Wednesday, February 8, 2023

One Person, Two Natures (Philippians 2)

"And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself …" (Phil. 2:8).

Even though the Nicaene Creed established the church’s position on the deity of Christ, controversies concerning His personality and nature continued to plague the church. Another landmark council was convened to deal with more heresies that disrupted church unity. In 451, the Eastern Emperor Marcion called the fourth ecumenical council in Chalcedon (Asia Minor). The council’s task was to solve the disputes concerning the person of Christ and His nature. The emperor and the pope wanted unity, and they knew that Christological questions stood in the way.

Two heresies in particular had gained support in the church—Nestorianism and Eutychianism. Nestorianism asserted that there were two persons in Christ. In reaction to Nestorianism, Eutychianism maintained that the incarnate Christ had only one nature. While Nestorianism was defeated at the Council of Ephesus in 431, Eutychianism remained prevalent, and much confusion still abounded on the question of the personality of Christ.

The Council of Chalcedon met in the fall of 451. More than 500 bishops and papal legates attended the meeting. Two main concerns overshadowed the council—it wanted to maintain the unity in the person of Christ and establish that Christ possessed two distinct natures: divine and human. After much debate and examination of the Scriptures and the declarations of previous councils, including Nicaea, the council concluded that Christ, according to His divine nature, was of the same substance with the Father, and according to His human nature was of the same substance with mankind. The deity and humanity of Christ exist in one person (the second person of the Trinity) “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” The two natures are hypostatically unified in one person. The council also declared that the second person of the Trinity, the divine Logos, does not replace the human soul. Christ has a human soul but only one personality. The key issue was salvation, for they knew that only the God-man, who is fully human and fully God, can save sinners. The creed drafted by the Council of Chalcedon then became, and continues to this day, the standard for Christological orthodoxy.

Read Hebrews 4:14–16. What does Christ’s humanity mean to you personally? When you pray do you think of Christ only as divine, or as the God-man, the theanthropos? How should this distinction affect your prayer life? Read Romans 5:12–21. Why was it necessary for Christ to be human in order to be our Savior?