By Aaron Hills
This remarkable personality of Christ which we have been considering refers not to His nature during the eternal ages before the world was, but to Christ as he appeared among men and was known to His early disciples that unique personality which arises from the union of the divine nature with the human. Only in this union could there be such a person as the historic Christ. Hence the incarnation, of Deity in humanity is the necessary ground of such a. personality. The necessary union of the two natures is possible only by an incarnation. The divine nature is eternal; the human nature originated in time. Hence the union of the two must come about by the Eternal nature incarnating Himself in human nature. In other words, the Divine Son of God must take the nature of man into personal union with Himself.
I. This is exactly the Truth of Scripture. "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 through Him; and without Him was not anything made that hath been made" (John 1: 1, 2). This Word" had eternal pre-existence. To make all things, infinite wisdom and power were necessary. And so it is declared, "the word was God." "And this Word, became flesh and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the Only Begotten from the Father) full of grace and truth" (John 1: 14). Christ was made flesh-"not by transmutation of His nature into a body of flesh, but by the incarnation of Himself in the nature of man." St Paul gives us a great text on this subject, Phil.
2: 6-8, "Christ Jesus, who existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient unto death, yea, the death of the Cross." Here are three facts:
(1) Christ in the form of God. Lightfoot says it means, not the eternal accidents, but the essential attributes of God.
(2) Christ in equality -with God. Equal in estate, in honor and rank and glory as the Son of God, and one with Him in power and dominion over the finite universe.
(3) Christ in the likeness of men. In form, and physical organization, and human conditions. He was like man. In other words the Being "who was of old, even from everlasting," "who inhabiteth eternity," had joined Himself to human nature, and was a true man, as well as the Infinite Son of God.
In Col. 1: 13-18, we have another remarkable passage. It teaches, (1) That Jesus Christ is peculiarly "the Son of God's love; (2) "In Him we have our redemption" through His atoning death, which involves His humanity; (3) He is the image of the invisible God; (4) "He created all things," which involves infinite power; (5) "By him all things consist," that is, he sustains the universe-another divine work. Such a passage involves the union of the human and Divine nature. In 1 Tim. 3: 16, we have "God (or He who) was manifested in the flesh." Whichever be the correct reading, the meaning is the same, that Jesus Christ, the pre-existent Son of God was, at a certain time, manifest in the flesh, by a definite incarnation. Heb. 2: 14, is not less explicit and to the point. "Since then the children are sharers in flesh and blood, He also Himself in like manner partook of the same; that through death He might bring to naught Him that had the power of death that is the Devil." Here again this same wonderful Being is said to have partaken "of flesh and blood." This can mean nothing less than the Son of God uniting Himself to our human nature.
The subject of the incarnation was not a mere nature, but a PERSON, the Second Person of the Trinity, the Divine Son of God. The Father did not have any such part in the incarnation; nor did the Holy Spirit, but the personal Son of God only. "Christ could not be a wholly new personality, because the personality of the Son could not be suspended or neutralized by the incarnation. His true and essential divinity forbids the notion of any such result. The personality of the Son as verified to Himself in the facts of His own consciousness, must forever abide. The immutability of the Son in His essential being and in His personal attributes affirms this truth." Therein lies the ground of the immutability of Christ, "the same yesterday, today and forever." With all His mutations of estate, He is eternally the same. The personality of the Son must forever abide" (Miley, Vol. II, pp. 17, 18).
II. What, then, is the result of the incarnation on the personality of the Son?
1. It must be not a new personality, but a modified personality --modified by the possession of new facts of consciousness. Jesus could pray: "Glorify Thou Me, with thine own self, with the glory that I had with Thee before the world was." This prayer shows that Christ had the consciousness of personal identity that carried Him over to a time before the world was, and yet along with it was a consciousness that He was in a changed state. New facts of consciousness had come to him through the human nature assumed in the incarnation. How could there be an incarnation without such a result? "Not else could there be a union of two natures in a personal oneness; not else the unique personality of the Christ; not else the God-man."
The Apostle Paul said (Gal. 4: 4), "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law." Here again you have the two facts-the divine Son forever with God in a past eternity, and that Son sent forth to be born of a woman, and so be clothed with human nature, and the result was that mighty Savior whom the great Apostle loved and revered-a ONE PERSONAL CHRIST IN THE UNION OF TWO NATURES. "The Incarnation to which we find the New Testament bearing witness is that entrance of God into humanity in the person of Jesus Christ, by virtue of which Jesus Christ was a divine and a human being. This is the conception of Christ that underlies and unifies the statements of the New Testament concerning Him, both in history and in doctrine" (Clarke's Theology, p. 290).
2. If it still be asked in what direction and to what extent was the consciousness of Christ modified by the Incarnation? Perhaps without undue speculation we may at least answer that,
(1) There was added to Christ the new consciousness of all experiences purely human. The experience of weakness, weariness, need of sleep, pain, hunger and thirst, and the like. As the eternal Son of God He could have felt no such experiences.
(2) He could not have laid aside the radiance of His eternal glory, to become a "root out of dry ground," "marred more than the sons of men," having "no form nor comeliness" and "no beauty that men should desire him," without being conscious of a strange humiliation-an experience wholly different from anything He had ever known.
(3) There must have been a new consciousness of LIMITATION -"the consciousness of Deity within human limits; it could be nothing more. It was such divine consciousness as would be possible within humanity. In respect to some things, and we do not know just how much that covers, "he was made like unto His brethren, instead of remaining like unto His Father." There may have been some- self-imposed limitation of knowledge, which would explain that remarkable verse, Matt. 24: 36, "But of that day and hour, knoweth no one, not even the angels of heaven, neither the Son, but the Father only."
3. It may further be asked, how there could be such a relation between the divine and human nature? We may suggest:
(1) God and man have natures essentially alike. Our faculties are like God's-intellect, sensibility and free will. Converse in spirit between God and man is possible. God is ever seeking unity between Himself and man. Man is constantly invited to call God Father, and when he finds his true place it is that of a child in the Father's household.
(2) "This relation between God and man is not such that man by growing can become God. Limits are set to man above, in the very constitution of his nature, and he cannot pass them, he may become a perfect man, but he cannot transcend his nature and become infinite like God. Human nature is essentially finite; limitations are a part of it. But it does not follow that God cannot become man, for,
(3)"Man cannot transcend the limits and become God, but God may conceivably enter them and become man. The infinite does not need to go outside of itself to find the finite; it has free entrance
to the finite, which it embraces. All God's active relations with His creation probably take place through some kind of self-limitation; and no reason appears why He may not so limit Himself as to enter into that humanity which He created in His own likeness. Humanity is created capable of receiving God. Thus the incarnation which is possible from above, if God chooses to descend to it, is possible below, in the humanity which He created with powers like His own. God in man would be the perfect man" (Clarke's Theology, pp. 292-294).
We have seen that such a union of the two natures was possible, and how it might come about by the purpose and action of God. The result of the union is a Christ who is God-man, PERSONALLY ONE, but possessing the nature 0f God and of man. Only with such a result can the incarnation be a reality, satisfactory to the deepest religious consciousness, and sufficient to interpret Scripture and meet the necessities of the atonement.
THIS UNION OF THE TWO NATURES IN THE PERSONAL ONENESS of Christ is the Catholic doctrine. All the great divisions of the universal church have held this faith. It has come down to us from the Council of Chalcedon in an unbroken line. Here the Protestant churches-Lutheran, Reformed, Church of England, Presbyterians, Baptists, Congregationalists, Methodists, are united.
5. Mystery of the Doctrine. Some persons of a peculiar temperament may be inclined to reject this truth as mysterious. We grant that it must be ranked with the eternal Self-existence of God, Omnipotence, Omniscience, Omnipresence, and Trinity-all of them mysteries too deep for us. But that is no valid reason for rejecting a truth. The universe is full of mysteries which are yet true and within the grasp of rational faith. "Personality itself is a profound mystery. How obscure the notion of an unbodied spirit, endowed with personal faculties, and active in modes of personal agency!
We have no perfect analogy for this union of two natures in one personality, in ourselves and no way to illustrate it. "The mystery deepens in the fact that in this personality of Christ, the finite blends with the infinite." Yet mystery is not the limit of truth. The doctrine does not contradict reason, and the heart may find rest where the intellect cannot fully know.
One thought may be helpful to us. It was not a developed person that the Son of God assumed in the incarnation, but only human nature. Hooker well observes: "If the Son of God had taken to Himself a man already made and perfected, it would of necessity follow that there are in Christ two persons, the one assuming, and the other assumed; whereas the Son of God did not assume a man's person into His own; but a man's nature to His own person, the very first original element of our nature, before it was come to have any personal subsistence, by taking only the nature of man. He still continueth one person, and changeth but the manner of His subsisting, which was before in the mere glory of the Son of God, and is now in the habit of our flesh" (Ecclesiastical Polity, Bk. V, 52). "Of course, this fact requires that the assumed human nature should in itself ever remain in an impersonal form; for any subsequent change into a personal mode would result in personal duality. While, therefore, we may deny to the human nature assumed in the incarnation, a distinct personal subsistence, in Christ, we must still allow it such forms of activity as will account for the human facts of His incarnate life. The other fact is that the ground of the personality of Christ is in His divine nature, not in His human nature" (Miley, Vol. II, p. 21).
III. CHRIST Is THE-ANTHROPIC. From the previous discussion it is evident,
1. That Christ is Theanthropic. There is a sense in which He is God--Theos. There is a sense in which he is man anthropos. There is a deeper sense in which He is God-Man, theanthropos. The union of the two natures in one personality makes Him a theanthropic Person. What Christ thus became, so far as we know, He will remain forever in glory. The union of the two natures is forever inseparable. Our Elder Brother, made so dear to us by assuming, our nature, will be eternally dear to our hearts. "We shall know Him; we shall know Him, by the print of the nails in His hands."
2. There is a permanent duality of natures. As the Fathers stated it: "There is neither change nor mixture of the natures." "The divine is not transmuted into the human; the human is not transmuted into the divine. There is no mixing of the natures, with a resultant third nature, or indefinable tertium quid-something neither human nor divine" (Miley). The two natures, without change in either, were united in the personal oneness of the Christ.
3. This involves a communion of attributes; that is, the attributes of both natures are common to His personality. This is necessary to account for and explain the paradoxical language of Scripture, and the ascription to Jesus Christ of the most opposite extremes. He is an infant in the arms of Mary, and "over all, God blessed forever," Rom. 9:5. He is weary from his journey, and upholds all things by His power; He grows in knowledge and stature like other children, and yet is "the same, yesterday, today, and forever," Heb. 13: 8. He has a need of prayer that argues finite-ness; and yet he can say, "I and my Father are One." "The Son can do nothing of himself but what he seeth the Father do"; and yet "all things were made through Him and without Him was not anything made that hath been made." "As the Father hath life in Himself, so hath He given to the Son to have life in Himself." "I can of mine own self do nothing; my Father is greater than I." Such expressions mean dependence and limitation, yet he claimed equality with God (John 10: 33), and He allowed Himself to be worshiped (Matt. 8: 2, 3 and 14: 33, also John 9: 35-38 and John 20: 28).
President Fairchild well says: "Our theory of His nature must embody all the facts; and what shall it be? If we would make him simply a man, His mighty works and words and claims all stand in the way. Every attempt to explain the character of Christ by any standard of mere humanity will prove a shocking failure. We encounter the same difficulties in making Jesus superhuman, in the sense of an angelic or other exalted finite being. An angel can no more assume the prerogatives of God, or accept worship, than can a human being. "When He bringeth in the first begotten into the world, He saith, and let all the angels of God worship Him" Heb. 1:6). All finite beings worship the Infinite.
If, on the other hand, we account Jesus simply divine, we overlook a wide class of facts pertaining to His nature and experience- the facts which imply some finiteness or limitation in His consciousness. We are left then to accept the simple statement of the Gospel. John 1: 1-14, "The Word which was in the beginning, the Word which was with God and was God, by whom also the world was made that Word became 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." A similar statement we find in Romans 1: 3, 4, "Concerning his Son, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh; who was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection of the dead." This is, and has been through the ages, the essential doctrine of the church, that God became incarnate in the human body, with a reasonable, human soul; that Jesus Christ is therefore human and divine; and that from this combined personality arise the mingled phenomena of His life and character" (Theology, pp. 181, 182).
4. We have already noticed how facts of Deity are ascribed to Christ, and facts of humanity are ascribed to Him. But we may further add:
(1) That Divine facts are ascribed to Christ as human. "No man hath ascended up to heaven, but He that came down from heaven, even the Son of Man, who is in heaven" (John 3: 13). Two facts are stated, viz., that Christ came down from heaven and that when here on earth He was in heaven. Both facts were affirmed by Christ of Himself as the Son of Man. Also supreme worship was rendered to Christ as the Lamb that was slain (Rev. 5: 12, 13). The "Lamb slain" means Christ in his human nature.
(2) Human facts are ascribed to Christ as Divine. He was to be virgin born-and yet be "Immanuel-God with us" (Matt. 1: 23). "Feed the Church of God, which he purchased with his own blood" (Acts 20: 28). "They crucified the Lord of Glory" (1 Cor. 2: 8).
All these seemingly conflicting utterances about Christ can only be understood in the light of His theanthropic personality. "Thus in the Scriptures, Christ is distinguished from all men, and from all finite beings. A few of the passages often quoted to prove the fact may be liable to unfavorable criticism; we may drop all such doubtful passages, and the doctrine still remains so inwrought into the very substance of the Gospels and the Scriptures generally that it cannot be eliminated without destroying the entire structure.
By a similar course of argument the humanity of Jesus Christ may be established, and thus we should be brought to the same result which we had already reached, that Jesus Christ is the 'WORD MADE FLESH'" (Fairchild's Theology, p. 188).
5. SUCH A THEANTHROPIC CHRIST A NECESSITY TO THE ATONEMENT. By any other union of the divine nature with the human than that in a personal oneness, would leave the human in a complete and separate personality. This would make the Atonement an impossibility. The human nature alone was capable of being crucified. And if somehow it was not united with the divine nature to give the death of Christ infinite significance, then the death of Christ would be of no avail. A human Christ might champion righteousness and die for the truth as did Socrates, or any Christian martyr; but that would not avail to put away human sin. As the paschal lamb whose blood was shed for atonement was only a lamb, typical of something more but in itself unable to make the conscience clean, so the blood of Christ shed for our redemption, if He were only a man, would be equally unavailing. All the fundamental truths of Christianity would pronounce a merely human sacrifice insufficient to restore us to the divine favor and secure our peace with God. Christ, in the greatness of His personality did a complete work. He was at once the High Priest, the victim and the altar; He offered up Himself on the altar of His own Deity; "Who needeth not daily, as those high-priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for His own sins, and then for the people's; for this He did once, when He offered up Himself" (Heb. 7:27). "For then must He often have suffered since the foundation of the world; but now once at the end of the ages hath He been manifested to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself" (Heb. 9:26). "In the hour of our redemption, the Christ does not fall asunder into two persons, the one divine and the other human, while the divine in the office of high-priest offers up the human in atonement for sin; but the divine, incarnate, offers up HIMSELF. Thus we have the truth and reality of the atonement. The possibility of such an atonement lies in the theanthropic personality of Christ" (Miley, Vol II, pp. 26, 27).
6 The Sympathy of Christ. Sympathy is fellow-feeling; suffering with another; the quality of being affected by the affection of another; with feelings correspondent in kind if not in degree, Sympathy is literally a fellow-feeling with another in his joy or grief, or suffering.
The thought of the sympathy of Christ in all our experiences has been of untold comfort to Christians in all generations. When in dark hours they could get help nowhere else "they went and told Jesus." The Scriptures make much of the divine sympathy and especially of that of Christ. We read in Heb. 2: 18, "For in that He himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succor them that are tempted," and in Heb. 4: 15, "For we have not a high-priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but one that hath been in all points tempted like as (we are, yet) without sin."
The teaching of these passages clearly is that Jesus has special sympathy with us because He, the Son of God, joined Himself to our nature, and suffered and was tempted as man suffers and is tempted, and He can, therefore, from His own experience, sympathize with us. This seems to have been one of the underlying thoughts of the incarnation. "For it became Him, for whom are all things and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory; to make the author of their salvation perfect through suffering" (Heb. 2: 10).
If any poor Christian is despised and rejected of men, let him tell it to Jesus for "He was despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief" (Isa. 53: 3). Is any one confronting the hostile opposition of the wicked? Let him "consider Him that endured such contradiction of sinners against Himself, lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Heb. 12: 3). Has any one turned his back on the world and become poor for Christ's sake? He can appreciate it, who said, "The foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head."
Christ's sufferings were all the more intense because of His spotless character, and exalted nature and infinite sensibilities. His very greatness and goodness made Him more sensitive to hatred and ingratitude and contempt of men. The very perfection of His being made His sufferings more keen. Now "in the incarnation the divine Son so took the nature of man into personal union with himself as to enter into the consciousness of trials like our own. The self-incarnating Son was Himself complete in personality, but the human nature which He assumed, while complete as a nature, was without personality" (Miley). So this infinite being can have infinite appreciation of the sufferings of the human nature with which He is united. Thus He is fitted to sympathize with us, having suffered in like manner Himself.
It follows that God is not a cold abstraction, the Absolute of Speculative agnosticism, impersonal, without knowledge or sensitivity. Even speculative theologians have too often removed God so far away from mankind as to deny to us His real compassion. They have invested God with an ABSOLUTENESS OF BLESSEDNESS WHICH could not be affected by either the joys or the woes of men. Henry Ward Beecher declared, "It made God no more than a heathen Jove." There is no such God revealed in Scripture. He is our Father in heaven. He is infinite love; and love is full of sympathy and compassion, and suffers in the sufferings of others, and rejoices in their good.
God was not unfeeling, and without sympathetic suffering and pity, when He "so loved the world that He gave his only begotten Son." The gift cost Him something more than mortals can ever know. It was sympathetic, suffering, self-sacrificing love. Jesus was not without sympathetic suffering when He bore the crushing burden of the world's sin, sweating blood in the agony of His soul, and dying with a broken heart. This truth is expressed in the Old Testament most fully "So He was their Savior. In all their affliction He was afflicted, and the angel of His presence saved them; in His love and in His pity He redeemed them; and He bare them and carried them all the days of old" (Isa. 63: 8, 9). Theologians often speculate till they lose both their sense and their Bible.
In the theanthropic consciousness of Christ we have the ground for an infinite sympathy. It is free from all the limitations of a merely human sympathy. Time cannot diminish it, or cause it to fade out. Human sympathy must often consume itself in kindly yearnings, and conscious inability to help. But the sympathy of the divine Christ could both weep with Martha and Mary, and raise their dead. Thus Christ needed to be a theanthropic person, in order in be a perfect Savior, "touched with the feeling of our infirmities" and "able to succor them that are tempted." He unites a human with a divine nature, and through the human enters into the consciousness of trial and suffering like our own.