This week the media has reported the release of a statement on Christology – that part of church teaching which concerns the person and work of Jesus Christ. It has been written by Dr R Sproul working with Ligonier Ministries. In an interview, Sproul has stated:
“In our day, the most critical issue that the church faces is the issue over who Jesus is. The residue of the full measured attack of the last two centuries on the person and work of Christ carries on today and is deeply rooted and entrenched even in the church. Now, like never before, it’s incumbent upon orthodox Christians to stand up and declare clearly what the church believes about Jesus… this is the essence of the gospel.”
We certainly wouldn’t dispute that it is of fundamental importance to be clear about what the Bible teaches about Jesus. The statement consists of 25 articles, easy to memorise and repeat, but that unfortunately don’t stand up very well to what the Bible actually teaches about Christ. For example, part of it reads:
“With the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Son created all things, sustains all things, and makes all things new. Truly God, He became truly man, two natures in one person.”
Nowhere in the Bible is the following stated:
That Christ was truly God. He never said “I am God”, though he did clearly make reference to the fact that he shared the will of God (John 10:30) and that he was a part of God’s plan from the very beginning (John 8:52). The phrase ‘truly God’ doesn’t appear anywhere. If he was God, verses that describe Jesus dying and being tempted (“One who has been tempted in all things as we are,” (Hebrews 4:15)) make no sense, as God cannot do either, and nor do verses stating that God knows something and Christ doesn’t, like Matthew 24:36 referring to the timing of Christ’s return to earth.
That Christ had two natures in the same person. Instead, Hebrews teaches very clearly that the nature Christ had during his life on earth was ours: “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same,” (Heb 2:14); “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5). How would two natures in the same person actually work in practice?
That Jesus existed before he was born. If he did, then why would the word ‘born’ be used in Galatians 4:4 – the normal word for a human being born of a mother? Jesus was in the mind of God in the same way that Jeremiah was (“Before I formed you in the womb I knew you, And before you were born I consecrated you,” (Jeremiah 1:5) – and that we are (“He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world,” (Ephesians 1:4). And if he did pre-exist, where was he? He was only allowed to enter heaven on the basis of his work in sacrificing himself: “through His own blood, He entered the holy place [ie heaven, God’s presence] once for all, having obtained eternal redemption,” (Hebrews 9:12).
That Jesus created things in the beginning. Again, if Jesus didn’t pre-exist, he can’t have been there during the creation record. Instead, throughout the Bible his creative work is of people born again, into his death. “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth,” (Colossians 1:15-16) – this comes in a chapter talking all about his work in the new testament, which mirrors God’s original creation. Paul says elsewhere: “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation,” (2 Corinthians 5:17).
Finally, it is a shame that the statement also uses the word ‘mystery’. There is nothing mysterious about the person of Jesus Christ now he has been revealed. The mystery of God’s salvation, and how His great plan would work out, has now been revealed in him, as Paul says: “the mystery hidden for ages and generations but now revealed to his saints.” (Colossians 1:26).