What Is the Hypostatic Union?

Although we may have difficulty grasping the concept, Scripture makes it clear that Jesus, one person, had two natures. And if we lessened either nature, we run the risk of cheapening his divine power or his work in salvation.

Hope Bolinger
Cross with John 3:16

This term is as complicated as it sounds.

Although people can grasp many Christian concepts such as atonement, salvation, sanctification, among others, the very nature of Christ in the hypostatic union caused a great deal of division in the early church.

After all, Jesus is fully God and fully man, two natures united in one person. And if any of us have excelled at math in school, we know those numbers don’t compute on a human level.

How can someone be 100% God and 100% man and still be one man?

Welcome to the hypostatic union. The concept of Jesus’ nature: Two natures, one person.

In this article, we’ll dive into the dangers of veering away from the hypostatic union, scriptural support for the hypostatic union, and why this matters.

The Problem of Removing the Man from the Equation

Although we do wrestle with various heresies today that stem from the ones listed below, the early church had to tackle them head-on. Many theologians struggled with the concept of Jesus being fully God and fully man, so they often would remove one of those parts from the equation (or lessen one of the parts).

This led to a number of heresies.

For instance, if someone tried to diminish Jesus’ humanity they might have committed the heresy of Docetism. This heresy believed bodies to be evil and said Jesus “appeared” as a man but was not really a man.

We also have other similar heresies such as Apollinarianism (Jesus had a human body, but a divine mind). Although there are others, these plagued the church in the early centuries and received condemnations.

If we remove Jesus’ humanity, we cheapen his sacrifice on the cross. If Jesus does not have a real body, or if Jesus did not experience temptation in a human sense, then why should we care about his death and resurrection? They would be illusory at best and would not fix the problem of sin.

No, in order for salvation to work, Jesus needed a fully human and fully divine nature. In the next section, we’ll dive into the heresies that tried to remove the God part of the equation.

The Problem of Removing God from the Equation

Let’s discuss heresies that tried to diminish Jesus’ fully divine part of his nature.

Enter Arianism. This heresy in the simplest of terms, makes Jesus into a junior god, whereas God the Father is the ultimate god. This heresy, believing in the Father’s too pure and perfect nature, creates Jesus to endure the suffering on earth for the Father.

We could, of course, dive into the loads of other heresies that tried to mix and match the two natures of Jesus, such as saying he had a certain percentage of both or any other weird hybrid conglomeration of his divine and human nature or will.

For those unfamiliar with the problems of removing or lessening Jesus’ divine nature, we run into a heap of issues here. First of all, this would turn Christianity into a polytheistic religion opposed to a trinitarian monotheistic religion (and we could devote entire books to the subject of why that simply would not work).

Apart from Arianism, which comes with its own can of worms, we cannot divorce Jesus’ divinity from his nature. John makes it clear in John 1 that Jesus has existed since the beginning (and before then). And if we lessen his divine status, we make him not greater than an archangel, like Michael. We remove his power. And by doing so, we lessen his ability to save us from our sin.

As we can see from both sides of the pendulum, if we try to remove an inkling of Jesus’ divine or human nature, we run into a slew of issues.

Scriptural Support for the Hypostatic Union

As stated above, John 1 (especially John 1:14) gives strong scriptural support for the hypostatic union. We also see similar support in verses such as Colossians 2:9, 1 Timothy 2:5, John 10:30, Romans 1:4among several others.

Although we may have difficulty grasping the concept, Scripture makes it clear that Jesus, one person, had two natures. And if we lessened either nature, we run the risk of cheapening his divine power or his work in salvation.

As Christians, we do have to reconcile our finite understandings with the fact that we have an infinite God. We may not understand everything about him. But from Scripture and through a personal relationship with him, we can know enough to know that it’s ok if we don’t have all the answers, especially when it comes to fully comprehending something like the hypostatic union.

Photo Credit: ©iStock/Getty Images Plus/Rachata_Sin

Hope Bolinger is a literary agent at C.Y.L.E. and a graduate of Taylor University's professional writing program. More than 600 of her works have been featured in various publications ranging from Writer's Digest to Keys for Kids. She has worked for various publishing companies, magazines, newspapers, and literary agencies and has edited the work of authors such as Jerry B. Jenkins and Michelle Medlock Adams. Her column "Hope's Hacks," tips and tricks to avoid writer's block, reaches 6,000+ readers weekly and is featured monthly on Cyle Young's blog. Her modern-day Daniel, Blaze, (Illuminate YA) Den (releasing July 2020), Dear Hero (releasing September 2020), and Dear Henchman (releasing 2021)  Find out more about her at her website.

Originally published July 23, 2020.