Last week, I shared with you my ponderings regarding the wonderful mystery of Christ’s incarnation. This week I want to develop it more by moving us towards a discussion of why it was necessary for Christ to be both fully human and fully divine. The doctrine of Christ’s full humanity and full divinity is known as the doctrine of the “Hypostatic Union” which is historically rooted in the statement that came from the Council of Chalcedon in 451 A.D.
At that time in the history of the church, there were several different heresies being circulated about the nature of Christ. The earlier heresy of Arianism (circa 325 A.D.) had contended that Jesus was a created being and not eternally coexistant with the Father as the second member of the Trinity. The Council of Nicea addressed this false teaching. By the early 400’s, there had also developed: Apollinarianism, which taught that Christ did not have a human mind or soul; Nesotorianism which taught that Christ was two different persons united in one body; and Monophysitism which taught that Christ only had one nature because His union with the divine nature obliterated His human nature.
In response to all of these different heresies, the Council of Chalcedon drafted the following statement which has come to be the greatest historical expression of the doctrine of the Hypostatic Union:
“We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, confess one and the same Son, 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 [coessential, of the same substance] 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 God-bearer, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeable, 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 been handed down to us.”
Now back to the original question — Why was it necessary that Christ be both fully human and fully divine to accomplish our salvation? First, He had to be fully human to identify with us as our representative in obedience and to represent us as our substitute in His atonement for sin. He had to live as we live, and be tempted as we are tempted, though without ever sinning, that He might perfectly fulfill the Father’s will and be the perfect substitutionary sacrifice for the sins of men. Hebrews 2:17 says, “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” 2 Corinthians 5:21 also says, “He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
Second, Christ had to be fully divine for three main reasons. One, No finite creature could atone for our sin burden; only someone who is infinite God could bear the full penalty of God’s wrath for all the sins of those who would believe. Two, the whole message of Scripture is that only God is capable of saving men; salvation comes only from and through God Himself. No mere creature or man would be capable of saving us. Three, only someone who was fully God and fully man could be the one mediator between God and men. 1 Timothy 2:5-6 says, “For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony borne at the proper time.”
Jesus is thus our perfect Lord. He is the fullest revelation of God to men, and He is the perfect sacrifice through which we are reconciled to God. As our Prophet, He is the truth. As our Priest, He represents us perfectly to God and He represents God perfectly to us. As our King, He is ruler over all, and by His perfect labors, He has brought us out of darkness into the light of His kingdom. May all praise and glory and honor be unto Christ our Lord!