is denied, while the idea of His second advent is ridiculed. Yet in spite of the ever deepening apostasy, there remains a faithful element, determined at all costs to stand by the old truths; these constitute the true Church, the bride of the Lamb.
(2) Alongside the Church. There is today what might be termed "a wider Christendom" -- a fungus growth claiming Christ as its Leader and Teacher, yet reducing Him to levels which insult Him while professing to honor Him. A study of these errors does not come within the scope of our present subject; therefore a simple statement concerning five of the most aggressive will suffice.
(a) Spiritism. The name its adherents use is spiritualism, but we are not disposed to honor it with such a designation, believing as we do that its only spiritual element is its demon origin. To spiritism, Jesus is not divine except as they would say we are all divine; He was "a medium of a high order," but certainly was not God manifest in the flesh, nor did He ever claim to be. Any identification with the Father was a oneness of mediumship. It is only in this sense that He was mediator. He is now an advanced spirit in the sixth sphere -- whatever that may mean.
(b) Eddyism. The name used by its adherents is Christian Science, but since it contradicts the Christian concept it has no right to the name Christian, and certainly could not qualify as a science. It is rather a dangerous hodgepodge, which, in order to survive, has been compelled to mutilate the recognized teachings of the Christian Church, and consequently the teaching of and about its Founder and Lord, Jesus Christ. To Christian Science, Jesus as material manhood was not Christ. Christ is declared to be a divine ideal. The Virgin Mother conceived this idea of God and gave to her ideal the name Jesus. To accommodate himself to our immature ideas of spiritual power, Jesus called His body "flesh and bones." His resurrection was the spiritualization of thought material belief yielding to spiritual understanding.
(c) Russellism. The names by which its adherents know this error are various, among them being "The Watch Tower," "The Millennial Dawn" and "Jehovah's Witnesses." These errorists have no place for the risen and exalted Lord Jesus. The man Jesus, they say, is dead -- forever dead. His existence ended at the Cross. It was necessary that He should die and remain dead to all eternity. Just where His body is they do not seem to know, whether it dissolved into gases or whether it is being preserved as a memorial. He was a perfect human, but nothing more. Before coming into the world in the body of the Nazarene He is declared to have existed as the archangel Michael -- a created being.
(d) Besantism. Its official name is Theosophy. According to this cult, Jesus is one of the several great leaders or Christ divinely given to the world, each having his own quota of truth to contribute which is of distinct value as part of one grand whole which will become the basis of the final world religion. By a series of reincarnations these great spirits have perfected their egos; thus Jesus became the Christ.
Within the past few decades numerous cults of this nature have blossomed, each having some distinctive emphasis, yet expressing this general thought. They are of the same brood and are indicative of end-time conditions in the religious world.
(e) Mormonism. Mormonism sees Jesus as the son of Adam-God and Mary. It declares that Jesus was married to the Marys and Martha at Cana of Galilee, whereby He could "see His seed" before being crucified. Joseph Smith, the founder of Mormonism, is declared to be a descendant of David by his plural wife Bathsheba. Therefore, it is argued, had David not been a polygamist, there would have been no Redeemer.
Thus we trace the slime of the serpent's trail; it is subtle, deceiving, and deadly. The character of our Lord has been attacked from every angle. Satan is His sworn enemy; he cannot let Him alone.
SUGGESTIONS FOR THE STUDENT
If you are to be an intelligent leader, it is essential that you should know the general teaching of each of these errors. Do not be afraid of them; tackle them manfully; do not allow them to shake your faith. Get your own experience definitely settled before you expose yourself to them; then find out in your general reading just what they teach. Your own spiritual certainty will be a sufficient answer to any subtle insinuation the devil may bring. Know your Bible and be sure of what God has done for you, and you have nothing to fear.
- What do we mean when we speak of scholastic attacks?
- Name some of the attacks.
- Answer the attack you have named.
- Explain the religious attack.
- Within the Church.
- Alongside the Church.
- Answer, where you can, the attacks named.