Many of the heresies the Church has confronted and corrected surround the nature, person and work of Jesus (what theologians call Christology). Some have denied and continue to deny His deity; examples of these are the Arians, Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses. The Nicene Creed was one of the defenses used to clearly state the truth of who Christ is. A portion of it reads this way:
“We believe … in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father by whom all things were made…”
On the other hand, there are also those who would deny Christ’s humanity. The Gnostics and Docetists, believing that everything physical is evil, refuse to believe that God could become a man. This too must be rejected as error and totally out of synch with what Scripture clearly teaches.
One place we can turn to receive a proper understanding of the nature of our Lord is the book of Hebrews. It is here that we get a complete picture of who Jesus Christ is. Chapter 1 and part of chapter 2 are dedicated to driving home the fact of Christ’s deity. He “is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power” (Hebrews 1:3 ESV). As the writer then moves on in chapter 2, he completes his portrait by stating that the Lord is also man: “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things…” However, the teaching doesn’t stop here. As we read further, we see that it was not just a nice thing Jesus did in taking on flesh and bone. It was necessary for Him to do this in order that He might be a “merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” As Anselm of Canterbury put it:
“The heart of the question is this: Why did God become man, to save man by his death, when it seems that he could have done this some other way? You have answered this by showing many necessary reasons, how it would have been right for the restoration of human nature to be left undone, and how it could not have been done unless man paid what was owing to God for sin. But the debt was so great that, while man alone owed it, only God could pay it, so that the same person must be both God and man. Thus it was necessary for God to make manhood into the unity of his person, so that he who in his own nature ought to pay and could not should be in a person who could.”
There was no other way for us to be saved. God alone could do that work and in order for Him to accomplish our eternal rescue, He had to take on a body to do it. As those who have been called to “contend for the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints” (Jude 1:3ESV) we must keep both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ front-and-center in our proclamation of the gospel and in the living out of that truth.
Hopefully as we mature in the faith, in other words grow up in Christ, we will see the beauty of and help that solid doctrine provides us. These aren’t just dry as dirt notions that we have to sign up to in order to be a member of a local church or ammunition packs we use to fight off cults. Instead, the truths of Scripture are to be our life and refuge and strength. In applying the doctrine of the Hebrews 2 passage, Richard Phillips helps us in this regard as he writes:
“All that God has done, in the redeeming work of Jesus Christ, was done not for angels but for you. It was like you that he became, and it was for you that he died. It is with you that he sympathizes now, knowing well your struggle. He is able—but are you willing? That is the only question that remains.”
Going deeper into the truth of Christ’s humanity, we are encouraged by seeing the comprehensive nature of our salvation achieved by our Brother who can sympathize in every way (and even more so) with what we experience here on earth. Who can honestly say that they have gone through more intense trials, temptations, rejection or loneliness than what Jesus Christ endured? Likewise, who can say that He is not full of mercy and compassion to help the weak and discarded? Jesus Christ, the God-man, stands ready and able to help.
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:14-16 ESV).