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Study Resources :: Text Commentaries :: Don Stewart :: What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus

Don Stewart :: In What Sense Was Jesus Christ God and Man Simultaneously?

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In What Sense Was Jesus Christ God and Man Simultaneously? (The Hypostatic Union)

What Everyone Needs to Know about Jesus – Question 16

The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ was the eternal God who became a human being. Indeed, He did not possess a human nature until His birth in the little town of Bethlehem. This doctrine that Jesus Christ was both God and man simultaneously is known as the “hypostatic union.” “Hypostatic” is derived from two Greek words, huper which means, “under,” and histayme which means, “to stand.”

The Hypostatic Union Defined

The hypostatic union can be defined as God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, came to earth and took human nature upon Himself. Thus, Jesus of Nazareth was fully God and fully human. He will remain this way forever.

Consequently when Jesus came to earth He took upon Himself an additional nature, one that is human. The result was that Jesus was God and humanity simultaneously. Jesus, therefore, was the “God man.”

Jesus Was the God-Man (Theanthropic Man)

One phrase that is often used to describe Jesus is that He is a theanthropic man. Theanthropic comes from two Greek words, theos, which means God and anthropos which means “man” or “human being.”

This Is a Difficult Doctrine

The hypostatic union is a difficult doctrine to comprehend. There are many questions that arise concerning Jesus’ divine nature and His human nature. How are we to understand His two natures in the one body? Did each of them work separately? Were they independent of one another? A number of observations need to be made as we attempt to answer these and other related questions.

1. God Became a Human Being in the Person of Jesus Christ

The first point when we need to stress is that the Bible says that God the Son came to earth. He became a human being. John wrote,

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:2 NRSV)

The phrase “has come in the flesh” means that Jesus is a human being. Those who confess to this truth belong to God. Those who deny it do not.

John also wrote the following in his gospel about how God became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ:

So the Word became human and lived here on earth among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the only Son of the Father. (John 1:14 NLT)

These passages tell us that God the Son came in a human nature. Thus, human nature became an element in His one personality and overall makeup.

2. The Bible Teaches the Unity of Jesus’ Two Natures

God the Son, Jesus Christ became a human being at a certain point in time. While He was both God and human at the same time, He was only “one” Person. Thus, the attributes of Christ, as well as His titles, are ascribed to the one Person. This can only be understood if He is understood as one single Person who united with both the human and the divine nature.

We find that both natures are highlighted in the New Testament. Paul wrote about Jesus’ human nature as a descendant of King David in the opening chapter in his letter to the Romans. He said,

Concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord, who was a descendant of David according to the flesh. (Romans 1:3 HCSB)

This statement emphasizes Jesus’ humanity. Jesus was in the family line of His ancestor David.

Simon Peter wrote of Jesus’ human body that suffered and died. He put it this way in his first letter to the believers:

Christ also suffered when he died for our sins once for all time. He never sinned, but he died for sinners that he might bring us safely home to God. He suffered physical death, but he was raised to life in the Spirit. (1 Peter 3:18 NLT)

Physical death gives further evidence to Jesus’ humanity. Indeed, to die He had to be a genuine human.

However, the deity of Jesus Christ is also stressed. Indeed, the writer to the Hebrews stated that the Son, Jesus, is the exact representation of God. He said,

But now in these final days, he has spoken to us through his Son. God promised everything to the Son as an inheritance, and through the Son he made the universe and everything in it. The Son reflects God’s own glory, and everything about him represents God exactly. He sustains the universe by the mighty power of his command. After he died to cleanse us from the stain of sin, he sat down in the place of honor at the right hand of the majestic God of heaven. (Hebrews 1:2, 3 NLT)

Jesus is the exact representation of God in every area. This includes His divine nature.

3. Jesus Is One Person with Two Natures

It is important that we realize that God the Son had no human personality, or human nature, before He was born as a babe in Bethlehem. Indeed, He only had a divine nature. However, once He became a human being, His human nature was never separate from the divine nature.

Thus, Jesus, God the Son, was one Person with two natures. He did not cease being God when He became a human, neither was He any less human because He was God. In one body He was God and humanity united. Jesus was, therefore, the God-man. Thus, He remained God when He became a human.

4. The Two Natures Are Complete

The union of the two natures was complete. This means that Jesus did not act as God on some occasions and then as a human at other times. He was acting as both God and human at the same time.

Therefore, we cannot divide events in His life into the category of human or divine. He lived and suffered as a human being, yet all the while He was God. It is not correct to say that He performed miracles as God but died on the cross as a human. Jesus was both divine and human at all times. He is a single, undivided personality. That is, the two natures are inseparably united. Thus, He is not merely God and man but rather the God-man.

5. Jesus Was a Singular Person

Jesus spoke of Himself as a single Person. There is no conversation back and forth between the human and divine nature as we find the members of the Trinity addressing each other. For example, in His prayer to the Father, Jesus said,

I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me. (John 17:23 NKJV)

Jesus never spoke of Himself in the plural, us. The only possible exception to this is found in John’s gospel:

Most assuredly, I say to you, We speak what We know and testify what We have seen, and you do not receive Our witness. (John 3:11 NKJV)

However this is not necessarily Jesus speaking. It could be John’s commentary. If it was Jesus speaking He was probably referring to John the Baptist.

The fact that the Messiah was both human and divine is something which the Old Testament anticipated. Indeed, the prophet Isaiah predicted the Messiah would be both human and divine. He wrote the following:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)

This testifies to both His humanity and His deity. The child which is born will be called “Mighty God.”

6. The Two Natures Are Necessary to Save Humanity

There is something else which is important for us to understand. The two natures of Jesus Christ are necessary for the salvation of the human race. As a human being, Jesus could represent humanity and die as a human being. As God, His death would have infinite value. Indeed, Peter wrote about the value of the death of Christ:

For you know that you were redeemed from your empty way of life inherited from the fathers, not with perishable things, like silver or gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, like that of a lamb without defect or blemish. (1 Peter 1:18, 19 HCSB)

It is impossible to put a price on the death of Jesus. Nothing in the entire universe was as valuable as the life of the Son of God.

7. The Two Natures Are Necessary for Jesus to Be a High Priest

We also find that the union of the two natures into one Person is essential for Jesus to be the Mediator, or go-between between God and humanity. Paul wrote to Timothy about Jesus being our mediator:

For there is one God; there is also one mediator between God and humankind, Christ Jesus, himself human. (1 Timothy 2:5 NRSV)

The only way by which a person can reach the one God is through the mediator which God has provided, Jesus Christ.

His dual nature is what allows Him to be involved with both God and humanity. The writer to the Hebrews put it this way.

Therefore, it was necessary for Jesus to be in every respect like us, his brothers and sisters, so that he could be our merciful and faithful High Priest before God. He then could offer a sacrifice that would take away the sins of the people. Since he himself has gone through suffering and temptation, he is able to help us when we are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:17, 18 NLT)

God the Son has suffered the limitations of being a human being. This allows Him to have the position as our Great High Priest. He is the One who offers our prayers to God the Father.

The writer to the Hebrews emphasized that Jesus Christ, our High Priest, understands our weaknesses and temptations. He wrote the following words:

This High Priest of ours understands our weaknesses, for he faced all of the same temptations we do, yet he did not sin. So let us come boldly to the throne of our gracious God. There we will receive his mercy, and we will find grace to help us when we need it. (Hebrews 4:15, 16 NLT)

Therefore, the God/man, Jesus Christ, intercedes on behalf of humans to God the Father. In sum, we discover that the doctrine of the hypostatic union is something that is important for us to understand if we want to truly appreciate Jesus Christ and the mission He was sent to accomplish.

Summary – Question 16
In What Sense Was Jesus Christ God and Man Simultaneously? (The Hypostatic Union)

The biblical account of Jesus’ life demonstrates that Jesus Christ was God and man simultaneously. Indeed, while He was God from all eternity at a certain time in our past history God the Son became a human being in the Person of Jesus Christ. Among other things, this is known as the “hypostatic union.” It is vital that we understand certain things about this all-important doctrine.

Until the time God the Son became a human being, He had only one nature, a divine nature. Yet at a particular time in our history, He took upon Himself another nature, a human nature. Previously to this He only had one nature.

It is essential to realize that Jesus Christ was fully God and fully human at the same time. He was not half/God, half/human. These two natures in God the Son, which resided in one body, cannot be divided. In other words, He did not do some things as God and other things as a human. Everything He did was as the God/man. Thus, it is not possible to divide His actions into categories of human or divine.

The Bible also says that His human/divine nature is necessary for our salvation from sin. Indeed, Jesus had to be a human to die for other humans. Yet His humanity had to be perfect to be an acceptable sacrifice to God. Furthermore, as God, we also discover that His death had infinite worth. Nothing in the entire universe was as valuable as His life.

Thus we find that His two natures are necessary for Jesus to be our Great High Priest. Since He has lived on the earth as a human being, He certainly understands what we humans suffer. Consequently, He can identify with us and our limitations and sufferings. As God, He can speak directly to God the Father on our behalf.

Therefore, in looking at what the Scripture has to say about Jesus’ two natures, we find that it is an extremely important doctrine. Indeed, it is something which all believers to take the time to seriously study.

Was Jesus Always the Son of God? ← Prior Section
What Are Some Common Misconceptions about the Two Natures of Christ? Next Section →
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