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§ 4. Consequences of the Hypostatical Union.
Communion of Attributes.
The first and most obvious of these consequences is, the κοινωνία ἰδιωμάτων, or communion of attributes. By this is not meant that the one nature participates in the attributes of the other, but simply that the person is the κοινωνός, or partaker of the attributes of both natures; so that whatever may be affirmed of either nature may be affirmed of the person. As of a man can be affirmed whatever is true of his body and whatever is true of his soul, so of Christ may be affirmed whatever is true of his human nature and whatever is true of his divinity; as we can say of a man that he is mortal and immortal; that he is a creature of the dust and the child of God: so we may say of Christ that He is finite and infinite; that He is ignorant and omniscient; that He is less than God and equal with God; that He existed from eternity and that He was born in time; that He created all things and that He was a man of sorrows. It is on this principle, that what is true of either nature is true of the person, that a multitude of passages of Scripture are to be explained. These passages are of different kinds.
1. Those in which the predicate belongs to the whole person. This is the most numerous class. Thus when Christ is called our Redeemer, our Lord, our King, Prophet, or Priest, our Shepherd, etc., all these things are true of Him not as the Logos, or Son, nor as the man Christ Jesus, but as the Θεάνθρωπος, the God-man. And in like manner, when He is said to have been humbled, to have given Himself for us, to be the head of the Church, to be our life, and to be our wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption, this is true of Christ as a person. The same may be said with regard to those passages in which He is said to be exalted above all principalities and powers; to sit at the right hand of God; and to come to judge the world.
2. There are many passages in which the person is the subject, but the predicate is true only of the divine nature, or of the Logos. As when our Lord said, “Before Abraham was I am;” “The glory which I had with thee before the foundation of the world; or when it is said, “Thou, Lord, in the beginning hast laid the foundation of the world, and the heavens are the work of thine hands.”
3. Passages in which the person is the subject, but the predicate is true only of the human nature. As when Christ said, “I thirst;” “My soul is sorrowful even unto death.” And when we read that “Jesus wept.” So all those passages which speak of our Lord as walking, eating, and sleeping; and as being seen, touched, and handled. There are two classes of passages under this general head which are of special interest. First, those in which the person is designated from the divine nature when the predicate is true only of the human nature. “The Church of God which He purchased with his blood.” “The Lord of glory was crucified.” The Son knows not the time when the final judgment is to come. (Mark xiii. 32.) The forms of expression, therefore, long prevalent in the Church, “the blood of God,” “God the mighty maker died,” etc., are in accordance with Scriptural usage. And if it be right to say “God died,” it is right to say “He was born.” The person born of the Virgin Mary was a divine person. He was the Son of God. It is, therefore, correct to say that Mary was the mother of God. For, as we have seen, the person of Christ is in Scripture often designated from the divine nature, when the predicate is true only of the human nature. On this particular form of expression, which, from its abuse, is generally offensive to Protestant ears, Turrettin remarks: “Maria potest dici vere θεοτόκος seu Mater Dei, Deipara, si vox Dei sumatur concrete pro toto personali Christi, quod constat ex persona Λόγου et natura humana, quo sensu vocatur Mater Domini Luc. i. 43, sed non precise et abstracte ratione Deitatis.”311311Locus XVIII. quæst. v. 18, edit. Edinburgh, 1847, vol. ii. pp. 273, 274. The second class of passages under this head are of the opposite kind, namely, those in which the person is denominated from the human nature when the predicate is true only of the divine nature. Thus Christ is called the Son of man who is in heaven. Here the denomination “Son of man” is from the human, while the predicate (ubiquity) is true only of the divine nature. So our Lord says, “What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where He was before?” (John vi. 62.) In Romans ix. 5, He who was of the fathers (the seed of Abraham and son of David) is declared to be God over all and blessed forever.
4. There is a fourth class of passages which come under the first general head mentioned above, but have the peculiarity that the denomination is derived from the divine nature, when the predicate is not true of the divine nature itself, but only of the Θεάνθρωπος. Thus it is said, “The Son also himself shall be subject to him who put all things under him.” Here the designation Son is from the divine nature, but the subjection predicated is not of the Son as such, or of the Logos, nor is it simply of the human nature, but officially of the God-man. So our Lord says, “The Father is greater than I.” The Father is not greater than the Son, for they are the same in substance and equal in power and glory. It is as God-man that He is economically subject to the Father. Perhaps the passage in John v. 26 may belong to this class. “As the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” This may be understood of the eternal communication of life from the first to the second person of the Trinity (i.e., of eternal generation); or it may refer to the constitution of Christ’s person. And then the term Son would designate, not the Logos, but the Theanthropos, and the communication of life would not be from the Father to the Son, but from God to the Theanthropos. It pleased the Father that Christ should have a divine nature possessed of inherent life in order that He might be the source of life to his people.
It is instructive to notice here how easily and naturally the sacred writers predicate of our Lord the attributes of humanity and those of divinity, however his person may be denominated. They call Him Lord, or Son, and attribute to Him, often in the same sentence, what is true of Him only as God, what is true only of his humanity, and what is true of Him only as the God-man. Thus in the beginning of the Epistle to the Hebrews it is said, God hath spoken unto us by his Son. Here Son means the incarnate Logos. In the next clause, “By whom he made the world,” what is said is true only of the eternal Son. So also what immediately follows, Who is “the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person, and upholding all things (the universe) by the word of his power.” But in the next clause, “When he had by himself (i.e., by his sacrificial death) purged away our sins,” the reference is to his human nature, as the body only died. And then it is added, He “sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high,” which is true of the God-man.
The Acts of Christ.
The second consequence of the hypostatical union relates to the acts of Christ. As a man is one person, and because he is one person all his acts are the acts of that person, so all the acts of Christ are the acts of his whole person. But, as was before remarked, the acts of a man are of three classes: such as are purely mental, as thought; such as belong exclusively to the body, as digestion and assimilation; and such as are mixed, i.e., both mental and corporeal, as all voluntary acts, as speaking, writing, etc. Yet all are equally the acts of the man. It is the man who thinks who digests his food, and who speaks. So of the acts of Christ. Some are purely divine, as creation and preservation; some are purely human, as eating, drinking, and sleeping; some are theanthropic, i.e., those in which both natures concur, as in the work of redemption. Yet all these acts are the acts of Christ, of one and the same person. It was Christ who created the world. It was Christ who ate and drank. And it is Christ who redeems us from the power of darkness.
Here also, as in the case of the attributes of Christ, his person may be denominated from one nature when the act ascribed to Him belongs to the other nature. He is called God, the Son of God, the Lord of glory, when his delivering Himself unto death is spoken of. And He is called man, or the Son of man, when the acts ascribed to Him involve the exercise of divine power or authority. It is the Son of man who forgives sins; who is Lord of the Sabbath; who raises the dead; and who is to send forth his angels to gather his elect.
Such being the Scriptural doctrine concerning the person of Christ, it follows that although the divine nature is immutable and impassible, and therefore neither the obedience nor the suffering of Christ was the obedience or suffering of the divine nature, yet they were none the less the obedience and suffering of a divine person. The soul of man cannot be wounded or burnt, but when the body is injured it is the man who suffers. In like manner the obedience of Christ was the righteousness of God, and the blood of Christ was the blood of God. It is to this fact that the infinite merit and efficiency of his work are due. This is distinctly asserted in the Scriptures. It is impossible, says the Apostle, that the blood of bulls and of goats could take away sin. It was because Christ was possessed of an eternal Spirit that He by the one offering of Himself hath perfected forever them who are sanctified. This is the main idea insisted upon in the Epistle to the Hebrews. This is the reason given why the sacrifice of Christ need never be repeated, and why it is infinitely more efficacious than those of the old dispensation. This truth has been graven on the hearts of believers in all ages. Every such believer says from his heart, “Jesus, my God, thy blood alone has power sufficient to atone.”
The Man Christ Jesus the object of Worship.
Another obvious inference from this doctrine is that the man Christ Jesus is the object of religious worship. To worship, in the religious sense of the word, is to ascribe divine perfections to its object. The possession of those perfections, is, therefore, the only proper ground for such worship. The humanity of Christ, consequently, is not the ground of worship, but it enters into the constitution of that person who, being God over all and blessed forever, is the object of adoration to saints and angels. We accordingly find that it was He whom they saw, felt, and handled, that the Apostles worshipped as their Lord and God; whom they loved supremely, and to whom they consecrated themselves as a living sacrifice.
Christ can sympathize with his People.
A third inference which the Apostles drew from this doctrine is. that Christ is a merciful and faithful high-priest. He is just the Saviour we need. God as God, the eternal Logos, could neither be nor do what our necessities demand. Much less could any mere man, however wise, holy, or benevolent, meet the wants of our souls. It is only a Saviour who is both God and man in two distinct natures and one person forever, who is all we need and all we can desire. As God He is ever present, almighty and infinite in all his resources to save and bless; and as man, or being also a man, He can be touched with a sense of our infirmities, was tempted as we are, was subject to the law which we violated, and endured the penalty which we had incurred. In Him dwells all the fulness of the Godhead, in a bodily form, in fashion as a man, so as to be accessible to us, and so that from his fulness we can all partake. We are therefore complete in Him, wanting nothing.
The Incarnate Logos the Source of Life.
The Scriptures teach that the Logos is everlasting life, having life in Himself, and the source of life, physical, intellectual, and spiritual. They further teach that his incarnation was the necessary condition of the communication of spiritual life to the children of men. He, therefore, is the only Saviour, the only source of life to us. We become partakers of this life, by union with Him. This union is partly federal established in the councils of eternity partly vital by the indwelling of the Holy Spirit; and partly voluntary and conscious by faith. It is to those who believe, to those who receive Him as God manifest in the flesh, that He becomes eternal life. For it is not they who live, but Christ who liveth in them. (Gal. ii. 20.) The life of the believer is not a corporate life, conditioned on union with any outward organization, called the Church, for whosoever calls on the name of the Lord, that is, whosoever religiously worships Him and looks to Him as his God and Saviour, shall be saved, whether in a dungeon or alone in a desert.
The Exaltation of the Human Nature of Christ.
Another consequence of the hypostatical union is the exaltation of the humanity of Christ. As the human body in virtue of its vital union with an immortal soul, is immeasurably exalted above any mere material organization in the universe (so far as known or revealed), so the humanity of Christ in virtue of its union with his divine nature is immeasurably exalted in dignity and worth, and even power over all intelligent creatures. The human body, however, is not now, and will not be, even when made like to Christ’s glorious body, so exalted as to cease to be material. In like manner the humanity of Christ is not so exalted by its union with his divine nature as to cease to be human. This would break the bond of sympathy between Him and us. It has been the pious fault of some Christians that they merge his humanity in his Godhead. This is as real, if not so fatal an error, as merging his Godhead in his humanity. We must hold fast to both. “The Man Christ Jesus,” and “The God over all blessed forever,” is the one undivided inseparable object of the adoration, love, and confidence of the people of God; who can each say, —
“Jesus, my God, I know his name,
His name is all my trust;
Nor will He put my soul to shame,
Nor let my hope be lost.”
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