Jesus Christ

In this post, we are going to examine the second Article of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene. In the last post, we explored the first Article of Faith, which pertained to the Trinity. In this article, we are going to examine our Article of Faith concerning Jesus Christ. The Manual of the Church of the Nazarene states that,
We believe in Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Triune Godhead; that He was eternally one with the Father; that He became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and was born of the Virgin Mary, so that two whole and perfect natures, that is to say the Godhead and manhood, are thus united in one Person very God and very man, the God-man. We believe that Jesus Christ died for our sins, and that He truly arose from the dead and took again His body, together with all things appertaining to the perfection of man’s nature, wherewith He ascended into heaven and is there engaged in intercession for us.
There is quite a bit of information here, but let's take it one piece at a time.

Eternally One With The Father

The Church of the Nazarene affirms that Jesus Christ is eternally one with the Father. That is, that Jesus Christ and God the Father are co-eternal. Christ was not made at some point in time, nor was there ever a time when He was not. We have touched on the co-equal nature of God the Father and Jesus Christ in the previous article. It can be argued that, if they are co-equal, then if one is eternal, then they are both eternal. However, this argument does not stand alone.

The testimony of the New Testament authors is that Christ is co-eternal with the Father. There is perhaps no passage in the New Testament where this is made more clear than in John 1:1-2. John writes,
"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God."
John goes on later to identify the Word as Jesus Christ Himself. In stating this in the opening verses of his Gospel, John affirms four things:

1. Jesus existed in the beginning (ie, before time began).
2. Jesus existed with God.
3. Jesus is co-equal with God.
4. Jesus and God both existed in the beginning (ie. before time began)

It is numbers 1 and 4 that make this passage especially important in studying Christ's co-eternal existence with the Father. In this passage, John explicitly states that God and Christ exist together in a co-equal, co-eternal relationship.

Incarnate By The Holy Spirit

Christ's becoming incarnate by the Holy Spirit is the unanimous testimony of the New Testament writers. It also appears to have been a very early belief of the Christian church. Both Matthew and Luke, who were apparently using different traditions when recording their accounts of the Christmas story, both include the message that Mary conceived Jesus by the Holy Spirit. This leads to the conclusion that this was a common element in each of the independent sources that Matthew and Luke used when composing their Christmas narratives. That is, it was attested early and by different sources.

Once we recognize the deity of Christ, this follows logically. That is, if Christ was not conceived by the Holy Spirit, how else could God have become incarnate? I can think of no other way.

Born Of The Virgin Mary

In the same way that Christ's becoming incarnate by the Holy Spirit is attested by multiple, early sources, it is also true that the virgin birth of Christ is attested in those same early sources. Again, this means that the virgin birth of Christ is attested early and multiply.

In addition, it appears that some of Jesus' earthly opponents knew that Joseph was not the physical father of Jesus. This is an interesting fact, since it adds weight to what is implied by the virgin birth--that Jesus was the Son of Mary, but not of Joseph. The assumptions made by the enemies of Jesus do not preclude His virgin birth.

Two Whole And Perfect Natures

This statement is in line with the Athanasian Creed, which affirms that Christ is "Perfect God and Perfect Man". Christ has two natures, a divine nature and a human nature. According to the Athanasian Creed, this is not because of the Godhead becoming flesh, but because Christ, in addition to His divine nature, took upon Himself a human nature, so that He has two natures, a divine nature and a human nature. Christ's natures are whole. That is, Christ was not 50% human and 50% God. Rather, He has a true human nature and a true divine nature. Nor does He have only one nature that is a mixture of human and divine. Again, Christ has a truly divine nature, and a truly human nature.

Died For Our Sins

This, along with the resurrection of Christ from the dead, comprise the central claim of the Christian faith. It has been noted that the crucifixion of Jesus is one of the undeniable facts of history. That crucifixion was for our sins. This was the promise that God had made through Isaiah approximately 700 years prior to Christ. Isaiah wrote of a "Suffering Servant" who would bear the sins of the people. Specifically, Isaiah writes,
"Surely he took up our pain and bore our suffering, yet we considered him punished by God, stricken by him and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was on him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to our own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all." (Isaiah 53:4-6)
Thus, the concept of a suffering, sin-bearing Messiah is found in the Old Testament. In addition to this, Isaiah goes on to say, in the same passage that the Suffering Servant would be cut off from the dead and placed in a rich man's tomb (v. 8-9). So we have the development of a Suffering Servant who would suffer and die for the sins of the people. This ultimately finds its fulfillment in Christ.

Arose From The Dead

The second Article of Faith of the Church of the Nazarene affirms the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Looking into the biblical data, it becomes clear that this was the belief of the earliest church. Looking at the historical data, it becomes clear that this is a fact of history.

Perhaps the most famous treatment of Jesus' resurrection outside of the Gospels is found in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians. In 1 Corinthians 15:3-8, Paul writes,

"For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time." 
When Paul speaks here of Christ rising from the dead, he uses the Greek word "egeiro," which carries with it the connotation of rising up from a prone position. In other words, it denotes a movement from another position to a standing position. It implies physical movement. This is also the word that the rest of the New Testament uses when describing Jesus' resurrection. In other words, the language that is used by the authors of the New Testament is unanimous in declaring the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, this is implied by this passages statement that Christ was buried, then Christ was raised. The implication is that Christ left behind Him an empty tomb. In addition, this has been the understanding of historical Christianity.

Historical facts also speak plainly of Christ's bodily resurrection. There are some basic historical facts that are accepted by the majority of scholars, whether Christian or non-Christian. These include:

1.) The crucifixion of Jesus.
2.) The burial of Jesus in the tomb of Joseph of Arimathea.
3.) The discovery of the empty tomb by women disciples.
4.) The sudden belief in the bodily resurrection of Christ on the part of the disciples (contrary to the teaching of the Judaism of the day).

Other facts may be added to these, but these are the most prominent. The only view that makes complete sense of all of these facts is that God raised Jesus from the dead, leaving behind Him an empty tomb. All other views fail to account for at least one of these facts.

Ascended Into Heaven

The second Article of Faith also affirms Christ's ascension into heaven. This is consistent with the teaching of Scripture. Luke records two accounts of the ascension. In the Gospel that bears his name, Luke writes:

"And He led them out as far as Bethany, and he lifted up His hands and blessed them. Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven."
In addition, Luke writes in the opening to the book of Acts:
"Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight." 
It is an interesting fact that the writers of the New Testament make plain that the post-resurrection appearances of Jesus (save the one to Paul on the road to Damascus) stopped 40 days after the resurrection. Given that Jesus rose bodily from the dead (see the previous section), this would be a powerful explanation for this fact.

Engaged In Intercession

Finally, the second Article of Faith affirms that Christ is making intercession for us. This is also a teaching found plainly throughout the New Testament. Paul plainly teaches that Christ makes intercession for us in Romans 8:34. He writes,
"Who then is the one who condemns? No one. Christ Jesus who died--more than that, who was raised to life--is at the right hand of God and is also interceding for us."
In addition, the author of the book of Hebrews writes,
"Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them."
Paul, writing to Timothy, describes Christ as the only mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5). He appears to have in mind here Christ's role as Intercessor between us and God. In any case, the clear teaching of Scripture is that Christ is interceding for us. This is great news for us!

Recommended Resource: The Case for Christ: A Journalist's Personal Investigation of the Evidence for Jesus (Case for ... Series)


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