"Notes" to the Belgic
Confession - Rev. C. Bouwman
JESUS CHRIST TRUE AND ETERNAL GOD
On the basis of Scriptural evidence, deBres states that Jesus Christ is God. Evidence for the testimony of Scripture about Christ's divinity can be found in four areas:
1) Jesus is given divine names: Jesus is called God.
John 1:1 "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Verse 14 of the same chapter reads, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us ..." This is a reference to Christmas: Christ became flesh. Hence, if the Word is Christ, and the Word is God (vs 1), then the logical conclusion is that Christ is God.
1 John 5:20 "And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." Who is the true God? His Son Jesus Christ.
Romans 9:5 "... Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen." Christ is God.
Titus 2:13 "looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ." Paul says here that Jesus Christ is both God and Saviour.
2) Jesus has been ascribed divine attributes: all God's attributes are equally Christ's attributes.
Jesus is ETERNAL: unlike creatures who have been made, who have a beginning, Jesus was not made, nor does He have a beginning.
John 8:56-58: In response to the Jews, who asked Jesus how it was possible for Him to have seen Abraham, Himself not having reached the age of fifty years as yet, Jesus said, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was I AM." Jesus ascribed to Himself an existence that reached back far before Abraham's days.
John 17:5 "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was." Jesus was with the Father in Heaven before the events related to us in Genesis 1 occurred. He is eternal.
Jesus KNOWS ALL THINGS:
John 1:48 "Nathanael said to Him, "How do You know me?" Jesus answered and said to him, "Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you." Here Jesus demonstrates that He knows more than the average person knows. Jesus also demonstrated this to the Samaritan woman at Jacob's well. In John 4:16-18 we read, "Jesus said to her, "Go, call your husband, and come here." The woman answered and said, "I have no husband." Jesus said to her, "You have well said, "I have no husband, for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; in that you spoke truly." The only reason why Jesus knew that the woman's current husband was her sixth, and that they were not married was because He knows more than the average person. Not only did Jesus reveal the extent of His knowledge, but also that He could read people's minds. In John 2:25 it says concerning Jesus, "and had no need that anyone should testify of man, for He knew what was in man." People cannot do this. It is only because Jesus is divine that He knows what is on another man's mind.
3) Jesus is involved in divine work:
This work included the CREATION of the world. In John 1:3 we read, "All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made." Likewise, in Hebrews 1:2 we read, God "has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds."
Jesus is able to FORGIVE sins.
In Mark 2:5 we read, "When Jesus saw their faith, He said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven you." No person is able to do this, for forgiveness of sins is a work of God. The Scribes who overheard these words of Jesus understood that only God could forgive sins, for they reasoned among themselves, "Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?" (vs 7). In granting forgiveness Jesus revealed Himself as God.
Jesus' work involves divine JUDGMENT: "For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son" (John 5:22).
To sentence one to heaven or to hell is not the work of a creature but of God.
4) Jesus has been ascribed divine honour:
In Matthew 28:19 we read
that the Son is not less than the Father or the Holy Spirit, but is placed
on a level with these two Persons of the Godhead. "Go therefore and
make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father
and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." In John 5:23 it says that
the Son and the Father are to receive equal honour: "that all should
honour the Son just as they honuor the Father. He who does not honour the
Son does not honour the Father who sent Him." To fail to honour the
Son is to fail to honour the Father.
The above list of texts is by no means exhaustive. However, they make it very clear that the Father reveals the Son to be God. Christ is not just a man. Although He is a man (see Article 18), He is also Divine, He is God. That being so, it means too that the immutability, majesty, wisdom, truth, love, goodness, etc. which we confess concerning God are equally true of Christ.
CHRIST, TRUE ETERNAL GOD, IS MY SAVIOUR
To confess that Christ is
God, and therefore equally majestic, wise, loving, good, etc., means that the
answer to the question 'Who is Christ?' gives all the more reason for man to
stand in awe of this truth. The One who made Himself my Saviour is no weakling,
nor is He an average somebody; He is none less than God! "He
has delivered us from the power of darkness and conveyed us into the kingdom
of the Son of His love," says Paul to the Colossians, and then he adds
concerning the Saviour's identity that "He is the image of the invisible
God" (Read 1 Col. 1:9-23). The thought is astounding, but true nevertheless:
the One who died on the Cross of Calvary for my sin was God the Son.
Philippians 2:5ff: "... Christ Jesus... being in the form of God, did
not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation,
taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.... He humbled
Himself and become obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." It is beyond human understanding: on the cross died none other than my Saviour, true God.
HERESIES CONCERNING CHRIST'S DIVINITY
Who Christ is has been discussed extensively in the course of church history. Already in the early days of the Church Christ's divinity was disputed. A man by the name of Arius was of the conviction that Christ is not true God. He claimed that there was a time when Jesus did not exist. Consequently this must mean that Jesus was created. Arius maintained that Jesus was not from eternity, but was the first creature God formed. To say that Christ was created means that He is not God.
In response to the struggle in the church concerning this matter, the Council of Nicea (325 A.D.) was instrumental in formulating the Nicene Creed (Book of Praise, p. 437). The Nicene Creed expands upon the Apostles' Creed by adding in Paragraph 2 the following: "I believe in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God; begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father, by whom all things were made." In opposition to the teachings of Arius, this creed confesses that Jesus is God in accordance with what the Bible says.
This statement of faith by the Council of Nicea came into disrepute in later years, necessitating the formulation of the Athanasian Creed (Book of Praise, pp 438-9). Articles 29-43 of this creed concern themselves with who Christ is. Article 29 speaks of Christ's incarnation, that is, His coming in the flesh. Concerning Christ incarnate, article 30 goes on to say that He is "the son of God, is God and man." To confess that Christ is true God is no trivial matter, says article 29, but "necessary to everlasting salvation." The Athanasian Creed concludes with similar words, stating in article 44 concerning all that is confessed in this creed, including too therefore the confession concerning Christ's divinity, "this is the catholic faith, which except a man believe faithfully, he cannot be saved."
JESUS CHRIST'S DIVINITY IS ESSENTIAL FOR SALVATION
If I deny that Christ is God, there is no salvation for me. Arius said it years ago, and he still has many followers today. For example, Jehovah's Witnesses insist that they are godly people and that they read the Bible as the Word of God. Yet, they say of Christ that He is not God. We confess with the words of the Athanasian creed that salvation depends on the confession of Christ's divinity. Christ's divinity is therefore highly significant, and a denial of it has serious eternal consequences.
Today's world is full of 'liberal theology' which starts with the premise that Jesus was just a man like any other human being, just the normal son of two parents called Joseph and Mary, a good man, a teacher who taught and demonstrated how to live a moral life, and who concerned himself with the plight of the poor and the down trodden. Liberal theology is no more than a continuation of Arius' reasoning.
Why is it that if Jesus
is not God, I cannot be saved? The Heidelberg Catechism, in Lord's Day 6,
Q&A 17, states why it was necessary for Christ to be true God. If Christ
had not been true God, but just an ordinary man, He could not have carried
the burden of God's wrath against the sin of mankind. Then Christ would simply
have perished, God's wrath is too great for any human being to carry. Had
Christ perished, there would have been no salvation. Therefore, to say that
Jesus is not God is to deny that Jesus is my Saviour, and hence I have no
salvation. These two truths, Jesus' divinity and salvation through Jesus death
on Calvary, cannot be separated. Furthermore, if Jesus is not God, none of
the words that He spoke would be of any benefit either. Scripture says that
Jesus speaks in the name of God. He spoke God's words. If Jesus was just any
man, by what authority should we believe His words?
If the Christian faith were to deny that Jesus is God, Christianity would in essence no longer be any different from any other religion. The fundamental difference between Christianity and all other religions is the matter of whether salvation depends on man's reaching out to God or God's reaching out to man. In all other religions people believe they have to reach out to 'God' and somehow impress 'God' so they might in turn be accepted by 'God.' But the heart of the Christian faith is the belief that God comes to people; He sent His Son. Man didn't offer anything to God; man didn't offer a man to God. The Christian faith is God-centred, believes in salvation through the gift of God to man: His Son, true and eternal God.