By Vijay Chandra
After noting how the orthodox statement of Chalcedon beautifully and succinctly defends the doctrine of two natures in one person, we need to examine and analyze some of the Chalcedonian propositions more closely. This examination will involve review.
A. We noted that Christ is truly God and truly man.
Everything that can be predicated of God is true of Christ. He is truly God and truly man. He is consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead. When the creed speaks of the Mediator having God’s nature (Greek, ousia’ Latin, substentia, or natura), it means identity of essence and implies numerical unity. God is three persons (Muslims reject this) who are one in being. God the Son (who was and is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit) became man. The second person of the Trinity assumed a human nature. When Chalcedon speaks of Christ assuming human nature consubstantial according to manhood, it refers to [generic] unity with man. Jesus has all the attributes of humanity: a real flesh and blood body, a rational soul that grows in knowledge, which is finite (i.e., He doesn’t know all things), that experiences the full range of human emotions.
B. In Christ, two distinct natures or substance are united in such a manner that the distinct properties of both natures are preserved.
The attributes of God are not somehow passed to man and the human properties are not transmitted to God. There is no mixing, intermingling or confounding of the two natures to form a new third substance. Not only is intermingling or mixing of the two natures impossible (the finite cannot be made infinite), even if possible it would destroy the incarnation. Such a mixed being would be neither God or man. Hodge writes “In teaching, therefore, that Christ was truly man and truly God, the Scriptures teach that He had a finite intelligence, and will, and also an infinite intelligence. In Him, therefore, as the church has ever maintained, there were and are two wills, two energeia or operations. His human intellect increased, his divine intelligence was, and is infinite, His human will had only human power, his divine will was, and is almighty” (Charles Hodge, Systematic Theology, 2:390).
C. The Bible and the Chalcedon creed insist that the mediator is one person, not two.
When the second person of the Trinity was incarnated He was hypostatically united to a genuine human nature. The mediator did not unite Himself to a human person with a separate personality but with a human nature and thus the personality of Christ and the personality of the Logos are one and the same.
The unipersonality of the Mediator is by far most difficult aspect of the incarnation to understand. The doctrine of two natures in one person is to a certain degree beyond human comprehension. Thus, the best way to explain it is to first present the Scriptural evidence for the unipersonality of Christ and then define it theologically as best as we can. Note the following argument from the Scriptures.
If our Lord was two distinct persons and not one there ought to be some Scripture evidence to prove it. However, there is none. On the contrary, Jesus always speaks, prays and acts as one person. With the doctrine of the Trinity there are three persons and one God.
Thus, there are abundant examples of the Father speaking to the Son (Mk 1:11; Luke 3:22), of the Son speaking to the Father (Mt 11:25, 26; 26:39, Jn 11:41, 12:27-28) and the Holy Spirit praying to God (Rom 8:26). Yet, we never encounter the human person Jesus praying, speaking or worshipping, or communing with the Son. There is no I—You consciousness or relationship within the Mediator.
The Mediator is always represented as one person. He is called or addressed as prophet (Acts 3:22), priest (Heb 5:5-6), King (Ps 2:6), the good shepherd (Jn 10:11), the Christ (Matthew 16:16), the lamb of God (Jn 1:29), the Mediator (1 Tim 2:5, Heb 8:6), Lord of lords (Rev 19:18), God (Jn 20:28, Rom 9:5), man (Jn 8:40), redeemer (Prov 23:11; Jer 50:34; Ga 3:13), savior (Eph 5:23); Son of God (Ps 73:15, Mt 24:36, Mk 13:32), and Son of Man (Mt 16:27). These titles and functions are predicated of the God-man and apply to the whole person. Does this mean that the divine and human natures are mixed or confused in any way? No, not all! It simply means that the one person Jesus Christ partakes of the attributes of both natures “so that whatever may be affirmed of either nature may be affirmed of the Person.” Theologians refer to this doctrine as the communion of the attributes.
This union in one person explains why the human nature of Jesus receives special treatment by the holy angels and men. The God-man Jesus Christ is the object of worship (Matt 2:1, 2; 14:33, 28:9, Rev 15:3, 4), prayer (Rev 5:8, Mt 8:2, 15:25) and adoration (Rev 5:8-12). Although the ground of worship and prayer toward the messiah lies in His deity, nevertheless the union in one person of two natures makes the religious worship of the divine-human person lawful, appropriate and commendable. The adoration of Jesus’ body would not be lawful if He were two persons.
Christ the person will make “I” statements that can only be applied to His divine nature (e.g., “Before Abraham was ‘I am’” (Jn 8:58, 10:30). At other times He will make statements that can only be applied to His human nature (e.g., “I thirst” Jn 19:28). Further, there are passages where what can only be said of our Lord’s human nature are applied to the Lord of God (e.g., “crucified the Lord of glory,” 1 Cor 2:8; The Son is said not to know the day or hour of His own coming (Mk 13:32). There are even passages where the person Jesus Christ is addressed according to His human nature and then explicitly spoken of as God “from whom according to the flesh Christ came, who is over all, the eternal blessed God. Amen”(Rom 9:5; Rev 5:12, Jn 6:62). If our Lord were two separate persons the writers of Scripture could not freely and simultaneously ascribe to Christ attribute of humanity and divinity. “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 (John 1:1, Rom 8:3, Gal 4:4, 5, 1 Tim 3:16, Heb 2:11, 12, 13, 14, 1 John 4:2,3).
Only the orthodox Chalcedon doctrine of the two natures in one person does justice to Christ’s works, especially His work of redemption. One encounters Jesus the person controlling the weather (Mk 4:39-41), forgiving people’s sin (Mt.9:2), telling people that they are saved (Lk 23:43), saying that He is the Lord of the Sabbath (Mt. 12:9), creating food (Mt 14:14-21), shining like the sun (Mt 17:1-6) and offering Himself on the cross (Heb 10:12).
The incarnate Son of God is the only source of life for the elect. Only people who believe in Him as fully God and fully man (who as one person secured a perfect redemption) can obtain eternal life. Only a Mediator who is both God and man in one Person can offer a sacrifice of infinite value and can provide a perfect righteousness for God’s people. It is because of the union of two natures in one person that the infinite merit and efficacy of His work are due. The heretical idea that Christ is both two persons and one person at the same time not only contradicts Scripture but also defies simple logic. Jesus cannot be two persons and one person at the same time. If the mediator were two separate persons then the incarnation would not be a true personal union but would be in effect a mere indwelling of the divine nature in the human person. Such a view is essentially adoptionist in nature.