I have struggled with understanding the nature of Christ for quite some time. In one of my classes I was assigned the task of writing an essay on what was called a “chewing question.” My question was, “Has Jesus always been the Son of God?” In my essay I explained the reasoning of my response to the question at great length. I am not sure if it was or is a popular response, but nonetheless, I stated my case.
Christological controversies are certainly still in existence today, though likely not to the degree which they existed in the 4th and 5th centuries. I suppose if we were to ask the central question, “In what way was Christ both divine and human,” we would receive any number of answers. And this is essentially what drove the controversies in the early centuries of church history. Once the divinity of Jesus was established, the questions began to arise as to how he could be both at the same time. No doubt this discussion was connected to the controversies over the one God existing in three distinct persons. How can three be one, and one be three? How can this Jesus be both God and man? What exactly is his nature? These are all questions that drove these controversies.
In his gospel, John gives great insight into the divinity of Jesus. In the opening chapter we find that the Word was in the beginning, existed with God, and was himself God. And so, immediately the reader sees there is in fact a second person of the Godhead, the Word of God. Then, the crucial statement is made in John 1:14, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.” And again in John 1:18 an important statement is made: “No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” And later we see Jesus making this statement to his disciples: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The Word of God has revealed himself to the rest of humanity in bodily form.
The question and controversy was no longer about whether the divine Word of God either existed or revealed himself to humanity. The question was what exactly is the nature of Jesus Christ and is he both God and man simultaneously? The difficulty for us is the fact that we are finite beings. Our human limitations result in misunderstandings and/or an inability to fully conceive of a dual existence. We must always remember that God makes clear the reality that his thoughts are not our thoughts and his ways are not our ways. He is so far above us, and thus, he should be praised.