The Westminster Confession Of Faith. Section VIII. 2

“The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance, and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature (Jn 1:1, 14; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6; I Jn. 5:20), with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin (Heb. 2:14-17; 4:15); being conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance (Lk. 1:27, 31, 35; Gal. 4:4).” The Roman church, who like some protestants and others, who conceived of the transmission of the sinful nature by way of procreation instead of our covenantal inclusion in Adam, put forward the idea of the immaculate conception of Mary, to try and explain how Jesus could be born of a human, without sin. This is not a problem if one understands the biblical doctrine of the covenant, that Jesus being the appointed head of the new covenant, was not included in the covenant broken in Adam.

“So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition or confusion (Lk. 1:35; Rom. 9:5; Col. 2:9; I Tim. 3:16; I Pet. 3:18). Which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man (Rom. 1:3-4; I Tim. 2:5).” This conception obviously draws on the Confession of Chalcedon (AD 451), showing that the authors saw the value of its connection with the profession of the true Catholic Church which had gone before. It is important for the church to show our continuity with the faithful professions of the past. As the saying goes, there is no point in reinventing the wheel, and the Chalcedon stood firmly on the scriptural testimony from the beginning. Therefore, there is nothing novel here. Here we should note the origin of the sonship of Jesus, that it has been from all eternity, and hence the expression – by ‘eternal generation’.

Jesus human nature was fully human – that being both body and soul. “That Christ had a human soul is equally unquestionable. He ‘increased in wisdom and stature’ (Luke 2:52); the one in respect of his body, the other in respect of his soul. In his agony, he said, ‘My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death’ (Mark 14:34); and on the cross, he committed it to his Father, saying ‘Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit’ (Luke 23:46).”1 Jesus had a human mind. It is for this reason we are said to have the mind of Christ (I Cor. 2:16). The Son was in the likeness of sinful flesh, but being the destined head of a new covenant, he was sinless from before and through his human conception. “The purity of our Lord’s human nature was necessary to qualify him for his mediatory work; for if he had been himself a sinner, he could not have satisfied for the sins of others. ‘Such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled and separate from sinners’ (Heb. 7:26).”2

“That the Godhead and the manhood are united in the one person of Christ is confirmed by all those passages of Scripture which speak of two natures as belonging to our Saviour (e.g., Is. 4:6; Mt. 1:18; Rom. 4:5). In consequence of this union, the attributes and acts which are proper to one nature are ascribed to the person of Christ. He could only obey and suffer in the human nature, but his obedience and sufferings are predicated of him as the Son of God – as the Lord of Glory (I Cor. 2:8; Heb. 5:8).” There is no other mediator between God and humanity (I Tim. 2:5). “This is not a case of man becoming God (which will never happen). This is God becoming man.”3“In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9 Cf. Rom. 9:5). “There was no ‘conversion’ – the divinity was not lost in humanity, or humanity in divinity. There was no ‘composition’ – the incarnation did not result in some new creature that was neither God nor man. In fact, there was no ‘confusion’ between the human nature and divine nature at all.”4

The apostle John, who gave such a clear statement of the eternal sonship of the Word, also issued grave warnings upon those who would espouse heretical views with respect to the Son’s person in his first and second letters respectively (4:2-4; vv. 9-10). Williamson notes a number of these heresies that arouse to be refuted at Chalcedon. “(1) Apollinaris taught that Christ had a body and soul, but that in place of a human spirit Christ had a divine Logos, or Word; (2) Nestorianism taught that there are two separate persons, the one divine and the other human, rather than one person having two natures, in Christ; (3) Eutychianism taught that in the person of Christ incarnate there was but a single, and that a divine, nature.”5There were others, such as Docetism, the doctrine, important in Gnosticism, that Christ’s body was not human but either a phantasm or of real but celestial substance, and that therefore his sufferings were only apparent.

Williamson also rightly makes reference to the Larger Catechism at this point, with regard to the impossibility, and indeed the prohibition, of any human representation of the Son. “The modern practice of making pictures of Christ as if his human nature could properly be portrayed by itself is not only a fearful error; it is impossible. For this reason the Westminster Larger Catechism consistently declares “the making of any representation of God, of all or of any of the three persons, either inwardly in our mind, or outwardly in any kind of image or likeness of any creature whatsoever” as a violation of the second commandment (Q 109).”6 One final point must be noted, in that the Son was partaker only of the human substance of Eve, Paul stated that he was “made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4), and in so doing we must understand that he is the only one who could fulfill the first gospel promise of Gen. 3:15, namely that he is of the seed of the woman, although also the seed of Abraham (Heb. 2:16), and David (Rom. 1:3).7

1. Shaw, (144)

2. Ibid., (144)

3. Van Dixhoorn, (111)

4. Ibid., (112)

5. (74)

6. (75)

7. Again, for a thorough treatment of a systematic theology on this section, as others, see Hodge (137-142).

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