Incarnation: God Comes
December 5, 2012
When speaking about Jesus, Rev. Dr. Gardner C. Taylor said, “He is in time, as God is in eternity. He is the clearest portrait we have of God. Without this visible portrait of God in Christ the picture would unclear and incomplete.”
J. I. Packer has described the incarnation as the “supreme mystery” associated with the gospel. The incarnation is more of a miracle than the resurrection because in it somehow a holy God and sinful humanity are joined, yet without the presence of sin: “Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as is this truth of the incarnation.” In Jesus, God enters the human realm; He walks on water, calms storms, heals the sick, feeds the hungry, raises the dead, and conquers the grave.
Incarnation (from the Latin meaning “becoming flesh”). One prominent theological journal explains: The English word “incarnation” is based on the Latin Vulgate, “Et verbum caro factum est.” The noun caro is from the root carn– (“flesh”). The incarnation means that the eternal Son of God became “flesh,” that is, He assumed an additional nature, namely, a human nature.
To the Hebrews, the Word of God was the presence and action of God breaking into human history with unparalleled power and authority. God’s Word indicated action, an agent accomplishing the will of God. Some examples include God bringing things into existence by his Word and God’s Word being sent out to accomplish his purposes. For the Hebrew, God’s speech and action were one and the same.
For Heraclitus, the creation of the world, the ordering of all life, and the immortality of the human soul were all made possible solely by the word (or logos) that was the invisible and intelligent force behind all that we see in this world. He went so far as to say that truth could be known and wisdom, the great aim of Greek existence, found not by knowledge of many things but instead by a deep and clear awareness of one thing-the word, or logos.
Logos-is from the Greek meaning “word,” or “reason.” As we have seen, it was used by the ancient Greeks to convey the idea that the world was governed by a universal intelligence. However, John used logos differently from other writers, that is, to refer to the second person of the Trinity, Jesus Christ.
Jesus Christ was born of a virgin as the one true God who became man, living at a time and place in which the Hebrew and Greek worlds collided. John begins with a declaration that both Hebrews and Greeks would have agreed with, that before the creation of the world and time, the Word existed eternally. He then scandalizes both groups by stating that Jesus is the Word and was with the one and only God and, in fact, was himself God and was face-to-face with God the Father from eternity. This thundering declaration would have been stunning to both Jews and Greeks who had vigorously argued that a man could never become a god, though they may never have considered that God had become a man, as John’s eyewitness testimony revealed.
Five aspects of Logos referred to by John
- The Logos is eternal
- The Logos has always been with God, face-to-face with the Father as an equal relationship.
- The Logos is a person distinct from yet equal to God.
- The Logos is the creator and therefore eternal, self-existent, and all-powerful.
- The Logos became flesh. John clearly taught that matter is not inherently evil and that God does involve himself with the material. Implicitly, we are told that the Logos that was present in the sanctuary became physically present in the space-and-time world. As George Eldon Ladd observes, the Logos became flesh to reveal to humans five things: life, light, grace, truth, glory, and even God himself.
Logos is one of the strongest arguments for the deity of Jesus as the personal, eternally existing creator of the universe, distinct from yet equal with God the Father, who became incarnate (or came in the flesh) to demonstrate his glory in grace and truth to reveal life and light to men.
Around 4,000 BC, after Adam and Eve sinned, God prophesied to them that the Messiah (Jesus) would be born of a woman; he makes no reference to a father, which intimates the virgin birth. Around 700 BC Isaiah prophesied: “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. God became a man at the incarnation of Jesus.
They argue that the Hebrew word almah (which is used in Isaiah 7:14) typically means “young woman,” that does not mean that she was not a virgin. The word almah is used elsewhere in the Old Testament to refer specifically to a young virgin woman. Furthermore, two centuries before Jesus was born, we find that the Jews understood exactly what almah means: the Septuagint, the Jewish translation of the Hebrew Bible into Greek, translates almah as parthenos, which unambiguously means “virgin.”
Concerning Jesus’ birthplace, in roughly 700 BC Micah prophesied that Jesus would be born in the town of Bethlehem, saying, “But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.”