By Joshua Stevens, Faith Contributor, Valley Ag Voice
Why does it matter that Jesus was the God-man? Would belief in a Christ who was fully God but not fully man or vice versa still be enough for salvation? Doesn’t Paul write in Romans 10:9, “because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved” (Crossway Bibles, 2001)? Certainly, he makes no assertion that one needs to believe in a coeternal homoousios Jesus to be saved, does he? Does belief in a Christ who was created or who only appeared to have come in the flesh still guarantee salvation? These questions have been debated and discussed for nearly 2,000 years and will continue to be the subject of contention for many more to come. Regardless of future contention, however, the fact remains that one answer is true. So, at the very least, we should strive towards that common truth which binds all humankind together.
First, we should establish why it matters what version of Jesus we believe in. Certainly, most Christians would affirm some basics of Christ such as virgin birth, perfect life, and sacrifice on the cross as well as His deity. But beyond that, what did the apostles have to say of those who mistook the personhood of Christ? In 2 Corinthians 11:3-4 Paul writes, “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough” (Crossway Bibles, 2001).
If a correct belief in Christ is needed for us to be saved, what should we believe? The Bible makes it clear: Christ is fully man. In Hebrews 2:17 we read, “Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Crossway Bibles, 2001). Christ was pierced by a spear in John 19:34 and later would show his scars to Thomas in John 20:29. Scripture goes to great lengths to show Christ’s humanity and not that He came to masquerade as a man but was truly a man. He experienced all of the hardship from the basic necessities of hunger and thirst to the existential dread of impending death and losing a friend.
In the same breath, Scripture proclaims Jesus’ divinity. Jesus claimed to be God by saying in John 8:58, “[…] ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I Am’” (Crossway Bibles, 2001). To an untrained eye this may seem silly, but to claim to be the “I Am” is to claim to divinity, referencing to Moses and the burning bush in Exodus 3. Jesus continues in John 10:30: “I and the Father are One” (Crossway Bibles, 2001). To this audacious statement, the crowd responded with anger and began to pick up stones (John 10:33). “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God” (Crossway Bibles, 2001).
Furthermore, we see in the book of Colossians 1:16 Paul writes, “For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together” (Crossway Bibles, 2001). Paul not only established Christ as the creator in this section but also makes a claim the Christ is eternal. For if Christ were a created being, then how could all things be created by Him? Certainly, it would not be possible.
Thus, we find that scripture teaches that Christ is indeed the God-man. Fully man and fully God, the coeternal creator worthy of all praise forever and ever. But we are still left with one question: why does it matter?
There are many reasons why Christ needed be fully man — from being an example for us to being the mediator. But most of all, if Christ were not fully man He could not have died for our sins, or as Wayne Grudem puts it, “Jesus had to become a man, not an angel, because God was concerned with saving men, not with saving angels. But to do this he ‘had to’ be made like us in every way, so that he might become ‘the propitiation’ for us, the sacrifice that is an acceptable substitute for us.” (Grudem, 1994)
Likewise, the reasons for which we should and must recognize the full deity of Christ are many, but again, most of all it is, “Not only because it is clearly taught in Scripture, but also because (1) only someone who is infinite God could bear the full penalty for all the sins of all those who would believe in him – any finite creature would have been incapable of bearing that penalty; (2) salvation is from the Lord. . . no human being, no creature, could ever save man – only God himself could…” (Grudem, 1994)
So why does it matter that Jesus was the God-man? Any other belief is not only untrue, it changes the core of the gospel and puts us at odds with the message of grace that is perfectly preserved and passed down from Christ through the careful hands of the church elders to us today. It perverts what makes Christianity different from other beliefs: we could never do anything to earn our salvation. But out of our Lord’s great love and compassion for us, He acted so we may be resorted in eternity with Him. This is the reason to defend the true nature of our Savior.
Crossway Bibles. (2001). The Holy Bible English Standard Version. Wheaton: Good News Publishers.