Article II: Of the Word or Son of God which was made very man

This is the next in a set of blogs looking at the 39 Articles - the confession of faith of the Church of England. There's a list of previous blogs in the series at the end.

II. Of the Word or Son of God, which was made very Man

The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men.

We've not long had Christmas and as you read all the narratives in the Bible surrounding Jesus' birth you are constantly faced with the challenge: who is this baby? That's the question that Article II addresses.

The focus of this article is to remind us that he is the unique God-man – i.e. Jesus Christ was fully God and fully man. It's there in the title: Of the Word or Son of God which was made very man.

Fully God

The articles starts:

The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father,


This repeats some of what we looked at in Article I - we're talking about a member of the Trinity - God the Son. The article uses the language of “the Word,” which we know from John 1:1,14.  And we frequently find the language of the Son (for example in John 3:16). This Son, the article insists, is and always has been God. Jesus was obviously born of Mary (and we'll come back to that), but the Son of God has always been and he has always been fully God.

When we come to talk about Jesus like this, we are beginning to see how and why Jesus is so important. Jesus, by being fully God, is the one who gives us access to God and who reveals to us what God is like (John 1:18; 14:9; Col. 2:15). If you want to know God, then look to Jesus.

It's worth saying that this is why the Muslim and Jehovah's Witness view of Jesus is so inadequate. It's no good saying he's not divine, but he's a prophet, or special. We need God to come and reveal himself to us and without Jesus being fully God, we simply haven't got that.

Fully Man

But Jesus isn't just fully God. He is also fully man. The article says:

[He] took Man's nature in the womb of the blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man;

This links us back to Christ's birth. The Son of God took on flesh (John 1:14). He was in very nature God but took on human nature (Phil. 2:5-8). The article expresses this in the classic formulation, which is that Christ is one person with two natures. You maybe remember the language of persons from the Trinity - three persons and one God. Here we are talking about one person (Christ) with two natures (God and human). He is fully God and fully man.

We see his full humanity as we read the gospels don't we? Jesus gets tired as humans do (John 4:6). Jesus is tempted by Satan as humans are (Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 4:15) and so on.

Why is this important? Well for Jesus to bring about a relationship between God and man, we needed a bridge. We needed the unique God-man who, if you like, has an end of the bridge in each location. He connects humans and God by by being both human and God.

Died for Our Sins

But we only ultimately see the importance of Jesus being fully God and fully man when we look to the cross - that Jesus died for our sins. Who Jesus is, is regularly linked with what he has come to do in the New Testament (e.g. John 3:16; Phil. 2:8). The very reason that God's Son took on human nature is that he came to save us – to die for us.

The article expresses it thus:

[He] truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt, but also for actual sins of men

This gives us the purpose. Jesus died to reconcile us to God, i.e. to bring us back into relationship with God or to make peace with God (e.g. Romans 5:5, 10-11).

Our sin had made us God's enemies. By removing our sin and taking it upon himself in his death, the Lord Jesus has reconciled his Father to us. The article uses the language of sacrifice to speak of this. Jesus was the sacrifice who died in our place, like the Old Testaments lambs (Heb. 9:26). Jesus was the one who took the punishment for our sin. When the article talks of "original guilt", that's original sin. Jesus takes the punishment for the fact that we are by nature anti-God. He also takes the punishment for our "actual sins," the things that our anti-God nature causes us to do.

Jesus needed to be fully and perfectly human to be an appropriate substitute and sacrifice. We needed a human sacrifice on the cross to take the place of humans. But for God not to be unjustly punishing some particular human, Jesus needed to be God willing to act for our salvation. Romans 3:26 talks of Jesus death in this way. So the rightness and effectiveness of our salvation is dependent on Jesus being fully God and fully human.

The challenge of this article is twofold. Firstly, do we know who Jesus is? Have we grasped (at least as much as we can) that he is the unique God-man. The one who really can provide a relationship between us and God. And have we grasped that the way he did this was to sacrifice himself on the cross for our sins, in our place, so we could be reconciled to God.

Christianity is Christ and it's not OK to define it on your own terms - it must be on his terms. He's not the Muslim Christ, or the atheist Christ - a special man, but only a man. He's the unique God-man, who can uniquely provide for our salvation by his death on the cross.

Other Blogs in the Series:

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