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1 Corinthians 9:11
"If we sowed spiritual things in you, is it
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To Effective Ministry
Section 3, Chapter 3
Jesus Is Fully God
& Fully Man
|Page 1 of
Who is Jesus Christ? This is a question that the early Church struggled with
during the first 400 years of the Church. It was not until the Councils of
Nicea A.D. 325 and Chalcedon A.D. 451 that the matter was officially
settled in the Church in what is known as The
Nicene and Chalcedonian
Creeds. In these Creeds, stated simply, Jesus was declared One person
with two completely distinct natures: fully God and fully man. what does this
mean? We will get to this later. First lets study the historical background of
what led up to these Christological formulas which both the Catholic as well as
the Protestant Churches have held to ever since.
The Jews believed God to be one person and the Law, Torah of Moses, to
be eternal. Jesus also expressed this view point in Matthew 5:17-18 and 24:35:
"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not
come to abolish, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth
pass away, not one iota or one point shall pass away from the Law, until all is
accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so
teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever
keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven."
"Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words shall not pass
What was the question? If the law of God is absolute and unchangeable, then
how can the man Jesus be a further revelation of God? If God is
One, how can He
have a Son equal to Him of His essence? These were some basic questions that
plagued the early Church in their trying to share the Gospel with Jews and men
of other religions. There were also heretical offshoots of the early Church
which taught things about Jesus that the early Church Fathers knew contradicted
what they read in the writings of the Apostles. It was these questions and
heresies that motivated the Church to dig into the Scriptures and come up with a
unified belief and formula about who Jesus Christ was which culminated in the Nicene
and Chalcedonian Creeds. Lets study this background and
then we will cover what is in these creeds.
OF JESUSí HUMANITY AND DIVINITY
*EBIONISM: Denial of the Divinity of Jesus
There was a group of believers talked about by Justin Martyr
(ca. 100-165) and Eusebius (ca. 260-340), some early Church fathers, which they
called Ebionites. The term Ebionite comes from the Hebrew
word Ebionism meaning "poor."71/63 Justin Martyr
said they consisted of two different sects: those who viewed obedience to the
law necessary for salvation and those who not only believed this but tried to
impose this belief on others.
They believed Jesus to be the messiah but only a man not of a
virgin.70/43 Eusebius said about the Ebionites that they insisted on
obedience to the Law. The first group taught that Jesus had a natural birth, was
an ordinary man with unusual moral character. The second group taught that Jesus
had a supernatural birth, but they rejected Jesusí preexistence as the Son and
Epiphanius (ca. 315-403) distinguished between two
groups he called Nazareans and Ebionaeans. These labels persisted
as late as Jerome (ca. 340-420) Epiphanius called them, "Pretend to
be Christians." He said that the Nazareans held to an orthodox belief in
Christ but insisted on adherence to the law.73/112.13
A man by the name of Cerinthus (fl. 100) held to what
is called Adoptionism. He held to elements of Gnostic thought. He
taught that God did not create directly, but through angels, one of these the
God of the Jews, who gave the Law. His Christology taught that Jesus was an
ordinary human being whom God adopted as His Son.
He taught that because of Jesusí ethical qualities, God
gave him a special gift of spirituality. After testing Him, at His water
baptism, Godís Spirit descended upon him revealing the Father to Him and
enabling Him to do miracles. He further taught that before Jesusí death that
the Christ spirit withdrew from him. He said that the mission of the Messiah was
educational, rather than redemptive, as a prophet. As a mere human His suffering
and death had no special value for sin.
Another heretical group called the Clementines,
that was Essenes from eastern Palestine, distinguished between Jesus and
the Christ. They taught that Christ, the Son of God, had appeared in a series of
incarnations in perfect men, Jesus being the last. Jesusí death and
Resurrection, therefore, had no special significance. Jesusí mission was to
educate, not redeem.24/44-45
*DOCETISM: Denial of Jesus Humanity
Another teaching that came about during the early Church
which denied Jesusí Humanity was called Docetism. The word Docetism
comes from the greek verb dokei'n
meaning: "to seem".77 This was the belief that Jesus was
not genuinely human, that he merely seemed or appeared to possess human nature.
This was one of the earliest heresies that was corrected by the Apostle John in
the First Epistle of John.
This was especially evident under the teachings of Gnostics.
Gnosticism taught that the spiritual reality is not connected to the physical
reality. They are diabolically opposed. In light of this they taught that the demiurge,
an intermidiary between God and man, who created the world and man, did it out
of ignorance. As a result, man did not fall from perfection, but was created
imperfect. Since creation is regarded as evil, anything that comes into being
through the reproductive processes is corrupted because it involves the material
aspect of man. The end result of this is a division between that which is
spiritual and that which is physical. God is not the creator, but an
intermediator, the demiurge, who should not have created it in the first
place. This teaching depreciated the human reproductive processes. The logical
conclusion of this position was that since the Material world is evil, Jesus
could not have come in the flesh, but only appeared to have done so; therefore
Jesus was not human.
In light of the teaching of Gnosticism, Docetists taught that
though Mary was a virgin, she contributed nothing to Jesus, but was transmitted
through or by means of Mary, but was not born from or of her. He derived no part
of his being from her, but merely passed through her.58/1.7 Jesusí
appearance of humanity, then, was only a means of revelation, used briefly for
the introduction of the eternal into the world.70/47
Salvation, according to Docetists is a matter of coming to
know the gnosis, the higher truth. The work of Christ was primarily
revelatory, appealing to those who are of a high or spiritual orientation, and
made clear by the special truth possessed by the enlighted (the Gnostics).70/44-47
Marcion (A.D. 140), a second-century heretic, while
admitting that Jesus had a body capable of suffering in some sense, rejected the
idea that it was a material body.59/1-5 Ignatius (A.D.
50-115), Bishop of Antioch, writing against these heresies, wrote that Jesus
"was really born and ate and drank, was really persecuted by Pontius
Pilate, was really crucified and died. . . [and] really rose from the
HISTORICAL DENIALS OF THE INTEGRITY
OF THE TWO NATURES OF JESUS
*ARIANISM: Denial Of The Full Divinity Of Jesus
Two historical movements called Dynamic and Modalistic
Monarchianism aimed to preserve the uniqueness and greatness of God the
Father. Monarchianism is a form of Adoptionism. According to this
teaching God put his Spirit upon Jesus, thus adopting Him as the Son, but this
did not make Jesus divine. Modalistic Monarchianism did not deny Jesusí
divinitiy. They denied His separate identity from the Father.
Noetus (fl. 200), one of its leaders, held that there
is only one God and that the Father suffered in Christ (Patripassianism).73/2
Hippolytus Summarized the teaching of Modalism: there is one God to which
the terms Father and Son can be applied, no moment manifests
Himself as Father, Son or Holy Spirit.
Arius (ca. 250-336) believed God is absolutely
transcendent, therefore He could not be involved in His creation to the
limitation of a body, thus Jesus could not be fully divine.74/3.8 He
further taught that an earthly father precedes his son, so the Heavenly Father
preceded Jesus, thus Jesus had a beginning and is not eternal in existence.75/1.15
In conclusion: Jesus is not of the same substance as His Father. Because Jesus
created all else, He is less than the Father, but greater than all else created.76/198
THE COUNCIL OF NICEA, A.D. 325
THE NICENE CREED
Emperor Constantine in A.D. 325, in order to settle these disputes, called for The Council of
Nicea, A.D. 325. After much debate,
they came up with the Nicean Creed which said the following:
We believe in one God, the FATHER Almighty, Maker of all
things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord JESUS CHRIST, the Son of God, begotten of the
Father [the only-begotten; that is, of the essence of the Father God of God],
Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance
homoousios)78 with the Father; by whom all things were made [both in
heaven and on earth]; who for us men, and for our salvation, came down and was
incarnate and was made man; he suffered, and the third day he rose again,
ascended into heaven; from thence he shall come to judge the quick and the dead.
And in the HOLY GHOST.
[But for those who say: "There was a time when he was
not;" and "He was not before he was made;" and "He was made
out of nothing," or "He is of another substance" or
"essence," or "The Son of God is created," or
"changeable," or "alterable"óthey are condemned by the
holy catholic and apostolic Church.]54/Vol.1/28-29
"What did he just say?" The Nicene Creed
taught the following about Jesus:
with the Father.
There is One God, the Father Almighty, who is the maker
of heaven and earth.
That there is one Lord, Jesus Christ, the Son of God,
begotton of the Father.
That Jesus is the Only-begotton Son of God, thus of the
essense of God, God Himself.
Therefore Jesus is God of God, Light of Light, true God of
Jesus was begotten, not made; therefore of one substance (
That by Jesus all things where made both in the heaven and on
That Jesus, for us men and for our salvation, incarnated into
man, became man.
That Jesus suffered.
That Jesus rose from the dead on the 3rd day.
That Jesus ascended into heaven.
That Jesus will come again to judge the living and the dead.
Finally, it affirmed the separate existence of the Holy
The Nicene Creed denied:
or substance of Jesus differed from that of the Fatherís.
There was a time when Jesus did not exist.
That the Father preexisted the Son.
That Jesus is a creature similar in every way to other
That the Son is subject to alteration and moral change.
The Book of Hebrews teaches about Jesus,
"And He is the reflected-brightness of His glory
and the exact-image of His essence, and upholds all things by the
word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the
right hand of the Majesty on high." (Heb 1:3)
Bibliography & Notes
Section 3 Chapters