Friday, February 24, 2012

Short Essay on Christology

Due to the nature of parenthood, work, and college, I have found it extremely difficult to take time updating GospelClarity.  With that said, I thought I might offer various papers/essays I have written for class as a means to bless others.  Here is my short essay on Christology from my Survey of Theology class with Liberty University.

Since the days following the New Testament writers there have been many individuals, and councils, who have sought to bring clarity to the complexity of the person of Jesus Christ.  The same question that Jesus asked of His disciple, Peter, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13) has been re-answered, and the answers redefined, many times over.  How do we respond to those who have unBiblical views regarding the divinity and humanity of Jesus; either in their rejection of the one or over-emphasis of the other?  The church must preserve and proclaim the gospel of the God-man, Jesus Christ.  With the witness of Scripture, and illumination of God, we too can stand and declare with Peter:  “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:16).

Jesus Christ was fully man.  Scripture testifies to His humanity in a variety of instances.  Though His virgin birth was miraculous, Jesus was born of a woman (Gal. 4:4) like all men.  His body was made of flesh and bones (Lk. 24:39).  He wept (John 11:35).  Jesus was hungry and needed food to ultimately survive (Matt. 4:2).  He was thirsty (John 19:28), tempted (Matt. 4:1), grew in wisdom (Lk. 2:52), and like all men he died (Rom. 5:8).

If we only look to those instances that note Jesus’ humanity we have an incomplete picture of Him.  Jesus Christ was fully divine, God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity.  He was called God (John 20:28) and worshiped (Matt. 2:2,11).  Jesus is omniscient (John 21:17).  He has power over sin and disease (Matt. 9:6, 7), Satan and demons (Mk. 5:12, 13), death (Matt. 28:5-7; Mk. 5:35-42), disease (Matt. 9:6, 7), and nature (Matt. 8:23-27).  Because of His divinity, Jesus Christ can give the gift of eternal life (John 10:28).

The coming together of both the divinity and the humanity of Christ is known as the Hypostatic Union.  Jesus became fully God and fully man at the same time through the incarnation.  In other words, this is to say that the Son of God, Jesus Christ, in His incarnation had forever united with His divine nature His human nature.  These would forever remain inseparable, “distinct, whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion, so that the one person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man.”

Speaking of Jesus, Paul states to the church in Corinth that God “made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Cor. 5:21). Here Paul paints a beautiful picture of the incarnation which is a matter of vital importance.  Without the it there can be no salvation for humanity.  In the incarnation we have “one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all...” (1 Tim. 2:5-6a).  In Jesus mankind has the perfect mediator in that He represents both man to God and God to man.  As the God-man He is able to live the life we could never live and die the death we did not want to die.  Ultimately, Christ conquered the grave which no man could have ever done; except the God-man.

There is a danger in overemphasizing or denying the deity or humanity of Christ.  First and foremost, we become guilty of creating an idol.  We do so by worshiping a god that is suitable to us.  Designing a god that is inconsistent with the testimony of Scripture is a matter of idolatry.  We can easily fall into the historical fallacies of Ebionitism, which stripped Jesus of His divinity.  They taught that Jesus was born as any man and received the power of the Holy Spirit at baptism.  At the opposite extreme of Ebionitism is docetism which stripped Christ of His humanity.  This was the argument that stated forcefully “that the humanity and sufferings of Christ were apparent rather than real.”  Each of these are foolish reasons for any person to accept.  Jesus without divinity is a mere man in his sin trying to save other hopeless sinners.  Jesus without humanity cannot represent those He came to save.  The two are “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation” as defined by The Council of Chalcedon (A.D. 451). 

As I look to Jesus Christ as my only hope for salvation, I am comforted by His humanity.  As the writer of Hebrews states: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin” (4:15).  I know that I will never face anything that my Lord has not already faced and defeated.  There is great comfort in Christ because I know I’m not alone, or the only one, to go through the temptations I face.  There is great hope in Christ because I know that my sins have been defeated and forgiven by Him.  He faced the cross for me and now I gladly carry mine to follow Him.

Blaising, C. “Hypostatic Union” in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Acedemic, 2001.
Hall, J. H. “Chalcedon, Council of” in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Acedemic, 2001. 
Wallace, R. S., and G. L. Green. “Christology. New Testament Christology” in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids: Baker Acedemic, 2001.

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