Who is Jesus Christ? In article ten, the the historic Belgic Confession, addresses this foundational question. Here is the next installment in my attempt to offer brief commentary and reflection upon this very significant theological document.
JESUS CHRIST IS TRUE AND ETERNAL GOD
We believe that Jesus Christ, according to his divine nature, is the only begotten Son of God (Matt 17:5; John 1:18, 49; 3:16; 14:1–14; 20:17, 31; Rom 1:4; Gal 4:4; Heb 1:2; 1 John 5:5, 9-12), begotten from eternity (John 1:14; Col 1:15), not made nor created (for then he would be a creature), but co-essential (John 10:30; Phil 2:6) and coeternal with the Father (John 1:2; 17:5; Rev 1:8), the express image of his person, and the brightness of his glory (Heb 1:3), equal unto him in all things (John 5:18, 23; 10:30; 14:9; 20:28; Rom 9:5; Phil 2:6; Col 1:15; Tit 2:13; Heb 1:3; Rev 5:13). Who is the Son of God, not only from the time that he assumed our nature, but from all eternity (John 8:23, 58; 9:35-37; 17:5; Acts 8:37; Rom 9:5; Heb 13:8), as these testimonies, when compared together, teach us. Moses saith that God created the world (Gen 1:1); and John saith that all things were made by that Word (John 1:3), which he calleth God; and the Apostle saith that God made the worlds by his Son (Heb 1:2); likewise, that God created all things by Jesus Christ (1 Cor 8:6; Col 1:16). Therefore it must needs follow that he—who is called God, the Word, the Son, and Jesus Christ—did exist at the time when all things were created by him (Col 1:16). Therefore the Prophet Micah saith: His goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Mic 5:2; John 8:58; 17:5). And the Apostle: “He hath neither beginning of days nor end of life”( Heb 7:3). He therefore is that true, eternal, almighty God, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.
In short order, the confession will discuss the humanity of Jesus Christ (art. XVIII) and the union/distinction of his two natures (art. XIX), which is why those immensely important topics are absent in this particular place. This brief statement is not be understood as a fully-developed or comprehensive Christology, but as a confession focused on the deity and eternality of Jesus Christ. These two aspects are distinct yet interrelated, and a few observations can be made on each.
First, Jesus Christ is divine. “He therefore is that true, eternal, almighty God, whom we invoke, worship, and serve.” Jesus is not merely an enlightened human, demigod, or possessor of divine-like attributes, but is “co-essential…with the Father, the express image of his person…equal unto him in all things.” This may be the great divide in all interfaith discussions: Jesus Christ is God, full stop. Here we must stand with joyful confidence and humble reverence.
Second, Jesus Christ, the Son of God, though incarnate at a particular point in history, is uncreated and eternal. There is not a time when the Word did not exist. Jesus Christ is the one by whom, through whom, and for whom all things were created (Col 1:16). A debate that began in the early church–and carries on to this day–revolves around whether or not there was a time when the Father existed without the Son. This belief, associated with the early church leader Arius and therefore typically bearing his name, comes in various forms, though the central idea is that there was a time when the Son was not. Whether the language is of begetting, creating, or proceeding from the Father, the claim is that the Son, be he ever so ancient and even pre-temporal, is not eternal in the same sense that the Father is. (Both Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons profess a form of this doctrine.)
This confession, by way of contrast, stands in line with historic Christian orthodoxy by specifically refuting these claims. The language above is explicit in affirming the belief that Jesus Christ is “the Son of God…from all eternity”. Though we rightly use the biblical language of “begetting” and “sonship”, we are not to understand this to mean that there was a time in which the Son of God did not exist. That position ignores the testimony of Scripture, disrupts the doctrine of the Trinity, and undercuts the whole of our system of faith.
Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God who is also the Word-made-flesh is neither made nor created, but one with the Father and Spirit from all eternity, fully divine, and worthy of our worship and service. With this confession, and with the faithful in every age, we celebrate this wonderfully mysterious truth.