JESUS . . . “God from God, Light from Light . . .” (Exploring the Nicene Creed)

In this article we shall to look at the very nature and being of Jesus, because central and of great importance to the Christian faith is the strong belief that Jesus is both human and divine; two natures within one person. Here again we have to use limited human language (for we have no other) to express this truth and mystery, which is altogether beyond our full understanding. Such a belief, as held in Christianity is unique. There is nothing like this in all other religions ever known in 10,000 years or so of human civilisations! No other World Faith to-day accords Jesus with the titles Lord and Divine.

For Jewish believers, much as we acknowledge their tremendous faith, devotion and admirable way of life, their very genuine faith stops at the conclusion of the Hebrew Scriptures (our Old Testament). For them God’s revelation ceases at that point, and they still await the Messiah, whom we believe to be Jesus of Nazareth.

For Muslim believers Jesus is certainly held to be a great prophet and teacher; and along with Mary his human mother, is given an important place in God’s scheme of making himself and his purposes known to us; but he is not divine. For them the prophet Mahomet, though not divine, is by far the greatest and the last prophet. Other World Faiths have little or no reference to Jesus at all.

The question we now have to ask is: why do we believe this; is it absolutely necessary? In an earlier article I tried to show how probably all of us find this truth very difficult to grasp. We read the holy Gospels, especially the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5: 3-10), and a human person of the highest moral stature and goodness stands out. And certainly in the early Christian centuries and later, many did accept Jesus as a great and good teacher, worthy of high respect and emulation, but no more than that. Many sincere people today feel the same. The disciples themselves found it hard too, and it was not until after the resurrection that this truth really became fully clear and strong. St Peter in his travels with Our Lord did come to believe that Jesus was the Messiah, the Son of the living God. And this was the first step to grasp the fullness of faith in Christ’s Divinity. (See Matthew 16:13-17; Luke 9:18-22 & Mark 8:27-30. Note also John 1:49)

So to emphasise this vital but difficult truth the early Church Fathers (the Bishops and theologians) included these outstandingly beautiful phrases about Jesus “God from God, Light from Light, True God from true God”. They did so because their reading of the four Gospels, the Acts and the several Epistles, convinced  them that those first believers who had been so close to Jesus (including St Paul converted soon after Christ’s Ascension), were truly guided by the Holy Spirit, and had come to see and grasp this truth, to believe and trust it, and to faithfully write it down. It is a biblical witness that we also can accept with confident faith and sure trust, with assurance and joyful encouragement. Please read now or later some or all of these passages (Hebrew 1:1-3; Colossians 1:13-20; John 1:1-5 & 14; Philippians 2:5-11). Then pause, say thank you to Jesus for all that he is and did for you, and soak up that joyful encouragement.

In an earlier article I tried to show how Jesus is the only sure and certain mediator between all humanity, our whole cosmos, and God. (Hebrews 12:24). Jesus is both human and divine, because if he was not truly God in our flesh he could not be the sure Reconciler, Saviour and Redeemer of a fallen humanity and world. No human person however good could do this. Old Testament sacrifices, heartfelt atoning prayers, even the highest divine commandments, proved inadequate. So to say in grateful faith to Jesus “My Lord and my God” is truly to experience the gifts of forgiveness and freedom; of healing and wholeness: of renewal and new life also; and the abundant grace of eternal life with Christ. All which is Salvation. It’s a work of the immeasurably generous and amazing Divine Love.

Later I shall stress the fully true and real human nature of Jesus, and those key stories of miracle. That too is of major importance. We shall also take up fully the glorious theme of our Salvation.

The more we ponder these great words from the Nicene Creed the more we learn about God and his good purposes. Christ Jesus is “God from God” because he longs for us to know that all people are also the dearly loved sons and daughters of God, whatever their faith or lack of it. And this means sharing grace filled love with everyone; with family and friends and beyond; across all cultures, colour, racial and ethnic groups, and every kind of class or social group or sexual nature. (See 1 John 4:7-12)

Jesus also as “Light from Light” tells us that through him the whole meaning of life and purpose is made crystal clear. He helps us to answer the questions: why are we here anyway; is there anything more, or is death the end? And as I have said before he is the perfect role model and representative for us, the one who can show us how to live in relationships that are worthy and good, and help us to achieve them. The Gospel of John is very specially the Gospel about Light, the Light which is Jesus (John 1:9 & 8:12, etc.). It also means that Jesus is the very image and reflection of the invisible God, who thus makes clear to us the full nature and purposes of God. (See Colossians 1:15-20 & Hebrews 1:3)

In conclusion the very first Christians could only write of Jesus, the completely new earth-shaking belief for humankind, that he truly is “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). In other words he gives the highest and most wonderful blue-print for life, the finest and most meaningful moral code, and the greatest possible hope. And as I have said already briefly, he is himself the embodiment of the very Truth and Being of the Eternal Creator & Life-giving God. The grandeur and depth of this Faith can be ours too if in simple trustful faith we can say: Jesus I too want and long for you; Jesus I too believe in you; Jesus I too accept and love you with all my heart and soul and being. And all this, because I too can first gratefully accept your huge love for me. This I believe is what those early Church Fathers meant when they wrote of Jesus in our Creed “True God from True God”.

All that I have written does not dispel our natural questioning, even our real doubting (common to us all), but it gives a degree of strong faith and assurance that puts all our hopes, longings and optimism on the highest possible human plane this side of Heaven and Eternity. Such is Faith in Jesus Human and Divine.

THANKS AND PRAISE TO HIM. AMEN.

George Abell

Reunions make you think, don’t they

I’m writing this article having just returned from a reunion weekend in Romsey with three couples with whom I served in the Army. I’ve known them for 54 years in the case of the men and about 48 years for the ladies. We are all married with golden wedding anniversaries spread over the next five years and apart from a bit of hearing difficulty, we are all blessed with reasonable health. The thing that struck me was that although our career paths diverged, after the Army, we are all content with how our lives have panned out and respect the variety amongst us. We had much to talk about and our hosts had arranged an interesting itinerary – altogether it was a most enjoyable reunion – it’s my turn to host next year.

Our time together reminded me of a story of a reunion of past pupils of a school run by a religious order. One of the priests, who’d been abroad for years, returned for the reunion and found himself surrounded by a host of ex-pupils whom he hadn’t met since they left school. To an observer it would have been obvious that he was much loved and respected.

He had a natural graciousness that seemed to trigger an outpouring of the details of their post-school lives. There was an architect who’d built a number of public buildings, including two churches; a university professor who was the author of a number of learned books; the CEO of an international company; a highly successful farmer who used the most modern technology in improving his harvests; a Cardinal in the Roman Catholic Church; and the Principal of a famous public school.

What a pleasure it was for the old priest listening to all their impressive successes and achievements. It appeared that there wasn’t a failure among those who had returned for the reunion.

He didn’t say much as he listened to them, just nodded and smiled. When they’d done, he congratulated them on their achievements. Then, opening his arms to them he asked them, “And now, tell me what you have made of yourselves?”

There was a long silence. They didn’t really want to talk about themselves. It was clear that they’d been so absorbed in their careers, with their energies focused on efficiency and success, that they hadn’t the time to grow emotionally, and so, in terms of relationships, many of them were impoverished.

There are people who may have done great things in their public lives but failed in their private lives. Most people who are successful at their careers leave their personal lives a long way behind. Indeed, their successes are often achieved at the expense of their personal lives.

Do you remember how in the parable of the Talents the first two men were commended by Jesus because they used their talents, but he berated the third because he had buried his talent?

When Christ talked about talents, he wasn’t meaning say, a musical talent, or a footballing talent. Those talents are important, and full marks to those who have, develop, and use them. But nowadays they are, in my opinion, outrageously over-valued and over-rewarded. Christ’s parable goes a lot deeper. Ultimately the only thing that matters is what we make of ourselves.

But we’re wrong if we think it is about making something of ourselves in a materialistic sense, though this is not ruled out. The ‘wife of noble character’ mentioned in the final chapter of Proverbs could hardly be described as being either successful or famous. Yet she is held up as a model. Why? Because of the person she is – industrious, caring, wise and virtuous. She’s got something more valuable than wealth or beauty. She has a loving heart. She has put her talents at the service of her family, her neighbours, and the poor. And so she is respected by the whole community.

Life is God’s gift to us. What we do with life is our gift to God.

Max Young