Jesus Christ, God's Son (Nicene Creed #5)

This post is part 5 in a series on the Nicene Creed. To read others, click on a number: 1, 2, 3, 467, 8, 910, 111213. In this post, we'll examine the section in the creed concerning Jesus Christ, God's Son:

[We believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, begotten from his Father before all ages, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten not made, of one being with the Father, through whom all things were made.

Note how the creed defines Christ as from his Father. In this eternal relationship, he is begotten not made. The Father-Son relationship precedes any Creator-creature relationship.

This, of course, was a key issue when the creed was written. All sorts of heretical ideas conceived of Jesus as some sort of creation of God rather than as true God. The creed shows such ideas to be false by asserting the biblical truth that Christ is the One through whom all things were made. Thus when we are confronted in the Gospels with Jesus Christ as a man, we understand that he is God become man, while remaining God. And thus we are taken to the doctrine of the incarnation. Note Torrance's comment in The Trinitarian Faith:
The New Testament did not present Jesus Christ in contrast to God or alongside God, or argue from one to the other, as in ebionite or docetic Christologies [heretical doctrines that denied either the full divinity or the full humanity of Jesus Christ], but presented him in the undivided wholeness of his divine-human reality as God become man (p114).
Torrance's thought derives from Athanasius' stress on Christ as 'whole man and God together' (footnote 6, Trinitarian Faith, p114). If Jesus Christ were not fully God, we would not have in him the full revelation of God. But Jesus insisted that to see him is, indeed, to "see the Father" (John 14:9). Torrance continues:
That Jesus Christ is God's Son or Word, and that God's Son or Word is Jesus Christ, was the central evangelical truth which the Council of Nicaea reaffirmed, and had to reaffirm, in order to cope with... [various false] Christologies, threatening the integrity of the Church's faith. The church refused to weaken or compromise faith in Jesus Christ as God and man in one Person, for if he was not really God then there was no divine reality in anything he said or did, and if he was not really man then what God did in him had no saving relevance for human beings (p115).
One being with the Father
This part of the creed spells out in detail how it is Christ is related to the Father. It does so with an essential phrase that declares Christ to be of one being with the Father (homoousius to Patri in Greek). To this phrase is added, through whom all things were made, so as to emphasize the identification of the Son with the Creator (and thus that the Son preexists creation).

The point is that Jesus Christ as fully God, shares with the Father the one being (ousius in Greek, meaning being, substance or nature) of God. Jesus Christ is fully God in his very being and nature. To make this clear, the creed applies the biblical expressions of by, from and of God to the incarnate Son. What is the very being of the Father is entirely the being of the Son. Said another way, Jesus Christ is the Son of the Father from his very being, that is, from his essential reality and nature. Torrance elaborates:
The Father/Son relation falls within the one being of God, the Father and the Son inhering and coexisting eternally, wholly and perfectly in one another. God is Father precisely as he is eternally the Father of the Son, and the Son is God of God precisely as he is eternally Son of the Father. There is perfect and eternal mutuality between the Father and the Son, without any 'interval' in being, time or knowledge between them (p119).
This is in keeping with the teaching of Athanasius that "the son is continuously coeternal with the Father" (footnote 28, p120). This idea is expressed in the creed using the biblical image of light:
[Just as] light is never without its radiance, so the Father is never without his Son or without his Word. Moreover, just as light and radiance are one and are not alien to one another, so the Father and the Son are one and are not alien to one another but are of one and the same being. And just as God is eternal light, so the Son of God as eternal radiance of God is himself eternally light without beginning and without end (p121).
Athanasius emphasized the essential oneness (the homoousion in Greek) of the Father and the Son by stating that "the Son is everything that the Father is, except Father" (p124). Torrance puts it this way: "The incarnate Son has all the prerogatives of God, except Fatherhood" (p124).

So what?
Torrance then goes on the discuss at length the great significance of the homoousial relationship between the Father and his Son. An important point is that it is this concept that served as the measuring rod (canon) by which many of the individuals who authored the creed, also determined which book were accepted into the New Testament canon. Books that upheld the essential oneness of the Father and the Son were accepted; books that did not were rejected. In short, the homoousian served as the hermeneutical principle by which the content of the New Testament is determined. It must, therefore serve as the hermeneutical principle by which the meaning of these books is undertood.

This principle, of course, points to the ultimate canon of Scripture and, indeed of all truth - a who, not a what: the Lord Jesus Christ. Here are some of Torrance's comments:
The primary and all-embracing significance of the homoousion was its categorical assertion that Jesus Christ is God, and that as God he shares equally with the Father in the one being of the Godhead. As the only begotten Son of the Father he is the embodiment of the whole being of God and his exclusive self-revelation as the Word made flesh (p133).
To believe in the Lord Jesus Christ is to believe in God himself... In the incarnation God has revealed himself to us... God is completely identical with his self-revelation in Jesus Christ. ...The Son of God in his incarnate Person is the place where we may know the Father as he is in himself... The homoousion asserts that God is eternally in himself what he is in Jesus Christ, and, therefore, that there is no dark unknown God behind the back of Jesus Christ, but only he who is made known to us in Jesus Christ (p135)....The utterly astonishing thing proclaimed in the Gospel is that God himself came among us precisely as man... in body, mind and soul (p136).
This is good news, because it means that there is "no division between the acts of the Son and the acts of God" (p137). In Jesus we see (and taste and feel!) that God truly is for us. Torrance comments:
God himself is the content of his saving grace in Jesus Christ. In Jesus Christ the Giver of grace and the Gift of grace are one and the same, for in him and through him it is none other than God himself who is savingly and creatively at work for us and our salvation (p138).
Nicene theology rejected entirely  the idea that grace is a created medium between God and man. Rather is grace to be regarded as the self-giving of God to us in his incarnate Son in whom the Gift and the Giver are indivisibly one (p14).
And now, with this concept in mind, let us fast forward to the final judgment. There we find that our Judge is none other than this incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. It is he who will judge all humans at the Last Day. Or as Michael Card sings, we will "look into our Judge's eyes and see our Savior there." The God who judges is no different than the God who saves. And that is VERY good news - based not on hopeful speculation, but on the eternal homoousial relation between the Father and his incarnate Son, our Savior, Jesus Christ.

Comments

  1. Lovely post :) The assertion that Jesus Christ is the son of God is a standout among the most widespread in the New Testament, the greater part of whose books allude to him that way. The Gospels don't cite him as utilizing the title for himself as a part of such a large number of words, in spite of the fact that colloquialisms like Matt verge on it. There are a few cases where the use of the Gospels seems to resound the more general ramifications of heavenly sonship in the Old Testament as a right of Israel or of the genuine adherent. Generally, be that as it may, it is clear that the evangelists, in the same way as Paul, implied some uncommon respect by the name. The evangelists related the honor with the story of Jesus' absolution and transfiguration Paul with the confidence in the Resurrection .Thanks all!!
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