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ChurchHistory:A

BiblicalView

ChurchHistory: Part III - The Nicene Age:


ABiblicalView Lesson No. 16 - The
Nature of Christ

I. The Relation of Humanity and Divinity in Christ

One aspect of Christology has to do with Christ's relationship to the


Father. In practical terms this addresses Christ's divinity. In what sense,
or to what extent, was Christ divine? Previous lessons have shown that
this question drew forth a variety of answers and generated prolonged
and heated controversies among the various factions within the Church.
Some, such as Arius who asserted that Christ was a created being, went
to such an extreme that they practically denied the true divinity of Jesus
Christ. It was principally these matters which occasioned the convening
of the Council of Nicea (325) which reaffirmed the full divinity of
Christ. However, it was many years before the controversy cooled and
Arianism was largely eradicated.

A discussion of how Christ was divine and how He was related to the
Father naturally led to a discussion of the other major aspect of the
Christological problem - the humanity of Christ. In what sense, or to
what extent, was Christ human? How were the human and divine
natures related or united in Christ? These questions gendered
controversies as long and vicious as those gendered by a consideration
of Christ's divinity. Again, it was to the advantage of the West that it had
early arrived at a formula which provided it with unity on this matter.
Christ was considered fully God and fully man at the same time but
in such a way that His human and divine natures did not detract
from one another. Obviously, this is more of a simple statement of
belief than a defense or explanation of it. This may well be as far as the
finite human mind can take it. Nevertheless, the more philosophical East
was not satisfied with this. Its people wanted a clearer definition of just
how Christ's human and divine natures were related.

It was possible to assert one aspect of Christ's nature at the expense of


the other. One could so emphasize Christ's divinity that His humanity
could be practically overwhelmed; or one could so emphasize His
humanity as to diminish His divinity. The latter of these two dilemmas
had more or less been at the heart of the Arian controversy. The
former was an important part of the controversy concerning the human
and divine natures in Christ. Some had no difficulty in speaking of
Christ as having two natures - one human and the other divine. Others
had great difficulty in thinking of Christ as having two natures. This to
them implied a duality of persons. They were thus dubbed
"Monophysites" (from the Greek words, "monos," meaning "one," and
"phusis," meaning "nature"). Controversies over such issues raged
through the Fifth and Sixth Centuries and were the occasion for several
more general councils. Monophysite sects exist in certain parts of the
Middle East to this day.

II. The Importance of the Humanity of Christ

Without becoming involved in the subtle and intricate distinctions of the


controversies surrounding the nature(s) of Christ, it must be recognized
that there is a balance to be maintained between the deity and the
humanity of Christ. Neither can be slighted in the least. Some have
diminished the deity of Christ even to the point of making Him nothing
but a man. This is wrong. He was fully divine. On the other hand, some
are reluctant to give to Him everything His humanity implies. This too is
wrong. He was fully human.

As the death of Jesus is nothing to men without His resurrection, so


His deity is of no avail to men without His humanity. (1) It took One
who had been with both God and man to adequately reveal God to man
(Jn. 1:18; 14:9). (2) Jesus became God in human flesh so that He might
explain God to man in terms man could understand. Moreover, (3) it was
the offering of the body of Jesus which served to sanctify men (Heb.
10:10). (4) Without partaking of humanity, Jesus would not have been
perfected (Heb. 5:8,9; 2:10). (5) Through His death He rendered the
devil powerless (Heb. 2:14). (6) In order to be a high priest and also be
able to make propitiation for sins, He had to be made like His brethren
(Heb. 2:17). (7) Since, He was also human, He can identify with
mankind and help and understand them (Heb. 2:18; 4:1416), and (8)
knowing that Jesus had to endure the afflictions common to all men,
those in human flesh can take courage.

III. Exercises (Please click on "File" on your browser window, then


"Print" to print out this page.)

(1) One aspect of Christology addresses itself to the relationship


between the _________ and _________ natures in Christ.

(2) (T or F) Christ was both fully human and fully divine.

(3) (T or F) The Monophysites believed Christ had only one nature.

(4) (T or F) It would have been impossible for Christ to have sinned.

(5) Why is the humanity of Christ important?

(6) What aspects of Christ's humanity are brought out in the Scriptures,
and where?