Tuesday, February 7, 2023

The Deity of Christ (John 10)

“I and My Father are one” (John 10:30).

Controversies concerning the person of Christ have been around since the dawn of the Christian church. The first ecumenical council of the church dealt with a problem concerning Christology. In 325 Constantine called a council at Nicaea to try to heal a rift that had opened between two factions in the church. This schism was created by the Arians who denied the deity of Christ. Arius could not logically reconcile the doctrine of the Trinity with the unity of God. Along with orthodox theologians, Arius rejected any system that denied the personal distinctiveness of the Son (Sabellianism), but at the same time he rejected any system that claimed the Father and the Son were of the same essence.

Arius claimed that Christ could not be of the same divine essence with the Father because this would make God divisible. He therefore concluded that Christ was a creature, begotten in the sense that He was made. The Arians maintained that there was a time when Christ did not exist. The Son of God was, not “very God of very God,” but a creature created out of nothing.

The Council of Nicaea rejected the teaching of Arius and proclaimed it heretical. It then drafted a creed to which all in the church had to adhere or be excommunicated. This creed has served as the orthodox statement on the nature of Christ since that time. The Council of Nicaea asserted that the Son and the Father are of the same essence or substance (homoousios). It affirmed the unity of God and stated that the Son is “begotten” but “not made.” The council anathematized a number of Arian doctrinal statements, including “there was a time when he [Jesus] was not.” This statement more than any other summarized the Arian understanding of Christ. They believed Him to be a created being who functioned on God’s behalf. The council opposed this and firmly maintained that the deity of Christ was ontological and not merely functional.

We can benefit from the statements made by the early church in defense of Christ’s deity as we face similar battles. Christ is not merely a great man, nor is His personal distinction lost in the Godhead. Jesus Christ is one person endowed with two natures—any deviation from this distinction is nothing less than gross heresy.

Do you live as if Jesus Christ were merely a man, or do you submit to Him as God? Do you take His Word as authoritative? Do you submit to His divine teaching, or just think of Him as a moral teacher? The world considers Christ a good teacher but not God. How is this inconsistent with Christ’s own teaching?