The Son’s Humanity 4

Continuing on our lesson about the incarnation, we learned the Hypostatic Union as the mysterious joining of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus. This is the dual nature of Christ. In this divine condescension, our Redeemer did not lose any of His divine attributes such as omniscience, omnipresence or omnipotence, but He veiled His glory. 

The hypostatic Union: its Historical background

In the history of the church, our fathers came to a point where they have to defend this precious doctrine from various heresies. In doing so, another term was used to articulate a biblical doctrine that we need to understand. It is Theotokos, God-bearer or mother of God. This is an orthodox term that supports the Hypostatic Union.

The Creed of Chalcedon reads,

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable (rational) soul and body; consubstantial (coessential) with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather of the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God, the Word the Lord Jesus Christ; as the prophets from the beginning (have declared) concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

The Councils, Ephesus (431) and Chalcedon (451), made it clear that Mary is Theotokos, God-bearer or the Mother of God. Jesus is born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood. However, we need to point out that the creeds are primarily about Jesus, who is truly God and truly man. Therefore, a Christocentric language penetrates both creeds. So, it is Christocentric; it is all about Christ. We see that the term or title is sandwich by Christological language. But the Roman Catholic Church today makes it Mariocentric. As Tony Costa, in his interview with the Christian Worldview Project on the truth about Roman Catholicism, clarifies that there is no problem in using the term “Mother of God” as long as we qualify that term.

It is so important because there was a heresy called Nestorianism. The Nestorians say that Mary was not Theotokos but Christotokos.1 They made sharp distinction in saying that God the Word was not the son of David (Second Letter of Nestorius to Cyril). However, Theotokos is a biblical term since the One in the womb of Mary is God the Son incarnate, not merely a human nature or a human person.

Others may argue that to call Mary mother of God is a logical fallacy.2

Here is their syllogism about Mary…

  1. Mary is the mother of Jesus.
  2. Jesus is God.
  3. Therefore, Mary is the mother of God.

They say that this syllogism presents a fallacy of equivocation since there is no clarification as to what sense that Mary is called the mother of God. But again, if we know the context and point of the creeds, we won’t be missing the point of the term.

One of my friends argues that we might as well deny the logic implied in Acts 20:28 where we are told that God purchased the church with his own blood.

  1. Jesus purchased the church with his own blood.
  2. Jesus was God.
  3. God purchased the church with his own blood.

Indeed, by virtue of the hypostatic union, therefore, we are warranted to predicate to His divine person whatever he has accomplished by (or done to) his humanity, and vice versa. This is communicatio idiomatum or communication of properties, where “Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature” (1689 LBCF cp. 8, para. 7).

Mary didn’t just give birth to a nature, but to a person, and that person was the God-man. But we need to clarify that Mary did not create God or generated God. The term was also NOT used to exalt Mary.

The One that she gave birth to or delivered was truly God in the flesh. God the Son in human form. The church fathers were securing the doctrine of the union of the divine and human nature in one person, that Jesus was God incarnate from conception onward, not beginning at His baptism or some other time or manner.3

Therefore, as orthodox believers, we need to affirm this because we are saying that the child born of Mary was not merely a human but truly God the Son incarnate.

Mary is therefore rightly called the “God-bearer,” a truth passionately rejected by Nestorius. The person whom Mary bore was precisely God the Son! Mary is the mother of God incarnate (although not, of course, the mother of the divine nature).4  

We understand that calling Mary the mother of God may have an implication of superiority but we affirm as Francis Turretin writes that, “The title Mother of God given to the virgin… should be more frequently inculcated in the churches of the East as well as of the West. This, instituted indeed solely for the honor of Christ… Although, I say, this most gross error either arose from or was increased by this occasion, it derogates nothing from the truth because the abuse and error of the papists ought not to take away the lawful use of this name.5

Having seen the historical background of the Hypostatic union and how the church struggled to preserve this doctrine by God’s grace, let us again turn as we have seen in our previous lesson, to some of the New Testament texts that witness to the Incarnation.

The Common Confession: I Timothy 3:16

By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.

NASB, 1995

The phrase “by common confession” means “by consent of all” or “without controversy or dispute” as other translations render it (KJV, NIV, ESV). This confession is the “mystery” which refers to that which is or has been hidden or unintelligible. Paul called it the mystery of godliness, referring to all true devotion toward God.

So, in this verse, Paul is telling us that the following truths are confessed by the New Testament church without question that, All Christians confess without dispute that great is the mystery which is the foundation and source of all true devotion to God.”

This mystery includes that Jesus was revealed in the flesh. Hence, If Jesus was not conceived both of the Holy Spirit and in the womb a virgin, then He was not God incarnate, and the rest of the gospel is a lie. The revelation of the Son of Man in the flesh is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith that cannot be neglected. It is part of the ONE GOSPEL that we preach for the salvation of one’s soul.

The Glory of the Son in the Flesh: John 1:14

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.


The “Word” is a reference to the eternal Son of God (v.1). The verb “became” indicates change or transition. He was not always flesh, but “became” flesh when conceived in Mary’s womb. He added humanity to His deity and became the God-Man.

The word “dwelt” comes from the Greek word skenóo, which refers to dwelling in a tabernacle or tent. In the incarnation, God “pitched His tent” or “tabernacled” among men. In the Old Testament, the Tabernacle was a place set up by Moses as directed by God, where the law of God is kept and where the sacrifices are to take place. This is where God promised to live among his people. In Isaiah 7:14, Jesus is the Immanuel, God with us. We no longer need a physical tabernacle, since, in Christ, God tabernacled among His people.

And we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

The word “glory” [Greek: dóxa] refers to the Son’s divine majesty. But this glory is different from His intrinsic or essential glory as the second person of the Trinity which we have learned before. This is what most theologians call Christ’s personal glory; His glory as of the God-man. This glory is unique to Him which the Father and the Holy Spirit do not possess, for Christ alone was revealed in the flesh.

The phrase “only begotten” [Greek: monogenés] can rightly be translated as “the one and only” or “unique”, and to say that Christ was full of grace and truth is an undeniable declaration of His deity because it ascribes to Him the fullness of two characteristics that are commonly ascribed only to God (see Colossians 2:9).

This is the glory of the Son in the flesh! No other being can share this glory with Him, for He alone is the God-man, the God incarnate.

From Exaltation to Humiliation: Philippians 2:6-8

who, as He already existed in the form of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but emptied Himself by taking the form of a bond-servant and being born in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross.


We learned before that Jesus is the ultimate model of humility since from His exalted throne, He came down and humbled Himself as a man. This verse is what the ancient church referred to as the Carmen Christi or the Hymn to Christ as God. In verse 6, we learned that the Son did not merely seem to be God in appearance; rather, He was God in essence or nature. He did not use His sovereign rule over all things for His own advantage. This testifies to His submission to the Father. John Chrysostom comments, “the Son of God feared not to descend from His right, for He thought not Deity a prize seized. He was not afraid that any would strip Him of that nature or that right, wherefore He laid it aside, being confident that He should take it up again. He hid it, knowing that He was not made inferior by so doing.”6

The following verses shed light on how His humiliation took place. It says He emptied Himself. Here, we see that He laid aside the glory &  privileges that were His as God by right and became a Man, not that He became a lesser god (John 17:5). By emptying, it doesn’t mean that Jesus gave up His attributes.7 He did not empty Himself of the Godhead, which is an impossibility, but of the manifestation of His divine glory.

As we read this passage carefully, we learn that Paul did not leave us figuring out in what way did Jesus empty Himself. It says by taking the form of a bond-servant. We observe that the means of emptying is by taking the form of a bond servant. The phrase “form of a bond-servant” is parallel to the “form of God” which refers to His essential character. He did not merely seem to look like a bond-servant but He became literally in Greek a slave. We see this in 2 Corinthians 8:9 that for our sake He became poor.

Then, our text says that He was born in the likeness of and found in appearance as a man. The word “likeness” [Greek: homoíoma] denotes “resemblance” or “similitude.” and the word “appearance” [Greek: schema] refers to one’s habits or manner of life. Christ was a true Man and bore all the characteristics of true humanity. Christ not only was a Man, but He also appeared to be so to those who knew Him and observed His behavior.

St. John Chrysostom, in the same book above, exposed the inconsistencies of the Marcionites who insisted that Jesus was only found in fashion as a man, but He did not really become a man. He comments, for if all was a mere shadow, there was no reality. If he had no real hands, how did He wash their feet? If He had not real loins, how did He gird Himself with a towel? (John 13:12).

Lastly, our text gets to the climax of the Savior’s humiliation in verse 8. It says He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death: death on a cross. We will have a detailed lesson on this in the future but we can observe here that His death was a voluntary act of obedience to the will of the Father. It was not forced upon Him as a penalty, but given to Him as a task.

His obedience from the time of the Incarnation to His crucifixion was necessary for our salvation. Let us continue to ponder on the glorious incarnation of the Son with this poem by Augustine8,

Maker of the sun, He is made under the sun. . . .
In [the Father] He remains,
From [His mother] He goes forth.
Creator of heaven and earth,
He was born on earth under heaven.
Unspeakably wise, He is wisely speechless;
filling the world, He lies in a manger;
Ruler of the stars, He nurses at His mother’s bosom.
He is both great in the nature of God,
and small in the form of a servant,
but so that His greatness is not diminished by His smallness,
nor His smallness overwhelmed by His greatness.

The incarnation shows God’s infinite and unimaginable love and grace. He did not let His people perish on their sins but suffered in this fallen world without becoming a sinner Himself in order to save them from the wrath of God.

Indeed, our life is not enough to thank and praise Him because from heaven He came and sought His bride, the church, His redeemed people.



1 My friend writes, “One test of Nestorianism is when one denies the title mother of God and argues that “Mary is the mother of Jesus’ human nature only.” This argument implies that Jesus’ human nature is simply an abstract physical container detached from the person of the Son—a radical division of Jesus’ dual nature, which is exactly what Nestorianism is. Acts 20:28 refutes this error, so the Chalcedonian creed rightly calls Mary the mother of God.” Also, the Nestorians were those “who stressed the independence of the divine and human natures in Christ, opposed its use, on the ground that it compromised the human nature of Christ, and held that the more accurate and proper term for Mary was Christotokos (“Christ-Bearer”).”Britannica

2 Matt Slick, There is a logical fallacy in the argument that Mary is the mother of God

3 Robert Duncan Culver, Systematic Theology: Biblical and Historical, part 4, chapter 9

4 Nicholas Needham, Truly God, Truly Man: The Council of Chalcedon

5 Francis Turretin, Institutes of Elenctic Theology Vol.2 (13th topic, 7th question, sec. XII)

6 Complete Commentaries of Saint John Chrysostom, Commentaries on the Epistle of St. Paul the Apostle to the Philippians: Homily VII. Philippians ii.5-11 (Trans. by John Albert Broadus)

7 This is called The Kenosis theory. It teaches us that the Son of God “gave up some of his attributes – omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence… when he became a man upon the earth. As the theory goes, Jesus voluntarily gave up these attributes so he could fully function as a man and finish the work of redemption.” (What is Kenosis? by Reformed Answers)

8 St. Augustine on the mystery of the Incarnation quoted from his Sermons for Christmas and Epiphany

Published by Jeff Chavez

Sinner saved by grace

9 thoughts on “The Son’s Humanity 4

          1. I think the term can be used with the nuances you made here and Mr. Costa but I am cautious personally using it in my context since many don’t use that language to describe Mary here in the US.

            Liked by 1 person

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