I am confused about the words and or the saying - Jesus died. I am asking who died on the cross? I believe that God cannot, did not, and will not die. Which means the human inside of Jesus died. If that is true, then a “human” paid for all human sins. If that is true, then what did God have to with it? Or, why did God have to become flesh, since God did not die. The flesh died. What was the purpose, or the need, for God to become flesh, if God cannot die? What sacrifice did God endure? God did not die!
The prophecy of Micah 5:2 promised that our God would take on human flesh. It is clear from Matthew 2:1-6 that this prophecy was fulfilled in the person of Jesus Christ. But what does that mean that God became a man? Was Jesus two separate persons?
Was Jesus Two Separate Persons?
Jesus is not like a sandwich with two slices of bread and a thick slice of cheese in the middle, where the bread is the human part of Jesus and the slice of cheese is the divine part of Jesus. It would not make any difference if the sandwich was an open-face sandwich. The concept that Jesus was two separate persons is known as the Nestorian heresy of A.D. 428. Nestorius believed Jesus was like the sandwich – two separate persons. This concept was rejected by the early church council convened in the city of Chalcedon that met from October 8 to November 1, A.D. 451. The Chalcedonian Creed was produced by the Council. It rejects the concept that Jesus was two separate person. It clearly states that the two natures cannot be separated. Here is a portion of the creed.
. . . our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood . . . to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather of the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons . . .
The message of the creed is that Jesus had two natures in one person. He could not be separated or divided. Wayne Grudem summarizes the issue well with this comment,
It is important to understand why the church could not accept the view that Christ was two distinct persons. Nowhere in Scripture do we have an indication that the human nature of Christ, for example, is an independent person, deciding to do something contrary to the divine nature of Christ. Nowhere do we have an indication of the human and divine natures talking to each other or struggling within Christ, or any such thing. Rather, we have a consistent picture of a single person acting in wholeness and unity. Jesus always speaks as “I,” not as “we,” though he can refer to himself and the Father together as “we” (John 14:23). The Bible always speaks of Jesus as “he,” not as “they.” And, though we can sometimes distinguish actions of his divine nature and actions of his human nature in order to help us understand some of the statements and actions recorded in Scripture, the Bible itself does not say “Jesus’ human nature did this” or “Jesus’ divine nature did that,” as though they were separate persons, but always talks about what the person of Christ did. Therefore, the church continued to insist that Jesus was one person, although possessing both a human nature and a divine nature.
Therefore, Christ is not like a sandwich. He had a human nature and a divine nature and was not a human person and a divine person. When Christ died, He died just as we die. His spirit was still alive, just as our spirit remains alive. He is eternally God, but we have an eternal spirit which is either going to hell or maybe to heaven to dwell with Him forever.
Jesus Was Inseparably the God-Man
Jesus was not God and then man, He was the God-man. That is the clear teaching of Philippians 2:6-8.
. . . who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:6-8 (NASB)
The meaning of the passage is made understandable by two Greek words. The first Greek word, morphe, is translated as “form” two times in this passage. The word has the meaning of “internal attributes or nature.” That is, Jesus had the internal attributes or nature of God. We are also told that Jesus had the “form” of a bond-servant. Internally, He had the internal attributes or nature of man. But we are also told that He looked like a man on the outside. He had the “appearance as a man.” A curious statement that occurs in verse 6 is that He “emptied Himself.” This phrase refers to the fact that He limited the use of His knowledge, glory and other attributes while He lived among us as the God-man. For a complete explanation of this passage, visit Example For Christian Unity.
I Peter 3:18 clearly teaches that Jesus’ flesh died, just as our flesh will die some day, but His spirit still lives, just as our spirits will live.
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, so that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh, but made alive in the spirit . . . 1 Peter 3:18 (NASB)
Christ’s flesh died but not His spirit. That is, Christ died. It does not say that Jesus the human died or that His divine person lived on. The passage says “Christ also died.” He died. We cannot separate Jesus. It is heresy to say that a human died for all humans. The testimony of Scripture is that Christ died for our sins (Romans 5:8; 1 Peter 2:24; 1 John 4:9-10).
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Romans 5:8 (NASB)
When Christ died on the cross, He did not deserve to die because He was sinless. That is the message of many verses in Scripture.
He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. 2 Corinthians 5:21 (NASB)
For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH . . . 1 Peter 2:21-22 (NASB)
For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust . . . 1 Peter 3:18 (NASB)
But Romans 6:23 says that we deserve to die because “the wages of sin is death.” Every human is born as a sinner (Romans 5:12, 19). The fact that Jesus was without sin reveals He was not just a human. He was the inseparable God-man who died in our place – the just for the unjust.
1. Chalcedonian Creed of A.D. 451
2. Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Zondervan. 1994., p. 555.
Suggested Links:What is the Chalcedonian Creed of A.D. 451?
Example For Christian Unity