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Previous article in this series: June 2022, p. 402.

Two Natures in Christ 

 We therefore acknowledge two natures or substances, 
the divine and the human, in one and the same Jesus 
Christ our Lord (Hebrews 2). And we say that these 
are bound and united with one another in such a way 
that they are not absorbed, or confused, or 
mixed, but are united or joined together in one 
person— the properties of the natures being 
unimpaired and permanent.

Prof. Ronald Cammenga, rector and professor of Dogmatics and Old Testament in the Protestant Reformed Theological Seminary and member of Southwest PRC in Wyoming, Michigan

The fifth chapter of the SHC is concerned with the church’s confession that Jesus Christ is true God and true man. This is the heart of the gospel. Everything that the church is and all that she is called to do depends on this fundamental confession of faith. If it is not true that Jesus Christ is both God and man, then there is no reason to preach His gospel or to live as His disciples. But because He is God and man, united in the person of the second person of the Trinity, He is worthy of being confessed, proclaimed, believed in, and obeyed.

This paragraph is concerned to confess that the “two natures or substances, the divine and the human” are joined “in one and the same Jesus Christ our Lord.” This is the fundamental confession of the Christian religion. This is Christianity. It is Christianity because of who Christ is and what Christ does. All who refuse to join the SHC in its declaration concerning the Christ of Christianity, forfeit the right to be called “Christian.” Whatever else they are, they are not Christians.

It is the truth that He is both God and man that qualifies Jesus Christ to be “the only Savior of the world,” as the title of this chapter declares. If He is not human and divine, neither can He be the Savior of the world. The justice of God demands that Christ must be both human and divine.

The one Scripture passage that Bullinger cites in this paragraph is Hebrews 2. He references the entire second chapter of the epistle to the Hebrews because the truth of the union of Christ’s two natures is woven throughout the chapter.

But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honor; that he by the grace of God should taste death for every man (v. 9).

For it became him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons unto glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings (v. 10).

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; and deliver them who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage (vv. 14-15).

For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham (v. 16).

Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in all things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people (v. 17).

In the second part of this fifth paragraph, Bullinger deliberately borrows the privative statements of the Creed of Chalcedon, AD 451, which acknowledges Christ in two natures: “without confusion, without change, without division, without separation.” Similarly, Bullinger says that the two natures of Christ “are bound and united with one another in such a way that they are not absorbed, or confused, or mixed, but are united or joined together in one person.” Christ’s human nature was not deified, nor was His divine nature humanized. They remain two distinct natures within the one divine person of the Son of God. Chalcedon condemned those who taught that Christ had only a single nature, a divine nature, into which the human was absorbed, as well as those who taught a mixture of His two natures.

Bullinger’s reference to the Creed of Chalcedon, sometimes called the Chalcedonian Definition, is significant. He is representative of the Reformers who maintained classic, creedal Christology. The Reformers stood in line with the ancient church fathers in their confession concerning Christ. Their Christology was not new, but was that which the early church had articulated as a result of controversy with a number of heretics and heretical groups.

The fifth paragraph of chapter 11 closes with the statement, “the properties of the natures [of Christ] being unimpaired and permanent.” This statement summarizes Chalcedon. Besides addressing the ancient errors, the statement also speaks to the “new” error of the Lutherans, who deified the human nature of Christ by teaching that after His ascension into heaven, Christ’s human nature became ubiquitous or omnipresent. The Lutherans taught this in the interests of their wrong view of the presence of Christ in the Lord’s Supper. They taught the physical presence of Christ in the elements of the Lord’s Supper, that Christ’s physical body was ‘in, under, and around’ the elements of the Lord’s Supper. That was possible, they contended, because at His ascension Christ’s human took on the properties of the divine and became omnipresent. But, since the properties of the two natures are “unimpaired and permanent,” the Lutherans err.

Not Two But One Christ 
Thus we worship not two but one Christ the Lord. 
We repeat: one true God and man. With respect to 
His divine nature He is consubstantial with the 
Father, and with respect to the human nature He is 
consubstantial with us men, and like us in all 
things, sin excepted (Heb. 4:15).

“We repeat: one true God and man.” Repetition for emphasis. Repetition to drive the point home. Repetition so that there is no misunderstanding. Christ is one, that is, one person, with two distinct natures. In one person, He is both God and man. Because of His divine nature, He is “consubstantial with the Father.” “Consubstantial” means “of the same substance as.” Because of His divine nature, Christ is “of the same substance as” God the Father, and therefore one with God. Because of His human nature, Christ is “consubstantial with us men.”

He is like us in every respect “sin excepted.” Bullinger cites Hebrews 4:15. The previous verse of the chapter calls the early Christians to hold fast their profession that Jesus is the Son of God. To which the inspired writer immediately adds in verse 15 that “we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Jesus is both the Son of God and a man like us men.

Christ is “like as we are.” He is fully a human being as we are human beings, sin excepted. That He is without sin means that our Lord has no original nor actual sin. He is everything that constitutes us as men. But sinfulness is not the essence of our humanity. That is plain from the fact that Adam was fully human before he fell into sin. That is also plain from the fact that the saints in their final glory will be fully human although without sin. It is true that every human being, as a result of the fall of the head of our race, our first father Adam, has become sinful and is born dead in trespasses and sins. But we men have become sinful when we were not originally sinful. Clearly, Jesus’ sinlessness does not make Him less of a man than us. He is a sinless man, but He is fully a man, as much of a man as we are men.

Because of the wonderful and mysterious union of the two natures in Christ, “we worship not two but one Christ the Lord.” This is the crucial issue, the issue that lies behind all of the debate over Christ’s natures and their union in the one divine person. Even before the issue of our salvation and the possibility of our salvation, before the issue of the satisfaction of the claims of God’s justice in the One who is our head and legal representative, there is a far more important issue at stake. We are never first; God and the glory of God are always first. The issue is worship. At stake in the doctrinal controversy over the natures and the person of Christ is the issue of whom we are to worship. We worship not two but one Christ.

If we worshiped two Christs, Christianity would be just another polytheistic religion in the long line of polytheistic religions in the history of the world. But what sets Christianity apart from the many gods of the heathen, also the “heathen” of our day, is that we worship one God who is God alone.

The Sects 
And indeed we detest the dogma of the Nestorians 
who make two of the one Christ and dissolve the unity 
of the Person. Likewise we thoroughly execrate the 
madness of Eutyches and of the Monothelites or 
Monophysites who destroy the property of the 
human nature [of Christ].

This is the second of five paragraphs found in the eleventh chapter of the SHC devoted to “The Sects.” In each paragraph, Bullinger shines the spotlight of biblical truth on different heretics and heresies, which deny in one way or another the truth that Jesus Christ is true God and man.

The truth is always antithetical. It is never enough to confess the truth positively. It is always equally important to know and to reject the heretics and their heresies. These individuals are heretics and their false teachings are heresies because they have been officially condemned by the church. And then, not only by a local church, but by the church universal, the church in its broadest gatherings. These broadest gatherings in the early church were the ecumenical councils that met to deal with the pervasive threat of the heretics in the church at large.

Besides being heretics, these men were also invariably schismatics. That was not only the case because heresy in the nature of the case is schismatic, inasmuch as it threatens the basis for the church’s unity, which is the truth. But these men were schismatics because they refused to submit to the decisions of the church, refused to recant their errors, stubbornly persisted in their false teachings, and led their followers out of the orthodox church. They were gifted and articulate men. They all had their supporters and sympathizers. But when their errors were condemned, they refused to recant. They are not all Husses and Luthers who refuse to recant. Some are “ensnared of the devil” and “taken captive by him at his will” (II Tim. 2:26). And where are they today? Not only outside of the orthodox church, but scattered to the four winds—under the judgment of God. An awful warning to schismatics in our day.

The heresies that are mentioned in this particular paragraph are of two sorts. Either they denied the union of the two natures of Christ in His one divine person, or they failed to do justice to the two distinct natures of Christ which, although united in the one divine person, nonetheless remained two distinct natures, the human nature and the divine nature.

Nestorius and his followers so separated the two natures that the end result was that Christ had two distinct persons. The “madness of Eutyches” that the SHC “execrates” is really the opposite of Nestorius. Eutychus had been an outspoken opponent of Nestorius, but his vehement condemnation of the teaching of Nestorius led him to an equally extreme although opposite view. He denied that Christ was “consubstantial” with us men. He taught that the human and the divine natures combined to form a new, composite nature. The Monothelites and Monophysites denied the distinction between the two natures, the former asserting that Christ had only one (mono-) will, while the latter taught that Christ had only one nature. Both errors “destroy the property of the human nature.”

Thus, with Bullinger, “we repeat: one true God and man,” whom we confess and whom we worship now in the church on earth, and one day with the church in glory.