Should anyone ask you whether Christ assumed our human nature as an individual, a fellow man among men, or whether He merely assumed a general human nature, you would most likely express your assent with the former and reject that latter. The question comes down to this, did the Son of God have His own, individual human nature, or did He have a nature that is common to the human race? In answer to that you would no doubt say that He had His own human nature as a distinct individual among us.
You would bolster your position by showing that a general human nature for any particular person is inconceivable. We can speak of ‘man’ in the abstract when we refer to humanity in general, hut as soon as we think of a certain person we are bound to speak of that person as an individual with his own, concrete nature.
You could also point out that Christ was like unto us in all things, barring sin. He was not created, but born in the line of the generations of Adam. The Son of God did not prepare His human nature outside of the sphere of our race, but He prepared it from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary. He belonged to the white race in distinction from the black or yellow, by descent He was a Jew, born from the royal line of David, of the tribe of Judah and from the loins of Abraham, in the generations of Seth, from the family of Shem, as a son of Adam. He was, moreover, the promised seed, a brother among the brethren.
It must even be said that He was born on a certain day of a certain year on a certain spot to live a certain definite span of life here on earth. He was reared in the home of His parents where He “increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.”. He had His own facial features, His own distinctive appearance, and characteristics that were peculiar to Him alone. He was known and readily recognized at all times as Jesus of Nazareth, who in outward appearance differed in nothing from the brethren of His own house. In fact, to be our Mediator He had to be one of us, even like unto us, as Hebrews teaches, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil. . . . Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.” .
All of which can only lead to the conclusion that Christ possessed His own, individual human nature while He dwelled among us in the flesh.
Which makes it the more surprising that Dr. A. Kuyper should teach the contrary, namely, that Christ possessed a general human nature; and that this view should be followed by later theologians, particularly Dr. Hepp, who arose in defense of this position a few years ago in his pamphlet against the views of Vollen-hoven. See the Standard Bearer, vol. 18, pp. 415, 436.
Dr. Kuyper writes in his Dogmatics, De Christo, part 2, chap. 3, p. 7, “It is the Nestorian presentation that Christ was a man. This you find nowhere in the Scriptures and cannot be deduced from them. The Scriptures do teach throughout that He was man and bore the human nature; but that He was m individual, that among the varieties of the seed of Adam there should also be a variety of Jesus, is absurd. In the sperma tou Adam (seed of Adam) were all the varieties of human life; of nations, generations, and persons. If Christ were an individual, He would also have been one of those varieties. But the Scriptures testify on the contrary that He was the deuteros Adam (second Adam); Christ was from Adam as Adam, that is, one who like Adam bore endless varieties in Himself, even the elect of God. Therefore every child of God knows that he Is In Christ, has died and is risen with Christ; that he derives his life from Christ, even as the sinner derives his life from Adam. See I Cor. 15, the contrast between anthropos choikos (earthly man) and epouranios (heavenly).”
From the above citation it is evident that Dr. Kuyper distinguishes between ‘a man’ and ‘man’. There are those who are distinct individuals, products and varieties of the one human nature of Adam, yet Christ is not one of those varieties, but simply belongs, to the general category of man. Christ did not possess an individual, but rather a general human nature.
He speaks in a similar strain in E Voto, p. 370, where he states, “Over and above the millions of human persons who were born by the will of man and from the womb of the woman there is not one more human individual created, in this sense as if the Son of God had entered into the human individual to become God and man. No, this whole false presentation must absolutely be rejected with tall its implication. The eternal Son of God is the person Who Himself took on a human nature, and, because He bore our nature, was a man among men. It is and remains one person, and that one person is and remains throughout the true and eternal God. It is not a human person who is clothed with divinity, but it is the glorious second person of the Godhead, who is clothed with all humanity, and now as Head of the new humanity appears among us.”
Here the argument is that since Christ was not a human person it was impossible for Him to possess an individual human nature. If we would speak of Christ having an individual human nature we would thereby ascribe to Him a human person as well as a divine person. Dr. Kuyper confuses the concrete, human nature with a “personal” human nature, as if the Son of God could not assume His own human nature without assuming a human person.
We find this same error in E Voto, vol. 1, p. 323, where he maintains that Christ could not have fulfilled the law for us if He were a human individual, for then it would have been necessary for Him to fulfill the law for Himself. To which he adds, “Therefore our Reformed church has so insistently warned that Christ should not be regarded as a man next to other men, and it should never be said that the Son of God took on our human person, but rather our human nature. No, the only and natural Son of God assumed our human nature; not as that nature belongs to one individual, but as it belongs to our whole human race; with the result that He could not do otherwise than serve substitutionary in our stead. For all that He did our human nature did in and through Him, and thus He could not fulfill the law for Himself, but it was fulfilled in Him and through Him for our human nature.”
What is lost sight of is that Christ is the person of the Son of God appointed from all eternity by the Father to be the representative Head of His people. Juridically He stands in our stead, for God Himself brings the substitutionary sacrifice for our sins in our flesh upon the cross. He “who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”. Being like us in all things except sin, He could bear our guilt and fulfill all righteousness for us. It is not necessary, nor is it Scriptural to maintain that Christ assumed a general human nature to bring the perfect sacrifice for sin. .
Returning to Kuyper’s Dogmatics, de Christo, chap. 3, pp. 7, 8, we find that he offers three proofs for his contention that Christ assumed a general human nature.
The first of these is that He is called in Scripture the second Adam. The argument is- that even as the first Adam is the root from which the human race in all its varieties springs forth, so Christ, as the second Adam, is the root which brings forth the elect of God, Adam’s nature reproduced a variety of individuals, and so also Christ produced a host of believers who have their life from Him.
The assumption is that Adam had a general human nature, from which follows that the second Adam, Christ, must also have had a general human nature. Apart from the fact that you cannot possibly conceive of an abstract nature in a concrete human being, it is not true. Not even Adam could be just a general human being, but was very definitely an individual, a man, Even though he is the first father of the whole human race, he is very really one of us. He and Eve made up two separate entities, two individual people, and their children were again separate individuals, like their parents, born in the image and likeness of Adam and reproducing his nature. Therefore the argument that Christ must have had a general nature because Adam did falls away.
The second proof raised for the general human nature of Christ is that He repeatedly calls Himself “Son of man”. Dr. Bavinck writes, “By His common name huios tou anthroopou, Son of man, He distinguishes Himself from all other men. Each person is a man-child (huios anthroopoon or anthroopou), but not everyone is tou anthroopou, that is, ‘son of humanity’. Son of humanity designates the basic characteristic of the human nature. This name does not refer to the leaves or branches of the tree, but to the very root.”
Again it is assuming too much to translate Jesus name huios tou anthroopou, (Son of man) as if it meant ‘son of humanity’. Jesus surely never intended to use that name to make plain to us that He had assumed a general human nature, nor does Scripture ever draw that conclusion from the name. That name on the lips of our Lord has a far richer significance. It designates Him as one who is born of man, flesh of our flesh; yet at the same time it is His title of honor which He bears through His entire humiliation. For the Son of man goes to His kingdom. It is true that the Son of man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men and be crucified in order to arise again on the third day; but even while this is being accomplished He assures His enemies, “Hereafter shall ye see the Son of man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.” It is a false assumption to maintain that the name Son of man proves that Jesus bore a general human nature.
The final proof that Dr. Kuyper offers is that, even as Adam is the head of our race in the organic sense, so Christ is the Head of the Body of believers. He states, “The expressions, becoming one plant with Him, being one body with Him,, etc., are not figurative, but real, and they obtain their rights of existence, according to Romans 5, from our relation to Adam. The “being in the loins of Adam” signifies nothing less than our organic relation to Adam. Applying these expressions to Christ they mean that Christ is the organic head of His church and thus also her root. Thus we can safely say that Christ assumed the human nature, that He became man; we can call Him “Son of man”, but never “a man”. The totality of mankind was not increased by one through Him.”
He argues that even as the human race is born out of Adam, so the believers draw their life from Christ; they become one with Him as members of His body. We would almost receive the impression that Christ shares His human nature with us when He goes to glory. While the fact is that Christ shares His resurrection life with us. He does not give us another nature, but He renews our old nature. He does not make us into other creatures, but He makes us new creatures as members of His body, His church and His bride. The first Adam was a living soul, but the second Adam is a quickening spirit; the first Adam was of the earth earthy, the last Adam is the Lord from heaven.
Christ realizes His purpose in becoming our organic Head through the resurrection from the dead. It is exactly for this purpose that the Son of God came into the likeness of our sinful flesh and became like us in all things except sin, including our individual human nature. He is flesh of our flesh, blood of our blood, born of the virgin Mary, of the seed’ of Adam, in the covenant line as the seed of the promise, a brother among the brethren. He stands in the very center of the line of election, THE promised seed and THE Heir of salvation.
Our only conclusion can be that the Son of God did not assume a general but an individual human nature at His incarnation.