This time around, we’ll take a look at two of the essential teachings of the Christian faith, which are:
1. The infallibility of the Bible in the original manuscripts
2. God’s sovereign rule over all creation
3. Human depravity
4. The necessity of God’s grace
5. The virgin birth
6. Christ’s sinlessness
7. The full humanity and deity of Christ
8. The atoning death, burial, and resurrection of Christ
9. The triunity of God
10. The necessity of faith
11. Christ’s second coming, final judgement and reign.
The first of these two, the sinlessness of Christ, is necessary for the two doctrines following on the list to be true. If Jesus is not sinless, then he cannot be Deity (more on that later), and His death, burial, and resurrection would have no effect on whether we are saved from God’s wrath or not.
To deny the sinlessness of Christ is to deny Essential #1, and therefore to reject the truth claims of the Bible. Make no mistake, the Bible is quite clear that Jesus the Christ was (and is) sinless: 2 Corinthians 5:14-12, Hebrews 4:14-5:10, 1 Peter 2:21-24 are a few examples.
To conclude the topic of Christ’s sinlessness, note that throughout the Gospels, the only sin of which Jesus was accused was that of blasphemy; specifically of claiming to be God.
This brings us to Essential #7, for if Jesus WAS God, claiming to be so is NOT a sin.
The doctrine that Jesus the Christ was (while walking the earth) both fully God and fully human at the same time is another of the essentials that is widely misunderstood by non-Christians and many Christians alike. Often, people try to argue that Jesus was fully human while incarnate, but somehow ceased to be Deity until after the resurrection. Others assert that because Jesus was God, He only appeared to be human – he ‘took on the likeness’ of humanity, so to speak.
Both views contradict the teachings of both Scripture and early orthodox doctrine.
For the sake of brevity, I will keep Scripture references to a minimum, but there are many Biblical passages that clearly affirm both Christ’s humanity and His Deity. Here are a very few: John 1:1 – 4, John 1:14, 2 Peter 1:1, Romans 1:3, 1 Corinthians 15:21
So how can we reconcile this seeming contradiction? As I said before, many have wrongfully concluded that Jesus must be either one or the other, or maybe one or the other depending on what He is doing at the time – but this is NOT what the Bible says.
I’ve listed some good resources below that give sometimes very technical and detailed examinations of this issue, and a term that you will see often is hypostatic union. don’t be put off by the jargony sound of it; it is theological shorthand for how we can understand how Christ can be both human AND God.
It means that Jesus had, completely united, both divine and human natures. Not 50% God and 50% man, but 100% both.
While I do not believe that our limited human intellect can fully understand the concept, I believe the following analogy is quite helpful in understanding how something (or someone) can have completely distinct essences but be a single entity:
I have a greyhound. This dog is (albeit presently retired) a racer. he was born, trained, and very successful as a racer. He is also a pet, and is a very good pet. Everyone who has met him recognizes that he is a pet – yet turn him loose in a yard with another dog, and he will outrun that dog every time BECAUSE HE IS A RACER.
Is he any less a racer because he is a pet, or any less a pet because he is a racer? No. He is both, and does not cease to be either at any time; when he is racing he is still a pet. When he is being the ‘ultimate couch potato’, he is still a racer.
In a similar sense, Jesus is always both God and Man – He did not cease to be God when doing ‘human things’, and since the incarnation, He does not cease to be human while doing ‘God things.’
Below are a few useful resources; if they don’t answer any questions you might still have drop me an email at Curly@wofblogs.org.
CARM.org has a brief article on the dual nature of Christ, with a nice chart and many Scripture references.
This article is well written, and goes into more detail.
Wikipedia has a fairly technical (and surprisingly accurate and balanced) article on the Hypostatic Union, and the Encyclopedia Brittanica has short summaries with links to full articles that deal with the dual nature of Christ.