December 25, 2022

Christ: Fully God and Fully Human

Written by:
Rev (Dr) Prabhudas Koshy

The birth of our Lord Jesus Christ is a story of great wonder – not only because it is a story of God’s redemptive love towards a defiant and sinful people (cf. Jn. 3:16; 1 Jn. 3:1), but also because it is a story of the One who was born as fully God and fully human (Jn 1:1-2, 14). The Person of Christ, a great mystery and wonder, has been a subject of much controversy in church history because of the efforts of some in explaining the biblical portrayal of Jesus Christ philosophically and academically. Below are some of the prominent controversies on the Person of Christ that had arisen in the past:

  • In the fourth century, Arianism denied Christ’s deity, and claimed that He was created before all other creatures and that He had an exalted status as the agent through whom everything else was made. It was denounced in the Council of Nicea (AD 325), which affirmed that Christ is fully God, not a creature as the Arians erroneously taught. (Incidentally, Jehovah’s Witnesses of modern days propagate this ancient Arianism.)
  • In the fifth century, two heresies concerning Christ’s Person started to spread: (1) Nestorianism, which taught that there were two separate persons, one human and one divine, in the incarnate Christ; (2) Monophysitism, which taught that in the Person of Christ there was only one nature, and it was His divine nature. These two teachings were rejected as heresies in the Council of Chalcedon (AD 451). 

Those heresies were dealt with decisively in the Council of Chalcedon, where the Council affirmed, concerning Christ, that Christ is one Person with two natures. The truth that it declared was that Christ is truly Man and truly God (vera homo, vera Deus). Christ has a true human nature and a true divine nature, and these two natures are perfectly united in one Person. The Council also insisted that each nature retains its own attributes. Christ did not lay aside any of His divine attributes. The divine nature of Christ is eternal and immutable. Christ did not set aside any of His divine attributes when He came to this earth. His human nature also retains the attributes of humanity; it is finite and restricted by space and time. The Council of Chalcedon (AD 451) stated: “Christ is one person with a fully divine nature and a fully human nature, and His natures are without mixture, without change, without division, without separation.”

Rev. Thomas Jones: The Pioneer of the Welsh Presbyterian Mission in Khasi Hills

Written by Rev. Sujith Samuel

Khasi Hills is an area in the state of Meghalaya in India. Shillong (capital city of Meghalaya), and Cherrapunji (also known as Sohra, one of the wettest places in the world) are important towns in Khasi Hills. Khasi people are the native inhabitants of this area and they speak the Khasi language. According to the census data of the govt. of India (2011), 70 percent of Khasi people follow the Christian religion. Presbyterian Church of India is one of the largest Christian denominations among the Khasi people group. Presbyterian missionaries from Wales and England played important roles in spreading the Christian faith among the Khasi people, and also in other parts of North East India. Rev. Thomas Jones is the pioneer missionary who arrived in Khasi Hills and spearheaded the Gospel proclamation among the inhabitants.

His Early Life and Call to Missions

Thomas Jones was born on 24th January 1810 in a Welsh family. His father, Edward Jones, was a carpenter. From his childhood, he took keen interest in carpentry, farming, coal mining, etc. As part of a Christian family, he also took great interest in attending church. He started preaching the Gospel at the age of 25. He also developed a growing desire to serve the Lord as a full-time minister. He was admitted as a ministerial student in a Calvinistic Methodist college, namely College of Presbyterian Church of Wales. (This denomination traces its roots to the Welsh Methodist Revival; it was also known as Calvinistic Methodist Church). After the completion of his studies, he was ordained as a minister of the Gospel in the Presbyterian Church of Wales in 1840. His desire was to serve in a foreign country, and India was the place of his interest. The church and college advised him to apply to London Missionary Society (LMS), as they were also supporting LMS in its mission works in various places, including India. He applied to LMS, with mention of his health concerns about serving in a hot and humid climate. They further recommended the mission agency to send him to places where the temperature was moderate. Upon LMS appointing doctors to examine his health, the mission society concluded that South Africa would be a suitable place for him to start the mission work. Initially, Rev. Jones agreed to their decision. Later, he regretted that he gave his consent. His desire to serve in India grew day by day, and later he wrote to the mission board requesting them to send him as a missionary to India. He consulted three famous doctors and got medical reports confirming that he was fit to serve in Indian climate. But the board refused to change their decision. He refused to change his decision, and informed the board that he was not willing to go to any other place than India.

Rev. Thomas Jones returned to his home parish in Liverpool and explained his situation. (His parents were settled in Liverpool at this time). His denomination decided to severe the ties with LMS, due to their unwillingness to send him to India. A new mission society was incorporated on 31st January 1840 by the denomination, called “Welsh Presbyterian Calvinistic Mission Methodist Foreign Missionary Society”. Rev. Jacob Tomlin, who was a former missionary of LMS in Malacca, suggested Khasi Hills as a mission field for Rev. Jones. Rev. Tomlin had stayed in Cherrapunji for some time before his return to England, and saw it as a suitable place for Rev. Jones to start the work. The society approved of his suggestion, and Rev. Jones agreed to go to Khasi Hills as a missionary. At the age of 30, together with his pregnant wife (Anne Jones), he took a ship to Kolkata, India. The journey took several months, and on 23rd April 1840, they reached Kolkata. He was given a warm welcome by Scottish Presbyterian missionaries (like Dr Alexander Duff) upon his arrival. But on the second day of his arrival, his wife Anne Jones had delivery, and the baby did not survive. Dr Duff and other Christian families became an encouragement to Rev. Jones and his family in this time of affliction and trial. He drew comfort from Scripture, in particular 2 Samuel 12:23. When King David lost his child, he said, “But now he is dead, wherefore should I fast? can I bring him back again? I shall go to him, but he shall not return to me.” Like David, Rev. Jones and his wife put their hope in the promises of God. They continued their missionary journey to Cherrapunji by taking a boat to reach Sylhet, a city in Bangladesh. They had to climb steep hills to reach Cherrapunji. They travelled on horse, and at times men had to carry Mrs Jones in a basket. Finally, they reached Cherrapunji on 22nd June 1841. (Incidentally, June 22 is designated as Thomas Jones day in Meghalaya, and is a public holiday to commemorate the contributions of Rev. Jones.)

His Life in Khasi Hills and Mission Work

Rev. Jones and family was well received by Lieut. Lewin, a British government official. He desired to be in a place which was not hot and humid. The Lord guided him to a place where there was rain every day, even in the summer season. In a letter written to the mission society to inform about his arrival in Cherrapunji, he wrote that he had to spend a lot of time drying his clothes, books and other items which were even inside boxes. Rain, though unstoppable, didn’t deter him from pursuing his calling and work. He immediately started to learn the Khasi language to speak with the local people. Within eight months, he became fluent in the Khasi language. The Khasi language at that time didn’t have a script. Rev. Jones developed a script for the language using the Roman alphabet. He first translated the Lord’s prayer into Khasi and later, the Gospel of Matthew, a catechism about the basics of the Christian faith and many other works, including hymns. For his contributions to the Khasi language, he was regarded as the “father of Khasi alphabet” and the “founder of modern Khasi literature”. He saw language not only as a tool for him to communicate with the people, but also to enable people to learn more about God by reading God’s Word and to communicate to God through prayers and hymns.

Villagers were eager to learn new things from him. He started to teach them new ways to do carpentry, agriculture, etc. He encouraged them to read and write in the Khasi language. Seeing his contributions to the village in various fields, the chief of the village gave a piece of land for the mission work in Nongsawlia in Cherrapunji. The first Presbyterian church (Nongsawlia Presbyterian Church), a school, a theological college, and two mission houses were established in the land given. He gave much importance to educating children as he understood that was the way forward to educate them on the Christian faith. In a letter written to the mission board, he wrote: “The only plan which appears to me likely to answer a good purpose is to establish schools in the various languages and to instruct them the principles of Christian religion… and when we shall have translated and printed the Holy Scripture, we shall have some at least, in every family to read them…and I would regard this as an important step towards their evangelisation.”  He used to give money to children as a reward for learning some pages in a selected work in Khasi. He also procured resources from Wales to teach them English, and started taking English classes for children. Students who studied well were appointed as local teachers to teach in new places. In 1846, two natives, u Amor and u Rujon, got converted as a result of his mission efforts and were baptized. He saw drunkenness among the Khasi locals, and encouraged them to repent and believe in Jesus. He said, “I spoke to them on the evils of drunkenness, and urge them to repent and seek forgiveness. They assented to the truth of my remarks, and I succeeded in drawing a large number away from the old women who sold the drink.” 

His Latter Years and Call to Home

On 22nd April 1846, while delivering their second child, Anne Jones, his dear wife, died. Rev. Jones decided to marry Emma Cattell, who was a minor. The mission society didn’t approve of his remarriage and they stopped officially endorsing his work as a representative of the society. He used to teach natives how to do coal mining on their own. This caused opposition for his work from industrialist Harry Inglis, who was exploiting locals by taking land from locals for lease. He was forced to leave Khasi Hills in 1849. By the time he left, the church he planted had 21 baptised communicant members. The natives continued the mission work he started, and more churches were planted in many parts of Meghalaya. Rev. Jones went to Kolkata and he was diagnosed with malaria. As he was preparing for return to his home country, God called him to his eternal home, to be safe in the arms of His Saviour and Lord Jesus, on 16th September 1849, at the age of 38.

(This article is written based on two books written by Rev. Dr J F Jyrwa—“The Wondrous Works of God” and “A Brief Life Sketch on the Life and Works of Rev. Thomas Jones”.)

Gethsemane Bible-Presbyterian Church adheres to the system of faith commonly known as the “Reformed Faith” as expressed in the Westminster Confession of Faith together with the Larger and Shorter Catechisms.
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