This week, Ligonier Ministries and Lifeway Research released their “State of Theology” survey. In the study, 3,000 American Christians were surveyed on various theological and moral positions.
Many of the results were troubling. However the one that I found to be perhaps the most signifiant point of disagreement was with the question “Jesus is the greatest and first being created by God.” 78% of survey respondents agreed.
I’d like to think some of them might have gotten confused by the wording of the question (and perhaps some did).
However, this heresy, historically known as Arianism, puts Jesus on a lower level than God the Father. The idea was categorically rejected at the Council of Nicea in 325.
The Nicene Creed includes the words:
We believe in one God,
the Father almighty,
maker of heaven and earth,
of all things visible and invisible.
And in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only Son of God,
begotten from the Father before all ages,
God from God,
Light from Light,
true God from true God,
begotten, not made;
of the same essence as the Father.
Through him all things were made.
-From the Nicene Creed
For the purposes of this post, the signifiant lines in the creed are that Jesus is “begotten, not made” and that he is “of the same essence as the Father.”
What’s more important than the creed is the fact that this is what the Bible reveals about Jesus. John 1:1-3 says: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Colossians 1:16 says: by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him.
Jesus has always existed. He is not created. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says “I and the father are one” (John 10:30) and that “he who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). While Colossians 2:9 says “In him, the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily.”
And there are many other Scriptures that support these teachings.
It’s problematic to have a view of Jesus that puts him on a lower level than God the Father. It’s because Jesus is God and is fully God that he is the worthy sacrifice for our sins.
Furthermore, straying from these beliefs can lead into other heresies. Undermining the divinity of Christ or the relationship of the Son to the Father is common in many pseudo-Christian movements such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses. This is not an inconsequential doctrinal difference. It’s one of the fundamental of the Christian faith. Jesus is the word who is God and who was in the beginning.
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Josh Benner is the associate pastor at Cornerstone Evangelical Free Church in Fergus Falls, Minnesota and has a Master of Divinity from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. He enjoys writing about faith and culture. He lives with his wife Kari in Minnesota.