A Study of Theology III – Part 6
Nature of Christ
A Study of Theology III – Part 6 (Dr. Thomas Figart)
Dr. Figart continues his study of the Nature of Christ.
A Study of Theology III – Part 6
Dr. Thomas Figart
- The Saviour (con’t)
- Hypostatic Union of the two Natures in Christ.
- Definition: “Hypostatic” comes from two Greek words, hupo (under) and histasthai (to stand) i.e. to stand under; a basis. Then it came to mean substantial, and substance and finally person. Thus, the hypostatic union refers to the personal union of the divine and human natures of Christ; He is one Person with two natures.
- O.T. prophecies of Messiah as a Divine-human being.
1). Isaiah 7:14 He is the virgin-born son Who is also Immanuel. cf. Mathew. 1:21-23.
2). Isaiah 9:6 He is the child Who is born as well as the Son Who is given; the mighty God, Father of eternity.
3). Jeremiah 23:5-6 He is the branch of David Who is also the LORD our Righteousness.
4). Psalm 2:7 cf. Heb. 1:5 He is the human king Who is also the Son of God.
5). Psalm 16:10 cf. Acts 2:25-28; 13:35-38 He is to die as man, yet not see corruption since He is also the Holy One of God.
- N.T. statements of His Divine-human existence.
1). Christ claimed to be man (John 8:40) as well as God (John 8:58; 10:30).
2). The Jews recognized His claim to deity by saying God was His own (idios) Father and that He was equal (isos) in Person with God. John 5:18; 10:31-33.
3). He accepted worship which is strictly a prerogative of deity alone. John 9:38.
4). He forgave sins, which is possible only by God
5). Additional statements: John 1:1-4; Rom. 1:2-5; 1 Timothy 3:16; Hebrews 2:14; 1 John 1:1-3.
- Christ is One Person.
1). Though Christ sometimes operated in the sphere of deity and at other times in the sphere of humanity, He always acted as one Person. There was never any conversation between the Son of God and the Son of Man; they were one and the same Person.
2). His Person is theanthropic (God-man) since the human nature was added to a divine Person Who already possessed a divine nature. His Person cannot be anthropotheistic, which would be a human person adding a divine nature.
- Christ has two Natures.
1). His human nature continues forever; He is a man in heaven. Matthew 26:64; 1 Timothy 2:5.
2). His two natures do not transfer attributes; infinity cannot be transferred into finiteness. An essence is composed of the sum of its attributes; thus, to transfer even one attribute is to change the essence. (cf. the Lutheran view of the ubiquity of humanity of Christ in the Lord’s Table).
3). Thus, the two natures of Christ are never to be confused or co-mingled. There is no mixture of the two to form a third substance; the human remains human, and the divine remains divine. Yet they are united in one Person without the loss of attributes, and they maintain their separate entities and identities.
- The Communion of Attributes. The attributes of both natures in Christ belong to His Person, so that He has seemingly contradictory qualities. Thus, He can be weak and omnipotent, can be omniscient and increase in wisdom, can be less than the Father and equal to the Father. Though each of these can be traced back to the corresponding nature, there is this communion of attributes manifested in seven categories.
1). Attributes which refer to the whole Person.
Example: The Lord Jesus is our Redeemer. As man (Jesus) He could die, but only as God (Lord) would His death have infinite value as payment for sin. Job. 19:25.
2). Attributes in which the whole Person is the subject, but the predicate is true of the divine nature only. Example: His eternity; “Before Abraham was, I am” John 8:58. Subject: “I” Predicate: “am before Abraham came to be.” Eternity applies only to the divine nature in the past; yet as to His Person, Christ is eternal! See John 17:5.
3). Attributes in which the whole Person is the subject, but the predicate is true only of the human nature. Example: “I thirst” John 19:28. Subject: “I” Predicate: “thirst” Only His human nature could thirst, yet, His whole Person was involved on the cross, or salvation would be worthless.
4). His Person may be described according to the divine nature, but the predicate of the human nature. Example: “They…crucified the Lord of glory.” I Cor. 2:8. Subject: “The Lord of glory” (divine nature) Predicate: “was crucified.” (human nature). It was possible for the Lord of glory to die, but only as to His humanity.
5). His Person may be described according to the human nature, but the predicate of the divine nature. Example: “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?” John 6:62. Subject: “Son of man” Predicate: “shall ascend up where He was before.” Obviously the human nature did not exist before the incarnation, yet the predicate ascribes eternity to the Person, “He.”
6). His Person may be described according to the divine nature, but the predicate is of both natures. Example: John 5:25-27. Subject: The Son of God speaks and the dead live Predicate: This same Person executes judgment because He is the Son of Man. This is possible only because the attribute of speaking is possessed by both natures a demonstrated by the fact that the human nature is specifically mentioned as in view when He judges.
7). His Person may be described according to the human nature, but the predicate is of both natures. Example: Matt. 27:46 Subject: “My God…” Speaking as a human in relation to God; Predicate: “why hast Thou forsaken me?” “Me” refers to both natures (His Person). The God-man was judicially forsaken because He was bearing the sin of the world. God died in the sense that deity lost a body which had been given to it. The fellowship of deity was affected, but the unity of deity was not broken.
- Results of the Hypostatic Union.
1). Redemption: When Christ offered Himself as a sacrifice for sin it was an act of His whole Person. As a man, Christ could die, but only as God could His death be of infinite value. Thus, His blood was shed as part of the act of the Divine-human Person. It was verily the blood of God. I Cor. 2:8.
2). Priesthood: He had to have an actual relation to God and to man. As man, He could sympathize with us in our weaknesses, Heb. 2:17. As the divine Son of God His priesthood could be eternal, after the order of Melchisedek, Heb. 7:21-24.
3). Prophet: Ordinarily a prophet does not need a divine nature, but in the case of Christ, He was “declaring” God’s nature, John 1:18, so only through the God-man, the Logos, could this expression of God be manifested.
4). King: Through His human nature Christ was linked to the royal family of David, Lk. 1:31-33, but only a divine king could have a universal and everlasting reign.
5). Worship: Even while on earth Christ was worshipped, though His glory was veiled, Jn. 9:35-38. To worship anyone in the strict religious sense is to ascribe divine perfections to that Person. The humanity of Christ nevertheless entered into that worship and became the object of the adoration of saints and angels, Heb. 1:6.
6). Ascension: Even though He is now glorified Christ remains human and is able to be our mediator (1 Tim. 2:5), Advocate (1 Jn. 2:1-2), and intercessor (Romans 8:34). Thus, infinite glory and humanity are compatible.
7). Immutability and Impeccability: The union of the two natures of Christ did not change either nature, but it did require the absence of a sin nature and the lack of a human father. Yet, there was no contradiction to His humanity, since these two things (sin and a father) were also absent from Adam in his innocency.
- The Impeccability of Christ.
- Definitions: Peccability means Christ could have sinned but did not. It was possible for Him not to sin; posse non peccare. Impeccability means Christ could not sin. It was not possible for Him to sin; non posse peccare.
- First Question: Can an impeccable person be tempted?
1). Charles Hodge’s View, from his Systematic Theology, Vol. 2, p. 457:
a). Because of His true human nature Christ was capable of temptation.
b). Temptation implies the possibility of sinning.
c). If Christ could not sin, then His temptation was not true.
d). If He was not really tempted Christ cannot sympathize with us.
e). The fact that He did not sin is held out as an example to us.
2). Points of agreement
a). Agreed, Christ was tempted because He had a true human nature. Hebrews 4:15, “like as we are” should read, “according to likeness” i.e., because He has a human nature; because He is like us.
b). Though He had a human nature, it was “apart from sin” (no sin nature) Hebrews 4:15b, so that temptation had to come from outside. Hodge would agree that Christ’s temptation differs from ours.
c). Christ had to be tempted as to His Person, since the divine nature by itself could not be tempted.
3). Points of disagreement:
a). We do not agree that temptation implies the possibility of sinning. An impeccable person can be attacked (tempted) even though he cannot be defeated (yield to sin). It is possible to attempt the impossible.
b). Impeccability depends upon the power to resist temptation. If this power is infinite, the person is impeccable. Christ has such power; thus, impeccability depends upon the will.
c). Temptability depends upon susceptibility, and Jesus was susceptible to all forms of temptation except that which springs from a fallen nature, just as Adam was susceptible before the Fall.
- Second Question: Were Christ’s temptations real since He had no corresponding nature within to respond to sin?
1). Hodge’s View: If Christ could not sin, there was no point in the temptations and they were not real.
2). Points of disagreement.
a). In Matthew 4 the temptation to turn stones into bread was real because He is a true human being and was hungry. As Son of God He had real power to do this and Satan tempted Him on that basis.
b). The struggle in Gethsemane (Matt. 26:39-42) was an even greater temptation; it was a contest of submission of His will to the Father.
c). Comparison with Adam: If Christ’s human nature had not been supported by His divine nature He could have sinned, as Adam did. But the hypostatic union of the two natures acted as a safeguard.
d). Hebrews 4:15 He was “tempted in all points… yet apart from sin” His all points were far greater than our all points. They included every possible sphere and the greatest possible exertion of Satan’s power! Christ was tempted in realms which we never enter, but which were real temptations for Him.
e). “…touched (sumpatheo= sympathy) with the feeling of our infirmities…” True ground for sympathy does not require falling in sin, but merely the knowledge of the power of temptation. Christ knows this better than anyone; He went farther into the realms of temptation than we have.
- Third Question: Can the attributes of deity allow for the possibility of sin? Answer: No!
1). Immutability: Unchangeableness, Hebrews 13:8. Christ was holy before the incarnation; He is still holy. Otherwise He could sin in heaven now and our salvation would be in jeopardy!
2). Omnipotence: Infinite power enables Him to resist completely; thus He cannot sin.
3). Omniscience: Infinite wisdom enables Him to know the awful consequences of sin beforehand; thus He would exert His infinite power to avoid these consequences.