Hypostasis made easy

One of the most perplexing doctrines that Christianity teaches is the way that Jesus can be both man and God. This often can result in imbalance (and consequently, heresy) in how we view the union between Jesus’ divinity and humanity. At the Desiring God Blog today, David Mathis explains this teaching, referred to by theologians as the hypostatic union, in a way much simpler than I’ve ever seen it. Here’s what he says:

“Hypostatic union” may sound fancy in English, but it’s a pretty simple term. Hypostatic means personal. The hypostatic union is the personal union of Jesus’ two natures. Jesus has two complete natures—one fully human and one fully divine. What the doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches is that these two natures are united in one person in the God-man. Jesus is not two persons. He is one person.

This may sound remote and abstract, but without it, Christianity does not exist. If Jesus is not fully God, then he cannot atone for our sins. If he is anything less than God, he would suffer for sin as anything less than God does: eternally. And because he would suffer eternally, he would never finish suffering for me, and I am not saved.

And if he is not fully man, he can never be the new head of the human race. If he isn’t sent in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he can never suffer the condemnation of sin in the flesh for me; he cannot be a faithful and merciful high priest who sympathizes with my weaknesses; he cannot destroy the one who has the power of death. I cannot receive the perfect record of Jesus as a law-keeper if he is not fully man. Unless he dies for me a fully human man, I am not saved.

That’s why the teaching of hypostasis is so important. And that’s why this simple definition is so helpful.