The Union of the Divine and Human in Jesus Christ.

Taken from Bibliotheca Sacra (1868)



In the tenth chapter of the Acts, and thirty-eighth verse, it is declared that " God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil: for God was with him." The question which the present Article seeks to answer is, Does the relation of the Holy Spirit to Jesus of Nazareth, as here asserted, furnish any clue to a right under standing of that mysterious life in which were so intimately blended the divine and human?

It is admitted, on all hands, that now, as never before, the battle of the ages centres around the person of our Lord. Infidelity itself has been forced to see that in him there is, somehow, the source of the mysterious and indestructible life of the host marshalled in his name. It therefore directs its attacks against him. As a necessary result, believers in his name are put upon a more careful scrutiny into that wondrous personality whose deep secret we shall never, probably, be able fully to discover. Our question, then, is not one prompted by mere love of speculation, but by a reverent desire to know whether the Holy Scriptures teach us anything beyond the bare facts that Jesus Christ was both divine and human, whether they give us any hint of the conditions of the activity of these two factors of his unique person. It becomes us, indeed, to walk with cautious feet on holy ground; but it must not be forgotten that there is such a thing as a profane neglect of the teachings of the Word of God, as well as a profane scrutiny into the secret things which belong alone to him. It is not Christian faith, but heathen superstition, which conceals the object of its worship by self-invented methods. Christ is not an idol, that we should hide him behind the veil of a willing ignorance. He is set forth for our intelligent worship. He invites examination. In condescending grace he says, "Handle me and see." It is precisely this reverential study of the person of Christ, in order to attest the reality of his humanity amid the blaze of his essential glory, to which John refers in the exordium to his first Epistle. " That," he says, " which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled of the Word of life." If our Lord not only permitted, but desired, this familiarity of investigation while he dwelt among men, he cannot now look with disapprobation upon any effort we may make to apprehend more perfectly his adorable person.

The Scylla and Charybdis of Christology are here; maintaining the Godhood of our Lord we are in danger, by the terms' of our argument, of casting suspicion, at least, upon the reality of his manhood; maintaining his true manhood, we are in peril of furnishing proof against his Godhood. Do the holy scriptures indicate a safe course between these extremes? We venture to think that they do. We think that a clue to it is found in a proper recognition of the fact, liable to be overlooked in our discussions of the person and work of Christ, as if it had no decisive bearing upon a proper comprehension of them, that the entire activity of his earthly life is referable to the Holy Spirit as the efficient cause. By this we mean that he was not independent in his action, but that in the unfolding of his career among men he was inspired, guided, controlled in thought and word and deed by the Spirit of God. The meaning and proof of this proposition will appear as we proceed.

We must first recollect distinctly who he is of whose life the Spirit is the efficient cause. He is the God-man. We believe that he united in his one unique personality the divine and human natures, — that these were bound together in him " by the vinculum of a single consciousness." But it must not be forgotten that the two factors of our Lord's complex person were not in him each in its own proper and entire activity. The humanity, rather, was the apparent, and, as to modes of expression, the controlling factor. He appeared among men as a man, and acted as a man. " God was manifested in the flesh."1 " The Word became flesh."2 By these declarations we are taught, we suppose, not a deceptive, Docetic manifestation of Deity under the veil of the flesh, the body, but a manifestation of Deity in human nature; and that as we are men, not so much by the structure of our bodies as by the constitution of our souls, so Christ was a man, not so much because he was among men in bodily form, as because he acted among them through, as the vehicle of all his action, a true human soul. In order to this, the second person of the adorable Trinity emptied himself, taking upon him the form of a servant.3 He laid aside the glory which he had with the Father before the world was.4 The precise effect and limit of this humiliation we may perhaps never know. But we think that it is not presumption to say that any putting forth of the energies of the divine nature was subjected, as to modes of expression, to humanity. That is, while he was capable of an activity higher than is possible to mere man, all the energies of the Godhead being subject to the demands of his Messianic mission, nevertheless that activity was confined to human forms. He was not God on the throne; but on the earth, and as a man. When he thought, therefore, he thought according to the processes of human reason. What he knew, he knew according to the laws of the human mind. When he spoke, human volition carried forth the thought in human speech upon human lips. We mean to say that when the Deity of Christ acted, his humanity was not dormant, nor was it automatic, but was the vehicle of the action, and determined its form, somewhat as a tinted vase of peculiar contour determines the shape and color of the water within it. In this sense it was the controlling factor of his complex nature. So much, at least, we think, was involved in the humiliation of the Son of God, as the plain declarations of the scriptures, and the general impression of his life, abundantly prove.

Now, if this view be admitted to be correct, it follows that the contents of the consciousness of Christ were determined by the laws which determine the contents of human consciousness. By consciousness we mean the soul's recognition of itself as being or acting. The question, then, is an important one: What determines the contents of human consciousness? Our nature, we answer, is the first determining cause, or condition, of our consciousness. We can never know ourselves as being or thinking or feeling or acting, except within the limits of humanity. The second deter mining cause, or condition, of the contents of our consciousness is the unfolding of life. The infant knows itself as being; but the heights and depths, the possibilities of its nature, its capacities for joy and sorrow, for doing and enduring, for knowing and feeling, are hidden from it. They lie beneath consciousness in the depths of the underlying nature; or, they are not actually, but only potentially, in the consciousness, and will emerge as the career of the individual unfolds. But here we must observe that this new element enters into the problem of Christ's consciousness, and differentiates it from ours, viz. its basis was dual. Hence it was possible that either the divine or human should be developed in his consciousness according to the exigencies of his life. Accordingly the infancy of the Saviour of men was real. He performs no prodigies. He is as helpless as other infants: the contents of his consciousness, according to the laws of the nature which he had assumed could not be the same when he lay in the manger as when he stood by the sepulchre of Lazarus. Although conscious of being at all times, he could not be conscious of what lay hidden in the depths of the natures within him, save as his life unfolded and revealed them. Here is maintained, it will be observed, not the dormancy of Deity, but an activity, nevertheless an activity necessarily conditioned by the assumed humanity.

What then, we must now ask, determined the unfolding of the Saviour's life, and so the contents of his consciousness while he was upon the earth 1 The Spirit of God, we answer, and pass to the proof.

In the tenth chapter of the Acts, and thirty-eighth verse, it is declared that " God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power; who went about doing good, and healing all that were oppressed of the devil; for God was with him." According to Hebrew symbolism, the anointing of a priest or king or prophet was a public declaration that he who was thus anointed had received the spiritual gifts necessary for the discharge of the duties of his office. When Jesus, therefore, is here spoken of as anointed with the Holy Ghost it is a declaration of the fact that, as uniting in his person the divine and human natures, he was the instrument, in all his life, of the Spirit, that he was not independent and self-directed, but that, in the entire unfolding of his earthly career, he was inspired, directed, controlled, in thought and feeling and word and action, by the Spirit of God. The evidence of this, furnished by the scriptures we have already quoted, is further abundantly supported and confirmed. Turning to prophecy, we find that he is known there as the Messiah, the Anointed One. Isaiah, foretelling his advent, declares that " the Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord" (Isa. xi. 2). During his manifestation among men, the name which he bears is a distinct and emphatic recognition of the point we urge. He is Jesus, the Christ; the Anointed One by way of eminence, for the Spirit was given to him with out measure; as John expressly says in the thirty-fourth verse of the third chapter of his Gospel, where he ascribes Christ's speaking the words of God, not, let it be observed, to his essential Deity, but to the unmeasured reception by him of the Spirit. This great fact was forcibly and eloquently symbolized when, at his baptism, his public consecration to, and entrance upon, his work, the Spirit descended from heaven like a dove and abode upon him, ἔμεινεν ἐπ̓ αὐτόν, signifying a permanent influence. His going into the wilderness immediately after, for his first great conflict with the adversary is, by Luke, ascribed to the Spirit. In the first verse of the fourth chapter of his Gospel, he says, " And Jesus, being full of the Holy Ghost, returned from Jordan, and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness." Following him to Nazareth we hear from his own lips, as he addresses his townsmen in the synagogue, " the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he hath anointed me to preach," etc., etc. (Luke iv. 18, 19). And, as if to mark with special positiveness the dependent relation in which he wrought while on earth, the last great closing act of his career, the giving of the commission for evangelizing the nations, is traced to the Spirit. In the first and second verses of the first chapter of the Acts, it is writ ten:" The former treatise have I made, 0 Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was taken up, after that he, through the Holy Ghost, had given commandment unto the apostles whom ho had chosen."

At this point it seems to us conclusive to observe that this dependence of Jesus upon the Holy Spirit was necessary to the fulfilment of that part of his mission which consisted in exhibiting to the world a perfect model of man in his true relations to God. For man restored, as the ideal appears in the Epistles of Paul, is a temple of the Holy Ghost. He is led by the Spirit, as a father leads his child. He walks in the Spirit, as the element of his life. Ho lives in the Spirit. The law of God, or, the will of God, is written on his heart. God, who, as sovereign Creator, has a plan for his creatures which includes, even to the minutest particular, all their activity, finds his plan perfectly fulfilled by him who is perfectly obedient to the guiding Spirit. His moral nature having been brought into absolute harmony with the will of God, his intellectual nature acts in concert with it. He perceives, by an unerring judgment, the purpose of God as indicated in his word, and by his providences, and obeys with spontaneous obedience. He does always those things which please God. Jesus Christ alone realized this ideal. In John iv. 34, he says:" My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." In John vi. 38:"I came down from heaven, not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me." How minute in its details was the divine plan of life for him; how accurately adjusted were fitting acts to fitting times; how clearly he perceived this plan, and how entirely he submitted to it, we are taught as we hear him saying again and again, " My time is not yet come." He thus showed us the ideal plan of God for each of us; what we will become when salvation shall be completed in us. Man's fall consisted essentially, perhaps, in his loss of fel lowship with God, through the departure of the Spirit con sequent upon transgression. His restoration begins in the return of the Spirit. His salvation will be completed when his will shall be completely absorbed in the will of God. His freedom will be established, when he shall have no will other than the will of God. In this freedom Christ lived. Acting in it, wholly subject to the indwelling Spirit, he was perfect man.

But what shall we say of his subjection, as divine, to the Holy Spirit?

We may answer: First, that as divine he was essentially one with the Spirit. The Father, Son, and Spirit, the three equal persons of the adorable Trinity, were acting in perfect harmony in all the work of Christ. He came into the world to fulfil a purpose in the forming of which he himself had borne an equal part. The Spirit, therefore, wrought as an executor of that purpose, and not as superior or dictator. He wrought in Jesus Christ the will of the pre-existent Logos. The whole of our Lord's earthly life, even in its minutest particular, was a stream whose fountain was in the eternal plan of the Godhead. His subjection to the Spirit was not, then, in the deepest sense, subordination.

But we must also say, secondly, that in the outward form of it, it was real. Perhaps the following is an approximately correct statement of the truth. Of Christ's own will as God, he so entered into relation to our humanity that the consciousness of the unique person, Jesus Christ, of his divine relation, and the putting forth by him of the energies of divinity, were subject to the influence of the Holy Spirit upon his human faculties. An instrument of music sends forth sounds at the will of the master, according to its capacity. In such a sense do we conceive of Christ as the instrument of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit could evoke in him whatever the two natures united in his person rendered possible, while there was by him no independent putting forth of any power. H, to any one, this may seem to involve an incredible change in the Eternal Word, we may answer, no more than any view of the incarnation.' We cannot give the how of many a fact which we are compelled to admit. The co-existence of the finite and the infinite is a mystery which is inexplicable by us; for, given the infinite, there is no room for the finite. The infinite excludes the finite; pushes it back till there is no place for it. The infinite, stretching away everywhere infinitely, fills all and embraces all. And yet we know that the finite and infinite do co-exist, although we cannot comprehend the philosophy of their co-existence. We accept the fact, because it is patent. In like manner we accept the fact of the incarnation, because the evidence compels us to do so, although it presents insolvable problems to our reason. The mystery which shrouds the fact cannot totally hide it. Human language is incapable of declaring his Deity, if it is not set forth by John in the familiar prologue to his Gospel: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only-begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth." Here is asserted both the existence of the Word before all created things, while he himself is excluded from that category, and the residence in him of life, as its source; for " all things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made, and in him was life." Here is asserted, moreover, the identity of his essential nature with the nature of God:" he was God." Here, also, is asserted the distinction of his person in the Trinity:" He was with God." He, then, who was the Creator of all things, and the source of life, who was God, became flesh. He assumed our nature. " Ye know," says Paul, in the eighth chapter of his Second Epistle to the Corinthians and ninth verse," the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich." He was rich. The reference is plainly to the glory of Deity which he had with the Father before he came into the world, and of which, in some sense, he divested himself when he assumed humanity. Here the passage from his intercessory prayer, already quoted, is directly in point (John xvii. 5). Christ in the flesh was God, but not God on the throne. He was not invested with the glory which he had before the world was. If this self-limitation of Deity seems incredible, we have only to point to the express affirmation of it, in the passages we have quoted. The life he lived, in the totality of its aspect, confirms their testimony. He became poor. The reference seems plainly to that poverty of dependence in which he passed his earthly life. He is self-subjected in the putting forth of divine energy — in the manifestation of himself as God — to human modes. The true, the ideal, man acts never independently, but in obedience to the divine will; so Christ lived. The true man prays; Christ prayed; and his prayer was not the communion of an equal with an equal, but the petition of a suppliant. Is there a demand upon his omnipotence? He may not independently exercise it, but must say:" Thinkest thou that I cannot now pray to my Father, and he shall presently give me more than twelve legions of angels?" (Matt. xxvi. 53).

Would he raise Lazarus from the dead? He, lifting up his eyes to heaven, exclaims:" Father, I thank thee that thou hast heard me " (John xi. 41).

Is there a demand for omniscience? Is the question pressed when the Son of Man shall appear in his final coming? The Spirit does not raise the human veil, so to speak, and he declares in absolute truthfulness:" Of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father " (Mark xiii. 32).

Being hungry, and seeing a fig tree in the distance, would he know whether it is actually bearing fruit, he must approach it to find out. Repeatedly do we see the Omnipotent One limited in power; the Omniscient One limited in knowledge; the Omnipresent One confined to the space in which he moved. The Spirit, in these instances, wrought through him as human.

Lest we should infer, however, that we are looking upon a mere man, the Spirit evoking the Deity in him, he heals the sick, he opens the eyes of those born blind, he unstops the ears of the deaf, he cleanses the lepers, he raises the dead, he walks upon the sea, he receives the worship of his disciples, he forgives sins. If the question be raised whether he himself was conscious of the Deity thus evoked within him, it would seem sufficient to reply that there is an evident sense of power resident in him when he taught as one having authority, and when he wrought his miracles. The contrast between himself and his disciples when they performed similar works is very striking. They teach in his name. They heal the sick in his name. They are plainly conscious that their power is derived from him. Said Peter to the lame man who lay at the beautiful gate of the temple, " In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, rise up and walk." And to those who subsequently would learn the source of the power to work this miracle, he said:" Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him, doth this man stand before you whole." (Compare Mark ix. 38, 39.) The apostle's language forbids us to put the Saviour in the class of mere men, whose miracles are wrought wholly by derived power. His own words reveal a consciousness of essential might:" Peace, be still! " — thus as the conscious Lord of nature", he speaks to the storm-tossed waters of the sea of Galilee. " Hold thy peace, and come out of him!" is the peremptory command of the Lord of the spiritual realm to the unclean spirit in the synagogue of Capernaum. And so strong was the impression of his personal inherent ability upon those who witnessed the last miracle, that they exclaimed:" What a word is this! for with authority and power he commandeth the unclean spirits, and they come out."

But the question raised is set at rest by the undeniable facts, (1) that he claimed Godhood, (2) that he received worship, and (3) that he forgave sins.

He claimed Godhood. It is unnecessary to multiply proofs of this. One explicit declaration is sufficient. When, in the thirtieth verse of the tenth of John, he says, " I and my Father are one," it must be admitted that he asserts his Deity. Will it be urged that he did not comprehend the force of his own words? Does he speak as an automaton? If any one is disposed to make this entirely gratuitous sup position, it is at once set aside as invalid by the context. For what reason did the Saviour assert here his essential equality with the Father? He is asserting the absolute safety of his disciples on the ground of his care of them:" I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of my hand." An objector might have said, God is the world's lawgiver and judge; of what value is your assurance of security to those who trust you? As if anticipating this objection, our Lord adds:" My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all "; he is, 1 not only acknowledge, but claim, " greater than all"; he is supreme; " and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand." And here again, as if anticipating the further objection, what authority have you for speaking in behalf of God? he adds the decisive words:" I and my Father are one," — one in nature, one in purpose, one in working; what I promise we will perform. The purpose, we repeat, for which this lofty claim was put forth renders it certain that he comprehended its' significance. He consciously claimed Godhood.

He received worship. When he had rescued Peter, sinking in the waters of Genessaret, those who were with him in the ship, astonished at the exhibition of divine power, fell at his feet and worshipped him, exclaiming, " Of a truth thou art the Son of God." They gave to him, and he accepted the homage due to God alone. By the acceptance of it, in the circumstances, he virtually claims equality with God. The significance of his action very strikingly appears when it is contrasted with that of Paul and Barnabas at Lystra. When the men of that city would have offered sacrifice to them as gods, on account of a miracle of healing which they had wrought upon one who had been a cripple from his birth, they ran, remonstrating, into the midst of the excited crowd, saying, "Sirs, why do ye these things? we, also, are men of like passions with you."

We notice, also, similar counsel on the part of the angel before whom John fell to worship:" See thou do it not, I am thy fellow-servant, and of thy brethren that have the testimony of Jesus: worship God." Christ received the worship which the apostles and the angel expressly forbade. Had he not been conscious of his Deity he would assuredly have been guilty of blasphemy. Conscious, we say. If he who claims a throne be ignorant of his royal blood, he is in spirit a pretender, even though his title, unknown to himself, be good. Consciousness of Godhood is essential to the vindication of the Saviour from the charge of blasphemy.

He forgave sins. To the sick of the palsy in Capernaum he said, " Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." Nor when he knew that for this, also, he was charged with blasphemy, did he withdraw, or modify the word of pardon, but wrought a miracle of healing upon the paralytic as an evidence that as the Son of Man he had power on earth to forgive sins. Now, the forgiveness of sins, not less than the reception of worship, is a prerogative incommunicable of Deity. Had our Lord, then, been unconscious of his Godhood, he would have been guilty of blasphemy in his assumption of power to do the former, not less than in his tacit assertion of his right to receive the latter.

It seems to us, then, clear that as Christ was led by the Spirit through his appointed work, his Godhood, always potentially present in his consciousness, flashed more or less vividly upon it, and was revealed in his acts according to the exigencies of his mission; while, at other times, the Deity seems to fall under the veil of his humanity, and his active consciousness was purely human. The one or the other factor of his person was developed into action according to the necessities of the position in which, at any time, he was placed. Always human, always divine, he acted in the one character or the other (the divine being manifested, however, in human modes) according to the leading of the Spirit. The possibilities of both lay always within him waiting to come forth as they were required. A friend suggests an illustration in the concealed treasures of memory. Whole continents of knowledge, he says, lie hidden till, upon some demand of our position, they emerge from the depths in which they were buried, and become subject to our use. There is an analogy, also, in the latency in us of powers of achievement, of which we are unconscious until, in some emergency of life, they spring into helpful activity. They are as really ours, however, before as after their manifestation. They were in our nature, though we knew it not. But our Lord himself suggests the most perfect analogy when, in his intercession for his people, recorded in the seventeenth of John he prays thus:" That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me and I in thee, that they, also, may be one in us: that they may be one, even as we are one, I in them and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." From this language it appears that while the two cases are not exactly parallel — Christians are not divine — nevertheless the union of Divinity with humanity in Christ was a model and pledge of the union of Christ by his Spirit with his people. The Spirit of Christ, then, is actually dwelling in every believer. And yet the full power of the Spirit is not known to him in whom he dwells. The child of God, just born of the Spirit, knows far less of his divine energy, and exhibits far less of his fruits in his life, than does the mature man of God. The Christian, hence, prays for the Holy Spirit, not that he may come to him — he is already within him in all his fulness — he prays, rather, that his presence may be more fully realized, and that the fruits of his presence may more manifestly appear in his character. Moreover, it is the experience of Christians, that in the emergencies of life — in sickness, in sudden demands of duty, in imminent peril — the presence of the Spirit comes into the consciousness with a vividness entirely unknown in the ordinary course of life; the soul acts consciously in a higher spiritual plane; while at other times the Divine Spirit sinks out of the consciousness, and we seem left alone. Inasmuch, then, as the indwelling of the Spirit in us is similar to the union of divinity and humanity in Christ, our experience may afford us a clue to the correct apprehension of his. The analogies suggested, at least vindicate the theory which we defend from the suspicion of unnaturalness, while the theory itself appears to afford us a solution of the mystery of the apparent contradictions which appear in the unfolding of our Lord's earthly life. We have an explanation of the fact that although divine, he increased in wisdom; although divine he, at one time, could not see whether a distant fig-tree bore fruit or not, but must approach it to discover; while, at another, he could say to Nathaniel, " Before that Philip called thee, when thou wast under the fig-tree, I saw thee." Now distance is nothing to him, and anon it veils his eyes like the eyes of other men. Our theory explains the fact that, though divine, he could assert his ignorance of the day of his second appearing; that, though divine, he could cry in the anguish of his apparent desertion by the Father on the cross:" My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me "; and very soon thereafter, in full consciousness of his triumph, exclaimed, "It is finished." We feel secure in the possession of a Divine Saviour, while we have, also, a brother who was tempted, actually, in all points like as we are, yet without sin, that he might succor us who are tempted. There is reality in all his experience. He was really God. He was really man. We cling to him for human sympathy. We cling to him in unshaken trust in his Almighty power to save.


1)1 Tim. iii. 16.

2) John i. 14.

3) Phil. ii. 7.

4) John xvii. 5.