CHRISTOLOGY

  • The two natures of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

  • The two wills  of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

  • The Son of God.

  • The Son of Man.

  • The Messiah.

  • Biblical names of Christ.

  • The Judge of the world.

The two natures of our Lord, Jesus Christ. (Hypostatic Union)

        The teaching of the Orthodox Church regarding our Lord Jesus Christ is that He was both Perfect God and Perfect Man, which means that the He had two natures, Divine and Human. In theology this is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union, from the Greek word "hypostasis" meaning: (the underlying state or underlying substance). 

Early Church Fathers such as St. Athanasius the Great, used the term "hypostatic union" to describe the teaching that these two distinct natures (Divine and Human) co-existed substantively and in reality in the single person of Jesus Christ. This is not just an opinion of certain "theologians", this is in fact, one of the most important Dogmas of the Church, as this Divine Truth is clearly shown in the Bible. 

In the New Testament there is a clear indication that Jesus Christ is truly God, for example:

He was God before he was born in the flesh: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1).
After his human birth he continued to be God. On earth, Jesus forgave sins, something only God can do; "When Jesus saw their faith, he said unto the sick of the palsy, Son, thy sins be forgiven thee." (Mark 2:5).

He claimed divinity, saying: "Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am." (John 8:58). 
After his resurrection, he continues to be God. In the Gospel of St. John, Thomas proclaims to the risen Jesus “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). I
n St. John's first epistle, he says that they who acknowledge Christ as God are of the Spirit of God, yet those who deny this, as being of the spirit of the Antichrist: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world." (1 John 4:1-3)

 

The New Testament also clearly indicates that Jesus was truly fully human, yet without sin of course: "For 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." (Hebrews 4:15).

In the Gospel St. John writes, “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14), whilst, in his second epistle he writes: "For many deceivers are entered into the world, who confess not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist. (2 John 7-11).

Throughout the Scriptures we can clearly see that Jesus was indeed human having being immaculately conceived in the virginal womb of the Holy Ever-virgin Mary, through the Holy Spirit. The Holy Scriptures tell us that as Man, the Lord tired, thirsted, hungered, suffered the pains of the Passion and finally truly died on the Cross as Man, so that He could destroy eternal death once and for all  through His own death, the very death we inherited from our forefather Adam as a consequence of the ancestral sin, and thus, through the new Adam, (Christ), we inherited Life everlasting, because as God, having descended into Hades, He resurrected mankind through His own Resurrection. That Jesus Christ is fully human is of great importance to us. This truth tells us that in order to save us, God became one of us. To do so he did not abandon his divinity, but merely, clothed himself with flesh. In fact He became that which He created us to be, He was the Perfect Icon of what it means to be the Image and Likeness of God. 

 

This dual nature of our Saviour continues as he intercedes for us in heaven: “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Timothy 2:5). Scripture thus implies that Jesus continues to be fully God and fully human—now God in glorified human flesh, and when we partake of the Precious Mysteries, we are partaking of the All-holy Body and Blood of Christ, of which we are sanctified. 

There are many verses in the Holy Scriptures which support the Dogma of the Two Natures of our Lord, Jesus Christ, we only mentioned a few above.

Unfortunately, there where those who opposed this Dogma of the Church and Gospel truth, and believe in one superior nature instead of two natures. The Church condemned this theory and considers it to be a heresy and therefore considers also those who believe this teaching, to be heretics and outside Christ's Church. This heresy is known as the Monophysite Heresy. The phrase Monophysitism is Greek and made up of two words: "Mono" (single) and "physis" (nature). The main Monophysite denominations are as follows:

 

  • Coptic "Orthodox" family of "Churches", namely; Egyptian, Ethiopian and Eritrean.

  • Syrian Jacobite/Oriental "Orthodox" Family of "Churches", including the Malankara "Orthodox" groups. 

  • Certain Armenian groups.

The two wills of our Lord, Jesus Christ. 

           Another Orthodox Dogma of a Christological nature, is the Dogma of the dual wills of our Lord, Jesus Christ. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, we believe that our Saviour was both Perfect Man and Perfect God, in other words that He possessed both a Divine and Human Nature, as we mentioned above. For this reason, it is only natural for the Lord to also have Two wills, Human and Divine. Although this matter may seem very complicated, it is actually not so complicated, especially when we turn to the explanations of the Holy Fathers of the Church.

 

One of the most well-known explanations on this particular matter is that of St. Maximus the Confessor on his works: “On the Two Wills of Christ in the Agony of Gethsemane”. Although short length, this excellent exposition vastly impacted the Church’s understanding of Christ’s human will by analysing the difficult moment our Lord felt in Gethsemane.

 

The scriptural passage is concerning, Matthew 26:39, where our Lord exclaims “O my father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me: nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” It is from St. Maximus’s explanation of this passage that we receive, in this work, the doctrine of the two wills of Jesus Christ.

 

St. Maximus argues that what appears to be resistance by the Lord when He said: “O my Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me”, it is rather more appropriately to be understood as courage, because to actively will in opposition to His innate desire is a demonstration of courage not resistance, of agreement not disagreement. Even though Jesus may not have desire to take the cup of crucifixion, He ultimately does will to endure it. St. Maximus is quick to demonstrate that Jesus wilfully surrenders to the will of the Father, when He exclaimed: “…nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt.” This passage, therefore, is to do the will of the Father, and thus demonstrates the harmony and concurrence between the will of Jesus and the will of the Heavenly Father.

 

Upon establishing that the will of Jesus is in harmony and concurrence with the will of the Father, St. Maximus then asks, “Who then do you understand as the subject?” In other words, who is Jesus? Is He “a man who is just like us or the man we consider in the role of Saviour?” That is, is He entirely and solely human, (which is considered heresy), or is He both entirely human and entirely divine, (as orthodoxy decrees)? St. Maximus analyses both perceptions. St. Maximus, reflecting carefully on the works of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, concludes and declares that He cannot be merely human like us: “for, a human like us would “resist and contend” with the will of God.” St. Maximus was merely trying to demonstrate that a human like us would resist the will of God in this instance (of Matthew 26:39).

 

In short, the will of the Only-Begotten (Jesus Christ) cannot refute the will of the Father because the two wills are eternally one and the same. Therefore, St. Maximus is articulating that the negation, “nevertheless not as I will”, cannot come from the divine nature and will of Jesus. It can only come from His human nature and will. Otherwise, God would be negating against Himself, which is illogical and impossible. The Son cannot negate against the Father. Since they have a common will, anything the Son wills for Himself is an expression of the common divine will. Since salvation requires Jesus to take the cup (Crucifixion) and since God wills salvation, the negation cannot come from Jesus’s divine nature. The conclusion, therefore, is that the negation comes from Jesus’ human will, thus proving that it does actually exist. St. Maximus demonstrates that Jesus is two natures, and that accordingly he has two wills.

 

Clearly Jesus’s divine will was one and the same as the will of the Father, signifying that it is not the activity of His divine will, but rather the activity of His human will. At this moment Jesus wills, as a human being, to fulfil the will of the Father and in so doing He perfectly heals humanity of a corrupt will that has consistently forsaken the will of God since the Fall of Adam. In other words, the moment of negation by Jesus’s human will in Gethsemane is the supreme example of Christ’s victory. Unlike Adam in Eden, Jesus’s Human will maintain unity with the will of God, thus defeating the evil powers that had corrupted Adam in the beginning. Where Adam had failed, Christ was victorious, both moments unfolding in a garden.

 

“In order to restore humanity, it is essential that His victory was not just won through His divine nature but also through His human nature.” (St. Maximus the Confessor)

 

The belief that Jesus possessed one will alone, was condemned by the Church and considered a heresy which become known as Monothelitism. Again, this phrase is Greek, made up of two words, “Mono” (single) and “thelima” (will).

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