The purpose of this series is to help our readers this holiday season to think through the doctrine of the person and work of Christ.
- Matt Perman started off this series with the first in a three part series answering the question, “How can Jesus be God and Man?”
- Today Matt continues with part two of his series looking at Christ’s natures full and complete.
Each nature is full and complete
Having seen the biblical basis that Jesus is both God and man, the second truth that we must recognize is that each of Christ’s natures is full and complete. In other words, Jesus is fully God and fully man. Another helpful way to say it is that Jesus is 100% God and 100% man.
Jesus is fully God
We saw earlier that each Person of the Trinity is fully God. The three Persons of the Trinity are not each one-third of God, but are each all of God. Thus, Jesus is fully God since He is God the Son incarnate. This means that everything that is essential to being God is true of Jesus. Jesus is not part of God, or one-third of God. Rather, He is fully God. “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9).
Jesus is fully man
It is also important to recognize that when we say that Jesus is man, we do not simply mean that He is partially man. We mean that He is fully human — everything that belongs to the essence of true humanity is true of Him. He is just as truly human as the rest of us.
The fact that Jesus is truly and fully human is clear from the fact that He has a human body (Luke 24:39), a human mind (Luke 2:52), and a human soul (Matthew 26:38). Jesus does not just look like a man, He does not just have some aspects of what is essential for true humanity but not others, but possess full humanity.
It is helpful to be aware of the false views concerning Christ. For if we have a grasp of what we are not to believe, it will give us a fuller picture of what we are to believe. One of the false views that was rejected at the council of Chalcedon taught that “the one person of Christ had a human body but not a human mind or spirit, and that the mind and spirit of Christ were from the divine nature of the Son of God.”4 Since this view did not believe that Jesus has a human mind and spirit, it in effect denied that Christ is fully and truly man. Rather, it presented Christ as a sort of half-man who has a human body, but whose human mind and soul were replaced by the divine nature. But as we saw earlier, Jesus is just as fully human as the rest of us, for just as He has all of the essential elements of Godhead, He has all the essential elements of human nature a human body, a human soul, a human mind, a human will, and human emotions. His human mind was not replaced by His divine mind. Rather, He has both a human and divine mind. For these reasons, it can be misleading to use phrases such as “Jesus is God in a body” or “Jesus is God with skin on.”
Jesus will be fully God and fully man forever
For most people it is obvious that Jesus will be God forever. But for some reason it escapes a lot of us that Jesus will also be man forever. He is still man right now as you read this and will be forever. The Bible is clear that Jesus rose physically from the dead in the same body that had died (Luke 24:39) and then ascended into heaven as a man, in His physical body (Acts 1:9; Luke 24:50-51). It would make no sense for Him to have done this if He was simply going to ditch His body and stop being man when He arrived in heaven.
That Christ continued being man, with a physical body, after His ascension is confirmed by the fact that when He returns, it will be as man, in His body. He will return physically. Philippians 3:21 says that at His Second Coming, Christ “will transform the body of our humble state into conformity with the body of His glory.” This verse is clear that Jesus still has His body. It is a glorified body, which Paul calls “the body of His glory.” And when Christ returns, He will still have it because this verse says that He will transform our bodies to be like His. Both Jesus and all Christians will then continue living together in their bodies forever, because the resurrection body cannot die (1 Corinthians 15:42) because it is eternal (2 Corinthians 5:1).
Why did Jesus become man, and why will He be man forever? The book of Hebrews says that it was so that Christ could be an adequate Savior who has all that we need. “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” (2:17). First, notice that Jesus became man so that He could die for our sins. He had to be human in order to pay the penalty for humans. Second, this verse says that because Jesus is human like us, He is able to be a merciful and faithful high priest. His humanity enables Him to more fully sympathize with us and identify with us. I cannot help but believe that it is very destructive to our comfort and faith to not know that Jesus is still man and in His body. For if He is not still man in heaven, how could we have comfort knowing that He can fully sympathize with us? He can sympathize and be a faithful high priest and know what we are going through not just because He was once on earth as a man, but because He continues forever as that same man.
Each nature remains distinct
The truths of Christ’s two natures full manhood and full Godhood are pretty well understood and known by Christians. But for a right understanding of the Incarnation we must go even further. We must understand that the two natures of Christ remain distinct and retain their own properties. What does this mean? Two things: (1) They do not alter one another’s essential properties, and (2) neither do they mix together into a mysterious third kind of nature.
First, it would be wrong to think that Christ’s two natures mix together to form a third kind of nature. This is one of the heresies that the early church had to fight. This heresy taught that “the human nature of Christ was taken up and absorbed into the divine nature, so that both natures were changed somewhat and a third kind of nature resulted. An analogy to [this] can be seen if we put a drop of ink in a glass of water: the mixture resulting is neither pure ink nor pure water, but some kind of third substance, a mixture of the two in which both the ink and the water are changed. Similarly, [this view] taught that Jesus was a mixture of divine and human elements in which both were somewhat modified to form one new nature.”5 This view is unbiblical because it demolishes both Christ’s deity and humanity. For if Christ’s two natures mixed together, then He is no longer truly and fully God and truly and fully man, but is some entirely different kind of being that resulted from a mixture of the two natures.
Second, even if we acknowledge that the natures do not mix together into a third kind of nature, it would also be wrong to think that the two natures changed one another. For example, it would be wrong to conclude that Jesus’ human nature became divine in some ways, or that His divine nature became human in some ways. Rather, each nature remains distinct, and thereby retains its own individual properties and does not change. As the council of Chalcedon stated it, “…the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved…”6 Jesus’ human nature is human, and human only. His divine nature is divine, and divine only. For example, Jesus’ human nature did not become all knowing through its union with God the Son, and neither did His divine nature become ignorant of anything. If any of the natures underwent a change in its essential nature, then Christ is no longer truly and fully human, or truly and fully divine.
Christ is only one Person
What we have seen so far about the deity and humanity of Christ shows us that Christ has two natures — a divine nature and a human nature — , that each nature is full and complete, that they remain distinct and do not mix together to form a third kind of nature, and that Christ will be both God and man forever.
But if Christ has two natures, does this mean that He is also two people? No, it does not. Christ remains one person. There is only one Christ. The Church has historically stated this truth in this way: Christ is two natures united in one person forever.
At this point we find another heretical view to beware of. This view, while acknowledging that Jesus is fully God and fully man, denies that He is only one Person. According to this view, there are two separate persons in Christ as well as two natures. In contrast to this, the Bible is very clear that, while Jesus has two natures, He is only one Person. In other words, what this means is that there are not two Jesus Christ’s. In spite of the fact that He has a duality of natures, He is not two Christ’s, but One. While remaining distinct, the two natures are united together in such a way so as to be one Person.
To put it simply, there is a certain sense in which Christ is two, and a different sense in which Christ is one. He is two in that He has two real, full natures one divine and one human. He is one in that, while remaining distinct, these two natures exist together in such a way as that they constitute “one thing.” In other words, the two natures are both the same Jesus, and thus are one Person. As the Chalcedonean creed says, Christ is “to be acknowledged in two natures…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…”
Next Post: Conclusion of Matt’s three part series looking at evidence that Christ is only one person.