From the Editor's Notebook: The Word Became Flesh

MIF 10:6 (Nov-Dec 1978)

From The Editor’s Note Book

W. Ross Rainey

The Word Became Flesh

In the past the editor has occasionally quoted from a book by Walter Scott, now long out of print, entitled, Selections from Our Fifty Years’ Written Ministry. Once again, browsing through this rich depository of distilled comments on a variety of Biblical subjects it is appropriate, particularly at this time of the year, to share with our readers some precious thoughts on our Lord’s incarnation from the pen of this beloved, faithful and gifted servant of Christ of a past generation.

Ref erring to the Apostle John, Walter Scott wrote as follows:

In the Gospel by “the disciple whom Jesus loved,” the fact of the Incarnation, not the manner of it, is expressed in five words, “The Word was made flesh.” But you cannot make the Word — a divine Being —this or that. “The Word became flesh” (R.V.). He voluntarily assumed humanity. The bosom of the Father was the source of those wonderful disclosures which in their range and character are unequalled in the Sacred Volume.

The Apostle shows Christ in this world as the WORD — a divine Person. He is so termed as absolutely expressing God in His nature, character, and ways. He is also termed the WORD OF LIFE (1 Epistle), as eternal life is alone expressed in and by Him. The Lord is also spoken of as the WORD OF GOD (Rev. xix. 13), as fully representing God in judgment.

In the first two verses of the Gospel we have a compendium of divine truth which the keenest intellect in existence cannot fathom. Those twenty-five words lead us with believing hearts and adoring souls into the region of the Eternal and Infinite. The question is not: Do you understand? but, Do you implicity believe? The mystery of the God-head cannot be solved by reason. Faith believes where reason gropes in utter darkness. Then in verse three we get the relation of the WORD to creation. “All things were made by Him”; while in verse four His relation to the responsible part of this creation is next stated, “In Him was life.” Then we pass on to verse 14, “The WORD became flesh.” This is the last notice of the WORD in the Gospel. To sum up in briefest terms possible, the foregoing testimony, we have:

1. “Was the WORD” — Eternal Existence

2. “Was with God” — Distinct Personality

3. “Was God” — Deity

4. “In the beginning with God” —Eternal Companionship

5. “All things made by Him” — Creatorial Power

6. “In Him was life” — Source and Fountain

7. “The light of men” — Revealer of God

8. “Became flesh” — Assumed Humanity

In the two synoptical Gospels Matthew and Luke — we have the most careful adjustment of those two closely related facts: The Divine conception and the human birth: conceived of the Holy Ghost, yet born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem —the birthplace of David, Israel’s illustrious king.

In the Johannine record of the Lord’s Incarnation we can readily see why there is no statement as to the holiness of the humanity He assumed. Any such assertion would have been out of place. The assumption of humanity by the Eternal WORD settles the question. “God is light, and in Him is no darkness at all.” God in becoming man did not cease to be God. The fact that it was God who became flesh settles for all time the question of the intrinsic holiness of Christ’s humanity. Holiness was inherent in His Being. As the man Christ Jesus, He was absolutely holy, as He was as God in eternal ages.

The beloved Physician, Luke, develops in fullness and in wealth of detail the holy humanity of our Lord. Christ as man is the aspect in which He is set forth in the third Gospel. Luke is the Gospel of the Son of Man, hence the precision of statement guarding the humanity of our Lord. In the very record in which His connection with the human race is shown He is separated from every member of the human family in the impeccability of His nature. He holy, they sinful, yet, strange to say, “His delights were with the sons of men.” In the manner of His conception He stands absolutely alone, but a true, real human birth.

Youth And Suicide

According to an article in U.S. News & World Report, there has been a dramatic increase in suicides and attempted suicides by Americans in their late teens and early twenties. As might be expected, this is causing widespread concern among parents and educators.

The trend is accented by the latest government statistics which show that suicides among Americans aged 15 through 24 more than doubled in just over a decade, from 1,876 in 1965 to 4,747 in 1976. They account for 1 out of 10 deaths in that age group, and now rank third — behind accidents and homicides — as a killer of young Americans. The foregoing statistics compare with a 25 percent increase in reported suicides at all age levels, from 21,507 in 1965 to 26,970 in 1977.

Even among children under 15, as many as 163 suicides were reported in 1976.

For every person who dies by suicide, there are many others who fail in the attempt, one authority having estimated that suicide attempts outnumber actual suicides by 50 to 1.

In every generation youth’s accent is on life and living. Why, then, is there this upward trend in suicides among young people? There are no simple answers, but nearly all experts point to the stresses and frustrations that afflict today’s youths. Some are confused and frightened about the future. Will they be able to get jobs? If they get jobs, will they be meaningful? And if they get married, will their marriage last?

Undoubtedly one primary cause is insecurity in the family brought on by the high divorce rate.

In the Bible there is no specific command against suicide, although prohibitionary implications may be drawn from Exodus 20:13, 1 Samuel 2:6, Ezekiel 18:4, Romans 14:7-9, 1 Corinthians 6:19 and Ephesians 5:29. While we are told that the early Church Fathers allowed the taking of one’s life midst very stringent circumstances, the outstanding theologian, Augustine of Hippo (354-430 A.D.), denied its legitimacy no matter what the circumstances, stating that it precluded the possibility of repentance, that it was a species of murder, and that it violated the sixth commandment.

Seven suicides are recorded in the Scriptures. All were men and not one of them was in the will of God at the time of his death. They are Abimelech (Judg. 9:54), Samson (Judg. 16:30), Saul (1 Sam. 31:4), Saul’s armour-bearer (1 Sam. 31:5), Ahithophel (2 Sam. 17:23), Zimri (1 Kings 16:18), and Judas Iscariot (Matt. 27:5; Acts 1:16-19).

Samson’s death was more of a warrior’s heroic act than a true suicide, and to a degree the same can be said for Saul’s armour-bearer who evidently, out of a sense of faithfulness and devotion to his king, chose to be identified with him in death than to allow the Philistines to take his life.

Christians can and do commit suicide, but to all who contemplate it, believers and unbelievers alike, it should be remembered that the taking of one’s life does not end it all. This the Bible makes clear (see Luke 16:25). In reality, behind suicide are the sins of selfishness and self-centeredness, and those left behind are not only faced with sorrow but frequently with many complications. For a believer to commit suicide means in some measure, at least, to “suffer loss” at the judgment seat of Christ Cor. 3:15), but not the loss of his salvation.

No matter how grim his circumstances, the believer possesses many resources to overcome the temptation to commit suicide, not the least of them being the promises of God, confession of sins to God, followed, of course, by the righting of whatever wrongs can be righted. If the believer’s stringent circumstances are not a result of sin, then he has the example of men like Job and the Apostle Paul, and a word of comfort and assurance like 1 Corinthians 10:13. There are also the examples of Elijah and Jonah who, for different reasons, wished for death, but they did not take the matter into their own hands, and God delivered them.

Clearly, in the light of God’s Word, suicide is a sin. As Christians we most certainly have a responsibility to pray for those whom we know, both believers and unbelievers, who are beset by life’s very real and grievous frustrations and adversities, and to lend whatever practical help we can. It may be that by expressions of genuine Christian love and patient understanding our Lord will use us in these days of increasing suicide among younger and older alike to lead a soul to Christ or to restore a backslidden child of God, and in this way help stem the tide of this diabolical trend.