December “Tabletalk”: Christology in Context – S.Nichols

TT - Dec 2014As we noted here last Monday, the December issue of Tabletalk (Ligonier Ministries’ monthly devotional) is fittingly (for the season) centered on the doctrine of Christ. The theme is “Who Do You Say That I Am?: The Person and Work of Christ.”

Yesterday I read the second feature article on this subject, “Christology in Context”, by Dr.Stephen J. Nichols, president of Reformation Bible College and a Ligonier teaching fellow.

He takes us on a brief journey through the first four centuries of church history to show the ecclesiastical setting in which the Christological controversies took place. Revealing the errors of Docetism and Arianism (among others), Nichols reminds us of the great care the church took under the guidance of the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures to set forth the truth concerning the Person and natures of Christ at Nicea (325) and Chalcedon (451).

If you have forgotten this part of your church history, this is a great article to review it and be reminded again of the importance of careful definition in theology. As in the vital importance of one vowel – “i” – in the Greek! Find out why by reading the article linked above. For now, here is a brief excerpt from it:

The bishops at Nicea concluded that homoousios alone measured up to the standard of biblical teaching. The Nicene Creed declares that Jesus is “very God of very God, begotten not made, being of one substance with the Father.”

This creed is not uncovering new ground. Rather, it summarizes the massive swath of biblical material regarding the person of Christ. The author of Hebrews begins by declaring, “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3). Paul says rather directly that in Jesus “dwells the whole fullness of deity bodily” (Col. 2:9).

The Nicene Creed is a prime example of systematic theology at its best. Systematic theology seeks to organize and summarize, not add or detract from, the biblical teaching. Systematic theologians then teach this doctrine to the church. These bishops in the early churches were systematic theologians. The creed the bishops constructed at Nicea was their gift to the church.

At the center of church life is worship. And at the center of our worship is Christ. Every Christian should be asking, Whom do I worship? Who is this Christ at the center of my worship? The Nicene Creed gives us a biblically rich and true answer.

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