Statement of Faith: Article 4 (Jesus Christ)

Jesse Neustadter   -  

Article 4: Jesus Christ

We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel’s promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.

One of my least favorite jobs as a parent of young children is potty training.  I can’t complain too much about it because my wife does the bulk of the work in this area.  But in recent months, my son has required my help on a daily basis.  It’s a messy job that many of you are all too familiar with because you’ve raised children of your own.  But if you haven’t helped a child learn this basic skill, I’m sure you can imagine how gross it can be.  There are misfires and mishaps, cleanups and meltdowns.  It’s a great time.

Recently, as I have helped my son in this area, I was reminded of a question one of my college theology professors asked, “Did Jesus need to go to the bathroom?”  When he asked this question, we were surprised.  Most of us in the class hadn’t thought about that before.  Jesus is God’s Son, the Image of the invisible God (Col 1:15).  The universe was created by Him and through Him.   One day, every knee will bow down before Him (Phil 2:10).  And you’re asking if He went to the bathroom?

But our professor wasn’t trying to shock us.  He wasn’t attempting to be controversial.  He was trying to challenge us to grasp a fuller understanding of the identity of Jesus.  He didn’t want us to separate Jesus’ divinity from His humanity.  When Jesus came into the world, He was fully God and fully man.  This is a mystery that has defied logic for two thousand years.

In the early centuries of the church, believers wrestled with Jesus’ identity.  In a previous blog, I mentioned the Councils of Nicaea and Constantinople in the 4th century, where the early church convened in order to confirm the deity of Jesus.  These early church leaders used the Scripture as their guide in order to arrive at the orthodox view that Jesus is God.  But in the years that followed, teachings arose in the church that threw Jesus’ humanity into question.  Some believed that Jesus’ divinity supplanted His humanity, that Jesus’ human soul was replaced at some point by His divine Spirit.  It was again time for early church leaders to meet to discuss what the Scriptures said about Jesus’ identity.

In 451 AD, the Council of Chalcedon convened.  The details of the theological, political, and interpersonal dissension that led up to the council are beyond the scope of this blog.  The story of the church is often a messy one.  But throughout the process, God was shaping and guiding the church towards a biblical understanding of the nature of Jesus.  At the end of the council and after intense dialogue, the church leader Marcion read a joint statement that resulted from the meeting.  On October 25, 451, he read, in part, “We all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ…acknowledged in two natures which undergo no confusion, no change, no division, no separation; at no point was the difference between the natures taken away through the union, but rather the property of both natures is preserved and comes together into a single person and a single subsistent being…”

As with the statement that arose from the Council of Nicaea related to Jesus’ deity over a hundred years prior, the strength of the statement from Chalcedon is found in what is left unsaid.  The statement allowed for an understanding of Jesus as both fully God and fully human, leaving room for mystery.  It affirmed what we see in Scripture, that Jesus came as a man, the same as us.  Because He came as a man, He was able to accomplish the mission that He set out to do through His perfect life, His death, and His resurrection.  In the next blog, I’ll cover article 5 of our statement of faith which explores the significance of what Jesus has done.