As a result of the incarnation, the divine Son lives and acts within the normal physical, mental, volitional, and psychological capacities of an unfallen, sinless human nature. As the Son, he experienced the wonder and weaknesses of a human life. He grew in wisdom and physical stature (Luke 2:52), experienced tears and joy (John 11:35; 15:11), and suffered death and a glorious resurrection for his people and their salvation (John 11:33, 35; 19:30; 1 Cor. 15:3–4).
In our final essay for “Christology at Christmas” theme, I want to offer a tenfold summary of key truths for a biblical and orthodox Christology.
1. The person or subject of the incarnation is the eternal, divine Son.
John 1:14 states this well: “The Word became flesh.” In other words, it was not the divine nature, it was the divine Son from eternity (John 1:1) who became incarnate. The Son, who has always been in eternal relation with the Father and the Spirit, and who shares the same, identical divine nature with them, freely chose to humble himself by assuming a human nature in order to redeem his people (Phil. 2:6–8), and to reverse all that Adam did by ushering in a new creation (Col. 1:18–20).
2. As the divine Son, the second person of the triune Godhead, he is the exact image and correspondence of the Father, and is thus truly God.
Along with the Father and Spirit, the Son fully and equally shares the one divine nature. As the image and exact correspondence of the Father (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3), the Son is truly God. All of God’s perfections and attributes are his since our Lord is God the Son (Col. 2:9). As the Son, he indivisibly shares the divine rule, receives divine worship, and does all divine works as the Son (Ps 110:1; Eph 1:22; Phil 2:9–11; Col. 1:15–17; Heb. 1:2–3; Rev. 5:11–12).
3. As God the Son, he has always existed in an eternally ordered relation to the Father and the Spirit, which now is gloriously revealed in the incarnation.
It was fitting that the Son alone became incarnate and not the other divine persons (John 1:1–2, 14, 18). In the incarnation, the Son revealed his eternal divine-filial relation to the Father and always acted from the Father and by the Spirit (John 5:19–30; Mark 1:12; Luke 4:1–21). These eternally ordered relations within God are eternal and necessary.
- The Father is first, has paternity due to his relation to the Son, and is the one who initiates and sends.
- The Son has filiation and is eternally generated from the Father.
- The Spirit has spiration and eternally proceeds from the Father and the Son.
In God’s acts, all three persons act inseparably through the one divine nature. Yet each person acts distinctly, with specific actions terminating on the divine persons according to their eternally ordered relations.
The result: every external act of God is one and undivided, yet the Father initiates and acts through the Son, the Son from the Father, and the Spirit from the Father and Son. Thus, from eternity and in the incarnation, the Son never acted independently but always acted in relation to the Father and the Spirit, and he alone became incarnate.
4. The incarnation is an act of addition, not subtraction.
From eternity, the Son, in relation to the Father and the Spirit, subsisted in the divine nature. Now, as a result of the incarnation, the Son, without change or loss of his deity, added—or to use a better term—assumed, a second nature, namely, a human nature consisting of a human body and soul (Phil. 2:6–8). As a result, the Son added a human dimension to his personal divine life and became present to us in a new mode of existence as the incarnate Son. Yet the Son’s subsistence and action in both natures is consistent with the integrity of both, without either nature ever being mutually exclusive of the other. Given the incarnation, the Son is able to act by his two natures and produce effects proper to each nature and thus accomplish our salvation as the divine Son who obeys for us in his life and death as our covenant head and substitute.
5. The human nature assumed by the divine Son is fully human and completely sinless.
Christ’s human nature was unfallen and untainted by the effects of sin. Christ’s human body and soul had all the capacities of original humanity, thus enabling the Son to experience a fully human life.