The Humanity of Christ
Many pages have been written and countless sermons preached on the “Incarnation,” but we need constantly to re-affirm our belief in this cardinal truth of the Christian Faith. Let us therefore examine this doctrine and enter into this holy sanctuary of truth with reverence and Godly fear.
The Bible presents the Lord Jesus Christ as fully God and fully man. His humanity is without despite to His Deity and His Deity without prejudice to His humanity. Many cannot understand how one can be at the same time very God and very man. Others attempt to distinguish His Deity and His humanity in His deeds and words. Many wonder where the line of demarcation between the two is to be drawn. However, we are not required to reconcile the two, nor determine where one ceases and the other begins. Both are true without loss to either.
“Seek not the cause, for ‘tis not in thy reach
Of all the true prophetic volumes teach;
Those secret things imparted from on high,
Which speak at once and veil the Deity:
Pass on, nor rush to explore the depths that be
Divinely hid in sacred mystery.”
Tracing this glorious theme through the Scriptures, we have first of all, Christ’s humanity in promise. “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel” (Gen. 3:15).
In Exodus 25, in connection with the Ark, we have Incarnation in portrait. The Ark was made of shittim or acacia wood but was covered with pure gold, teaching that Christ’s humanity was contained within His Deity. He was God first and then became man without loss to His Deity.
In Isaiah 9:6 we see this truth in prophecy. “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.” Turning to the New Testament we have its presentation. “Behold, thou shalt call his name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1:31-32).
Gazing on the cross we see ‘Christ’s manhood linked with propitiation. The words of the centurion echo down the corridor of time, “Truly this Man was the Son of God” Mark 15:39. In the Acts and Epistles we have it in proclamation.
Finally, on the very last page of Inspiration we have Incarnation in eternal perpetuity. Christ is still Jesus — “the root and offspring of David” (Rev. 22.16).
Let us now consider seven features, or a seven-fold purpose of the Incarnation.
Christ Revealing: The Divine Portrait
“And the Word was made (became) flesh and dwelt among us.” God ever dwelt in light unapproachable. No one could see Him and live. But by clothing Himself with flesh, Christ made God safely and fully observable to us, so that we need not fear to look upon God, as we behold His full glory in the face of Jesus Christ.
One has remarked, “Through the lantern of Christ’s humanity we behold the light of Deity shining. Christ came to reveal God’s heart, to translate the divine nature into the conditions of human nature and to make the Divine Being conceivable by that which is finite and approachable by that which is fallen.”
In Jesus Christ we see the complete revelation of God to man. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Exegesis, the sum and substance of all that God has to say. He said without challenge, He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.”
Thus the Word who became flesh was not merely an emination from God, but God Himself,” Immanuel, God with us”; not only the Revealer of God but God revealed; not merely the messenger, but the message. As the former, Christ is the effulgence —the “out-raying” of the eternal God. As the parent light, so is the ray. Thus, all the glories of eternal Deity shine forth in Christ — undimmed, fadeless and eternal.
As the latter — The Word — the One who declared God, He is the “express image of His person.” The word translated “express image” means to engrave or cut into. It is used of the die from which the coin is made. The impression reproduces exactly the features on the face of the die. To see one is to see the other. Thus in the perfect humanity of Christ is set forth every equality, every resource and every glory that dwells in God.
“In Thee, most perfectly expressed
The Father’s glories shine,
Of the full Deity expressed
Christ Redeeming: The Divine Propitiation
“For what the law could not do … God sending His Own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Rom. 8:3). Here is Deity, “His own Son,” then humanity, “in the likeness of sinful flesh.” This likeness could not be moral but physical.
In physical stature, Christ resembled His fellow men, but in moral stature, He was peerless. It is not written, “In sinful flesh,” for that would imply sin in Christ’s person, but rather “in the likeness of.” He came into the realms of sin, wearing the nature which sin had weakened and destroyed in man; but was immune to sin’s power and defied sin’s assaults, ultimately He paid its penalty as the sin offering, thus expiating the guilt of fallen man and making propitiation to God.
Here we behold our Kinsman Redeemer. Through man sin entered the world bringing condemnation and death but through another Man-Christ the Son — sin was taken away, bringing justification and life to all who believe.
“The maker of the universe
As man, for man, was made a curse;
The claims of law which He had made,
Unto the uttermost He paid.”
Christ Renouncing: The Divine Pattern
“Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: but made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (Phil: 2, 6, 7,). Again we see peerless humanity in all its loveliness and lowliness. Godhead was Christ’s eternal right and status and this He never relinquished and ever will be God.
The “form of God” implies all that is necessary to and inseparable from Deity. Therefore He was equal with the Father. But He did not consider this quality something to cling to. Rather, for the accomplishment of redemption, He “emptied Himself” and descended to the lowest depths.
His incarnation was the first step. He entered the world as God’s bondservant. His was a voluntary emptying of Himself, possible only to one so exalted. But of what did He empty Himself? Surely, not His Deity, for Paul wrote, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.” Neither could He possibly empty Himself of His character. There was no abdication of His eternal Deity in the assumption of His holy humanity.
The explanation is set before us right here in the passage. “He made Himself of no reputation,” He emptied Himself only of the outward and visible manifestation of the Godhead. Lightfoot says, “He emptied, stripped Himself of the insignia of His majesty.” Paradoxically, His self-emptying consisted in taking something additional. He became what He never was before without ceasing to be all that He ever was. Ultimately He stooped to a felon’s death, that of a common criminal. Such depths can never be fathomed. Such was “the mind of Christ.”
This is our pattern. This is the cure for assembly trouble, dissention, disputing, murmuring and self-exaltation. This is the pattern Paul gave to the Church at Phillipi for the purpose of “working out their own salvation.” Christ is the answer and the cure. Give Him His rightful place and these ills will disappear. Rightly apprehending His lowly path of self-renunciation will enable us to heed the divine plea.” Let nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind (His mind) let each esteem other better than themselves.”
“When I survey the wondrous cross
On which the Prince of glory died,
My richest gain I count but loss
And pour contempt on all my pride.”
Christ Restoring: The Divine Purpose
“But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels for the suffering of death, crowned with glory and honour; that He by the grace of God should taste death for every man” (Heb 2:9). This is a quotation from Psalm 8; undoubtedly referring to the first head, Adam, to whom was given dominion over the works of God’s hands. This estate the lost by sin (V. 8), but, when the fullness of time was come, the Lord Jesus entered into manhood, made for a little while lower than the angels, in order to restore, through suffering and death, man’s lost dominion. In becoming man, He voluntarily submitted to the cross that He might put away the sin that had robbed man of the crown and sceptre. Those who are united to Him by faith will participate with Him in His glory and reign. His Glory is the pledge of man’s restored dominion.
Christ Releasing: The Divine Power
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same; that through death He might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil, and delivered them, who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage” (Heb. 2, 14, 15). Here Christ’s humanity is ‘associated with another great purpose — that of release from both fear and bondage because of the penalty of death.
There is a difference between the word “partakers” as used of the children and the words applied to Christ, “Took part of the same.” The first embraces all mankind because of natural birth. The latter presents Christ taking that which was not His before, and implies His preexistence. His humanity was voluntarily assumed that He might die, and thus vanquish both death itself and Satan’s power over death. Because of sin, the human race was powerless to break the devil’s thrall, but the Lord Jesus came into the human race from outside it and becoming Himself subject to death, used the devil’s own weapon to annul its power. Now the believer triumphantly sings:
“O death, O grave, I do not dread your power;
The ransom’s paid:
On Jesus, in that dark and dreadful hour,
My guilt was laid.”
Christ Relieving: His Divine Pity
“Wherefore in all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren … for in that He Himself hath suffered being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted” (Heb. 2. 17. 18). The Lord Jesus became a man that He might experience the sufferings and sorrows of the human race. He entered into all that was common to man, apart from sin. John says, “He dwelt among us.” Thus He was while here, and is now at God’s right hand, a real man, capable of rendering a perfect sympathy. He rebuked sin, and yet He sympathized with human infirmity, sorrow, and woe. He was absolutely incapable of entering into sin. He was a stranger to those temptations which are due to inherent sinfulness. “There was no traitor within the gates of His holy nature.”
One has written, “Into our humbling experiences of entering into sin He cannot enter, but into our resistance to evil He can and does bring a sympathetic experience.”
Because He is man, He understands our need; because He is God, He can meet our need. By virtue of His earthly experience He is able to sympathize; by virtue of His heavenly position, He is able to succour. Having passed through the wilderness experience as a real man, He knows, understands and cares. He not only “feels for us” but “with us.” He is ever our faithful and merciful High Priest.
Christ Reigning: The Divine Potentate
When Pilate asked the question, “Art thou a King then?” (John 18:37), Jesus answered, “To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world.” In Matthew 2:2 the wise men inquired, “Where is He that is born King of the Jews?” We read in Hebrews 10:12, “But this Man… sat down on the right hand of God: from henceforth expecting till His enemies be made His footstool.”
In these passages Christ’s humanity is linked with royalty and reign. “At the name of Jesus every knee shall bow.” In this capacity, He is now hid from public view. “We see not yet all things put under Him.” The day is at hand when this peerless Man shall take the throne in regal splendour and majesty. Then the sobs of a groaning creation shall be hushed, its sorrows cease; all the ills of redeemed mankind will be healed and His glory spread from shore to shore.