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Are Subtle Differences Really Minor Differences?

Biblical Authority Devotional: Attacking God’s Word, Part 6

by Steve Ham on October 21, 2010
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Sometimes the smallest differences in doctrine can make huge differences and have devastating consequences.

But made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:7–8)

Today’s big question: are subtle differences minor differences?

In the fifth century AD, Eutyches believed that God could not die. Everyone in the church today would hopefully agree. God cannot die. He is immortal. However, in his zeal to defend the faith against a heresy known as Nestorianism, Eutyches went too far in the other direction. He reasoned that from the time of His incarnation, Jesus only had one nature—as opposed to the accepted view which states that Christ had two natures (divine and human) in one person.

This might seem like the splitting of theological hairs, but consider one of the major problems with his view. If Eutyches was correct that Christ’s nature was a blending of human and divine, then He could not have died and subsequently risen from the dead. Consequently, we would still be in our sins. 

To someone holding the truth that God cannot die, the suggestion of Eutyches may have been a reasonable conclusion. The Council of Chalcedon formed in 451 to evaluate this thinking and rejected it as heresy. From this council we have a clear statement of biblical teaching that Christ is both fully God and fully man.

The Bible states that Christ was fully able to hold on to His place on the throne as the eternal Creator God, yet He humbled Himself, came in the form of a man, and was obedient to the point of dying on a cross. This should not trouble the Christian one bit since Christ is fully God and fully man. Only in such a way could He be the true Mediator between God and man. 

True biblical doctrine also shows the necessity of the physical death, Resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus Christ to the right hand of the Father. Any teaching that reasons that, based on His death, Jesus could not be both God and man completely rejects the fact that He has risen from the dead and is alive right now. “Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name” (Philippians 2:9). 

There are many subtle differences between denominations, colleges, schools, churches, and individual believers. These differences must weighed and measured in light of Scripture. Some have little bearing on essential doctrine for believers, but some, like that of Eutyches have enormous implication for the whole church. If Jesus was not God incarnate, there would be no resurrection and no life. We would have no atoning sacrifice for our sin and no defeat of a physical consequence of our sin—death. Subtle differences are often not minor differences.

Today’s big idea: if there was no God incarnate, then there is no resurrection of life.

What to pray: seek the Lord to keep you true to His Word and His gospel.

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