Good morning, North Hills, and Merry Christmas! Thank you for all of you who are visiting online and have joined us to worship our Savior this morning. I’m so glad that you are here with us as well, worshiping with us. Welcome! I’m glad you’re here. Today is the day after Christmas. You never know who’s going to show up on the day after Christmas. I’m thankful somebody is here, to be honest. I probably have struggled to get out of the flannels and show up today, but I’m glad you did.

Christmas is a mixed bag for people. For some people, it’s nostalgic and good and healthy, and other people, it’s a lot of hurt associated with this time of year. And so, regardless of the circumstances that you’ve walked through, that have shaped this weekend and this time of the year, I hope that reflecting on the incarnation has been good no matter our circumstances. So, let’s pray. And we’re going to jump in here into our last part of our Advent series.

Lord Jesus, thank you for giving us your grace during this season. I thank you for those that are here, those that are online watching. I pray, Lord, that your Spirit would dwell among us. And as we bring this series to a close, thinking about the early church heresies, and then in light of that, looking at the manger and the incarnation and looking at what Christ has done and who he is. Lord Jesus, that you would use this word today to draw men and women to yourself. And I pray, Lord, that you would speak through me, Holy Spirit, that you’d move me out of the way and do what you will in Jesus’ name, amen.

Earlier this month, the magazine Christianity Today published research from Lifeway, which reveals that many Christians and most Americans don’t understand the second person of the Trinity, the Son of God. Many Americans, many Christians and most Americans don’t understand it. Now there’s some good. It revealed that 70 to 80 percent of Americans believe that Jesus is the Son of God and that he was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. And almost every self-identified, active Christian believes that … that he was the Son of God and was born in Bethlehem 2000 years ago. Far fewer Americans and Christians know whether or not, when they were asked, “Did the Son of God exist before Jesus was born?” They didn’t know what to say. So, I thought about doing an informal survey here today, having you raise your hand whether or not you think Jesus was born, or excuse me, the Son of God existed before Jesus was born. But you know how those go in church. You don’t know what to say, and then if you answer wrong, what does that mean for your soul? You know, you know how that goes? So, it’s the day after Christmas and you’re here, and that’s good. So, let’s just not do the survey thing. How about that?

But I will answer it as we go through this today. Fortunately for you and I, people have gone before us in church history and wrestled through the scriptural teaching of the incarnation and the nature of God the Son. Today is our fourth and final part in our series, Heresy and Majesty, and where we look back on the past, the heresies of the past, hopefully learn from them as we worship Christ, our Savior. So, today we’re looking at the final one. It’s called Eutychianism.

If you can stand up right now and describe what Eutychianism is, you get a tithe discount next week on your tithing. No one can do that, and I’ll confess that I couldn’t either. When I was assigned this topic, I was like, “OK. Sounds warm and Christmassy. I’ll do that one.” But after studying it and learning it, I think it will be helpful for us, and I hope it is.

So, here’s what I’m going to do. I’m going to start with the dispute (what happened), and then how it was answered and addressed, and then why this is important, and then hopefully at the end, kind of wrap the whole series together with a few thoughts. Are you ready? Here we go.

So, here’s how the dispute unfolded. At the Council of Ephesus that we talked about last week, which was in 431, the year 431 … At the Council of Ephesus, that was all about Nestorius and Nestorianism that we talked about last Sunday. At that council, there was a man who strongly opposed Nestorius. His name was Eutyches. Before that, no one really knew who he was. That’s not exactly true. Very few people knew who he was. Eutyches was the leader of a monastery outside of Constantinople, and he led about 300 monks at that monastery. He was old and well respected there, but not really known well outside of that circle of that monastery until the Council of Ephesus in 431, when he kind of publicly opposed Nestorianism, and rightly so. After Ephesus, Eutyches continued to want to be so far away from Nestorianism that just to be on the exact opposite end. And Eutyches began to — in trying to avoid the heresy of Nestorius, that the two natures are completely separate things, not united in one Christ — Eutyches began to teach that there are actually … those two natures are really just one, fully united in Christ and not two distinct natures, God and man.

So, he taught the personal unity of Christ at the expense of the distinction of those natures. He taught that to distinguish the two natures of Christ at all, fully God and fully man, to actually acknowledge that, was Nestorian. It was separating those natures and therefore heresy.

So, I have this little drawing here that I made, that I stole from somebody else. That is what Eutyches was teaching. Now If you look at the horizontal line that goes across the center of the dotted line, that represents the incarnation. Eutyches taught that the Godhood and the manhood of Jesus, existed before the incarnation and that at the incarnation, those things came together in kind of a God-/manhood, into one nature and one person, Christ Jesus. So, rather than it being two natures in one person, he had those natures completely mixed together into one. He said this. Eutyches said this:

“Our Lord was of two natures before the union (the incarnation) and after the union, only one. That mixture (That’s not a very helpful graphic), that mixture of the two natures into one is called monophysitism.”

That sounds fancier than it is. If you just break down the word, it’s easy. “Mono” means “one,” right? That was an easy one. “Physis” is the Greek word for “nature.”  Just one nature is what he taught. He would go on to say that the divine swallowed up the human like a drop of wine into the ocean. Now if you think about that, if you put a drop of wine into the ocean, I suppose that technically, the wine is still there on a molecular level. But his point was the wine, the drop of wine representing the humanity of Christ, dropped into the ocean of God’s divinity. It’s technically there, but does it really make a difference whatsoever? Does a drop of wine make a difference whatsoever in the ocean? It’s like spitting in the ocean, as they say. It makes no difference at all. And that was his point. The divinity of God is so big that this little thing we call the humanity makes no difference at all. It’s all mixed together in his divinity.

Cyril of Alexander agreed and said that after the union, after the incarnation, all separation ceases. Christ has divine human attributes, but without a human nature. Eutyches denied that the two natures should even be spoken of after the incarnation. He would refer to Jesus as the “humanized Word” or having a divine body, but not as being fully God and fully man, not the same substance as us.

So, what happens next? In 448, a synod was called at Constantinople that was led by Flavian, who was the bishop of Constantinople. Flavian called it. Eutyches was exposed and deposed from office and excommunicated from the church. The council, the synod, confessed its faith, saying,

“Christ, after the incarnation, consisted of two natures in one hypostasis (or one essence) and in one person, one Christ, one Son, one Lord.”

Bishop Leo I of Rome — which you might imagine in the 5th century, the Bishop of Rome would have been a super influential person — bishop Leo I of Rome, wrote what’s called, it’s just a tome. It’s called The Tome … from him in support of Flavian and this view of Christ, which is what we believe: two natures in one person. And the matter seems settled except Eutyches had friends in the emperor’s court who went to the emperor and said, “Would you please call another council and invite all the people that support Eutyches, and let’s do this right?” And he said, “OK.” So, the emperor ordered a second council at Ephesus the next year in 449, and Dioscurus, who is Bishop of Alexandria, represented the emperor and kind of led the thing. And this sounds like it’s from a movie, but it actually happened. Dioscurus brought with him armed monks. I can imagine. It sounds weird, but you can imagine the guys in the brown robe with a sword. It’s true. That’s what happened: armed monks to enforce Eutyches’ view of Christ on the council. And that’s what happened. By force they said, “This is the way it’s going to be.” They silenced all opposition. They refused to even read The Tome from Leo I. And that’s what happened at that council in Ephesus. And at the end, Eutyches was restored, and Flavian was deposed. And within days, Flavian died of his injuries that he received at the hands of those monks.

The second Council of Ephesus became known as the Robber Council because the view of Christ that the Scriptures uphold was robbed by these men. Well, within a year, the emperor died. And the new emperor comes, and Leo I reaches out to the emperor and says, “Please call another one, and let us do this again and do it right.” And so he does. At the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the council affirms the previous statements made by the ecumenical councils that Christ is one single person and two natures, which is duophysitism: he’s fully God and fully man. And Dioscurus was deposed.

I have a second drawing. Here’s the second drawing that reflects Chalcedonian Christology. Before the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, existed eternally with God. That’s the line — Godhead. That’s what John 1:1 says,

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

He existed in the beginning. Then you have the incarnation in which he takes on flesh. He takes on manhood, and you have two natures in one person, Jesus Christ. John 1:14 says,

“The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.”

The eternal logos, the Word, became flesh and made his dwelling among us. The Creed of Chalcedon says this about Christ. It’s just one part of it here.

He is “one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures [and these four negative statements are really important] without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union [Those two natures are still there] but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

That’s who Christ is. He exists. Two natures and in one person, Jesus.

So, that’s it. That’s what happened. That’s Eutychianism in a summary, which brings me to my next section that I simply call “Potayto Potahto.” And let me just pause for a second here and tell you about your outline. That box on the bottom of the first page of your outline I’m completely skipping. I cut it out because of time. So, sorry about that. If you’re one of those people that has to have that filled in, I’m really sorry. And now if you turn it over to the other side, I’m also skipping the box at the top of the second page, but I’m going to come back to it. So, it’s OK.

Now I’m jumping to “Potayto Potahto,” Potayto potahto, or why does this even matter? Or isn’t this why people hate Christians? Because they love to debate over these things that really seem to have no significance. It is significant, in fact. Two weeks ago, Ryan talked about the importance of the humanity of Jesus, that he was actually man, that he was really man. So, I’m going to tell you why this is important. And what I’m about to say overlaps somewhat with what Ryan said two weeks ago, and that’s OK because it’s good for us to be reminded of these things, and it’s helpful to remember them. Also, very seriously, I John 4:2 says,

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”

This goes right to the heart of the Spirit, confessing with us that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and it goes on to say that everyone who does not is anti-Christ. So, this is important. It goes to the heart of the nature of our salvation. So, Christ must be fully human, and that’s where I just want to stay, not to diminish the humanity of Christ by its overwhelming divinity, but Christ must be fully human without confusion or change. I’m going to give you three reasons why.

Number one — as a representative. He must be fully human without confusion or change as a representative. He is our representative in obedience. Romans 5 [vv. 18-19] says this:

“Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men [that’s Adam and his trespass], so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. [That’s Christ.] For as by one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners [that’s Adam], so by the one man’s obedience the many will be [justified] made righteous.” He’s our representative in obedience.

He’s our representative as a substitutionary sacrifice. Hebrews 2 [vv. 16-17] says,

“For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people,”

that is, to satisfy God’s wrath against sin for people. He is our representative. That’s why this is important.

But Christ must also be fully human without confusion or change as a pattern. He’s our example and pattern in life. I Peter 2:21 says,

“For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.”

He is our example and pattern in life.

He’s also our pattern in resurrection. This is really good. In I Peter 15 [I Corinthians 15:20] Paul writes,

“But in fact Christ has been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep. [Firstfruits is just an image of … when the first fruit comes, there’s more fruit just like it that’s coming. And Christ is the firstfruits of resurrection. Verse 21] For as by a man came death [that’s Adam], by a man has come also the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. But each in his own order: Christ the firstfruits, then at his coming those who belong to Christ.”

This is important. We have to remember the humanity of Christ, his full humanity, without confusion or change because he’s our pattern for resurrection.

And number 3 — in his work. He is our mediator. I Timothy 2:5,

“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.”

He is our mediator, and he is our priest. Hebrews 4 [vv. 14-15] says,

“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin.”

That’s Jesus, the Son of God, the God-man, one person in two natures. He is fully human, and he must be! Our salvation depends on it! The heart of the gospel depends on it! Do you understand? Do you see?

In the 11th century Anselm of Canterbury wrote this about this. He said,

“It is necessary that the self-same Person who is to make [this] satisfaction [for sin] be perfect God and perfect man, since he cannot make it unless he be really God, and he ought not make it unless he be really man.” In order for the atonement for our sin to happen, it must be through the God-man Jesus. He must be fully God and fully man.

Now, let me summarize. For the last four weeks, we’ve looked at four different heresies in the early church, and that’s a lot to remember, and I’m going to give you a tool that’s in your notes. It’s that box on the top of the second page. This is a summary. It’s called the Chalcedonian Box, and I stole it from a guy named Fred Sanders, who’s a professor at Biola. This is one of the most helpful tools I’ve found because it has all four of them in the metaphor of a box. And the metaphor of a box is helpful because it emphasizes the doctrinal boundaries that are represented by Chalcedon, and it reflects Scriptural teachings. So, here it goes.

At the top of the box, it affirms Nicea from 325 against Arianism (that was week 1) by demanding that Christ is God. He is the same substance, the same essence with the Father. Jesus Christ is the same substance with the Father. And at the bottom of the box, it affirms Constantinople I against Apollinarianism, affirming that Christ is human, the same substance with us. Christ is the same substance with God and the same substance with us.

And the sides of the box have been the last two weeks of what we’ve talked about: how the divine and human elements come together. Chalcedon marks out the left and the right with those four negative statements that I read earlier. No confusion and no change on the one hand, on the right side talks about his two natures. No confusion and no change (against Eutychianism), and no division and no separation on the other hand (against Nestorianism), that he is one person, not two persons, not a god and a man, but he is the God-man. He has two natures in one person, which leads me to say, as we looked at earlier in Psalm 113, “Who is like our God?” Who is like him? Who would do this? What God in heaven would clothe himself with humanity to come and save his creatures? Who is like him? There is none like him in all of creation and all of the universe!

Finally, this is the end. This is the end of our four-part series. And as we bring it to a close, that’s the box that kind of shows you the things we’ve covered. But there’s also been some observations, some lessons that we can make from these four things that I want to draw out as we close. There are some consistencies that you’ve heard, and I’m going to just bring them together in three things.

Here they are: consistent lessons from Heresy and Majesty, number one. Number one is pendulums, I call pendulums. Here’s what I mean. By pendulums, I mean theological reactions aren’t helpful, like a pendulum that swings from one extreme to the next. We could say that about other things. We could say parenting reactions aren’t helpful, right? Swinging from one side to the next? We could say leadership reactions aren’t helpful. We could name many of them, but so much of the theological error over the last four weeks has been a pendulum reaction from another error. “I don’t want to be like that, so I’m going to be the exact opposite” rather than, “I want to see who Christ is, not just be a reactionary person.” For Eutyches, his vehement opposition to Nestorius was good, but then he kept going and created a whole “nother” error because he swung to the exact opposite side.

Now, that was 1500 years ago, but we’re not immune from those very same things. We’re not immune from swinging like a pendulum from one to another. I began to think of ways, you could say in the last 20 or 30 years, in Christianity … I’m talking about the world, I’m talking about us … in Christianity, where we have had theological or moral pendulum swings, where we thought, “This is right! This is right! We don’t want to be like that!” only to go, “Oh, that wasn’t helpful. That wasn’t helpful.” I’m not going to bring up any because I don’t have time to fully develop or resolve it, but you can use your imagination. You can think. Measured responses are frustrating … slow-moving, measured responses are frustrating … because we want change now. And sometimes immediate reform is needed now. So, on the one hand, sometimes immediate reform needs to happen. On the other hand, measured responses can be wise. What we need is the wisdom of the Spirit and the teacher of history to help us discern the difference and to know when to act how I believe. Theological reactions aren’t helpful.

The second theme that we’ve seen in this series is regarding power. And here’s how I’ll say it: Christians don’t do well with human power. We think we will. We think we will. If we can just get all the Christians to vote the same way in an American election, everything would be euphoric. But history is a teacher that tells us that that won’t be the case. The monk thugs in Eutyches’ story are not unique in history, in Christian history. And if you read about them, they were tough, and they were mean. Sometimes when we think we are correct and we have the power to enforce it, we do, and it’s not always in a good way. Sometimes we have the power to do good, and we do good by God’s grace. And sometimes we have the power to do what we think is good and we do it, and it’s not good. We end up being like those monks with the swords.

But the power of God does not come on the earth in the same way that the power of man does. The Kingdom of God doesn’t come through the power and wisdom of man, in fact, but through the power and wisdom of God himself. For goodness’ sake, the incarnation itself illustrates that so that when Jesus came, the most spiritual, churched people in the world said, “That’s not him. That’s not how God’s coming. His power looks way different than that.” And they rejected him. The epistles are full with this theme that the power of God doesn’t look like the power of man and how we want it to happen. Paul, for one example, says in 2 Corinthians 12, he says that God said to him,

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” [And Paul says,] “Therefore I will boast all the more gladly [in] my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

In this case, Paul is talking about the power of God coming through human weakness, which is not often what we want to do. We want it to be human power and God’s power together. But what if it’s God’s power coursing through our weakness through losing, not winning? Seeming losing. Human power is not our strong suit, church.

Third. The third point is incarnation. And I want to go back to that theme of “who is like our God?” Today is one day past Christmas. It’s maybe our last shot to really think about the incarnation for eleven months, right? It’ll probably come to your mind at some point, but this is it in thinking about our God and thinking about him as a human being.

I went back and I read all the traditional hymns, all the traditional Christmas hymns. I read them all. Where is this theme of the full humanity of Jesus? It’s got to be all through there. It’s not, actually. What’s all through there is, “He is God,” and that’s not bad. He’s Emmanuel, God with us. “Look, everybody it’s God!” I mean, it’s the “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” themes. This is God, who has come to dwell with us. That’s all good. And that theme is rich through all these hymns. And so, we might be forgiven if we forget that he was also fully human. We sing songs like, “no crying He makes” in Away in a Manger because God doesn’t cry. But God does cry because Jesus is God, and he wept. God does cry.

And so, so much of our Christmas thought and tradition has been on how great God is — that’s good. Listen to me, that’s good, right? — and Jesus is one of us, yet without sin. He was perfectly human. I was thinking about what do I think about at Christmas? And I do it too. I think we all maybe, without being heretics, maybe we all lean towards either Eutychianism or Nestorianism, exalting God as God more than anything or Christ as human more than anything. I probably lean towards the God, Emmanuel, “God with us” part. Can you believe that God is here with us?! Like, wow! That’s good! That’s good, and he is an actual human being.

Today, my goal has been not to get us to do anything. It’s to get us to see how great God is. Do you know him? I described this God as fully human and fully divine. Have you met him? Christmas, the incarnation, where we see it at the beginning is a great time to really begin to know Christ Jesus. My goal has been to get us to see that he is Emmanuel, that he is perfectly God and totally man, with no confusion and no change and no division and no separation … one last time, one last time this year for us to marvel at the manger and to say, “Who is like our God?”

Let’s pray. Lord Jesus, we worship you, how you came to earth, Lord Jesus, as God existing eternally, the Son of God, begotten, but not created, not made, but to clothe yourself with humanity and come and live as one of us and then die in our place for our sin. We praise you! No other god has done that! Only you! And we worship you, respond to you, in worship and in praise, and I ask you, Lord, that these things would be helpful to apply to our hearts and to remember who you are and what you have done, Lord Jesus. Amen.

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