Jesus, One man, two natures

Read the Gospels and you encounter Jesus.  On one had we discover a man who had very human emotions, experienced pain, was hungry and ate, and went through all that it meant to be human.  On the other hand, he taught with authority, could read the thoughts of people, healed the sick and raised the dead, and even forgive sins, things only God can do.  The great mystery found in the coming of Jesus is the truth Christians call the Incarnation, that God became human and dwelt among us.  If you have been a Christian for a season of life, this may be a doctrine which you are familiar.  But we should never get to the point where are not awed and amazed at the truth of this.

The theological term for this is the hypostatic union, referring to the mystery that Jesus never divested himself from any of the attributes of God while at the same time taking on the entirety of what it means to be human.  One man with two natures.  Fully God, fully man.  As the early church wrestled with the Scriptures they sought to clarify Christian beliefs with a series of councils.  Christian doctrine was being attacked by a number of heresies as groups tried to define the key beliefs found in the Bible.  These beliefs include the doctrine of the Trinity, that there is one God who eternally exists as three persons, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  The other doctrine often attacked is the belief in the hypostatic union of Christ.  At the Council of Chalecedon in AD 451 the church developed what is known as the Chalcedonian Creed, a statement that has been accepted since then as a clear articulation of the clear teaching of Scripture on the nature of Jesus and the relationships within the Trinity.  That creed reads:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has handed down to us.

The miracle of the Incarnation, they hypostatic union is the basis of our hope.  J. I. Packer said, “The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man… The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets.  Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as this truth of the incarnation.”  Saint Athanasius of Alexandria expressed the awe we should feel at this great truth in this way, “He became what we are that he might make us what he is.”

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