Christian Doctrine

Lecture 1: The Person of Christ – The Chalcedonian Creed
Lecture 2: The Deity of Christ
Lecture 3: The Humanity of Christ

Lecture 4: The problem of the Hypostatic Union

Lecture 1

Lecture Outcomes:

1 – Introduction to the Person of Christ

2 – Introduction to Chalcedonian Creed

3 –Understand and discuss the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula:

  • Examine the main arguments relating to the Humanity of Christ.
  • Comprehend the major features of the Deity of Christ
  • Explain the Unity of Christ as God and Man
  • Elucidate the major aspects of the Work of Christ

Key Verse:

John 1:14  – 14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 8:58  – 58 Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.


The Creed


The council of Chalcedon

Hypostatic Union

How is it possible?


Quotations mainly and extensively from

Chalcedonian Creed

The Chalcedonian Creed was adopted at the Council of Chalcedon in 451 in Asia Minor as a response to certain heretical views concerning the nature of Christ. This Council of Chalcedon is the fourth of the seven ecumenical councils accepted by Eastern Orthodox, Catholic, and many Protestant Christian churches.

The Chalcedonian Creed was written amid controversy between the western and eastern churches over the meaning of the incarnation (see Christology), the ecclesiastical influence of the Byzantine emperor, and the supremacy of the Roman Pope. The adopted Creed specifically maintained the two distinct natures of Christ (divine and human) over against teaching of Eutyches — that Christ had only one nature, a mixture of human and divine. Eutychianism is also known as monophysitism from monos (single) and physis (nature), which confuses both Christ’s true humanity and his true deity.

An English translation of the Creed

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to 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 soul and body; 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 mother of God, according to the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, 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 taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The Bible does not explicitly address the question of whether Jesus Christ has two natures or only one. As it will be explained below, however, understanding that Christ has two natures is the most biblically and theologically consistent position. The issue came to a head in church history as theologians in the church tried to grapple with and codify the information that the New Testament provides about Jesus.

According to the New Testament, Jesus really is a man, born into the human race, yet He is also fully God. John 1:1 states that the Word is God and then in verse 14 we see that the Word John is speaking of is Jesus who “tabernacled” among us. Matthew and Luke both tell of Jesus’ birth of the Virgin Mary and give His human lineage. It is difficult to understand and explain, but that is what the New Testament teaches. Jesus is God who entered the human race as a man.

Some groups early on tried to explain the nature of Christ by saying that the divine “Christ spirit” came upon the man Jesus. Early Gnostics said that the Christ spirit came upon Jesus at His baptism and left Him at the crucifixion. In this scenario, it might seem as though Jesus had two natures; however, on closer examination, this is not the case. The man that people identified as Jesus would actually be two persons sharing a body, and each person would only have one nature. He would be Jesus the human and Christ the divine. In this scenario, God only appears to enter the human race, but He does not actually do it.

Another way of trying to explain the data in the New Testament is to say that Jesus Christ was only one person AND that He only had one nature . The difficulty with this explanation is that His nature would be something of an amalgamation of divine and human. He would not be fully human because the divine nature has mixed with the human nature, making Him something more than human. He would not be fully God because the human nature has mixed with the divine nature, making Him something less than divine. We see parallels to this idea in Greek and Roman mythology where a god has a child with a human woman. The offspring is more than human and less than a god—a super human or a demi-god. Hercules was one such person, the son of Zeus and the woman Alcmene.

An illustration may be helpful. Like most illustrations, it is far from perfect and cannot be pressed on every point. Suppose a king wants to identify with the poorest in his country. One way he could do it would be to disguise himself as a beggar and move among them. However, in this situation he is only pretending to be a beggar; he can go back to the castle at night, and he still has all the resources of a king. On the other hand, the king could renounce his throne and give away everything and become a beggar. But in this case, he would cease to be a king. A third option is that he could, for a time, give up the use of all his resources for a set period of time—let’s say 3 years—knowing that at the end of that time he would once again resume the throne. In this last situation, he is both truly a beggar and truly a king. Jesus became man, but He remained God.

The only way to adequately explain the biblical data is to say that Jesus is one Person with two natures—a human nature and a divine nature. He is both God and Man. His two natures are inseparably united (not mixed) in what theologians term the “hypostatic union.” The New Testament affirms that Jesus Christ, who walked the earth, died on a cross, and rose again, was fully a member of the human race with a fully functioning human nature (without sin). At the same time, Jesus was fully God. He willingly humbled Himself and gave up His glory and the right to use His divine attributes apart from the direction of God the Father, but He never ceased to be God. Jesus Christ is fully man and fully God—He has the nature of both. He is a man, but He is more; He is also God. He is God, but He has forever joined Himself to a human nature. A shortened way to express this is to refer to Jesus as the God-Man. He is the Man who is also God, and He is God who became a Man.

The hypostatic union is the term used to describe how God the Son, Jesus Christ, took on a human nature, yet remained fully God at the same time. Jesus always had been God (John 8:58, 10:30), but at the incarnation Jesus became a human being (John 1:14). The addition of the human nature to the divine nature is Jesus, the God-man. This is the hypostatic union, Jesus Christ, one Person, fully God and fully man.

Jesus’ two natures, human and divine, are inseparable. Jesus will forever be the God-man, fully God and fully human, two distinct natures in one Person. Jesus’ humanity and divinity are not mixed, but are united without loss of separate identity. Jesus sometimes operated with the limitations of humanity (John 4:6, 19:28) and other times in the power of His deity (John 11:43; Matthew 14:18-21). In both, Jesus’ actions were from His one Person. Jesus had two natures, but only one personality.

The doctrine of the hypostatic union is an attempt to explain how Jesus could be both God and man at the same time. It is ultimately, though, a doctrine we are incapable of fully understanding. It is impossible for us to fully understand how God works. We, as human beings with finite minds, should not expect to totally comprehend an infinite God. Jesus is God’s Son in that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). But that does not mean Jesus did not exist before He was conceived. Jesus has always existed (John 8:58, 10:30). When Jesus was conceived, He became a human being in addition to being God (John 1:1, 14).

Jesus is both God and man. Jesus has always been God, but He did not become a human being until He was conceived in Mary. Jesus became a human being in order to identify with us in our struggles (Hebrews 2:17) and, more importantly, so that He could die on the cross to pay the penalty for our sins (Philippians 2:5-11). In summary, the hypostatic union teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person, forever.

Lecture 2

Lecture Outcomes:

The Deity of Christ

  • Understand and discuss the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula
  • Examine the main arguments relating to the Deity of Christ.
  • Comprehend the major features of the Deity of Christ
  • Explain the Unity of Christ as God and Man

Key Verse:

“Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” Acts 4:12

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” John 14:6


Is the Deity of Christ Biblical? – 6mins

Did Jesus Really Claim to be God?

Did JESUS claim to be GOD?

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

In this lecture you will be introduced to the Person and Work of Christ.  The issue of the Deity of Christ has been hotly debated over centuries. The Bible clearly shows Jesus to be fully God and fully Man and over the centuries theologians have struggled to understand this essential truth.   However, over the years many heresies arose, such as the Arian controversy and others which portrayed Jesus as merely a good man.  We will be examining how Jesus can be both God and Man.   The doctrine of Christ’s humanity is less divisive than His deity, yet there are many who seek to diminish this dogma by attacking the Virgin Birth which is evidence of His supernatural manhood.

While we hold to our belief as Jesus being fully God and fully Man, we have to further examine the factor of His Unity as being both human and divine in the one Person.  This is essential to our understanding as believers and to this end we will examine the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula.

“Is the deity of Christ biblical?”

In addition to Jesus’ specific claims about Himself, His disciples also acknowledged the deity of Christ. They claimed that Jesus had the right to forgive sins—something only God can do—as it is God who is offended by sin (Acts 5:31; Colossians 3:13; Psalm 130:4; Jeremiah 31:34). In close connection with this last claim, Jesus is also said to be the one who will “judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1). Thomas cried out to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Paul calls Jesus “great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13) and points out that prior to His incarnation Jesus existed in the “form of God” (Philippians 2:5-8). God the Father says regarding Jesus: “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8). John states that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God” (John 1:1). Examples of Scriptures that teach the deity of Christ are many (see Revelation 1:17, 2:8, 22:13; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:6-8; Psalm 18:2, 95:1; 1 Peter 5:4; Hebrews 13:20), but even one of these is enough to show that Christ was considered to be God by His followers.

Jesus is also given titles that are unique to YHWH (the formal name of God) in the Old Testament. The Old Testament title “redeemer” (Psalm 130:7; Hosea 13:14) is used of Jesus in the New Testament (Titus 2:13; Revelation 5:9). Jesus is called Immanuel—“God with us”—in Matthew 1. In Zechariah 12:10, it is YHWH who says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” But the New Testament applies this to Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:37; Revelation 1:7). If it is YHWH who is pierced and looked upon, and Jesus was the one pierced and looked upon, then Jesus is YHWH. Paul interprets Isaiah 45:22-23 as applying to Jesus in Philippians 2:10-11. Further, Jesus’ name is used alongside God’s in prayer “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2). This would be blasphemy if Christ were not deity. The name of Jesus appears with God’s in Jesus’ commanded to baptize “in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19; see also 2 Corinthians 13:14).

Actions that can be accomplished only by God are credited to Jesus. Jesus not only raised the dead (John 5:21, 11:38-44) and forgave sins (Acts 5:31, 13:38), He created and sustains the universe (John 1:2; Colossians 1:16-17). This becomes even clearer when one considers YHWH said He was alone during creation (Isaiah 44:24). Further, Christ possesses attributes that only deity can have: eternality (John 8:58), omnipresence (Matthew 18:20, 28:20), omniscience (Matthew 16:21), and omnipotence (John 11:38-44).

Now, it is one thing to claim to be God or to fool someone into believing it is true, and something else entirely to prove it to be so. Christ offered many miracles as proof of His claim to deity. Just a few of Jesus’ miracles include turning water to wine (John 2:7), walking on water (Matthew 14:25), multiplying physical objects (John 6:11), healing the blind (John 9:7), the lame (Mark 2:3), and the sick (Matthew 9:35; Mark 1:40-42), and even raising people from the dead (John 11:43-44; Luke 7:11-15; Mark 5:35). Moreover, Christ Himself rose from the dead. Far from the so-called dying and rising gods of pagan mythology, nothing like the resurrection is seriously claimed by other religions, and no other claim has as much extra-scriptural confirmation.

There are at least twelve historical facts about Jesus that even non-Christian critical scholars will admit:

1. Jesus died by crucifixion.
2. He was buried.
3. His death caused the disciples to despair and lose hope.
4. Jesus’ tomb was discovered (or was claimed to be discovered) to be empty a few days later.
5. The disciples believed they experienced appearances of the risen Jesus.
6. After this, the disciples were transformed from doubters into bold believers.
7. This message was the centre of preaching in the early Church.
8. This message was preached in Jerusalem.
9. As a result of this preaching, the Church was born and it grew.
10. Resurrection day, Sunday, replaced the Sabbath (Saturday) as the primary day of worship.
11. James, a sceptic, was converted when he also believed that he saw the resurrected Jesus.
12. Paul, an enemy of Christianity, was converted by an experience which he believed to be an appearance of the risen Jesus.

Even if someone were to object to this specific list, only a few are needed to prove the resurrection and establish the gospel: Jesus’ death, burial, resurrection, and appearances (1 Corinthians 15:1-5). While there may be some theories to explain one or two of the above facts, only the resurrection explains and accounts for them all. Critics admit that the disciples claimed they saw the risen Jesus. Neither lies nor hallucinations can transform people the way the resurrection did. First, what would they have had to gain? Christianity was not popular and it certainly did not make them any money. Second, liars do not make good martyrs. There is no better explanation than the resurrection for the disciples’ willingness to die horrible deaths for their faith. Yes, many people die for lies that they think are true, but people do not die for what they know is untrue.

In conclusion, Christ claimed He was YHWH, that He was deity (not just “a god” but the one true God); His followers (Jews who would have been terrified of idolatry) believed Him and referred to Him as God. Christ proved His claims to deity through miracles, including the world-altering resurrection. No other hypothesis can explain these facts. Yes, the deity of Christ is biblical.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

The significance of The Council of Chalcedon?

The Council of Chalcedon met in AD 451 in Chalcedon, a city in Asia Minor. The council’s ruling was an important step in further clarifying the nature of Christ and the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. The council also laid the groundwork for one of the most significant events in ecclesiastical history—the Great Schism.

In order to appreciate the significance of the Council of Chalcedon, we need a little background. Debate about the person of Christ arose prior to the first Council of Nicaea in AD 325. A man named Arius had taught the false doctrine that the Son of God was a created being and that He was of a different substance (heteroousios) than the Father. The Council of Nicaea sought to unambiguously define the relationship between the Father and the Son. The council said Jesus was truly God. Yet the opponents of the deity of Christ did not simply give up after the Nicene affirmation. But faithful Christians like Athanasius continued to defend Christ’s deity, and, in the end, truth triumphed over error.

After Nicaea came the Council of Constantinople in AD 381, which rejected the teachings of Apollinaris, who said that Jesus’ divine nature had displaced His human mind and will. According to Apollinaris Jesus was not fully human, a teaching that 2 John 1:7 warns against. Later, Nestorius said Jesus had two separate natures and two wills, essentially making Him two persons sharing one body. This teaching was condemned at the Council of Ephesus in AD 431. And ten years later Eutyches also denied that Jesus was truly human, saying Jesus’ human nature was “absorbed” or swallowed up by His divine nature. This led to the Council of Chalcedon, which only lasted from October 8 to November 1, 451.

The Council of Chalcedon anathematized (cursed) those who taught that Christ had only a single, divine nature and those who taught a “mixture” of His two natures. The Council produced the “Chalcedonian Definition,” which affirms that Christ is “the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man.” He is “consubstantial [homoousios] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood.” Jesus Christ is “to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably” (quoted from The divine and human natures of Christ are distinct yet united in one Person. This co-existence of Christ’s two natures is called the hypostatic union.

By affirming that Jesus Christ is one Person who is both divine and human, the Council of Chalcedon made it easier to identify error. The Chalcedonian Definition affirms the truth that Jesus Christ is fully divine and, at the same time, fully human. He is both the Son of God (1 John 5:10) and the Son of Man (Mark 14:21). Jesus, the Word incarnate, assumed perfect humanity in order to save fallen humanity. He could not have saved us unless he was fully God and fully man.

The Council of Chalcedon was also significant because it ratified the creeds of Nicaea and Constantinople. And it condemned the false doctrines of Nestorius and Eutyches. The council affirmed the single personality of Christ and the authenticity and perfection of both His natures, human and divine.

Besides dealing with matters of theology, the Council of Chalcedon is famous for upholding an earlier ruling concerning church structure. The Council of Chalcedon assigned equal honor to the Church of Constantinople and the Church of Rome. The council gave the title “patriarch” to the most prominent bishops and concluded that the church of Constantinople (“New Rome”) held a position of authority similar to that of “Old Rome.” The pope, of course, rejected that particular article, while accepting the rest of the Chalcedonian Creed. Eventually, the rift between Rome and Constantinople led to the Great Schism between the Eastern Church and the Western Church in AD 1054.

Recommended Resource: Christianity Through the Centuries by Earle Cairns

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The Apollinarian Heresy

“Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
Luke 2:52

Proponents of Eutychianism managed to avoid full-on docetism, because unlike the docetists, the Eutychians did not say that the body of our Savior was merely an illusion. However, by teaching that the deity of Christ absorbed His humanity, they ended up effectively denying that Jesus possesses a true human nature and a true divine nature. They give us a Jesus who is a mixture of humanity and deity, not truly God or truly man.

Eutychianism was not the only Christological heresy in the early church to tend toward a kind of docetic denial of Christ’s true humanity. The heresy known as Apollinarianism also denied the true humanity of Jesus. Apollinarianism is named after Apollinaris, the fourth-century bishop of Laodicea. Early in his career, Apollinaris was highly esteemed by such orthodox Christian thinkers as Athanasius of Alexandria because of his staunch defense of the Council of Nicaea and its affirmation of the full deity of Christ. In his later ministry, the orthodox party opposed Apollinaris because of what he taught about the relationship between the human and divine natures of Christ.

Apollinaris believed human beings are made up of three constituent parts—a physical body, a “lower” soul that makes us living creatures, and a “higher” soul or spirit that is equivalent to the rational mind that humans possess. Immediately, we should see problems with Apollinaris’ thinking, as this three-part division of human beings has no scriptural support. Biblical Christianity has always taught that human beings have two constituent aspects—body and soul (dichotomy). This understanding is grounded in passages such as Matthew 10:28, which refers to human beings as possessing only a body and a soul.

Having adopted a erroneous view of human nature, Apollinaris said that in the person of Jesus Christ, the Logos or divine aspect of the Savior replaced His “higher” spirit. Jesus, then, had a human body, a “lower” human soul, and a divine spirit. Apollinaris effectively denied that the seat of rational thought in our Savior is truly human. He compromised Jesus’ true humanity by denying that He possesses a human mind or soul, since the human mind or soul is an essential component that makes human beings human. And, by compromising Jesus’ humanity, Apollinarianism gives us a Savior who cannot save us. Animal sacrifices could not truly atone for sin because they are not human (Heb. 10:4). If Jesus does not possess a human soul, then He is not truly human, and thus cannot atone for the sin of other humans.

Coram Deo

Jesus’ lack of a true human soul not only compromises the atonement but it also means He could not have been tempted in every way that we are (Heb. 4:15). That, in turn, would make Him unable to help us as we suffer temptation (2:18). Because Jesus is truly human, however, He can help us. Let us go to Him this day and every day when we are tempted to disobey the Lord. )

The Docetic Heresy

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist.” 2 John 7

Groups who denied the deity of Christ outright, such as the Arians, were not the most significant threats to Christian orthodoxy in the earliest years of church history. Arianism was not a major problem until the fourth century, and while the Ebionites denied the deity of Christ relatively early on, they were never as significant a threat as the Arians. Instead of denying that Christ is true deity or at least that He is in some sense a divine being, the very first heresies had a much greater issue with the humanity of our Savior. In fact, the New Testament demonstrates that the denial of the true human nature of Jesus began during the lifetime of the Apostles.

We are talking specifically about the heresy of docetism. The term docetism is derived from the Greek verb dokeō , which means “seem” or “appear”; thus, the name of the heresy points to its teaching that Jesus did not have a real physical body. Instead, He only seemed to possess physicality. His body was an illusion, something that looked real but in fact was not a part of the physical order at all.

Today’s passage indicates that the Apostles themselves had to confront docetism by the end of the first century. In 2 John 7, the Apostle John says it is false teaching to deny that Jesus Christ came “in the flesh.” He is referring to docetic teaching or at least to teaching that would later blossom into full-fledged docetism. Before John died, he had to remind the church that the Son of God came in the flesh, that He possesses a true human nature that includes a true human body.

Why was docetic teaching popular in the early years of the church? Remember that Christianity was born in a world heavily influenced by Greek thinking, and Greek philosophers tended to look down upon the physical world. For many Greek thinkers, embodied existence was not a good thing, and they looked forward to the time when the soul would be released from the “prison” of the body. The earliest gentile Christians were heavily influenced by such ideas, so there is little wonder that a body-denying heresy such as docetism would be a problem as the gospel went out to the gentile world.

The crass form of docetism that says the physical body of Jesus was merely an illusion no longer poses much of a direct threat to the church. However, an incipient form of docetism remains. Because of recent denials of the deity of Christ, it is easy for us to become so focused on defending His Godhood that we neglect His humanity.

Coram Deo

The docetists rejected the true humanity of Christ because of a notion that the physical world is inherently defective. Biblical Christianity affirms something different. Although the creation is presently fallen, God originally made it very good. Thus, there is no inherent obstacle to the Son of God’s uniting Himself to a human nature in the incarnation. We need not disdain the created order, for God will redeem it.( )

In early church history, one of the biggest theological debates centered on the deity of Jesus Christ. There are still groups that deny His deity today, from Muslims (who say Jesus was merely a prophet) to Jehovah’s Witnesses (who insist that He is not equal to the Father). By contrast, the Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God.

Here are eleven lines of evidence that affirm the doctrine of Christ’s deity, with corresponding biblical references:

1. The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would be God (Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 1:23)

2. Jesus claimed a heavenly pre-existence (John 6:62; 8:23; 16:28; 17:5)

3. Jesus assumed divine authority:

  • Over the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5)
  • Over the forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:5–11)
  • Over people’s eternal destinies (John 8:24; cf. Luke 12:8–9; John 5:22, 27–29)

4. Jesus exercised divine authority

  • Over demons (Mark 1:2–27; 3:11; 5:1–20)
  • Over disease and death (Mark 1:29–31; 40–45; 5:25–43; 8:22–26; etc.)
  • Over the natural world (Luke 5:1–11; 8:22–25; 9:10–17; etc.)

5. Jesus claimed ownership over that which belongs only to God:

  • The kingdom of God (Matt. 13:41; 16:28; cf. Luke 1:33)
  • The elect of God (Matt. 24:30–31)
  • The angels of God (Matt. 13:41; 24:30–31)

6. Jesus claimed the right to receive worship and the ability to answer prayer (John 14:13–14; cf. Acts 7:59; 9:10–17; Rev. 1:17)

7. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, a title with divine implications from the Old Testament (cf. Dan. 7:13–14)

8. Jesus also called Himself the Son of God, a title His opponents understood as a claim to deity (Matt. 27:43; John 5:18; 10:46; 19:7)

9. Jesus called Himself “I Am,” thereby applying the Old Testament name Yahweh to Himself (John 8:58; cf. cf. 6:51; 10:9, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1).

10. Jesus claimed absolute unity with the Father, such that He could tell His disciples, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9–10; cf. 10:30; 12:45).

11. The rest of the New Testament affirms that Jesus is God (John 1:1; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15–16; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:3, 8; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20)

Nathan Busenitz is the Dean of Faculty and Associate Professor of Theology at The Master’s Seminary. He is also one of the pastors of Cornerstone, a fellowship group at Grace Community Church. Accessed 25/01/2020 18h44

The Deity of Christ

Don Closson received the B.S. in education from Southern Illinois University, the M.S. in educational administration from Illinois State University, and the M.A. in Biblical Studies from Dallas Theological Seminary. He served as a public school teacher and administrator before joining Probe Ministries as a research associate in the field of education. He is the general editor of Kids, Classrooms, and Contemporary Education.


I recently received a letter from someone who argues that there is only one God, and that He is called many names and worshiped by many different people who hold to many different faiths. This kind of thinking about God is common today, but its popularity does not reduce the intellectual problems that may accompany it. For instance, does this notion of god include the god of the Aztecs who required child sacrifice? What about the warrior gods of Norse mythology: Odin, Thor, and Loki? How does the Mormon belief that we can all become Gods if we join their organization and conform to their system of good works fit into this theological framework? Even John Hick, an influential religious pluralist, believes that only some of the world’s great religions qualify as having a valid view of God. Islam, Christianity, Judaism, Buddhism, and Hinduism are valid, but Satanism and the religions of the Waco, Texas, variety are not. Belief that all religious systems worship one God raises difficult questions when we see how different groups portray God and seek to describe how we are to relate to Him.

The issue becomes even more acute when one religious tradition claims that God took on flesh becoming a man and walked on the earth. The Christian tradition has claimed for almost two thousand years that God did just that. The Gospel of John proclaims that, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” John is, of course, talking about Jesus, and this claim presents an interesting challenge for a religious pluralist. If what John and the rest of the New Testament writers claim about Jesus is true, then we literally have God in the flesh walking with and teaching a small band of disciples. If Jesus was God incarnate as He walked the earth, we have a first hand account of what God is like in the biblical record. Truth claims about God that counter those given in the Bible must then be discounted. In other words, if Jesus was God in the flesh during His time on earth, other religious texts or traditions are wrong when they teach about God or about knowing God in ways that contradict the biblical record.

In this essay we will consider the evidence for the deity of Christ. Christianity’s truth claims are dependent on this central teaching, and once accepted, this claim reduces greatly the viability of religious pluralism, of treating all religious beliefs as equally true. For if God truly became flesh and spoke directly to His disciples about such things as sin, redemption, a final judgment, false religions and true worship, then we have the God of the universe expressing intolerance towards other religious claims- -specifically claims that discount the reality of sin and remove the need for redemption or the reality of a final judgment. Some might not agree with God’s religious intolerance, but then again, disagreeing with God is what the Bible calls sin.

Rather than begin with a response to attacks on Christ’s deity by modern critics like the Jesus Seminar or New Age gnostics, our discussion will begin with Jesus’ own self-consciousness, in other words, what did Jesus say and think about himself. From there we will consider the teachings of the Apostles and the early church. My goal is to establish that from its inception, Christianity has taught and believed that Jesus was God in the flesh, and that this belief was the result of the very words that Jesus spoke concerning His own essence.

Christ’s Self-Perception

As we begin to examine evidence that supports the claim that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh or God incarnate, a good starting point is Jesus’ own self concept. It must first be admitted that Jesus never defines His place in the Trinity in theological language. However, He made many statements about himself that would be not only inappropriate, but blasphemous if He was not God in the flesh. It is important to remember that Jesus’ life was not spent doing theology or thinking and writing about theological issues. Instead, His life was focused on relationships, first with His disciples, and then with the Jewish people. The purpose of these relationships was to engender in these people a belief in Jesus as their savior or Messiah, as their only source of salvation. Jesus told the Pharisees, the Jewish religious leaders of His day, that they would die in their sins if they did not believe that He was who He claimed to be (John 8:24). And to one Pharisee, Nicodemus, Jesus said, “For God so loved the world, that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

Millard Erickson, in his book Christian Theology, does a nice job of laying out evidence that Jesus considered himself equal in essence with God.(1) Unless He was God, it would have been highly inappropriate for Jesus to say, as He does in Matthew 13:41, that both the angels and the kingdom are His. Elsewhere, angels are called “the angels of God” (Luke 12:8 9; 15:10) and the phrase Kingdom of God is found throughout the Scriptures. But Jesus says, “The Son of man will send His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all causes of sin and evildoers” (Matt. 13:41).

When the paralytic in Mark 2:5 was lowered through the roof by his friends, Jesus’ first response was to say that the man’s sins were forgiven. The scribes knew the implications of this statement, for only God could forgive sin. Their remarks clearly show that they understood Jesus to be exercising a divine privilege. Jesus had a wonderful opportunity to set the record straight here by denying that He had the authority to do what only God can do. Instead, His response only reinforces His claim to divinity. Jesus says, “Why do you question thus in your hearts? Which is easier, to say to the paralytic, Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, Rise, take up your pallet and walk’?” To confirm His authority to forgive sins, Jesus enabled the man to pick up his pallet and go home.

Two other areas that Jesus claimed authority over was the judging of sin and the observance of the Sabbath. Both were considered God’s prerogative by the Jews. In John 5:22-23 Jesus says, “The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father.” Jesus also claimed authority to change man’s relationship to the Sabbath. Honoring the Sabbath is one of the Ten Commandments, and the Jews had been given strict instructions on how to observe it. In the book of Numbers, Moses is told by God to stone to death a man who collects wood on the Sabbath. However, in Matthew 12:8 Jesus says that “the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath.”

These examples show that Jesus made claims and performed miracles that reveal a self awareness of His own divinity. In our next section, we will continue in this vein.

Christ’s Self-Perception, Part 2

At this point in our discussion we will offer even more examples of Jesus’ self knowledge of His essential equality with God.

A number of comments that Jesus made about His relationship with the Father would be unusual if Jesus did not consider himself equal in essence with God. In John 10:30 He says that to see Him is to see the Father. Later in John 14:7-9 He adds that to know Him is to know the Father. Jesus also claimed to have existed prior to His incarnation on earth. In John 8:58 He says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Some believe that the words used here by Jesus constitute His strongest claim to deity. According to the Expositors Bible Commentary this passage might more literally be translated, “Before Abraham came into being, I continuously existed.” The Jews recognized the phrase “I am” as one referring to God because God used it (1) to describe himself when He commissioned Moses to demand the release of His people from Pharaoh (Exodus 3:14), and (2) to identifyhimself in the theistic proclamations in the second half of Isaiah. Jesus also declares that His work is coterminous with the Father. He proclaims that “If a man loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him” (John 14:23). The Jews hearing Jesus understood the nature of these claims. After His comment about pre-existing Abraham, they immediately picked up stones to kill Him for blasphemy because they understood that He had declared himself God.

In Jesus’ trial He makes a clear declaration of who He is. The Jews argued before Pilate in John 19:7, “We have a law, and according to that law he must die, because he claimed to be the Son of God.” Matthew 26 records that at Jesus’ trial, the high priest tells Jesus, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.”Jesus replies, “You have said it yourself, . . . But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” This would have been a wonderful opportunity for Jesus to save himself by clearing up any misconceptions concerning His relationship with the Father. Instead, He places himself in a position of equality and of unique power and authority. Again, the Jews understand what Jesus is saying. The high priest proclaims, “He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy.” He calls for a vote of the council, and they demand His death (Matt. 26:65-66).

Another indicator of how Jesus perceived himself is in His use of Old Testament Scripture and the way He made His own proclamations of truth. In a number of cases, Jesus began a sentence with “You have heard that it was said, . . . but I say to you. . . .” (Matt. 5:21-22, 27-28). Jesus was giving His words the same authority as the Scriptures. Even the prophets, when speaking for God, would begin their statements with: “The word of the Lord came to me,” but Jesus begins with: “I say to you.”

There are other indications of how Jesus saw himself. For example, Christ’s claim to have authority over life itself in John 5:21 and 11:25, and His use of the self referential “Son of God” title point to unique power and authority and His essential equality with God.

The Apostles’ Teaching

We will turn now to look at what Jesus’ followers said of Him. The Gospel of John begins with a remarkable declaration of both Christ’s deity and full humanity. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” Later in verse fourteen John remarks that this “Word” became flesh and walked among them and points to Jesus as this “Word” become flesh. What did John mean by this remarkable passage?

The first phrase might literally be translated: “When the beginning began, the Word was already there.” In other words, the “Word” co- existed with God and predates time and creation. The second phrase “The Word was with God” indicates both equality and distinction of identity. A more literal translation might be “face to face with God,” implying personality and relational coexistence. Some groups, like the Jehovah’s Witnesses, make a great deal of the fact that the word “God” in the third phrase “The Word was God” lacks an article. This, they argue, allows the noun God to be translated as an indefinite noun, perhaps referring to “a God” but not “the” almighty God. Actually, the lack of an article for the noun makes the case for the deity of the “Word” more clearly. The Greek phrase, theos en ho logos describes the nature of the “Word,” not the nature of God. The article ho before the word logos shows that the sentence describes the nature of the Word; He is of the same nature and essence as the noun in the predicate; that is, the Word is divine. It is interesting to note that verses 6, 12, 13, and 18 of the same chapter refer unambiguously to God the Father and use an anarthrous noun, i.e., a noun without the article.(2) Yet strangely the Jehovah’s Witnesses do not dispute the meaning of these passages.

The author of Hebrews writes plainly of Christ’s deity. The first chapter states that, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word.” The passage also states that Jesus is not an angel nor is He just a priest. In Colossians 1:15 Paul adds that, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.” Although Paul clearly attributes godlike qualities to Jesus, the use of the word firstborn often causes confusion. The word can be a reference to priority in time or supremacy in rank. Since Jesus is described as the Creator of all things, the notion of supremacy seems more appropriate. Philippians 2:5-11 also talks of Jesus existing in the form of God. The Greek term used for form is morphe, denoting an outward manifestation of an inner essence.

Mention should also be made of the use by New Testament writers of the word Lord for Jesus. The same Greek word was used in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint, as the translated word for the Hebrew words Yahweh and Adonai, two special names given to God the Father. The Apostles meant to apply the highest sense of this term when referring to Jesus.

The Early Church

Thus far we have been examining the Christian claim of Christ’s divinity, first considering Jesus’ own self-concept and then the thoughts of those who wrote the New Testament. It is not within the scope of this essay to argue that the words attributed to Jesus by the writers of the New Testament are indeed His. Instead, we have argued that the words attributed to Jesus do claim an essential equality with God the Father. The traditional view of the Christian faith has been that God has revealed himself to us as three separate persons–Father, Son, and Holy Spirit–who shared a common essence.

Belief in Jesus’ essential equality with God the Father was communicated by the Apostles to the church fathers to whom they handed the task of leading the church. Even though these early leaders often struggled with how to describe the notion of the Trinity with theological accuracy, they knew that their faith was in a person who was both man and God.

Clement of Rome is a good example of this faith. Writing to the church at Corinth Clement implies Jesus’ equality with God the Father when he says “Have we not one God, and one Christ and one Spirit of grace poured upon us.” Later, in his second letter, Clement tells his readers to “think of Jesus as of God , as the judge of the living and dead.” Clement also wrote of Jesus as the preexistent Son of God; in other words, Christ existed before He took on human flesh. Ignatius of Antioch spoke of Christ’s nature in his letter to the Ephesians, “There is only one physician, of flesh and of spirit, generate and ingenerate, God in man, life in death, Son of Mary and Son of God.” A little later, Irenaeus of Lyons (ca. A.D. 140-202.) had to stress the humanity of Christ because of Gnostic heresy that argued that Jesus was only a divine emanation. Irenaeus wrote, “There is therefore . . . one God the Father, and one Christ Jesus our Lord, who . . . gathered together all things in himself. But in every respect, too, he is man, the formation of God: and thus he took up man into himself, the invisible becoming visible, the incomprehensible being made comprehensible, the impassible becoming capable of suffering, and the Word being made man, thus summing up all things in himself” (Against Heresies III, 16). During the same time period, Tertullian of Carthage (ca. A.D. 155-240) wrote of Christ’s nature that “what is born in the flesh is flesh and what is born in the Spirit is spirit. Flesh does not become spirit nor spirit flesh. Evidently they can (both) be in one (person). Of these Jesus is composed, of flesh as man and of spirit as God” (Against Praxeas, 14). Later he added, “We see His double state, not intermixed but conjoined in one person, Jesus, God and man” (Against Praxeas, 27).

By A.D. 325 the church had begun to systematize Christianity’s response to various heretical views of Christ. The Nicene Creed stated, “We believe in God the Father All-sovereign, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible; And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all the ages, Light of Light, true God of true God, begotten not created, of one substance with the Father, through whom all things came into being.”(3)

The belief in Jesus Christ being of the same essence as God the Father began with Jesus himself, was taught to His Apostles, who in turn handed down this belief to the early church Fathers and apologists. Christ’s deity is the foundation upon which the Christian faith rests.


1. Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1985), pp. 684-90.

2. Merrill C. Tenney, The Expositors Bible Commentary, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), pp. 28-29.

3. Henry Bettenson, ed., Documents of the Christian Church (New York: Oxford University Press, 1967), p. 26.

Historic Heresies Related to the Nature of Jesus

J. Warner November 27, 2017 Jesus, Theology / Doctrine, Writings

Over the centuries, believers have sometimes struggled to understand the nature of God and the great mystery of Jesus. The Bible describes Jesus as having the nature and power of God, and the Gospel of John tells us that He existed before the universe began (He was, in fact, the creator of the universe). At the same time, the Bible teaches Jesus was fully human and died on the cross. Efforts to reconcile the Divine and human nature of Jesus have resulted in a number of classic and historic misinterpretations:

Adoptionism (2nd Century)This heresy denies the pre-existence of Christ and therefore denies His Deity. It taught Jesus was simply a man who was tested by God and after passing the test was given supernatural powers and adopted as a son (this occurred at His baptism). Jesus was then rewarded for all He did (and for His perfect character) with His own resurrection and adoption into the Godhead.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Theodotus of Byzantium

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: Pope Victor (190-198AD)

Docetism (2nd Century)
This heresy was coined from the Greek word, “dokesis” which means “to seem”. It taught Jesus only appeared to have a body and was not truly incarnate. Docetists viewed matter as inherently evil, and therefore rejected the idea God could actually appear in bodily form. By denying Jesus truly had a body, they also denied He suffered on the cross and rose from the dead.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Attributed to Gnostics and promoted by the Gospel of Peter

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: Ignatius of Antioch, Irenaeus, and Hippolytus refuted it was condemned at the Council of Chalcedon in 451AD

Apollinarianism (4th Century)
This heresy denied the true and complete humanity of Jesus, because it taught He did not have a human mind, but instead had a mind that was completely Divine. The heresy lessened the human nature of Jesus in order to reconcile the manner in which Jesus could be both God and man at the same time.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Appollinaris the Younger (bishop of Laodicea in Syria), 360AD

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Council of Constantinople in 381AD

Arianism (4th Century)
This heresy taught Jesus was a “creature” who was “begotten” of the Father. Only God the Father is “un-begotten”. In this view, only the Father is truly God; He was too pure and perfect to appear here on earth, so He created the Son as His first creation. The Son then created the universe. God then adopted Jesus as a son (because, after all Jesus and God are not supposed to have the same nature in this view). Jesus was worshipped only because of His preeminence as the first creation.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Arius of Alexandria Egypt (250-336AD)

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Council of Nicaea in 325AD. The Nicene Creed was written to respond to this heresy.

Nestorianism (5th Century)
This heresy taught Mary only gave birth to Jesus’ human nature. The founder of the heresy, Nestorius, did not even want Mary to be called “Mother of God” but instead wanted her to be called “Mother of Christ”. In essence, the heresy maintained Jesus was really two separate persons, and only the human Jesus was in Mary’s womb. If that was true, then Jesus was not God incarnate while in the womb.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Nestorius of Antioch (Bishop of Constantinople in 428AD)

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Council of Ephesus in 431AD

Eutychianism [Monophysitism] (5th Century)
This heresy taught Jesus’ humanity was absorbed by His divinity. The heresy is Monophysite in nature, derived from the Greek words “mono” (“one”) and “physis” (“nature”). In essence, the heresy claimed Jesus had only one nature (something new and different than the Divine or human nature that God and humans have, respectively). Instead, this heresy taught a third unique nature was possessed by Jesus; a blend or mixture of the human and the Divine.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Eutyches of Constantinople (380 – 456AD)

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon in 451AD. The Chalcedonian Creed addresses this heresy.

Monothelitism (7th Century)
This heresy emerged in response to the Monophysite heresy (see above), but it also taught something denied by the Scripture. The name is derived from a Greek root that means “one will”. Monothelitism taught Jesus had two natures but only one will. Instead of having two cooperative wills (one Divine and one human), Jesus had one Divine-human “energia”.

Leader(s) in the Heresy: Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople (610 – 638AD)

Corrector(s) of the Heresy: The Third Council of Constantinople; the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680 – 681AD)

These ancient heresies have been revisited by believers over the centuries and even persist into the modern era. Unitarians, for example have embraced a view of Jesus very similar to the heretics of Arianism. The more we understand these classic heresies related to Jesus, the better prepared we will be to spot counterfeits when they re-emerge in our culture.

J. Warner Wallace is a Dateline featured Cold-Case Detective, Senior Fellow at the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, Adj. Professor of Christian Apologetics at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, author of Cold-Case ChristianityGod’s Crime Scene, and Forensic Faith, and creator of the Case Makers Academy for kids. Accessed 25/01/2020 19h00


“Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.” Acts 4:12

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'” John 14:6

The Catholic Church has always taught:

  • Jesus is both God and man,
  • He has both a divine and human nature but that He is one person,
  • He has always existed as God the Son, and He is equal to God the Father,
  • He is begotten of the Father; He is not a created being,
  • He was born as a human,
  • He died and rose again,
  • He ascended into heaven,
  • and He will come again to judge the living and the dead.

The problems for the Church came in trying to decide how to express this basic “Rule of Faith.”  Soon sincere men slipped into heresies when they tried to explain from their own understanding the nature of Jesus of Nazareth. Some of the errors in doctrine denounced in the early centuries of the Church continue today.

There are still those who deny that Jesus was truly God. Those who fall into this heresy believe that Jesus was a great man and a godly man but that he was not God.  In this heresy they deny Christianity since the doctrine of the Incarnation—that the Second Person of the Trinity came to earth as a human without ceasing to be divine – is the very basis of Christianity.  Generally, this is the belief of Deists and Adoptionists.

Other heresies stressed the oneness of God by denying the other two persons of the Trinity as persons in the Godhead. Monarchians, Patripassinists, & Modalists believed that God the Father and Christ is one person. They maintain that God the Father became Christ.

Others believe that He was the Son of God but not equal with God the Father. This is the heresy of the Arianists (the heresy that the Nicene Council addressed). Arianists believe that God the Father created God the Son, expressing the belief that God the Father existed before God the Son and made God the Son as he made the earth and everything else.  They assign the role of creator solely to God the Father while others believe in. God the Creator (Father), God the Redeemer (Jesus), and God the Sanctifier (Holy Spirit), as if there were three gods. This is the heresy of Polytheism.

There are also misguided Christians who believe Mary was the mother only of Jesus the man and should not be called ‘Mother of God.’  This is the heresy of Nestorianism which was spread by Nestorius, a monk of Antioch, who was the Patriarch of Constantinople in 428AD.  Nestorius preached that the Man Christ was not God; God only dwelt in Him as in a temple, and that He became God by degrees. In other words, he taught that there were two persons in Christ, the one human, the other divine.  Logically he had to deny that Mary is the Mother of God.  He said she should be called Christotokos (Christ-bearer), but not Theotokos (God-bearer). The Council of Ephesus in 431 AD addressed his heresy.  The Church pronounced that Christ is only one person, not two.  Therefore, Mary is the mother of that person and if that person is God then Mary is the Theotokos and deserves to be called theMother of God.  It was from the ruling of this council that “Holy Mary, Mother of God” was added to the “Hail Mary.”

Manichaeans taught that their founder, Manes (c. 215-276AD), received a higher form of truth than taught by Christ.  This is also basically the teaching of Mohammed (d. 639AD) the founder of Islam.  Both heresies deny the Trinity and the divinity of Christ.

To question Jesus’ humanity is also heresy.  It is the old heresy of Monophysitism.  Monophysites distort St. Paul’s statement that Jesus was “a man like us in all things but sin,” but they have trouble thinking, for example, that He was subject to illness or fatigue, or all the humbling bodily functions, or the desires or temptations that all men have.  They believe that instead of two natures, both human and divine, that He was human, but His nature was divine.  They denied that Christ had a true human nature.  The human nature, they maintained, was absorbed in the Divinity as a drop of wine in an ocean.  Therefore, they believed there was only one nature in Christ, and that was His divine nature, hence, mono = one and physite = nature.

Monophysites are very close to the heresy of Docetism and the Gnostic-Docets  These heresies basically believe that Jesus was somehow not subject to all the things that make one a human.  They taught that Christ merely assumed the appearance of a human body.  Docetism denies the reality of the humanity of Christ.  In answer to this heresy, St. Ignatius wrote: “For I know and believe that He was in the flesh after the Resurrection:  and when He came to Peter and his company, He said, ‘Lay hold and handle Me, and see that I am not a bloodless spirit’, and straightaway they touched Him and believed, being joined to His flesh and blood.  Therefore, also they despised death, nay, were found superior to it; and after His Resurrection He ate and drank with them, as one in the flesh, though spiritually He was united with the Father…. The Docetists abstain from the Eucharist, because they allow not that It is the flesh of our Savior, which flesh suffered for our sins, and which the Father of His goodness raised up.”St. Ignatius suffered martyrdom in c. AD 107.

 In 451, the Council of Chalcedon with nearly 600 Bishops assembled settled the issue by declaring the Catholic doctrine of the two natures in one Divine Person of Christ.  All present arose and exclaimed “That is the faith of the Fathers; that is the faith of the Apostles!  So we all believe!  Peter has spoken through Leo!”  However, parts of the Church did not accept the definition of this heresy by the Council of Chalcedon.  The Monophysite controversy went on for nearly a hundred years.  Finally, all those parts of the Eastern Empire where Greek was not the language of the people severed themselves from the Universal Church in Rome and some have remained in schism: some of the Copts in Egypt, the Jacobites in Syria, the Armenians, and the Abyssinians.

The Monophysite heresy led to the Monotheletism heresy (mono = one and thelema = will).  To conciliate the Monophysites, Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople in 610 AD, thought that by declaring that there was only one will in Christ, the Syrian and Egyptian Monophysites would be satisfied and give up their schism.  The Church opposed this teaching in the VI Council of Constantinople.  The Church maintained that Christ was one person, with two natures both human and divine and that both natures were in perfect accord.

These are heresies that relate directly to Christ.  There are many others.  Another heresy popular today is the heresy of Pelagianism, the belief that humans can obtain salvation solely through their own efforts.

Acts 4:12 “Only in Him is there salvation; for of all the names in the world given to men, this is the only one by which we can be saved.

John 14:6Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.'”

Ancient heresies which have been recycled into the “New Age” movements and cults of today:

  1. Deists and Adoptionists: Deny that Jesus was fully divine.  Those who fall into this heresy believe Jesus was a great teacher and a godly man, but He was not God.
  2. Monarchians, Patripassinists, and Modalists: These heresies stress the oneness of God by denying the other two persons of the Trinity as “Persons” in the Godhead.  They maintain that God the Father became God the Son.
  3. Arianists: They believed Jesus was the Son of God but that He was a created being and therefore not equal with God.  Jesus is begotten not created.
  4. Polytheism: Regards the Holy Trinity as three separate gods.
  5. Nestorianism: Believed Mary was only the mother of Jesus the man and should not be addressed as the Mother of God as though Jesus was two separate persons instead of one person with two natures.
  6. Manichaeans: Denied the Holy Trinity and the divinity of Christ.
  7. Monophysitism: Denied Jesus had a true human nature and acknowledged only Jesus’ divine nature.
  8. Monotheletism: Believed that Jesus is two persons but with one divine will.  The Council of Constantinople VI opposed this teaching and maintained that Christ is one person, with two natures, human and divine, and two wills bit both His natures and His wills were in perfect accord.
  9. Pelagianism: The belief that humans can obtain salvation outside of Christ solely through their own efforts.
  10. Gnosticism: Belief that salvation can be achieved through a “secret knowledge”.  Matter is believed to be hostile to spirit, and the universe is held to be a depravation of the Deity.  The old Gnostic heresy has been re-presented as the New Age movement.  Although extinct as an organized religion, Gnosticism is the invariable element in every major Christian heresy today by its denial of an objective revelation that was completed in the Apostolic Age and its disclaimer that Christ established in the Church a teaching authority to interpret decisively the meaning of the revealed word of God.  The book The DaVinci Code is Gnostic heresy intermixed with the “sacred feminine: of paganism.”

Michal Hunt, Copyright © 1999, revised 2019 Agape Bible Study. Permissions All Rights Reserved.

Lecture 3

Lecture Outcomes:

The Humanity of Christ

  • Understand and discuss the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula
  • Examine the main arguments relating to the Humanity of Christ.
  • Comprehend the major features of the Humanity of Christ
  • Explain the Unity of Christ as God and Man

Key Verse:

For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15.

Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done.” Luke 22:42.

“By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.” 1 John 4:2-3.


Bruce Ware, SBTS, describes why Jesus being fully God and yet fully human is vital to the Christian faith.

Why the Humanity of Christ is Important – 6mins

Did Jesus Have a Human Nature? – Jerome Van Kuiken

Quotations mainly and extensively from unless otherwise stated.

The humanity of Jesus is as essential to the Christian faith as his deity. The New Testament teaching and the orthodox Christian position regarding the Person of Christ is that Jesus is truly God and truly man in the fullest sense of the terms. In His Person is a union of two distinct natures — human and divine. In this union the two natures did not combine or confuse so as to produce a unique, third kind of nature; nor was there a dual personality. Rather, the product was a single unique Person, a Person with two natures. Jesus is truly human in every essential aspect. Indeed, Jesus, being sinless, is the most authentic human being who ever lived.

Only as man can Jesus truly represent men to God, (Heb. 2:17). He understands our lives because He has lived it also, (Heb. 2:18). Because He understands, coming to Him we “obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need,” (Heb. 4:15-16). As man He provided for us the pattern for living as men, (1 Pet. 2:21).

“What is the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ?”

Incarnation is a term used by theologians to indicate that Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh. This is similar to the hypostatic union. The difference is that the hypostatic union explains how Jesus’ two natures are joined, and the Incarnation more specifically affirms His humanity.

The word incarnation means “the act of being made flesh.” It comes from the Latin version of John 1:14, which in English reads, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Because of the near-exclusive use of the Latin Vulgate in the church through the Middle Ages, the Latin term became standard.

Biblical support for Jesus’ humanity is extensive. The Gospels report Jesus’ human needs including sleep (Luke 8:23), food (Matthew 4:2; 21:18), and physical protection (Matthew 2:13-15; John 10:39). Other indications of His humanity are that He perspired (Luke 22:43-44) and bled (John 19:34). Jesus also expressed emotions including joy (John 15:11), sorrow (Matthew 26:37), and anger (Mark 3:5). During His life, Jesus referred to Himself as a man (John 8:40), and after His resurrection His humanity was still recognized (Acts 2:22).

But the purpose of the Incarnation was not to taste food or to feel sorrow. The Son of God came in the flesh in order to be the Savior of mankind. First, it was necessary to be born “under the law” (Galatians 4:4). All of us have failed to fulfill God’s Law. Christ came in the flesh, under the Law, to fulfill the Law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17; Galatians 4:5).

Second, it was necessary for the Saviour to shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). A blood sacrifice, of course, requires a body of flesh and blood. And this was God’s plan for the Incarnation: “When Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering [under the Old Covenant] you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me’” (Hebrews 10:5). Without the Incarnation, Christ could not really die, and the cross is meaningless.

God did an incredible work in sending His only begotten Son into the world and providing us with a salvation we do not deserve. Praise the Lord for that moment in which “the Word became flesh.” We are now redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).

Jesus was both human and divine. Please read about the divinity of Jesus here.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

Two natures of Jesus

The two natures of Jesus refers to the doctrine that the one person Jesus Christ had/has two natures, divine and human. In theology this is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union, from the Greek word hypostasis (which came to mean substantive reality). Early church figures such as Athanasius used the term “hypostatic union” to describe the teaching that these two distinct natures (divine and human) co-existed substantively and in reality in the single person of Jesus Christ. The aim was to defend the doctrine that Jesus was simultaneously truly God and truly man.

Historical development

The doctrine of the hypostatic union (the two natures of Jesus) was adopted as orthodox doctrine at the Council of Chalcedon in 451. Three major schools of theology were involved at the council: Alexandria, Antioch, and the West. The consensus of these three schools in the Chalcedonian Creed illustrates the catholicity (i.e. universality) of the ancient church. ^[1]^ The creed asserted two distinct natures, human and divine, and affirmed the one person of Jesus Christ.

Biblical basis

One of the clearest passages in Scripture concerning the two natures of Jesus comes from John 1 (see on John 1). The Word (i.e. Jesus) “was with God, and the Word was God.” Moreover, the Word took on human flesh (John 1:14). Luke’s gospel also says that Jesus “increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52).

Two minds and wills, or one?

“Some conclude that when Jesus took on his human nature he possessed two minds, a human mind and a Divine mind, with the human mind responsible for Jesus’ knowledge rather than the Divine mind. Others hold that Jesus had one mind but while in his mortal body he chose to have a subconscious mental part that was inaccessible to the conscious mind and then, after his resurrection, his humanity became dominated by the Divine so his subconscious became accessible.”^[2]^ For an example of the “two minds view”, see The Logic of God Incarnate, by Thomas Morris. For the “divided mind” view, which speaks of “two systems of belief [in one mind] to some extent independent of each other”, see Richard Swinburne’s Christian God, p. 201^[3]^. For a critique of these, see “The Inclusion model of the Incarnation: Problems and Prospects”, by Tim Bayne^[4]^.

The view that Jesus only has one will is called Monothelitism.

Leo’s “Tome”

Leo’s Tome refers to a letter in 449 from Pope Leo I to Flavian, Patriarch of Constantinople, expounding the orthodox Christology of the West. In this letter Leo maintains that Jesus Christ is one person of the divine Trinity with two distinct natures that are permanently united. These two natures share properties through the so-called communicatio idiomatum or sharing of attributes between the divine and human natures of Christ. Alexandrian theologians favoured this concept. It was used, but found less favour among Antiochene theologians. Leo’s statement was directed specifically against the heresy of Eutychianism. This letter was recognized by the Council of Chalcedon (451) as a statement of orthodox Christology.

The Communicatio Idiomatum

“A doctrine that is related to the Hypostatic Union is the communicatio idiomatum (Latin for ‘communication of properties’). It is the teaching that the attributes of both the divine and human natures are ascribed to the one person of Jesus. This means that the man Jesus could lay claim to the glory He had with the Father before the world was made (John 17:5), claim that He descended from heaven, (John 3:13), and also claim omnipresence, (Matt. 28:20). All of these are divine qualities that are laid claim to by Jesus; therefore, the attributes of the divine properties were claimed by the person of Jesus.”^[5]^

God and man forever

“Christ’s humanity was not a mere fleshly shell that God rented and used for a temporary amount of time. God did not just come to live in flesh as a man, but the ‘Word became flesh’ (John 1:14). God incorporated human nature into His eternal being. In the incarnation humanity has been permanently incorporated into the Godhead. God is now a man in addition to being God. At the virgin conception God acquired an identity He would retain for the rest of eternity. His human existence is both authentic and permanent. Jesus’ humanity is not something that can be discarded or dissolved back into the Godhead, but He will always and forever exist in heaven as a glorified man, albeit God at the same time.”^[6]^ Upon his ascension, Jesus was not deified, but rather was glorified.

Contrasting views

A variety of events led up to Chalcedon, but there were three opposing views that deserved the church’s attention. Apollinarianism, Nestorianism, and Eutychianism all challenged the view that the one person of Christ included a human and divine nature. While their goals may have been to unify the person or natures, each view was condemned as heresy.


Apollinarians argued that in the Incarnation the Son of God assumed a human nature but not a human soul. Instead, his divine nature took the place of the soul. This view diminished the full humanity of Jesus and was condemned at the Council of Constantinople in 381BCE. This view is similar to docetism.

See main page: Apollinarianism


Nestorianism insisted that there were two natures but that there were also two persons: one divine and the other human. Rather than unifying Jesus, this view separated the person of Jesus along with his two natures.

See main page: Nestorianism


This view essentially absorbed the human nature into the divine nature. In an attempt to unify the person of Jesus, Eutychianism denied the two natures of Jesus and affirmed a new, or third, nature. This issue is also similar to that of monophysitism (mono – one; physis – nature).

See main page: Eutychianism

Monophysitism, Miaphysitism, and Dyophysitism

Adherents of miaphysitism argue that it is different than monophyistism, “mia standing for a composite unity unlike mone standing for an elemental unity”.They argue:

“After the Union, Christ was no longer in two natures. The two natures became united into one nature without separation, without confusion and without change. Thus He was at the same tithe perfect God and perfect man. This is the union of the natures in the Incarnation. After the union Christ is not two persons or two natures. but one Person, one incarnate Nature of God the Son, with one will, but being at once divine and human.”^[7]^ The Council of Chalcedon resolutely affirmed dyophysitism over monophysitism and miaphysitism, saying that Christ had two inseparable natures in one person.


  1. John H. Leith, ed. Creeds of the Churches, 3rd edition (Louisville:John Knox Press, 1982), 34.
  3. Sources found here.
  4. Available here
  6. “Can God be God if the Incarnation is Permanent?”, by Jason Dulle.
  7. “The Issue Between Monophysitism and Dyophsitism.”


  • Thomas F. Torrance, Incarnation: The Person and Life of Christ (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2008)
  • Alan Spence, Christology: A Guide for the Perplexed (London: T&T Clark, 2008)
  • Donald Bloesch, Jesus Christ: Savior & Lord (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 1997)
  • Gerald O’Collins, Christology: A Biblical, Historical, and Systematic Study of Jesus. 2nd edition (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009)

Sinlessness of Jesus

The Sinlessness of Jesus is clearly taught in the Bible. In Hebrews we read that Jesus “has been tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). He is also described as “a high priest [who] meets our need – one who is holy, blameless, pure, set apart from sinners, exalted above the heavens” (Hebrews 7:26) and is “unblemished” (Hebrews 9:14). Even Peter, who knew Jesus well, declared that he “committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth” (1 Peter 2:22). The apostle John tells us that “In him is no sin” (1 John 3:5) and Paul confirms for us that Jesus “had no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Even Jesus himself asked those around him, “Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?” (John 8:46).

Sinless yet human

One problem arises from a study of the sinlessness of Jesus. Some have asked, “If Jesus never sinned, was he truly human?” Wayne Grudem writes:

“The key to understanding the duality of Christ’s human nature and His sinlessness is understanding that sin, as part of the human condition, is not the normal condition. God did not create us as sinners, but as a result of the fall, sin has marred our lives. Christ’s sinlessness is made clear in Scripture, from His 40 days in the desert, where Satan tempted Christ but failed to entice him in to sin, to the time of the beginning of His ministry where “the favor of God was upon Him” (Luke 2:40).” Systematic Theology, Chapter 26

Could Christ have Sinned?

peccabilty or impeccability

Heb.4:15: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses but was in all points tempted as we are yet without sin.

The scriptures are very careful to present Jesus as sinless at all times (2 Cor.5:2; 1 Pt. 2:22; 1 Jn.3:5.)

The question that comes up and has been wrestled with through the centuries is if Jesus could not sin how could he be truly human? On the other side if Jesus could have sinned, how could he be truly God. This is why 1 Tim. 3:16 states, “Great is the mystery of Godliness, God was manifested in the flesh.” Since Jesus did not come through the normal means of conception He had no sin nature. Yet He was fully human, feeling the emotions we do, his body got tired, He became hungry and needed sleep just like anyone else. Jesus although fully human was not in the same category as man with a sin nature, although he looked like any other He alone was without sin. At his baptism he was anointed with the fullness of the Holy Spirit and was immediately led into the wilderness. The Temptation was God’s idea, not the devils. For it was the Holy Spirit that led him into the wilderness to fast. He was then tempted by the devil to keep him from the cross. His purpose in the temptation was to cause him to sin, where he was offered a short cut to his goal as the Messiah. God’s purpose was prove he was indeed the Son of God. The devil tempted him in three frontal attacks to disqualify him from being the saviour. Each time he questioned Jesus saying, “if you are the son of God.”

These three areas are the same areas we are all tempted in today (and we can have the same victory that Jesus did.)

1 Jn.2:16 The lust of the flesh- This temptation was focused on the human need for survival. The devil tempting him to use His ability to satisfy his hunger after 40 days of fasting by turning stones into bread (Mt. 4:3-4). Being at his weakest moment he came to have Him do something to feed his flesh. He certainly had the ability to accomplish this however He would have acted upon His immediate need in the flesh and would have broken His position of being in subjection to His Fathers will. While it is God’s will to provide for His needs it was not for Him to use his divine power independently. Jesus’ answer is that the word is the bread He is sustained on.

The pride of life- The devil next asked him to throw himself off the pinnacle of the temple. Here he could prove who he was without any suffering, he could have achieved a shortcut to glory without being trained and perfected in suffering. His dependence on God the father was tested. There are right and wrong ways to depend on God. If he had have jumped he would have tested God to keep His promises, as the devil himself quoted the scripture as assurance of God’s protection, wrongly applying it. Jesus would have tempted his Father to do something in the wrong time and way. He rebukes the devil by saying it is written “you shall not tempt the Lord your God.” Showing his dependence on the word of truth and his Father.

The lust of the eyes- The devil took him up to a high Mountain and then showed him all the kingdoms of the world, offering them to him in exchange for worship. This was an appeal to not worship God the creator but to worship the creature, called Satan. It was also to have him submit to the devils will of immediate rulership, again discounting the way of suffering to the cross.

All the world was the devils to give and he was trying to have Jesus violate the timing of having the kingdom under his rulership. Much like Esau he would have traded his birthright for the immediacy of what was being offered. Jesus chose God’s way of suffering in patience and not looking to an immediate result that was offered.

Jesus again refers to the truth of the word “you shall worship the Lord your God and him only will you serve.” Jesus successfully deterred Satan showing his sinlessness and that He is indeed the Son of God.

All these temptations instigate a response from the sin nature in man of which Jesus had none. The first Adam became a sinner by sinning, after him the whole human race had no choice, it was passed on as our nature, generation after generation. Jesus, as the 2nd Adam had the same choice to become a sinner by sinning. This was the purpose of Satan to have him sin and disqualify him from being the Messiah.

Could Jesus have sinned in his humanity while being God in the flesh? We need to understand that he was one person. If his humanity was separate it could have willed to do just as Adam did. While He had the choice to sin He did not have the ability. The humanity of Christ could never be separate from or unsupported from His deity. With Adam there was only one nature, with Christ He was supported by (and anointed) his deity as the Son of God.

In our fallen humanity we cannot act apart from our nature. Jesus however did not have the sin nature that we have. He was free to act perfectly in all situations. He acted upon his sinless nature obeying another’s will, that of his Father.  He was not able to go against God’s will because He did not have the nature of sin to have that possibility. He knew no sin (2 Cor.5:21) meaning He gained no knowledge of sin through experience. He came like a man (Rom.8:3) looking like anyone else yet without the sinful nature. As Jesus took upon himself another nature of humanity it did not have the indwelling of sin that marred man (Phil.2:5-8).

Jn. 8:46 He asks the people “which of you convicts me of sin.” Obviously they could not accuse him of anything.

Some argue that if there was no possibility for his sinning then the temptations were meaningless. The nature of the temptations were not that He could learn about faith as we do, the true purpose of the temptations was to demonstrate He could not sin and was in fact the Son of God. Jesus was born under the law but was kept free from any transgressions of the law. He came to do the Fathers will Jn.4:34 which is perfect. Since sin is falling short of God’s perfection Jesus was never less than perfect at any time.

He did not act independently on his own initiative even though He had all the power of God. He submitted Himself over to the Father obeying him in all things acting as a perfect man in obedience to God (as Adam was to before sin). He kept all of the law perfectly but this consisted more than just the outward obedience. Remember at the Sermon on the Mount he gave us the true definition of the law. There was an internal righteousness to the law that the Pharisees neglected to keep. They thought they had kept the law correctly by their outward obedience. However, Jesus pointed to what the law actually commanded, inner obedience. Christ gave us the true interpretation that they were to live up to. This was more than 10 commandments but 613. While the Pharisees argued of their not violating the law of “thou shalt not murder” because they physically did not commit murder. Jesus pointed out that if one has hatred in their heart toward another this was transgression of the law (Mt.5:21-26). So for one not to break the law they had to act perfectly from both the inside and out and not harbor any bitterness or animosity toward another.

Conformity to rules and regulations would only affect the outward, what we need is to be affected from the inside. That means a change of our inner nature, anything short of this does not change our Spirit which is to rule over our flesh. Anyone can practice Christian principles by tithing, doing good deeds, praying, and fasting. They can do these things and even be a Buddhist, not believing in Christ. What makes one a Christian is the new birth, a spiritual birth which gives one a new motivation and attitude from the heart, it is a change of man’s inner nature. This is why Jesus scolded the religious leaders of his day. They had the look from the outside down pat, but inside they were rotting from their sin. It is for this reason God came as a man to give us a perfect example of who He is so we can see how we all fall short. 

What of all the temptations were they genuine did he feel what we do? Each of us can relate to being tempted and have successfully resisted that temptation not giving in to the pull of sin. None of us would argue that the temptation was real and had a purpose in its end. The enemy has a different goal than God does.

In putting this in terms we can understand when one tries gold through a series of tests and finds no impurities in it, the test is no less valid then if some impurities showed up. Jesus was dead to sin, just as Paul says we are to reckon ourselves dead to sin. The temptation is there but he did not react to it. Let me give a human example: if I never had a problem of stealing any money in my life and I saw a dollar bill on a table as I sat down in a restaurant I would not be tempted to take that money, because I am dead to that sin. Jesus was like this to all sins. One cannot argue because he could not sin He was not a true human being because sin in its nature was originally foreign to our humanity. Adam was not sinful when he was created, although he did have the ability to choose. Sin became an intruder to the human condition. Temptability does mean one is susceptible to do that temptation. An army can attack another Army but that does not mean it can conquer it. For example, God has all power, He can create and destroy with the blink of an eye. Does this mean if he does not use his power he does not really possess it?

The temptations were every bit real as ours, maybe more intense since the enemy was working vigorously toward the goal of Jesus’ defeat. Since he did not give in, it does not discount how real they were.

Christ’s temptations were every bit like ours yet they could not bring out any desires. He was tempted from without but not from within, there was no internal reaction to the outward temptation. James 1: 14: “But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desires and enticed. Then when desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin and sin when it is full grown, brings forth death.” We can see where sin begins, we desire from within by an influence from without. We then act on it, first by entertaining the thought then by doing the deed. Jesus was dead to sin on the inside. Jesus was called the last Adam as a man, but had perfect humanity in even a greater way than Adam. While Adam had a choice Jesus could only do what His nature would allow. He was deity and cannot sin. God by his nature is infinite, Holy, righteous, perfect always, at all times. It is impossible for him to do evil.

If Jesus could have sinned on earth, what is to prevent him from sinning in heaven? This is the same environment that Satan fell in. This makes it clear it is not the environment we live in but what reacts on the inside. Jesus cannot be confronted with temptation even in heaven. Since He resurrected he is the first to be raised to eternal life bodily. He is eternally in this perfect state bodily so even though He can relate to our weaknesses from his temporary stay on earth as a human He can never be tempted again.

What of his agony in Gethsemane where He asked three times for the cup to be taken from him, He gave himself over to the fathers will, “nevertheless not as I will but thine be done.” Was he praying not to die a horrible death?  If He was praying that He would not have to experience physical death, He would be rejecting the very reason He came to earth. His obedience is expressed in Phil.2 says, “even to the death on the cross.” He would not be praying for the very purpose of his coming to be removed since He came to do the Fathers will. There are a number of passages that clear up this seeming contradiction of purposes. Jn. 12:2 7: ” \Now my soul is troubled and what shall I say? Father save me from this hour. But for this cause I came to this hour.” Here Jesus is reaffirming the reason of his coming. Throughout his ministry we can see who is in control of the events. He awaited the arrest of the Roman guards certainly knowing Judas would betray him. Jn. 18:11 during his arrest He tells Peter to put his sword away saying, “shall I not drink the cup that the Father has given me.”

What was He experiencing in Gethsemane that tore his soul apart? In Mk.14:33 it tells us he was greatly amazed, meaning to be stunned with astonishment, He was feeling extreme pressure, sorrow, even unto death. This was so intense that there was an imminent danger of his of a total physical collapse as He had drops of blood coming from his brow. The anticipation of what was to transpire made His soul extremely sorrowful, and he was haemorrhaging. Lk.24:44 tells us he was in agony, in conflict with the forces of Satan who were trying to keep him away from the cross. If He would have died at any time before or in a different manner His sacrificed would not have been accepted.

As He asked about the cup His agony increased until he became prostrate on the ground. He asked if the cup would pass by, if there is another way, but He was willing to do the Fathers will.

In Jn.10:18: Jesus said “no one takes my life from me, but I lay it down of myself.” This cup that he asked to be removed from was the wrath of God by separation that he would experience on the cross. When we look at the symbolic usages of cups we find it representing God’s wrath poured out as punishment. While we are all born in a sinful state and have naturally the consequences of spiritual death by having separation from God. Jesus never knew of this, He was always in perfect fellowship with the Father and the Spirit from eternity. He knew something would take place but did not know what He would experience, that He would be in contact with the effect of sin. As soon as the sins of the world were placed on him as a substitute in our place, He was separated, suffering the wrath of God for us and cried out to the Father “My God, my God why have you forsaken me.” His fellowship was broken and He felt the punishment for sin. While no one knows what exactly transpired in this separation which lasted an agonizing 3 hours, we do know his relationship was fullyrestored before He died, as He cried out it is finished. The debt for sin was taken care of and He cried out Father once again saying “into your hands I commit my Spirit.” The agony of body and spirit was over, the debt that was incurred from the beginning in the garden was now paid and everyone here after can enjoy fellowship with God because He paid it in our place with his very life. As Zech. wrote, God speaking, “they will look upon me whom they have pierced and will mourn for him as an only son.” So a new covenant of grace based on the blood sacrifice was put in place to replace the old covenant that condemned us by the law.

He was made perfect through his suffering (Heb.2:10) because of this He can sympathize with us being our high priest (Heb.4:15, 2:18). “For in that he himself suffered being tempted, he is able to aid those who are tempted.” By becoming a man He can understand our human predicament. He lived it victoriously and can go before the Father representing humanity and pray for our weaknesses.

We are told he was marred more than any other man being unrecognizable. He went to endure 6 hours of torture, the last 3 of which He suffered our penalty for sin. He became the sin offering, the burnt offering. All of God’s wrath against sin was focused on Christ.  He broke no law and continued without sin as He hung there in our place. In excruciating pain He brought back you and I out of the enslavement of sin. Throughout the Scriptures we find the Old Testament types of the sin offering to be without spot or blemish.   John the Baptist introduced him as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.

Lev.3: “offer it without blemish before the LORD.”

Lev.1:3 “If his offering is a burnt sacrifice of the herd, let him offer a male without blemish; he shall offer it of his own free will at the door of the tabernacle of meeting before the LORD.” Jesus freely gave his live being the lamb without blemish.

Lev.6:25-29 tells us the sin offering is most holy before and after its death. He carried our sin away being perfect and Holy throughout his sacrifice. The great exchange our sins were given to him and anyone who believes on him his righteousness is given to them.

We now have Jesus as our mediator in heaven who has an eternal priesthood and position. All priests are taken from among men so it is the God/man Christ Jesus who is in heaven. 1 Tim.2:5: “For there is one God, and one mediator between God and man the man Christ Jesus.”

Jesus as both man and God, two natures in one person was able to be the perfect mediator for both parties. Christ became our mediator by His death (Heb. 12:24).

Christ represented man by dying as a man to fulfill the requirements of the law. If He was only a man it could only have finite value and He could not be able to save today. His death would only be applied to those living at his time and would hardly be superior to the animal sacrifices. The blood of animals were continual installments until the permanent sacrifice came. The Bible states He died for all our sins past, present and future. Because when He died all our sins were still in the future as we did not exist yet. As God the Son His death had infinite value because He is an eternal being and His priesthood is an eternal one. So unlike the Old Testament sacrifice’s which could never take away sins and only cover them, by Jesus it only had to be done once. Because he was perfect and sinless it was acceptable to God for all people of all time.

Heb. 7:25-27Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. For such a High Priest was fitting for us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and has become higher than the heavens; who does not need daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifices, first for His own sins and then for the people’s, for this He did once for all when He offered up Himself.

Acts 20:28, we are purchased by blood that is sinless, this is reason for the virgin birth, that God would bypass the normal means to create a man without the nature of sin. It is this blood alone he would accept, the blood of Immanuel’s veins.

The mediatorial function is tied with the New Covenant which it is dependent on the God/man accomplishing salvation and distributing the benefits of it for those who enter into the Covenant.

In Heb.2:14, “we see Jesus was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death.” Was it his humanity made lower than angels?  No, all humanity is already in this position. It was the Son of God who willingly put aside his independent use of his authority and power and came in the flesh made lower in position.

Heb.2:17:  “In all things he had to be made like his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in all things pertaining to God. ” “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (1 Cor. 5:21.) 

The creator of the universe understood man’s predicament and came to be numbered among the people. While all the other religions have man reaching up to God hoping that they please him by their actions and religious activities. Christianity teaches God took the initiative entering time and space to become a man and bring us back in relationship with the Father. Only Christ offers the solution to the plague of sin.  No other religion deals with this common ailment of mankind for only the true God has the solution.

Heb. 10:9-12 then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, 0 God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. As the first covenant was growing obsolete he made a new covenant. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once forall. And every priest stands ministering daily and offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.

But this Man, after He had offered one sacrifice for sins forever, sat down at the right hand of God.” His sacrificial act was finished he could now rest from that atoning work but continues in his intercession.

Heb:4:14: “Seeing then that we have a great high priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession.”

We see that this clearly states that Jesus is still the Son. He was the Son before and he is the Son for all eternity.  He continues in his mediatorial role. Heb. 6:20 he is our high priest forever.  We find that Christ intercedes for us in prayer continually he lives to intercede what assurance we have that the one who came and gave his life for us is still personally involved in our lives with a hand of comfort. 1 Jn.2:1 “And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” Jesus is our advocate to the Father, certainly an advocate cannot be guilty of the same if he is to represent the people to God. An advocate means someone who is as a defense lawyer, and pleads our case to another authority. So although we may be guilty of sin, it is not counted against us because we stand in His righteousness.

While mankind has many solutions to our problems none of them clean up the source. In contrast the Bible speaks about a universal problem of mankind that is the source of all our afflictions, sin. Christ alone is able to give the new nature. Being both God and man He alone possessed a nature without the effect of the fall stamped on it. Jer.17:9: “the heart is deceitfully wicked, (incurably sick). God the creator is the only one capable of fixing what is broken in man. we need a touch from a divine agency the great physician himself. There is only one universal remedy to restore our alienation from God and cleanse us from guilt.

God has given mankind the blood of Christ, His life as the cure to remove the innate problem of sin. It had to come through the sinless Son of God, the perfect man to redeem all mankind back from their enslavement of the sin nature. “For the Joy set before him he endured the cross” What was that joy that he endured the cross for?  It was you and I, we were on his mind, and he would not waver, he was set on accomplishing the goal; He knew there was no other way. 

“Why is the humanity of Jesus important?”

The humanity of Jesus is as equally important as the deity of Jesus. Jesus was born as a human being while still being totally divine. The concept of the humanity of Jesus co-existing with His deity is difficult for the finite mind of man to comprehend. Nevertheless, Jesus’ nature—wholly man and wholly God—is a biblical fact. There are those who reject these biblical truths and declare that Jesus was a man, but not God (Ebionism). Docetism is the view that Jesus was God, but not human. Both viewpoints are unbiblical and false.

Jesus had to be born as a human being for several reasons. One is outlined in Galatians 4:4–5: “But when the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under law, to redeem those under law, that we might receive the full rights of sons.” Only a man could be “born under the law.” No animal or angelic being is “under the law.” Only humans are born under the law, and only a human being could redeem other human beings born under the same law. Born under the law of God, all humans are guilty of transgressing that law. Only a perfect human—Jesus Christ—could perfectly keep the law and perfectly fulfill the law, thereby redeeming us from that guilt. Jesus accomplished our redemption on the cross, exchanging our sin for His perfect righteousness (2 Corinthians 5:21).

Another reason Jesus had to be fully human is that God established the necessity of the shedding of blood for the remission of sins (Leviticus 17:11; Hebrews 9:22). The blood of animals, although acceptable on a temporary basis as a foreshadowing of the blood of the perfect God-Man, was insufficient for the permanent remission of sin because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). Jesus Christ, the perfect Lamb of God, sacrificed His human life and shed His human blood to cover the sins of all who would ever believe in Him. If He were not human, this would have been impossible.

Furthermore, the humanity of Jesus enables Him to relate to us in a way the angels or animals never can. “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet was without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). Only a human could sympathize with our weaknesses and temptations. In His humanity, Jesus was subjected to all the same kinds of trials that we are, and He is, therefore, able to sympathize with us and to aid us. He was tempted; He was persecuted; He was poor; He was despised; He suffered physical pain; and He endured the sorrows of a lingering and most cruel death. Only a human being could experience these things, and only a human being could fully understand them through experience.

Finally, it was necessary for Jesus to come in the flesh because believing that truth is a prerequisite for salvation. Declaring that Jesus has come in the flesh is the mark of a spirit from God, while the Antichrist and all who follow him will deny it (1 John 4:2–3). Jesus has come in the flesh; He is able to sympathize with our human frailties; His human blood was shed for our sins; and He was fully God and fully Man. These are biblical truths that cannot be denied.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

Do you wrestle more with the God-ness of Jesus, or with his humanity?

That Jesus of Nazareth was truly and fully human was plain enough to those who saw and heard and touched and shared life with him (1 John 1:1). No one questioned his humanity during his ministry. What was not apparent at first, and revealed carefully and convincingly in his life and resurrection, was that he also was God.

But it wasn’t long after his ascension that questions came from the opposite direction. His closest disciples, who knew his humanity full well, worshiped him as God (Matthew 28:17), but the first generation of Christians started from a different place. They began with him as God, and tended to struggle with the fullness of his humanness. The first heresy the fledging church faced was that he wasn’t truly man (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7).

The seesaw oscillated back and forth in the early centuries of the church, and has for two thousand years. His opponents have rejected his deity, and too many of his worshipers have been slow to own the extent of his manhood. The ancient doubts about the God-man, full and perfect in his divinity and humanity, have come down to us today, even among those who call themselves his followers.

Human, All the Way Down

“Not only does the Son of God have a fully human body, but also a fully human mind, heart, and will.”

For those on the left, his humanity is plain enough in history, and in the perceived nonsense of a man actually being God. What’s in question, or “re-mythologized,” is in what sense he is really divine. Was he really God’s son? But we Bible-believers have our own tendencies and troubles as well. Even among those of us who are quick and unashamed to confess him as Lord and God, we often have not wrestled deeply with the unnerving extent of his “incarnation” — that the eternal divine “Word became flesh” (John 1:14).

Have evangelicals today lost our wonder at the true and full humanity of Christ? In fighting for his deity, as we should, have we overlooked how human — how shockingly human — God himself became in Jesus of Nazareth?

Advent is a ripe opportunity for rehearsing not just the easy parts of the incarnation, but also the uncomfortable and challenging aspects of what it means that our Lord is fully human. Not only did the Son of God have — and still has — a fully human body, but also a fully human mind, heart, and will.

His Human Body

The New Testament is clear enough that Jesus has a human body. John 1:14 means at least this, and more: “The Word became flesh.” His humanity became one of the first tests of orthodoxy (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). He was born (Luke 2:7). He grew (Luke 2:40, 52). He grew tired (John 4:6) and got thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matthew 4:2). He became physically weak (Matthew 4:11; Luke 23:26). He died (Luke 23:46). And he had a real human body after his resurrection (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27).

His Human Heart

“The Scriptures plainly affirm that Jesus both knows all things as God and doesn’t know all things as man.”

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus clearly displays human emotions. Here it begins to get a little more difficult for us. When Jesus heard the centurion’s words of faith, “he marveled” (Matthew 8:10). He says in Matthew 26:38 that his “soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” In John 11:33–35, Jesus is “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled,” and even weeps. John 12:27 says, “Now is my soul troubled,” and in John 13:21, he is “troubled in his spirit.” The author to the Hebrews writes that “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7).

As John Calvin memorably summed it up, “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh.”

His Human Mind

But the waters get even deeper. Jesus also has a human mind. We have only experienced one mind, and simply cannot fathom what it would be like for one person to have both a human mind and a divine mind. Two key texts press us toward this mind-boggling truth:

Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:52)

“Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.” (Mark 13:32)

The second verse, of course, is striking for those of us with a high view of Christ. And it is, of course, from the mouth of Christ himself. For Christians who affirm his deity, Mark 13:32 seems like trouble. But what looks difficult at first glance proves, with some thorough reflection, to be a glorious confirmation of Jesus’s full humanity. Perhaps put most provocatively, the question goes like this: If Jesus is truly God, and God knows everything, how can Jesus not know when his own second coming will be?

“Have we overlooked how human — how shockingly human — God himself became in Jesus of Nazareth?”

The mature and carefully formulated answer of church history is this: In addition to being fully divine, Jesus is fully human. His one person has both an infinite, divine mind and a finite, human mind. He can be said not to know things, as in Mark 13:32, because he is genuinely human and finite — and human minds are not omniscient. And Jesus can be said to know all things, as in John 21:17, because he is divine and infinite in his knowledge.

Paradoxical as it is, the Scriptures plainly affirm that Jesus both knows all things as God and doesn’t know all things as man. For the unique, two-natured, singular person of Christ, this is no contradiction, but a peculiar glory of the God-man.

His Human Will

But the reality of a human-divine Christ stretches our comprehension even further still. Perhaps trickiest of all, Jesus not only has a divine will, but also a human will. We affirm two wills in Christ — one divine and one human. Again, the tracks are laid by two key texts:

“I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.” (John 6:38)

Jesus prays to the Father, “Not as I will, but as you will.” (Matthew 26:39)

Jesus has an infinite, divine will that is the will of his Father (one will in God). And as man, he has a finite, human will that, while being an authentic human will, is perfectly in sync with, and submissive to, the divine will.

It is a great mystery, beyond our experience and understanding, and beyond what we will ever know as mere humans. But where it leads for those who call him Lord is not ultimately to confusion, but to worship. Jesus is one truly spectacular person. He is fully God. And he is fully man. Would we want to fix our eternal honor and worship on one who was not utterly unique? There is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

True Human, True Healing

“Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh.”

Jesus is like us in every respect — human body, heart, mind, and will — except for sin (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15). How amazing that the divine Son of God would not just take on part of our humanity on that first Christmas, but all of it — and then take that true humanity all the way to the cross for us, and now into heaven and the new creation.

Jesus took a human body to save our bodies. And he took a human mind to save our minds. Without becoming man in his emotions, he could not have rescued our hearts. And without taking a human will, he could not save our broken and wandering wills. In the words of Gregory of Nazianzus, “That which he has not assumed he has not healed.”

He became man in full, so that he might save us in full. He is a truly marvelous Savior.

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for and pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/St. Paul. He is author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Lecture 4

Quotations mainly and extensively from

The problem of the Hypostatic Union of the Deity and the Humanity of Christ and the integrity and necessity of this union for salvation.

After reading this lecture you should grasp the meaning of the Hypostatic Union:

  • Hypostatic Union:Understand and discuss the main elements of the Chalcedonian Formula
  • Examine the main arguments relating to the Deity of Christ.
  • Comprehend the major features of the Deity of Christ
  • Explain the Unity of Christ as God and Man

10 Reasons why Jesus is God


Ravi Zacharias

The Truth

“Is Jesus God in the flesh? Why is it important that Jesus is God in the flesh?”

Since Jesus’ conception by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary (Luke 1:26-38), the real identity of Jesus Christ has always been questioned by skeptics. It began with Mary’s fiancé, Joseph, who was afraid to marry her when she revealed that she was pregnant (Matthew 1:18-24). He took her as his wife only after the angel confirmed to him that the child she carried was the Son of God.

Hundreds of years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah foretold the coming of God’s Son: “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). When the angel spoke to Joseph and announced the impending birth of Jesus, he alluded to Isaiah’s prophecy: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel (which means ‘God with us’)” (Matthew 1:23). This did not mean they were to name the baby Immanuel; it meant that “God with us” was the baby’s identity. Jesus was God coming in the flesh to dwell with man.

Jesus Himself understood the speculation about His identity. He asked His disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13; Mark 8:27). The answers varied, as they do today. Then Jesus asked a more pressing question: “Who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15). Peter gave the right answer: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). Jesus affirmed the truth of Peter’s answer and promised that, upon that truth, He would build His church (Matthew 16:18).

The true nature and identity of Jesus Christ has eternal significance. Every person must answer the question Jesus asked His disciples: “Who do you say that I am?”

He gave us the correct answer in many ways. In John 14:9-10, Jesus said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work.”

The Bible is clear about the divine nature of the Lord Jesus Christ (see John 1:1-14). Philippians 2:6-7 says that, although Jesus was “in very nature God, He did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” Colossians 2:9 says, “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.”

Jesus is fully God and fully man, and the fact of His incarnation is of utmost importance. He lived a human life but did not possess a sin nature as we do. He was tempted but never sinned (Hebrews 2:14-18; 4:15). Sin entered the world through Adam, and Adam’s sinful nature has been transferred to every baby born into the world (Romans 5:12)—except for Jesus. Because Jesus did not have a human father, He did not inherit a sin nature. He possessed the divine nature from His Heavenly Father.

Jesus had to meet all the requirements of a holy God before He could be an acceptable sacrifice for our sin (John 8:29; Hebrews 9:14). He had to fulfill over three hundred prophecies about the Messiah that God, through the prophets, had foretold (Matthew 4:13-14; Luke 22:37; Isaiah 53; Micah 5:2).

Since the fall of man (Genesis 3:21-23), the only way to be made right with God has been the blood of an innocent sacrifice (Leviticus 9:2; Numbers 28:19; Deuteronomy 15:21; Hebrews 9:22). Jesus was the final, perfect sacrifice that satisfied forever God’s wrath against sin (Hebrews 10:14). His divine nature made Him fit for the work of Redeemer; His human body allowed Him to shed the blood necessary to redeem. No human being with a sin nature could pay such a debt. No one else could meet the requirements to become the sacrifice for the sins of the whole world (Matthew 26:28; 1 John 2:2). If Jesus were merely a good man as some claim, then He had a sin nature and was not perfect. In that case, His death and resurrection would have no power to save anyone.

Because Jesus was God in the flesh, He alone could pay the debt we owed to God. His victory over death and the grave won the victory for everyone who puts their trust in Him (John 1:12; 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, 17).

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

What is the meaning of the Incarnation of Christ?”

Incarnation is a term used by theologians to indicate that Jesus, the Son of God, took on human flesh. This is similar to the hypostatic union. The difference is that the hypostatic union explains how Jesus’ two natures are joined, and the Incarnation more specifically affirms His humanity.

The word incarnation means “the act of being made flesh.” It comes from the Latin version of John 1:14, which in English reads, “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.” Because of the near-exclusive use of the Latin Vulgate in the church through the Middle Ages, the Latin term became standard.

Biblical support for Jesus’ humanity is extensive. The Gospels report Jesus’ human needs including sleep (Luke 8:23), food (Matthew 4:2; 21:18), and physical protection (Matthew 2:13-15; John 10:39). Other indications of His humanity are that He perspired (Luke 22:43-44) and bled (John 19:34). Jesus also expressed emotions including joy (John 15:11), sorrow (Matthew 26:37), and anger (Mark 3:5). During His life, Jesus referred to Himself as a man (John 8:40), and after His resurrection His humanity was still recognized (Acts 2:22).

But the purpose of the Incarnation was not to taste food or to feel sorrow. The Son of God came in the flesh in order to be the Savior of mankind. First, it was necessary to be born “under the law” (Galatians 4:4). All of us have failed to fulfill God’s Law. Christ came in the flesh, under the Law, to fulfill the Law on our behalf (Matthew 5:17; Galatians 4:5).

Second, it was necessary for the Savior to shed His blood for the forgiveness of sins (Hebrews 9:22). A blood sacrifice, of course, requires a body of flesh and blood. And this was God’s plan for the Incarnation: “When Christ came into the world, he said: ‘Sacrifice and offering [under the Old Covenant] you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me’” (Hebrews 10:5). Without the Incarnation, Christ could not really die, and the cross is meaningless.

God did an incredible work in sending His only begotten Son into the world and providing us with a salvation we do not deserve. Praise the Lord for that moment in which “the Word became flesh.” We are now redeemed “with the precious blood of Christ, a lamb without blemish or defect” (1 Peter 1:19).

Jesus was both human and divine. Please read about the divinity of Jesus here.

Recommended Resource: The Moody Handbook of Theology by Paul Enns

What is Christology?”

The word “Christology” comes from two Greek words meaning “Christ / Messiah” and “word” – which combine to mean “the study of Christ.” Christology is the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ. There are numerous important questions that Christology answers:

Who is Jesus Christ? Almost every major religion teaches that Jesus was a prophet, or a good teacher, or a godly man. The problem is, the Bible tells us that Jesus was infinitely more than a prophet, a good teacher, or a godly man.

Is Jesus God? Did Jesus ever claim to be God? Although Jesus never uttered the words “I am God,” He made many other statements that can’t be properly interpreted to mean anything else.

What is the hypostatic union? How can Jesus be both God and man at the same time? The Bible teaches that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine, that there is no mixture or dilution of either nature, and that He is one united Person, forever.

Why is the virgin birth so important? The virgin birth is a crucial biblical doctrine because it accounts for the circumvention of the transmission of the sin nature and allowed the eternal God to become a perfect man.
What does it mean that Jesus is the Son of God? Jesus is not God’s Son in the sense of how we think of a father/son relationship. God did not get married and have a son. Jesus is God’s Son in the sense that He is God made manifest in human form (John 1:1,14).

A Biblical understanding of Jesus Christ is crucial to our salvation. Many cults and world religions claim to believe in Jesus Christ. The problem is that they do not believe in the Jesus Christ presented in the Bible. That is why Christology is so important. It helps us to understand the significance of the deity of Christ. It demonstrates why Jesus is the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Christology teaches us that Jesus had to be man so that He could die – and had to be God so that His death would pay for our sins. It is perhaps the most important area of theology. Without a proper understanding of who Jesus Christ is and what He accomplished, all other areas of theology will be errant as well.

An in-depth study of Christology has incredible personal impact on the believer’s daily life. As we delve into the heart of Jesus, we begin to grasp the amazing concept that He, being fully Man and fully God, loves each of us with a never-ending love the extent of which is hard for us to imagine. The various titles and names of Christ in the Scriptures give insight into who He is and how He relates to us. He is our Good Shepherd, leading, protecting and caring for us as one of His own (John 10:11,14); He is the Light of the world, illuminating our pathway through a sometimes dark and uncertain world (John 8:12); He is the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6), bringing tranquility into our tumultuous lives; and He is our Rock (1 Corinthians 10:4), the immovable and secure base who we can trust to keep us safe and secure in Him.

Recommended Resource: God the Son Incarnate: The Doctrine of Christ by Stephen Wellum

The Hypostatic Union: Its Construct and Importance for the Believer

Posted On December 22, 2015

Christology: Christ, the Church, and the Christian Life | Featured

Mike Boling ( Contributor )

Michael lives in Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, MO. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty University and is currently closing in on completing a Master of Arts in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He is an avid reader and blogger.

The Hypostatic Union: Its Construct and Importance for the Believer

The hypostatic union, while arguably not at the forefront of most believers’ minds when it comes to matters of theology, is nevertheless a vitally important doctrine, especially regarding the study of the person and work of Christ known as Christology. While certainly on what can be considered the more “nerdy” side of the theological spectrum, the doctrine of Jesus being fully God and fully man, and how it relates to the message of salvation within Scripture, is a doctrine for which more believers should be familiar.

In this article, we will define the hypostatic union and take a brief look at the history of the doctrine, with the focus being why this doctrine is important for theology as a whole. Additionally, we will outline how the hypostatic union sheds light on the person and work of Jesus Christ, most notably his full divinity and full humanity and how both aspects reveal who Jesus is, what He has done on our behalf, and what He continues to do for us today.

Hypostatic Union Defined


The term hypostatic[i] is derived from the Greek word hypostasis meaning “personal”. Thus, the hypostatic union is the “personal union” or joining of the two natures of Jesus, namely His divine and human natures. Theologian Louis Berkhof helps shed some further light on the terms nature and person as they relate to the doctrine of the hypostatic union. He aptly comments the “term nature denotes the sum-total of all the essential qualities of a thing, that which makes it what it is…The term person denotes a complete substance endowed with reason, and, consequently, a responsible subject of its own actions.”[ii] To break that down a bit further, the nature of something includes the entirety of that something to include all its qualities or attributes. Since Jesus retained all of His divine attributes, His nature remained fully God. Moreover, the person of Jesus must include the reality that being fully human, He had the capability of reason and was responsible for His own actions.

While the specific phrase “hypostatic union” cannot directly be located in Scripture, the dual nature of Christ is nevertheless clearly evident. Furthermore, the hypostatic union is a doctrine widely accepted by the Church as accurately reflecting Jesus as both God (fully divine) and man (fully human). Douglas Kelly rightly notes the importance of this doctrine by stating, “In order to be the Mediator between God and mankind, so as to bring them back together, thereby saving lost humanity, Christ had to become man, while remaining at the same time God.”[iii]

History of the Doctrine

Council of Chalcedon

The Church had long affirmed the incarnation of Jesus, but the question remained as to how He could be fully God and fully man. Previous attempts by individuals such as Nestorius suggested Jesus existed as two different persons – Jesus as the man, and Jesus as God. This approach was rejected at the Council of Ephesus under the belief it created too much difficulty for Jesus to be treated as a human being. Another approach presented by Eutyches went the opposite direction with the emphasis placed on the union of the two natures of Jesus combining into one nature following the incarnation. Due to the obvious need to solidify a biblical stance on this important issue, over 500 bishops met at Chalcedon. Their goal was to develop a “coherent Christological position that walked the line between the Nestorian heresy (two persons in Christ) on the one hand and the Eutychean heresy (only one nature in Christ) on the other.”[iv]

What the Council of Chalcedon developed was founded upon earlier councils and creeds while further elaborating and identifying a needed distinction between the ideas of what comprises a person and the nature of something. It was determined Jesus had two natures in one person, both necessary for Him to be fully God and fully man. In relation to the Incarnation, the Council stated Jesus did not assume the human person; conversely, He assumed the human nature which was an important distinction. While the Council established was a helpful set of boundaries by which to better approach the reality of Jesus being both fully God and fully man without veering to the extremes of either Nestorianism or Eutychianism.

Chalcedonian Creed

The essence of the Council’s position is found in the Chalcedon Creed, which in part declares Jesus should be “recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence.”[v] The Council of Chalcedon helped center the focus back to the biblical truth of the divinity and humanity of Jesus, two issues we will now examine in relation to their biblical and practical importance for the believer.

Application and Importance of the Hypostatic Union

Fully God

John 1:1 declares, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The Word refers to Jesus as the Logos, a term affirming His divinity. We also find the declaration that Jesus is fully God in Revelation 1:8 which states, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End,” says the Lord, “who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty.” Thus, Jesus is clearly God from all eternity past and into eternity future. Being fully God, Jesus has all of the divine attributes attributed to God throughout Scripture. Theologian John Frame rightly notes, “Jesus, like God the Father and the Holy Spirit, is perfect love, righteousness, holiness, omniscient, omnipotent, eternal, immense, self-contained.[vi] The Apostle Paul affirmed the deity of Jesus in Colossians 2:9 stating, “For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” There is no doubt within Scripture that Jesus is the Son of God and thus fully divine in His nature.

Fully Man

We also find in Scripture the full humanity of Jesus through the Incarnation. Passages such as Philippians 2:8 note, “And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.” This concept of Jesus being found in appearance is far more than Him merely looking like a man at first glance with the possibility of Him in actuality being something different than a man. The Greek word translated as appearance is schema which means “…the habitus, as comprising everything in a person which strikes the senses, the figure, bearing, discourse, actions, manner of life.” As noted earlier, this refers to His human nature and person, the sum total of who He was to include the capability of reason and responsibility for actions. The Incarnation then is the act of Jesus as God becoming human, God in the flesh.

Necessity of the Hypostatic Union

Now that we have established the theological validity of the hypostatic union, let’s take a moment to answer the needed “so what” aspect of the doctrine by taking a look at some elements of why Jesus being fully God and fully man is of the utmost importance. First, Jesus became flesh to be our Savior. Hebrews 2:14-15 states, “Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage.” Perhaps one of the most well known passages in Scripture, John 3:16, also notes why Jesus came to earth in the flesh: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Douglas Kelly rightly comments, “In taking on our flesh and giving himself to be our ransom, he shows us who God is, as the one who ‘spared not his own Son, but freely gave him up for us all’ (Rom. 8:32).”[vii]

Second, since Jesus is both fully God and fully man, he is uniquely qualified to be the mediator between God and Man. The Apostle Paul in 1 Timothy 2:5 states, “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” The role of a mediator is to guide both parties towards a resolution. When used in reference to Jesus as our Mediator, the resolution involves the restoration of relationship between God and man. Jesus came to mediate a New Covenant through His shed blood on the cross. Puritan theologian, William Ames, once noted, “It was necessary that Christ the Mediator should be God, and man: for unless he had been God, he could not be the spiritual King of our souls, dispensing life and death eternal: and unless he had been man he could not have been a head of the same kind with his body.”[viii] Without the hypostatic union of Jesus being fully God and fully man, He would not be able to execute His office of Mediator.

Third, Jesus serves as our great High Priest before God. Hebrews 2:17 outlines this priestly office stating, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” The Old Testament priests had to continually offer sacrifices to God with the high priest going once a year into the Holy of Holies to intercede before God on behalf of the people. Since the sacrifices were but a mere shadow of things to come, a perfect sacrifice was promised. As noted by John Frame, “Jesus as Priest offers the greatest sacrifice, his own body, and he now lives forever to make intercession for his redeemed people.”[ix] Being fully man, Jesus is able to sympathize with those He represents. Hebrews 4:15 states, “For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are–yet he did not sin.” As the Son of God, Jesus was sent by His Father to be the perfect sacrificial atonement for our sins and as a result, also appointed by God for that office. Thus He is uniquely qualified to be our Great High Priest before the throne of God.

Finally, the hypostatic union is important in order for Jesus to fulfill the prophecy of a King that would come through the line of David, the long promised Messianic King. As God, Jesus is King of kings and Lord of lords as noted in Revelation 19:16. Furthermore, as declared in Luke 1:33, His throne endures forever and His kingdom has no end. As King, all glory and honor are due His name. Moreover, Jesus being fully man fulfills the prophecies revealed in Scripture of Jesus as being from the “line of David”. Isaiah 9:7 promised “Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever.  The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.” Theologian John Owen reminds us that His “being clothed with our nature derogates (detracts) nothing from the true reason of divine worship due unto him, but adds an effectual motive unto it. He is, therefore, the immediate object of all duties of religion, internal and external; and in the dispensation of God towards us, none of them can be performed in a due manner without a respect unto him.”[x] In the hypostatic union, we see Jesus as eternal King, and as the King who will sit on the throne of David forever.

A Final Note…

The doctrine of the hypostatic union is far more than some dry and dusty theological term to be studied by theologians surrounded by a giant pile of scholarly works (although such people are prone to use the term). In reality, this doctrine is of great importance to the subject of Christology as a whole, and for believers to better grasp what Christ did on our behalf. To properly understand the person and work of Christ, as believers, we must appreciate Him as being both fully God and fully man. As both God and man, He alone is our Savior, Mediator, Priest, and King. It was necessary for Jesus to voluntarily come in the flesh to fulfill the will of His Father—that being the redemption and reconciliation of humanity to God through the cross. Unless Jesus was fully God and fully man, this act of redemption would have been incomplete. As both God and man, He came to earth, lived a sinless life, died on the cross, rose again, intercedes for us before God, and will one day return as the conquering King.

As we ponder the wonder and magnificence of this doctrine, may we be reminded of the words of John Owen who stated, “It is true, it is the person of Christ as God and man that is the proper and ultimate object of our love towards him; but a clear distinct consideration of his natures and their excellencies is effectual to stir up and draw forth our love towards him.”[1]

This article first appeared in the Fall 2014 issue of Theology for Life on the person and work of Christ.

[1] John Owen, The Holy Spirit (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2009), 187-188.

[i] David Mathis, “What is the Hypostatic Union?”, December 19, 2007, accessed October 26, 2014.  Justin Taylor, “Thinking Through Christology”, November 5, 2011, accessed October 26, 2014.

[ii] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 321.

[iii] Douglas Kelly, Systematic Theology: Volume Two (Scotland: Christian Focus Publications, 2014), 183.

[iv] Justin Holcomb, Know the Creeds and Councils (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2014), 55.

[v] Ibid., 56.

[vi] John Frame, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Christian Belief (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2013), 889.

[vii] Kelly, 186.

[viii] William Ames, The Marrow of Sacred Divinity (London: Edward Griffin, 1642), 77.

[ix] Frame, 896.

[x] John Owen, The Glory of Christ (Carlisle: Banner of Truth, 2013), 105.

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