The Whole Christ

March 19, 2012 at 5:15 am 1 comment

"The Crucifixion of Christ" by Gerhard Remisch

The other morning, I was reading 2 John as part of my devotions, when I once again came across a verse I have reflected on many times:  “For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.  Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7).  Though these words may strike us as harsh, they are true and necessary.  For theology – the study of God – and Christology – the study of Christ – are inextricably connected.  If one has an errant view of Christ, he will inevitably have an errant view of God, for it is precisely through Christ that God is revealed.  This is why, especially in the early centuries of the Christian Church, there were so many creedal formulations concerning Christ.  The early Christians wanted to make sure they accurately and faithfully confessed their Lord and Savior.  Alister McGrath notes, “The history of early Christian doctrine is the basically the emergence of the Christological.”[1]

Martin Luther offers three ways in which Christology can go askew:

The devil has work to do and attacks Christ in three lines of battle. One will not let Him be God, another will not let Him be man, and the third will not let Him do what He has done. Each of the three wants to reduce Christ to nothing. For what does it profit you to confess that He is God, if you do not also believe that He is man? Then you do not have the whole, real Christ with that, but only a phantom of the devil’s. What does it profit you to confess that He is man, if you do not also believe that He is God? What does it profit you to confess that He is God and man, if you do not also believe that He has become everything and done everything for you?[2]

Luther’s insists that, in order to believe in Christ, we must believe in His humanity, His divinity, and His work on the cross.  If we deny one part of this confession, we deny the whole Christ.  Why?  Because the person of Christ as true God and true man cannot be separated from the work of Christ, which is salvation.  Notice how the Nicene Creed confesses Christ’s person and work all together in one eloquently integrated sweep:  “For us men and for our salvation, [Christ] came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man; and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.”  Here we read that Christ “came down from heaven,” a reference to His divinity, He was “incarnate,” a reference to His humanity, and “was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate,” a reference to His salvific work.  This is Christ.  He can be nothing less and He can do nothing less.

John’s tirade against those who deny “the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh” is due to the fact that he cannot bear to think that someone would miss out on all that Christ is and all that He has done.  After all, why would we want something or someone less than the whole Christ?  For the whole Christ is one with God and, at the same time, in solidarity with us.  And whole Christ saves us wholly, without any worth or merit on our parts.  John can’t dream of settling for anyone or anything less.  I can’t either.  How about you?

[1] Alister McGrath, Iustitia Dei, 3rd ed. (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2005), 33.

[2] Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 34 (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1999), 210.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Rev. Kevin Jennings  |  March 19, 2012 at 8:32 am

    Hi, Zach! I believe it incredibly sad that many in the 21st century insist on digging up dirt from the first three or four centuries of the Church’s existence, dirt which our forefathers in the faith chewed centuries ago. When doing this, what the diggers don’t recognize is the inherent dangers, which John, Luther, and McGrath all reveal. And, even more sad is the fact that many Christians believe these things to be viable because they have no root in Christian teaching.

    Why is there such a reluctance to learn from our forefathers and instead doom ourselves to repeat, or even exacerbate, the mistakes of the past?

    God bless!


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