Hypo-whatic union?!

It seems far-fetched, that someone would so quickly, and fragrantly confront you with an offensive, or even an aggressive view of God. This however, In my experience, is commonplace. Having a sure foot in an understanding of doctrine, and an active renewing of our minds, (Romans 12:2) is of the utmost importance. If we are unable to make a defense for the hope that is in us, to everyone who opposes us, or is simply inquisitive, (1 Peter 3:15) then how “salty” are we really? And by “salty” I utter the words of Christ, meaning how good is our testimony, and how good are we able to color, or flavor the gospel to show people the true nature of Christ, and the true grace He provides, for the truth of the total depravity within out hearts. Explaining the union of Christ, as truly God and truly man, is where, for a lot of people the path begins, by understanding, not only the connection between this almost paradoxical dilemma, but ultimately understanding the breathe taking show of mercy, and sacrifice our great savior made on our behalf. He is supreme!

The person of Christ, is described in the doctrine of the hypostatic union, which is “the union of the two natures of deity and humanity in the hypostasis, or person of Jesus Christ”. When Jesus was born, His “…human nature was inseparably united forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with two natures remaining distinct, whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion, so that the one person, Jesus Christ, is truly God and truly man”. The humanity of Jesus in the New Testament gospels is almost taken for granted, as if no one ever thought to even question it. So plainly was His humanity shown, such as in His distresses, in the garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14:33), and most memorable when Jesus hung on the cursed tree, He cried out “Eloi, Eloi, Lama, Sabachthani? Which is translated, My God, Why have you forsaken me?” (Mark 15:34). In these instances among others, His emotions like anxiety, pain, and stress were plainly evident. And it goes without saying that He was in fact born of a woman, and grew and “became strong” and was “increasing in wisdom…” (Luke 2:40). His deity, on the other hand, was just as obvious, and evident, and from many different sources. New Testament writers describe Him as deity, “by attributing Him with omniscience, ‘but Jesus…was not entrusting Himself to them, for He knew all men, and because he did not need anyone to testify concerning man, for He Himself knew what was in man (John 2:24-25)’” (Towns pg. 159). With deity comes eternality, and the bible teaches that Jesus was pre-existent, and the second Person of the Trinity, and since He is equal to God they possess the same attributes and nature. “Pre-existence means that Christ existed in the Old Testament” and thus Jesus’ “I AM” statement is accurate, as He claims His own pre existence. “Eternality means that Christ is not limited by time, but that He has no beginning or end”. The writer of Hebrews, reflecting on this truth, declared, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8) furthering the understanding, within the New Testament, of the supremacy of Christ.

“So is it possible for two different capacities and natures to occupy the same space and identical existence at the same time”? This question is in direct relation to the relationship of Jesus in regards to His deity and humanity, referred to as the hypostatic union. “Common man is both material and nonmaterial, body and soul. Man’s personality exists in His immaterial nature or intrinsic being. Jesus possessed both a divine nature and a human nature, but the result is one Person. He had one intellect, one set of emotions, and one volitional ability to make decisions”. This concept is difficult for us to understand, because we seek to attain explanations that fit squarely, and although at first glance this does not fit our concept of square, His relation to Himself we can see is complete, and perfect. “Jesus did not act as God on some occasions and man at other times. We do not say that He performed miracles as God and suffered on the cross as man. What Jesus did, He did as unity. He was at all times, and in all ways, the God-man”. “I in them and You in Me that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me” (John 17:23). Here, “there is no interchange of “I” and “You” between the human and divine natures, such as we find between the persons of the Trinity”. Jesus speaks of Himself uniformly, and is spoken of as a single person.

Since we can confidently say that Jesus was truly God and truly man, embodying two natures completely, and at the same time, we can with all assuredness, know that He underwent all the temptations that we may ever face, while having the power to overcome them, with the ability to save us from those same temptations. The character of Jesus was sternly tested, and He proved unshakable, when instigated by Satan. The temptation of Jesus complements the hypostatic union, and demonstrates the perfection of His deity, along with highlighting His ability to not sin, and the impossibility of Him to ever sin.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1), and then “the Word became flesh and lived among us” (John 1:14), yet in His coming “…His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11), even so, “…He gave the right to become children of God” (John 1:12) to everyone that has ever, and will ever receive Him. Why did Jesus come in human form? One reason is so He could “accept the limitations of human nature, and also so that He could voluntarily give up the independent use of His comparative attributes”. Christ had voluntarily subjected Himself to human nature, limiting Himself to the distance that that a man could walk, vice being able to travel the universe at will. He was now in a body that got thirsty, and tired. “Perhaps the best expression of omnipotence is the performing of the miracles by Christ. Even though Jesus was known as a miracle worker, He performed those miracles through the power of the Holy Spirit”. Jesus also ministered by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 4:1) and acknowledged that He was doing the work of His Father (John 5:19). The emptying of Christ for the sake of humanity, is summed up in Philippians 2:6-7, “…although He existed in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men”.

The understanding of Christ and His two natures is completely essential to all Christian doctrine, and is one of the easiest ways to err and fall into a heretical understanding of scripture. The over exaggeration or neglect of either nature will lead to thinking that Jesus is either impersonal, lower than God, perhaps one nature is more distinct than the other, or lead to one or the other nature being diminished or inadequate. With objections to not just Christology, but the whole of the existence of God, we must remain firm in out understanding of who Christ is and His atoning work on the cross. We must remember His supremacy over all things, even the world, while in human form. We must look to Christ as our example of character, and humble ourselves, being content with the things He has revealed to us, and wait eagerly for further revelation, yet praise Him for His great grace and absolute power!

Grace and Peace

-Nick Muyres