Kolb, Robert. The Book of Concord: The Confessions of the Evangelical Lutheran Church. Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2000.
Epitome “VIII Concerning the Person of Christ” pp. 508-514.
Solid Declaration “VIII. Concerning the Person of Christ” pp. 616-634.
Questions about the Lord’s Supper led to a disagreement between the Lutherans and Calvinists, who questioned the union and interaction of Christ’s divine and human natures (Kolb 2000, 509). Some, classified as “sacramentarians,” held that the natures were really separable, but that divine and human went under one name in union. The Augsburg party affirmed that there is one Christ who is at once human and divine, with the natures united but not blended (Kolb 2000, 510). The Epitome specifically rejects the analogy of two boards being glued together as a sign of the union of the natures. “Instead, here is the most complete Communion, which God truly has with this human being; out of this personal union and out of the most complete and most indescribable communion that results from it flows eveything human that can be ascribed to and believed about God and everything divine that can be ascribed to and believed about the human Christ” (Kolb 2000, 510). The union of divine and human in the person of Christ is what makes the death and resurrection of Christ meaningful. A true human who bore the perfection of God suffered on our behalf. The true God who bore humanity suffered on our behalf. The risen Lord who ascended into heaven is still human. The child Jesus who “grew in stature, wisdom, and grace before God and other people” (Kolb 2000, 511) had set aside his divine majesty during his time of humiliation, thus allowing him to grow as a human. Because the Christ is divine, he is able to be present in his true body and blood in communion, though they are very physical elements. Lutherans are not Nestorian, dividing the person of Christ. They are also not Eutychians, seeing Christ’s characteristics mixed into just one nature. Lutherans confess the mystery of one person with two natures. Lutherans also reject the Arian view of Christ not being eternal, and the Marcionite denial of Christ’s true human nature (Kolb 2000, 512).It is essential to Lutheran thought, and stated numerous times in the Epitome, that the true Christ in his human and divine natures, is present in heaven and on earth where he promises to be, notably in Word and Sacrament (Kolb 2000, 513).
The Solid Declaration provides more detail about the controversy. The objection to Christ’s true, bodily, essential presence in communion came from Zwinglians. They asserted that Christ must be locally present in heaven, therefore he cannot be present locally on earth. Critical to their argument, however, is that only God could do this, not Christ (Kolb 2000, 616). The Zwinglian point of view could not be sustained, as it divides Christ and says he is not truly divine. The wording of the Solid Declaration is very careful. “We believe, teach, and confess that, although the Son of God is a separate, distinct, and complete person in and of himself and thus was truly, essentially, and fully God with the Father and the Holy Spirit from eternity, nonetheless at the same time, when the fullness of time had come, he assumed human nature into the unity of his person, not in such a way that there were two persons or two Christs, but that Christ Jesus was in one person at the same time true and eternal God, Begotten of the Father from eternity, and a true human being” (Kolb 2000, 617). The two natures remain, even in the resurrection. They are never mixed or separated. Some of the attributes of Christ’s nature belong only to his divinity, while some belong only to his humanity. But the natures are never separable. They will never act apart from each other. Christ would not truly be the second person of the Trinity without both natures (Kolb 2000, 618). The Solid Declaration goes on to describe a variety of misinterpretations of the divine and human natures in Christ. The description and illustration continues for several pages. The practical conclusion is that in his state of humiliation, Christ retained his divine abilities but kept them hidden much of the time and used them only when he wished to do so (Kolb 2000, 621). The text continues to show the relationship between the two natures of Christ and the need for a teaching of communication idomatum, the way the two natures do interact. Each nature remains its own nature (Kolb 2000, 622). That which is human does not become divine, nor does the divine become human. The overall doctrine is summarized in three points. “First, because in Christ there are and remain two distinct natures, unchanged and unmixed in their natural essences and characteristics, and because these two natures exist as only one single person, therefore, the characteristic of each individual nature is not ascribed to that nature alone, as if it were separated from the person, but it is ascribed to the whole person, which issimultaneously God and human” (Kolb 2000, 622). “Second, concerning the discharge of Christ’s office, the person acts and does its work not in, with, through, or according to one nature alone but in, according to, with, and through both natures, or, as the Council of Chalcedon says, each nature does its work in communion with the other, whatever specific characteristic may be involved” (Kolb 2000, 624). Third, the Solid Declaration affirms that Christ’s divine nature loses none of its divinity by being present in the same person as the human nature of Christ. The human nature loses none of its humanity by being present with the divine nature but it does tend to take on some of the glory of the divine nature, especially in the resurrection (Kolb 2000, 624-625). When the Scriptures say that something is given to Christ, it is therefore assumed to be given to him in his human nature. The divine nature had nothing to be added (Kolb 2000, 626). Likewise, the divine nature is not poured out or diluted in the human nature of Christ. There is no weakening of the divine nature in the Christ (Kolb 2000, 630). Further, when Christ is present for his people, such as in communion, the entirety of him is present. He is there in all his divine and human nature (Kolb 2000, 631). The Solid Declaration thus rejects any mixing of the natures of Christ. It affirms that Christ in both his natures is able to be present anywhere. He is able to be at the right hand of the Father and remain there while being in any place the Father’s hand would reach (Kolb 2000, 634).