THE

SHORTER CATECHISM

EXPLAINED


QUESTION 22. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?

ANSWER: 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, and born of her, yet without sin.


Q. 1. Did Christ assume the person of a man?

A. No; he assumed the human nature, but not a human person, Heb. 2:16.

Q. 2. Had ever the human nature of Christ a distinct personality of its own?

A. No; it never subsisted one moment by itself, Luke 1:35.

Q. 3. What is the reason that the human nature of Christ never subsisted by itself?

A. Because it was formed and assumed at once; for the moment the soul was united to the body, both soul and body subsisted in the person of the Son of God.

Q. 4. How came the human nature to subsist in the person of the Son?

A. The whole Trinity adapted and fitted the human nature to him; but the assumption of it, into a personal subsistence with himself, was the peculiar act of the Son, Heb. 2:14, 16.

Q. 5. Since the human nature of Christ has no personality of its own, is it not more imperfect than in other men, when all other men are human persons?

A. The human nature of Christ is so far from being imperfect, by the want of a personality of its own, that it is unspeakably more perfect and excellent than in all other men, because to subsist in God, or in a divine person, is incomparably more noble and excellent than to subsist by itself.

Q. 6. In what lies the matchless and peculiar dignity of the human nature of Christ?

A. That it subsists in the second person of the Godhead, by a personal and indissoluble union.

Q. 7. What is the difference between the human nature and a human person? A. A human person subsists by itself; but the human nature subsists in a person.

Q. 8. When Christ became man, did he become another person than he was before?

A. No; there was no change in his person; for he assumed our nature with his former personality, which he had from eternity.

Q. 9. What is the reason that the assumption of the human nature made no change in the divine person of the Son?

A. Because the human nature was assumed by Christ without a human personality.

Q. 10. Whether is it more proper to say, that the human nature subsists in the divine nature, or in the divine person of Christ?

A. It is more proper to say, that it subsists in the divine person of Christ, because the natures are DISTINCT, but the person is ONE; and it was the divine nature only, as it terminates in the second person, which assumed the human nature into personal union.

Q. 11. Can we not say, consistently with truth, that the man Christ Jesus is God?

A. We assuredly may; because in this case, we speak of the person, which includes the human nature.

Q. 12. But can we say, in consistency with truth, that Christ Jesus, as man, is God?

A. No; because in this case, we speak only of the human nature, which does not include his divine person.

Q. 13. What is the human nature, or in what does it consist?

A. It consists in a true body and a reasonable soul, of which the first Adam, and every man and woman descending from him, are possessed.

Q. 14. Had our Redeemer always a true body and a reasonable soul, subsisting in his divine person?

A. No; until he came in the fullness of time, and then took to himself a true body and a reasonable soul.

Q. 15. How do you prove that he took this human nature to himself?

A. From Heb. 2:14, 16 -- "Verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham."

Q. 16. Why is Christ said to take to himself a true body?

A. To show that he had real flesh and bones, as we have, Luke 24:39; and that it was not, as some ancient heretics alleged, only the mere shape and appearance of a human body.

Q. 17. How does it appear that he had a true and real body, as other men have?

A. He is called Man, and the Son of man, Psalm 80:17; he was conceived and born, Matt. 1:20, 25; he was subject to hunger, thirst, and weariness, like other men; he was crucified, dead, buried, and rose again: none of which could be affirmed of him, if he had not had a true body.

Q. 18. Had not he a reasonable soul, as well as a true body?

A. Yes; otherwise he had wanted the principal constituent part of the human nature: accordingly, we read, that his "soul was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death," Matt. 26:38.

Q. 19. Why was not the human body created immediately out of nothing, or out of the dust of the earth, as Adam's body was?

A. Because, in that case, though he would have had a true body, yet it would not have been akin to us, bone of our bone, and flesh of our flesh.

Q. 20. Did Christ bring his human nature from heaven with him?

A. No; for he was the "seed of the woman," Gen. 3:15.

Q. 21. How then is it said, 1 Cor. 15:47 -- "The first man is of the earth, earthy; the second man, is the Lord from heaven?"

A. The plain meaning is, the first man had his original from the earth; but the second man, as to his divine nature, is the eternal, independent, and sovereign Lord of heaven and earth, equally with the Father; and as to his human nature, there was a more glorious concurrence of the adorable Trinity, in the formation of it, than in making of the first Adam.

Q. 22. What was the peculiar agency of each person of the adorable Trinity in this wonderful work?

A. The Father prepares a body, or human nature for him, Heb. 10:5; the Holy Ghost forms it, by his overshadowing power, out of the substance of the virgin, Luke 1:35; and the Son assumes the entire human nature to himself, Heb. 2:14, 16.

Q. 23. Why was Christ born of a virgin?

A. That the human nature might be found again in its primitive purity, and presented to God as spotless as it was at its creation, free from the contagion of original sin, which is conveyed to all Adam's posterity by natural generation.

Q. 24. Was it necessary that Christ should be conceived and born without sin?

A. It was absolutely necessary; both because the human nature was to subsist in union with the person of the Son of God, and likewise because it was to be a sacrifice for sin, and therefore behoved to be without blemish, Heb. 7:26.

Q. 25. What benefit or advantage accrues to us by the spotless holiness of the human nature of Christ?

A. The spotless holiness of his human nature is imputed to us as a part of his righteousness, 1 Cor. 1:30; and it is a sure earnest of our perfect sanctification at last, Col. 2:9, 10.

Q. 26. Was not the virgin Mary, the mother of our Lord, a sinner as well as others?

A. Yes; for she descended from Adam by ordinary generation; Christ rebuked her for going beyond her sphere, John 2:4; and she needed a Saviour as much as others; and believed in him for salvation from sin, Luke 1:47.

Q. 27. What necessarily follows upon the union of the two natures?

A. A communication of the properties of each nature to the whole person.

Q. 28. How does the scripture apply this communication of properties to his person?

A. By ascribing that to his person, which properly belongs to one of his natures.

Q. 29. How is this illustrated in scripture?

A. It is illustrated thus: though it was only the human nature that suffered, yet God is said to purchase his church with his own blood, Acts 20:28; and though it was only the human nature that ascended to heaven, yet, by reason of the personal union, God is said to go up with a shout Psalm 47:5.

Q. 30. Can an imaginary idea of Christ, as man, be any way helpful to the faith of his being God-man?

A. So far is it from being any way helpful, that it is every way hurtful; because it diverts the mind from the object of faith to an object of sense; by means of which we cannot believe any truth whatever, divine or human; all faith being founded solely and entirely upon a testimony.

Q. 31. How then is the person of Christ, God-man, to be conceived of?

A. It can be conceived of no other way, than by faith and spiritual understanding; or, by "the Spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of him," Eph. 1:17.

Q. 32. What improvement ought we to make of Christ's incarnation?

A. To claim him as our own, in virtue of his wearing our nature, saying, "Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given," Isa. 9:6; or, which is the same thing, to follow the practice of Ruth, in lying down at the feet of our blessed Boaz, saying, "Spread thy skirt over me;" that is, take me, a poor bankrupt sinner, into a marriage relation with thee, "for thou art my near kinsman," Ruth 3:9.


Return to Documents at CRTA