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Is God Incarnate Immutable?

A correspondent has asked: "What bearing does the hypostatic union have upon the immutability of God? How are they reconciled?"

First of all, a word of explanation. In theology, the hypostatic union is the union of the divine and human natures in Christ. The word "hypostatic" is from a Greek word that has come to mean "person" in theology, and refers here to the fact that the two natures of Christ are united in one Person. The word "immutability," as most will know, refers to God's unchangeableness (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17).

The question, then, is this: How can God remain unchangeable if He in time unites Himself to our human natures in Christ? Is that not a change in God? And, also, the question is, if we understand it rightly: How can God be united in Christ to our changeable human nature without Himself becoming changeable?

This is a question that the church dealt with early on in her history. After defending her faith both in the true and complete divinity of Christ and in His true and complete humanity, other questions arose which forced the church to explain, as best she was able, how the divine and human natures were united in Christ. The church's answer to these questions, an answer based on Scripture itself, was set down in the Creed of Chalcedon, which says that the two natures of Christ were united "without confusion, without change, without division, without separation" in our Lord.

The church was forced to come to this confession over against the attacks of heretics who were motivated by Satan Himself. Satan knows that if He can destroy the church's faith in Christ, he has won the battle against the church. Our faith in Christ as God and man in one Person is the foundation for all we believe. Indeed, there is no salvation in Him if He is not true God and true man in one divine Person.

The truth concerning Christ is, therefore, that in the union of these two natures, which took place at the time of His incarnation, either nature was changed. The human did not become divine (unchangeable, everywhere-present, all-knowing), nor did the divine become human (changeable, limited, mortal). So too, the two natures were not confused or mixed together, so that Christ is half God and half man, but remains fully God and fully man at the same time and in the same Person ("without division, without separation").

Christ, therefore, though one Person, is and remains at the same time as far as these two natures are concerned, both the unchangeable God and changeable man. Indeed, His coming again to judge the living and the dead will involve a change of place as far as His human nature is concerned, for He shall come, from Heavens, not only to judge, but to take His people to Himself forever.

How can it be that Christ is both man and God, "equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, and inferior to the Father as touching His manhood?" The only answer is that it is a work of God Himself, and therefore wonderful in our eyes. As with all God's work, it is something that transcends our understanding. It is the great mystery of godliness, that GOD was manifest in the flesh (I Tim. 3:16). In Christ dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col. 2:9). Yet, while confessing that we do not fully understand, we are certain that if Christ is not at the same time the unchangeable God and yet a real man, there is no salvation in Him.

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Additional Info

  • Volume: 7
  • Issue: 18
Hanko, Ronald

Rev. Ronald Hanko (Wife: Nancy)

Ordained: November 1979

Pastorates: Wyckoff, NJ - 1979; Trinity, Houston, TX - 1986; Missionary to N.Ireland - 1993; Lynden, WA - 2002; Emeritus October 15, 2017

Website: www.lyndenprc.org/sermons/

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