One Person—Two Natures
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God,
and the Word was God. . . . 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.
Like the Trinity, the doctrine of the incarnation is often considered to be logically incoherent. While many issues surrounding the incarnation, such as the precise modes of interaction between Christ’s divine nature and His human nature, may transcend our human understanding, the doctrine of the incarnation does not transgress the laws of logic.
To understand the logical coherence of the incarnation, one must first consider the imago Dei (image of God). Because God created humanity in His own image (Genesis 1:27), the essential properties of human nature (rationality, will, moral character, and the like) are not inconsistent with His divine nature. While the notion of God becoming a clam would be absurd, the reality that God became a man is not.
Furthermore, it is crucial to point out that though the God-Man is fully human, He is not merely human. Though He took on all the essential properties of human nature, He did not take on that which is nonessential (e.g., sinful inclinations). Indeed, as Adam was created without a proclivity toward sin, so the Second Adam was untainted by original sin. As with His moral perfection, Jesus’ other divine attributes (omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, and so forth) were not undermined in the incarnation.
Finally, while Jesus Christ voluntarily refrained from exercising certain attributes of deity, He did not divest Himself of a single divine attribute ( John 1:14; Philippians 2:1–11; Colossians 1:15–20; Hebrew 2:14–18). With respect to His omniscience, for example, His human nature may have served as a filter limiting His knowledge as a man (e.g., Mark 13:32). Nonetheless, Jesus’ divine omniscience was ever accessible at the will of the Father.
In sum, there is no incoherence in the biblical teaching that Jesus became and will forever remain one person with two distinct natures—neither commingling His natures nor becoming two persons. It is this miraculous incarnation of God that you and I, along with Christians around the world, corporately celebrate this Christmas season.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.
Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John. He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all men might believe. He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light. The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.
He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.
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 testifies concerning him. He cries out, saying, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has surpassed me because he was before me.’” From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. ( John 1:1–18)
In what ways is Jesus fully human? In what ways is He fully God?
Did becoming a man make Jesus lose any of His divine attributes? Explain.
Once in Royal David’s City
—Cecil Frances Humphreys Alexander
Once in royal David’s city stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby in a manger for His bed;
Mary was that mother mild, Jesus Christ, her little Child.
He came down to earth from heaven, who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable, and His cradle was a stall;
With the poor, and mean, and lowly, lived on earth our Savior holy.
And, through all His wondrous childhood,
He would honor and obey,
Love and watch the lowly maiden, in whose gentle arms He lay:
Christian children all must be mild, obedient, good as He.
And our eyes at last shall see Him, through His own redeeming love,
For that Child so dear and gentle is our Lord in heav’n above,
And He leads His children on to the place where He is gone.
Not in that poor lowly stable, with the oxen standing by,
We shall see Him; but in heaven, set at God’s right had on high;
When like stars His children crowned all in white shall wait around.