We are continuing our study of the Prologue of the Fourth Gospel, and we come this morning to the most incredible truth of Scripture, Yahweh became human! This is what we call the Doctrine of the Incarnation.
Before we look at the incarnation let me remind you why this is important:
But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, John 1:12 NASB
Who is it that has the right to become children of God? It is those, and those only, who believe in His name! To the ancients, one's name expressed the sum of the qualities that marked the nature or character of that person. To believe in His name means: "to accept the revelation of who Yeshua is that God has given. It involves believing that Yeshua is fully man and fully God come to redeem the world. You cannot deny the deity of Yeshua and believe in His name. You can't say He is only a man and be believing in His name. He in not just a man; He is the God-man.
We saw in verse 1:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 NASB
The Word has been in existence since the very beginning, since eternity past. The Word was with God—the words "was with God" prohibits us from seeing no distinction between the Father and the Word. There is a distinction. The Son, the Word, is distinct from the Father. That is Trinitarian. And "the Word was God." In verse 3 we see that the Word is the Creator of all things. Now in verse 14 Lazarus writes:
And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 NASB
I like the way the Complete Jewish Bible translates this:
The Word became a human being and lived with us, and we saw his Sh'khinah, the Sh'khinah of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 CJB
The eternal Word who was with God and was God, the Word who created all things became a human being. This verse teaches the staggering truth that Yeshua of Nazareth was Yahweh become man. The divine Son became a Jew; the Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, unable to do more than lie and stare and wiggle and make noises, needing to be fed and changed and taught to talk like any other child.
C. S. Lewis, in his book, Mere Christianity, in the chapter called "The Obstinate Toy Soldier," said this, "The Eternal Being who knows everything and who created the whole universe, became not only a man, but before that a baby, and before that a fetus inside a woman's body. If you want to get the hang of it, think how you would like to become a slug or a crab."
The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets— God became a man! Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation. For our study this morning we are not actually going to get into the text in verse 14, we are just going to focus on the phrase, "The Word became a human being."
To really understand this phrase we're going to look at the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union and learn what we can of the duel natures of Christ.
In case you may be asking, "Why do we need to get so deep and so technical?" It is my conviction that every believer ought to be a theologian in some sense. The word "theology" comes from two Greek words, theos, which means: "God" and logos, which means: "word, discourse, or doctrine." So, theology may be defined in the narrow sense as the Doctrine of God. It is the science of God and His works. So, as we study theology we are learning about God. If you are ever going to know God in an intimate way, you must know theology. And if you are ever going to live for God, you must know Him. Theology is the systematizing of doctrine.
The "Word became flesh" has been expressed by the theological term "Incarnation," which comes from two Latin words "in" plus "cargo" meaning: "infleshment, the act of assuming flesh." Yahweh chose to become united to true humanity. The incarnation came about through the miracle of the virgin birth:
Now the birth of Yeshua the Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. And Joseph her husband, being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away secretly. But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, "Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Yeshua , for He will save His people from their sins." Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: "BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD AND SHALL BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL," which translated means, "GOD WITH US." Matthew 1:18-23 NASB
The child Yeshua was to be Immanuel—God with us. At the incarnation, God the Son, the second person of the one triune God, was forever joined to true humanity. This joining together has been designated as the "Hypostatic Union." Hypostatic is from the Greek word hupostasis, which is found in:
And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3 NASB
The word translated "nature" here is hupostasis. We see this word also in:
Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. Hebrews 11:1 NASB
The word "assurance" here is hupostasis. Hupostasis means: "substance or essence." In theological language, it means: "person." So the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union is the doctrine of the personal union of the two natures, the divine and the human, of the Lord Yeshua.
Yeshua the Christ is 100% God and 100% man. This is where we get the theological term "theanthropic," which comes from theos, which means: "God" and anthropos, which means: "man." Yeshua the Christ is the God-Man. He is one person with two natures.
Early in church history, theological controversies resulted, so the church got together at councils and at these councils they hammered out the Doctrines of the Church. Out of these councils, they formulated creeds.
In A.D. 325, the Church held the Council of Nicea. The purpose of the Council of Nicea was because the deity of the Lord Yeshua Christ was being attacked. There were people saying, "Yeshua, was not really God, He wasn't God's Son." So, this council came together at Nicea and the result of the Council at Nicea was "Hommousious"—of one essence. Meaning that Yeshua Christ was of the same essence as the Father. They declared the deity of Yeshua Christ.
About 125 years later, at the Council of Chalcedon in A.D. 450, the heresy that was creeping up was that there were not really two natures of the Lord Yeshua. They were saying that there were two persons or that there was a mingling of the two natures. So the Council of Calcedon was fighting two heresies. They were fighting the heresy of Eutychus, who denied the distinction of the natures. He kind of blended the natures. If you blend the natures, you destroy both of them. If the God nature mingled over into the human nature, it wouldn't be human nature. And if the human nature mingled into the Deity nature, it would no longer be deity. Yeshua had two natures, human and divine.
The Council at Chalcedon also fought the heresy of Nestorius, who denied the one personality. At the Council a statement was drawn which was to become the accepted definition in the orthodox Catholic Church:
"Therefore, following the holy Fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards his Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards his manhood; like us in all respects, apart from sin; as regards his Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards his manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the Virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change (these are directed at Eutychus) without division, without separation; (these are directed at Nestorus) the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two persons, but one and the same Son and Only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of him, and our Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us, and the creed of the Fathers has handed down to us."
These men didn't understand the Hypostatic Union completely, nor did they claim to, but they knew certain things were true. Yeshua is One person with two natures. Nicea debated the deity, Chalcedon, the two natures—Hypostatic Union.
The Westminster Confession of Faith, (Chapter 8: Article 2) explains the Hypostatic Union this way:
"The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man's nature (John 1:1, 14; Gal 4:4; Phil 2:6; 1 John 5:20), with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin (Heb 2:14, 16, 17; 4:15): being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance (Luke 1:27, 31, 35; Gal 4:4). So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion (Luke 1:35; Rom 9:5; Col 2:9; 1 Tim 3:16; 1 Pet 3:18). Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man (Rom 1:3, 4; 1 Tim 2:5)."
Let's define our terms: "nature and person."
Nature: the sum total of all the essential qualities of a thing; that which makes it what it is. A substance with its essential qualities. Substance is the real or essential part of anything. Substance does not have to be material. God has a nature, but God is not material, He is spirit. Angels have a nature, but they are not material, they are spirit. When we think of substance we think of material because we are so physically minded. A nature is a substance with its essential qualities. For example, we use the expression "human nature"—there are certain characteristics about a human being that make up their nature. Or we could say that a lion has a certain nature. There are certain qualities that are essential for a lion to have in order for it to be a lion. A dog does not have the same nature as a lion.
The Greek word for "nature" is ousicea, which means: "to be."
Person: a complete substance endowed with reason, thus a responsible subject, a nature with something added.
Keep these definitions in mind as we look at some biblical evidence of the Hypostatic Union.
Let's look first at the biblical Doctrine of Union—God becoming man. When we speak of union, there are three categories we need to look at:
A. General union—God is in union with everybody and every thing. I'm not talking about pantheism; I'm talking about the presence of God essentially and actively in all His creatures. God is omnipresent. Omnipresent means that all of God in every place. This is a general union.
B. Special union—Triune God with believers, it is a mystical union. The God of glory joins Himself with believers by faith in Yeshua:
But the one who joins himself to the Lord is one spirit with Him. 1 Corinthians 6:17 NASB
We are one with God. It is a mystical union because you can't see it. You can't say, "Look they're believers, I can see that they are in union with God." You can't see it!
C. Personal union—this is the Hypostatic Union. This union was effected when the Logos, the second person of the Trinity, assumed human nature into His Divine person so that God and man became forever one undivided and indivisible person. One person with two natures.
The second person of the trinity took on a human nature forever. This union is proved by the personal propositions, that is, the passages in which with reference to the incarnate Christ, it is said that God is man and man is God:
Now when Yeshua came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, "Who do people say that the Son of Man is?" And they said, "Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets." Matthew 16:13-14 NASB
What did people think of Yeshua? This passage gives us some insight into what people thought of Him. You might be surprised at how the people of Christ's time viewed Him. Some thought He was John the Baptist—a Hell fire and damnation preacher, who called people, "vipers!" Some thought He was Elijah—you wouldn't want to be around Him if your life wasn't right. He confronted King Ahab, "You are the one troubling Israel." No more rain! In 2 Kings 1, Elijah calls down fire and kills 102 men. Some were saying Yeshua was Elijah. Some said He was Jeremiah —He was the gentle weeping prophet. Yeshua embodied all the prophets:
He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." And Yeshua said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven. Matthew 16:15-17 NASB
Yeshua asks, "Who do they say that I, the Son of man, am?" Peter answered, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." So Yeshua was Son of man, Son of God, here we see the humanity and deity of Christ:
"And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name Him Yeshua. "He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; Luke 1:31-32 NASB
The name "Yeshua" gives stress to the historical human person. "Son of the highest" speaks of His deity. "The Son of Mary" is the Son of the Highest. So, we see two natures uniting in one person.
Speaking of Yeshua, Lazarus writes:
So He came to a city of Samaria called Sychar, near the parcel of ground that Jacob gave to his son Joseph; and Jacob's well was there. So Yeshua, being wearied from His journey, was sitting thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour. There came a woman of Samaria to draw water. Yeshua said to her, "Give Me a drink."John 4:5-7 NASB
So we see that Yeshua was tired and thirsty. Now that was an experience that arose out of His human nature. He was conscious of thirst, and He was conscious of weariness. But He was also conscious at the same time that He was the eternal and only begotten Son of God, the second person of the Trinity. This is clear from the words that He speaks to the woman of Samaria. He said to her in the midst of His conversation with her:
but whoever drinks of the water that I will give him shall never thirst; but the water that I will give him will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life." John 4:14 NASB
Later in the conversation Yeshua says:
The woman said to Him, "I know that Messiah is coming (He who is called Christ); when that One comes, He will declare all things to us." Yeshua said to her, "I who speak to you am He." John 4:25-26 NASB
So at the same time He felt fatigue and thirst in His body, He was conscious in His divine nature that He was the eternal second person of the Trinity.
He must be the divine person in order that His redemptive work may have that infinite value, but He also must have a human nature not simply to become our substitute, but also in order that He may understand and experience the experiences of genuine humanity. He can be our great High Priest and understand the things that we experience because He is truly one of us. He possesses a true and genuine humanity apart from sin.
"Behold, the days are coming," declares the LORD, "When I will raise up for David a righteous Branch; And He will reign as king and act wisely And do justice and righteousness in the land. "In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell securely; And this is His name by which He will be called, 'The LORD our righteousness.' Jeremiah 23:5-6 NASB
In verse 5, we see that He is a descendant of David, which speaks of His humanity. Then in verse 6, He is called, "The Lord our Righteousness," which speaks of His divinity.
Yeshua the Christ is One person with Two natures, we cannot illustrate this in the human realm. Yeshua is different from God in that He is mankind, and different from mankind in that He is God. Yeshua is the unique person of the universe. He is the God-Man.
Let me give you a little church doctrine on this incarnation and Hypostatic Union. The human nature had no independent substance of its own. As the human nature came into existence, it was joined to a Divine person, it never had an independent existence.
Christ had two wills—human and divine:
And He went a little beyond them, and fell on His face and prayed, saying, "My Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me; yet not as I will, but as You will." Matthew 26:39 NASB
Here we see the human will crying out. Yeshua's divine will is one with the Father. God's will was His will.
The church has always taught that conscience and will belong to the nature, not the person. Yeshua was not two persons, but one person with two natures.
When Yeshua suffered, shed blood and died, the Son of God shed blood, suffered, and died. When the Son of God went through His atoning experience, it was not simply the human that participated. It was the theanthropic person. The Divine person participated in all of those activities. He suffered with respect to the Divine personality.
Let's look at the Scriptural proof of the uni-personality of Christ. Yeshua was not two persons, even though He possessed two natures. He is one person with two natures. The Hypostatic union transcends human reason. We will never completely understand it in this life, but we are to know what has been revealed:
concerning His Son, who was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead, according to the Spirit of holiness, Yeshua the Christ our Lord, Romans 1:3-4 NASB
In these verses, we see the two natures of Christ talked about. He was the: "Seed of David" this speaks of His human nature. David's great grandson. He had a substance with the essential qualities of humanity. "Son of God"—this speaks of His deity, His divine nature.
In verse 4, the Greek texts ends with, "Yeshua the Christ our Lord" to sum up who he's talking about. He is the Son of God and man. He has two natures, but only one person is mentioned. He may be described by His human nature or His divine nature. He may be called, "Yeshua, God's Son," or "our Lord":
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, Romans 8:3 NASB
God sent "His son"— deity, in the "likeness of sinful flesh" — humanity. One person with two natures.
But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Galatians 4:4-5 NASB
God sent "His son" —deity, "born of a woman" —humanity. "To redeem those who were under the law"—this is a combination of the deity and humanity, the theanthropic person was necessary to perform redemption. Again we see the idea of two natures in one person.
This is what Lazarus is telling us when he says, "The Word became flesh." The "Word"—deity, "became flesh"—humanity. The apostles spoke of the Hypostatic Union often, so it is important for us to know these truths.
Sometime attributes true of the entire person are spoken of. You'll read something about what Yeshua did, and it is true of the theanthropic person. The best example of this is when Yeshua is called "Saviour, or Redeemer," both natures are necessary for the atonement. He had to be the God-Man to be our Redeemer.
Sometime attributes true only of deity are talked about, but the whole person is the subject:
Yeshua said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I am." John 8:58 NASB
He is speaking here of the attribute of eternality. This is an attribute only true of deity, but the theanthropic person is the subject.
Sometime attributes true only of humanity are talked about, but the whole person is the subject:
After this, Yeshua, knowing that all things had already been accomplished, to fulfill the Scripture, said, "I am thirsty." John 19:28 NASB
God is not thirsty, but the humanity of Yeshua was thirsty. The "I" here refers to the theanthropic person.
During His incarnation, Christ was both omniscient and ignorant; omnipotent and weak; omnipresent and localized; sovereign and submissive. Are you beginning to see the mystery of godliness—God manifest in the flesh?
"Be on guard for yourselves and for 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. Acts 20:28 NASB
Here the attributes of one nature, "blood," are predicated of the person while the person is designated by a title derived from the other nature. The person is designated as God—"which He,"—God—purchased with blood. Blood is something that pertains to the human nature. God does not have blood. God is a spirit:
Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14 NASB
The second person of the trinity took on flesh and blood, He became a man. We see the reverse in:
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. Romans 9:5 ESV
He may refer to the person in reference to the human nature of the person and call Him by a Divine title (Acts 20:28) and he may refer to a divine activity and designate the person by a human title (John 6:62). In Romans 9:5, "according to the flesh" speaks of His human nature. And "who is God over all" refers to His deity. Here the human nature is referred to and said to be God. In this verse, we have the divine nature and the human nature, but one person. The one person may be looked at as human or divine and still not have two persons, but one.
There is no evidence in all the New Testament Scriptures of a duel personality of Yeshua. In the triune God, we see one person addressing another. But in the incarnation, we never see this, because Yeshua is one person. In various Scriptures we see one person of the trinity addressing another person of the trinity:
He who sits in the heavens laughs, The Lord scoffs at them. Then He will speak to them in His anger And terrify them in His fury, saying, "But as for Me, I have installed My King Upon Zion, My holy mountain." "I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD: He said to Me, 'You are My Son, Today I have begotten You. Psalms 2:4-7 NASB
We see this also in:
Yeshua spoke these things; and lifting up His eyes to heaven, He said, "Father, the hour has come; glorify Your Son, that the Son may glorify You, even as You gave Him authority over all flesh, that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life. John 17:1-2 NASB
Here the second person, Yeshua, addresses the first person, the Father. You never find the Lord Yeshua speaking to Himself, there is no duel personality. The Scriptures teach the uni-personality of the Lord Yeshua. He is one person with two natures.
Why was it a necessity for Yeshua to have two natures in one person? Bancroft writes, "The union of two natures in one person is necessary to constitute Jesus Christ a proper mediator between man and God. His twofold nature gives Him fellowship with both parties, since it involves an equal dignity with God and at the same time perfect sympathy with man. This twofold nature, moreover, enables Him to present to both God and man proper terms of reconciliation. Being man, He can make atonement for man; being God, His atonement has infinite value."
Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18 NASB
As man, He knows experientially what you're going through, and as God, He can get you through it.
Why did the second person of the trinity leave heaven's glory and become incarnate?:
just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many." Matthew 20:28 NASB
He is God, it would only be right that we served Him. But He came to "minister"—He came to serve us and give His life to pay our sin debt. He came to die.
Now if you are having trouble understanding the Doctrine of the Hypostatic Union, you're not alone. Daniel Webster, the 19th-century statesman, once dined in Boston with several eminent literary figures. Soon the conversation turned to Christianity. Webster, a convinced Christian, confessed his belief in Christ and His atoning work. A Unitarian minister at the table responded, "Mr. Webster, can you comprehend how Yeshua Christ could be both God and Man?"
"No, sir, I cannot understand it," replied Webster, "and I would be ashamed to acknowledge Christ as my Savior if I could comprehend it. He could be no greater than myself, and such is my conviction of accountability to God, my sense of sinfulness before Him, and my knowledge of my own incapacity to recover myself, that I feel I need a superhuman Savior."
Martin Luther was forced to admit that the union could not be explained: "Reason cannot comprehend this. But we believer it; and this is also the testimony of Scripture: that Christ is true God and that He also became a man."
The Christian should not be troubled by the presence of mystery in his faith. Wherever God and man meet, there is mystery. We should accept the doctrine of the unique God-man in the same way that we accept the Trinity— by faith in God's Word, the Bible.
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