3. Jesus Christ - True God and True Man
What does KCBC believe about Jesus Christ?
The subject of Jesus’ true divinity and equal humanity is vital to the Christian faith. In fact, insisting on Jesus’ humanity is so important the apostle John addressed it this way…
1 John 4:1-3…
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.
The issue of denying that Jesus came in the flesh, in human flesh like you and I, is so serious that to deny it is essentially to deny Christ Himself.
In 2 John 1:7 he repeated his concern:
7 Many deceivers have gone out into the world; they do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.
The issue for John wasn’t defending Jesus’ divine identity, which most people accepted; in his day, the criticism was centered on Jesus’ humanity. Some didn’t believe Jesus was a true man, that he was God in the flesh. They denied the incarnation, which is just a fancy way of saying they denied Jesus was fully human.
This is what our Statement of Faith says regarding Jesus Christ: “We believe that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary and is both true God and true man (John 1:1—14; Matthew 1:18-25).”
John 1:1-14 says,
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of men… 14 The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
And Matthew 1:18-25 says,
18 The birth of Jesus Christ came about this way: After his mother Mary had been engaged to Joseph, it was discovered before they came together that she was pregnant from the Holy Spirit… 21 She will give birth to a son, and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.”
Our statement has a long history because, as I’ll show you, its language goes all the way back to the year 451 AD and the Council at Chalcedon.
Imagine, if you will, all the Baptists—the American Baptists, the Southern Baptists, the Presbyterians and all of their varieties, the non-denominational churches, etc., getting together to address the issue of Jesus Christ’s humanity and divinity.
Well, that’s similar to what happened. And not only did they meet, but they were able to agree, which is even more amazing.
This wasn’t the first time the church came together to settle a theological issue. Previously, about a hundred years earlier, in 325 A.D., (Council of Nicea) the church met to settle the issue of the deity of Christ.
They held fast to the truths that Jesus is fully God, is divine, and has all of the attributes of God. But the issue of how Christ’s divine nature related to his human nature had not been settled yet.
There were two camps. One camp insisted on keeping Christ’s divine nature and human nature separate, which is good to an extent, but the tendency was to separate the natures so much that they ended up with two Christs: a human son of Mary and a divine Son of God.
The other camp insisted upon protecting the oneness of Christ’s divinity, which is also fine to an extent. But the trouble with this was they tended to de-emphasize Jesus’ humanity; they were worried that any emphasis on his humanity would undermine his divinity, which they believed was more important.
The most vocal person for this second side was a monk named Eutyches. He is known for saying that Christ’s human nature had been swallowed up and lost in His divinity “like a drop of wine in the sea.”
So, you can see what the issue was. How do we reconcile that the Scripture teaches that Jesus is true God, and at the same time, how do we heed the warning of John and not deemphasize His humanity?
Here’s what they said. The statement isn’t Scripture, but it is certainly Scriptural and it’s what our abbreviated statement is based upon.
The Council of Chalcedon:
So, following the holy fathers, we all with one voice teach the confession of one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ: the same perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and a body; of one essence with the Father as regards his divinity, and the same of one essence with us as regards his humanity; like us in all respects except for sin; begotten before the ages from the Father as regards his divinity, and in the last days, for us and for our salvation, the same born of Mary, the virgin God-bearer, as regards his humanity.
The segment goes on, but I think you get the idea. Jesus is perfect in divinity and perfect in humanity, the same truly God and truly man. He is one essence with the Father in regards to his divinity and the same of one essence with us in regards to his humanity -- in all ways except for sin.
Had the church not rejected the false views about Jesus’ humanity, the consequences would have been disastrous. For example,
If Jesus’s humanity was swallowed up by his divinity, if he’s not truly man, how can we say in any real sense that he died?
If Jesus wasn’t truly man, then how did he suffer in any real sense?
If Jesus wasn’t truly man, then how can we say he was truly raised from the dead?
So to guard against these disastrous consequences, our statement makes two points: 1) Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit and is True God, and 2) Jesus was born of the Virgin Mary and is True Man.
Sure, God could have sent Jesus to earth any way He wanted, but didn't. God could have fully formed Jesus in heaven and then miraculously sent him to earth, but it would be harder for us to see him as truly human. He could have given him two human parents, but then it would be harder for us to see him as truly God.
Instead, God decided to give Jesus a human mother and a heavenly father.
Jesus is "True God"
Being conceived by the Holy Spirit helps us clearly see that Jesus is fully God. He is True God, by which we mean he is fully God, not just partly God. Jesus did not have a human father. His Father is God the father.
Jesus is the son of God, but he is also completely God. We see this all throughout Scripture.
His disciples referred to Him as God. (John 20:28; Titus 2:13)
God the Father refers to Jesus as God. (Hebrews 1:8)
Jesus referred to himself as God.
He’s called Immanuel, which literally means “God with us.”
He was raised from the dead, which means He had to die.
He forgave sins.
He created and sustains the universe.
Now, any one of these reasons should be sufficient to establish Jesus as True God, but we have dozens of Scriptures that say the same thing.
Why is this important? Because…
Only someone who is the infinite God could bear the full penalty for all the sins of all those who would believe in him.
Salvation is of God, and Scripture teaches that it is God who saves us.
Only someone who is truly God can mediate between God and man (1 Tim. 2:5).
In short, in order for us to have salvation, Jesus must be truly and fully God. If Jesus isn’t truly, fully God, then we have no salvation.
Jesus is True Man.
Jesus’ Father was God, but his mother was human. That’s why we call Jesus the “God-man.” Jesus is God and Man.
Jesus, as our statement says, is “True God and True Man.” “True” is the word we use to describe both Jesus’ god-ness and his human-ness. We use that word because it is the same word used at the Council of Chalcedon, but the point of its use is to say that Jesus is a man to the same degree he is God. He’s not true God and mostly true man. He’s not a true man and mostly true God. He is equally both. He is truly God and truly man. To the degree that Jesus is God, He is also man, and vice-versa.
To support this scripturally, we use the same logic we used to prove that Jesus is God. Jesus is God because He did things only God can do. Jesus is human because he did things only humans do.
For example, Jesus was born. He got hungry. He was thirsty. He got tired, he suffered, he agonized, and he died. These are things only humans do. And he didn’t just appear to be human; going back to what John warned us against, he really was human, in the flesh.
Why is Jesus’ humanity so important? Because…
Our Savior must be born under the law in order to redeem those under the law. That’s the point of Galatians 4:4-5
4 When the time came to completion, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.
Only humans are born under the law, and only a human being could redeem other human beings born under the same law.
Only human blood is acceptable for the remission of sins, and the blood of bulls and goats isn’t good enough. Hebrews 10:4 says…
4 For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.
So Jesus had to have blood. He had to be able to bleed, and in order to bleed, he had to be fully human.
Only another human can fully relate to us. Hebrews 4:15 says
15 For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has been tempted in every way as we are, yet without sin.
Jesus has human nature but not a sinful nature. He was tempted in ways that allow Him to understand our temptations fully. He didn’t sin, but he knows what it is like when we are tempted. He can sympathize with our human weaknesses because he was also human.
We dare not deny Jesus’ full humanity, for if we do, we give up too much about who Jesus is and what He does for us.
In John’s day there was a heresy that taught matter was evil, so it was impossible for Jesus to be actually made of matter, to be flesh. It was called docetism and also Gnosticism. Some taught that Jesus only appeared to be human.
These Gnostics taught that they had special knowledge of who Jesus really was and that it was this special knowledge that saved them. They believed and taught others that Jesus only seemed to be physical; he wasn’t truly, fully man; he just appeared to be.
But the Bible says otherwise, and Jesus went out of his way to show he was fully human. For example, He told Thomas to touch him (Luke 24:39).
39 Look at my hands and my feet, that it is I myself! Touch me and see, because a ghost does not have flesh and bones as you can see I have.
Jesus had real hands and feet. He was made of real flesh and bones, just like you and me. And, at the same time, He is fully God. We must not deny or minimize either one of these truths. To do so is to align ourselves, as John says, with the antichrist.
Now, one last thing. Our statement doesn’t say Jesus “was” both "True God" and "True man" but that He “is”. He still is. Jesus Christ is still fully God and fully man and will be so forever.
After his resurrection, Jesus appeared to the disciples with scars and nail prints (John 20:25-27). He ate food with them (Luke 24:41-42). When Jesus went up into heaven, the angels promised he would return in the same way (Acts 1:11). There is nothing in Scripture to indicate Jesus stopped possessing his human qualities after the resurrection. In fact, as we’ve already seen, Jesus went out of his way to emphasize he was still human.
Stephen, as he was being stoned, looked up into heaven and saw Jesus as the Son of Man. And in the future, Jesus promises to sit down to a meal with us and drink wine (Matthew 26:29; Revelation 19:9). Jesus lives forever as both True God and True Man.
So, we believe that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary and is both true God and true man. The physical world isn’t evil because it is made out of matter. God created the physical world, and He has plans to make it new. He sent his son to be a physical human being, like us in every way, except for sin.
The Trinity is One God with Three Persons. Jesus Christ is One Person with Two Natures. Jesus, our Savior, is both truly God and truly man.