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Christology 101 (Part 5): The Glory and Wonder of the Hypostatic Union

Historic statements of faith, such as the Apostles’ Creed, affirm the angels' message to Joseph in Matthew 1, saying Jesus was “conceived by the Holy Spirit.”

This is to say, Jesus' birth was utterly unique among all human births.

In theology, we call this the Hypostatic Union, a fancy theological concept that simply means Jesus is both fully God and fully human in one person.

The term hypostatic comes from the Greek hypostasis (ὑπόστασις, hupóstasis) which, in this context, can be understood as "substance" or "underlying reality."

The Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD provided a definition of the hypostatic union, stating that Jesus possesses two natures without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation.

The distinction of natures was not nullified by the union between the divine and human, but rather the characteristics of each nature were preserved and came together to form one person.

Each nature retains its own properties without transferring the attributes of one to the other.

This is not to suggest the divine and human natures are united in such a way that they create a split personality. Rather, his human experiences, limitations, emotions, and physicality were genuinely his, just as much as his divine attributes like omniscience, omnipotence, and eternality.

Yes, there is mystery here. Such is often the case for finite creatures when contemplating the infinite.

What we can say to simplify matters is that, as the eternally pre-existent God,

  1. Jesus didn’t come into existence at his birth, and
  2. that in becoming human, Jesus did not cease to be God.

As the God–man with a sinless divine nature and a sinless human nature, Jesus is the one uniquely qualified to be our sin-substitute!

Although Jesus' divine and human natures are distinct, they act in unity, so that everything Jesus did, he did as both God and as a man—as the perfect mediator to reconcile a holy God with sinful humans—so that we would be reconciled to the Father.

But I want to be clear that the cross is not the Son’s way of convincing the Father to forgive us.

The early church leader, Augustine, put it this way, “The cross of Christ did not secure the love of the Father. Rather, the love of the Father secured the cross of Christ.”

This helpful statement reinforces a theology of grace, demonstrating that God's love is not reactive, contingent on human actions or decisions, or even on the sacrifice of Jesus. It is a fundamental attribute of God that is proactive and unconditional.

As Paul says in Ephesians 1, the Father chose to adopt believers and send the Son to redeem us from our sins before the foundations of the world—a choice motivated by eternal love and fulfilled by the Son by giving his life as our substitute before the law, reflecting the same love as the Father.

Then, after his death and burial, Jesus rose from the tomb to confirm that the promises of the gospel are true, that whosoever confesses their need for mercy and believes upon Jesus as the one who bore their sin is fully forgiven, perfectly accepted, and eternally loved as adopted children of God.

Questions for family and/or small group discussion

  1. How does the concept of the Hypostatic Union address the paradox of Jesus being both fully divine and fully human without contradiction?
  2. Explore the implications of Jesus’ divine and human natures acting in unity. How does this union make Jesus the perfect mediator between God and humans?
  3. Discuss the significance of Augustine’s quote, "The cross of Christ did not secure the love of the Father. Rather, the love of the Father secured the cross of Christ."
  4. Read Ephesians 1:3-14. What is the role of each person of the Godhead in the plan of salvation? What is significant about each person, Father, Son, and Spirit, being involved?
  5. Reflect on the resurrection’s role in confirming the promises of the gospel. How does belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus influence the assurance of forgiveness, acceptance, and eternal love for believers?

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