Made Like His Brothers -- By: Tom Wells

Journal: Reformation and Revival
Volume: RAR 02:2 (Spring 1993)
Article: Made Like His Brothers
Author: Tom Wells


Made Like His Brothers

Tom Wells

Ours has been a difficult century. Wars and rumors of wars have been rampant; earthquakes and other natural disasters have taken their toll worldwide. In addition, print and broadcast media have brought these things to our attention in ways once undreamed of.

The theological world has been shaken by wars and earthquakes of its own. Our century, for example, has seen the blossoming of modernism, a movement noted for its abandonment of the doctrine of the full deity of Jesus Christ. Much of fundamentalism and evangelicalism has been shaped by reaction to that denial. When the battle lines were drawn on this issue each side took the stance it thought to be most useful in defending Christian doctrine as it understood it. Conservatives are what they are, to some important degree, because the modernists advertised their faith in the humanity of Jesus Christ at the expense of His deity.

But there is an odd fact about that battle: through much of church history it would have seemed necessary to side with the modernists (had they been around) in asserting that Jesus Christ is fully and truly man. It may be that the humanity of Jesus Christ has come under attack even more often than His deity.

At the end of the first century Christians confronted an error called Docetism. The word comes from a Greek verb meaning “to seem” or “to appear.” The Docetists contended that Christ seemed to be a man, He appeared human, but His humanity was just that: an appearance. They said this because they thought that human flesh, along with all other matter, was evil. In their own mistaken way they hoped to preserve the purity of Christ by denying that His flesh was real. Such a notion, however, would have been fatal to true Christianity if it had carried the day.

It seems likely that John addressed this problem in his first Epistle. He wrote of false prophets:

This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of anti-christ…(1 John 4:2–3b).

And again in his second Epistle he wrote: “Many deceivers, who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh, have gone out into the world. Any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 7). These harsh words show how strongly the Spirit of God, speaking through John, felt about Docetism. To deny that Jesus Christ was fully human was the work of antichrist and not of God. We may note in...

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