This is old bread from my pantry, but it's one of my favorites, and the first post I wrote that got a comment from Cent. That was the first step toward my destiny: to play second-fiddle to a brashly self-promoting book peddler from Arkansas.
Ehh, you take what you can get. At any rate, enjoy.
The EPT is positive. The ever-loving boyfriend is AWOL. The 17-year-old girl sitting in your living room is begging you not to tell her parents.
Bookmarked on your lampstand is a volume of church history containing the Chalcedonian Creed of A.D. 451. The creed defines Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man, one person encompassing two natures. His human and divine natures are joined “inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably.”
What earthly good are heavenly creeds when life hurts? Theological formulations are dandy in the cool silence of the lecture hall, but does theology ever intersect reality? For instance, of what value is the doctrine of the hypostatic union to an unwed pregnant teen?
Christian orthodoxy claims Jesus as the uncreated Son of God, consubstanial and eternally co-existent with the Father (John 1:1; 17:5). In plain Hebrew, he was Immanuel, “God with us.” Though he relinquished his grasp on divine glory to tread the dust of Galilee, his divine nature was not shelved in a heavenly warehouse until his return. While he “dwelt among us” (John 1:14), he allowed the veil of his flesh to slip just long enough for Peter, James, and John to understand whom they were following (Matt.17:1-8; Luke 9:28-36).
At the same time, the Son was not engaged in a metaphysical Halloween game. His flesh was not an ingenious disguise to cloak Jesus’ divinity; he was not God wrapped in human skin. Humans are susceptible to temptation, and Satan took full advantage of this one cosmic chance to tempt the untemptable God (Jas. 1:13; Matt. 4:1-11). Immortality does not die naked and impaled to a cross. When Jesus surrendured to death at Golgotha, a mortal man died (Phil. 2:8).
Back in your living room, she's sobbing uncontrollably now. How does any of this matter to her?
It matters because Hebrews 2:9-18 matters, particularly verse 18: “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (NASB). What we sinners need is someone who understands where we’re coming from, and who can plead our case with the Father from an empathetic heart.
If Jesus was God but not truly man, he may have regal compassion on us. He may even be affectionately inclined toward us. But if his divine nature never partook of our human experience, he can’t understand what it means to be tempted. However merciful God’s nature, we are ultimately left guilty and shivering before the Judge of all the earth, with no tender-hearted intercessor who sympathizes with our struggle. The Father knows people are weak (Psa. 103:14). Jesus knows how it feels to be weak.
On the other hand, if Jesus was truly man but not God, his sympathy is pointless. You as a human being can feel the pain of my guilt, but you can’t relieve it. More to the point, the death of a mere man could never atone for the sins of many. At best, the substitutionary death of a perfectly pure man could free one sinner from the sentence of death. Only the death of the infinite-finite, immortal-mortal God-man could conceivably propitiate God’s wrath for “a great multitude which no one could count” (Rev. 7:9). If Jesus was not very God of very God, his death was virtually meaningless, and we remain shackled to our guilt. But if Jesus was indeed true deity, his death frees his people from all guilt, and his resurrection secures their eternal resurrected bliss.
A pregnant teenager doesn’t need a lecture on Chalcedonian ontology. She doesn’t even need to read this limited defense of the doctrine of Christ’s hypostatic union. But she does need to know Jesus understands her weakness, and that his sacrifice of love offers hope to his hurting and guilty people. If she is a child of God, she needs to know Jesus sympathizes and will not throw her away. If she has yet to repent in faith, she needs to know the sacrifice of Calvary can make all her guilt and shame go away forever.
Despite first impressions, the doctrine of the hypostatic union is theology in action. It comforts and strengthens, encourages and emboldens. It brings light to the sinner lost in the brooding darkness of his own soul. It gets the bruised saint back on his feet, brushes the dirt off, and helps him walk again.
As Linus said, sound theology has a way of doing that.