Children of a Lesser God
Friday of Pentecost 18
28 September 2018
You can't have it both ways. Either Jesus is God of God incarnate of the Virgin Mary, or He is in no way God. There are not levels of divinity in God. Either Mary is the mother of God or she is not. The ancient heretic Nestorius was willing to attribute honorific titles to Mary and he was able to describe her as bearing some kind of imposition by God, so that she would be a conduit of the divine to the world. However, it seems that Nestorius thought of her merely as a pipeline, rather than as a mother. God's Son only came through her. He passed through her, perhaps like sun through a windowpane. Then who is the One born of Mary? Is He merely man? Is He man who only bears the divinity? How are the two natures in Christ related to each other? Are they merely connected? If she bears only the Sun of righteousness, what does that mean? Nestorius was keeping the two natures in Christ, the divine and the human, separated from each other. Nestorius was trying to keep the divinity of Christ from being contaminated by too close a connection with humanity.

Nestorius was attempting to protect the holiness of God. That's a laudable, even if an implausible project, because God is more than capable of protecting His holiness without our help. Our task is to keep His name holy here by saying after Him what He has already said about Himself in His divine Word. It is not keeping God's name holy to bestow on Mary some series of honorific titles without being clear about the person of her Son, who is God of God and incarnate of Mary. If His divinity is merely "connected with humanity," what is the connection like? Are the two natures merely glued together like some cheap plywood that comes apart under a little pressure? When Mary bore her Son, whom did she bear? Is God-with-us? Or something lesser? Look at His works. He comes to enlighten all persons. He has created all things and still sustains them. He sends the message of the gospel until the end of the age. Can One who does such things be a mere godling, an appearance of God in the world, but not God Himself?

If Jesus is merely the indwelling of God in man, not God incarnate, the He is reduced to a Mormon god. Merely the best of all possible men, someone in whom the divine spark dwells. A lesser god is no god at all.

If these questions are left to fester among us, we can never be sure of our salvation. Who less than God could work salvation for us? Who only appearing to be God could be the high Priest who offers Himself for the sins of the whole world? Who could rise from the dead and also ascend to be seated at the right hand of His Father to fill all things? Yet the Bible attributes all these things to the God-Man as the working of our salvation. Let us not become children of a lesser god.

Rev. Dr. Scott R. Murray
Memorial Lutheran Church

   Cyril of Alexandria
"Since Nestorius says that he knows that the holy Virgin is dignified, let us consider why she should be considered with reverence. Nestorius says, 'I know that she is dignified, through whom the Lord of all passed and through whom the Sun of righteousness beamed.' How then are you, Nestorius, able to say that she received God? Or in what way did the Lord of all pass through her? Or how did the Sun of righteousness beam through her? If she did not bear God after the flesh, how did she receive God? How did He pass through her? Perhaps you will say this wise word of yours as you think and dare to speak it: The Word was God both 'connected with man and indwelling in him.' But the tradition of the faith makes itself ready against your words about this. We have been taught to worship not merely a God-bearing man, but God incarnate. You do not speak this way! How can you not see that you are babbling and falsely counterfeiting the truth that is in the divine dogmas? For the Word has been made flesh.

"How then can you now say that the Virgin received God except that you have believed that she bore Immanuel who is God by nature? How did the Lord of all pass through her and how did the Sun of righteousness shine in her? And who is He that you think fit to embellish by such names? Is He a common man, like one of us, yet considered holy, because He has the Word of God dwelling in Him? Then how will such a one be Lord of all and Sun of righteousness? For the power of lordship and dominion over all and of enlightening intelligent creatures will not be subject to our measures but will be attributed to the supreme and most high nature alone." 

Cyril of Alexandria, Five Tomes Against Nestorius, 1.2
Ephesians 1:15-23

For this reason, because I have heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love toward all the saints, I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. (ESV)
Heavenly Father, Your servant Cyril steadfastly proclaimed Your Son, Jesus Christ, to be one person, fully God and fully man. By Your infinite mercy, keep us constant in faith and worship of Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.

For Bobby Vollman, that His Lord Jesus would be with him as he undergoes medical testing and that doctors and other health professionals would be endowed with wisdom as they care for him

For Michael Koutsodontis, that Christ his Savior would continue to grant him peace and mercy

For peace and tranquility in our society, that we might live quiet lives in all godliness and useful industry
Art: Albrecht DURER, The Adoration of the Trinity (1511)
Memorial Lutheran Church
© Scott Murray 2018
Memorial Lutheran Church, 5800 Westheimer Rd., Houston, TX 77057
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