The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

Written by Josh

The Incarnation: The Best Present Ever

The greatest gift ever given came as a baby, and we would do well to reflect and remember who He is and why coming as a baby was necessary.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

(Luke 2:11-12 ESV)

This week, the Carolers at my local grocer filled the air with holiday cheer by singing “Away in a Manger.” We sing songs about him, but who is the baby with ‘no crib for a bed?’ They don’t include scenes of Jesus crying or pooing in the church plays, but we have manger scenes, not ‘inn scenes.’ Jesus situation was very human, gritty and Real.

Most Christians will say Jesus is God (note the activetense of the verb) while most non-Christians say Jesus was just a man. In my experience, we in the church have responded to the doubt around us by stressing the divinity of Christ to the exclusion of his humanity. While we should stress the divinity of Christ, we must not ‘throw the baby out with the bath water’ as it were and conceptually sacrifice His humanity to protect His divinity.

When we sing about Jesus’ birth, it’s very easy to think of Jesus as either a man or as God only. But Scripture holds these two ideas in tension without apology so we must as well.

Simply put, the Incarnation is a key tenet of Christianity. If you don’t believe it, you give up the entire enchilada of the faith. Why? First, without the Incarnation you do not get the Jesus of the Bible. Secondly, you lose the Savior of infinite worth but human identity.

Without being God, Jesus’ death would be of limited value, but being God, his death is of infinite value, so there’s no internal limit to its saving power (he can cover our bill). But, without being human, Jesus’ life could not fulfill the Law Adam broke for us nor could his death on a cross take our place. Only a human could be a propitiation or substitute for us. So it is precisely the Incarnation that empowers Jesus’ victory over sin and death in the cross and resurrection. For as Hebrews says he took on flesh and blood like us so he could intercede on our behalf as our propitiation (Hebrews 2:9, 17).

Who does scripture say Baby Jesus is?

He is Immanuel, God with us. He is the Eternal Logos and maker of all things, yet he is also a man who grew in wisdom and stature before both men and God, who got tired, was tempted, suffered true anguish in Gethsemane, and was crucified and died.

Only by permanently shouldering true humanity could God the Son stand in our place as the Second Adam. (That’s right, the Incarnation is permanent.)

What is the Incarnation?

The Eternal Word (Logos), i.e. the 2nd Person of the Trinity, took on flesh (permanently became human) and is forever now the God-Man, fully God and fully Man, joined together in a union comprised of two distinct natures (human and divine) neither of which being confused or blended, but distinct and yet somehow together in a way we can better describe than understand.

The boys back in the day called this the “hypostatic union.” It is a mystery, kinda like gravity. We can describe gravity, and tell you about its results, but truly master it? Nope. But what would you expect from the Trinity?

So, as you prepare to celebrate Christmas, mull over how the greatest gift given came without a gift receipt: the giving of the Son by the Father in the Incarnation.

If you really want to get into the Spirit of the Season, find the nearest baby and cuddle it. Be gentle, they’re fragile, but hold that baby close and contemplate how Jesus was like that: small, weak, frail, in a real sense dependent. He ate, slept and pooped just like you and I did when we first showed up. Yet, in the mystery that is the Incarnation, he was at the same time still fully God, somehow through his divine nature, still upholding the universe (Heb 1:2-3 and Col 1:16-17). Wild—Strange—Real.

This should humble and encourage us: God the Father, gave us his Son who willfully became human forever altering himself to honor the Father’s will, so as to make all things New. We can move through our day with a kind of courage that comes from knowing God the Son loved us so much he was willing to endure what we do and more, just to rescue us while we were still his enemies.

That kind of love does not abandon or quit on a person, it can and should propel us as we go through whatever providence brings our way, because if He would do that for us, we can trust Him in it with assurance and hopefulness no matter what comes. That doesn’t mean we like it or even enjoy all that life brings for life brings thorns and thistles. Still, we can deal with such knowing knowing we are not being abandoned to be cut by them. God the Father took the Evil of His Son’s crucifixion and used it to redeem the world and the resurrection is our proof.

Merry Christmas. This week I invite you to the following passages about Baby Jesus, why he came and how his unique status as the God-man made possible what he accomplished in his life, death and resurrection.

Virginal Conception Predicted:

  • Isaiah 7:14
  • Isaiah 9:6-7

Jesus Humanity:

  • Matt 1:22-23
  • Luke 1:68-69
  • Luke 2:29-32
  • Luke 2:40
  • Luke 2:52
  • John 1:1-18
  • John 4:6
  • John 10:30

Purpose and Result of His Coming:

  • John 1:1-18
  • Galatians 4:4-5
  • 1 Peter 1:10-12
  • Philippians 2:5-8, 9-11
  • Hebrews 2:9, 14-15, 16-17

 

Did Jesus exist in the beginning with God?

I have been a follower of Jesus for years and have spent a lot of time reading His Word, so I sometimes forget that not everybody knows the basic beleifs of Christianity. I take it for granted that people just believe the stuff every Christian should know.

Take for example this simple question, “Did Jesus exist in the beginning with God?” Before anything was created, before time, did Jesus exist in the beginning? I asked sixteen professing believers I work with this question, and was shocked at how few knew the answer.  Twelve of those sixteen did not believe that Jesus existed in the beginning, and was just the first created thing.

Did Jesus exist in the beginning?

John 1:1-2 simply states this when it says

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.

And who was the Word? Just a few verses later John clearly tells us

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.
John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’” (John 1:14-15)

Who was it that became flesh to dwell among us, the only begotten of the Father (John 3:16)? Who was it that John bore witness to? It was Jesus. Jesus existed in the beginning with God, and not just existing with God, but Jesus was God in the beginning! (He is still God today of course. 🙂 )

Isaiah the prophet heard a message from God where God the Father said

Thus says the LORD, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: ‘ I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God. (Isaiah 44:6)

God is the First and the Last, nothing existed before God and nothing will exist after Him, He is it, the first and the last. In Revelation Jesus identifies himself as ” I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.” (Revelation 22:13) The Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the greek alphabet, in English it would be the A and the Z. There are no letters before A, and none after Z. Jesus is the first and last, the beginning, and the end.

How is it that both God the Father and Jesus can be the first and the last? This is only possible because Jesus is God. Remember what John 1:1 said, “The Word was with God, and the Word was God.” Both are God, both are one being, one diety, even though they are individual.

I Am

In the Old Testament God would refer to himself as simply “I Am” (Exodus 3:14). That in itself is an awesome statement, which I will cover in a future article. Jesus later when talking to the Jews told them “Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”” (John 8:58). Jesus is not only saying that he existed since before his physical birth on earth, but he is identifying himself as being God, as being the I Am. Jesus again identified himself as the I am when he was being arrested in the garden. The soldiers asked if Jesus was “Jesus of Nazareth” and Jesus replied in such away that the soldiers fell to the ground. “Now when He said to them, “I am He,” they drew back and fell to the ground.” (John 18:6)

Jesus is the Creator

When God is creating man He says “Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness;” (Genesis 1:26). Who is God talking to here? Who is God refereing to by saying “Us” and “Our”? God is not a single being but three, completely seperate beings, three deities that are the same. The Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). This is an example of how Jesus did exist in the beginning.

Not only was Jesus with God in the beginning, before creation, but Jesus is the creator. John 1:3 says “All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” Jesus did not come to die for his Father’s creation, but his own. Isn’t this amazing? Jesus knew what he would have to go through, he knew all of the suffering he would face before he created us, yet he still choose to do so!

Why is this important?

The final question I want to look at is why is it important that Jesus existed in the beginning with God?
If Jesus did not exist in the beginning with God, then you must conclude that Jesus was not God and therefor could not live a perfect life and die for our sins, or you must conclude that God can make other gods. If God could make other gods then it makes God a lot less unique in the universe and we could claim that there are other gods to follow and Jesus isn’t the only way.

No, Jesus had to be God, part of the Trinity, One God.  As we read and study the Bible, and as we get to know Jesus closer, we cannot help but conclude that Jesus did indeed exist in the beginning with God.

Easter: Getting back to the basics

Today will no doubt be a busy day for most people.  You have clothes to get ready, get to church on time, find the eggs with the kids, easter baskets to pick through for favorite candies, and a big family easter dinner to prepare.  To many people it seems that they spend all day celebrating easter, and little time celebrating Jesus.

Besides the hour and a half spent singing praise songs and listening to a sermon at church, very litte thought is given towards God today with all of the business distracting us.  Like many western traditional celebrations easter becomes less a celebration of the resurection of the cross and more of a celebration of the celebration itself.

Today is the day that we remember the most unfair sacrifice in all of history. Today we remember Jesus, the creator of all things (John 1:3), being perfect and without any sin (Hebrews 4:15), but was raised from the dead, conquering death, so we could be called righteous before God! (Romans 5:19)  Do you get the impact of that statement?

You have sinned, a lot. Do not try denying it, you are a filthy sinner. Every lie, every lustful thought, every greedy or selfish action you take, all of it, is detestable in the sight of God. Don’t believe me? Just look at the old testament, at how God wanted those who sined to be punished. It gives a glimpse of how much God hates sin.  Yet God, the one you sin against every day, sacrificed Himself, for what? To erase every evidence of sin in our life. To declare us righteous and allow us to serve Him, the living God!

“Are we sorry for grieving the heart of God… for denying God the right to own our personality… to own our mind… to own our thoughts… to own our emotions? (If not) we’re robbing God.” – Leonard Ravenhill

Instead of making today about easter bunnies and new clothes and business of making big dinners, spend today focusing on your sin, repenting from your sin, and thanking God for the wonderful act of Grace that He has provided freely for you. Take some time to celebrate that, what easter is supposed to be all about.

For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die.  But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. – Romans 5:7-9

Therefore we must give the more earnest heed to the things we have heard, lest we drift away.  For if the word spoken through angels proved steadfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just reward, how shall we escape if we neglect so great a salvation … – Hebrews 2:1-3

Isaiah 53

 1 Who has believed our message
   and to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?
2 He grew up before him like a tender shoot,
   and like a root out of dry ground.
He had no beauty or majesty to attract us to him,
   nothing in his appearance that we should desire him.
3 He was despised and rejected by mankind,
   a man of suffering, and familiar with pain.
Like one from whom people hide their faces
   he was despised, and we held him in low esteem.

 4 Surely he took up our pain
   and bore our suffering,
yet we considered him punished by God,
   stricken by him, and afflicted.
5 But he was pierced for our transgressions,
   he was crushed for our iniquities;
the punishment that brought us peace was on him,
   and by his wounds we are healed.
6 We all, like sheep, have gone astray,
   each of us has turned to our own way;
and the LORD has laid on him
   the iniquity of us all.

 7 He was oppressed and afflicted,
   yet he did not open his mouth;
he was led like a lamb to the slaughter,
   and as a sheep before its shearers is silent,
   so he did not open his mouth.
8 By oppression and judgment he was taken away.
   Yet who of his generation protested?
For he was cut off from the land of the living;
   for the transgression of my people he was punished.
9 He was assigned a grave with the wicked,
   and with the rich in his death,
though he had done no violence,
   nor was any deceit in his mouth.

 10 Yet it was the LORD’s will to crush him and cause him to suffer,
   and though the LORD makes his life an offering for sin,
he will see his offspring and prolong his days,
   and the will of the LORD will prosper in his hand.
11 After he has suffered,
   he will see the light of life and be satisfied;
by his knowledge my righteous servant will justify many,
   and he will bear their iniquities.
12 Therefore I will give him a portion among the great, 
   and he will divide the spoils with the strong,
because he poured out his life unto death,
   and was numbered with the transgressors.
For he bore the sin of many,
   and made intercession for the transgressors.