June 07, 2009 Q & A

Unity without belief in Christ's divinity


The Bible talks about having unity with other believers and discernment. Should a Christ follower have fellowship or unity with a Christian who does not believe Christ to be divine? I say that apart from a divine Christ there is no Christianity. I have some friends who are professing Christians and others who appear to think that Christ was not divine. Your thoughts on this?


Your question immediately brings to mind the book Christianity and Liberalism written by J. Gresham Machen in 1923.

As you may know, Machen was a professor at Princeton Theological Seminary from 1915–1929 and at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia from 1929–1937.  He witnessed firsthand the effects of liberalism and a lack of church discipline that impacted the Presbyterian Church in the USA in those days.  One of the issues that particularly drew his attention was the fact that the PCUSA was sending out missionaries who did not affirm the essential tenets of the Christian faith, like the deity of Christ.

In Christianity and Liberalism, as the title itself suggests, Machen argued that Christianity and liberalism were in fact different religions.  As you suggest, Christianity without the Christ who is the eternal Son of the Father, the great "I am" who existed before Abraham, the Word of God by whom and through whom all things were created, and who became flesh in the fullness of time, is simply a contradiction in terms.

Machen’s stand against liberalism eventually led to a separation and to the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian Church in 1936.  Machen and others refused to accommodate themselves to those who denied Christ.  Machen himself was defrocked by the PCUSA for his refusal to support the liberal agenda, but his courage and willingness to suffer loss for the sake of Christ has been an encouragement to many others to stand faithfully for Christ.  The OPC has understood her calling to "to go to [Jesus] outside the camp and bear the reproach He endured" (Hebrews 13:13).

True Christianity affirms Jesus as the King of kings, the Lord of lords, who was and is and ever more shall be and to whom all authority in heaven and on earth has been given.  He the Lord's Anointed, the Prophet, Priest, and King to whom the whole of Scripture points.  He is the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.  He has returned to the glory that He had with the Father before the world began.  He powerfully and effectively loved the Church and gave Himself up for her that she might be saved and share in His glory.  He has been raised in resurrection body to ascend to heaven at the right of the Father.

The Westminster Confession of Faith, the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s official statement of faith, speaks to your question regarding the deity of Christ in chapter IX, “Of Christ the Mediator,” especially in sections 2 and 3 which read as follows:

2. The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man's nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

3. The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, was sanctified, and anointed with the Holy Spirit, above measure, having in him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell; to the end that, being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be thoroughly furnished to execute the office of a mediator, and surety. Which office he took not unto himself, but was thereunto called by his Father, who put all power and judgment into his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.

Your comment and question remind us of the strong instruction and exhortation of the short epistle of II John, especially verses 7-11 which say this:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward.  Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

As the apostle Paul writes in II Corinthians 6: 14-15, "Do not be unequally yoked with unbelievers. For what partnership has righteousness with lawlessness? Or what fellowship has light with darkness? What accord has Christ with Belial? Or what portion does a believer share with an unbeliever?"  This passage speaks to church membership and to marriage.  Believers should be equally yoked, believers joined to believers.  The cup and the bread we share at the Lord’s Supper testify that we are holily joined to the God-man Jesus Christ and to one another in Him.  The church, holy and catholic (that is, worldwide), is His body, and the church is to be composed of those who believe in Him and their children.  Those children are to be brought up in the nurture and admonition of the Lord.

As Christians, then, in love, we call men, women, and children everywhere to repent of their sin and rebellion and to embrace Jesus Christ with us, as He is so freely offered to us in the gospel.  He is named Jesus, which means "Jehovah (or Yahweh) saves."  "God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life" (John 3:16). 



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