True God and True Man: Reflections on the Hypostatic Union, Part 4
"But of that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone" (Mark 13:32 NASB).
The Child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. (Luke 2:40 NASB)
And Jesus kept increasing in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men. (Luke 2:52 NASB)
Each Christian must personally confess with Thomas that Jesus Christ is "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), that Jesus-the Word-was God (John 1:1), that Jesus-God the Son-shared in the glory of the Father before the world began (John 17:5). This divine person-the second person of the Trinity-is the person who took on a human nature (Phil 2:7) in order to fulfill the Law (Matt 5:17; Gal 4:4) and to die for our sins (1 Cor 15:3). Having been raised from the dead on the third day (1 Cor 15:4), Jesus freely offers eternal life to all who will believe in Him (John 3:16), and He is now present with believers always, even to the end of the age (Matt 28:20).
In considering the truths just mentioned, along with the biblical texts cited at the beginning of this blogpost, certain questions arise. How can a divine person-a person who is fully God-be said to increase in wisdom? How can such a person indicate that He did not know something that the Father knows?
In considering these questions, we must more fully explore what we MUST CONFESS about the Person of Christ and what we CANNOT KNOW.
What We MUST CONFESS About the Person of Christ
The second person of the Trinity is immutable according to His divine nature (Psalm 102:25-27; Malachi 3:6; James 1:17). "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Heb 13:8 NASB). Thus, as to His divinity, Jesus cannot grow in wisdom or knowledge.
According to the eternal plan in the divine will-from before the world began (Eph 1:3-12; Rev 13:8)-the second person of the Trinity was predestined to become incarnate-taking on a human nature-in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4). The human nature of Christ had all the necessary attributes of humanity. Christ became like us in all ways, sin excepting (Heb 2:17; 4:15). In His human nature, Christ experienced physicality, limitation, change, humility, temptation, and the need to grow in wisdom and knowledge (as expressed in the verses at the beginning of this blogpost, along with others, such as: Matt 4:2; John 4:6; Phil 2:7; Heb 4:15).
The incarnate Christ (before His glorification) normally related to people through His human nature. Except at His transfiguration (Matt 17:1-2; Mark 9:2-3; Luke 9:28-29), those looking upon the human Christ would have considered Him physically unremarkable. As the Prophet Isaiah declared, "He had no form or majesty that we should look at Him and no beauty that we should desire Him" (Isa 53:2b ESV).
Even so, the second person of the Trinity is the divine subsistency through whom creation is sustained (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). This consideration-along with the confession of divine immutability-means it is impossible that Christ, in taking a human nature, surrendered His divine being or His divine activity when becoming incarnate.
Moreover, though some theologians have claimed that Christ, during the entirety of His incarnate earthly ministry, only acted as a Spirit-empowered human being, the Gospel writers certainly record instances in which Jesus manifestly exercised divine power. Matthew 9:1-8 (paralleled by Mark 2:1-12 and Luke 5:18-26) provides two examples. First, Jesus forgives sins, an activity that His enemies rightly understand as indicative of deity. Second, Jesus knows the thoughts of the scribes and Pharisees, exercising a feature of divine omniscience (1 Cor 2:11; Psa 44:21; 139:2). While having a human nature and experiencing true humanity, Jesus still consciously exercised divine power at least on occasion.
What We CANNOT KNOW About the Person of Christ
Though we may sometimes think that marriage would be easier if we could just read our spouse's thoughts, it is a fact that no mere human can listen in on what someone else is thinking. Much less can we discern the uncommunicated thoughts of God. As the Apostle Paul notes, "For who knows a person’s thoughts except the spirit of that person, which is in him? So also no one comprehends the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God" (1 Cor 2:11 ESV). Therefore, we cannot possibly imagine the inner thought-life of a Person who is both God and Man.
What parents have not gazed into their baby's eyes wondering what manner of thoughts an infant might have? Christ-at one time-was an infant, normal in all ways that do not involve sin, yet He was also-at the same time-the eternal second person of the Trinity, sustaining the universe. How could Mary and Joseph ever have guessed at the thoughts of their child?
We know the thoughts of Jesus Christ as the Holy Spirit has revealed them in Scripture. We who love the Lord should seek to know Him better through searching Scripture, praying for the illumination of the Holy Spirit. We should seek to deepen our understanding of Christ through careful comparison of Scripture with Scripture. We should NOT be too quick to throw up our hands and say "mystery!" or otherwise give up in seeking to understand the fulness of Christ as presented in divine revelation simply because it takes sustained mental effort.
Yet there is certainly a limit to what our finite minds can comprehend concerning Christ. There are "secret things" that belong to the LORD (Deut 29:29). His thoughts are immeasurably higher than ours (Isa 55:9). So we must praise Christ, giving Him glory BOTH for what we can know about Him through divine revelation AND for being greater than we can ever fully know.