The Nature of Christ Pt. 2

Share

The Bible clearly teaches questionmarkJesus is both fully divine and fully man. That is certain and truth be told, easy to understand. See part one to this post for details.

The great mystery is how these two natures relate to one another? The biblical record is clear, Jesus nature is both 100% divine and 100% human at the same time. While there are no contradictions in scripture there are paradoxes and this is one of the most difficult to unravel. This question is so profound as to be impenetrable to human reason. There is simply nothing in the human experience with which to compare this profound mystery.[1] Yet it is essential  in order to understand Christ’s character; and has profound implications for the believer.

Understanding the distinction between a nature and a person is essential when considering this issue. As noted in part 1, a nature is a complex of attributes, in contrast, a person is best understood theologically as a self-conscience entity.[2] The distinction is important because a person performs actions and has experiences but not one’s nature. Significant implications for work and ministry of Christ stem from this distinction.

In order to understand how one person, Jesus, can have two natures we must understand the hypostatic union. Simply stated the hypostatic union refers to the joining of the divine nature of Christ with His human nature in one person. A simple definition of this union is that “the second person of the trinity, the preincarnate Christ, came and took to Himself a human nature and remains forever undiminished deity and true humanity united in one person forever.”[3] Jesus is one person with two natures, and exists in that state presently and inseparably; there are not two self-consciousnesses in Christ.

This does not however mean that the two natures became confused or comingled in anyway. The two natures do not unite to form one new nature; they exist simultaneously in one person. Jesus is the Godman, not a person with a human-divine hybrid nature.[4]

Nor did the divine nature in any way supplant the human nature of Christ, Appolonariusas advocated in the Apollinarian view. To claim the person of Christ composed a human body inhabited by a divine nature, effectively destroys the human qualities of Jesus’ inner man. To displace his human soul and mind denies His humanity as clearly testified to by Scripture. It also compromises his ability to live a perfect human life.

Equally erroneous is the Nestorian view that claims that Jesus was nestorioscomposed of two separate self-conscious persons, with each nature retaining its own identity. Such a separation, in effect, limits the suffering and the death of Jesus to his human nature. Such an understanding could seriously undermine the salvific effect of Jesus’ work on the cross.

The Council of Chalcedon met in 451 A.D. to wrestle with this issue and settled on the understanding that Jesus was one person with two distinct natures, neither of which was in any way diminished in quality by residing in one person Their conclusions are expressed in the Chalcedonian Definition which codified the findings of the council.

 

The Statement reads in part:

“Our Lord Jesus Christ, the same, perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable (rational) soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead and consubstantial with us according to the manhood…Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten to be acknowledged in two natures, incofusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably…the property of each nature being preserved and concurring in one person not parted or divided into two persons but one and the same Son and only begotten, God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ…”[5]

 

This statement remains the standard of Christian orthodoxy and concisely conveys the reality that Jesus is at once wholly both God and man.[6] Any deviation from this formula results in a misunderstanding of the identity of Jesus and risks trespassing into the realm of heresy.

Far from an abstract point of theology, a proper understanding of this mystery has implications for the life of every believer. The perfect coexistence of God and Man in the person of Jesus Christ affects each member of His body. Three effects of this union immediately stand out.

His two natures make him a perfect advocate and intercessor for believers. Only God can truly and perfectly understand His own standards, and only in his humanity can He acts as a high priest and intercessor.[7] Paul, in 1 Timothy 2:5, notes that there is only one mediator between God and man, the man Jesus Christ. This ministry of mediation is an out-flowing of the hypostatic union.

Not only is he able to fill the office as a man, but because of His human nature, Christ empathizes perfectly with man, having himself been tempted in every way but without sin.[8]

The hypostatic union also resulted in the most complete revelation of God. Pure deity could never be seen by mortal man, however in Christ God was revealed. Jesus, tells Phillip, “Whoever has seen me has seen the father” (John 14:9). Only through the hypostatic is such a full revelation of God possible for mortal man could never bear an unveiled view of God.

Perhaps most significantly this combining, without mixing or diminishing either, of the divine and human natures resulted in the impeccability of Jesus that made possible the living of a perfect human life that was a fulfillment of the law and acceptable to the Father as a perfect atoning sacrifice for the elect. Because Christ was divine, sin as either nature or action was completely foreign and impossible for Him. [9] This made the reconciliation of humanity to God possible.

There are few things as difficult to understand as how the two natures of Christ relate to each other. However impenetrable the paradox of one person with two natures may seem, it is clearly expressed in Scripture. He lived and died as a man, yet He was God dwelling among us. While we may never fully understand the machinations of the union, we can know it exists; is at the apex of redemptive history; and salvation is found in no one else.

 

[1] Feinberg, 261.

[2] Reymond Systematic, 609.

[3] Enns, 227.

[4] Feinberg, 421.

[5] Phillip Schaff, Creeds of Christendom, 2:62-3.

[6] Reymond, Systematic, 608.

[7] Feinberg, 425.

[8] Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology Vol. 2. Originally published 1872 (Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems: 1997), 396.

[9] Ibid., 422-3.

Share
This entry was posted in Theology by John Chester. Bookmark the permalink.
John Chester

About John Chester

John serves the saints of Piedmont Bible Church, a Grace Advance church plant in Haymarket Virginia, as their shepherd, a position he has held since 2012 and hopes to serve in the rest of his life. Prior to being called to ministry John worked as a lacrosse coach, a pizza maker, a writer, a marketing executive, and just about everything in between. John is a graduate of The Master’s Seminary and The Grace Advance Academy. He hails from The City of Champions, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, and is unbelievably blessed to be married to his wife Cassandra.