One Lord Jesus Christ
We must begin with Christology. First, the Reformed tradition has agreed with the historic creeds and confessions and concluded that the words and actions of Jesus in the flesh are the words and actions of God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity. That although he spoke with a human mouth and acted with the fleshy legs and arms of our humanity, Jesus’ words and acts are the words and acts of a divine personal agent, the eternal Son of God. This is demanded by the Bible. Consider how John puts it in the first chapter of his Gospel:
In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made . . . . He was in the world. . . . he came to his own. . . . The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son of the Father, full of grace and truth.There is one divine Person, the Son of God, who assumed to himself our human nature in order to speak and work on our behalf. For example, when Jesus speaks, he speaks using the larynx and lips and of our flesh, but the One who speaks is God the Son, the Eternal word. When Jesus eats and touches even when he spreads out his arms to be nailed to the cross beam that will lift him up from the earth, it is God the Son who eats, touches, and feels the nails driven into his hands and feet. This may seem like an obvious point, but it is not often appreciated in our circles. We often speak as if there were two subjects or two agents, one human and one divine. That sometimes Jesus the man is speaking and acting and that at other times God the Son is speaking and acting. This is not the case. Through Jesus ministry there is one personal agent, one subject—the eternal Son of God who speaks and acts in the flesh. Sure enough, he is “God and man in two distinct natures” but he is not two persons. Rather he is “one Person forever” (Westminster Shorter Catechism Q. 21).
This is not the place to delineate the precise way in which God the Son united with and lived out his life united to our humanity. I only want to emphasize that there is one divine Person who acts in union with our humanity. Otherwise stated, everything Jesus says and does God the Son says and does.
Do not shrink back from this confession. It was the eternal Son of God who suffered and died in the flesh for us. Indeed, the eternal Son of God assumed our nature just so he could live and die in the flesh. It was the Person of the eternal Son who experienced suffering and death on the cross in the flesh.
To fail to affirm this surprising truth is to tinker with the Nestorian heresy. Unfortunately, too much of popular Reformed theology is often found to be slouching toward Nestorianism. Christ is not a union of two persons, one divine and one human. Rather he is one divine Person, and this divine agent acts, speaks, and experiences human life in the flesh. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to himself” (2 Cor.5:19). Happily, our hymnody often keeps us orthodox even when our human reasoning attempts to sidestep this astonishing truth.
Amazing Grace, how can it be that thou my God should die for me.We are now well on the way to solving the riddle of Jesus’ personal interaction with the Father. But the riddle is not entirely solved. To affirm one divine Personal agent means not only that everything Jesus said and did and experienced in relation to us was that of the eternal Son of God. It also means that the words and acts of Jesus spoken and performed in relation to God the Father are the words and actions of God to God, God for God. What we hear and see in the biblical record of Jesus interaction with the Father is God interacting with God. Not simply God and man, but God and God. But that raises more questions. How is it that God converses with God? That God loves God? That God obeys God? That God serves God? That God glorifies God? That God offers himself to God? What does this tell us about the nature and life of God?
Alas! And did my savior bleed and did my Sovereign die!
When Christ, the mighty Maker died for man the creature’s sin.
When I survey the wondrous cross on which the Prince of Glory died.
Forbid it Lord that I should boast, save in the death of Christ my God.