How Could Jesus Be Both Fully God And Man?

Are you more prone to think of Jesus as a man, or as God?

Liberal and progressive Christians more easily see the fully humanity of Jesus Christ than His divinity. The result is that they can, tragically, see him as a good man rather than the God-man. He then takes his place among the moral examples of good people who have walked the earth, rather than the sole sinless and saving God.

Conversely, conservative and fundamental Christians more easily see the full divinity of Jesus Christ than his humanity. The result is that they can, tragically, see Jesus as someone who was not really tempted or tried as we are. The result is a distorted picture Jesus who is of no real help to us since he’s not experienced the kind of limitations that we do in our humanity.

How Could Jesus Be Fully God and Fully Man?

Jesus was and is fully God and fully man. How could this be?

Jesus lived his sinless life on the earth in large part by the power of the Holy Spirit. This does not mean that Jesus in any way ceased to be fully God while on the earth, but rather that he humbly chose to limit the continual use of his divine attributes. Thus, he lived as we must live—by the enabling power of God the Holy Spirit. This must be clear: Jesus remained fully man and fully God during his incarnation, and he maintained all of his divine attributes and did avail himself of them upon occasion, such as to forgive human sin, which God alone can do.1 Nonetheless, Jesus’ life was lived as fully human in that he lived it by the power of the Holy Spirit.2

As the church father Augustine rightly said, by becoming a man Jesus did not lose anything; rather, he added humanity to his divinity. Echoing this point, Bruce Milne writes, “The biblical equation is . . . incarnation = God plus. In becoming incarnate the divine Word did not relinquish his deity; he added to it, if one may so speak, by taking a full human nature into hypostatic union with the Word.”3

The most thorough section of Scripture regarding the incarnation is Philippians 2:5–11:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

How Important is a Correct Understanding of Jesus?

Jesus had the divine life and full equality with God in every way, yet he emptied himself of that divine way of living. He who created and rules the universe became a servant. He took on flesh with the same image and likeness of God that Adam had, while keeping his identity as the second person of the Trinity. In that humble state, he obeyed God the Father in every way. He lowered himself even further to the point of shameful death on the cross. So, God exalted him as Messiah and bestowed on him “the Name,” that is, “Yahweh,” the personal name of God that he always had as second person of the Trinity but now has as the God-man, Messiah Jesus.

The confession of Jesus as God come in the flesh is a biblical test of orthodoxy. Any person or group who denies this ceases to be part of the church and is a false prophet, serving the devil rather than Jesus.4 It is of greatest concern that many professed Christians never confess this truth plainly. They use the name “Jesus” but never clearly declare him to be God in the flesh. On the other hand, some have effectively denied his true humanity in their zeal to protect his divinity. They miss the power of the Holy Spirit in Jesus.

Are you more prone to think of Jesus as a man, or as God?

1Mark 2:1–7.

2For a more thorough study of this and other issues regarding the Holy Spirit, a helpful resource is Graham A. Cole, He Who Gives Life: The Doctrine of the Holy Spirit (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2007).

3Bruce Milne, Know the Truth: A Handbook of Christian Belief (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1998), 185.

4Matt. 24:4–5; Rom. 16:17–19; Gal. 1:7–9; 1 John 4:1–4.

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