by Lauren Dyck
Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?”
And they said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?”
Simon Peter replied, “Your are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” – Matthew 16:13-16
“Who do you say that I am?” – This is the most important question any one of us will have to answer in our lifetime. It is a question to which the answer holds eternal consequences. It is also a question that has caused much division since Christ himself walked on this earth; Jesus himself rightly said in Matt. 10:34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword.”
In vs. 14 of Matt. 16, the Jews were equating him with John the Baptist and the prophets of the Old Testament, including Elijah and Jeremiah when asked this question, and if we look at the early church, we see the church fathers dealing with the same question: “Who do you say that I am?”
Arianism (from CARM.org):
Arianism developed around 320 in Alexandria Egypt and concerning the person of Christ and is named after Arius of Alexandar. For his doctrinal teaching, he was exiled to Illyria in 325 after the first ecumenical council at Nicaea condemned his teaching as heresy. It was the greatest of heresies within the early church that developed a significant following. Some say, it almost took over the church.
Arius taught that only God the Father was eternal and too pure and infinite to appear on the earth. Therefore, God produced Christ the Son out of nothing as the first and greatest creation. The Son is then the one who created the universe. Because the Son relationship of the Son to the Father is not one of nature, it is, therefore, adoptive. God adopted Christ as the Son. Though Christ was a creation and because of his great position and authority, he was to be worshipped and even looked upon as God. Some Arians even held that the Holy Spirit was the first and greatest creation of the Son.
At Jesus’ incarnation, the Arians asserted that the divine quality of the Son, the Logos, distinct from the Father, took the place of the human and spiritual aspect of Jesus thereby denying the full and complete incarnation of God the Son, second person of the Trinity.
In asserting that Christ the Son, as a created thing, was to be worshiped, the Arians were advocating idolatry.
Arius’ teaching caused such a ruckus, that the emperor Constantine, who had converted to the Christian faith, called the council of Nicaea to deal with this division of doctrine within the church. This council resulted in the Nicene Creed being written from which we get the following statement regarding Jesus:
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake, he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
Not many years later, the church was again faced with answering this question – “Who do you say that I am?”
Apollinarianism (from CARM.org)
Apollinarianism was the heresy taught by Apollinaris the Younger, bishop of Laodicea in Syria about 361. He taught that the Logos of God, which became the divine nature of Christ, took the place of the rational human soul of Jesus and that the body of Christ was a glorified form of human nature. In other words, though Jesus was a man, He did not have a human mind but that the mind of Christ was solely divine. Apollinaris taught that the two natures of Christ could not coexist within one person. His solution was to lessen the human nature of Christ. He taught that sin resided in the spirit of man and if Jesus was both God and man, then he would have sinned. Therefore, he denied the Orthodox doctrine of the hypostatic union which states that in the single person of Christ are two distinct natures: divine and human.
Apollinarianism was condemned by the Second General Council at Constantinople in 381. This heresy denies the true and complete humanity in the person of Jesus which in turn can jeopardize the value of the atonement, since Jesus is declared to be both God and man to atone. Jesus needed to be divine in order to offer a pure and holy sacrifice of sufficient value to The Father, and He needed to be a man in order to die for men.
As the council of Nicaea sought to deal with the deity of Jesus as we read laid out in the Nicene Creed, Apollinarianism, along with other heresies such as Nestorianism, that were questioning how Christ’s deity and humanity could be co-existent, were dealt with at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D. from which we get the following statement:
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
Here we are given a name for this doctrine that the scriptures teach about our Lord, the “Hypostatic Union” – 100% God yet 100% man, two complete natures, being fully human in one nature without ceasing ever to be divine in the other. We can not, with our finite minds fully describe or understand Jesus’ two natures existing in this union, but we clearly see both natures portrayed in scripture as per this chart from CARM.org:
|He is worshiped (Matt. 2:2, 11; 14:33; 28:9)|
He is prayed to (Acts 7:59; 1 Cor. 1:2)
He was called God (John 20:28; Heb. 1:8)
He was called Son of God (Mark 1:1)
He is sinless (1 Pet. 2:22; Heb. 4:15)
He knew all things (John 21:17)
He gives eternal life (John 10:28; 17:2)
The fullness of deity dwells in Him (Col. 2:9)
|He worshiped the Father (John 17)|
He prayed to the Father (John 17:1)
He was called man (Mark 15:39; John 19:5).
He was called Son of Man (John 9:35-37)
He was tempted (Matt. 4:1)
He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52)
He died (Rom. 5:8)
He has a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39)
With so much evidence in the very Word of God along with the deliberation of the early church to determine who Jesus is, it is astonishing that there are so many under the banner of “Christianity” who still do not know this one true Jesus.
We have the Jehovah’s Witnesses saying Jesus is a created god, not equal with the Father and rabidly denying the doctrine of the Trinity.
The Mormons teach that Jesus is the Spirit son of the Father who was conceived through sexual relations with one of his spirit wives, and, also, the full brother of Lucifer!
So we see the question is still very relevant today – “Who do you say that I am?”; and the answer, one that we must all decide on and be convinced of as the Word of God says in:
Acts 2:21 “And it shall come to pass that whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”
Acts 4:12 “Nor is there salvation I any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”
And what is this name by which we are saved? Jesus says in John 14:6 “I am the way, the truth and the Life, no man comes to the Father but by me!”
It’s not just knowing this name, but rather knowing the one who is named!
One of the many titles, or names of Jesus as found in Matt. 1:23, which was prophesied in Isaiah 14:7, is “Emmanuel, which means God with us”; what a concept! Try to fathom the incredible act of our Mighty, Omnipotent, Sovereign, Creator God assuming His creation’s form by taking on human flesh and nature, becoming the Christ incarnate to redeem His children, His sheep, His elect, His church, and reconcile us to Himself!
This is what we celebrate at Christmas (though it should be celebrated 12 months out of the year), the incarnation of Christ; God becoming man.
Let me quickly define the term “incarnate”: to clothe with flesh / embody with flesh / assuming the flesh or taking on a human body and nature of man. So when the virgin Mary conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, the second person of the Holy trinity became the incarnate Christ, taking on human form also known, as we saw before, the “hypostatic union” – we know this God-man as our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God.