An Ordinary Viewpoint

Who is God? - VII



Crucial Questions

In the New Testament can be found many significant questions about the identity of Jesus, and, in some ways, the entirety of the four Gospel narratives constitutes a series of answers to those important questions, showing how our Lord gradually and progressively made known the fullness of Who He is was, and, indeed, Who He always is. This is a sample of those kinds of questions: "What manner of Man is this that even the wind and the sea obey Him?" (Matthew 8:27). "Who can forgive sins except God alone?" (Mark 2:7). "Are You the One Who is to come, or are we to look for another?" (Luke 7:19). "What must I do to gain eternal life?" (Luke 10:25). "Who then can be saved?" (Luke 18:26). "Who are You?" (John 8:25). "Who do You make Yourself out to be?" (John 8:53). "Where do You come from?" (John 19:9). "Are You then a king?" (John 18:37) "What is truth?" (John 18:38). "I adjure You by the living God to tell us whether You are the Christ, the Son of God?" (Matthew 26:63). "Behold, we have left everything in order to follow You, so what then shall we have?" (Matthew 19:27). "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of everlasting life." (John 6:69). Then there are the great questions asked by Jesus Himself, such as: "Who do men say the Son of Man is?" and "But, who do you say that I am?" (Matthew 16:13-15). Those questions of our Redeemer, of course, were intended not only to be answered by the Apostles and other contemporaries of Christ in the course of His earthly sojourn, but by all humanity down through all the ages.

Jesus claimed and proved that He was the promised Messiah (in Greek, the "Christ" or the "Anointed One"), the Messiah Who was royal, descended from King David, (Luke 1:32), Prophetic, according to the promise foretold by Moses, (Mark 6:4), and Priestly, not by direct descent from Aaron, but according to the mysterious "Order of Melchisedech" (Hebrews 5:6; Psalm 110:4; Genesis 14:18-20). But, even before His resurrection, it seems that His divinity, something far above and beyond His "messiahship", was acknowledged, because He was addressed not only as "Master" and "Teacher" (in Hebrew "Rabbi"), but also by divine titles, such as ‘Lord" (in Greek "Kyrios" and in Hebrew "Adonai"). However, it is clear, especially in the Fourth Gospel, that the reality of the incarnation of God Himself, united to His "Word" (in Greek "Logos"), is the transcendent and sublime reality of Christ’s complete identity: "And the Word was made Flesh and dwelt among us. And we saw His glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and of truth." (John 1:14). Thus the Fourth Gospel draws to a conclusion with the crescendo-words of the Apostle Saint Thomas addressed to Jesus, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).

Aquinas

Probably the finest and most brilliant mind God ever created among mortal men belonged to the genius thirteenth century Dominican Friar, Saint Thomas Aquinas. His words in his theological treatment of Jesus deserve respect and study: "God the Son is equal with the Father. He was subject to death, not in His divine nature, which is the living fountainhead of all things, but in our nature, which He assumed in the unity of His Person. God the Son was not made by God, but was naturally born of God. Consequently, He is not subject to the eternal law, but rather is Himself the eternal law by a kind of appropriation. One difference between Christ and other men is this: they do not choose when to be born, but He, the Lord and Maker of history, chose His time, His birthplace, and His mother. We profess two wisdoms in Christ, the uncreated wisdom of God and the created wisdom of man."

The Angelic Doctor, (the common nickname for Saint Thomas Aquinas), goes on to say:

"Theological tradition ascribes to Christ a threefold grace. First, the grace of the hypostatic union, whereby a human nature is united to the Person of the Son of God; second, sanctifying grace, the fullness of which distinguishes Christ above all others, and third, His grace as Head of the Church. The proper office of a mediator is to join opposed parties, to labor so that extremes meet in the middle. To achieve our union with God is Christ’s work as High Priest and Mediator. He alone is the perfect Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5) between God and men, forasmuch as the human race was brought into agreement with God through His death. He is the only Mediator, Peace-maker, and Intercessor Who can save us. Christ’s manner of life was shaped by the purpose of His incarnation. He came into the world, first, that He might proclaim the truth, second, that He might free men from their sins, and third, that He might make it possible for human beings to have access to God."

Other Testimony

Saint John of Damascus, a great theologian in the eighth century, wrote: "The Word appropriates to Himself the attributes of humanity, for all that pertains to His holy Flesh is His, and He imparts to the Flesh His own divine attributes. He lived and acted both as God and as Man, taking to Himself a human nature which interacts with His divine nature, so that One and the Same Christ, therefore, is One Person, that is, perfect God and perfect Man. Him we worship along with the Father and the Holy Spirit with one obeisance, adoring also His immaculate Flesh and not holding that the Flesh is not worthy of worship. In fact, that Flesh is worshipped in the One Person of the Word Who came to earth to use it to save mankind. In this, however, we do not adore what is created. We worship Him not as mere Flesh, but as Flesh united to divinity, and we worship Him because His two natures are brought together in One Person and One Subsistence of God the Word."

"For there never was time when God was not His Word. He ever possesses His own Word, begotten of Himself, not as our word is, without subsistence and dissolving into air, but having a Substance in Him, and being Life and Perfection, not proceeding out of Himself but ever existing within Himself." Saint John of Damascus concluded one of his treatises on Jesus with a prayer: "Hail O Christ, the Word and Wisdom and Power of God and God Omnipotent! What can we helpless mortals give You in return for all the good gifts of Yours. For all things are Yours and You give us our salvation. You ask nothing from us except that we accept this gift and accept Yourself, Who are the Giver through Your indescribable goodness. Thanks be to You Who gives us divine life with the grace of possible eternal happiness. And, You restored this to us when we had gone astray through Your glorious condescension!"

Saint Ambrose remarked: "Jesus, the Son of God, is the face of the Father. Whoever sees the Son, sees the Father also. This is what Christ Himself said (John 14:9). This is Who God really is!"

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