Jesus, True God True Man
Christians can be silly sometimes. There are times that it appears that we argue some of the most ridiculous things. Committees will be started to discuss and decide what kind of flower should be on the stage, what color a wall should be painted, and what carpet should be used. We don’t just argue over carpet and wall color though, we also argue about issues like; the wearing of a hat in church or whether a person can wear shorts on a stage. If this sounds remarkably petty to you, that’s because it is. With these things in mind then, it is no wonder that it is difficult to get Christians and churches to discuss the difficult doctrines of the faith in fear that everyone will be at one another’s throats by the end of the evening. So instead of correcting this, church leaders have chosen to focus on soft issues, not clearly teaching important doctrines that the early church seemed to think were vitally important.
How do we know they felt they were vitally important? Well, because they covered these topics of importance at length. Most of the issues surrounded the nature of Christ as man and divine, and the issue of the Trinity. Both of these issues were vitally important. So over the next two weeks I am going to go through how these doctrines (teachings) impact the life of the Christian in real ways. See, theology is not at acknowledgement of a concept, but a outworking of how God interacts with human beings every day. Since this is the case, theology must then be applicable, real, and impactful. If a doctrine has no bearing on how you see God, yourself in relation to Him, and the world, then the doctrine is empty and unnecessary.
First I would like to cover what is called the hypostatic union of Christ. Yes, I know, big technical term. Essentially the hypostatic union is the acknowledgement that the two natures of Jesus (divine and human) are made indissolubly one. With the incarnation then, we see that Jesus becomes both fully human and fully divine. Now this is a paradox. A God without sin cannot possibly have a sin nature, and a true human being cannot be without one. So how do we rectify such a thing, and better yet…why do we care?
Jesus as fully human and fully divine is quite the head turner. It is confusing, contradictory, and seemingly useless. But, the reality is, it is also consistent with how God has revealed himself in the past. God is not interested in meeting some benchmark of divinity for humanity. He is not interested in “showing” us anything but has come on earth in flesh to tell us who He is and what He is about. Colossians 1:19 tells us that in Jesus the, “fullness of God was pleased to dwell.” That’s quite a statement. If in the person of Jesus the fullness of God dwelled then all we can say of Jesus is that He is in fact God, and that He is in fact divine. We then see texts like Hebrews 4:15 that Jesus was open to real, palpable temptation to sin. This appears to strike against his divinity. Since the church’s beginning, theologians have gone from one extreme to the next with regard to this matter. Docetists condemned an understanding of Christ as partially human, believing that authentic incarnation would mare the divine nature of Christ. Believing this they described Jesus as giving the appearance of humanity but still being completely divine. Monophysites believed the Jesus after the incarnation, only consisted of one nature that was either completely divine, or was an amalgam of divine and human (like being 51% divine and 49% human). This inclination to overemphasize the divine nature of Christ has again become an issue with some modern “reformed” theologians. The doctrine teaches us that Jesus is two distinct natures in their completeness found in the one person of Jesus. This means that unlike Docetism and Monophysitism Jesus was 100 percent human and 100% divine, with both natures being found in their completeness within the person of Jesus. This doctrine was affirmed in the ecumenical Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD.
Why do we care? We care for two reasons. First, we care because if Jesus was not fully divine than the act of crucifixion would be an empty one. The entire point of the cross was so that God would take our penalty and in so doing be extending grace to all of creation so that all of it may be reconciled to Him. Secondly, if Jesus was not fully human than it means that he never truly experienced temptation, pain, and ultimately death. This too dismantles the cross of its power stripping it of its meaning and leaving us with a faith in tatters. This, however, does not only have implications on salvation but it has implications on how we live our lives every day. Christ being fully divine means that when he hands authority over to the apostles and with the church that he does so with the fullness of His power. In this then, the church becomes an immovable unstoppable force for the kingdom of heaven. We need never fear the ruler of evil since our own ruler is himself God of gods. The humanity of Christ means that Jesus truly understands our struggles. He knows what it is like to lose a father (Joseph) and a cousin (John the Baptist). He knows what it is like to be betrayed by a person that you loved like family (in Judas). He knows what it feels like to be wrongly accused (by the Jewish leaders), flogged (by the Romans), and then executed (by both). Philippians 2:8 tells us that this entire situation was an exercise in the humility of Christ, as in that moment he humbled himself to all of this. To being mistreated, beaten, scorned, spit upon, mocked, and ultimately murdered likely in the nude (as Romans generally crucified their criminals in the nude as the last embarrassment before a criminal’s death). All of this is to show us that Christ loves us enough to go through all of this, but also that he understands us when we are in pain from the happenings of life, no matter where we are.
To conclude, it is vitally important that we remember that the hypostatic union of Christ is central to a proper understanding of who Jesus is, and how He relates to those whom He saved. If we fail to understand this properly, than we fail to see Jesus for who He has revealed Himself to be and we cheat ourselves out of a God who understands us on an intimate and experiential level. God knows all things, he knew how all of these things felt before going through them, and yet, knowing this, He still went through with it. He still laid down His life, His divine rights, so that we could be with Him for all of eternity. So that we could know that we are not alone in our struggles, but pray to a God who not only understands our struggles but has Himself gone through them. This is what makes the hypostatic union foundationally practical. Peace and Blessings and as always thank you for reading.
With Love in Christ
Justin (AKA The Nerdy Theologian)
Hypostatic Union: The doctrine that states that Jesus Christ has two complete natures (both human and divine) that are inseparably found in one person.
Incarnation: Christ coming to earth in flesh. Literally meaning “God made flesh.”
Paradox: The philosophical notion that two opposites are true at the exact same time.
Docetism: The belief that Jesus was never truly human but only appeared to be human.
Monophysitism: The belief that Jesus was composed of only one nature and that it was either completely divine or a combination of divine and human.
Ecumenical: That multiple Christian traditions were involved.
Council of Chalcedon: The council that decided on the terminology that now articulates the hypostatic union of Christ and regulated it within the Chalcedonian Creed.