Rather than reading the Bible through the eyes of modern secularism, this provocative six-part course teaches you to read the Bible through its own eyes—as a record of God’s dealing with the human race. When you read it at this level, you will discover reasons to worship God in areas of life you probably never before associated with “religion.”
© Charles A. Clough 1999
Charles A. Clough
Biblical Framework Series 1995–2003
Part 5: Confrontation with the King
Chapter 2: The Birth of the King
Lesson 113 – Birth of Christ, Early Church History Including Docetism, Nestorianism
18 Feb 1999
Fellowship Chapel, Jarrettsville, MD
If you turn in your notes to the chart, once again just to review, we’re on the birth of Christ and the doctrine associated with that, the hypostatic union. This chart is to just show you that one of the silliest comments you hear, I heard it just this week, somebody was saying that nobody thought before the age of the enlightenment, like all during the Middle Ages nobody thought, nobody in the church ever dreamed or anything. Think of all these debates—you tell me they didn’t think. This is heavy material. This is one of the finest, deepest and greatest in depth discussions that the human race has ever had in considering the nature of the person of the Lord Jesus Christ. And it all happened, believe it or not, before television, before we had PhDs, before we had any of the modern universities. It even happened before the age of the enlightenment, imagine that! All the people were able to do all this. So when you hear that remark it’s so silly because all of these things, these false ideas, that had crept into the church had to be filtered out and that’s why I call them on the left column on the chart by their ancient history name and in the middle column I’ve tried to show you that this stuff is recycled down through church history, it comes back again and again. On the right side we’re working our way through the presuppositions that people come with when they come to the person of Christ.
If before when we were in Genesis and creation you didn’t pick up on the role of presuppositions and thinking and how important those presuppositions are, I hope going through this series will make you think more clearly about it, because the errors in that right column, where I’ve underlined the text, those are the erroneous basic ideas that the people came with, many of them Christians, remember people that were Christians then were converted pagans, and they came into the church like newborn babes and they had a lot of baggage with them. The baggage that they had with them was this Greek thinking, this pagan thought. And they had to get this all purged out of their minds before they could even think correctly about the person of Christ.
When we finished this set of notes, instead of going to the next chapter, which will be the life of Christ, we’re going to go to an Appendix and we’re going to deal with the Trinity doctrine, because what has happened, after you get through all of these errors on the right side of that column, what you find out is that there’s no way to adequately assemble the data that the New Testament is giving us about the Lord Jesus Christ unless you deal with the Trinity. The Trinity becomes the presupposition of all this material and every one of those errors that you see are basically errors in that they have replaced the Trinity with something else, a surrogate god model.
For example, the first two rows: Modal Monarchianism and Dynamic Monarchianism, all they did is what Islam does, it’s what later Judaism did, they have the idea that by monotheism we mean a solitary lonely being, and you can see how people might think that. You can think, for example, how Mohammed and many of his followers were so determined to get away from paganism that they went so strongly to monotheism without much thinking about it, that they all of a sudden have this dogmatism about the solitary monotheistic being. The problem with that is that the social dimension of communication, person to person, can’t happen for all eternity in a solitary God, in a solitary being, what we call a personal interaction only can happen if the solitary being in fact isn’t solitary; it’s a Trinity, a Triune nature. Then God can communicate with Himself and talk within Himself, and there’s communication.
But if you don’t hold to the Trinitarian model and you hold instead to a solitary monotheistic model, then what happens is that God has to create in order to supplement Himself. He’s lonely; He’s got to have company so He creates the universe to have company. That’s not the biblical model. That makes God not self-contained. That makes God dependent, in turn, upon the creation. So the Trinitarian model of God is not something, like Jehovah’s Witnesses always try to tell you, that’s Greek philosophy that crept into the church. That’s exactly wrong, it couldn’t be more perfectly wrong. It’s the opposite of Greek philosophy; it’s precisely because Greek philosophy was purged out of the church that the Trinity arose in the church. It arose as a substitute for everything that the Greeks were offering, so that kind of thinking is screwed up, really wrong.
What we’re trying to do is we’re trying to go through a logical process that the church went through in seeing Christ more clearly, trying to state all this material that we read about in the New Testament. What we’ve done so far is on page 36, the top line, “Christ as Son is a Divine Person Distinct from the Father.” That was a truth, one of the first things the church officially confessed, that Christ as Son is a Divine person distinct from the Father. The Father and the Son are not masks that God puts on, for example, as Modal Monarchianism says.
On page 37 we came to the second statement clarifying that Christ is separate, a divine person, from the Father. It says: “Christ’s Subordination to the Father is Not One of Essence.” It’s clear in the New Testament and I give you the references; it is very clear in the New Testament. Here’s a good example of it, 1 Corinthians 11:3. Here’s a verse that clearly shows a subordination of Christ to God, and it’s verses like this that heretics have camped on to try to disprove the deity of Christ. “I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ.” You can see how that verse, taken by itself out of context, would be used to show that somehow Christ is less God than God, because there’s a subordination going on. The subordination shows up in vocabulary in the New Testament, because in the New Testament when Paul describes God and describes the Son, he reverts, most of the time, to these two words: one is Theos, which is the word for God, then he uses the word kurios which is Lord. Theos is the Father, kurios is the Son. So he does have a vocabulary distinction here of them.
The church dealt with that, and had to deal with the nature of Christ’s subordination. And it concluded that the subordination is not one of essence. Jesus Christ is omniscient, He is omnipotent, He is omnipresent, He is immutable, He is eternal, He is righteous, He is just, He is loving, He has all the attributes the Father has. So whatever the subordination is, it can’t be one of essence. You remember, page 38, there were two words used in this debate that were figurative. One was homoiousion, the other one was homoousion. That first word meant of like substance, or identical substance; the next one is of analogous substance, a very important distinction between those two Greek words. You notice there’s only one letter difference. And that’s where it arose in the English language, it came over to the English language through Gibbon’s The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, in which he laughed at the Christians for debating this and said it didn’t matter one iota. That’s where that expression came from. It certainly does matter one iota. One iota made a big difference here. So that was Arianism.
On page 38, here’s how the church concluded in a very practical way, here’s what won the day because this heresy of Arianism was the majority view inside the church, for years. And it was because you had a minority within the church that said hey, wait a minute, whoa, we challenge that thinking in the name of Scripture. That thinking is not right. The Scripture says… and these men went back to the Scriptures and argued the case. On page 38 I try to summarize the substance of their argument. This is to show you that this is not high-fallutin’ theology, there are some very practical results to all of this.
“Who said to them,” that’s Athanasius saying to the Arians, “Who said to them that, having abandoned the worship of the created universe they should proceed again to worship something created and made?’” If you’re going to worship Jesus Christ and you hold to the fact that there’s a Creator/creature distinction, if that Creator/creature distinction exists, what do you do with Jesus Christ. You’ve got the distinction, now what side… there’s no middle ground. Is Christ on one side or is Christ on the other side? That’s the debate that went on. “Where does Christ fit in this Creator/creature distinction?” That’s the background for all this argumentation. The closer men held to the Old Testament Scripture the more dogmatic they were about the Creator/creature distinction, and that’s finally what carried the day. But Arius clearly wasn’t clear on the Creator/ creature distinction. He was trying to smear it away; the Modal Monarchians were trying to smear it away. We’ll see some more of these people, Monophysitism tried to smear it away, so there was a whole bunch of people in the church that were slipping and sliding all around; they were on grease pond with this Creator/creature distinction.
Athanasius challenges, if you’re going to worship Christ in any way, shape or form, then He has to be God or you’re blaspheming. It’s very simple. The he further argued, page 39, “They further argued that if the semi-divine Logos/Christ were not fully God, he had to be mutable,” because He’s lost His attribute of immutability. “ ‘How can he who beholds the mutable think that he is beholding the immutable?’ ” In other words, if I look at Christ and I try to see God in Christ, I’m not looking at God in Christ, I’m looking at Christ who is less than God; so how do I see God in Christ when Christ isn’t God? You commit blasphemy by making Christ less than God. You destroy revelation by making Christ less than God.
And finally the third argument, “In short, that anti-Arians, led by Athanasius, the Alexandrian Christian deacon, argued that if Jesus be not God, then Christians are not saved.” So it undercuts the whole issue of salvation. What is eternal life? “That we may know Him.” How do we know Him if in fact we don’t know Him, if in fact we only know this half-creature, half-God half-man, Christ, and knowing Him isn’t knowing God, so if I don’t know God then I don’t have eternal life.
These are all the arguments that went on, and then finally they came to the Nicene Creed, again on page 39, to remind us again that when you recite these creeds, if we ever do in our evangelical churches, at least let us, as we recite them appreciate the fact that they’re not just words on a piece of paper. These creeds were theological filters that guys gave their lives to. It took them years to make these creeds, so that they could hold to the truth. That’s why in the Nicene Creed, when you think of the Nicene creed and think of this section, think of the Apostle’s Creed that we all are more familiar with, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth, and in Jesus Christ His only Son, our Lord, who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, died, and was buried.” See, it just goes right on quick. Contrast that wording of the Apostle’s Creed with this wording in the Nicene Creed.
We believe in God, the Father Almighty, Creator of all things visible and invisible,” that cuts some stuff out from under some intermediary being, the invisible angels. No, God has created those too. “… and in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, only begotten of the Father, that is, of the substance of the Father, God of God, begotten, not made, being of the same substance with the Father.” Remember this word, without the iota, homoousion, that’s the word, that’s what they’re talking about in the Nicene Creed here where it says being “of the same substance with the Father.”
This is the church laying down the line, putting forward the truth about Jesus Christ. This is what separates Christ from Mohammed, it separates Christ from Confucius, it separates Christ from Buddha, it separates Christ from everybody else. Nobody makes this claim about themselves except the stubborn Christians that keep making this claim about Jesus Christ, an absolutely unique claim. Don’t ever be confused, because this often happens on the college campus; you’ll be confused with some slick talking Joe that tries to say well Hinduism and Oriental religions have incarnations too. Yes, they have what they call incarnations, but their incarnation is an incarnation not of the Creator God. They’ve already washed out the Creator/creature distinction. They’ve got an incarnation; if your imagination will recall Star Wars and all that, it’s the Force incarnating itself, that’s what they’re talking about in their incarnation. Don’t let the word “incarnation” that’s used this way by Oriental religions confuse you with the word “incarnation” as it is used in Christian theology; same word, absolutely different meanings. You hit semantic grease when you start using this word, everybody’s discussing the incarnation and there’s five people in the discussion and there’s six ideas of incarnation floating around, all using the same word. You can sit there by the hour and discuss, and afterwards you think we were talking by one another all the time, we weren’t using the same definition.
The next step, on page 40; to prepare for that, turn to Hebrews 4. After it was clarified that Jesus Christ distinctly was God, so that when I know Christ I know God, then came another problem. We elevate Christ’s deity, we emphasize that over and over and get that down, now my problem is have I forgot the humanity of Christ. So the whole next discussion deals with the fact that Jesus Christ was a real man. The practical side of this, I want to show you the practical side so you don’t get tempted to kiss this off as some theological stuff that really doesn’t matter.
Look at Hebrews 4:14 and ask yourself whether that truth would work if Jesus were really an angel or God walking abound in a human body, no human soul, no human spirit, just happened to have a body that walked around. “Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold our confession.  For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Look at that carefully. The high priest was tempted in all ways like we are, yet without sin. Jesus Christ had full humanity, if He didn’t, then He could not put Himself in a position of being our priest, because He wouldn’t have had the experience it says here of being “tempted in all things as we are,” God isn’t tempted like we are. God’s omnipotent, He’s not worried about whether He’s going to get food tomorrow, He can turn a rock into a piece of bread. God isn’t tempted. So the tempting that goes on in verse 15 has to do with the humanity of Jesus Christ and He has to experience this in order for Him to be a sympathetic high priest. That’s why in verse 16 there’s a very practical thing in the realm of prayer. That’s why we can, “therefore draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and may find grace to help in time of need.” Why do we draw near to the throne of grace? Because at the throne of grace, we have One who’s been there, who has walked the face of the earth.
In Hebrews 5:7-9 we come to another statement. This is an amazing section, we’ll get into this more in the life of Christ, but we want to deal with it here just to show Christ’s true humanity. 
“In the days of His flesh, when He offered up both prayers and supplications with loud crying and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and who was heard because of His piety,” look at verse 8, a powerful statement,  “although He was a Son, He learned obedience from the things which He suffered.” Can God learn? If God is omniscient, what does He learn? He doesn’t learn anything, He can’t learn anything. [There are] two people that can’t learn something, a moron and God. God can’t learn anything because He knows everything; if you know everything you don’t learn anything.
The Lord Jesus Christ is said to learn, so He had to learn through the things which He suffered; He had to pass through this life as a man, a real human being, and had to learn. Do you think He can empathize with us when we come before the throne of grace and say it hurts down here? I think He can. Because look what it says, He offered prayers with tears. Does He know what pain is? Yes he does. Does Allah know what pain is? No he doesn’t. Why is that? Because Allah never walked the face of the earth, Allah never got his fingernails dirty. It was only the biblical God that got His fingernails dirty. He walked around here. See the power, there’s a basic, tremendous difference between the biblical God and all the phony religions out there. Their god is either an impersonal god or he’s so distant he never touches the human race, hasn’t got a clue about what temptation means, has never been with us. That is what is tied up with His humanity.
Look at the notes on page 40 we’ll go through this next section. The title of this section is Docetism. There may be other names; I’m using the word Docetism here because Docetism holds to the fact that the humanity of Christ that appears in the New Testament is an allusion. It’s not real humanity. If you look on the right column, “Only the Pure Ideal called ‘God’ is real.” I said the Greeks had this thing and they were right but they were kind of wrong in the way they went about it, it’s the question have you ever seen a triangle. You can sit in geometry class with your compass and pencil and make a triangle. When you put a pencil on the paper the graphite on the paper doesn’t form a straight line. Look at it under a magnifying glass. So the Greeks simply asked the question, where is there a true triangle. We all kind of know what a triangle is but we never get to touch one because it doesn’t really exist. The ideal triangle doesn’t exist in the un-ideal word. So they concede the ideal triangle off into yo-yo land somewhere. It had to be somewhere because we can all think about it. But it’s off into the ideal.
What they did is say okay, Christ is the ideal, but if He’s the ideal then He’s not part of this world. This comes up again and again inside the church. We’ve seen it in Modal Monarchianism, we saw it in Arianism, now we see it in Docetism. Now let’s look more at what Docetism says. This is how we learn truth, by looking at the distortions of truth, and then say oh yea, I never saw that before; all of this, by the way, about the unthinking people that lived before 1950.
“The debate then shifted to the matter of Christ’s incarnation. If Christ is of the same essence as the Father, how was this divine nature incarnated? Did God acquire full human nature? One early failure to answer this question was the heresy of Docetism. Docetism answered the question very simply by denying that Christ ever had any humanity at all—body, soul or spirit.” Some of them denied his body, that’s real extreme Docetism; the body is just an allusion. Some denied that He had a soul, or had a spirit. That was more common. “In this view He had only what appeared to be a human nature.” God couldn’t actually have a real human nature, that’s unthinkable.
“Docetism arrived at this wrong answer by importing the pagan culture of a Platonic and oriental dualism that believed the empirical world was not real. Once again we observe a vital biblical question answered wrongly because concepts from outside the Bible were brought into the discussion. New Testament revelation, of course, requires a real humanity for Christ regardless of such pagan dualism in order for Christ to generate legitimate historical righteousness.” Remember, He learned obedience. Think about that, He learned obedience, and what does obedience produce but righteousness. How is that righteousness produced? It was done by obedient acts of a real human being. If He wasn’t a real human being, could He have generated creature righteousness, could He have shown us what righteousness is? Yes, God is righteous, but can you see a creature being righteous? Not if Jesus wasn’t a creature, not if He didn’t have a full human nature. So that’s what we mean by that.
There are some reasons here; I’ve listed them with verses. Be careful when you read this to distinguish; I’m saying several things in this sentence. One is: “in order for Christ to generate legitimate historical righteousness (e.g., Hebrews 5:7-9)” that’s number one. Number two, “His priestly qualifications (e.g., Hebrews 4:14-16),” He had to be qualified as a priest. “His representative position as the Second Adam,” which we’ll get into later. He can’t be a second Adam if He’s not an Adam. “His efficacious death (e.g., John 19:33-35),” the lamb had to be sacrificed, there had to be a real death. If there’s not a real body with a real life, how can you have a real death? If you don’t have a real death, how do you have a real sacrifice, and if you don’t have a sacrifice, where’s salvation? “His absolute revelation of God (e.g., John 1:14; 1 John 1:1)” that was Athanasius’ argument, that if He’s not God, then when I see Him I don’t see God, if He’s not a man then He doesn’t present to me who is also a man what God is like. “His fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant (2 Samuel 7:12-16)” that’s depended on Him being a literal human being. “The function of the virgin birth was to introduce Christ’s human nature into the world.”
“In opposing Docetic interpretations of Christ the church opposed in principle all tendencies” and watch this sentence because here’s where I get into extreme Calvinism, I appreciate Calvinism, I appreciate what the Reformers did, so don’t think I’m attacking them here. There’s just some weirdo’s in the camp that must be an embarrassment to John Calvin sometimes. “…all tendencies to downgrade and make illusory real physical history (such as sometimes occur in extreme Calvinism in which there is so much focus on God’s decrees that their historical manifestations are of no account).” The doctrine of divine decrees, is it infralapsarian, is it supralapsarian, and they go into all these questions. The elect are always there in God’s mind, yes, but they don’t exist until they exist in history. The elect do not come into existence until they come into existence by belief. Until that time they don’t exist; they exist in God’s mind, but they don’t exist in history, any more than the universe existed before God created it. God called the universe into existence and the gospel goes out and calls the elect into existence, but they’re called into existence and they don’t exist before. You can’t have this constant emphasis on God and His decrees without an emphasis on history. And then people get imbalanced and you have all kinds of problems. You wouldn’t have the problems if you’d just think about Christ. Christ is God; Christ is true humanity.
A lot of these things that we get in trouble with in the church come about because we are really not clear about Christ. If we really thought through who Jesus Christ is, we wouldn’t have half the theological controversy we have, because the tools that you use to understand the person of Christ apply over here, apply over here, apply over here, solves this problem, solves that problem.
“Later, more sophisticated versions of Docetism occurred which held that although Jesus’ body was real, He did not have a true human soul (Arius’s idea) or a true human spirit (Appollinarius’ idea).” Then Philip Schaff’s quote: “The church could not possibly accept such a half” look at what Schaff says here, great word by a great historian. “The church could not possibly accept such a half Docetistic incarnation,” this sentence is great, “such a mutilated and stunted humanity of Christ, despoiled of its royal head, and such a merely partial redemption has this inevitably involved. The incarnation of the Logos is His becoming completely man…. This was the weighty doctrinal result of the Appollianarian controversy.” That’s the next step in the line.
On page 41 we come to the next problem. After we get the God and man together, after we say that He is true humanity, He is real deity, okay, what do we do with getting these two natures together? Do they mix? Do they put vinegar in water as one of the early church fathers said, and what you get isn’t either vinegar or water, its vinegarized water. So when you put the deity of Christ along with His humanity, what do we get? Deified humanity or humanized deity? What happens here? What do we do with this?
“Christ’s Two Natures are United Without Mixture in One Person.” This is the next step, we’re heading toward Chalcedon’s confession, so you’ll see all these statements that I underlined, it’s moving toward that point of the Confession. “Christ’s Two Natures are United Without Mixture” key word, “Without Mixture.” Why is it that we can’t have mixture? It goes back to fundamental theology of the Old Testament; you can’t mix what can’t be mixed. You can’t mix the Creator with the creation, the first and great commandment; Thou shall have no other gods before Me. So the first commandment, by enforcing this barrier keeps the natures of Christ separate. This is really deep stuff, and there’s never been a perfect way to comprehend it because it is incomprehensible. All we can touch theologically is say it’s not this, it’s not this, it’s like that, it’s like this, we work our way around it; we know it’s not this. That’s what we’re doing. Christ’s two natures are not mixed together.
“With Christ’s divine and human natures firmly recognized, early church discussion concentrated more and more upon the matter of how these two natures were brought together. The person who is a casual student of the subject will dismiss such discussion as impractical ‘theological quibbling’ or as ‘irrelevant to my life’ because he fails to see what is at stake. The issue is ultimately nothing less than God the Creator’s relationship with His created universe. It concerns the vital Creator-creature distinction that sets biblical thought apart from all pagan thought. A wrong answer here will distort all other truths. This final phase of Christological controversy, therefore, was no ‘theological quibble’ nor was it ‘irrelevant’ to everyday life. Literally everything was at stake: the doctrines of God, man and nature.”
Nestorianism is the first wrong answer in this category of errors. Let’s look at it. “Nestorianism erred by starting at the wrong point with the wrong question.” Remember when I started this series, what did I say? Don’t answer a question until you’ve thought about the question. Because you start in at forty miles an hour because you think you’ve answered the question, you find yourself going down a highway that you never intended to go down. Now you’ve steered over here in this pathway and you wonder, after five miles of driving, why am I down here, how did I get here? Because you took the wrong turn. Why did I take the wrong turn, it looked right to me? Because I tried to answer the question without thinking what the question was. A question like how many times last week did you beat your wife? Wrong question. You incriminate yourself the moment you are out of the box. So with the church, when they got into deep theological debates they headed down the pathway without thinking. Nestorius did the same thing.
“Nestorius and his followers began to analyze the union problem” now watch this, they “began,” starting point, their starting point was wrong, it wasn’t the starting point in the Scripture. It was the starting point in the concept that they had that was floating around. So instead of going back to the Scripture, Nestorius said he thought he had enough tools from his education and Greek thought, etc. “Nestorius and his followers began to analyze the union problem from the creature’s limited viewpoint within history. Nestorius thought that the question was how the divine nature united with Jesus’ humanity after that humanity had already come into existence.”
Let’s see if I can draw a picture of what these guys are getting at. Here’s their wrong perspective. Here’s the flow of history, time; they’re inside history walking abound. They look and they see the humanity of Jesus walking abound. Here’s Jesus and he recognizes that Jesus was once a little boy and that He was a baby. Jesus had come into the world through His mother, Mary. And He walks around the world, a human being. So they say, that’s interesting, now given the fact that He’s a real human being, how did God get in Him? So what Nestorius did was, “the question was how the divine nature united with Jesus’ humanity after that humanity had already come into existence.” The question wasn’t thinking back further, the question Nestorius tried to answer was what philosophers today try to answer; it’s what Time Magazine tries to do. They start off with a view that history is history, the universe is there, here’s the way things are. Given the fact that things are this way, you know, we have one head, not two heads, we have a certain IQ, we have two legs, not four, here we are, we’re walking abound in history, now given that situation, how does God get into it? You know, it’s like a square peg in a round hole. How does God get into this box without binding Himself up and twisting Himself to try to get into this thing called man?
What’s fatally flawed about that? The whole perspective is wrong. What was the first act we dealt with in the Biblical Framework? Creation. The first thing was the act of creation; what does the act of creation do? What did God reveal the moment He created? He revealed the nature of God, the nature of man and the nature of nature. So Nestorius, instead of having your idea of what humanity was and the structure of the universe, what you should have done is go back and define man, define God, and define nature from the act of creation in Genesis 1-2. Had you done that, what would you have seen in the narrative when man was created? What is man created as? He is created in the image of God. Then God doesn’t have to twist and turn Himself to get into a box that He didn’t think about before. He made the box back there, knowing that He would incarnate Himself, so there’s no tension between the design of man and the ultimate purpose of God.
The problem today is pagan thought always hangs itself up and it hangs itself up today because in here we can add millions and billions of years and evolution and all the rest of it, and what you wind up with is that our shape, our DNA, our structure is purely a casual statistical result. There’s no purpose in it, it’s just a casual result of chaos down through history, that’s all. And if that’s the case, then there was no predetermined plan about our design as human beings, and if there was no predetermined plan, no predetermined design and all is just chaos, yes, that’s a big question, if there’s a God how does He get into the mess. Here we are as biological goo, now what does God do with this mess? Well, it’s not a mess, not if you start where the Scriptures start. That’s why we start with Genesis 1, not Matthew 19. That’s why Genesis should be translated to people in Africa and in other places first, not the Gospel of Mark. You can’t deal with Jesus until you deal with Genesis, because Genesis sets you up with all the categories that you use later on to deal with this.
So Nestorius never got it straight. The next sentence, notice what the result of this is; the same thing that happens today. “History rather than God’s plan for history, was the starting point, according to his error.” Read that sentence carefully. “History rather than God’s plan for history, was the starting point.” What does that do to your thinking? If you start with history and you don’t think back of history to a plan, aren’t you free to interpret history any way you want to? You have your idea of history, I have mine, you can have yours, everybody can have their own ideas of history, we’ve got 100 people, 100 different ideas of history, all subject to our own whims. The reason we can all say that is because there’s no absolute plan to history. But if there is an absolute plan and God is the Creator, then there’s no problem here with this nature, God made it, God made human beings analogous to Himself.
“The issue was then how God’s plan fitted into this pre-established history. Nestorianism viewed the matter as one of God’s accommodating Himself to the so-called ‘limitations’ of history. According to this error Mary bore Jesus the anointed one as a human baby, not as God already united with humanity in one person. Nestorianism held that Jesus was a human person: God was a divine person. They came together after Jesus’ birth in a moral union but not in a physical union. The two persons with two natures formed a sort of company that could be viewed as two parallel lines that never physically met.”
Again, great church historian Schaff summarizes Nestorianism: “It asserted indeed, rightly, the duality of the natures, and the continued distinction between them; it denied, with equal correctness that God, as such, could either be born, or suffer and die: but it pressed the distinction of the two natures to double personality. It substituted for the idea of the incarnation the idea of an assumption of … an entire man into fellowship with the Logos…. Instead of God-man, we have here the idea of a mere God-bearing man…. The two natures form not a personal unity, but only a… conjunction.” Then we have the results of Nestorianism, etc.
On page 42, what happens, if we don’t have union of God and man in the person of Jesus Christ, where else do we ever get it together? See the point. If you don’t get this right and we don’t make it with Jesus Christ, then God is never going to be any clearer. So either it’s this or nothing. That’s why Christology is such an important doctrine. If this event of Jesus Christ were not a union, no other event in history could have made things any closer. “The other erroneous attempt to define the union of Christ’s two natures was Monophysitism (meaning one nature). That went in the opposite direction from Nestorianism. Where Nestorianism exaggerated the duality of the two natures into a duality of persons, Monophysitism” see the word “mono,” and “physits”, physits is nature, one nature, that’s what Monophysitism means. “Monophysitism exaggerated the unity of Christ’s person into a unity of one nature.” What they believed was “before the incarnation, two natures… after the incarnation, one nature.” So now you have humanitized deity or deified humanity.
“Eutyches … defended the doctrine that both natures were transformed into the divine, which implied a unity and a homogeneity in the nature of Christ. Like Gregory of Nyssa, Eutyches made us of the metaphor of the sea and the drop of vinegar to illustrate his doctrine of transformation. Jesus as a drop of vinegar poured into the sea will take on the nature of the sea, just so human nature was transformed into the divine. So Christ was certainly made up out of two natures originally, but after the union he no longer persists in two natures, but only in one.” People say whew, heavy stuff, and it is, but let me take you in the next paragraph to something that happened twenty years ago in the evangelical church. Maybe some of you of the flower children age, that age, the hippie group, will remember this. Let me show you something in this paragraph.
“This Monophysitism heresy recalls the Indian myth of the god Krishna, who has the power to transform himself into men, or even into beasts. Oriental so-called ‘incarnations’ far from being parallel examples of the biblical God’s incarnation of Christ, are in reality examples of the old Monophysitist heresy.” There’s recycled Monophysitist, that’s all it is, recycled. “In the 1960s, when eastern religious influence came strongly into the American culture, it was no accident that George Harrison’s then popular song, ‘My Sweet Lord’ alternated the use of the words ‘Halleluyah’ and ‘Halle Krishna.’ It was pure oriental Monophysitism, but naïve evangelical Christians, lacking a knowledge of biblical truth, thought it was a wonderful hymn.” [blank spot]
What’s he saying? Think about it. What is he saying? He’s saying that Hallelujah, the biblical God and Jesus Christ is no different Krishna, they’re all the same thing, absolutely the same thing, no difference. And everybody thought it was cool.
“The Nestorian and Monophysitist controversies finally led to one of the most important church councils in history, the Council of Chalcedon in AD 451.” On page 43 we come to the end of this doctrinal formulation. Next week we’ll get into some of the implications of it and then start going into the Trinity. What they did, this is one of the great church councils. The Council of Chalcedon had wide-ranging political results…political results because of what they did here. Before the 1950s there were a few people that thought, believe it or not, and they thought very consistently, and these ideas had consequences, had profound consequences. So let’s look at what they did at Chalcedon and then we’ll introduce some of the fallout of what happened.
“The Creator’s divine nature, which Christ has, could never be mixed with His created humanity after the fashion of Monophysitism. On the other hand, there has to be a real physical unity to avoid the problem of Nestorianism. The solution comes in recognizing that the Second Person of the Trinity,” see all of a sudden now we’ve got to deal with the Trinity, “the Logos or Son, can be distinguished from the Divine Essence because all three persons—Father, Son and Spirit—share the same Essence and, therefore, are distinguished within the Trinity. The Second Person, therefore, can be distinguished from both the Divine Essence and the human nature; and it can be the real focal point for unity in Christ. The Chalcedon Creed states the matter thusly:” The bold type is a summary of what Chalcedon taught, which you’ve heard me say for the last few weeks. I keep telling you that bold phraseology. [“In summary, the doctrine of the hypostatic union is that Christ is “Undiminished deity united with true humanity without confusion in one person forever.”] Look carefully at the actual creedal words of Chalcedon.
“Following the holy fathers,” notice they saw themselves as continuous, logically continuous with the Apostles, logically continuous with the prophets of the Old Testament. They never thought, in Chalcedon and Nicaea, of themselves as inventing new doctrine, they thought of themselves as just clarifying what the Word of God said. “Following the holy fathers, we unanimously teach,” notice they had unanimity in the Council, “we unanimously teach … one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten,” now you see what they did beyond Nicaea, remember what Nicaea did? It kept on putting those adjectives and phrases in there, these guys knew Nicaea, and the Nicene Creed still didn’t solve a few problems so now look what they’re doing. The “only begotten, known in two natures, without confusion, without conversion,” that means conversion of one nature to the other, “without severance,” that’s Nestorianism where they severed it, “without division;” again kind of Nestorian-like, “the distinction of natures being in no wise abolished by their union,” that kept the Creator/creature distinction, “but the peculiarity of each nature being maintained,” that is the divine essence is maintained, “and both concurring in one person and hypostasis….” That’s why we call it the hypostatic union, it comes from that same word which is referring to the [can’t understand word].
We studied God and His attributes. God is sovereign, God is righteous, God is love, God is omniscient, He’s omnipotent, omnipresent, immutable, eternal. He has these attributes. They are all infinite attributes. Man has been created in God’s image. What corresponds to sovereignty? Will. What corresponds to righteous? The sense of righteousness in our conscience. We experience love on a human plain; we experience knowledge, our finite experience of God’s omniscience. We experience omnipresence in the sense that we occupy space, we occupy part of space, He occupies all of space, etc. We have energy, power, a finite version of His omnipotence. We have an experience and a sense of time, which is a finite version of eternity. So there’s an analogy here between how God is in His very essence, and how He has made us in His image so that when He wants to incarnate Himself in the person of Jesus Christ there’s not a tension there, because they’ve been designed one for the other. God did not let biological statistics come up with a chance game, sort of like Lotto, and just decide gee, look what came out of the bottle tonight, and then decide after it comes out of the bottle now let’s see, what am I going to do to get this together. Not at all. It was together in His mind from the very beginning.
So now Chalcedon says, I’m looking at the bold print now, “Undiminished deity,” that’s one section. Why do I say “undiminished deity,” why don’t I just say deity there? “Undiminished deity” because of something we’re going to run into later on in the life of Christ called the doctrine of kenosis, that He diminished His deity during the time He walked on earth. We’re going to deal with that, that’s coming up, so you’ve got a head start on that, it’s “UNDIMINISHED DEITY.” At no point did Jesus Christ’s deity ever go away. “Undiminished deity united with true humanity,” notice the “true humanity,” that denies Docetism, notice the words “united with,” it’s not a company of two walking around, it’s one. “Undiminished deity united with true humanity without confusion,” that gets rid of Monophysitism, that was the vinegar and water, “without confusion” the Creator/creature distinction has to be there all the time, “in one person,” not two people, one person, and the last word is very important also, “forever.”
The humanity of Jesus doesn’t go away. When Jesus Christ appears in the book of Revelation with all of His deity unleashed and you see the Lamb upon the Throne, it’s still the Lamb that is upon the Throne. His glory shines, but if you look carefully at His hands you’ll see the scars, the marks of history. It is forever, so forever and ever and ever and ever in the presence of God’s Son we will be in the presence of a human being, our peer. That’s why when we are judged, the Father has committed all judgment into the hands of His Son. What does that mean? The trial by peer, we don’t have to be judged by God, we’re judged by the God-man. And then when we try to blow smoke and say well, you didn’t understand… Oh yes, I understood, I walked around, don’t give me that stuff. It’s a rather piercing judgment because He’s going to blow away all the excuses and hogwash that we come up with because He’s been here, He isn’t fooled, He’s walked around, He’s done it, He’s seen it. That’s what makes Him a fair judge. He is a peer.
You tell me another religion that you know of in the world that is anything remotely approximating what we’ve talked about in the last three weeks. The deeper you get into Scripture, the more nonsensical and stupid this stuff sounds when you hear, well, Christianity is sort of like all the other religions. Anybody who says that obviously hasn’t studied this material. How could anybody study this material and come to such a foolish conclusion as that.
“For five hundred years students of the Scripture fought to summarize without contradiction… The doctrine of the hypostatic union is the only view that has survived the greatest theological discussion man has ever undertaken. It is the only one that has no contradiction with the New Testament revelation. This doctrine alone does not complete one’s understanding of Christ’s nature, but it forms the basis for other doctrines” that we’re going to study.
We’re going to stop here because we want to get into some of the implications next time and we’ll get into the area of the Trinity. I want to deal with that while it’s fresh in our minds that they had to come to that conclusion in order to make it fit the New Testament revelation.
Question asked: Clough replies: The question is about how undiminished deity fits in, particularly those New Testament passages that clearly show Christ sort of restraining, “He thought it not robbery to be equal with God,” those kinds of passages. That passage that is quoted in Philippians 2 is something we’re going to get into in the life of Christ called the doctrine of kenosis, which is the Greek word that’s used there, emptying yourself. There was a big debate in church history about that one, similar to this stuff, but the debate was did Christ give up… how did Christ give up His attributes, did He give up the use of them, did He voluntarily give up the use of His attributes or did He give up even more than that, the control of the attributes to the Father. This sounds again like how many angels can stand on the head of a pin, but it really isn’t. I’ll tell you why it isn’t.
It’s very intimately related to His priesthood, because the issue actually beneath this one is how did Christ meet the temptations? If you don’t get a right answer here you’re going to come up with some answer, well He met the temptations in the power of His deity. Well if He met the temptations in the power of His deity, then how would He be a model for us? But then if He did meet the temptations in the power of His humanity, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, then He becomes a model for us, but then what happens to His deity? So I really don’t want to get into that question because it gets into this kenosis thing.
The bottom line in it all was that Jesus Christ in one way, and all analogies break down if you press them too hard, but in one sense Jesus Christ was, so to speak, in His humanity a forerunner and a pioneer and a test driver, so to speak, of the indwelling Holy Spirit and His empowerment for living a righteous life. What Jesus did was He basically in His humanity lived perfectly with the indwelling Holy Spirit and met the temptations with the indwelling Spirit and thereby provided a model for the Church Age. So He actually inaugurated in His incarnation, He so to speak, test drove the product, and proved that a human being, a member of the human race could walk this earth, indwelt by the Spirit, and encounter evil and be victorious.
So the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the church that follows has Christ as the model. Had He not done that there would be no model, all this stuff that’s being taught in the New Testament about the indwelling Christ, dwelling richly in all wisdom, it would be just a lot of imperatives but not really with any kind of concrete. That means that Christ serves as a model to the New Testament imperative commands like in the Old Testament what was the event that served Israel in the same step. What event did the Old Testament prophets keep looking backward to when they felt depressed and felt God’s plan was kind of phasing out. They thought back to the Exodus. What was the Exodus? It was a triumph over Pharaoh, it showed that the God of the Israelites was superior to all other gods, and if they were losing their battles in the book of Judges and Joshua it wasn’t because their God failed, it was that they failed their God. It was a theological corrective.
In the same way in the New Testament Jesus Christ met even Satan himself in the temptations. That becomes another big thing called the doctrine of impeccability. We’re going to get into that one, yet another area of the doctrine of Christ. This was that when Christ was tempted, how do His temptations mirror mine, or were they of an utterly different character, all tied up with this role of deity. Did He, in other words, ever take advantage of His deity to meet the temptations. Obviously you get in the New Testament and that’s not really true, but in the New Testament you clearly see His complete undiminished deity flash forth, for example, in Gethsemane, when He utters the words ego eimi and the whole police force falls over. When you see Him on the Sea of Galilee, and He commands, He doesn’t ask the Father to suppress the wind, He says “be quiet,” and poof, the wind stops. The disciples got their minds blown away when they saw this, because it wasn’t like a prophet. A prophet would have prayed to God and had God done it, but here’s this guy sitting in a boat telling the wind to shut up and be quiet, and it does. What do you do with that? That’s His full undiminished deity. It’s not half a deity, it’s full deity coming out there.
So the question we have to face in the New Testament is why is it that at certain points His deity flashes forth and then it just kind of retreats and you don’t see it. Then you see Him on the Mount of Transfiguration; the apostles were around Him all the time, physically watching Him sleep, eat, be tired, it says He’s tired in the New Testament, He knows what tiredness is, and then all of a sudden they go up on the mountain and suddenly there’s this glory that appears. That’s His deity shining forth, it’s like the light comes on behind the lampshade and now all of a sudden, hey, wait a minute, something’s different here. You can tell by the apostle’s reaction that they were surprised by this, because that wasn’t like Him. That’s what they did not usually see. But that day they saw it, and it just struck them.
So that’s the paradox of the Lord Jesus Christ, He walked around this earth, you see the Mount of Transfiguration, you see Him on the Sea of Galilee, you see Him saying ego eimi at the police force, then you see Him in the court allowing Roman soldiers to beat Him up. Just imagine that. Why did He do that, why did He not, for example, say ego eimi then, and they would have fallen flat on their face? But He didn’t, and that’s part of His obedience to the Father’s plan to come to the cross for our salvation. The way this has always worked out for me when I go through this exercise, when I have time to think through Christology, it’s always been refreshing to me in the sense it’s always given me energy. I guess the reason is that the reality of God’s work in Christ was so profound that you’re overwhelmed the more you think about it. These little discussions we get into here, these arguments, there’s a reason why I bring them up. When we get into this kenosis thing, the impeccability thing, big hairy stuff, theologians still have trouble with this stuff. And it’s not that we’ve got the answer here, we don’t, all we’re showing you is the elements of it.
But what happens after you work your head on this, after a while what happens is that you suddenly realize, look at what the Lord did for me. Look what happened here. If this is the guy who walked around and could tell the wind to be quiet, how long does it take you to say, “Be quiet?” One second. In one second He can calm the winds on the Sea of Galilee, and probably for hours He allowed Himself to be beaten by Roman soldiers, and nailed to a cross. This is the God who allowed Himself to be nailed to the cross, so all of a sudden the work on the cross starts taking on some rather awesome dimensions, and you begin to realize, this is the God of the universe that was here, this wasn’t His spokesman, this was Him.
Then the resurrection, here was the first resurrection in the history of men, not a resuscitation, not an appearing of the dead person, but the first resurrection, the first-fruits of the ultimate resurrection. And He walks around in His humanity and yet He’s also God, and then He rules the universe and walks about half a mile or a mile across the Kidron Valley, to Jerusalem, up to the mount of ascension and goes up into heaven, in a human body. That’s why I said earlier, a couple years ago when they were arguing about where is Christ, does He have to be at a point, if He does [can’t understand word/s] got his bones, got two legs, hands, arms and a head, he’s got to be somewhere, He’s not off in la-la land somewhere, in some nth dimension, they’re in a place.
So His humanity is at a place tonight, somewhere. And wherever He is He has bones and flesh, because when the Apostles touched Him, He said touch me, go ahead, do you think I’m a ghost. By the way, that’s another eloquent argument in the New Testament for His full deity that was used; remember some of those Docetist guys, there were actually some of them that denied that He actually had a physical body. The problem in the New Testament was that some people didn’t think He had a new body, at least after the resurrection, right. They thought they’d seen a ghost. What would we think, if we locked the doors and all of a sudden He appears inside the room? What is this, how did He come through the wall? I don’t know how He came through the wall; He came through the wall, that’s all. But the resurrection body can do that.
The natural interpretation of that event was, wait a minute, this is immaterial, this is spirit, it can’t be body. That’s why He explicitly said you come here and you see that I have bones and I have flesh. He did that to show that your interpretation is wrong; we’re still screwed up in our categories, haven’t got it right yet, probably won’t for a few billion years.
But the idea here is that this is a magnificent challenge to every area of human thought, from the bottom of our brains to the top of them, that the gospel revolutionizes all the ideas and basics. In fact, there’s even an article by a rather brilliant Christian mathematician who argues that logic itself derives from the nature of the Trinity, and goes through several passages in the Gospel of John to show this, that the concept behind logic itself is implicit in the Trinity.
When we get into the Trinity I will show you some of those arguments and insights because they blow you away to realize that if you don’t believe in the Trinity you can’t explain one sentence in any language. We’ll deal with how every time we speak a sentence we presuppose the doctrine of the Trinity. Every time we think with logic we presuppose the Trinity. It’s quite the other way around, most people like to say I start with logic and I start with language and then from there I start thinking about God, etc. Whereas, actually it’s the other way. The only reason I enjoy the power of logic and language is because it’s put there by the Triune God and reflects His nature. Therefore, I can think and I can speak. Very heavy stuff in all this, and don’t worry about losing the forest for the trees here, we’ll come back to the forest, because what we’re trying to show is that when we sing about Christ and we think about Christ and we thank Him for our salvation, we want to get a little bit more mature and appreciate what He’s done for us. A lot of stuff was done for us. We’re clueless, we walk around with about this much awareness of what all is going on.
The disciples were that way, that’s why a lot of the stuff we read about in the New Testament probably came to them later in life. And probably that’s why the fourth Gospel is written the way it is, by John, and John sat back and looked at what the others, Matthew, Mark and Luke wrote, and then John must have sat down and said okay, I’m going to write and I’m going to try to recall the things that these guys haven’t thought about yet, and that’s why John’s Gospel starts out with that phrase, “We beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father,” and then John never tells us the story of the Mount of Transfiguration. If there is one event in the life of Christ that you would think would be an example of His glory flashing forth, it would be the Mount of Transfiguration. Why is it then, that John deliberately doesn’t do it? The other Gospel writers do but not John. It must be because John perceives Christ’s glory in all kinds of little things. He was so perceptive that to him little things made Christ Christ.
John starts into his Gospel, remember what goes on in John 1, [verses 45-51] he speaks of the call of Nathaniel, and you can read right through John 1 and read right by it and never notice the little clause in there where Jesus and Nathaniel have a little conversation, and Jesus happens to drop just right in the middle of the conversation, yeah Nathaniel, I saw you under the tree before. Huh, You weren’t even here. I saw you under the tree! That’s the flashing forth of His omniscience, the flashing forth of His omnipresence. And that’s what John the Apostle loved to write about, that’s what makes John’s Gospel, to me, one of the most fascinating sections of the Bible, because he does this to you, and he does it to you so that, he puts it in the text and he’s not asking us to spend hours on it, but it’s like he put it in the text so that when the Holy Spirit draws it to your attention you’ll see it. It will be a little pearl there for you at the right time.
Those are the things that fall out of all this, and we’re going to take time, our time going through the life of Christ in the broad sense. This is not a biographical study of Christ; this is just four events, the birth, the life, the death and the resurrection. We will interrupt our forward progress by dealing with the Trinity next time, just to get some flavor, some of the debates that happened with the Trinity and to see the power of these doctrines as foundations on which every day we breathe, think, talk, we’re actually walking on a foundation that’s established by the Trinity.
Question asked: Clough replies: Lazareth was not a resurrection, it was a resuscitation, he died eventually again. He came out from the grave, but it’s not said to be a resurrection, the technical word is resuscitation. That’s why Christ is called the first-fruit of that resurrection. There are stages of resurrection in the New Testament, three or four stages: Christ the first-fruit, then there’s the rapture of the church, then there’s the Second Advent, then there’s the resurrection unto damnation and the Great White Throne Judgment. It’s interesting the Greek in I Corinthians uses the term for a military parade, each unit in the parade sequentially. And it’s that imagery that Paul uses; he must have watched a lot of the Roman parades and watched the legionnaires go down the street and he says and that’s the resurrection, there’s unit one, unit two, unit three, he specifically talks about multiple units of the resurrection, but Christ being in the vanguard of the parade. So because of that we hold that those other things are resuscitations. In other words, when Lazarus was pulled out of the grave he did not come out with a resurrection body, he came out with a natural body. If his sister had pricked his hand with a needle it would have bled. If you prick a resurrection body apparently it doesn’t.
Question asked: Clough replies: What he’s asking is you know there’s a passage in Matthew where they came out of their graves. I’m not an expert on that particular passage, I’m aware of different thoughts about it, I’ve personally never studied it to my satisfaction. So I won’t say. But it’s obviously a momentous event because it was observed around Jerusalem, something happened.