To the attenders of catechism class,
There has been some good, well-needed discussion over the past few weeks about the hypostatic union of Christ. I am grateful for each one of you and your input, encouragement, and grace. When considering lofty doctrines those things are greatly needed.
I write to apologize for my issues with clarity over the past two weeks. I do not cite any certain class time discussions as reason for writing; I think there was a bit of a fog for many of us. I hope that this letter may be able to be a fan to blow that fog away.
This has nothing to do with misunderstanding on any of your parts. I really feel I struggled with communicating this clearly. If any of you are confused the blame is on me.
Allow me to begin by citing the Chalcedonian Creed and confirming it’s statement:
“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 [co-essential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning Him, and the Lord Jesus Christ Himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.”
I did not intend to stray from the principles of this statement in my teaching. As we progress through the catechism, the questions allow us to take each nature separately and see them as equally important. The only reason why the natures were separated was in order to spend adequate time understanding each one. I think I was a bit over zealous in this area.
I want to clear up what I feel may have been miscommunicated.
In Christ’s virgin born humanity, taking on flesh and dwelling among us, He also retained full deity.
Being fully man, it is revealed to us in Scripture that He shared with humanity certain weaknesses and limitations (I think the language limitations trips us up, but that is the best language I could employ to consider the principle).
Luke 2:7 explains that Jesus was born like all mankind. He grew throughout His childhood, “increased in wisdom, stature, and favor with God and man” (Luke 2:40).
He grew weary and sat to rest at a well in John 4. He was at times thirsty (John 19:28). He fasted and was hungry (Matthew 4:2). He was ministered to by angels after that experience. The ultimate show of human limitation was seen in His death on the cross.
He possessed a real human body.
He still possesses a real human body, but it is one that has been perfectly glorified.
Jesus possessed a real human mind. He increased in wisdom (Luke 2:52). He learned to do things just as we do. We see this truth manifested in Mark 13:32, “But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”
He possessed a human spirit and emotions. Before His crucifixion He expressed that His soul and spirit were troubled in John 12:27 and John 13:21.
He marveled at the faith of the centurion in Matthew 8:10.
He wept with sorrow over the people and the death of Lazarus (John 11:35).
Though He shared in many of these human limitations He was without sin. 1 Peter 2:22 states, “He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in His mouth.”
He was also fully divine.
He was called God throughout Scripture, i.e. John 1:1,18; John 20:28; Romans 9:5; Titus 2:13, Hebrews 1:8, and 2 Peter 1:1. I hope I spent adequate time throughout our class time fighting for the advocacy of Christ being God! It is our theme and glory. With that being said allow me to focus attention on the evidence of the hypostatic union in Christ’s life.
This is the part concerning which I feel I was not clear.
We see examples of Christ’s divinity throughout the gospels.
He demonstrated omnipotence when He calmed the raging sea and storm in Matthew 8:26-27. He also revealed His omnipotence when He multiplied the fish and loaves (Matthew 14:19) and when He changed water into wine (John 2:1-11).
These were not the acts of a human under the influence of the Holy Spirit alone. This was a revelation of Christ’s divinity. These acts manifested Jesus’ glory, John 2:11 states, not the glory of the Spirit.
Jesus claims eternality stating in John 8, “Before Abraham was, I am.”
He showed His omniscience when He showed He knew the thoughts of men around Him. It is also revealed in His statement that He saw Nathaniel under the fig tree while far away in John 1.
In John 6:64, He knew who would not believe and He knew who would betray him.
After the resurrection, it is said of Him, “Lord you know everything” (John 16:30).
He also suggests His omnipresence in Matthew 18:20 stating, “Where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” Then after commissioning His disciples He proclaims, “lo, I am with you always.”
I mentioned that Philippians 2:7 says Christ “emptied” Himself. I mentioned the word kenosis, which is the Greek root word for empty. There is a theory that Christ emptied Himself of some divine attributes, such as the Omni’s. I have proven these Omni-attributes to be present in Christ through referenced Scriptures. Emptying Himself is equated with Jesus’ humbling Himself to become like us in human form. Wayne Grudem rightly asserts, “The emptying includes change of role and status, not essential attributes or nature.” (Systematic Theology, 550)
In summation, allow me to defer to Grudem once more.
“Sometimes in the study of systematic theology, the following sentence has been used to summarize the incarnation: “Remaining what he was, he became what he was not.” In other words, while Jesus continued “remaining” what he was (that is, fully divine) he also became what he previously had not been (that is, fully human as well). Jesus did not give up any of his deity when he became man, but he did take on humanity that was not his before…The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and mystery in all the universe.” (Systematic Theology, 563)
Hopefully this is a concise explanation of some of the pieces that were lacking in class time. I hope it also answers some of the questions that arose from our discussion.