Jesus was both a human being and God. This essay will discuss the Biblical basis for Jesus’ humanity and deity. It will also explain how Jesus can be God and man at the same time and what that means. Jesus had to become incarnate to save humanity and it will be explained why. It will also be discussed the dangers of overemphasizing and denying the humanity and deity of Christ, as well as some of the common objections to the traditional understandings of Christology and the author’s response to them. Finally a discussion of the author’s response to Christ’s example of humanity.
Jesus was a human being. The Bible states “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14). In the Bible we see Jesus “feeling hunger, anxiety, disappointment and surprise”1 (Mark 2:15, Mark 14:33, Mark 15:34) just as a man would`. Jesus was also God. The book of John is full of Biblical basis for his deity. There are the 7 “I AM’s.”2 John also shows where He is identified by others as God (John 4:42). Jesus is also worshiped as God (Hebrews 1:6), which would only happen if he was God.
Jesus is both God and man via the Hypostatic Union. It states human nature and divine nature were inseparably united forever in the person of Jesus Christ, with both natures remaining unchanged, without mixing, making Jesus Christ truly God and truly man.3 Drickamer states “To deny that Christ is one person is to deny the incarnation (John 1:14)”4This means that Jesus, who is part of God, became man. Making God man, but leaving God remaining also as God. God did not change. Part of him, Jesus, just became human. Jesus is part of God through the trinity. The trinity is God as one being “yet existing as three eternal persons”5 (Matthew 28:19). These were all dealt with via the Council of Chalcedon in 451 which gave us the unity of the natures, concluding that the humanity and deity of Christ exist “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.”6
Jesus needed to become human to save humanity because God needed a perfect sacrifice. Jesus was the only sacrifice worthy enough to present to the Father to atone for the sins of the entire world. Animal sacrifices of the past (Leviticus 1:3) were no longer sufficient. His becoming human and sacrificing himself was the only way for mankind to be saved from their sins (John 3:16-17). There had to be blood shed to wash away the sin (Leviticus 17:11, Hebrews 9:22).
Overemphasizing or denying either the humanity or the deity of Christ can be dangerous. If you overemphasize his humanity you make him too human and he just becomes a simple teacher. If you overemphasize his deity you make him appear not to have been human at all and the story of what he did and his life would have less impact. Denying his humanity denies the validity of the perfect sacrifice. Denying his deity turns the entire New Testament into nothing but a neat story to tell your children.
There were many objections to the now traditional view of Christology. An original view held the Christ was just a man and the Holy Spirit came upon him only upon Baptism.7 This is clearly incorrect, as the Bible states through the trinity that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are one (Matthew 28:19). Sabellianism viewed Christ as a second God separate from the Father.8 Again the Trinity (Matthew 28:19) disproves this. Arianism went so far as to deny “Christ a human soul”. 9 It also stated Christ was actually created by the Father.10 The Council of Nicea condemned his theory stating he was “of one essence with the Father.”11 The Bible also disputes this theory by looking at John 1:3, Colossians 1:16-17 and Genesis 1:21, all of which reference the work of the Son in creation, therefore always being a part of Him. Apollinarianism denied Jesus complete manhood. John 1:14 easily dispatches this theory.
Christ’s humanity is an example to me in many different ways. The fact that he would even lower himself to become human is a wonderful example of his love for us. His love itself was an amazing example (John 13:1). To see that he felt the same things we felt, yet lived a perfect life (Hebrews 4:15) gives me an example of the life I should strive for. That he was tempted yet still remained perfect was amazing to me. His willingness to suffer along with the lowest of us shows a humility that is unattainable. His compassion for others is an example that helped shaped my outlook on life (Matthew 14:14). These are just a few ways His humanity has been an example to me.
Blaising, C. “Hypostatic Union” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A Elwell, 2nd ed., 583-584 Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001
Drickamer, J. M. “Communication of Attributes, Communiatio Idiomatum” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A Elwell, 2nd ed., 277 Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001
Hall, J. H. “Chalcedon, Council of” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A Elwell, 2nd ed., 218-219 Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001
Towns, Elmer Theology for Today Mason, OH: Cenage Learning, 2008
Wallace, R.S. and G.L. Green “Christology, New Testament Christology” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A Elwell, 2nd ed., 239-245 Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2001