The Christian church is doomed without a high view of Jesus Christ. That should be self-evident from the name “Christian church.” Yet, just as we take for granted (or even ignore) a familiar person, it’s easy to take for granted (or even ignore) the breath-taking heights of Christ’s deity.
I’m reading Dreams and Visions, a book of narratives about Christ appearing in dreams and visions to unbelievers in countries where Christians are persecuted. It’s a fascinating read I recommend.
In the chapter, “The Swords of Baghdad, Part 1”, is the section, “Two Faces of Iraq.” From it, I was reminded that Christianity has roots in (of all places) Iraq. In the 5th century a preacher named Nestorius became patriarch of Constantinople (in today’s Turkey), Nestorius believed Jesus had “part of God’s spirit”, but was not fully God. Because he enjoyed wide influence, church leaders in other jurisdictions of the church convened the Council of Ephesus in 431 A.D. The Council formally denounced Nestorius, removed and banished him to Egypt. But many of his followers moved east to Persia.
Here’s the map to understand the logistics. Turkey is big and orange on the left. Egypt is pink toward the bottom left. Persia is today’s Iraq in the middle, also pink. That’s where Nestorius’ followers ended up. (No extra charge for the map. If you want driving directions, though, I’d suggest Mapquest.)
In Persia (Iraq) Nestorius’ followers found listening ears for their “low-view-of-Christ” theology. The church they planted became known as the Assyrian or Syriac Church and even sent missionaries back to today’s Turkey. Today “Assyrian Christians” are scattered through most of the Middle East. In 1976 the Assyrian Church rejected some Nestorian beliefs, but debate remains over the church’s acceptance of the full deity of Christ.
Tom Doyle, author of Dreams and Visions, makes this telling observation: The Assyrian Church’s weak view of Christ explains, at least in part, why Christianity fell apart in Persia when Islam swept in. Without a proper view of Jesus, the church anywhere is doomed to a mediocre existence. If Jesus, the head of the church is (considered) weak, how can the church be anything but weak? . . . The most troubling aspect of this errant belief system in Iraq is the effect it has on individuals within the church. The understanding that Jesus is somewhat less than God leaves each Assyrian at a sharp disadvantage when faced with the overwhelming presence of Islam—that is, until he or she encounters the overwhelming presence of Jesus Himself (in dreams and visions).”
Most of our churches maintain proper doctrinal statements about the deity of Christ. But usually we picture him walking the roads of Galilee or hanging on the cross. Thank God he did! However, without being less than a man, he was and is so much more, more exalted than we can imagine . Here are just a few Scriptures to raise our sight of him.
In the beginning was the Word,
and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God (John 1:1).
Long ago, at many times and in many ways,
God spoke to our fathers by the prophets,
but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,
whom he appointed the heir of all things,
through whom he created the world.
He is the radiance of the glory of God,
and the exact imprint of his nature,
and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:1-3a)
He (the Son of God) is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn of all creation (i.e., like the “firstborn” who inherits all that is the father’s).
For by him all things were created,
things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible,
whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—
all things were created by him and for him.
And he is the head of the body, the church.
He is the beginning and firstborn from the dead,
that in everything he might be preeminent.
For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell . . . (Colossians 1:15-19).
Then [Jesus] said to Thomas,
“Put your finger here, and see my hands;
and put out your hand, and place it in my side.
Do not disbelieve, but believe.”
Thomas answered him,
“My Lord and my God! (John 20:27,28)
NOW LET’S PLAY THE VIDEO ABOVE
AND WORSHIP OUR HIGH AND EXALTED CHRIST WHO IS GOD!