The Necessity of the Human and Divine Natures in Christ: Christology, Soteriology, and Doxology

 

Delivered at the 2021 Freed-Hardeman University Scholars Day

Athanasius in On the Incarnation 54.3 said, “God became man that man might become God.” God the Son assumed or took on a human nature so that humans could see and be saved by the divine nature leading to their sanctification. Gregory of Nazianzus described the union of the two concrete natures in the one person of Christ to Cledonius when he wrote, 

For we do not part the human being from the Godhead; no, we affirm and teach one and the same God and Son, at first not man but alone and pre-eternal, unmixed with body and all that belongs to the body, but finally human being too, assumed for our salvation, the same passible in flesh, impassible in Godhead, bounded in body, boundless in spirit, earthly and heavenly, visible and known spiritually, finite and infinite: so that by the same, whole man and God, the whole human being fallen under sin might be fashioned anew.

 If Athanasius and Gregory of Nazianzus have correctly summarized the doctrine of the incarnation, then both the human and divine natures are necessary for humanity to be saved. The true or complete divine nature is necessary because the divine sacrifice was needed to atone for sin and bear the infinite wrath of God (Acts 20:28). The complete or true human nature was necessary for the redemptive representation of mankind (Her 2:17). 

True God

The Second Person of the Trinity, known as the Logos or Son of God, is true God which means that he is eternal, timeless, infinite, and the fulness of life. The deity of Christ is taught in John 1:1, John 1:48, Luke 5:21. 

John 1:1 taught that “Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.” Going back before Genesis 1:1, John taught that the Word was (imperfect active indicative of eimi—the Word was and is timelessly being. This timeless Word was also timelessly with God. Not only was the timeless or eternal Word with God, but the Word was continually whatever God was being. Hebrews 1:3 described this same doctrine of the Logos when the sermonic book opens with “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature” (ὃς ὢν ἀπαύγασμα τῆς δόξης καὶ χαρακτὴρ τῆς ὑποστάσεως αὐτοῦ, φέρων τε τὰ πάντα τῷ ῥήματι τῆς δυνάμεως αὐτοῦ, καθαρισμὸν τῶν ἁμαρτιῶν ποιησάμενος ἐκάθισεν ἐν δεξιᾷ τῆς μεγαλωσύνης ἐν ὑψηλοῖς). 

John 1:48-49 likewise teaches the divine actions of the incarnate Son which were recognized by those around him. John recorded “Nathanael said to Him, “How do You know me?” Jesus answered and said to him, “Before Philip called you, when you were under the fig tree, I saw you.” Nathanael answered Him, “Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel!” 

In Luke 5:21, Jesus exercised the divine right of forgiving sin. Luke recorded that after Jesus saw the crippled man being let down through the new hole in the roof, he “saw their faith, He said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven you.” The scribes and the Pharisees began thinking of the implications, saying, “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, except God alone?”

The Nicene Creed summarized the deity of Christ with the words, “Deum serum de Deo vero” (true God from true God).” The Word or Son was true God. The only distinction between the Son and the Father is the relation of Father and Son. The divine nature was and eternally is shared between the Father, Son, and Spirit. 

True Man

As the eternal Son assumed a true human nature to his person, the incarnation was accomplished. John described this in John 1:14 as, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten of the Father.” 

The deity of Christ is shown again in John’s Gospel as Jesus was able to see Nathaniel sitting under the fig tree. John recorded that Jesus saw Nathaniel without being present. From that claim Nathaniel claimed that Jesus was in fact the Son of God—true God. This shows not only Jesus’ omniscience but more specifically his continued divine omnipresence since Jesus saw him even though his human nature was not present. 

In Luke 22:42, Jesus’ humanity was proven as he demonstrated that his human will was distinct from his divine will. The dyothelite nature of Christ, as opposed to monothelitism, is shown in that there is a human will/mind/intellect and soul in the person of Christ who also has a divine will/mind/intellect. 

For this reason the Nicene Creed affirmed that Jesus was “Et incarnatus est de Spiritu Sancto ex Maria Virgine, et homo factus est” (incarnate by the Holy Spirit from the virgin Mary, and became man).” 

Soteriological Necessity of Dyophysitism

The two true (full) natures (divine and human) are necessary for the salvation of God’s people. 

God taught the necessity of the human nature in Hebrews 2:17-18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brothers so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” 

Likewise the necessity of the divine nature is shown in that God, who alone dwells in immortality (1 Tim 6:16), was able to die—shed his blood—because the Logos has assumed a human nature to his person. 

Views to Avoid

Since God has provided such a great salvation in the Christ who is true God and true man, Christians should maintain orthodox Christology. The heterodox Christology (heretical views) which are most common today are Arianism, kenoticism, and Apollinarianism.

Arianism is the belief that the Son was the first and greatest creature of God. The heretics would picket around time saying “there was a time when the Son was not.” Arianism is taught officially by a few religious groups.

Kenoticism is a relatively new Christology derived from Paul’s statement in Philippians 2:5-11. When Paul wrote that God “emptied himself,” he taught that the Logos assumed a lower rank (BDAG) in the incarnation. Paul did not teach that the Logos changed. God, the eternal perfect fulness of life, cannot change. This immutability is clearly taught by God in Scripture (Mal 3:6, Num 23:19; Js 1:17). The very idea that the Logos could cease being infinite in any way reveals a faulty doctrine of God. God cannot stop being God. God cannot morph into a human. Even during the incarnation, the Logos remained true God (omniscient omnipresent).

Apollinarianism is the doctrine that the divine mind functioned as the human mind of Christ. Although Apollinarianism is prevalent today, the difficulties with the doctrine are evident. The mind of God is categorically different from the mind of any human. The mind of God is infinite and perfect. The mind of humans are finite and imperfect. 

Doxology

Augustine said, “The Life came down, that He might be slain; the Bread came down, that He might hunger; the Way came down, that He might be wearied in the way; the Fountain came down, that He might thirst.” Cyril preached, “It behooved that the incorruptible should lay hold of the nature subject to corruption, that He might free it from corruption; it behooved that He who knew no sin should be made of the same form with those who were under sin, that He might make sin to cease. For as where is light, there surely darkness will have no work, so where incorruption is present, is all necessity that corruption flee, and that, since He who did not know sin has made His own that which was under sin, sin should come to nothing.” Christians can rejoice that their sin, though great, is redeemed by infinite sacrifice. Our enmity toward God is overshadowed by the infinite glory of the incarnate Lord who is the radiance of the glory of the Father. 

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