From time to time, the Protestant Reformers, especially the Calvinists, found it necessary to clearly distinguish the ways in which the two natures of Christ operate in His work of redemption, even explaining which aspects of the work were properly carried out by Christ’s divine nature, which were carried out by His human, and which involved some simultaneous working of both. Modern readers, typically faint of heart when it comes to such systematic precision, are alarmed by this. But it was not a new way of doing theology at the time of the Reformation. Indeed, some of the most frightening distinctions are present in the 4th century. To show this, we will take an example from St. Augustine.
Augustine lived prior to the Council of Chalcedon, but he was able to anticipate much of its formulation. In one passage from the City of God, he offers what could rightly be called a Chalcedonian reading of Christ’s sacrifice, and in doing so, he also anticipates the rigor of the Protestant Reformers who would come so many centuries later:
And hence that true Mediator, in so far as, by assuming the form of a servant, He became the Mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, though in the form of God He received sacrifice together with the Father, with whom He is one God, yet in the form of a servant He chose rather to be than to receive a sacrifice, that not even by this instance any one might have occasion to suppose that sacrifice should be rendered to any creature. Thus He is both the Priest who offers and the Sacrifice offered. And He designed that there should be a daily sign of this in the sacrifice of the Church, which, being His body, learns to offer herself through Him. Of this true Sacrifice the ancient sacrifices of the saints were the various and numerous signs; and it was thus variously figured, just as one thing is signified by a variety of words, that there may be less weariness when we speak of it much. To this supreme and true sacrifice all false sacrifices have given place. (City of God 10.20)
Augustine clearly explains both the deity and humanity of Jesus Christ and how they were at work in His sacrifice of redemption. A few observations are in order: