God and Man, How does that work? The Hypostatic Union… Duh!
I remember pondering how Jesus could be man and God without having being changed. I also used to wonder how Jesus could be God and die on the cross. After all, God can’t die. If He could He wouldn’t be God. Well, I’m glad to say that more brilliant men than I have studied long and hard to explain my problems away. So let’s take advantage of what these men, who have come before us had figured out. The doctrine of the hypostatic union is pretty simple to understand, but has some very profound implications.
ὑπόστασις hypostasis, is a Greek word that for our purposes means, substance or subsistence. When we speak of this in regards to Jesus, we are explaining how the God nature and the man nature are joined. I used to have an extremely basic understanding of Jesus. I thought that Jesus was God incarnate, and that’s where it ended. I didn’t understand past that idea. We know that Jesus was not always incarnate. We also know that He is not a demigod. For instance the mythical Hercules was believed to be a demigod. He was said to be the physical product of a carnal relation between Zeus and Alcmene. Zeus was a mythical god of the Greeks. Alcmene was his human mother, whom Zeus had relations with, according to Greek mythology. Thus, Hercules was understood to be the mingled half natures of god and man. That is what a demigod is. Jesus is not a demigod. He is 100% fully God and 100% fully human, perfectly joined, without mingling the two distinct natures. It is very important that we understand this.
Jesus was always God and will always be God. At the incarnation, some people make the false, heretical statement that God changed in nature via the incarnation. This error is because they don’t understand the immutable nature of God or they don’t affirm it. They struggle to justify Jesus being man and God. They lack the tools to see how both can be true. We know from God’s word that it is all true and if there is a seeming conflict between what we see as mutually exclusive statements, the problem has to be with our limited understanding and not God’s word. If we start with that as our presupposition we can approach the Bible in faith and accept what has been said. I accepted the trinity on faith for a long time, until it started making more sense to me. Now I affirm it with reason that has been reformed by God in addition to faith.
If Jesus always existed as the eternal Son, who had no human body, then by the power of God, a body was made for Him in the womb of Marry, and at that moment His God nature was forever joined to His human nature, being 100% God and 100% man, perfectly joined, without mixing, having two complete distinct natures, then He could fulfill the work that was ahead of Him. Only a man could represent other men. Only a man could die. It is impossible for God to die or be killed. Only a man could experience life and temptation as a man. Man had inherited death from Adam. Only Jesus broke that chain, by being born of the virgin and power of God via the Holy Spirit. Only God could live a sinless life. Only God could fulfill all righteousness. Only God could survive the punishment on the cross until it was paid for. All of the eternities of torment in Hell, owed by all the sinners who would be saved, was poured out on Jesus during the crucifixion. Think about it. We cannot conceive of eternity, let alone an eternity of punishment. He didn’t just survive for one person, but all that would be saved. A human could not have survived the punishment of his own sins, not to mention anyone else’s. It was necessary for Jesus to be God and man. Not only is it necessary, but it makes absolute sense when we think about it.