Good morning, Bereans, and Merry Christmas. Most Christians view today as the Birth of Christ. But Christ wasn't born on December 25. He was born on September 11. If you want the details on that go to our web site and search for, The Incarnation and the Zodiac (Revelation 12:1-2). So, we do know when He was born but the date of his birth is not that important because the Scriptures never tell us to celebrate His birth. But the fact of his birth is of great significance. To understand the significance of Christ's birth and what it means let's start at the beginning. I mean the very beginning.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1:1 ESV
"In the beginning was the Word"—the Word was already in existence when God created the heavens and the earth. He doesn't say "In the beginning the Word became" or that it came into existence or that it came to be. In fact, he uses the Greek verb eimi, which means "to be" or "to exist" and suggests continued existence. So, we have "In the beginning was the word." We often refer to this pre-creation time as eternity past. This is the time that John referred to here. At the beginning of this eternity, when there was nothing else, "the Word" existed.
So, 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 denying a distinction between the Father and the Word. There is a distinction. The Son, the Word, is distinct from the Father. That is Trinitarian.
"The Word was God"—this statement could not be any clearer! In fact, these four Greek words may be the clearest declaration of the deity of Yeshua in all the Scripture. As I have already stated, the Greek verb eimi (was) means "to be" or "to exist." It, therefore, suggests continued existence. So, the Word always existed as Yahweh.
John does not say "and the Word was divine" or "the Word was like God." He makes the bold statement, "the Word was God." He leaves no room here for anyone to see Yeshua as less than God in some way or to some degree. When John says that "the Word was God," he means Yahweh. He doesn't mean a deity or someone in the spirit world. He means Yahweh, the supreme God. Joshua put it this way:
"The Mighty One, God, the LORD! The Mighty One, God, the LORD! He knows; and let Israel itself know! If it was in rebellion or in breach of faith against the LORD, do not spare us today Joshua 22:22 ESV
The phrase "The Mighty One, God, the Lord" is "el elohim yhwh" and can be translated as "Yahweh is the greatest God!" And notice that he says it twice.
John's description of the Word as "with God" shows that Yeshua was in one sense distinct from God. He was (and is) the second person of the Trinity, who is distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit in the form of His subsistence. However, John was also careful to note that Yeshua was in another sense fully God. He was not less of God than the Father was or than the Spirit was in His essence. Thus, John made one of the great Trinitarian statements in the Bible in this verse. In His essence, Yeshua is equal with the Father, but He exists as a separate person within the Godhead.
So, the Word always existed as Yahweh and then in a point in time Yahweh became a man. Luke tells us how this happened. He says an angel came to a virgin girl named Mary and told her,
And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Yeshua. Luke 1:31 ESV
The name "Yeshua" means "Yahweh's salvation." Prior to this there was no Yeshua.
And Mary said to the angel, "How will this be, since I am a virgin?" And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore, the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. Luke 1:34-35 ESV
Yahweh had an offspring with a human woman and produced the Savior of mankind, Yeshua. John explains this to us this way:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 ESV
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 and 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 this truth of the incarnation. The "Word became flesh" has been expressed by the theological term "Incarnation" which comes from two Latin words—"in" plus "cargo." The meaning is "infleshment, the act of assuming flesh." Yahweh chose to become united to true humanity.
Four times in John 1:1-2 he uses the imperfect tense (en) of the verb eimi to say the Word was God (all of John's statements regarding His pre-existence are in this tense). But in John 1:14 he uses the verb ginomai in the aorist tense in order to refer to some historical time in the past as the beginning of the new state. In other words, He became a Man. So, to His eternal Deity, He added perfect humanity. Prior to this the Second Person of the Trinity was the eternal Word. But at a point in time, He added humanity to His divine being. He became the God-Man. This joining together has been designated as the hypostatic union.
The term hypostatic is derived from the Greek word hypostasis meaning "personal." Thus, the hypostatic union is the "personal union" or joining of the two natures of Yeshua, (divine and human). Theologian Louis Berkhof helps shed some further light on the terms "nature" and "person" as they relate to the doctrine of the hypostatic union. He aptly comments that the "term nature denotes the sum-total of all the essential qualities of a thing, that which makes it what it is…The term person denotes a complete substance endowed with reason, and, consequently, a responsible subject of its own actions." [Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1996), 321].
Let's talk about what happened in the hypostatic union. Christ did not have two personalities because of His two natures. He was one Person with two natures—divine and human. Because He is a man does not make Him less than God. Nor, does His being God prevent Him from being truly a man. Yeshua the Christ is 100% God and 100% man. This is where we get the theological term "theanthropic." It comes from theos ("God") and Anthropos ("man"). Yeshua the Christ is the God-Man. He is one person with two natures.
The integrity of the attributes of His divine nature were not corrupted or compromised or diminished by the fact that His divine nature was united permanently with a human nature. Nor was the integrity of the attributes of His human nature corrupted or compromised or diminished by the fact that He was God. His two natures, though united, retain their separate identities. There was no mixture of His divine nature with that of His human nature. His divine attributes are always united to His divine nature and His human attributes are always united to His human nature. Deity remains deity and humanity remains humanity.
The infinite cannot become finite and the immutable cannot be changed. No attribute of deity was altered when our Lord became a man through the incarnation and the same holds true when He died on the cross. To take away a single attribute from His divine nature would destroy His deity and to take away a single attribute from His perfect human nature would destroy His humanity. The two natures of Christ are not only united without affecting the attributes of the two natures, but they are also combined in one person.
Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology writes the following:
Previous to the assumption of a human nature, the Logos could not experience a human feeling because he had no human heart, but after this assumption he could; previous to the incarnation, he could not have a finite perception because he had no finite intellect, but after this event he could; previous to the incarnation, the self-consciousness of the Logos was eternal only, that is, without succession, but subsequent to the incarnation it was both eternal and temporal, with and without succession. Prior to the incarnation, the second person of the Trinity could not have human sensations and-experiences; but after it he could.
The unincarnate Logos could think and feel only like God; he had only one form of consciousness. The incarnate Logos can think and feel either like God, or like man. [Dr. Shedd's, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 261-308].
Sometimes 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.
Sometimes 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, I am." John 8:58 ESV
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 was now finished, said (to fulfill the Scripture), "I thirst." John 19:28 ESV
God is not thirsty, but the humanity of Yeshua was thirsty. The "I" here refers to the theanthropic person.
Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away. "But concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. Mark 13:31-32 ESV
God is not ignorant but omniscient; he knows all things. But the humanity of Christ was limited in knowledge. The "Son" 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?
He must be the divine person in order that His redemptive work could have that infinite value. But He also must have a human nature, not simply to become our substitute, but 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.
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 Jesus 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."
Why did God become man? The answer is found in the first chapter of Matthew's Gospel and in the second chapter of Hebrews.
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Yeshua, for he will save his people from their sins." Matthew 1:21 ESV
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, Hebrews 2:14 ESV
He was born to die! The reason that Yeshua was born a baby in Bethlehem was specifically that He might die. The pre-incarnate Christ couldn't die for us because God cannot die. He became a man to die. The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death; we have all sinned and therefore all deserve to perish. Yeshua died for us; He paid our sin debt; He took our penalty. As a sinless substitute, He satisfied the just demands of a holy God.
For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit, 1 Peter 3:18 ESV
"For Christ also suffered once for sins"—it's hard to understand how this innocent child born at Bethlehem would be required to die for the sins of the human race, but that is what Yeshua came to do.
"The righteous for the unrighteous"—one of the greatest mysteries of the gospel is that a holy God would choose to love unholy people. We can't explain it; we can only embrace it. The just God died for unjust man. If it hadn't been for Yeshua, if it hadn't been for the gift of his birth, we would have been served justice rather than mercy. And justice means that we perish (have eternal death).
For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Yeshua our Lord. Romans 6:23 ESV
Our Lord's birth was a fantastic miracle because it was God's becoming man. The purpose for his birth was that he might die for our sins. He did it for us. He did it so he could bring us to Himself.
but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 ESV
He died for US! Yeshua did all the work; all we need do is trust what He did. Luther said, "Nothing more is required of justification than to hear of Jesus Christ and believe on Him as our Savior." Salvation is free. But it wasn't cheap. Our response to this is to believe that it is Christ's death alone that can save us. Our response is to trust in Him.
"For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16 ESV
It is faith in Christ's person and work that brings eternal life.
So, we have looked at Christ's eternality, and then His incarnation. The question often arises concerning what happened to the God-Man at the ascension? There is disagreement on this subject, so I'm going to tell you where I stand and then you be a Berean and study this out for yourself.
I believe the incarnation was permanent. If the hypostatic union was dissolved, there would no longer be Yeshua. Yeshua is the God-Man. If one of these natures were removed, He would no longer be Yeshua.
The Heidelberg Catechism says,
After His ascension, Jesus was localized in heaven and yet with His people no matter where we are (Matt. 28:18–20; Acts 1:6–11)? According to His humanity, Jesus is not on earth, but according to His deity, Jesus is never absent from us. (The Heidelberg Catechism, Q&A 47).
The hypostatic union did not end with the resurrection or ascension. Yeshua continues as "a high priest forever."
where Yeshua has gone as a forerunner on our behalf, having become a high priest forever after the order of Melchizedek. Hebrews 6:20 ESV
Yeshua's High priestly office depends on His "becoming like his brothers in every respect."
Therefore, he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. Hebrews 2:17 ESV
John Stott puts it this way: "The two natures, manhood and Godhood, were united already at His birth, never to be divided."
Shedd in his Dogmatic Theology writes, "Though beginning in time, the theanthropic personality of the Redeemer continues forever. This is taught 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 and 'For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells [now and forever] bodily,' Colossians 2:9 ESV and "We have a great high priest who hath passed into the heavens." Hebrews 4:14-15 [Dr. Shedd's, Dogmatic Theology, vol. 2, pp. 261-308].
To me one of the strongest verses on the permanence of the Incarnation is Hebrews 13:8 (ESV).
Yeshua the Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8 (ESV)
Let's first talk about context. This is not to be understood as some theological assertion that is unrelated to the context to which it is found. This verse is here as an encouragement that he who yesterday was the source and object of the triumphant faith of their leaders is still today the same all-powerful Redeemer and Lord and will continue so forever. And even though successive generations pass away, Yeshua the Christ remains the same—the Savior of the living as well as of the departed, and the Savior of all to the end of time.
Because the writer of Hebrews rarely used the formula "Yeshua the Christ," its use is even more significant here. Who is the writer saying is the same? It is Yeshua the Christ, the Theanthropic person. He is not talking here about the preincarnate Word. He is talking about the God-Man Yeshua. And of Yeshua he says He "is the same yesterday and today and forever."
"Yesterday" can only refer back as far as the Incarnation. As I said earlier, if the hypostatic union were dissolved, there would no longer be Yeshua. But the writer of Hebrews says, "Yeshua is the same forever." So, the hypostatic union is forever. Believers, there is a man in heaven who knows exactly what it is like to be human. He knows our pains and sufferings, and as God, He can get us through them.
In his sermon on Pentecost Peter said,
Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants on his throne, he foresaw and spoke about the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption. Acts 2:30-31 ESV
David wanted to build a temple for Yahweh, but Yahweh wouldn't let him. But He gave David this promise:
When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. 2 Samuel 7:12-13 ESV
God promised David that one of his seed would be set on David's throne and rule and reign forever. The Jews understood that the Messiah was to be descended from David.
Thus far in his argument, Peter has proved that the Messiah must rise from the dead to ascend his throne. Now he proves that Yeshua is this Messiah of whom David had spoken.
This Yeshua God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Acts 2:32 ESV
So, Yeshua, who is the theanthropic person, is the promised descendant of David whose kingdom would be established forever. If the hypostatic union were dissolved, who would reign over this everlasting kingdom?
When I say that the incarnation was permanent, I am not saying that Christ still has a physical body. I believe that He arose in his same physical body.
See my hands and my feet, that it is I myself. Touch me, and see. For a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see that I have." Luke 24:39 ESV
Then at the ascension He received his "spiritual body," His heavenly body. And now in heaven Christ is still a Theanthropic person in that He still has a human nature but without a physical body.
So is it with the resurrection of the dead. What is sown is perishable; what is raised is imperishable. 1 Corinthians 15:42 ESV
What is sown perishable is raised imperishable. These are terms used by Philo and other Jews to describe the gods. They are imperishable. The Stoics use that language to talk about the pneumatic beings, the spirit beings. They're imperishable. Whatever that heavenly body is made of, it is made of stuff that is imperishable, just like those beings who are imperishable. Paul is saying that believers will be like the gods.
When our body dies and we receive our heavenly body, we will still be human. And our great high priest is still the God-Man. Yeshua is a single, undivided personality. The two natures are inseparably united. For all of time, He will be the "God-man," both fully human and fully God, two distinct natures contained in one Being.