The Incarnation: Jesus Christ, The God-Man

This time of the year is a wonderful time to ponder the incredible truths of the incarnation: the time when the second Person of the Godhead, the Son, became incarnate in a man such that without ceasing to be what He always was, God, He became what He was not, man, so that he is now and forever the perfect God-man, fully God and fully man.

The incarnation is a biblical truth (Matt. 1:18-25; 2:1-12; Lk. 2:1-20; Gal. 4:4-5; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; etc.). It is foundational to an orthodox doctrine of the Trinity. It is foundational to Christianity and the Christian faith. It is foundational to a right understanding of the Scriptures. It is foundational to a right understanding of salvation.

In addition to the biblical truth of this doctrine, there are also a number of statements affirming this wonderful truth, along with the heretical ways in which this truth of the God-man has been denied.

EFCA Statement of Faith

Jesus Christ

4. We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus-Israel's promised Messiah-was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High Priest and Advocate.

God’s gospel is made known supremely in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Evangelical Convictions: A Theological Exposition of the Statement of Faith of the Evangelical Free Church of America, pp. 98-99:

Jesus Christ is thus one Person in whom two distinct natures are united. Jesus Christ is truly God and truly man. He is fully and completely both at the same time, showing us the true nature of each. . . . The Son of God remained God – he never gave up being God, but he added to his divinity real humanity. As God incarnate, the divine subject made real human experience his own, and since the incarnation, the Son of God will forever be human.

There are three key statements/truths to understand Christology:

  1. Jesus Christ is truly and fully God.
  2. Jesus Christ is truly and fully man.
  3. Jesus Christ is one Person in two distinct natures.
    a. The two natures are distinct.
    b. The two natures are united in one Person.

Jesus is the God-Man - Historical Statements of this Biblical Truth

A. The Nicene- Constantinople Creed (325 A.D., revised 381 A.D.)

And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of the Father before all worlds, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, begotten, not made, being of one substance with the Father; by whom all things were made; who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, and was made man;

B. The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.)

'Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man [Nestorius], consisting also of a reasonable soul and body [Apollinarianism]; of one substance [homoousios] with the Father as regards his Godhead [Arianism], and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood [Nestorianism]; like us in all respects [Docetism], apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer [theotokos]; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, 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 [hypostasis], not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us."

C. Key Phrases in the Chalcedonian Statement

It is interesting to note that this Statement attempted to address every Christological problem that had affected the church up to that time. Robert Reymond, (A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith [Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1998], 608-609), helpfully points them out, which I have adapted. He notes both explicit affirmations and implicit denials.

  1. Against the Docetists (Jesus only appeared to be human) it declared that the Lord Jesus Christ was perfect in manness, truly man, consubstantial (homoousion, not homoiousion) with us according to manness, and born of Mary.
  2. Against the Samosatian adoptionists (at some point, baptism, the human Jesus was adopted by the Father to become the Son) it insisted upon the personal subsistence of the Logos "begotten of the Father before the ages."
  3. Against the Sabellians (a form of modalism) it distinguished the Son from the Father both by the titles of "Father" and "Son" and by its reference to the Father having begotten the Son before all ages.
  4. Against the Arians (Jesus was not eternal, but created, there was time when he was not) it affirmed that the Lord Jesus Christ was perfect in deity, truly God, and consubstantial with the Father. (An earlier version of this was known as Ebionism.)
  5. Against the Apollinarians (one person of Christ had a human body but not a human mind and spirit which were of divine nature), who had reduced Jesus' manness to a body and an "animal soul" (psyche alogos), it declared that Jesus had a "rational soul" (psyche logike), that is, a "spirit."
  6. Against the Nestorians (two separate persons in Christ, a human person and a divine person) it both described Mary as theotokos, not in order to exalt Mary in the slightest, but in order to affirm Jesus' true deity and the fact of a real incarnation, and spoke throughout of one and the same Son and one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons and whose natures are in union without division and without separation.
  7. Finally, against the Eutychians (Christ has one nature only, human nature was absorbed into the divine nature so a third kind of nature resulted), it confessed that in Christ were two natures without confusion and without change, the property of each nature being preserved and concurring in the one person.

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