Monday, December 20

Incarnation


How about a series of short pieces looking at the meanings of some of the terms we might hear associated with Christ's birth, or with what happened when the second person of the Trinity came to earth as the Saviour? This week is busy, but I think I'm going to try to do that. Don't expect anything too deep nor organized!

The obvious place to start, I suppose, is with the word incarnation. Incarnation means to make flesh, and it's used to refer to God the Son taking on a human nature--or becoming a human being--while continuing to be God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God...And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John 1:1,14)
Notice that the Word, which existed as God, became flesh, and yet remained the Word. There is a change, for the second person of the Trinity becomes something he once was not, but he still continues to be what he always was--the Word who is God.

Here are a few more important texts explaining the incarnation to us:
  • For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily... (Colossians 1:9). In context, this statement refers to the post-resurrection and ascended Christ, who is filling believers and who rules over them; yet Paul tells us that not only does he continue to be all that God is, but he also continues to have a human body. We know from other places in scripture that this resurrected body is a "spiritual body," but it is still a true body. The change that occurred at the incarnation is a permanent one; Christ became forever the God-man.

  • Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things... (Hebrews 2:14). The last part of Hebrews 2 is one of my favorite passages, so I've mentioned this particular verse several times here in the blog. What it tells us is that Christ became human in exactly the same way that we are human. Everything that makes us truly human is shared by Christ as the God-man. Of course, there is one important caveat to this this statement of similarity, for Hebrews 4 tells us that Christ was like us in every respect, except for sin. The human nature that he took upon himself, then, was unfallen human nature. (See Romans 8:3 as well.)

  • Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. (1 John 4:1-3). That Jesus was God "in the flesh" is one of the crucial doctrines: one that discerns between those who are of the Spirit of God and those who are false prophets. Those who deny that Jesus Christ is truly God who has become truly human are standing against Christ and in opposition to the truth of the Spirit of God.

The following texts are about Christ coming in the flesh, too. What do they tell you about the incarnation? Comments are encouraged.
  • 1 Timothy 3:16:
    Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness:

    He was manifested in the flesh,
    vindicated by the Spirit,
    seen by angels,
    proclaimed among the nations,
    believed on in the world,
    taken up in glory.

  • Romans 1:3,4:
    ...concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord...

  • Philippians 2:5-7:
    ...Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

  • Galatians 4:4:
    But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law...

All Scripture quoted from the English Standard Version.
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