I’m currently teaching Christology at New Geneva, and at the same time teaching a confirmation class at the church. I am always reminded to be thankful for the work that the early church fathers did in very carefully defining the doctrines of the faith in so many areas. I am also once again impressed with the importance of doctrines that many in our modern age view as trivial.
One of the doctrines denounced by the early church was the doctrine of Monophysitism, and its more subtle counterpart Monothelitism. Monophysitism teaches that Christ had one nature instead of two and Monothelitism advanced the idea of a single will of Christ, rather than two. The orthodox position on these questions was that Christ has two natures, human and divine, without admixture or confusion, and likewise that He had two wills. This seems pretty abstract. But the church was wise to contend for the truth in this matter, and Christians today would be wise to do so as well.
Why does it matter? It is important because of what Christ did for us. He was righteous on our behalf. He succeeded where Adam had failed, succeeded in being the faithful servant of God. He redeemed not only us as individuals, but He redeemed human nature itself. He showed that human nature was not the problem. God created man good- very good, in fact, and God does not make mistakes. It is the subjugation of the good human nature to the corrupting effects of sin which is the problem. Jesus, in being the perfect human being, restored humanity itself.
But to do that, Jesus had to be a real human being, including the possession of a real human will. Where do we see His obedience if the only will He possesses is a divine will? The divine will is unified, and the divine will is what must be obeyed. We see this obedience in the garden of Gethsemane the night before Jesus’ crucifixion when He prayed to the Father that the bitter cup of what He would endure the next day be taken from Him. Nevertheless, He says, “Not My will but Thine be done.” This demonstrates clearly a separation between His human will and the Divine will which He, as fully God, also possessed. We see there in the garden the struggle Jesus endured to conform His human will to His divine will. He succeeded; He obeyed; and in doing so, He redeemed mankind.
Therefore His work is complete. He doesn’t just clear the guilt of Adam’s sin away and put us back in the position Adam was in, where his favor with God would be determined by his obedience. Jesus truly fulfilled God’s righteous requirements for humanity. If I am in Christ, united to Him by faith, then I have passed God’s test for humanity- or rather, Jesus has passed it for me. I can add nothing to this. I can do nothing to earn this. Embracing and enjoying this truth to the fullest depends on having the correct doctrine of who Jesus is and what He did.
One amazing implication of this truth is that God will never abandon humanity, will never give up on humanity. In the incarnation, God is forever united to humanity, and therefore will forever be committed to humanity. I find great comfort in this truth.