Two Natures – Distinct Yet United

Last week I reported on “Christ’s Human Nature.” There, the fourth point of John Flavel’s sermon: “Of Christ’s wonderful Person,” on John 1:14, in his book: Fountain of Life Opened Up, caught my attention:

Fourthly, [Christ’s] human nature is so united with the divine, as that each nature still retains its own essential properties distinct… The divine and human are not confounded; but a line of distinction runs betwixt them still in this wonderful person…

If you have the time and patience, I urge you to read his entire sermon. He offers sound doctrine on Christ’s human nature.

Flavel’s point got me wondering. Was the distinction and union obvious in scripture, would it prove Flavel’s points, and did John Calvin have insight that might help us to understand Christ better? What jumped to mind was the Lord’s struggle-in-prayer in the garden before He was betrayed as recounted in the synoptic gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke:

And going a little farther he fell on his face and prayed, saying, “My Father, if it be possible, let this cup pass from me; nevertheless, not as I will, but as you will.” Matthew 26:39 English Standard Version (ESV)

And

And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” Mark 14:36 (ESV)

And

Saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” Luke 22:42 (ESV)

Even though the wording is different in the three accounts, in each, He defers to His Father’s will rather than His own. Was this the quintessential example of the distinct natures united?

Calvin addresses many possible questions we (and others) might have when reading Christ’s entreaty of His Father. However, to achieve some semblance of brevity, we’ve assembled those answers that are most relevant to our questions:

My Father, if it be possible. …We must remember…that Christ [did not have] confused emotions, like those to which we are accustomed, to withdraw his mind from pure moderation; but, so far as the pure and innocent nature of man could admit, he was struck with fear and seized with anguish, so that, amidst the violent shocks of temptation, he vacillated—as it were—from one wish to another. This is the reason why, after having prayed to be freed from death, he immediately restrains himself, and, submitting to the authority of the Father, corrects and recalls that wish which had suddenly escaped him…

But yet not as I will, but as thou wilt. …What led him to pray to be delivered from [His own physical] death was the dread of a greater evil. When he saw the wrath of God exhibited to him, as he stood at the tribunal of God charged with the sins of the whole world, he unavoidably shrunk with horror from the deep abyss of death…When Christ was struck with horror at the divine curse, the feeling of the flesh affected him in such a manner, that faith still remained firm and unshaken. For such was the purity of his nature, that he felt, without being wounded by them, those temptations which pierce us with their stings.

…in Christ there was a remarkable example of adaptation between the two wills, the will of God and the will of man, so that they differed from each other without any conflict or opposition…for Christ, as he was God, willed nothing different from the Father; and therefore it follows, that his human soul had affections distinct from the secret purpose of God…Christ was under the necessity of holding his will captive, in order to subject it to the government of God, though it was properly regulated.

The lesson Calvin draws for us based on the various questions we’ve included and omitted is:

…In the present corruption of our nature it is impossible to find ardor of affections accompanied by moderation, such as existed in Christ; but we ought to give such honor to the Son of God, as not to judge of him by what we find in ourselves.

In this light, his application is:

…How carefully ought we to repress the violence of our feelings, which are always inconsiderate, and rash, and full of rebellion? …We owe to God such obedience as to endure patiently that our wishes should not be granted; For the modesty of faith consists in permitting God to appoint differently from what we desire. Above all, when we have no certain and special promise, we ought to abide by this rule, not to ask anything but on the condition that God shall fulfill what he has decreed; which cannot be done, unless we give up our wishes to his disposal.

In his sermon, Flavel gives an excellent explanation of the differences between Christ and ourselves. Calvin drives home the point with how, given His example, we should endure our inevitable trials of faith. May the Lord Jesus Christ grant us obedience in these trials.

Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem

Garden of Gethsemane, Mount of Olives, Jerusalem, 16 November 2012, by Tango7174, used under Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International, 3.0 Unported, 2.5 Generic, 2.0 Generic, and 1.0 Generic licenses

Envy

Parrott and Smith (1993) say, in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, that envy is an emotion which “occurs when a person lacks another’s superior quality, achievement, or possession and either desires it or wishes that the other lacked it.” The dictionary defines envy as:

Envy. [ˈenvē]

NOUN – A feeling of discontented or resentful longing aroused by someone else’s possessions, qualities, or luck: “She felt a twinge of envy for the people on board.” Synonyms: jealousy · covetousness · resentment · bitterness · discontent

VERB – Desire to have a quality, possession, or other desirable attribute belonging to (someone else): “He envied people who did not have to work on weekends.” Synonyms: be envious of · be jealous of · begrudge · be resentful of

And Wikipedia has a remarkably comprehensive list of biblical references on envy.

At the end of 2015, we covered the topic of envy, as presented by the Apostle Paul, in our post Honor Our Feet.

Here, let us consider the Apostle James warning against bitter jealousy and selfish ambition:

What causes quarrels and what causes fights among you? Is it not this, that your passions are at war within you? You desire and do not have, so you murder. You covet and cannot obtain, so you fight and quarrel. You do not have, because you do not ask. You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions. James 4:1-3 English Standard Version (ESV)

The theologian, John Calvin, makes three main points about the passage. First, Calvin states that their strife arises from acting on unchecked desires:

From whence come wars. …They created confusion among themselves [by their contentions]; and…these arose from their invidious desires and lusts, rather than from a zeal for what was just and right; for if everyone observed moderation, they would not have [injured] one another. They had their hot conflicts, because their lusts were allowed to prevail unchecked…

But their contentious actions brought no satisfaction as they had hoped; only punishment:

You lust, or covet, and have not. …They derived no benefit from [violent] contentions [which prevailed among them] for…they received the punishment of their own wickedness. God, indeed, whom they owned not as the author of blessings, justly disappointed them.

…For when they contended in ways so unlawful, they sought to be enriched through the favor of Satan rather than through the favor of God…It was therefore no wonder that they were frustrated in their efforts [to be happy], since no success can be expected except through the blessings of God alone.

And finally, Calvin says in summation, subjecting our desires to God brings about peace and His blessings:

You seek and receive not. In short…James meant briefly this, — that our desires ought to be bridled: and the way of bridling them is to subject them to the will of God [i.e., His will as revealed in the scriptures]. And he also teaches us, that what we in moderation wish, we ought to seek from God himself; which if it be done, we shall be preserved from wicked contentions, from fraud and violence, and from doing any injury to others.

Do you envy someone? Do you want to stop envying that person? You can through Christ. Please trust Him.

Cain Kills Abel, circa 1610, Bartolomeo Manfredi (1582–1622)

Cain kills Abel, circa 1610, Bartolomeo Manfredi (1582–1622), public domain in the United States

The Rebellion

Most of us would like to know beforehand when a disaster will occur. Many, to avoid the consequences, but some, to profit from them. If only those who boarded the planes knew that fateful September morning what was about to happen.

In the same way, we’d all like to know when the world will end. Many pretend that it will go on just as it has for millennia. Some think differently. A few believe the scriptures when they speak of the last day:

Let no one deceive you in any way. For that day will not come, unless the rebellion comes first, and the man of lawlessness is revealed, the son of destruction, who opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God. 2 Thessalonians 2:3-4 English Standard Version (ESV)

So there are signs of the end. But, what would these things look like? John Calvin comments on this passage:

Paul, …foretells that, after [those in the visible church] have had foreign enemies for some time molesting them, they will have more evils to endure from enemies [within the church], inasmuch as many of those that have made a profession of attachment to Christ would be hurried away into base treachery, and inasmuch as the temple of God itself would be polluted by sacrilegious tyranny, so that Christ’s greatest enemy would exercise dominion there.

Relative to Antichrist’s pernicious arrogation of deity, Calvin says:

Scripture declares that God is the alone Lawgiver (James 4:12) who is able to save and to destroy; the alone King, whose office it is to govern souls by His word. [Scripture] represents Him as the author of all sacred rites; it teaches that righteousness and salvation are to be sought from Christ alone; and it assigns, at the same time, the manner and means.

And concerning the history of the visible church, Calvin says:

My readers now understand, that all the sects by which the Church has been lessened from the beginning, have been so many streams of revolt which began to draw away the water from the right course, but that the sect of Mahomet was like a violent bursting forth of water, that took away about the half of the Church by its violence. It remained, also, that Antichrist should infect the remaining part with his poison. Thus, we see with our own eyes, that this memorable prediction of Paul has been confirmed by the event.

So, are we able discern the fruition of these things in time to flee the consequences? The Lord Jesus Christ warned:

“But concerning that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father only. For as were the days of Noah, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day when Noah entered the ark, and they were unaware until the flood came and swept them all away, so will be the coming of the Son of Man. Matthew 24:36-39 (ESV)

Calvin comments on this passage:

So now Christ declares that the last age of the world will be in a state of [senseless] indifference, so that men will think of nothing but the present life, and will extend their cares to a long period, pursuing their ordinary course of life, as if the world were always to remain in the same condition… [Emphasis mine]

Though the report of the last judgment is now widely circulated, and though there are a few persons who have been taught by God to perceive that Christ will come as a Judge in due time, yet it is proper that those persons should be aroused by this extraordinary kindness of God, and that their senses should be sharpened, lest they give themselves up to the indifference which so generally prevails.

Therefore, if you haven’t yet, we urge you to repent while there is still time.

***

Speaking of our collective indifference, The Federalist has summarized the recent Planned Parent video expose’. Item number 7 describes the Carly Fiorina video. No, I did NOT watch.

In the same vein, I don’t often agree with Mr. O’Reilly, but when I do, I offer you this video:

Is America Becoming Barbaric? Fox News, July 28, 2015

From the Civil Rights Act to Ferguson — Bernhardt Writer

Recently, our nation has had several high-profile cases where black men have been killed by law enforcement officers or neighborhood watch members. Any death is tragic. We should remember all those who were cut down by violence whether or not their deaths were televised or otherwise recognized in the media. Each of them has left behind mothers, father, brothers, and sisters.

Recently, I was privileged to watch a lone voice speak out on the things I feel but have no right to voice. Fredrick Wilson II gives us straight talk on Ferguson, Travon Martin, you and me. His video channel is named: I’m Just Saying. Please be aware, he expresses some things coarsely.

In the video, Mr. Wilson speaks about events that took place fifty years ago. So what happened back then?

President Lyndon Baines Johnson (LBJ) sums up the situation in his 1965 voting rights speech before Congress:

But voting rights were only part of the story. Here’s a history of events leading up to the Civil Rights Act of 1964. This is the text of President Kennedy’s Civil Rights speech. Unfortunately, he was assassinated before his legislation was enacted. It was intentionally stalled in Congress. It took a Southern Democrat and former Senate Majority Leader (Johnson) to ram it through the Congress.

In my essay: The Revolt Against the Masses – A Review (Part 1), I told the story of my origins. I was born in a Harlem hospital, raised in Inwood, moved up to the East Harlem public housing projects, and then, after moving again and through hardships my mother took on, had access to good schools outside my immediate neighborhood (Manhattan Valley on the Upper West Side just below Morningside Heights).

Seen as privileged because of the white shirts and ties my mother dressed me in, I was discriminated against in the ways preteen children often do. Ours was a multicultural intermediate school (Nee junior high) before that term was fashionable. It was fed by several schools serving low, middle, and upper income families.

My mother made sure I had friends from all economic classes. Now, I wish I did again. We’re all stratified by where we live, work, and shop. Even our churches are mainly homogeneous by economics and race. This is sadly true even in the black community. I see the situation as a particular failure of the churches in America. It shouldn’t be this way. That’s why I was drawn to Mr. Wilson’s video. He spoke from his head and heart. I imagine he spoke from an upbringing like the one I had. Actually, it seemed better, because my father was often absent.

Greta Van Susteren also speaks on our common predicament. Please watch her video:

VIDEO: A Reminder to Charlatans Who Like to Demonize All Police …

— Greta Van Susteren (@greta) December 6, 2014

I want the nation to be racially and economically reconciled. But that isn’t some abstract thing that happens. It happens one by one on the ground where we live. All I can say is let it start with me.