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It is Necessary to Think of Jesus Christ as God

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Faith and the Message of the Apostles
What was the Message of the Apostles?

The identity of Jesus is not without controversy. It is, however, necessary to think of Jesus Christ as God, if one is a Christian. I was recently reminded of the enduring importance of this. A Facebook post reflecting on the Church’s historic understanding of the relationship between God the Creator as Father and Jesus Christ as God the Son was challenged. A comment argued that Christ’s Sonship did not affirm his divinity, and in fact, had implications denying his deity.

The New Testament Viewed Jesus as God

The Bible, however, is the source of our understanding Jesus, the Son of God as divine. We see it in Jesus own words, “I and the father are one” (John 10:30). We see it in the declaration of Thomas the Apostle after seeing the risen Jesus, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28).

The Book of 1 Thessalonians may be the earliest New Testament document and one historians have a high degree of confidence attributing to the Apostle Paul. It equates “God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (1 Thessalonians 1:1) in a way quit inappropriate for a mere human. Jesus title, “Lord,” is one that a first century Jew would equate to the title of the Old Testament God. “Lord” is the same word the translators of the LXX (the Greek Old Testament) used for God’s personal name. This translation was the primary Bible of the early Church.  The church (the people of God) is to be found “in” both “the Father AND the Lord”. Shortly after the Apostle speaks of the Thessalonians believers’ “hope in our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thessalonians 1:3). Chapter 4:13-18 speaks to his return in power. Paul notes his inspiration of prophecy, having received this information “by a word from the Lord” (4:15). God will vivify, or bring the saints “the dead in Christ”(4:16) to life “through Jesus” (4:14).

The authorship and date of Titus has been more hotly contested. I follow the internal evidence and scholarship that affirms its Pauline origin. Either way, it is irrefutably an early, authoritative Christian document. In Titus 2:13 Christians are described as those living righteously in this present age, “waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ.” Jesus, in the New Testament is “our great God and Saviour”. And so he is worthy of worship (see Revelation chapter 5).

The Early Church Viewed Jesus as God

This New Testament witness to the divinity of Jesus fit with the worship experience of the early church. The Church consisted of those baptized into “the Name” (a singular noun) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19) who was then worshipped and glorified along side the Father.

“2 Clement” appears to be a sermon, perhaps addressed to the Church of Corinth. According to Michael Holmes (Apostolic Fathers), the most likely date of the composition is between AD 120-140 (134).

The Christian Must View Jesus as God

The text of 2 Clement is now more generally labeled as “An Ancient Christian Homily.” (Rick Brannan, “Apostolic Fathers Greek-English Interlinear” Lexham Press, 2011). This title draws out many implications. It is a sample from Ancient Christian Worship, which has stood the test of time form the early 2nd century to the present. The first Generation of Christians after the Apostles understood:

Ἀδελφοί, οὕτως δεῖ ἡμᾶς φρονεῖν περὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὡς περὶ Θεοῦ, ὡς περὶ κριτοῦ ζώντων καὶ νεκρῶν. καὶ οὐ δεῖ ἡμᾶς μικρὰ φρονεῖν περὶ τῆς σωτηρίας ἡμῶν· 2ἐν τῷ γὰρ φρονεῖν ἡμᾶς μικρὰ περὶ αὐτοῦ, μικρὰ καὶ ἐλπίζομεν λαβεῖν.

Here we read an address to Christians, known as “Ἀδελφοί” (“Brothers and sisters”). They are told “οὕτως δεῖ ἡμᾶς φρονεῖν περὶ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, ὡς περὶ Θεοῦ” (“It is necessary for us to think with regard to Jesus Christ, just as we think with regard to God”). This necessity is declared by the opening words “οὕτως δεῖ“. They tell us that it is “necessary,” or “binding,” to think of Jesus in “just the same way” as we think of God.

This testimony is compelling. We must think of Jesus “as judge of the living and the dead.” In the second verse, the homily makes a rhetorical point. It argues, “for in as much as we think little of him” (ie less than God) “we also can hope for little from him.” We must think of Jesus, if he is to be our Saviour, “as God.”

Creeds Viewed Jesus as God

The Ancient Homily reflected the New Testament and the universal Christian recognition of the  equality of Jesus with God. The homily speaks of Jesus worthiness to be worshiped and glorified with God. This Christian expectation began with their baptism and continued in their experience of weekly worship. There is much truth to the motto Lex orandi, lex credendi (“The Law of Prayer” states that what we worship is what we believe). People began, however, to speak of this relationship in terms that did not meet believer’s expectations.

Dating couples often run into that awkward stage of not knowing where the relationship stands. Something makes us question what we had assumed to be true of the relationship. The early church hit something similar in the later third century. Was what they had always believed to be true correct? Where they wrong? The Church needed a DTR (“Define the Relationship”) conversation.

And so leaders from all across the world gathered at Nicea in AD 325 to have a DTR conversation. They affirmed (as slightly amended in AD 381) the Church’s ancient belief:

in one Lord Jesus Christ, the Only Begotten Son of God, born of the Father before all ages. God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, consubstantial with the Father; through him all things were made.

Today’s Church must View Jesus as God

Jesus is truly God. For a more complete understanding of the Christian view of God, check out a recent edition of The GoodFaith Podcast The Trinity: Is God one, or Three?

For more on the recent controversy regarding the Trinity, which generated the FaceBook conversation I spoke of at the start of this post, see What is the Trinity Debate About?

006 The Trinity: Is God One, or Three?

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008 Do We Need A Creed?
008 Do We Need A Creed?

Perhaps one of the most difficult beliefs of Christianity to get our minds wrapped around is the Christian understanding of God as a Triune Being. R.C. Sproul writes, “The concept of the Trinity has emerged as a touchstone of truth, a non-negotiable article of Christian orthodoxy. However, it has been a source of controversy throughout church history, and there remains much confusion about it to this day, with many people misunderstanding it in very serious ways.” (What Is the Trinity? at 1).

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast is intended to take the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com

005 The Controversy That is Christianity

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008 Do We Need A Creed?
008 Do We Need A Creed?

Born in tremendous controversy, Christianity struggled with the weight of an entire Empire, an entire culture, and an entire way of life dead set against it. The Gospel, the central message of Christianity, has always been very controversial. As it was a scandal in the 1st century, it is a scandal today. Why? Because “We Believe. . . ” in what the world sees as “a depraved superstition” (Tacitus, quoted in Robert Louis Wilken, The Christians as the Romans Saw Them; Amazon; .ca; .co.uk)

Around the world today Christianity remains controversial.  This has led to the persecution of Christians at “near-genocidal levels” (BBC News).  Is there a way to win the culture over? Can Christianity thrive in a secular, pluralistic, and post-Christian culture?

The GoodFaith Podcast

The GoodFaith podcast is intended to take the wisdom of collective church history and apply it to the problems and concerns we have today. You can subscribe to the podcast on iTunes, or your favourite feed by copying the following into your client (http://chadwgraham.com/feed/podcast), or by clicking on the RSS feed links on the home page of ChadWGraham.com

003 Truth in A Pluralistic World

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008 Do We Need A Creed?
008 Do We Need A Creed?

What can, or should we believe today? What is the truth in a pluralistic world? Pluralism is simply a state in which competing authorities exist. This has implications for politics, for society and for religion. One major implication is that in a pluralistic world there is competition for truth. What a uniform culture may believe universally to be good and right and true, might not be accepted by many in a pluralistic culture.

As cultural Christianity (at least in theory a uniform authority) has collapsed in the West, pluralism, especially religious pluralism, is reflected in the culture today. There are different social, religions, and atheistic philosophies competing for space in the marketplace of ideas in today’s Western nations. What does this mean on the ground?

A Unified Church is a Beautiful Thing to Waste

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A Unified Church is a Beautiful Think to Waste
A Unified Church is a Beautiful Think to Waste

Oh, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers and sisters in Christ to dwell together in unity.  When we are saved we are transferred into the Kingdom of God and we become “citizens of heaven”(Philippians 3:20) living as “sojourners and exiles” on this earth (1 Peter 2:11). And in our heavenly Kingdom: “there is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to one hope when you were called; one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” (Ephesians 5:4-6).

We were saved into unity and we must live that unity out in this world if we are to be happy people and a good witness to a broken world seeking what only we can share. In this message on Philippians 4:11, I explore the links of joy, fellowship, and unit and (importantly) how we realize them in our lives and in our churches.

This is the third of three sermons I recently preached on Joy and Fellowship. To hear part one, the Pursuit of Joyfulness click on Part one.

To hear part two (The Privileges and Responsibilities of a Joyful Christian Philippians 1:27-30) click on Part two.

 

Living Worthy of the Gospel

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A Unified Church is a Beautiful Think to Waste
A Unified Church is a Beautiful Think to Waste

What is the Gospel? Hint: It is not a message about how you can get to Heaven. Our salvation is a result of the Gospel. The Gospel, itself, is the announcement of God’s Good News concerning His Son, Jesus Christ. When we believe that gospel we are delivered from the domain of darkness and transferred into the Kingdom of Heaven. As Citizens of Heaven (Philippians 3:20), we have great privileges and corresponding responsibilities.

President John F. Kennedy famously challenged American citizens at his inauguration, “ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” Sometimes we forget that as citizens of the Kingdom of Heaven we are given a calling corresponding to our privileges: “Only behave as citizens worthy of the gospel of Christ” (Phil 1:27 literal translation). What does this mean? I explore that theme in a message entitled The Privileges and Responsibilities of Gospel Citizenship:

The Pursuit of Joyfulness

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Worthy of the Gospel
Worthy of the Gospel

Scripture commands us to pursue joyfulness. This means at least two things: First, that this is something that it is right and good to pursue; Second, that it is something possible to pursue. That’s a very encouraging set of implications.  But, what does it mean to pursue joy? How can we do so in a world full of suffering and sickness and sorrow? Find out in this introduction the Book of Philippians focused on one of the books most important instructions: “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice.” (Phillippians 4:4).

 

The Series Continues!

To hear part two (The Privileges and Responsibilities of a Joyful Christian Philippians 1:27-30) click here.

To hear part three (A Unified and Joyful Church Philippians 2:1-4) click here.

002 Those Who Fail to Learn From History

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008 Do We Need A Creed?
008 Do We Need A Creed?

Why study Church history? They say that those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it. We see this in every major political battle, where the new and rising star promises things that can never be fulfilled and set themselves up as “different” from the incumbent. As soon as they get into power, they forget nearly all those promises. And voters say, “I never saw this coming!”  Four years is enough for us to forget this and to repeat the cycle!

It’s worse in Church history. The church has a 2000 year history, which has seen nearly all the problems we face today before. But we are often ignorant of this history and deal with our problems alone. Why should we reinvent the wheel? Discover the wisdom of Church history in today’s episode of the GraceAppeal podcast (featuring an all-new intro).

Fake News vs Ancient Faith – Episode 001 (reissue)

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008 Do We Need A Creed?
008 Do We Need A Creed?

We have all heard of #fakenews. Many people curate their social media (and their lives) to only see posts that affirm what they already believe. This tendency seems to be everywhere. It impacts both individuals and organizations (even the professional news media). And it can easily happen within religious (or cultural) communities. Every now and then, we have our comfortable way of looking at the world challenged. We realize we were caught up in fake news. But what is next? What does faith have to do with it?