A Walk through the 1689 Baptist Confession, pt.17: The Person of Christ and the Nature of the Incarnation

Chapter 8: Of Christ the Mediator, paras. 2-3

2._____ The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.  
John 1:14;  Galatians 4;4;  Romans 8:3;  Hebrews 2:14, 16, 17; Hebrews 4:15;  Matthew 1:22, 23;  Luke 1:27, 31, 35;  Romans 9:5;  1 Timothy 2:5 )

3._____ The Lord Jesus, in his human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge; in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell, to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled, and full of grace and truth, he might be throughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety; which office he took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by his Father; who also put all power and judgement in his hand, and gave him commandment to execute the same.  
Psalms 45:7; Acts 10:38; John 3:34; Colossians 2:3; Colossians 1:19; Hebrews 7:26;  John 1:14;  Hebrews 7:22;  Hebrews 5:5;  John 5:22, 27;  Matthew 28:18;  Acts 2:36 )

Understanding the Confession

The Person of Christ and the Nature of the Incarnation

The doctrine of the person of Christ is central to Christian orthodoxy. It dominated the attention of the church for the first eight centuries. One reason it required such a long time for the church to formulate clearly the doctrine of Christ’s person is that it truly is one of the beautiful mysteries of the faith. Now let me clearly explain what I mean by mystery. What I do not mean is that his person cannot be clearly defined or understood and that the Scripture is not explicit on this matter. What I mean that it is a mystery is that a perfect infallible explanation of the hypostatic union between the deity and humanity of Christ and how those two natures perfectly intertwine without compromising the one or the other is impossible to be formed by finite beings. It is a mystery that exists alone in the being of God how such a union was perfectly made possible. But what is no mystery is that this is clearly what the Scripture teaches, and therefore what we must submit to. A Christian may not give a simple answer to the question ‘who is Jesus Christ?’ And I think this can be clearly seen in the fact that chapter 8 of the confession on Christ is such a theologically dense chapter. There are four clear truths which must be spoken in order to maintain Christian orthodoxy when addressing the person of the Christ and the nature of the incarnation: His full deity, his true humanity, his single personality, and his sinless integrity.

A. His Full Deity

Though it has come under much attack during modern times, the deity of Christ is far from being “hidden” or “obscure” in the New Testament, but rather is a reality revealed throughout. It could be shown that divine worship (Matt. 2:11. 21:9), divine titles (Acts 10:36; 1 Jn. 5:20), divine works (Jn. 4:46-47; Mk. 1:23-28), and divine attributes (Jn. 1:4; 5:26; Heb. 13:8) are all ascribed to Jesus throughout the New Testament. In John 8:58, the attribute of eternal existence is ascribed to Christ. Old Testament passages which use the divine title “Yahweh” (I am that I am) are repeatedly applied to Christ (Joel 2:32 in Rom. 10:13; Ps. 102:25 in Heb. 1:10; Ps. 34:8 in 1 Pet 2:3, etc.). The clearest proof however, is that class of passages which simply and straightforwardly call the Lord Jesus “God:” John 1:1; 5:18; 20:28; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8-9; Phil. 2:5-6; 2 Pet. 1:1; 1 John 5:20).

B. His True Humanity

A concept attacked by the Gnostics, the true humanity of Christ is also clearly taught in the New Testament. We can utilize six lines of arguments to see the biblical basis for this doctrine.

  1. The OT Promise that the Messiah would be a Man
    The predictions and prophecies of the Old Testament promised that the Messiah of Israel would be a man (Micah 5:3; Isa. 7:14; 9:6-7; 52:13-53:12; Gen. 3:15; 17:7; Jer. 23:5-6).
  2. Jesus Given the Designation of Man
    There are a few passages in the NT (Acts 2:22; 13:38; 17:31; 1 Cor. 15:21; 1 Tim. 2:5) assert plainly that Jesus was a man. Since the majority of these tests are speaking of Christ in the present as resurrected, they make clear that he maintains a human nature after his resurrection and thus forever.
  3. Jesus Self-Conciousness as a Man
    It was not just his disciples or others who saw Jesus as a man, Jesus himself thought and spoke of himself as a man (Jn. 8:39-40). In fact, his favorite designation for himself was the title “Son of Man.” He used this title to refer to himself some 80 times. He even used his humanity and deity in the same context at times like in Matt. 12:18 where he stated that the “son of man is Lord of the Sabbath,” and also in Luke 19:10 where he said “the son of man came to seek and save the lost.”
  4. He had the Appearance and Body of a Man
    Once again in opposition to many of the Gnostic groups, Jesus possessed a real human body (Heb. 10:5; Mk. 14:8; Matt. 26:12, 26; Lk. 7:44-46, and many more). Jesus was really through and through a man. If we would have been alive 2000 years ago when he walked on the earth, he would have looked no different from any other Nazarene of the day.
  5. Jesus Possessed a Genuine Human Soul
    So much of Jesus’ life as seen in the gospels was only possible because of his possession of a human soul. One of those was his suffering and death. God can neither suffer as he impassible and he cannot die because then he would cease to be God, and because Jesus did both of these he had to possess a human soul (Jam. 2:26; Jn. 19:30) The human soul of Jesus is also seen in that he possessed a human will (Matt. 26:39). Furthermore, Jesus had human feelings and emotions, as he walked into Gethsemane he felt sorrow, and fear and yearned for the prayerful support of his friends (Matt. 26:36-39). Jesus is also said to have grown spiritually and morally throughout his life (Luke 2:40; Heb. 5:8-9). Lastly, Jesus’ human soul was also necessary for him to experience temptation (Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 4:15). Since God cannot tempted (Jam. 1:13), Jesus had to have a human soul in order to be tempted in every manner as we are.
  6. The Limitations Jesus was Subject to
    Jesus experienced many human limitations which God does not and cannot experience. He became hungry (Matt. 4:2; Mk. 11:12). He experienced thirst (John 4:7; 19:28). He grew tired (John 4:6). Lastly, in his humanity even his knowledge was limited in certain areas (Mk. 13:32).

C. His Single Personality

Though Christ had two complete natures, he is one person. This is seen in the fact that singular pronouns, never plural, are used to refer to him. Even in passages which reference is made to both natures, it remains clear that there is only one person (Rom. 1:3-4; Gal. 4:4-5; Phil. 2:5-11). Secondly, the single person of Christ is the eternal Son of God (Jn. 1:14; Gal. 4:4: Jn. 5:18; Heb. 1:2, 8; Jn. 10:29-37). Thirdly, the single personality does not result in the confusion or mixture of Christ’s two natures into one compound nature. The confession speaks of “two whole, perfect and distinct natures…without conversion, composition, or confusion.” Any mixture of Christ’s two natures would result in a third nature in between, or in the absorption of one or the other of Christ’s natures. The passages cited above on Christ’s full deity and true humanity show that the incarnation did not result in either subtraction from Christ’s deity or absorption of his human nature. He remained at one and the same time “God over all blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5), and the man who was ignorant of the day and hour when he would return in all his glory (Mk. 13:32).

D. His Sinless Integrity

In the words “with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin” the confession teaches that Christ’s humanity was subject to the effects of the curse (Rom. 8:3; Heb. 5:8; Gal. 4:4) with the important qualification that Christ’s humanity was and remained sinless (Isa. 53:9; Luke 1:35; Jn. 8:46; 14:30; Rom. 8:3; 2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 7:26; 9:14; 1 Pet. 1:19; 2:22; 1 Jn. 3:5). The doctrine of these passages is that Christ was absolutely sinless according to tithe perfect standard of God’s holy law. Thus, in thought, word, deed, and nature he was unstained by sin.

Conclusion

In attempting to resolve the mystery of Christ’s person human wisdom has invented many counterfeit teachings. Docetism denied that Christ was a real man. Arianism denied that Christ was really God. Apollinarianism denied that Christ had a human soul teaching that the Word took the place of the human soul. Nestorianism denied that Christ was only one person, teaching that since he possessed two natures he must be two persons. Eutychianism, the monophysite heresy, denied that Christ had two distinct natures, teaching that he had only one nature composed of a mixture of deity and humanity.

Divine truth surpasses all such wisdom. The attempts to explain the mystery, to resolve the tension, have always resulted in heresy. The creeds of the church in which such heresy has been rejected are simply fences built by the church to prevent the desecration of this holy mystery of the hypostatic union by proud human reason. One great proof of the divine origin of Christianity is that its doctrines transcend human reason. Yet, though such doctrines transcend human reason, only this doctrine of the person could satisfy the greatest issue for humanity, the impassible separation between man and God because of the fall and depravity of man. Only one who is both God and man could be a substitute for men and in a few short hours on a cross at Calvary also satisfy the Holy wrath of an infinite God. For man to be at peace with God is only possible through the God-Man Jesus Christ who is”..the way, the truth, and the life…” (Jn. 14:6).

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s