Rachel Conrad Carlson
Jesus is God, our Life and Light
...God from God, Light from Light, True God from true God...
As we continue our series on the Nicene Creed, I’m reminded that its trinitarian focus on the identity of God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit is reflected in the format of the Creed itself. The first three lines address the character of God, then the next fourteen lines spend a considerable amount of time dissecting and naming the attributes of Jesus before moving on to a seven line description of the Holy Spirit and His role in the church on earth.
The large amount of space allotted to the discussion of Jesus is very much on purpose. The Creed’s writers came together (first in Nicaea in AD 325 and then in Constantinople in AD 381) to clear up a century-long debate over the nature of the relationship between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Factions of Christians had declared that God the Father was the one true God and that Jesus was not fully God on the same level, so the Nicene council formed to correct this heresy. In direct response to these claims, line seven names Jesus as “God from God, Light from Light, True God from True God.” To me, this one line represents an incredible human effort to find the right words to describe an indescribable Being.
The phrase “God from God” clearly attests to Jesus’ identity not only as God’s son, but as equal and total in His God-ness to His Father. Foundational to the very core of what makes us Christians, it is the clearest claim possible that Jesus is in fact God. The next phrase “Light from Light” then provides us with an analogy to better understand the interconnectedness. Justin Holcomb, author of Know the Creeds and Councils, describes it this way: “It’s like light. How can you separate light from light? You can’t… Neither can the Father and the Son be separated.” Just like the beams of the sun are not a separate entity from the sun itself, so Jesus is also fully God. Yet this phrase also hints at so much undiscovered mystery. How can humans truly explain God? Perhaps by comparing him to something else they didn’t fully understand at the time (we still struggle with it, in fact)–light. Jesus is both a physically created light (his human nature) but also fully a spiritual light (his divine nature); He is a Being that confounds all human efforts to explain. He is paradoxical in nature, with us and yet above us. And that mystery is ours to fully embrace! I find great peace in the fact that I don’t have all the answers, that the God I worship should in fact be beyond my understanding and that’s part of what makes Him God and me a human dependent fully on Him. As we continue in the Creed, the third phrase “True God from True God” works to reiterate the first phrase and again combat the heresies of the day. There is no clearer way to say it–Jesus is the true God, just like God the Father and the Holy Spirit are also the true God. The three persons of the triune God are all in and of Himself, the originated and the originator, three in one. Mind-bending, yes, but again, fully indicative of an idea outside human ability to dream up.
To end, I’d like to focus on a scripture verse by which I’ve been greatly comforted lately. John 1:1-5 says that, "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”
I’ve been painting again lately–something I truly enjoy and wish I had more skill in. And each time I pick up a brush, I find myself trying to express this verse in some way, to show how the Light seeps through the darkest scene. In the last few years, I have found my faith shaken by world events and subsequent lack of Christ-like response. Doubt and darkness have entered in as I’ve questioned my faith in myself, my fellow humans, and, at times, God Himself. And yet, this verse and my meager attempts to capture it remind me over and again that the darkness does not–cannot–win. We can cling to the hope that Christ Jesus, our Light and our Life, continues to shine through, as only God can.