Shorter Catechism Q. 21
Q. 21. Who is the Redeemer of God’s elect?
A. The only Redeemer of God’s elect is the Lord Jesus Christ, who, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was, and continueth to be, God and man in two distinct natures, and one person, forever.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.” (John 1:1–2)
“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)
“This Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone. And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:11–12)
“For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5)
“And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.” (1 John 5:20)
Is Jesus God or man? In the history of the Church some have denied Jesus’ deity while others have denied his humanity. For some Jesus is only man and the benefit of knowing Jesus entails the discovery of man’s potentials. In this case Jesus’ great accomplishment is showing us what love is, and our salvation lies in loving like he loved. The problem here is that it mistakes Jesus as a model to follow and emulate, not a Redeemer and the healer of those who have failed to follow and emulate him.
For others Jesus is only God, and the benefit of knowing him is in hating and rejecting all that is earthly and physical. Salvation in this case means setting free the pure spirit from the prison that is the body. This is deeply problematic because it ignores the fact that it is the heart that is sinful. We do sinful things with our body because our heart is sinful. Besides, if Jesus is only God and not also a man, what exactly was crucified, and who exactly died for us?
So is Jesus God or man? He is both! He is the eternal Word and the true God. He is also a true man. It is truly a mystery. The eternal son of God became man. And in becoming a man he did not cease to be God. And his becoming man was not a charade. The true God became a true man without ceasing to be fully divine and fully human.
It had to be so. The sinner’s problem is not his failure to live up to his potentials. Sin is a problem that separates us from God. Sin alienates God and man. Redemption then means the reconciliation of God and man who face each other in enmity. But who is able to take on the impossible task of bringing peace? Only the one who is fully God and fully man. Jesus, because he is fully God, can represent God to mankind. And because he is also fully man he can represent man to God. So in Jesus, and in him alone, we have the most authentic meeting between God and man. In Jesus God is represented to the fallen mankind with all of his forgiving mercy. Jesus, because he is a true man, is also the most sympathetic advocate for the fallen man, and we in Jesus are brought before God’s forgiving mercy. So in Jesus and in him alone God and man are reconciled and there is peace.
This is why the Bible emphasizes over and again both the deity of Jesus Christ as well as his humanity. Our salvation depends on it. But the mystery does not end here. For Jesus remains true God and true man even after his work of redemption was done. That is, even now and forever Jesus is and will be true God and true man! But what does this mean?
It means hope of glory for us. Jesus’ bodily resurrection and glorified body is the first fruits of the eternal life we will share with him. As Jesus was resurrected and glorified, we will be also! The eternal son of God embraced humanity not only in himself, but also into the eternal fellowship of the Triune God. Eternal life, then, means not looking in from the outside the glorious fellowship between the Father, the Son, and the Spirit. Rather, we become the ultimate insiders, enraptured in Jesus into that fellowship between the Father, the Son, and his Spirit. This is why Jesus remains true God and true man forever.