Discuss how Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man.
“For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and you have been given fullness in Christ, who is the head over every power and authority.” - Colossians 2:9-10
This question is one that can be approached from several angles. By demonstrating that the Trinity indeed exists throughout Scripture or by defending the truth that Christ is indeed God and Man or by simply explaining how this mysterious understanding can manifest itself. For the sake of this question we will look at each of these elements in a concise manner.
Firstly, let us look to the direct question of Jesus being fully God and fully man. This teaching is known as the hypostatic union (comes from the Greek word hypostasis which means sediment, foundation, or substance). It states that the Word of God put on flesh and is Jesus Christ. This means that Jesus is not just man, not just God, not half man and half God but that He is fully divine and fully human. John 1:1 and 1:14 lays this out for us in a very succinct fashion:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)
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 1:14)
This is the technical language that lays out the basis for the hypostatic union (the union of the two natures). It isn’t that Jesus’ divine nature was altered or that He laid aside His divinity when He became man – He is God, the second person of the Trinity (Hebrews 1:3). We see He is the exact representation of God’s being and thus this is not a mixing of natures but 2 separate natures (or substances) that act as one (unit).
St. Athanasius (defender of orthodoxy at the council of Nicea) once said in relating the incarnation of Christ - “He became what He was not but He remained what He was.” In sequential language, Jesus added humanity to Himself (Ephesians 2:5-11) and that humanity is present with Him now as He acts as our intercessor (1 John 2:1) between us and our Father. Maximus the Confessor (580−662), monk and theologian, used the term methorios (Greek word meaning boundary) to describe Jesus. Jesus is God’s methorios - one who stands between; the seen and unseen, the physical and the spiritual, the temporal and the eternal, God and Man.
It may sound offensive to some but the reality is that Jesus the Man is a creature. His humanity was created. He is uncreated and created at the same time. He did not always posses human nature. His divinity is eternal but His humanity was not. The man Jesus was created by the Holy Spirit. It is important to note that Jesus is not as Jehovah’s Witnesses teach an angel who became a man or as Mormons teach the brother of the devil.
The following chart illustrates how Jesus functions as fully God and fully man at the same time:
Hypostatic Union Examples
|He is worshiped (Matthew 2:2,11; 14:33)||He worshiped the Father (John 17)|
|He was called God (John 20:28; Hebrews 1:8)||He was called man (Mark 15:39; John 19:5)|
|He was called Son of God (Mark 1:1)||He was called Son of Man (John 9:35-37)|
|He is prayed to (Acts 7:59)||He prayed to the Father (John 17)|
|He is sinless (1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15)||He was tempted (Matthew 4:1)|
|He knows all things (John 21:17)||He grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52)|
|He gives eternal life (John 10:28)||He died (Romans 5:8)|
|All the fullness of deity dwells in Him (Colossians 2:9)||He has a body of flesh and bones (Luke 24:39)|
In addressing misrepresentations of the hypostatic union that result in attacks on Jesus’ divinity below are a few tools you can employ:
1. Difference in function does not mean inferiority of nature: Just because the three persons of the Trinity have different functions doesn’t mean the Father is superior to Jesus or the Holy Spirit and thus creates Jesus as a “lesser God” or a mere man. This confusion is caused by saying that each person of the Trinity must do the exact same thing in the exact same way to be equal (which clearly does not need to be the case). However, it is the fact that there are these differences that distinguish each person of the Trinity (the arguments in opposition become merely circular arguments from a false assumed starting point that God is Unitarian and not Trinitarian).
2. We must realize that the roles within the Trinity were freely chosen by each of the 3 persons (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit) in what is referred to as the “Eternal Covenant of Redemption”. This understanding will address a vast number of “accusations” that Jesus is only man. Interestingly it is similar to dialogue I often here about male and female and there being distinct natures/roles to each party and people automatically assume different means one is inferior to the other when this is clearly not the case (will share more on this another time).
3. To all who say Jesus is not God or that another is, James White (Author of “The Forgotten Trinity”) has a great framework that can be used as a filter. White states “many of the strongest proofs of the deity of Christ are found in recognizing that no mere creature could ever say the words Jesus said, do the things Jesus did, or be described in the way Jesus is described”. How would we employ the use of this filter? By simply substituting the name or being in question to see if these verses would still hold up: John 14:6, Matthew 11:28, Revelation 19:16, 1 Corinthians 1:3, John 14:9, Philippians 1:21. For example, Jehovah’s Witness view Jesus as Michael the Archangel and as such we would ask could an angel say “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest”? Or could an angel say that he was “King of kings and Lord of Lords? Or reconstruct the verses “For to me, to live is Michael the Archangel and to die is gain?” These statements do not make sense unless they apply to God Himself in the Son.
4. We can most plainly look to the famous passage in John 20:28-29 where Thomas responds to Jesus “My Lord and my God!” and Jesus responds with a blessing. This phrase has been presented to be a shocking curse (said by Thomas) by some Jehovah’s Witnesses. I would be surprised that Jesus would bless a man for cursing let alone breaking a commandment to take the Lord’s name in vain (in a future post we can discuss the views on this passage in more detail).
We can look to many passages in Scripture that attest to Jesus being God (Isaiah 9:6, Hosea 1:7, Matthew 11:27, 2 Corinthians 13:14, Jeremiah 23:5-6, Colossians 2:9, and more) but we will conclude here as this is intended to be a preliminary discussion introducing the concept of Jesus as fully God and fully Man so we can have a starting point on this fundamental doctrine.
For further information relating to Jesus’ deity please refer to my post on “Jesus in the Old Testament”.
“For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.” - 1 Timothy 2:5