Thursday, December 15, 2016

Which Jesus?

During this time of year, it is more acceptable to bring up Jesus. I've seen plenty of nativity scenes in people's yards and even in front of businesses. (The fortune teller with the plastic creche out front broke the cognitive dissonance meter, though.) Even traditional Christian Christmas carols are being played on the airwaves. Many see the story of the baby in the manger as just that, a feel-good myth about love, joy, and peace on earth in sentimental but indistinct terms that don't offend anyone's sensibilities. But is that good enough? Many people say they believe in "Jesus," but sadly we live in a day when we need to press the issue and ask "Which Jesus?"

Even among professing Christians, this question needs to be asked. We may not be as vague as the secular world, and one does not need a D.Min. to be saved, but the message of the gospel cannot be separated from the Savior of the gospel. So to get the gospel right, we need to get Jesus right.

In the latest round of posts, Rebecca and Kim reminded us of Jesus' full humanity and deity, which is the doctrine of the hypostatic union. This is not just a topic for an advanced seminary class. This is not a secondary or tertiary issue of minor importance. Our salvation hinges upon the fact that our Savior is God and man.

In the 1st century, one heresy that crept into the church was Docetism. According to this teaching, Jesus only appeared to have a physical body. Thus there was no problem with His deity but a rejection of His humanity. This fit in well with the Gnostic idea that the physical and material was evil, and the metaphysical and immaterial was good. But the implications for the gospel are dire.

There was no need for resurrection if Jesus did not have a physical body, but where would that leave us? According to the Apostle Paul, if Christ was not raised, our faith is futile and we are still in our sins. (1 Cor. 15:17) We were made sinners by the transgression of one man, but how could we be made righteous through the obedience of another man if He was not a man? (Rom. 5:18-19) Also how could Christ fulfill the law and live a life of perfect righteousness as a man for our sake? (Gal. 4:4-5) No active obedience means no imputation which means we have no right standing before God. If Jesus is not a man, this is really, really bad news.

But we have good news of great joy. Our Savior was born who is Christ, the Lord. (Luke 2:10-11) He lived, died, rose again, ascended on high, and is coming again. This gives us reason to rejoice and worship Him, not just at Christmas but every single day of the year. So with the words of the Nicene Creed, I gladly affirm:

I believe in one God, the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible.
And 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.
Who, for us men for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; and the third day He rose again, according to the Scriptures; and ascended into heaven, and sits on the right hand of the Father; and He shall come again, with glory, to judge the quick and the dead; whose kingdom shall have no end.

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