The Francis Asbury Society

FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 8/20

Posted on | August 20, 2015 | Comments Off on FACE TO FACE: Intimate Moments with God 8/20

scripture reading: John 14:1–11

Close, but no Cigar

Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15)

The following two sentences are almost identical. But when you examine them closely you will discover they convey radically different meanings. What a difference a few punctuation marks can make!

,. A woman without her man is nothing.
,. A woman: without her, man is nothing.

In the fourth century a firestorm of controversy occurred over one letter of the Greek alphabet (iota). The debate concerned whether Jesus was of “one substance” (homoousios) with God or whether he was of “similar substance” (homoiousios) with God. One little letter was the only distinguishing mark in the two words, and yet what a difference that iota made!

A man named Arius (circa 250–336 A.D.) had been teaching that Jesus was a supernatural being created by God before the foundation of the world. He was bold in preaching the exalted status of Jesus and was quick to describe how he had a nature “similar” (homoiousios) to God. But Arius stopped short of saying that Jesus was God.

Other theologians realized that although Arianism was close to the truth, it failed to state the biblical reality of Jesus’ identity accurately. Confusion grew as people struggled to understand who Jesus really was. A council was finally called in 325 A.D. to examine the matter. Meeting in the city of Nicea, their purpose was to develop a clearer understanding of the true nature of the One they worshipped. The result of this council’s work is enshrined in the words of what today is called The Nicean Creed. The vocabulary of the creed gave Christians the language they needed to respond to the question that Jesus made so central to his ministry: Who do you say I am? (Matthew 16:15).

I believe . . . in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begot- ten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance (homoousios) with the Father, by whom all things were made . . .

Arianism was condemned as a heresy, and the biblical teaching of the deity of Christ was preserved. Today, vestiges of this ancient heresy are still among us. The Jehovah’s Witnesses deny the Trinity and teach that Jesus was like God, but not fully God.

What a debt we owe those early theologians who fought over an iota. When it comes to the identity of Jesus Christ, accuracy is of paramount importance. To say that Jesus was a prophet and a great moral teacher is not enough. To believe that he was God-like gets much closer and yet still falls short of the truth. Jesus made the question central because our very salvation is bound up in the answer we give. Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father (John 14:9).

What about you? Who do you say that he is? Being close may score points in horseshoes, but when it comes to the identity of Jesus, it doesn’t work at all! If Jesus is not fully God, he cannot fully save. It is only because of who he is that he is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through him (Hebrew 7:25). Hallelujah!

Jesus was either the Son of God sent to save the world or an impostor deserving of crucifixion. The people of his day understood the binary choice precisely.
—Philip Yancey

point to ponder • Who do you say that Jesus is?

prayer focus • Someone unsure about Jesus’ identity.


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