How to Appreciate the Two Natures of Christ
February 6, 2015
Appreciating both Christ's divinity and his humanity is not easy. What does it mean to be both God and man? Looking at Christ's two natures helps us to understand not only the marvel of the incarnation, but the incredible humility of Christ, who "did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped" (Phil. 2:6).
Eternity implies the absence of beginning, end, and temporal succession in God. This concept is not only hard to understand, but also to express. Eternity never begins; it never ends. God's duration is as endless as his essence is boundless. He is the everlasting God (Gen. 21:33; Rom. 16:26). If he has no beginning, then he certainly has no end (see Ps. 9:7; Rev. 4:9-10; Ps. 52:27). Since he needs nothing, he cannot pass out of existence. For him there exists no past or future, but only a simple present whereby he sees all things, past, present, and future, at once. He receives nothing as an addition to what he was before. He does not ever become something he was not before. He is perfect before all ages and after all ages. He is what he always was; he will be what he will always be. He inhabits billions of years in one moment, and each moment is to him billions of years, in a manner of speaking. Jesus possesses this attribute of eternity. He is the "Ancient of Days" (Dan. 7:9, 13, 22).
Psalm 90 sets forth a rather magnificent testimony of the person of Christ. Verse 2 refers to Jesus: "Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God." Here the glory of his person comes into full view. Not only does verse 2 refer to Jesus, but also the rest of the Psalm. Jesus was taught to number his days (v. 12). Jesus passed away under the wrath of God (v. 9). But God also established the work of Christ's hands (v. 17). Reading Psalm 90 Christocentrically, as all Psalms need to be read, brings it to life. The verses that speak about God refer to Jesus. But, the verses that speak about man also refer to Jesus. Now exalted in the heavenly places, his days have no number. Those who belong to him will not be able to number their days when they receive eternal life.
God's attribute of eternality necessarily implies his immutability/unchangeableness (Ps. 102:26-27). For, what endures (eternity) cannot change; and what changes cannot endure (Ps. 52). God is also without passions in the sense that he does not experience sadness or grief in the way we do. Because his glory and happiness are eternal and infinite, nothing can cause God to be, in himself, more or less angry, or more or less sad. His blessedness knows no bounds, and cannot diminish either because of something in himself or because of something outside of himself. Immutability in God also denies that his knowledge may increase or decrease. If God's essence changes then a being more powerful than God must change it. True, sometimes we read of God "repenting." But this is anthropomorphic language, which depicts the infinite, eternal, and unchangeable God, who is Spirit, in human terms.
Yet, Jesus really changed. He "increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man" (Lk 2:52). He "learned obedience" (Heb. 5:8) and was "made perfect" (Heb. 5:9). Jesus, according to his divinity, possesses infinite joy. But, while on earth he was a "man of sorrows" (Isa. 53:3). As a true human being he entered into the world of change, and experienced changes in his nature (from shame to glory) that we are unable, while on earth, to fathom.
Jesus possesses full knowledge. He is omniscient: "Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; his understanding is beyond measure" (Ps. 147:5). The eternal God infallibly knows all things past, present, and future. He knows himself perfectly. He not only perfectly knows all things that he has created, including also his decree of events yet to happen, but he has perfect knowledge of things outside of his decree. In other words, he knows things that are possible, which could be wrought by his power, but will lie forever wrapped up in darkness to any human or angel. God's knowledge and understanding are infinite (Job. 37:16).
Charnock describes this knowledge about as well as any man can:
"God knows all other things, whether they be possible, past, present, or future; whether they be things that he can do, but will never do, or whether they be things that he has done, but are not now; things that are now in being, or things that are not now existing, that lie in the womb of their proper and immediate causes. If his understanding be infinite, he then knows all things whatsoever that can be known, else his understanding would have bounds, and what hath limits is not infinite, but finite" (Existence and Attributes of God, 267).
If God could learn just one thing he would not be God. Nonetheless, our Lord Jesus Christ was awakened "morning by morning" to be taught by his Father (Isa. 50:4-6). He "increased in wisdom" (Lk. 2:52). In John's gospel Jesus constantly speaks of the teaching he received from his Father (Jn. 7:16; 8:26, 28, 38, 40). The one who knows all that can be known also humbled himself to learn all that could be learned.