The following is an attempt to communicate a subject that has baffled many for a couple thousand years. I will be editing it over time to try and improve it. Any suggestions are welcome. However, note that I will not use any analogies since no analogy on this topic is adequate for conveying the matter without distortion. I prefer to improve on what is already here.
What I am detailing below is not someting I made up. This comes from study of the writings of the early church fathers of the first few centuries as well as Scripture. I am convinced they had it right. I had not understood what they really said until forced to study it in a theology class. Regardless, the topic is not easy. One might have to read this a few times to begin to understand it. But persistence will pay off. Again, suggestions for improvement are welcome.
in Christ, Walt
How can Jesus be God and man? First consider that each person has a spirit, albeit a human spirit. That spirit cannot be seen, touched, weighed, nor observed except in the behavior of the person. Yet, between our physical death and the resurrection of our bodies to come we will exist in a spirit state (1 Thess. 4:13-17; 1 Cor. 15:12-28; 2 Cor. 5:1-8). So, the spirit is a real thing, even if it can’t be observed by our senses. And even though there is a period of separation of the spirit and the body after physical death, such is not the normal state God meant for us to be in when He created us (Gen 2:7). To be made complete again, God will resurrect our bodies in the final days (Dan 12:2; Jn. 5:28–29). Many people teach that we are essentially spirit beings with a body. That is a Greek (and New Age) idea and is not the biblical truth! God created man as one integrated unit. The spiritual existence apart from a body is only temporary until all things are made new.
Now, consider that God is pure spirit (Jn. 4:24). That divine spirit exists in perfect union with the human body, soul, and spirit of Jesus much the way our own spirit exists in union with our body and soul. Jesus’ divine spirit is so completely integrated with His humanness, that they will never be separated (except for the three days His body was dead – but in that case, the divine spirit was still in union with His human spirit and soul). Jesus would not be Jesus if His divine nature was separate in any way from His human nature. So, if we can understand how the human spirit is integrated into the oneness of a human person, we can see how the divine spirit is in oneness with the human nature of Jesus. He still has a human spirit, otherwise He would not be human, but He also has the divine spirit.
When we become believers and receive the Holy Spirit, the Spirit is added to our humanness, but we are still the distinct persons we were previously. It is like us having two persons living in one body. On this side of eternity, our will is not in perfect harmony with the Holy Spirit to act as one. However, Jesus, the Son of God, who is the Word of God, was born a man – the Spirit wasn’t added to an existing person, but Jesus was the Son of God born as a man. This does not mean that His divine nature came into existence as if it had not previously existed, but that His human nature was born and added to His divine nature. The Son of God always existed from eternity, but the man Jesus came into existence at His conception in the Virgin Mary. Jesus was never two persons. His human will was always in harmony with His divine will such that He never acted against God and sinned.
How is the Son of God, who became Jesus, distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit, even though Jesus had the Spirit of God and said the Father was in Him? (Jn. 14:10; 10:38) First, understand that all three persons of the Trinity are God in that all three have the nature of God without distinction. The distinction is in their personhoods, not their nature. Jesus is the Son of God in that He descended from the Father as words descend from a person. Words have the character of their source, but they are distinct from their source. Many times in the Bible the Father is called God distinct from Jesus and the Spirit (see 1 Cor. 12:4-6; Gal 1:3). That is not to say the Father is God and the others are not. It is difficult for us time based creatures to fully comprehend, but God has existed from all eternity exactly as He is today. There never was a beginning to any aspect of God. The Son of God is the Word of God. God spoke from eternity. The one who spoke is called the Father. What He spoke is called the Son. As the Father spoke creation into existence, this is how the Son was involved in creation. The confusing part for us is that the speaking is such that the Son has always existed since the nature of God is eternal. The words of God have always existed. When it is said that Jesus was the only begotten of the Father, it means that He was born of the Father, but since He is eternal as God is, then He descended from the Father in eternity. I know this is confusing. But to try and summarize it, Jesus is eternal because the Father is eternal; the Son descended from the Father in eternity; the Son is the Word of God spoken by the Father and thus is of the same character; the Word was with God, created the world, and yet was God (Jn. 1:1-3); the Word was that aspect of God that was born as the man Jesus (Jn. 1:14).
A question might be as to how the Word of God is a person? It is easy to see how the Son is the Word descended from the Father. But we don’t usually think of our words as having personhood. Remember, humans are not spirit, and thus our words, while having our character in them, are not identical in nature to our physical being. God, a pure spirit, has all the attributes of personhood – will, intellect, emotions, etc. – within every aspect of His nature. Those attributes are also in the Word of God since the Word has the same nature as the Father from who He came.
Now, what about the Spirit? The Spirit is the breath by which the Words are spoken. This breath, also from the Father is perfectly God in nature and exists from eternity. When someone is filled with the Holy Spirit, it usually means that a person is filled with the power to proclaim the Word of God. Thus at Pentecost, Peter spoke by the power of the Holy Spirit to lead thousands to Christ (Acts 2). It is also the Spirit that brought conception of Jesus (the Word entered) into the womb of Mary (Luke 1:35). The Spirit is like the wind (Jn. 3:8), yet He also has His own life and is considered a person with will, intellect, emotions, etc. The Trinity then is the Father, God, who spoke the Word, the Son, from eternity through the Breath, the Holy Spirit, in transmission of the Word (into Mary’s womb, into the written word, into the proclamation of the gospel by the church, and into our hearts upon belief). The Word and the Breath, having the nature of God, also have everything that the Father has, including their own will, intellect, and etc. That is why the Spirit is always proclaiming the Son, and the Son always knows the will and the words of the Father. They are all God in that they have the same nature and are of the same source, but each has distinct roles and wills to carry out those roles.