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Is this even possible?

16 September 2011 by Tom Chantry

Q. 37. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin.

Q. 38. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be God, that he might sustain and keep the human nature from sinking under the infinite wrath of God, and the power of death; give worth and efficacy to his sufferings, obedience, and intercession; and to satisfy God's justice, procure his favor, purchase a peculiar people, give his Spirit to them, conquer all their enemies, and bring them to everlasting salvation.

Q. 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.

Q. 40. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be God and man in one person?
A. It was requisite that the Mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.

Editor's note: today, after many threats of violence and exposure to grief, beloved internet troublemaker Tom Chantry joins the rolls of Gadfly contributors.  His wife and I are proud of him; he, on the other hand, is certain nothing good will come of it.

The doctrine of incarnation has seemed to some less than vital, but to suggest this is to misunderstand the interconnections of theology. Questions 38 through 40 of the WLC indicate that this misunderstanding is nothing new: “Why was it requisite…?” “Requisite” is a more precise word than “necessary”; its necessity relates to the accomplishment of a particular end. The Deity and Humanity of our Lord are requisite to the end of redemption; without them, we would not be saved.

To understand this, we need look no further than the doctrine of the atonement.

“Jesus is only one person; how could one person’s death pay the penalty for the sins of many?” That is a question I have been asked both by well-educated adults and by kids on their first pass through the "Catechism for Young Children." A number of other questions lurk behind this first and most obvious inquiry: Jesus was only dead for a few days; how is that a fair exchange for the sinner’s eternal death? Jesus' death was terrible, but then He knew that He was going to rise again; how is that a fair substitution for any “normal” death?

Indeed, the doctrine of the atonement is one which indirectly points to Christ's deity, insofar as the substitution of one for many requires the One to be extraordinary. The teaching of Scripture is that when Jesus had suffered for a few hours on the cross and expired, the Father’s wrath was propitiated - wrath which otherwise would have sent untold thousands of His people into eternal fire. Further, the atonement was sufficient for all the sins of the human race, from Adam forward.

This is so because His Deity “gave worth and efficacy to His suffering.” Were He not very God of very God, there is no way in which He could have redeemed the elect, unless the Father had been willing to accept a token sacrifice. The whole Old Testament points to the inefficacy of token sacrifices, though. Christ’s death was no token; His infinite worth lent efficacy to His terrible death.

Yet can God suffer and die for man? Is this even possible, let alone just?

Indeed, it was requisite, if the wrath of God against men was to be assuaged, that the sacrifice be a man. Thus God the Son became man that He might “suffer and make intercession for us in our nature.” So our advocate is a Man, but one possessed of the infinite worth and power of God.

The stated goal of redemption was the rescue of sinners from the wrath of a holy God. Certain conditions were necessarily met before that end could be accomplished without any rupture in the perfect justice of the Almighty Judge: namely that the Mediator be God, and that He be Man.