Why is it important that we know that Jesus was fully God and fully man, even while on earth? Because the heresy keeps popping up that he was not God. Let me give you some examples.
The first guy to know is Arius. Around the year 319, he was a priest in Alexandria. He began to teach that Jesus was not fully divine, but was less than the Father. He taught that Jesus did not exist through all eternity, but was created (begotten?) by the Father as an instrument of creation and then salvation.
Although the bishops opposed his views, they caught on. Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea became his patron. However, he was heroically opposed by one of the early church leaders, Athanasius. Athanasius spent his entire life opposing the Arian philosophy. At times it appeared Arianism might prevail, and he was called Athanasius Contra Mundum (against the world). He was exiled 5 times.
The Emperor Constantine called the council of Nicaea to settle the issue. The council was attended by several hundred pastors and bishops and voted overwhelmingly (all but 2) to condemn Arius and confess that Jesus was of the same substance as the Father. The Nicene Creed came from this council.
Here is the creed:
We believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father. Through him all things were made. For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate from the Virgin Mary, and was made man. For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried. On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father. He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father. With the Father and the Son he is worshiped and glorified. He has spoken through the Prophets. We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church. We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins. We look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come. Amen.
Jehovah's Witnesses believe God is a single person, not a Trinity, who does not know all things and is not everywhere. He first created Michael the Archangel through whom He created all other things. This creative work took God 42,000 years. After Adam sinned, God instituted a system of redemption. When it came time for the savior to be born, Michael the Archangel became a human, in the form of Jesus. Jesus grew and kept all the laws of God and never sinned.
This attempt to recognize only the Father as God and relegate Jesus to the status of many only, is sometimes called.Monarchianism. Monarchianism teaches that there is one God as one person: the Father. Orthodox Christianity is Trinitarian and teaches that the Trinity is one God in three persons: Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit. In addition to Jehovah’s Witnesses, others in this group include Christadelphians and Unitarians.
Christian Science also denies that Jesus is God.
THE JESUS SEMINAR
The Jesus Seminar was originally formed in 1985 under the sponsorship of the Westar Institute to “renew the quest of the historical Jesus.” Thirty scholars participated in the first meeting and approximately 200 people now call themselves “fellows.” There is not much new in what they do, but the Jesus Seminar received extensive coverage in such periodicals as Time, Newsweek, U.S. News & World Report, as well as on network television.
The founder of the JS is Robert Funk. He said the following in a Keynote Address to the Jesus Seminar Fellows in the spring of 1994:
· "Jesus did not ask us to believe that his death was a blood sacrifice, that he was going to die for our sins."
· "Jesus did not ask us to believe that he was the messiah. He certainly never suggested that he was the second person of the trinity. In fact, he rarely referred to himself at all."
· "Jesus did not call upon people to repent, or fast, or observe the sabbath. He did not threaten with hell or promise heaven."
· "Jesus did not ask us to believe that he would be raised from the dead."
· "Jesus did not ask us to believe that he was born of a virgin."
· "Jesus did not regard scripture as infallible or even inspired."
Notice: at the heart of his claims is that Jesus is not God. His claims also show you why it is important that we cling to the truth that Jesus is God. If he is not, Funk’s other points become valid, that he could not save us from our sins or promise us heaven based on his resurrection.
THE DA VINCI CODE BY DAN BROWN
Now fast forward again to the last few years and the stir caused by the Da Vinci Code. Again there is nothing new in the premise of the book, but publicity from magazines and television have presented it as if it is a newly discovered truth, rather than a pot boiler based on the same old ideas.
In fact, the book seems to be, at a minimum, based on the theories of the book Holy Blood, Holy Grail,written by Michael Baigent, Richard Leigh, and Henry Lincoln, published in 1982 and popularized bya BBC TV documentary. It is not accepted by scholars as accurate. The Da Vinci Code, makes reference to this book, and uses several of the above claims as key plot elements. The writers of HBHG have attempted to sue Dan Brown for plagiarism, on the grounds that his book uses their research and at least one of the characters.
The book makes the claim that until the Council of Nicaea in 325, that the church viewed Jesus as a man and that the council changed the doctrine to state that Jesus was God. What the council did, however, was acknowledge that the view of Jesus presented by himself, the apostles and the early church was the deity of Christ, and that Arius had invented a false doctrine that must be condemned.
Jesus certainly claimed to be God, it was why the Jews had him killed.
The apostles presented Jesus as God.
Peter, immediately after the resurrection preaches that Jesus is both Lord and Christ (see Acts 2:36). The term “Lord” means deity or God. Peter was just repeated what Jesus taught him, as Jesus applied the same scripture to himself that Peter was preaching from, Psalms 110:1 (see Luke 20:41).
John clearly says “the Word was God” in the very first verse of his gospel.
Matthew records that the angel told Mary that Jesus fulfilled the prophesy of Isaiah 7:14 in that he was “God with us” (1:25). He records Jesus’ power over nature, sickness and death. He records Jesus claiming to be Lord of the Sabbath (12:8). Jesus was transfigured before the 3 disciples. You could go through all the gospels and find examples. Paul also clearly presents Jesus as God.
The confession of the church from the beginning was Jesus is Lord. The word for lord is “kyrios”. The Greek translation of the Old Testament which we call the Septuagent (LXX) used Kyrios (kurios) for Yahweh, the tetragrammaton, the name of God the Father.
When Caesar decided to be worshipped, he was referred to as lord\kyrios. The confession was Caesar Kyrios. Jews would not make the confession, for they would not say Caesar was God the Father.
Christians applied the Greek term “Kyrios” to Jesus. They also would not confess Caesar Kyrios, on Kristos Kyrios. They died for it. It is an appalling disrespect for the Jesus Seminar Fellows to say these martyrs did not believe Jesus was God when they died for that very confession.
It is ludicrous for Dan Brown or Robert Funk to claim otherwise in light of the scripture. However, their influence is felt. In 1998, Jesus Seminar Fellow, Marcus Borg, spoke for three days at Myers Park Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina. Myers Park is affiliated with the Southern Baptist Convention. Myers Park Baptist Church education minister Bill Doles, in introducing Borg, said that Myers Park is "open to new light."
These ideas will never go away. They will come back again. If we do not learn and teach the truth, the church will be lead astray by false teaching.