Jesus the God-man?
At our young adult gathering, The Well, we have been studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians, and arrived this week at a very theologically deep and rich section of scripture on the person and work of Christ, and the magnitude of his humility in coming to redeem us. This post is to give some added clarity about this passage and why it should be so precious to us.
5 Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, 6 who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
In order to illustrate what humility looks like, Paul reminds the Philippian church of the gospel message: that because of our sin we need a savior, and Jesus came as a humble servant to take the punishment of our sins on a cross, and suffer for us, so that we could be forgiven.
Embedded in this beautiful text are some theological ideas known as the “incarnation” and “hypostatic union”. So what in the world do these words mean, and why do they matter?
This word literally means “becoming flesh”, and is used by theologians to describe how our creator entered into humanity as the “God-man”, Jesus Christ. That before Jesus was a man, he was God (v.6). From eternity past, the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, was fully equal with God the Father and God the Spirit (v.6). He loved us so much though, that he emptied himself by entering into human history for us as a humble servant (v.7-8). He “became flesh” in order to be among us, live like us, suffer with us, and relate to us in all our humanness (John 1:1-14, Hebrews 4:15). So Jesus was both fully God, and fully man. This leads us to our next theological term.
2) Hypostatic Union
This term is used to describe how Jesus took on a human nature (v.8) while remaining fully God at the same time. That Jesus is one person with two natures: human and divine. That he did not cease to be God when he became a man, have a confused split-personality, or become some kind of half-God, half-man creature like Hercules. He remained one person who was both fully God, and also fully human. As Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily”.
Why does this matter?
Since Jesus was fully human, he lived like us, and suffered like us, and was tempted in every way like us but because he was also fully God, he never sinned. These two truths are what make Jesus the only one capable of taking on the punishment of our sin for us. The Bible says that the penalty of sin is death; Because Jesus is fully human, he could literally die on the cross for the penalty of our sin. And because he is fully God, and infinite in his divine nature, his sacrifice could cover the sins of every person in the whole world – past, present, and future – and then he conquered death and rose again so that anyone who believes in him can be saved!
What all this means is that Jesus, our God and savior, is the most humble person ever to live. The creator of all things chose to empty himself, come as a servant, suffer for us, and even subject himself to death on a cross for us: all so that we could be brought back into a relationship with God. There is no greater display of love or humility than in the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Here are three practical things we can take away from this passage, and from these theological concepts:
- We can receive forgiveness for our sins by believing in Jesus
- Jesus can relate to us in our struggles and temptations, and help us in them
- Jesus is our example for humility, to lower ourselves and lift others up