Our Redeemer: Fully God, fully man.
The early church struggled to know Jesus. Chronologically speaking, they were closer to Jesus than we are and yet they struggled to understand how Jesus can be God and man at the same time and the work that that took place at Chalcedon in 451 was difficult. Today, we have the fruit of all their labors yet so many not only fail to understand who Jesus was and is but also could not be bothered to even find out.
The doctrine that I am referring to is called The Hypostatic Union which describes how Jesus has two natures, divine and human, that are united together in one person: Jesus Christ. He is one hundred percent God and one hundred percent man. This is the concept that Lord’s Day six explores and explains although not in a technical sense; that is to say, words like hypostatic union and communicatio idiomatium1 do not appear in the section, nevertheless, this is the concept we are talking about: Jesus. Truly man and Truly God.
- Q. Why must he be a true and righteous man?
- He must be a true man because the justice of God requires that the same human nature which has sinned should pay for sin. He must be a righteous man because one who himself is a sinner cannot pay for others.
- Q. Why must he at the same time be true God?
- He must be true God so that by the power of his divine nature he might bear in his human nature the burden of God’s wrath, and might obtain for us and restore to us righteousness and life.
- Q. But who is that Mediator who at the same time is true God and a true and righteous man?
- Our Lord Jesus Christ, who has become for us wisdom from God—that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption
- Q. From where do you know this?
- From the holy gospel, which God himself first revealed in Paradise. Later, he had it proclaimed by the patriarchs and prophets, and foreshadowed by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the law. Finally, he had it fulfilled through his only Son.
Who Jesus was and is critical to our salvation—we need someone who is both man and God. Let me quote artist Shai Linne again:
See, only a human can substitute for human lives
But only God can take the wrath of God and survive
See the humanly unsolvable obstacle?
With God all is plausible, nothing’s impossible2
That short verse is the crux of the issue. We need a true substitute to stand in our place but we also need a substitute who can bear up under the wrath we deserve and emerge victorious for us on the other side.
Human beings are the ones who have committed high crimes against God and so a human being must pay for those crimes. This man must also be a righteous man, that is, a sinless man since he must pay for the sins of others. A man who already has sins on his own account cannot hope to pay for the sins of anyone else.
This substitute must also be truly God. He must be God in order to bear the punishment that man deserves. He must also be divine in order to provide the righteousness that God’s law requires. Our substitute does not only take the punishment that we deserve but he also lives in our place a blameless and God pleasing life. As, Question/Answer 60 puts it, “just as if I had never sinned nor been a sinner” —Jesus takes away sin and gives a perfect record in its place.
This is who our mediator is, Christian. Two natures united in one glorious person, God himself clothed in human flesh—Jesus Christ. What does this mean for you and me? It means that Jesus knows our struggles. He perfectly represents each one of His people and pays for each and every sin. This is our glorious savior: our only comfort in life and in death.
1 The communication iduimatum is the teaching that the attributes of the divine and human natures are ascribed to one person.
2 Shai Linne—The Hypostatic Union—Lyrical Theology Pt. 1
Photo via Flickr