December 12, 2012
The purpose of Jesus’ incarnation was fulfilled when, just as promised, he suffered and died in the place of sinners though he himself was sinless, was buried in a rich man’s tomb, and rose from death to make righteous the unrighteous. Jacob Neusner, a scholar of Judaism, defines incarnational as “the representation of God in the flesh, as corporeal, consubstantial in emotion and virtue with human beings, and sharing in the modes and means of action carried out by mortals.”
The incarnation does not teach that man became God. From the time the Serpent told out parents, “You will be like God,” there has been an ongoing demonic false teaching that we can be gods (e.g., Mormonism) or part of God (e.g., pantheism, panentheism, and New Ageism). Simply, the incarnation teaches the exact opposite, namely that God became a man.
At the incarnation a person didn’t come into being, he already existed as the second person of the Trinity. Jesus Christ has not been changed into a man; it is this eternal Person who has come in the flesh.
Divinity: God the Father said Jesus was God. Demons said Jesus was God. Jesus said he was God. The Bible plainly says Jesus is God. Jesus is given the names of God. Jesus possessed the attributes of God. Jesus did the works of God. People worshiped Jesus as God. Colossians 2:9 says it perfectly, “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”
Humanity: There are some theories that Jesus was not fully human. This is simply not true, not only did Jesus have a physical body, but he also suffered and died “in the flesh.”
How Could God become a man?
451 AD, the Council of Chalcedon struggled with this question, and after intensive study this is what they came up with. Jesus Christ is one person with two natures (human and divine) who is both fully God and fully man. Theologically, the term for the union of both natures is Jesus Christ is hypostatic union, which id taken from the Greek word hypostasis for “person.”
- Christ has two distinct natures: humanity and deity
- There is no mixture or intermingling of the two natures
- Although he has two natures, Christ is one person
In keeping with the biblical position of Chalcedon, we must retain both the full divinity and full humanity of Jesus Christ. To accomplish this, we must conclude that when Jesus became a man, he did not change his identity as God but rather changed his role. According to the church father Augustine, “Christ added to himself which he was not, he did not lose what he was.” He who was and is God took the likeness of humanity. God became the “image of God” for the sake of our salvation.
What, then, does all this mean? It means that there was no change in His deity, but that He took human nature to Himself, and chose to live in this world as a man. He humbled Himself in that way. He deliberately put limits upon Himself. Now we cannot go further. We do not know how He did it. We cannot understand it, in a sense. But we believe this: in order that He might live this life as a man, while He was here on earth, He did not exercise certain qualities of His Godhead. That was why…He needed to be given the gift of the Holy Spirit without measure. ~Martin Lloyd-Jones
Two wrong ways of thinking in regards to Jesus’ humanity and divinity: the first is to deny the full divinity of Jesus in favor or his humanity; the second is to deny the full humanity of Jesus in favor of his divinity. Jesus is not a blending of the two natures He is God becoming man.
Jesus is the only God who gets off his throne to humbly serve us and give us grace and mercy. Subsequently, Jesus can both sympathize with and deliver us. Practically, this mean that in our time of need, we can run to Jesus our sympathetic priest who lives to serve us and give us grace and mercy for anything life brings.
Jesus alone can mediate between God and us because he alone is fully God and fully man and thereby able to perfectly represent both God and man.
In most religions the holiest men are those who are most separated from culture and sinners. Conversely, Jesus Christ came into the mess of human history and spent time in community with believers and unbelievers alike. Subsequently, religious people who separated themselves from sinners and cultures were prone to denounce Jesus for the kind of company he kept.
Jesus’ incarnation is our missional model. From the missional life of Jesus we learn five great missional truths for our own life. First, an incarnational missional life is contextual and crosses cultural barriers. Second, an incarnational missional life is evangelistic. Third, an incarnational missional life is humble. Fourth, an incarnational missional life is one devoted to the church. Fifth, an incarnational missional life is global.
Indeed, the world is our mission field, and Jesus is our model incarnational missionary who went before us and now goes with us as we continue in his work by his Spirit as his church for his glory and our joy.
Personal Thoughts and Comments
The quote from Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor was an excerpt from an interview.
Doctrine: What Christians Should Believe by Mark Driscoll & Gerry Breshears, Published by: Crossway 2010