Greg Strand is EFCA executive director of theology and credentialing, and he serves on the Board of Ministerial Standing as well as the Spiritual Heritage Committee. He and his family are members of Northfield (Minnesota) EFC.
Yesterday we looked at the Chalcedonian Creed, which consists of the orthodox statement affirming the biblical truth that Jesus is fully God and fully man. The key expression is summarized in the affirmation “one person, two natures.” In theological/doctrinal terms, this is what we are addressing when we discuss the hypostatic union (the Greek hypostasis means “being,” “substance,” “nature,” “essence,” or “person”).
The term Creed comes from the Latin credo, which means ‘I believe’. Creeds consist of statements of belief, explicit statements of truth that are confessed, both individually and corporately. But for every explicit statement of belief is an implicit statement of denial. For example, one of the early Christological confessions in the New Testament is that Jesus is God (Jn. 1:1, 18; 20:28; Acts 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 1 Jn. 5:20; 2 Pet. 1:1). When Christians explicitly affirm this truth, they are implicitly denying any statement that denies or undermines this truth. Though not stated, we deny the teaching of the Arians who claimed Jesus was not fully God, and today we implicitly deny the teaching of the Jehovah’s Witnesses who claim Jesus is a god.
This is reflected in the Chalcedonian Creed as well. It is important to note that this Creed attempted to address every Christological heresy that had affected the church up to that time. Robert Reymond (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998], 608-609) helpfully makes explicit these implicit denials, which I have adapted and expanded.
As Evangelicals committed to the gospel of Jesus Christ, the faith once for all entrusted to the saints (Jude 3), and as those who are a part of the longer and larger Evangelical stream throughout the history of the church, we, like our Evangelical predecessors, affirm Chalcedonian Christology, as a statement that summarizes the Bible’s teaching about Jesus Christ. Here is the conclusion in Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America (pp. 98-99):
Jesus Christ is thus one Person in whom two distinct natures are united.
Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man. He is fully and completely both at the same time, showing us the true nature of each. He is not some mixture of humanity and divinity, creating a third kind of being, like a horse and donkey becoming a mule. The Son of God remained God – he never gave up being God, but he added to his divinity real humanity. As God incarnate, the divine subject made real human experience his own, and since the incarnation, the Son of God will forever be human.
Against Arius, the Chalcedonian Creed asserts that Jesus was truly God. Against Apollinaris, it asserts that he was truly man. Against Eutyches, it asserts that Jesus’ deity and humanity were not changed into something else. And against Nestorius, the Creed asserts that Jesus was not divided but was one Person and in this one Person are two distinct natures, which are divine and human in all their fullness.