The Nature of Christ: Insights from the Chalcedonian Creed

 

 

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The Chalcedonian Creed begins with its didactic position, which, lays out the guiding principle of God the Son being taught to be confessed by mankind (Romans 10:9). The creed is in concert with Holy Scripture as it affirms the nature of Jesus Christ. The Bible conveys Jesus as being both God (John 1:1, 15 Colossians 1:15 – 17; Hebrews 1:8 -10), and man  (John 1:14). The “holy fathers” also attest to the perfection of Christ or the sinlessness of God the Son. In John 8:46, Jesus spoke of His own sinlessness in the presence of His opponents by asking “which one of you convicts me of sin?”, a question to which no reply was given. The silence speaks volumes. Thus, as the Patriarchs of the church speak of Christ as being “the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood;” they are in concert with Holy Writ. As God, Jesus is holy and without sin. As Man, He is holy and without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He is the eternal/”consubstantial [co-essential” God (John 1:2).

The Creed proceeds to explain the origins of Jesus’ humanity. He was “born of the virgin Mary,” (Matthew 1:18 – 24). However, Scripture is opposed to God having a beginning (Isaiah 43:10). Therefore, “Mary” being “the Mother of God,” though it may be qualified in the creed by “according to the Manhood,” is somewhat of an aberration as it pertains to the nature of God. God has no beginning. Mary gave birth to Christ’ humanity, not His divinity. Yet, the two natures, that of humanity and divinity exist in the Person of Jesus Christ is in harmony with the Scripture. Jesus asserts that He was with God before the world began, sharing in His glory (John 17:5). An interesting parallel to this passage is found in Isaiah 42:8. There, we have the teaching that says God’s glory is not shared with anything or anyone. The Church Fathers had to rightly conclude that such statements point directly to the fullness of Christ deity (Colossians 1:19).

The teaching of Jesus’ humanity is promulgated throughout the text of Scripture, as well. Certainly, the Apostle John gave us some of the most direct statements pertaining to the nature of Christ. One of the most notable is found in the preface of his Gospel. John 1:14 is unambiguous in declaring what God the Son became. The word ginomai denotes a coming into being. Thus, Christ became what He was not in eternity past, namely, human. Furthermore, from John’s teaching it cannot be deduced that putting on flesh changed the divinity of Christ. Therefore, recognition of deity and humanity, “ inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably;” is of necessity. Any teaching to the contrary is against the plain teaching of the Bible.

Lastly, the Chalcedonian Creed gives clarification as to the origin of what it teaches. What the creed expresses with regards to the teachings on the nature of Christ, is that it comes from the prophets, from the teaching of the Christ, and from the tradition of “the holy Fathers.” In other words, the Bible has set forth this teaching concerning the “one Person and one Subsistence” of the Lord Jesus Christ. The question remains then. Is this what the Bible teaches? The Scriptural proof – what the Old Testament teaches, what Christ Himself taught, and what the Apostles have given us is ample proof that Jesus Christ is the only of His kind. He is the God – Man. The one who was from the beginning and condescended to become a man in obedience to His Father’s will, being abased and exalted on behalf of sinful humanity (Philippians 2:6 – 8). We “ teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.”

 

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