The Incarnation of Christ
Any approach to the study of the person of Christ must rest upon the premise, “Great is the mystery of Godliness; God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). This statement which was made by the Apostle Paul, places the person of Christ among the Divine secrets. We must, therefore, realize that human ability is not capable of defining the great mystery of Christ. The personality of the Lord Jesus is found among the deep things of God.
Let us consider carefully and prayerfully certain matters relative to the coming of God’s Son into the world.
The Reasonableness of The Incarnation
There are only two processes by which beings come into physical life; the first, by natural generation; the second, by miraculous generation. It is by the first of these that the members of Adam’s ruined and depraved race are born; it is by this process that, in the transmission of life, sin is transmitted from father to son. Consequently, it is only reasonable that God in sending His sinless, spotless, and perfect Son into this world, should choose the second process, and send Him by means of miraculous generation. A subject necessary to our study is that of
The Annunciation of The Incarnation
In this connection we must notice the difference between the annunciation of the birth of Christ to Joseph and the annunciation of His birth to Mary.
To Joseph the angelic messenger said, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus” (Matt. 1:20-21). Jesus was Mary’s Son. The important point here is that the revelation to Joseph has particularly to do with the blessed and perfect humanity of Christ. To Mary the angel said, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:25). Mary was made fully aware of the Divine nature of her infant child; He was the Son of God.
The Doctrine of The Incarnation
This part of our subject must take us to a brief consideration of the wonderful Christological statement found in Philippians chapter 2.
In this passage there are two or three salient points of great importance to our study: here we have Christ in His pre-incarnate state, Christ in His incarnation, and Christ in His post-incarnate condition.
His pre-incarnate state: In first place we must examine the passage to see what it has to say about His essence: “Who being (subsisting) in the form (not the shape or fashion, but in the nature or essence) of God” (Phil. 2:6). The word “form” used here definitely refers to the nature of a thing rather than to its shape. If we were told that a lion had escaped from the zoo, we would not be afraid of its shape, but of its nature; the form of that animal would produce anxiety. This meaning of the word becomes more obvious as we read verses 7-8. Christ took upon Himself the fashion, aspect, shape of a man; consequently, He appeared in the form, mode, or nature of a servant. While all this is a blessed fact, never let us forget His equality. The reading of verse 6 reveals to us that Christ did not consider His equality with God as a prize to be attained, or an object to be seized, for it was already His, it always had been His, and ever would be. In this matter both Satan and the Anti-Christ stand in vivid contrast to our Lord Jesus; they attempt to grasp equality with God. Of Satan we read in his own language, “I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the Most High” (Isa. 14:14). Of the Anti-Christ we read, “The son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself that he is God” (2 Thess. 2:3-4). In another of the salient points in this passage, we have brought before us the gracious condescension of our Holy Lord in His emptying.
Christ laid aside the outward signs of his Deity, His glory and majesty, and thus became the supreme example of humility and sacrifice. It might be well for us to consider the contention of some that Christ being in the form of God, laid this aside in order to take upon Himself the form of a servant. The idea that one form was substituted for another through the incarnation is error. The truth is that Christ, without ceasing to be what He always had been, became something He had never been before.
The words, “Who being,” apparently are the words which cause the difficulty. Some insist that this portion teaches that Christ, being one thing, changed and became something else altogether different. A similar grammatical construction is found in John 19:38, “Joseph of Arimathaea, being a disciple of Jesus... besought Pilate that he might take away the body of Jesus.” Joseph being a disciple did not become something different through his action. Much rather, being what he was, he was able to do what was necessary. Even so with our blessed Lord Jesus, Who, being what He was, was able to undertake the necessary steps in our redemption.
The Purpose of The Incarnation
There is another very Christological passage which develops for us the manifold purpose of the incarnation of the Son of God, the entire second chapter of the Epistle to the Hebrews. Here we see the purpose of God is sevenfold.
The recovery of world dominion by man, the perfect Man Christ Jesus. World government was lost to Adam because of his sin, but this will be regained by the incarnate Christ, the last Adam (Vv. 6-8).
The cross and its work of atonement: Bethlehem was only a stepping-stone to Calvary (V. 9)
The proof of intrinsic perfection: Our incarnate Lord, through suffering was proved perfectly suitable to accomplish our salvation in every aspect, past, present, and future (V. 10)
The forming of the Divine family: Through the facts of the incarnation of the Head of the New Creation, and through regenerative sanctification all the family is one (Vv. 11-13).
The overthrowal of Satan: “The Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8). Satan overcame man in Eden; the perfect Man overcame him at Calvary (V. 14).
The deliverance of captives of sin and fear: These primarily referred to here are the saints of Old Testament times. Christ laid hold, not of the nature of angels to save them, but of the seed of Abraham to save the seed of Abraham (Vv. 15-16).
That Christ might be a faithful and merciful High Priest: It became Him to be made like unto the brethren in order that He be able to succour them, and be touched with the feeling of their infirmity (Vv. 17-18).
The Glories of The Incarnate Saviour
As we consider the moral glories of the Lord Jesus during His days of humiliation, we must be most guarded in our thoughts. It has been said by some that the Lord Jesus did not at all times, during that period of self-imposed humiliation, possess the attributes of Deity. Let us focus our attention upon this part of our doctrinal study, the attributes of Christ.
In the first place, we must define our language. What do we mean by the attributes of Christ? There are two different types of Divine attributes, personal attributes and moral attributes.
His personal attributes: These are generally considered to be three: omnipotence, omniscience, and omnipresence. How frequently we see these in manifestation during Christ’s three and one half years of public ministry. Let us think of these in the terms of John’s Gospel. His omnipresence is referred to by John the Baptist (1:18). His omniscience is seen in His conversation with the woman by the well (4:20), and His omnipotence is in operation at the pool of Bethesda (5:1-9). Such then are the personal attributes of God as seen in the Lord Jesus during the days of His flesh.
His moral attributes: These are those moral qualities which were seen in all their perfection in Christ as the perfect Man, His righteousness, goodness, love, longsuffering, mercy, truth, etc. J. G. Bellett has given us a precious little book, The Moral Glories of the Lord Jesus, in which he examines the circumstances in the life of Christ during which these moral attributes were made manifest. How beautifully His moral glories shine forth when, at the age of twelve, He was found in the temple in the midst of the doctors (Luke 2:42-52). There we see His wisdom (47), His loyalty (49), and His gracious submission (51). What gracious dependence was His in the wilderness (Luke 4)! What righteousness is seen in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5-7)
It has been taught by some that, since there was no manifestation of the personal attributes of God in Christ until after His baptism, He did not have a consciousness of His Divine nature until He was ready for His public ministry. This is error, for throughout His entire life, He displayed, in absolute perfection, the moral attributes of God. The perfect moral life of our Holy Lord Jesus as a boy and as a man in this sinful world is the greatest miracle of all time, and is the convincing proof of His Deity.
The Miracles of Christ
Frequently, we reason that since Christ performed miracles, He must have been Divine. We look upon His miracles as proofs of His essential Deity, but is not all this a reasoning in the wrong direction? Surely in doing this, we are reasoning from the shadow to the substance. Let us invert our logic, and argue from the substance to the shadow. Christ was Divine and therefore all His acts must have been Divine. We can only expect that the Divine Being perform Divine acts. It is only to be expected that the Creator control His creation; that the Life-Giver raise the dead; that the God of providence feed a multitude. It is only to be expected that when God became a Man, that this Man act as God.
“Great is the mystery of Godliness: God was manifest in the flesh,” and before this greatest of all mysteries, we bow in awesome adoration.
S. O. M.