Jesus the God-Man
Soliciting is common in our neighborhood, especially on weekends. Answering the doorbell recently, I greeted a couple standing on our front porch. Their clothes and literature in hand identified them immediately; and before the door was fully open, they launched into their spiel.
When they paused for a breath, I quickly asked, “What do you believe about Jesus?” They were obviously uncomfortable with the question and haltingly described an imposter who resembled Jesus in name only. Conspicuously absent from their description were two historic events that reveal the uniqueness of Jesus the Messiah.
Jesus’ death and resurrection make Christianity inimitable. The apostle Paul categorically declared, “If Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty” (1 Cor. 15:14). Messiah’s death by crucifixion establishes His humanity; His resurrection verifies His deity. Together they underscore His unique identity as both God and man.
Although impossible to grasp with the limited capabilities of our finite minds, Jesus had to possess “a complete divine nature and a complete human nature inseparably united in one person.”1
How this is possible is one of the greatest mysteries of all time. The theological term hypostatic union describes it. Hypostatic derives from the Greek, conveying the idea of “substance, essence, actual being or reality.”2 In this case, the essence (hypostasis) involves the perfect union of two distinct natures: one human, one divine—in a single person.
Jesus was “no less God because of His humanity and no less human because of His deity,” said theologian John Walvoord.3 Walvoord explained:
This union should not be defined as deity possessing humanity as this would deny true humanity its rightful place. It is not, on the other hand, humanity merely indwelt by deity….In His unique personality He possessed two natures, one eternal and divine, the other human and generated in time.4
Allowing the divine nature to function within the confines of finite humanity did not require relinquishing a single divine attribute. What it did require was giving up the independent exercise of those divine attributes.5 Jesus Himself said, “I can of Myself do nothing….I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me” (Jn. 5:30).
Even though all divine attributes were available to Him throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus lived in complete surrender, never using them unless expressly directed by the Father.
Two separate, distinct natures—one divine and one human—are consistent with God’s promises about the Messiah, whose humanity identified Him with the lineage of King David but whose divinity guaranteed His government and throne would be everlasting. Only as a human being could Christ die as a substitute for man’s sin; but only as God could His death have efficacy in redeeming lost humanity.
Jesus’ humanity allows Him to serve legitimately as the High Priest who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Heb. 4:15). And His deity allows Him to function in that capacity forever (7:24).
My front-porch visitors needed to understand that Jesus, possessing a complete human nature and an undiminished divine nature, is exceptional. He is unlike anyone who ever has or ever will exist. And because He is the one and only God-Man, He is able to “save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (v. 25).
- Renald E. Showers, The Foundations of Faith (Bellmawr, NJ: The Friends of Israel, 2001), 107.
- William F. Arndt and F. Wilbur Gingrich, eds./trans., “hupostasis,” A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1957), 854.
- John Walvoord, “The Incarnation of Christ—Part III: The Person of the Incarnate Christ” <www.walvoord.com/page.php?page_id=83>.
- Charles Lee Feinberg, “The Hypostatic Union Part 2. Course of Christological Thinking: The Hypostatic Union—Its Implications” <galaxie.com/article.php?article_id=346>.