Church Education Trust

Christian Belief



The Divine - Human Person.

Before dealing with the nature of the Divine - Human Person, it is as well to remind ourselves what is the teaching of the Scripture and the belief of the Christian Church concerning this. The Scriptures teach and the true church has always held that Christ was truly God but that also He was just as truly man, and that these two natures were found in the undivided and indivisible unity of the Incarnate Person of Christ.

This can be summed up as follows, `Christ is truly God, perfectly man, unconfusedly in two natures, indivisibly in One Person.` The problem before us is that of how deity and humanity were united in one. The mystery cannot fully be explained, any more than the mystery of the Trinity, but safeguards can be laid down to prevent our going into error.

The union of the two natures was effected by the incarnation and the result was the "God-man", or the theanthropic Person. The subject will be dealt with under three headings - the Nature of the Incarnation, the One Person, the Two Natures, concluding with a Summary of Orthodox Belief.

(a) The nature of the Incarnation.

We are not thinking here of the incarnation from a historical point of view but from a philosophical one. Wiley points out six truths in the consideration of the nature of the incarnation, all of which are important.

i. The incarnation was not a form of transmutation or transubstantiation.

The Second Person of the Trinity did not cease to be God when He became man. ''The Word was made flesh" means that the Second Person of the Trinity came to earth in human form while remaining God.

ii. It was the Word, `Logos`, the Second Person of the Trinity alone who became incarnate, not the whole of the Godhead.

The Father did not suffer or die. On the other hand, however, in so far as the whole essence or divine nature exists in each of three persons of Father, Son and Holy Spirit, it can be truly said that in Christ dwelt all the fulness of the Godhead bodily, but only in the mode of the Second Person or the Divine Son.

iii. The incarnation was a union of the Divine Person with human nature, and not with a human-persons.

"It was not the union of two personalities but of two natures" (Bowie), Human nature and human personality are two different things. All men possess human nature in common but each has its own peculiar personality. The analogy has been used of a human mother and father imparting the nature of each to their child. The child shares their nature but it has its own personality which is something different from the parents'.

The human nature of Jesus came from the virgin Mary, the divine nature from the Godhead, but there were not two personalities. The personality that united the two natures was that of the Divine Logos, the Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity.

The statement of the Scriptures that the Redeemer laid hold of the "seed" of Abraham and was born of the "seed" of David seems to emphasize the fact that the human nature assumed by our Lord was not yet individualized.

Wiley says that Christ's human nature was "not personalized out of the race by human birth, but by becoming a constituent factor of the one theanthropic Person". (Intro.p,l99). Christ possessed a full and complete humanity but "His consciousness and will were developed only in union with the personality of the Logos" (ibid).

Pope says that the meaning of the perfect manhood was twofold:

  1. the manhood He assumed was without diminution, body soul and spirit.
  2. it was without addition: the Divine Logos ruled in that nature., but as distinct and not blended with it."

iv. The body which the Son assumed was prepared for Him by the Holy Spirit: (See Hebrews l0).

Dr,Summers states, '"There is nothing on which the Scripture is more explicit than this, that as His divinity was begotten without a mother, from eternity, so His humanity was begotten without a father. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, not by any communication of His essence, as in human paternity, but by a miraculous operation which enabled the Virgin to perform the functions of maternity, and be a virgin still," (Syst.Theol. I. 203).

v. The incarnation marked the beginning of the  theanthropic Person.

The God-Man, was a unique Person and a new Person. There had never been a God-Man prior to the incarnation, but the Scriptures just as clearly show that in some mysterious and miraculous way His glorified humanity is still united with the Eternal Son, so that the God-Man is the middle Person of the Trinity.

It is not merely the Second Person of the Trinity, but it is Christy Jesus Christ, who is "over all, God blessed forever" (Romans 9:5). It is He who is the same "yesterday and today and forever" (Heb.13;8; Collosians.2:9 and Hebrew 4;14,15.

Dr.Pope states this in the following passage -- "It is the infinite condescension of the Son of God and the glory of man that the union of the two natures in Christ is permanent. He became man once for all: our manhood is a vesture which He will not fold and lay aside. Immanuel is His name forever.

This being so, it is scarcely right to speak of our Lord's alliance with our race as a part of His mediatorial humiliation: were it such, His humiliation would never terminate, It is true that the effect of His condescension will never cease, He will be one with mankind to all eternity: as it were expressly to declare this, to keep it in the minds of His people and prevent misconception, that one profound saying was placed on record: "Then shall the Son also Himself be subject or subject Himself "(1 Cor.l5:28). His union with us, which is the same thing as His kingdom or His tabernacle with us shall have no end. We know Him only as Immanuel." (Chr.Theol,II pp.14l,142).

1v. The incarnation was the necessary ground of our Lord's redemptive work.

Hebrews 2:10-18 show clearly that the incarnation was the way to the cross. Only one who was perfect man, truly God and free from sin could provide an atonement for mankind satisfactory to the holiness and justice of God.

Dr.Pope again has a good exposition of this passage."This passage with its entire context impressively shows that the Incarnation was the way to the cross. Three terms are used, each of great importance.

  1. It was to abolish death, by taking his power from its representative and lord, that is the devil. This, however, required that He should take our flesh in order that He might 'taste death for everyman', and thus 'deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage'; this deliverance being accomplished by His sacrifice of reconciliation, as the words `apallaxei` and `enochoi` sufficiently prove. Only as man could He be merciful and faithful. High Priest in things pertaining to God to make expiation for the sins of the people.
  2. In order to accomplish these results, the destruction of death, the reconciliation of the offenders subject to death and the propitiation required in order to both; He 'taketh hold of the seed of Abraham'; He taketh to Himself, not angels but men; mankind, however, being viewed here as the saved church of humanity, or the blessed with faithful Abraham', and 'the seed of Abraham my friend'. But it was that
    He might taste of death for every man". (Christ.Theol.Vol.II p.114)
  3. Another point is that only man could truly reveal God in a way which man could understand (John 14:9). The following Scriptures show that the incarnation is related both to the atonement and to all that springs from it, i.e. the work of the Spirit in the administration of redemption and also the final consummation of all things. Gal,3:l3,l4; Eph.l:4,9,l0.

(b). The One Person.

It must always be remembered that the union of the two natures in the Lord Jesus Christ is a personal one; this means that the union consists "in the abiding possession of a common Ego or Self", and this common Ego or Self is that of the Eternal Logos or Word.

The theological term used to describe this union of the two natures in one Person is "the Hypostatic Union". The term is formed from the Greek word "hypostasis" which is the word used to "mark the distinction between the personal subsistence in the Godhead, as over against their common substance or essence".

The only meeting place of the two natures is in this common Ego, Self or Personality. Wiley again brings out three points to clarify the understanding, which are worth noting.

  1. "The possession of two natures does not involve a double personality". As was mentioned above there are not two personalities but one, for the ground of the Person is the Eternal Logos and not the human nature. Christ always speaks of Himself as`I`, whether the activity is that of the human nature or the divine. There is never any interchange of 'I` and ''Thou'` as in the Trinity. "I and My Father are One", but likewise "I thirst". This point is also revealed by the fact that there are passages where the person designated by the divine title has human attributes ascribed to Him Acts 20:28; 1 Cor,2:8. On the other hand divine attributes are ascribed to the person given the human title. John 3:13; 6:62; Revelation.5:12.

  2. "A person may consist of one, two or three natures". The Trinitarian Persons, the Father, Son and Holy Spirit have only one nature. There is a sense in which a human person has two natures, material body and immaterial soul. It could be said, therefore, as Wiley points out, that Christ had three natures, the material body, the immaterial soul and the divine nature; the two natures which compose human nature are however, considered as one and Christ is said to have two natures, the divine and the human. It is the Person that unites the natures, the union is not a more external or mechanical one. it is a personal union, and therefore close and inseparable. It was, we believe, even closer than that uniting soul and body, which can be separated.
  3. "That the personality of the God-Man depended primarily upon the divine nature, shown by the fact that it was not destroyed by death." The Scriptures say that Christ`s body"shall not see corruption". This seems to show that, while there was a temporary separation between soul and body at Christ`s death, there was no separation of either soul or body from the Divine Logos. Therefore corruption did not set in.

(c) The Two Natures.

While the acts and the qualities of either the divine or the human nature can be attributed to the one Person, on the other hand the divine acts cannot be attributed to the human nature nor vice versa.

The different natures must retain their own respective properties. Of necessity in the process of this union the one nature conditioned the other to some extent. For instance, though it was the divine nature that performed the miracles and enabled Christ to know and speak as God, yet those acts were performed through the human nature and vice versa, though it was impossible for the divine nature to suffer pain, weariness etc., and finally to die, yet it was so because of the human nature. This will be considered in all its implications when Christ's state of humiliation through the incarnation is discussed.

(d) Summary of Orthodox Belief.

Because the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ is unique and the manner of the uniting of the two natures in the one Person a mystery as far as human minds are concerned, no creed has ever been able satisfactorily to define it.

The farthest that human statements can go is to declare the facts with safeguards along the line of what is not believed to enable wrong conceptions to be avoided. The statement prepared by the Council of Chalcodon in 451.A.D. is the clearest and fullest and has always been recognised as containing the orthodox Christian belief.

Dr.Wright states the mystery and the problem of Christian belief when he says, "it is easy, on the one hand, to regard our Lord as mere man differing in no essential details from Moses or Socrates or Confucius.

It is easy, on the other hand, to regard Him as possessing a divine mind in a human body, and therefore entirely free from human infirmities, incapable of doubt, ignorance and temptation. It is difficult to accept the Scriptural view that He possessed a human mind with its essential limitations united with the fulness of the Godhead.

This paradox, this dualism, transcends human thought, but satisfies human need. We maintain it as a mystery not to be measuredby human intelligence, but necessary for human salvation." (Preface to Synopsis of the Gospels in Greek). We shall first give the words of the Chalcedonian statement and then quote from Wiley as to the beliefs necessary to remain Scriptural.

i. The Chalcedonian Definition.

"Following the holy fathers we teach with one voice that the Son (of God) and our Lord Jesus Christ is to be confessed in one and the same (Person), that He is perfect in Godhead and perfect in manhood, very God and very man, of a reasonable soul and (human) body consisting, consubstantial with the Father as touching His Godhead, and consubstantial with us as touching His manhood; made in all things like unto us, sin only excepted, begotten of His Father before the worlds according to His Godhead; but in these last days for us men and for our salvation born (into the world) of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God according to His manhood.

This one and the same Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son (of God) must be confessed in two natures, unconfusedly, immutably, indivisibly, inseparably (united) and that without distinction of natures being taken away by such union, but rather the peculiar properties of each being preserved and being united in One Person and Hypostasis, not separated or divided into persons, but one and the same Son and Only Begotten, God the Word, our Lord Jesus Christ as the prophets of old time have spoken concerning Him, and as the Lord Jesus Christ has taught us, and as the creed of our fathers bath delivered to us."

ii. Orthodox Faith.

Protestantism rejects the words "Mother of God" from the above creed owing to their serious misuse and the wrong doctrines built upon them. Wiley's summary of the orthodox faith as seen in the creed is as follows:- "Here the two natures of Christ are not only affirmed, but their relations to each other are also adjusted in four main points, without mixture (or confusion); without change (or conversion); without division and without separation.

It may be admitted that these terms do not define, but they do furnish the guideposts for the preservation of the true doctrine. If then, we would hold the true faith, we must believe first, that the union of the two natures in Christ does not confuse or mix them in a manner to destroy their distinctive properties.

The deity of Christ is as pure deity after the incarnation as before it and the human nature of Christ is as pure and simple a human nature as that of His mother or of any other human individual, sin excepted.

Second, we must reject as unorthodox any theory that would convert one nature into the other, either the absorption of the human nature by the divine, as in Eutychianism; or the reduction of the divine to the human, as in some of the modern kenotic theories.

Third, we must hold the two natures in such a union that it does not divide the Person of Christ into two selves, as in Nestorianism, or such a blending of the two natures into a composite which is neither God nor man as in Apollinarianisn. The resultant of the union is not two persons, but One Person who unites in Himself the conditions of both the divine and human existence.

Fourth, we must hold to a union of the two natures which is inseparable. The union of humanity with deity in Christ is indissoluble and eternal. It is a permanent assumption of human nature by the Second Person of the Trinity." (Intro.p.203).

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