Cruce Tectum

Cruce tectum, hidden under the cross, a blog for Epiphany Lutheran Church, Dorr, Michigan

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Location: Moscow, Idaho

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Two Natures in Christ

Pastor’s Window for December, 2007

The Two Natures in Christ

Beloved in Christ, as we observe the Season of Advent and as Christmas rapidly approaches, this is a good time to pause and consider an important aspect of our Lord’s incarnation: The Two Natures in Christ. The word “incarnation” refers to the coming of God the Son into our flesh. As Lutherans, we confess the historic Christian faith that Jesus Christ has two natures, divine and human. He is not two Christs, one divine and one human, but one Christ with two natures. He is fully God and He is fully human in the one person of Jesus Christ.

That is what we confess in the Catechism when we say along with Luther, “I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the Virgin Mary, is my Lord” (Small Catechism, Second Article of the Apostles’ Creed). We confess the two natures in the Apostles’ Creed when we say, “who was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary,” and in the Nicene Creed, “the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His Father before all worlds… and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary and was made man.” The Athanasian Creed goes into great detail about the two natures in Christ. You can find the Athanasian Creed on pp. 319-20 of Lutheran Service Book (see especially page 320). “Therefore, it is the right faith that we believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is at the same time both God and man.”

Why is the article on the two natures so important for Christians to believe and confess? Our Lord had to be true man for two reasons: To fulfill the Law of God in our place and to suffer and die as payment for our sin. In order for our fallen human nature to be restored, it was necessary that our Savior fully take on our human flesh and in that flesh live the perfect life we cannot live, satisfying the demands of the Law for us. This is Jesus’ active obedience, which He rendered to God on our behalf. “For as by one man’s [Adam’s] disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s [Jesus’] obedience the many will be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19; ESV). But our Lord also had to suffer and die on our behalf as the penalty for our sins. In order to die for humanity, Jesus had to be human, both to qualify as our substitute and because God cannot die unless He takes on flesh. Jesus had to be human to shed His blood for us, for “without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). This is Jesus’ passive obedience on our behalf. By His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death as the God-Man, Jesus destroys death and the devil. “Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil” (Heb. 2:14).

But Jesus also had to be fully God. “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily” (Col. 2:9). Jesus had to be true God because “A mere man, be he sinner or saint, could never have redeemed us. A sinner cannot save himself, much less can he save another; a perfect saint, if there were such, would indeed be saved, but he would have no superfluous merit, which he could pass on to some one else” (Edward W. A. Koehler, A Summary of Christian Doctrine [St. Louis: Concordia, 1939] p. 94). “Truly no man can ransom another, or give to God the price of his life” (Ps. 49:7). Jesus had to be true God so that His sin-atoning work could be sufficient for the whole world, and not just for Himself. “Only God could render full satisfaction to God” (Koehler). Man could never do it. The fact that God has taken it upon Himself to reconcile us gives us full assurance that our reconciliation, redemption, forgiveness, and peace are fully accomplished. The proof is in Jesus’ resurrection from the dead. His resurrection is the evidence that He has destroyed sin, death, and the devil forever. In fact, the resurrection is God’s stamp of approval on Jesus’ sin-atoning work. The curse of Eden has been reversed. Jesus is the firstfruits of the resurrection. All who are united to Him by Baptism and faith will likewise rise from the dead on the Last Day. His victory is your victory!

The coming of the Son of God in the flesh for the redemption of all humanity is what Christmas is all about. That is what the angels meant when they sang of “peace on earth” (unlike what most of our Christmas cards mean, cf. Luke 2:14). Our peace has come to earth in the person of the Babe of Bethlehem, true God wrapped in flesh and swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. He is our peace because, as the one mediator between God and men, the Man, Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5), He gives us justification by faith and peace with God (Rom. 5:1).

A blessed Advent and Christmas. I hope to see all of you at our special Advent and Christmas services.

Pastor Krenz

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