The President’s Column – Every Pastor in the Concordia Lutheran Conference Preaches the Personal Union of the Two Natures in Christ
From the November / December 1996 issue of The Concordia Lutheran
The President’s Column
EVERY PASTOR IN THE CONCORDIA LUTHERAN CONFERENCE PREACHES THE PERSONAL UNION OF THE TWO NATURES IN CHRIST
Most people are acquainted with the beautiful Christmas Story as it is recorded by inspiration of God in the second chapter of the Gospel according to St. Luke. Such passages as, “She brought forth her firstborn Son and wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7); “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:14); “Unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11); and “Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart” (Luke 2:19) are commonplace in most Christian households. Matthew’s record of the Wisemen from the East which contains such passages as, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen His star in the East, and are come to worship Him” (Matt. 2:2), and “The star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was” (Matt. 2:9), and “When they had opened their treasures, they presented unto Him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh” (Matt. 2:11), is also a portion of God’s Word with which people are familiar especially at Christmas time. In the Gospel according to St. John, however, we find the entire story of Christmas compressed into only ONE verse which sets forth plainly the perfect deity and the perfect humanity of the Christ Child. There we read, “And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).
Commenting on this verse, Dr. Martin Luther illustrates its great importance with the following anecdote: “The following tale is told about a coarse and brutal lout. While the words ‘And was made man’ were being sung in church, he remained standing, neither genuflecting (kneeling) nor removing his hat. He showed no reverence, but just stood there like a clod. All the others dropped to their knees when the Nicene Creed was prayed and chanted devoutly. Then the devil stepped up to him and hit him so hard it made his head spin. He cursed him gruesomely and said: ‘May hell consume you, you boorish ass! If God had become an angel like me and the congregation sang: ‘God was made an angel,’ I would bend not only my knees but my whole body to the ground! Yes, I would crawl ten ells down into the ground. And you vile human creature, you stand there like a stick or a stone. You hear that God did not become an angel but a man like you, and you just stand there like a stick of wood!’ … With this illustrative story the holy fathers wished to admonish the youth to revere the indescribably great miracle of the incarnation; they wanted us to open our eyes wide and ponder these words well.”
Here in verse fourteen of the Gospel according to St. John, we find the great mystery of Christmas which even the holy angels of God cannot fathom. Yet it is this great truth which is oftentimes overlooked entirely or not given sufficient emphasis at Christmas time when much is said and sung concerning Mary and Joseph, and the Babe lying in a manger, the shepherds in the fields of Bethlehem to whom our Savior’s birth was revealed, and the Wisemen with their precious gifts. This great truth that God “was manifest in the flesh” is called the “mystery of godliness” in I Tim. 3:16. It is a mystery which God has revealed to us for our eternal salvation. But this very mystery is regarded by many as an offensive part of Christmas so that it is not unusual to see the third stanza of Silent Night omitted when it is sung on the radio, TV, or on recordings. That stanza reads, “Silent night! Holy night! Son of God, Love’s pure light Radiant beams from Thy holy face, With the dawn of redeeming grace, Jesus, Lord, at Thy birth.”
Without question, the most important fact of Christmas is that the “fulness of the Godhead,” God whole and entire, He who is, from eternity, one with the Father and the Holy Ghost dwells bodily in that which was miraculously conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, born in the City of David, and laid in a manger. Of the Baby Jesus the pastors of our Concordia Lutheran Conference therefore preach that this tiny human Baby is GOD, the Creator and Ruler of all things! True God and true Man are united in the Babe of Bethlehem in such a way that the human Baby partakes of all the attributes of the Godhead and that all the characteristics and activities of that human Baby are ascribed to the person of the Son of God. Yes, also God’s attributes of eternity, omnipotence, and omnipresence are ascribed to Christ as a true man even as Jesus later said to the Jews, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58), and to His disciples, “All power is given unto Me in heaven and in earth” (Matt. 28:18), and to Nicodemus, “Even the Son of man which is in heaven” (John 3:13). In Christ, man DID NOT become God (as is the case in so much of Greek and Roman mythology), but God was made man. “When the fulness of the time was come” (Gal. 4:4,5), the eternal Son of God took into His divine person a truly human nature, and by His miraculous conception in the womb of the virgin Mary and His humble birth in Bethlehem, He sanctified the sinful conception and birth of all the children of Adam, for “God made Him, who knew no sin, to be sin FOR US, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (II Cor. 5:21).
Since His incarnation, the human body of Christ is and will ever be the human body of the Son of God; the human soul of Christ is and will ever be the human soul of the Son of God; whatever Christ did as a true man He did also as true God, and whatever He continues to do as true God He also continues to do as true man unto the end of time and on into eternity. This is what makes His redemptive work unique and so precious! It was God who, having become a true man, was able to humble Himself and to take our place under His holy Law so that He would be able to perform the requirements of every commandment perfectly as the Substitute for every man, woman and child ever to be born in this sin-cursed world. The Bible therefore assures us, “As by one man’s disobedience many [all] were made sinners, so by the obedience of One shall many [all] be made righteous” (Rom. 5:19). The eternal Son of God, having become a true man, was also able to humble Himself (Phil. 2:8) to such an extent that He bore in His own sinless body, in man’s stead, the punishment which the entire human race deserved because of sin. This could not have been done were not the perfect deity and the perfect humanity of Christ joined together so as to form one undivided and indivisible Person. The Jews therefore killed the Prince of Life (Acts 3:15) and the blood of God (I John 1:7) was shed on Calvary for the sins of the world.
What the Bible teaches, and what the pastors of our Concordia Lutheran Conference therefore teach, about the Personal Union of the Two Natures in Christ is vitally important for our faith as Christians because here we are assured that the true man who kept God’s Holy Law perfectly and suffered and died on the accursed tree of the cross was not a mere man only, for then His work would not have benefited us in the least, but also true God begotten of the Father from eternity.
True Godhead incarnate, Omnipotent Word!
O, Come let us adore Him, Christ the Lord.
— P. R. B.