Sometimes big words can be intimidating, scary even; but don’t let that put you off. Big words are just the tags we put on the big ideas for convenience, so we can talk about them quicker. The first word (or phrase rather) is ‘hypostatic union’ It’s much easier to understand than it appears. The word ‘hypostatic’ in Greek just means ‘personal.’ So the hypostatic union is the personal union of Jesus’ two natures. That’s what we want to figure out, how can Jesus’ two natures be united in one person?
You may ask yourself, why bother? What good does it do if we understand or not the hypostatic union? Well, the term can go, but the concept behind it is infinitely precious and worshipfully mind-stretching. It is immeasurably sweet – awe-inspiring – to know that Jesus’ two nature are perfectly united in his one person. Jesus is not divided.
THE CHALCEDONIAN DEFINITION
In October 451AD, a council was convened to discuss this issue and correct false teaching on who Jesus was. Church leaders from all over met in a city called Chalcedon, and came up with the following statement:
Therefore, following the holy fathers,
we all with one consent, teach people 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 rational soul and body;
of one substance with the Father – according to his Godhead,
and of one substance with us – according to his manhood;
like us in all things, without sin;
begotten before all ages of the Father, – according to his Godhead,
and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation,
born of the Virgin Mary, the God-bearer, – according to his manhood;
one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten,
to be acknowledged in two natures,
without confusion, without change,
without division, without separation;
the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union,
but rather 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 declared concerning him,
and the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us,
and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.
Some incorrect understandings of Jesus were flying around the early church. Some people thought maybe Jesus was like Bruce Banner & the Hulk, god and man but only one at a time. Like when Banner, in the first Avengers film, talks about “the other guy”. There were 3 main heresies at large, and the Chalcedon definition handled each of them.
The first was a view held by Apollinarius who believed Christ did not have a human mind or soul. He was physically human but mentally divine. Not unlike the docetists. To this the council wrote that Jesus was “truly man, of a rational soul and body… of one substance with us according to his manhood; like us in all things.”
The next big issue was Nestorianism, that Christ was two different people united in one body, like Banner and Hulk or Jekyll and Hyde. To this the council remarked, Jesus was “without division, without separation… concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons.”
And finally, in rejecting the errors of Monophysitism, Christ had only one nature, a mix of both together, dominated by the divine. To this the council stated, Jesus was “to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change … the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved.” In other words, you can tell the difference, it’s definitely two natures. Neither lessening the other.
It’s like what the great AUGUSTINE of Hippo said, “in taking the form of a servant, He did not lose the form of God, as the testimonies of the Scriptures taught us.”
Another church guy named ATHANASIUS noted that “it was precisely in order to be able to die that He [God] had taken a body.”
We sometimes sing this stuff in church, have you ever sung the old hymn by CHARLES WESLEY with the words, “’Tis mystery all: th’ immortal dies.” It is a mystery, but that’s the conundrum, the immortal creator God, became His creation to become mortal, to die…for us.
Jesus is not divided. He is not two people. He is one person. As the Chalcedonian Definition states, his two natures are without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation. Jesus is one.
This means Jesus is the one focal point for our worship. Because of this hypostatic, one-person union, Jesus Christ exhibits an unparalleled magnificence. No one person satisfies the complex longings of the human heart like the God-man.
God has made the human heart in such a way that it will never be eternally content with that which is only human. Finite things can’t satisfy our thirst for the infinite.
GOD MADE MAN
And yet, in our finite humanity, we are significantly helped by a point of correspondence with the divine. God was glorious long before he became a man in Jesus. But we are human beings, and unincarnate deity doesn’t connect with us in the same way as the God who became human. The conception of a god who never became man will not satisfy the human soul like the God who did.
And beyond just gazing at the spectacular person of Jesus, there is also the amazing gospel-laced revelation that the reason Jesus became the God-man was for us. His truly human nature joined in personal union to his eternally divine nature is permanent proof that Jesus, in perfect harmony with his Father, is undeterrably for us. He has demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, he took our nature to his one person and died for us.