Jesus Christ, God and Man

Author: Fr. William G. Most


This article teaches that Jesus Christ is the Redeemer promised to Adam and Eve in Genesis 3:15, the only Son of God, and by that very fact, Lord of all Creation. He is the second Person of the Holy Trinity, sent to the world by the Father to become man and save us from our sins. So St. Peter said in Matthew 16:16: "You are the Christ, the son of the Living God". The name Jesus means Savior, as we see from Matthew 1:2. The name "Christ," "Messiah" in Hebrew, means the Anointed one (cf. Acts 10:38).

Jesus is God

"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us" wrote St. John (1:14). So, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity assumed human nature. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Divine Word of whom John wrote, "In the beginning was the Word; the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (John 1:1).

He Became Man

"In the fulness of time, God sent his Son, born of a woman" (Gal 4:4). In order to become a member of the human race in the fullest sense, the Second Person of the Trinity became man by being born of a human woman, Mary. He was conceived by her without the help of a human father, but rather, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Thus, the God-man Jesus Christ had only God as His Father, and the Virgin Mary as His Mother. (See the section on Mary, the Mother of God.)

Jesus as Teacher

We can easily see He was not the same as other great religious teachers. He not only worked miracles that could be authenticated, but worked them in contexts such that there was a tie established between the miracle and the claim, as we see in the healing of the paralytic in Mark 2. He foretold His own resurrection; He lived a life of such holiness that He could challenge people: "Which of you can convict me of sin?" (John 8:46). Hardly anyone else would dare to give such a challenge! His teaching rested not on human reasoning but on the divine authority which He claimed, e.g., when He said several times over: "You have heard it was said to them of old... but I say to you" (Matthew 5:27-44). He inspired His followers to follow Him even to dreadful deaths. If someone objects: other religions have had martyrs too - correct. But not one of them can provide the solid support of data that we can, as shown in our sketch of apologetics in part one.

Jesus as Redeemer

However, the chief reason that God became man was to redeem us from sin, that is, to pay the debt of our sins, as Leo the Great said (Letter to Flavian, June 13, 449). We read in the Epistle to the Ephesians (2:4-5): "God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive again together with Christ." (See the section on Jesus' suffering and death.)

Jesus as Founder

He founded a Church whose doctrine can and does develop in the same line, that is, without reversing any previous teaching, over all centuries. He made clear that this was the divinely given means of getting peace in this life and eternal salvation in the world to come. (See the section on the Church.)

One Person, Two Natures

The Council of Chalcedon in 451 brought to the climax the long debates about the make-up of Jesus: He is one Person, a Divine Person, having two natures, divine and human, in such a way that these two natures remain distinct after the union in the one Person. We call this union "hypostatic union" from the Greek "hypostasis" which means person - two natures joined in one Person.

His human nature is the same as ours, for he had a human body and a human soul. He was like us in all things except that He was without sin, even though He was tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15). However, this does not mean that He had within Him disorderly passions. The Second Council of Constantinople in 553 defined this truth against "impious Theodore of Mopsuestia".

His divine nature is the same as that of the Father. The Council of Nicea in 325 defined that He is "one in substance [homoousios] with the Father".

The Wonder of the Incarnation

Finally , Plato, the great Greek philosopher, in his Symposium 203, wrote: "No god associates with men". Aristotle in his Nichomachean Ethics 8. 7 wrote that friendship of a god with a man is impossible; the distance is too great. What would they have thought had they learned that God actually became man, and even, that He willed for our sake to submit to a horrible and shameful death? In the Old Testament, Deuteronomy 21:23 says: "Cursed be everyone who hangs on the wood". No wonder St. Paul told the Corinthians (I. 1:23) that the doctrine of the cross is folly to the Greeks, and a scandal to the Jews!

Taken from The Basic Catholic Catechism
PART THREE: The Apostles' Creed II - V
Second Article: "Jesus Christ His Only Son, Our Lord"

By William G. Most. (c)Copyright 1990 by William G. Most

Related Q and A

77. Did God abandon man after Adam fell into sin?

God did not abandon man after Adam fell into sin, but promised to send into the world a Savior to free man from his sins and to reopen to him the gates of heaven.

(a) God could have abandoned man and allowed the human race to suffer the just penalty of never seeing Him face to face in heaven. In His infinite love and mercy, God took pity on Adam and his descendants and gave them the chance of salvation through the promised Redeemer.

78. Who is the Savior of all men?

The Savior of all men is Jesus Christ.

(a) Not all men are saved, but all who attain salvation do so through the merits of Christ.

(b) That Jesus Christ is the promised Savior can be proved from the prophecies of the Old Testament which are fulfilled in Him; from His own testimony, which is worthy of belief; and from the miracles He worked in proof of His divine mission, especially His Resurrection.

(c) The name "Jesus" means Savior.

(d) "Christ," a Greek word meaning "anointed," signifies Jesus' three-fold office of King, Priest, and Prophet, because, of old, kings, priests, and prophets were anointed.

79. What is the chief teaching of the Catholic Church about Jesus Christ?

The chief teaching of the Catholic Church about Jesus Christ is that He is God made man.

80. Why is Jesus Christ God?

Jesus Christ is God because He is the only Son of God, having the same divine nature as His Father.

(a) Jesus Christ is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity, who from eternity proceeds by true spiritual generation from the Father.

(b) We believe Jesus Christ is God because God Himself revealed this truth:

first, through the Prophets of the Old Testament who foretold that the promised Redeemer would be God;

second, through Christ Himself, who claimed to be God and confirmed His own testimony by the holiness of His life, by the fulfillment of His prophecies, and by the miracles He worked in His own name and by His own power, especially His Resurrection.

(c) A miracle is something that is not according to the usual course of created nature, surpasses the power of all creatures, and consequently can be produced only by the power of God.

(d) The senses must be able to observe a miracle if it is to have the value of a proof for us.

(e) Only God can be the principal cause of a miracle because a miracle surpasses the power of all creatures. God sometimes uses creatures as instruments in performing miracles.

(f) Since God, who is all-truthful, is the principal cause of a miracle, it cannot be worked in support of a lie.

(g) The following are some of Christ's miracles: He restored sight to the blind, cured lepers in an instant, walked on the waters of the sea, multiplied the loaves and fishes, raised the dead to life, and finally, rose from the dead Himself by His own divine power.

81. Why is Jesus Christ man?

Jesus Christ is man because He is the Son of the Blessed Virgin Mary and has a body and soul like ours.

(a) Although Christ's conception and birth were miraculous, He, like other men, came into the world as an infant, having Mary for His Mother. Since His origin from the Blessed Virgin is true generation, Mary is the Mother of Jesus Christ, who is God, and she is therefore truly the Mother of God.

(b) Christ, like other men, ate, drank, became tired, slept, and walked through Judea, Galilee, and Samaria.

(c) Christ, as man, was the most perfect of all men. He was endowed with human intelligence and free will, but He was free from all ignorance and error, from all sin and imperfection.

(d) The human soul of Christ could suffer as well as His body. For example, Christ was sorrowful unto death. In the garden of Gethsemani He said to His disciples: "My soul is sad, even unto death. Wait here and watch with me" (Matthew 26:38).

82. Is Jesus Christ more than one Person?

No, Jesus Christ is only one Person; and that Person is the second Person of the Blessed Trinity. (a) It is heresy to say that there are two Persons in Christ.

83. How many natures has Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ has two natures: the nature of God and the nature of man.

(a) There is a difference between person and nature. Human nature i£ composed of body and soul; in a human person is found the added perfection which makes each one an individual, distinct from all others. A human person has only one human nature. Christ is a divine Person having the nature of God and the nature of man.

(b) Christ proved He had both the nature of God and the nature of man by doing some things that only God could do, and other things that men do.

(c) It is heresy to deny the divine nature of Jesus Christ by accepting Him as merely a perfect man; it is also heresy to deny His human nature.

(d) The following is the defined teaching of the Church: "I also believe in the Son of God, the Word, begotten of the Father in eternity, before all time . . . born in time of the Holy Ghost from Mary, ever virgin; born with a rational soul; having two nativities, one eternal of the Father, the other in time, of His Mother." (Leo IX, April, 1053.)

84. Was the Son of God always man?

The son of God was not always man, but became man at the time of the Incarnation.

85. What is meant by the Incarnation?

By the Incarnation is meant that the Son of God, retaining His divine nature, took to Himself a human nature, that is, a body and soul like ours.

(a) The union of the second Person of the Blessed Trinity with human nature is called the hypostatic union.

86. How was the Son of God made man?

The Son of God was conceived and made man by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

(a) The conception of the Son of God in the womb of the Blessed Virgin Mary is attributed to the power of the third Person of the Blessed Trinity because the Holy Ghost proceeds from the love of the Father and the Son, and the Incarnation is a work of God's great love for mankind.

(b) All three Persons of the Holy Trinity performed the act of divine power whereby the Incarnation took place. But Catholic faith teaches that only the second Person took to Himself a human nature.

87. When was the Son of God conceived and made man?

The Son of God was conceived and made man on Annunciation Day, the day on which the Angel Gabriel announced to the Blessed Virgin Mary that she was to be the Mother of God.

(a) We commemorate this event when we say the Angelus.

(b) The miraculous privileges accorded the Blessed Virgin Mary by Almighty God testify to her position as the most exalted of God's creatures.

(c) Mary, the Mother of God, remained a virgin not only in the conception of Christ but also in His birth and during the rest of her life.

(d) Because of her consent to accept the office of Mother of the Redeemer, and also because of her merits in intimately sharing the sufferings of her Divine Son for the salvation of mankind, the Blessed Virgin is given the title of Co-Redemptrix of the human race.

(e) After her death, the body of the Blessed Virgin, reunited with her soul, was miraculously taken up into heaven. The Church observes this event in the Feast of the Assumption.

(f) Special veneration, called hyperdulia, is given to the Blessed Virgin, because of her excellence which far surpasses that of all the saints and angels.

88. Is Saint Joseph the father of Jesus Christ?

Jesus Christ had no human father, but Saint Joseph was the spouse of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the guardian, or foster father, of Christ.

(a) God the Father is the only true Father of Jesus Christ.

(b) Christ was the only child of Mary. The brothers and sisters of Christ mentioned in the Bible were cousins.

(c) Saint Joseph's high dignity, grace, holiness, and glory have their source in the fact that he was the husband of the Blessed Virgin Mary and the foster father of the Son of God. Saint Joseph is the patron of the Universal Church.

89. When was Christ born?

Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary on Christmas Day, in Bethlehem, more than nineteen hundred years ago.

The Baltimore Catechism, Lesson 7.