I’m away for several days but wanted to share part of a post I wrote last January that pertains to my Christmas series, “God With Us.” You can read the original post in its entirety here. I will add a few things here.
Christianity created quite a controversy about the nature of God when it broke in on the world scene in the first century. How can God be Father, Son and Spirit, yet one? This was blasphemy to the Jews and nonsense to the Greeks. It was even radical to their own monotheistic upbringing.
But one thing the apostles and early church fathers knew for certain–Jesus Christ is God the Son, and nothing was going change their position. So they wrestled with this revelation of Christ for centuries and eventually came up with the Nicene Creed.
The later Anthanaisian Creed went in much more detail on the early church’s trinitarian position, although this creed wasn’t adopted by everyone, partly because it included anathemas against anyone who didn’t believe in the deity of Christ. Nonetheless, it does shed some light on what our early church father’s believed. Here’s an excerpt.
“And the catholic faith is this: That we worship one God in Trinity, and Trinity in Unity; Neither confounding the Persons; nor dividing the Essence. For there is one Person of the Father; another of the Son; and another of the Holy Ghost. But the Godhead of the Father, of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost, is all one; the Glory equal, the Majesty coeternal. Such as the Father is; such is the Son; and such is the Holy Ghost. The Father uncreated; the Son uncreated; and the Holy Ghost uncreated. The Father unlimited; the Son unlimited; and the Holy Ghost unlimited. The Father eternal; the Son eternal; and the Holy Ghost eternal. ”
It’s also been traditionally believed that they used a fish symbol to describe this confession of God. The letters of the Greek word for “fish,” which is ἰχθύς (ichthus), was used by the early Christians as an acronym and secret symbol meaning:
I – Iesous (Jesus)
X – Xhristos (Christ)
TH -Theos (God)
U – Uios (Son)
S – Soter (Savior)
This statement “Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior” was also like an early confession of their belief in Jesus as God and Savior.
Why does Christ’s divinity matter in our placement in Him?
To be “in Christ” means that we have been placed in divine union within the Godhead. More specifically, the Father and the Son have come to make their home in us through the person of the Holy Spirit (John 14:23). But we can only “partake in the divine nature” if Christ is divine because we were placed in Him (2 Pet.1:4).
This has been virtually lost on the Protestant Reformation that focused on the legal justification, much to the demise of the greater revelation of our adoption and inclusion in the Godhead. Here are a couple of examples of what the early church fathers said:
Irenaeus (c. 202 AD) “He became what we are in order to bring us to be what He is in Himself.”
Anthanasius (296-373 AD) “For that was the very purpose and end of our Lord’s incarnation, that He should join what is man by nature to Him who is by nature God, so that man might enjoy His salvation and His union with God without any fear of its failing or decrease.”
Simply put, God became us so that we could be in Him, in union with the fellowship He’s had from the beginning (John 1:1-2, 14; 17:24).
Three reasons Jesus must be fully God, fully man
Since I am not a theologian, I will borrow from a great theologian, Dr. C. Baxter Kruger (from his book “The Great Dance”) to briefly give three reasons why Christ must be God in order for us to be in Him:
1. If Jesus is not fully divine, “very God of very God” as our Nicene Creed states, then He has given us less than the fullness and the life of God. He cannot give what He does not possess Himself. For eternal life is entering into God’s very own life.
2. If Jesus is God but has not become a real human being, then He may have the divine life, but it does not reach us. We ourselves cannot enter into the divine life of God. We only become spectators, forever separated–God is “up there” and we are “down here.” Even in heaven, we are still separated like the angels. We could be with Him but could not be IN Him. We are left as spiritual orphans instead of sons, which is in direct contradiction to Scripture (John 14:18, 23).
3. This speaks to the nature of God as a Father. For it was not just any God who became human, it was the SON of God. He didn’t come as an abstract, faceless, Omni-power who became human. It was the Father’s beloved Son, the One who was in fellowship with Him from the beginning, the One who lives in the fellowship of the Spirit with the Father. This also speaks of the love of God as a Father, that He would want to share His divine life with us in His family in both heaven and on the earth (Eph.3:14-15).
What about the humanity of Jesus?
When Jesus was on the earth, we see in the New Testament accounts that, while He was “equal to God,” did not use His divinity (Phil.2:5-8) but humbled Himself as a man. But He did not give up His divine nature or His fellowship with the Father. This is the whole point for us. He remained in this divine fellowship and showed us how to live in this “Divine dance” (as C. Baxter Kruger calls it) while living on this earth.
This is the whole purpose of His incarnation and the key to understanding our identity as a new creation, which is our “divine-togetherness.” We were placed in Him, seated in heavenly places at the right hand of the Father (Eph.2:6; Col.3:3).
Without this reality, we are left bewildered and confused, not knowing who we really are because the only place we find our true identity is in Christ in God.
This is the key to understanding everlasting life and true Christianity itself. As Paul said, we have the love of the Father and the grace of Jesus Christ by way of communion in the Spirit (2 Cor.13:14). This is the Divine dance, if you will.
In my view, if we don’t understand this, we understand nothing about why God redeemed us. We understand nothing about our own identity as sons and co-heirs.
And, yes, to say that God is one, yet three in one, is paradoxical. But if we cannot embrace paradoxes then we will have very little spiritual understanding of many things about God or His Kingdom.