What Does it Mean That Jesus Is Lord?

Introduction

The dual nature of Christ, what would come to be defined as his full humanity and full deity, developed over the first 400 years of Christianity. Christ’s identity was a hotly debated issue. It was so hotly debated that when the first Christian emperor took power, he understood that he would need to bring peace about this issue or he would have a civil war on his hands.[1] Therefore, the first ecumenical council was held to decide the matter. Over 150 years four ecumenical councils were held to help cement the understanding about what was to be the orthodox position on the nature of Christ. The reason for the controversy can really be pinned on scripture. In some places Jesus is spoken of in such human terms, he is the suffering servant in Isaiah. In others, he is a conquering king returning to his earth with vengeance. After reviewing the Biblical evidence, it will be clear that Jesus is both fully human and fully God and the early church councils when responding to the issue in their day were proven correct.

Titles Related Primarily to Christ’s Human Nature

Many places in scripture speak of Jesus using anthropocentric titles. The name Jesus itself is a human name. Jesus is connected with humanity by being called the second Adam.[2] The name Adam from the Genesis account is best translated, man. In other words, the Apostle is saying that Jesus is the second man. In scripture we see a clear statement that God is not man.[3] More titles of Jesus that reinforce this understanding that Jesus was human are throughout scripture. Isaiah calls him, a “man of sorrows” and the Hebrew word אִישׁ (ʾîš) is referring to human: “a male or female human as a class or kind in contrast to other classes of created beings.”[4] Many other places speak of Christ in this manner, he is called son of man in Daniel[5], so much so that it is inescapable that he is human.

Titles Related Primarily to Christ’s Divine Nature

In contrast to these, the scripture also speaks of Christ as Divine. Paul again speaking of Christ says that every knee will bow and that he is the κύριος (Lord).[6] The early church reserved this word for God alone. The Christians of the early centuries would die before calling anyone κύριος other than God himself:[7] many did die. The Jews of Jesus’ day confirm that Jesus himself referred to his own divinity when he called himself ἐγώ εἰμί (I AM)[8] in John 8 and again when he said he was one with the Father in John 10. The old testament also confirms Christ’s divinity, Goldingay points out that Isaiah uses the same descriptor, אֵל גִּבּוֹר (Mighty God), of Jesus and of Yahweh.[9] In the same text in Daniel where Jesus is called the son of man, he is also compared to the Ancient of Days.[10] Jesus is given divine titles so many places in scripture that it is inescapable that he is divine.

Development of Orthodox Christology

Seeing these distinctions in the text of holy scripture forces the thinking Christian into the need to reconcile the nature of Christ. However, these distinctions are so important that the church could not afford to be ambiguous about them and neither could the new Christian emperor Constantin. So, in 325 A.D., it was this question of Christ’s nature that began the age of ecumenical councils.

Council of Nicaea

There were three main protagonist views of Christ that lead up to the Council of Nicaea. Ebionites who, out of dedication to God, taught that Jesus was only man, the Docetist/Gnostics who taught that Jesus was only spirit, and Arius who taught that Jesus was “the first of the creatures, not God and yet more than man.”[11] The beliefs of the Ebionites and the Docetist proved to be less of a concern to the council because a complete denial of Jesus’ humanity or deity simply was not consistent with the Apostle’s testimony. However, scripture does present Jesus as both God and man and that could explain why Arius was able to insight controversy over the actual nature of Christ. What Arius forced the council into was coming up with an explanation of Jesus as God and as man. If Jesus was God, was he all God and if Jesus was man, was he all man? The council ended up agreeing that Jesus was homo-ousion (one substance) with God, God of God.[12] With the council’s ruling that Jesus was both God and man the stage was set for the next set of debates. Those debates would center around how the two natures of Jesus were expressed in his one form.

Council of Chalcedon

Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Eutyches, and Cyril of Alexandria entered the scene. Nestorianism “stressed the complete manhood of Christ, and conceived of the indwelling of the Logos in Him as a mere moral indwelling”[13] Monophysitism held that the natures were arranged so tightly that the human nature was absorbed by the divine one.[14] Eutyches, taught a mingling of the human and divine natures in Christ. Cyril, in an attempt to combat the Nestorian influence was accused of denying the two natures.[15] Chalcedon, 451 A.D. became the place where the final verdict was given against these positions. The council affirmed what is considered the orthodox position to this very day: “truly God and truly man … in two natures, without confusion”[16]

Conclusion

When reading the scriptures, the implication that Jesus is both God and man is inescapable. He is the second Adam[17] and the Mighty God.[18] He is the King of kings[19] and the man of sorrows.[20] Over the early half millennia of the church there needed to be a clear explanation of how these two natures were embodied in the one person. At Nicaea men of God met and declared Jesus was God of God and also man. At Chalcedon more men of God, seeking to be faithful to the truth, met and declared that Jesus is “truly God and truly man … in two natures, without confusion” [21] The men at Nicaea and Chalcedon were not inventing new ideas, they were simply adhering to the text of scripture. Jesus is fully God and fully man and that makes him both savior and Lord.

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[1]. Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013. 108.

[2]. 1 Corinthians 15:45, ESV.

[3]. Numbers 23:19, ESV.

[4]. James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[5]. Bogdan G. Bucur. 2017. “The Son of Man and the Ancient of Days: Observations on the Early Christian Reception of Daniel 7.” Phronema 32 (1): 1–27.

[6]. κύριος is translated “Lord” “supernatural master over all”

James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[7]. Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013. 47.

[8]. ἐγώ εἰμί is translated “I AM” and while some might debate the meaning of the term, there is no question how the Jews understood him “they picked up stones to throw at him” (John 8:59)

James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

[9]. John Goldingay. 1999. “The Compound Name in Isaiah 9:5(6).” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 61 (2): 239–44. 241.

[10]. Bogdan G. Bucur. 2017. “The Son of Man and the Ancient of Days: Observations on the Early Christian Reception of Daniel 7.” Phronema 32 (1): 1–27.

[11]. Berkhof, Louis. “Systematic Theology.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/berkhof/systematictheology.v.i.i.html.

[12]. Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013. 109.

[13]. Berkhof, Louis. “Systematic Theology.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/berkhof/systematictheology.v.i.i.html.

[14]. Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013. 122.

[15]. Berkhof, Louis. “Systematic Theology.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/berkhof/systematictheology.v.i.i.html.

[16]. Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013. 122.

[17]. 1 Corinthians 15:45, ESV.

[18]. Isaiah 9:6, ESV.

[19]. Revelation 17:14, ESV.

[20]. Isaiah 53:3, ESV.

[21]. Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013. 122.

 

 

 

Bibliography

Athanasius. “On the Incarnation of the Word.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. Accessed September 26, 2018. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/athanasius/incarnation.vi.html.

Berkhof, Louis. “Systematic Theology.” Christian Classics Ethereal Library. http://www.ccel.org/ccel/berkhof/systematictheology.v.i.i.html.

Bucur, Bogdan G. 2017. “The Son of Man and the Ancient of Days: Observations on the Early Christian Reception of Daniel 7.” Phronema 32 (1): 1–27. https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLAiB8W170630003355&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Deuel, David C. 1994. “Job 19:25 and Job 23:10 Revisited: An Exegetical Note.” The Master’s Seminary Journal 5 (1): 97–99. https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=rfh&AN=ATLA0000880746&site=eds-live&scope=site.

Goldingay, John. 1999. “The Compound Name in Isaiah 9:5(6).” Catholic Biblical Quarterly 61 (2): 239–44. https://lopes.idm.oclc.org/login?url=http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=ofs&AN=509944588&site=eds-live&scope=site.

James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Hebrew (Old Testament) (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Shelley, Bruce L. Church History in Plain Language. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2013.

 

 

 

Appendix

 

NAMES OF CHRIST AS LORD NAMES OF CHRIST AS JESUS
LORD OF ALL (PHIL. 2:9-11) IMMANUEL (IS. 7:14)
IMMANUEL (IS. 7:14) MELCHIZEDEK (GENESIS 14:18-19 HEBREWS 7:13)
KING OF KINGS (REV. 17:14) LAMB OF GOD (JOHN 1:29)
REDEEMER (JOB 19:25) REDEEMER (JOB 19:25)
LOGOS (JOHN 1:1) ADAM (1 CORINTHIANS 15:45)
  WONDERFUL COUNSELOR, MIGHTY GOD, EVERLASTING FATHER, PRINCE OF PEACE (IS. 9:6) BRANCH (ISAIAH 4:2)
GLORY OF THE LORD (ISAIAH 40:5) MAN OF SORROWS (ISAIAH 53:3
HOLY ONE OF ISRAEL (ISAIAH 41:14) MESSENGER OF THE COVENANT (MALACHI 3:1)
KING (ZECHARIAH 9:9) ROSE OF SHARON (SONG OF SONGS 2:1)
SHILOH (GENESIS 49:10) SHILOH (GENESIS 49:10)
I AM (JOHN 8:58)

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