The Union of Two Natures in Christ

December 11, 2023
George Ferrier

The wonder that God was manifested in the flesh! The Scriptures affirm that Christ is the eternal Son of God, an equal member of the Godhead (John 1:1; Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3). The Bible also teaches that the Father sent the eternal Son into time, with Christ taking upon Himself a full human nature, apart from sin (John 1:14-18; Rom. 8:3; Gal 4:4). At that moment, He permanently became the God-man with both a human nature and a divine nature. Speaking of Christ’s humanity, Isaiah foretold that He was the child born; speaking of His deity he prophesied that He was the Son given (Isa. 9:6).

Christ’s Eternal Deity

Christ testified to His own deity when He said that He was worthy of the same honor and worship as His Father (John 5:23). The divine nature is the fulness of the Godhead or the sum of all the attributes and properties that belong to deity. Scripture testifies that “in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). In eternity, all the fullness of the Godhead was in Him and that did not change at His incarnation.

Christ is eternal (Mic. 5:2; John 8:58), omnipresent (John 3:13; Matt. 28:20), omniscient (John 2:24; 6:64), omnipotent (Mark 1:29-34; John 10:17-18), and immutable (Heb. 1:8-12; 13:8). He is self-existing, uncreated, and He is before all created things (John 1:1-3; Col. 1:16-17). He is the Creator (John 1:3, 10), and preserves all things (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3). He is holy (Luke 1:35), righteous (Jer. 23:5-6), absolute truth (John 14:6), and full of grace and truth (John 1:14, 17). He forgives sins (Luke 5:24; Col. 3:13), raises the dead (John 5:21, 28-29; 11:25), judges the saints (2 Cor. 5:10), and will judge the world (John 5:22; Rev. 20:12). He is equal with the Father in all ways.

Christ’s Acquired Humanity

God created Adam from the dust of the earth (Gen. 2:7) and formed Eve from another living being, utilizing one of Adam’s ribs (Gen. 2:21-22). Before they had any children they sinned (Gen. 3:1-24; Rom. 5:12) and since then human origin is by generation through the normal reproductive process (Gen. 4:1). Due to Adam’s sin, all of his progeny are conceived in sin. David said: “Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me.” (Ps. 51:5). At the moment of conception, we are living persons, and we are sinners.

The origin of Christ’s humanity was unique, for He was not created, formed, or generated. He was incarnated and this signifies prior existence. His incarnation occurred at conception and was miraculous. It was not through the normal reproductive process for He was conceived of the Holy Spirit, in the virgin Mary. The Creator became part of humanity, but He was not part of fallen humanity for He was a holy man unable to sin (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:20-23; Luke 1:34-35).

He grew into adulthood, during the process increasing in wisdom and stature (Luke 2:52). John testified that they saw Him, heard Him, meditated upon Him, and touched Him; that He completely manifested His humanity to them (1 John 1:1-4). A human being is tripartite with a spirit, soul, and body (1 Thess. 5:23). Christ had a human spirit (Luke 23:46; John 13:21), a human soul (Matt. 26:38), and a human body (John 8:40; Rom. 8:3; 1 John 1:1-3).

The Union of the Divine and Human Natures in Christ

In Scripture we see that Christ sometimes conducted Himself in the capacity of His deity, other times in the sphere of His humanity. Yet He was not a dual personality; He was one Person. He was the theanthropic Person. The definite article “the” signifies His uniqueness and the word “theanthropic” signifies that Christ is both God and man. Without parallel, He is the only God-man. At His incarnation, the divine and human natures were united in Christ. His divine nature was not diminished by its union with His human nature; and His human nature was not exalted above that of a normal human being, differing with us only in that He had no sin nature. Whereas Adam initially had no sin nature but had the potential to sin; Christ was holy, unable to sin. The union of these two natures at conception is a permanent one. The Son remained God after His incarnation with the eternal Trinitarian unity remaining intact. The Lord Jesus said: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30). In the upper room He said: “He who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). His eternal divine nature remained unchanged.

His acquired human nature is also an enduring one. At His resurrection, His body was glorified, and the believer’s destiny is to be glorified as well (1 John 3:2). After His resurrection, the two women held him by the feet (Matt. 28:9). After His ascension, the two angels told the disciples that Christ would return the same way He ascended (Acts 1:9-11). Before his death, Stephen saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God (Acts 7:55-56). In His revelation to John, the Lord Jesus laid His comforting right hand on him (Rev. 1:17). His continuing humanity is also necessary for His ongoing work as our Savior, Mediator, and great High Priest (1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 2:17; 4:14-15; 5:9; 8:1). Christ’s glorification and exaltation did not terminate His humanity, but it did end the condescension and humiliation He endured during His first advent.

Since the human nature is comprised of distinct human attributes and the divine nature of distinct divine attributes, it follows that they are only compatible to their own nature and cannot be transferred to the other. In Christ, the divine and human natures are united with each other, each maintaining its separate identity. There are no additions, subtractions, or transferring between the two natures. There is no mixing to form a blended third nature.

One writes: “He was not a man merely indwelt by deity, but He was truly God. He was not God merely possessing a human being, but He was truly human.”1 Yet, though He had two natures, he remained one Person.

One Person

John Walvoord writes: “One of the difficult aspects of the relationship of the two natures of Christ is that, while the attributes of one nature are never attributed to the other, the attributes of both natures are properly attributed to His person. That Christ at the same moment has seemingly contradictory qualities. He can be weak and omnipotent, increasing in knowledge and omniscient, finite and infinite.”2

He adds: “Some attributes are true only of deity, but the whole person is the subject…(John 8:58)…Some attributes are true only of humanity, but the whole person is the subject…(John 19:28)…”3

Sometimes Christ is described by His divine nature but that which is predicated is an attribute of the human nature.4 Acts 20:28 says: “Therefore, take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Here Christ (God) purchased the church with His blood.

Other times Christ is described by His human nature but that which is predicated is an attribute of the divine nature.5 Romans 9:4-5 says: “Who are Israelites…of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.” Here, Christ who came in the flesh is the eternal God.

Quoting Dr. B.B. Warfield, L.S. Chafer writes: “The alternatives which we are really face to face with, are either the two-natured Christ of history, or—a strong delusion”6 Though it is difficult to comprehend with our limited minds the uniqueness of Christ’s Person with His two natures we accept the testimony of Scripture “that God was manifested in the flesh.”

Endnotes

1. Source unknown
2. John F. Walvoord, Jesus Christ Our Lord (Chicago, IL: Moody Press, 1969) p.116
3. Walvoord, p.117
4. Ibid.
5. Ibid.
6. Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology Vol. 1 (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993) p.396