A friend sent me a question: what does it mean that Jesus “emptied” Himself of His divine nature and took upon Himself the fullness of human nature, that is, was both God and man? My friend encountered this conundrum in a “Christology” class. Of course, I had no highly original answer. The question confounded the early church, and was the subject of ongoing debate for centuries until “resolved” by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D.
Here is my response to my friend, sent as an email earlier this week:
An excellent and readable source for this kind of information is Wayne Grudem’s “Systematic Theology.”
Wikipedia, I think, covers the many factions that once debated this “divine”/”human” dichotomy. The Council of Nicea resolved the dichotomy [from which we take our Nicean Creed] by harmonizing the two natures into one being.
I do not think this quandary is one that should shake your faith. It is not one of those ideas that must be understood as a condition of our salvation. Our salvation is the result of faith in Jesus Christ as the true Son of God, and that by his life, death, and resurrection, we are restored to full intimacy with the Father. “We can step boldly into the throne-room of God” because the Father sees not our sins, but Christ’s perfection, in us.
We know that Jesus, though fully God, emptied himself of all the prerogatives of God, and took on the form of a lowly human. In his human nature, he experienced the pain, the joy, and yes, the fear and anxiety of being human. His divine nature did not go away, but was voluntarily suspended for the period of Jesus’s life. Yet his STATUS as son of God never changed, and he received extraordinary powers from the Father to perform miracles, and to exercise control over the spiritual world. He retained a triune closeness with the Father, stating that he and the Father were “one.” John 6:46; John 10:30. The Father announced at the time of Jesus Baptism by John, and at the time of Jesus’ transfiguration witnessed by 3 disciples: “This is my beloved Son, in whom I take delight.” Matt 3:17; Matt 17:5.
Margaret, what a waste of time to learn of Jesus only by study of “theory.” The study of Christology is only useful as it informs BOTH your heart and mind. How does this dual nature of Jesus speak to your heart? What does it mean to you that Jesus contained the fullness of being God, but suspended that to live on this earth like you and me with our difficulties and suffering? When thinking about “emptying of the divine nature” think about how humble and sacrificial Jesus was to become human. How can we comprehend such love? Jesus was and is God’s way of restoring us to Himself. God reached us at our level because we could never reach Him at His level. Write about that Margaret. That is all that ultimately is of concern to God, for he is your friend, and not a theory to be learned.
Soli Deo Gloria,
And Blessings to my friend,