THE GOSPEL & THE PERSON OF CHRIST: Incarnation

The gospel is good news.  The gospel, as a matter of fact, is the greatest message, the greatest announcement ever to be proclaimed in the world. It is a declaration about something that has been done, something that has been accomplished.  To guard against confusion, the gospel is not something we do, or something we’ve done.  The gospel, rather, is the good news about what God has done to save sinners through his Son, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, the all-important question is not, “WWJD?: What would Jesus do?”, but “WHJD?: What has Jesus done?!”  What has Jesus done to save those who believe in him?

Some would certainly answer, and rightly so, “Jesus died for me.”  Again, while that is gloriously true, it is not all that Jesus has done for our salvation. We must not minimize the gospel to simply the death of Christ in the place of sinners.  The gospel is the good news of all of Christ’s saving work in his incarnation, life, death, resurrection, ascension, intercession, and return.

Over the next 8 weeks, we will briefly look at how each aspect of Christ’s work in the gospel is essential to the believer’s salvation.  The implications of the totality of Christ’s work in our place are far reaching, and the fuel by which we continue to live for his glory in this life!

THE GOSPEL AND THE INCARNATION

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it…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 1:1-5, 14, ESV

“But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”

Galatians 4:4-5, ESV

The plan of God the Father in the person and work of his Son, Jesus Christ, creates a chasm of difference between Christianity and every other world religion.  Where the other religions of the world teach what one must do in order to earn and keep the favor of their “god(s)”, Christianity declares, emphatically, what God alone has done to graciously save, and bestow his favor upon, his people.  While the other religions of the world speak of ascending to god, Christianity dramatically differs in its news about the work God has done in his coming to seek and save the lost.  Not only has God himself accomplished everything needed to be done to restore repentant sinners into a right relationship with himself, he has graciously revealed his saving work to us through his Word; all of which centers upon his Son, Jesus Christ.

God reveals himself to us in Scripture as one God, eternally existing in three distinct persons: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit (cf. Matt. 3:13-17).  Before time began, the triune God existed in perfect, joy-filled community within himself and was in need of nothing.  It was because of God’s good pleasure that he chose to create the universe to manifest his glory in all of creation.

God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, being distinct from all creation, chose to create humankind (male & female/Adam & Eve) in his image and likeness.  He placed them on earth [in the garden of Eden] as his representatives, and they were to worship him as Creator as they joyfully stewarded his creation and multiplied to fill the earth (Gen. 1:28).  Choosing to refuse God’s good and gracious rule, acting as gods unto themselves, they were deceived by Satan*, and willfully disobeyed God’s command; sin then entered and spread like cancer in the world.  Because Adam and Eve broke God’s good law, they became guilty of sin, incurred God’s just curse for their disobedience, were condemned to death, and cast out of God’s presence to bless.

Because of his faithful grace, God promised that through the offspring of the woman (Eve) a Savior would come to defeat Satan, sin, and death (Gen. 3:15). He would redeem God’s people from the curse, restoring them into a right relationship with God, and finally renewing all of creation through his work.  God, being the first mover, chose to continue to relate to his people through unfolding covenants that pointed toward a new covenant through which he would save a people to the praise of his glorious grace.  [We’ll look more specifically at aspects of these covenants in the weeks ahead.]

John wrote in his gospel that the eternal Word of God, Jesus Christ (God the Son), became flesh and made his dwelling among us (cf. John 1:14).  Conceived by the power of the God the Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, God himself entered human history in the person of his Son.  God fulfilled his promise to Adam and Eve in the garden, in the giving of himself.  He came to be the Savior of his people.

Theologians refer to Christ’s taking on of human flesh as the incarnation.  The word “incarnation” comes from a Latin term, which literally means, “in meat.”  God the Son wrapped himself in human flesh in the incarnation.

Dr. Robert Reymond explains the incarnation as follows:

“Without ceasing to be all that he was and is as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, the eternal Son of God took into union with himself in the one divine Person that which he had not possessed before-even a full complex of human attributes-and became fully and truly man for us men and for our salvation.  Jesus of Nazareth was and is the God-man.”

[Robert Reymond, A New Systematic Theology of the Christian Faith (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1998), 546.]

Simply stated, Jesus, God the Son, uncreated and pre-existing infinitely in eternity past, added to his eternal divine nature a fully human nature, thus having two full natures united in his person.  As Reymond stated, “Jesus of Nazareth was and is the God-man.”

What does the incarnation have to do with the gospel?  Why was the incarnation necessary?

 

As human beings, because of the guilt inherited from Adam, we’ve all been born sinful, spiritually dead, and separated from God and are sinners to the core.  Apart from a Savior who can make us new, all we can do is sin.  And, because our sin is against an infinite God, the penalty we incurred is of infinite measure.  We deserve death and eternal separation from God.

Jonathan Edwards wrote on this matter:

“The crime of one being despising and casting contempt on another, is proportionably more or less heinous, as he was under greater or less obligations to obey him.  And therefore if there be any being that we are under infinite obligations to love, and honor, and obey, the contrary towards him must be infinitely faulty.

Our obligation to love, honor, and obey any being is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority…. But God is a being infinitely lovely, because he hath infinite excellence and beauty….

So sin against God, being a violation of infinite obligations, must be a crime infinitely heinous, and so deserving infinite punishment….”

[Jonathan Edwards, “The Justice of God in the Damnation of Sinners.” In The Works of Jonathan Edwards, vol. 1 (Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1974), 669. Cited in John Piper, Desiring God (Colorado Springs, CO: Multnomah, 2011), 60.]

We need an infinite person to take upon himself our infinite penalty.  We also need someone who can completely identify with us in our humanity to be qualified to stand in our place.  Jesus is the only person who has ever met those qualifications.  He alone is qualified to be our Savior from God’s righteous wrath, our sin, and the eternal death we deserve.  We are people in desperate need of God Incarnate.  Praise be to God that, “when the fullness of time had come, [he] sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons” (Gal. 4:4-5).

Some gospel conclusions in light of the incarnation:

  • Jesus wrapped himself in human flesh so we could be wrapped in his righteousness.
  • Jesus set aside his glorious position with the Father and Spirit in eternity past so, through him, we could be welcomed into the joyful communion of the Trinity for all of eternity future.
  • Jesus was the ultimate missionary who was sent by the Father to reveal God to humankind; humbly dwelling among those he came to save. And, by Jesus’ authority, we are commanded to be on mission with God in all the world, proclaiming the good news about what God has done in Christ.
  • Jesus added full humanity to the fullness of his deity to fully redeem fallen human beings and fill them with his Spirit.
  • At the incarnation, Jesus, the Uncreated, entered creation so that the created could dwell forever in the New Creation with the Uncreated.

ENDNOTES |

*Satan is a created angelic being who, at some point in eternity past, set himself up to be worshipped as God.  He was cast out of heaven, along with the angels who followed him, destined for eternal damnation (2 Pet. 2:4Rev. 20:10).

“THE GOSPEL & THE PERSON OF CHRIST” SERIES:

Introduction

The Gospel & The Incarnation

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