Here is the point at which we encounter one of the strangest phenomena in Scripture. Sometimes the biblical writers speak of the person of Jesus under an epithet that applies to one nature but they focus upon properties that He possesses according to the other nature. Many examples of this phenomenon occur in the Bible. I choose three to illustrate it here.
The incarnation of Jesus Christ brings with it certain mysteries that defy complete description. When we speak of them we step to the brink of an abyss, and if we creep so much as a hair further we risk precipitating ourselves into heresy. When we speak of Christ, we know both that we must say some things and that we must not say others. Learning how much to say and when to stop speaking is part of orthodoxy.
We must say that Jesus Christ is a person. He is one and only one person. He is an eternal person. He is a divine person. He is the second person of the Godhead, one in essence with the Father from all ages, equal with Him in power and glory, yet distinct from Him in personhood.
We must further say that in the incarnation, Jesus Christ added to His eternal, divine person a complete human nature. From the moment of His conception, He was and is a genuine human being. He has never lacked anything essential to humanity. Within the one person, Christ’s deity has never substituted for any aspect of His humanity.
By virtue of His incarnation, Jesus Christ became the God-man. He possesses complete divine and human natures, but He is not a mixture of the two. If we confound or confuse His deity and His humanity, then we have stepped over the edge into heresy.
At the same time, Jesus Christ remains one person. He is not a divine person and a human person. He is one, divine-human person. Just as we must not combine His divine and human natures, we must not divide His person.
During the years of His earthly ministry—His humiliation—Jesus acted as one person. He thought as one person. He spoke as one person. Nevertheless, certain of His thoughts, words, and deeds were possible only because of His deity, while others of His thoughts, words, and deeds were possible only because of His humanity.
Consequently, we must say that when Jesus did certain things, He did them according to either His divine or His human nature. The properties of each nature communicate to the person—though they do not communicate to the other nature. When we use these words, we do not mean that the nature acted. He—the person, Jesus Christ, acted. But He acted according to one nature or the other.
This language leads us into paradox, for what was true of the person of Jesus according to one nature was sometimes the opposite of what is true according to the other nature. In the manger of Bethlehem the person Jesus Christ was omnipotent according to His divine nature, but literally as weak as a baby according to His human nature—indeed, He was a baby according to His human nature. He was omniscient according to His divine nature, but as He matured He increased in knowledge according to His human nature. He was omnipresent according to His divine nature, but spatially limited and locally present according to His human nature. He was eternal according to His divine nature, but He endured hours, days, and years according to His human nature.