What Is the Hypostatic Union?

What is the hypostatic union?

Jesus Christ is one person with two natures—divine and human. The hypostatic union describes this union of Christ’s humanity and divinity in one hypostasis, or individual existence. Jesus is God in the flesh. “In the beginning was the Word [Jesus], and the Word [Jesus] was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God…. and the Word [Jesus] was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:1,14). Jesus had two natures—God and man. He was not part God and part man but fully God and fully man. Jesus never lost His divinity but existed on the earth as God coupled with a human nature.

Why are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit referred to as persons?

God is a trinity of persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  They are not the same person as each other but together they are one God. The Father is not the Son, nor the Son the Spirit, yet each of them are God. This is depicted in the Trinity shield illustration on page 5.

They are not individual persons in the sense that they all have individual fleshly bodies, but in the context that they are individually self-aware, can speak, love, will, etc. These are attributes of personhood, and thus the common use of the word persons.

How can the Trinity be illustrated?

There are many illustrations that have been used to illustrate the concept of the Trinity. Most illustrations fall short of fully demonstrating God being three in one and they must simply be regarded as imperfect ways of trying to visualize the mystery of the Trinity.  It can be dangerous to illustrate improperly because when many illustrations are carried out, they lead to false conclusions about the Trinity.

The egg is commonly used to illustrate the Trinity. A chicken egg is composed of the shell, the egg white, and a yolk and together they are one egg. The three parts create a unified whole. Unlike the Trinity, the yolk is not an egg in and of itself. Christ is fully God, and yet God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They are all of one essence unlike the parts of the egg. Similarly, an apple is comprised of the skin, flesh, and seeds. It falls short just as the egg illustration as each person of the Trinity independently is still God.

Another common illustration involves water which can exist as a solid, liquid, or gas. Its chemical composition remains the same and it is of one substance regardless of the state. However, water usually exists in one state at a time, whereas the Trinity in its fulness is present always. While ice may become a liquid, the Son never becomes the Father, etc.

Another illustration used is that of a man who is a father, a son, and husband at the same time and yet is just one person. This would demonstrate a trinity of functions but falls short of demonstrating the separateness of the three persons of the Trinity.

Dr. Henry Morris notes that the universe is trinitarian in design. It consists of three things: matter, space, and time. If you remove any one of those three, the universe would cease to exist. While this shows the interconnectedness of three in one, each part is not the whole as is each person of the Godhead.

Geometrical designs have also been used to illustrate the Trinity. The triangle for example, has three independent sides connecting to form one shape. However, it is inadequate as each line is not a triangle of itself.

While it is not wrong to try to conceptualize the Trinity, it can often lead to error. All illustrations eventually fail and do not prove the Trinity, as an infinite God cannot be fully described by a finite illustration. The doctrine of the Trinity is a revelation of God not a concept revealed by nature or reason.