Theology: CHRISTOLOGY – THE INCARNATION

Incarnation comes from a Latin term meaning enfleshment. In our study it is the enfleshment of God. It is God made manifest in human flesh.

 

In Theology, the Incarnation speaks to that act of servanthood by which the Second Person of the Trinity stepped into the flow of mankind as man, taking upon Himself all that man is and limiting Himself to function within mankind’s parameters.

 

John 1:14,

 

“And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

 

The incarnation is carried in both Matthew and Luke’s account of the life of our Lord.

 

This coming to mankind of man’s God was not without its own set of unique circumstances. God could not just appear as man, for He needed to be entirely man which required of God that He experience all that there is to be experienced by man.

 

This presented a minor problem, how can God be born of man? There needed to be a Fatherhood from God and a motherhood by woman. This unique combination produced not only the God-man Jesus Christ, but it also produced a man with no sin nature which was also a prerequisite.

 

One of the hallmark doctrines of Christianity, one of the fundamentals if you will, is the virgin birth. Both Matthew and Luke mention the virgin birth. Matthew 1:18, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was in this way: When, as his mother, Mary, was espoused to Joseph, before they came together, she was found with child of the Holy Spirit.” Luke 1:26,27,34 (“…a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph….”)

 

Both are quite clear on the fact that Joseph was not the father of Jesus. Matthew 1:20,

 

“…Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary, thy wife; for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”

 

 

Luke 1:35, “And the angel answered, and said unto her, The Holy Spirit 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.”

 

In Matthew’s genealogy he uses the term begat all the way through, but does not use it in relation to Joseph. This would seem to be a significant omission.

 

Without the virgin birth there are a few problems:

 

a. You have to call the Bible and God a liar, for the Scriptures plainly declare the virgin birth.

 

b. You have to see Christ, the incarnate God, as a being that takes over a human being that has a fallen nature. If this human, taken over by a God has a fallen nature, then for the God to live a perfect life He must force the human, against his will, to live that perfect life. The ramifications of this are great.

 

I. THE PURPOSE OF THE INCARNATION

 

Ryrie details the purpose of the incarnation in one of his books. I would like to quote his outline and then adapt it for our discussion.

 

“…to reveal God to men…to provide an example for living…to provide a sacrifice for sin…to destroy the works of the devil…to enable Him to be a merciful and faithful High Priest…to fulfill the promise of a son to sit on the throne of David forever….”1

 

A. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF DECLARING HIMSELF TO MAN

 

Often I have introduced my children to groups of people and I often add, You won’t know them long before you know where they got their humor. Often the child takes on the characteristics of the parent, so even in humans we can see that if you know the son you can know something of the father.

 

This same aspect is true of God the Father and God the Son, only in even a more real sense. The Son is the Father and the Father is the Son. They are of the same nature and of the same character. They are one. The “Father” and “Son” distinctions speak of differences of person and of position, but say nothing of differences of nature. They are truly one, and if we know one we know the other. If we are to know about God we need to study His Son and His life while on earth. We need to look at his characteristics, mannerisms, and way of life and then we will know something of The Father. Christ Himself declared that if a person knew Him, then the person also knew God the Father.

 

B. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF GIVING US AN EXAMPLE TO LIVE BY

 

We know enough of the maturing of children to know that they often take a model to pattern themselves after. Even in adulthood we often pattern ourselves after our heroes. God knowing His creatures, desired to give them a model that was WORTH emulating. Many of our models are so very flawed, yet we pattern ourselves after them.

 

God desires that we pattern our lives after the life of Christ the man that lived the perfect life. Indeed the outworking of this concept is seen in a familiar text that we normally don’t tie with this thought. “Be ye holy for I am holy.” 1 Peter 1:16. If we follow Peters admonition we will naturally pattern ourselves after the Lord.

 

As we take Christ as our model we take not only the man Jesus as our model, but we take as our model the God of the universe. (1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6)

 

We all know what instruction books are, don’t we? You know, those books that we get with the modern conveniences that tell us how to run things. They often include instructions of assembly that appear to have been written as practice for a Greek class.

 

Well, in a sense God wanted us to have an instruction manual for life. The Lord Jesus came to show us how it was done. The sad part of it is, there aren’t to many today that read their perfectly lived instruction manual. We are to walk as He walked.

 

How do you relate to that today? Do you walk as Christ walked, following all the laws of man perfectly, being righteous at all times, always having a proper reaction to people even when they are being nasty to you?

Wow. Some Example To Follow.

 

C. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS

OF PROVIDING SALVATION TO MAN

Hebrews 10:1-10 tells of the one perfect sacrifice that was made by Christ. Man was unable to save himself from the quagmire that he inserted himself into, so the Lord God was the only hope for man in his lost state. If God had not interceded there would have been no saving man from his lostness. God needed to become the sacrifice that could die for the sins of man, because nothing on this earth was worthy and righteous enough to pay the penalty. Since God cannot die, there was but one thing for God to do and that was to become man. As man He could die and provide the way of salvation for all of mankind.

 

Within this idea is the fact that He provided eternal life to man. John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven; if any man eat of this bread, he shall live forever; and the bread that I will give is may flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.” John 10:10, “…I am come that they might have life….”

 

From what John mentions, it is hard to determine how anyone of any faith, or of any belief, could think that they can do anything to gain their own salvation. Christ came that we might have life. Without Christ there is no life and we need to know that, believe that, teach that, and preach that.

 

D. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF SETTING HIS VICTORY OVER SATAN

 

Getting even is one of the hallmarks of lost mankind and it is feared of many Christians as well. We want to lash out when someone does something mean or says something nasty.

 

This is not the case in God’s dealings with the Devil. He was not looking to get even with Satan for his actions in the garden of Eden, nor was He trying to get even for the multiplied millions of things that he has done through time.

 

 

God was simply preparing the way for the removal of all fallen angelic beings. Their judgment is set according to Revelation 19 and 20, and their final end will be in the Lake of Fire. This judgment is set and sure, yet God has postponed the execution of that judgment for a time. In the end when Christ is bringing together all that needs to come together, the Devil will be delivered to his final, eternal domain. 1 John 3:8,

 

“He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.”

 

The devil had to be conquered on his own turf. He is the god of this world and needed to be met in the world of man. Christ was victorious.

 

Ryrie tries to make the point that this victory was had in His incarnation. I’m not sure that this is the case. The incarnation does not seem to be anything that would cause victory. What could have occurred in the birth of a child that would hinder a spirit being involved in an angelic conflict? The birth itself had no power, nor authority to accomplish anything other than to set the stage for the work of Christ on the cross. The cross and resurrection proved that the devil no longer held death over man’s head.

 

E. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF PROVIDING A HIGH PRIEST FOR MAN

 

Under the law the believer was to approach God only through the priest and the sacrificial system. The priestly system was to give the path for man to God.

 

In our own age this is a heavenly path. We don’t have to wait till the tabernacle opens at 8:00 a.m., we can go directly to the high priest that is sitting beside the Father and He will intercede on our behalf. We can study of Christ’s ministry in this capacity in Hebrews five.

 

Not only is He our High Priest, but he is able to be sympathetic to our situation as He intercedes, for He too was in the flesh, to know and feel. Hebrews 4:14-16, Hebrews 2:17-18 also. In a sense God came to be man partly to know what it was like to live as man from the inside out.

 

 

F. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF PROVIDING AN EVERLASTING KING FOR ISRAEL

 

Luke 1:31-33 in the announcement of Christ’s conception to Mary this was prophesied. “…and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: (32b) “And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” (33)

 

To have an everlasting king, God had to provide in some manner, for the fulfillment of that concept. Man is only an everlasting being through the work of Christ. There is no man, even believing man, which can fulfill the promises of the Old Testament prophets concerning the great things that this king of Israel is going to do.

 

G. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF PROVIDING A PROPER JUDGE

 

Again, man is not capable of filling the job that God needed done. Not only did God need a perfect sacrifice, a perfect king for Israel, but he also needs a perfect judge so that none in the end can cry foul, or unfair. They will see that the judge is Christ Himself, and they will know that their judgment is sure, just, and deserved. John 5:22,27,

 

“For as the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son;” “And hath given him authority to execute judgment also, because he is the Son of man.”

 

H. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF PROVIDING A HEAD FOR THE CHURCH

 

This concept is not easily grasped when one is trying to organize a church. Just how do you go about making Christ the head of an organization when He isn’t there to occupy a chair of the board. Naturally, the concept is that of His guidance through the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Word and prayer.

 

In jest someone suggested that it is great that God provided a head for the church, for had He not, we would have had as many heads as members and nothing would be done. Christ is the head, the brains, the motivation, the leadership, and the help of the church, and yet so many times we make our decisions based on our own desires and comforts, rather than seek out what the Head of the church might have in mind.

 

Ephesians 1:19-23 shows Christ being placed over all including the church. This specifically is in relation to the resurrection, but is a result of the incarnation.

 

II. CHANGES WROUGHT BY THE INCARNATION

 

A. CHRIST CAME FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH TO DWELL.

 

I have a friend that was born and raised in Pennsylvania. He is probably about the only good friend that I have ever had outside my own family. I didn’t understand him for several years. He was very strange and standoffish. My other friends could not stand to be around him. I often tried to figure him out, but finally stopped and accepted him as he was.

 

My wife and I went to Pennsylvania for six weeks one time, and found there was a whole state full of people just like my friend. NOW, before I alienate all Pennsylvanians let me be quick to comment. I have talked with others from that state and find that they are very standoffish until they get to know you and then they will do anything for you. I have come to enjoy many different kinds of peoples due to the groundwork laid in my life by a Pennsylvanian. THANKS.

 

We tend to think at times that we can’t face missions due to the culture shock, deputation, new organization and all that. We feel that facing a new culture will be just too much for us. Let’s consider the most extreme culture shock of all time. Christ faced not only a new set of living conditions, but a new set of beings.

 

It is also of note that John mentions it was a step down for the Lord. At times we feel that we are rather special, yet Christ had to come down to our level, and I might add that was not just a little trip down either. John 6:51, “I am the living bread that came down from heaven….”

 

 

B. CHRIST LEFT THE RICHES OF HEAVEN FOR THE POVERTY OF THE EARTH. 2 CORINTHIANS 89, LUKE 958.

 

C. CHRIST LEFT THE GLORY OF HEAVEN FOR THE PLAINNESS OF EARTH.

 

When our family moved from Oregon to begin teaching at Frontier School of the Bible, we left two good salaries for a “life of faith” in Wyoming. Not only did we leave the good income, but we left one of the lushest, nicest areas for the low income ministry. We also left the green, gorgeous area of the northwest for one of the dryer, more desolate states of our union.

 

Christ left all to place himself in this world. Some Step Down. John 17:5,

 

“And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.”

 

D. CHRIST LEFT THE EQUALITY WITH GOD FOR THE SERVANT HOOD OF EARTH, FROM THE TOP OF THE CHAIN OF COMMAND TO THE LOWEST OF LOW.

 

In our war with Iraq in 1991 we were pleased to be introduced to a man by the name of Norman Swartskopf, the general that lead our forces in the mid-east, or Stormin Norman as he was called. Had he been reduced to the level of raw recruit, he would not have suffered a part of the demotion to which Christ submitted Himself. Indeed, the Lord went from as high up to the lowest, in that moment of conception. Philippians 2:6-7

 

And we groan and moan when one of our children tells us that they feel called to be a minister, or missionary. Shame on us Church.

 

E. CHRIST LEFT THE FORM OF GOD (OR SPIRIT) FOR THE FORM OF MAN.

 

In the series Star Trek, and Star Trek the Next Generation, the transporter always fascinated my science fiction mind. Just what would it be like to be changed from matter into energy to be transported somewhere. At times the imagination even wondered, what would it be like if The Enterprise lost you and you went out into space as pure energy? What would it be like to become something completely and totally different?

 

 

Christ a Spirit being became man, a material being. (Philippians 2:6-7) Some adaption for Him to go through.

 

These changes were for the most part temporary while Christ was on earth, however his manly form seems to continue on now, and the indications are that it will continue on for eternity.

 

III. THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE INCARNATION THE VIRGIN BIRTH WAS NECESSARY

A. It fulfilled prophecy: Isaiah mentioned that there would be a virgin

birth, so the birth of Christ was a fulfillment of this prophecy. This is seen in Isaiah 7:14,

 

“Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

 

B. It maintained Christ perfect through the conception process: To maintain Christ’s perfectness without a sin nature, there had to have been some means by which man’s sin nature was not transferred from the father to the child. This was accomplished by eliminating the earthly father.

 

Ryrie leaves the door open to there not being a need for the virgin birth. “What was the purpose of the Virgin Birth? It need not be the necessary means of preserving Christ sinless, since God could have overshadowed two parents so as to protect the baby’s sinlessness had He so desired. It served as a sign of the uniqueness of the Person who was born.”2

 

The virgin birth most definitely was needed to produce Christ without a sin nature. Yes, God could have overshadowed, or declared no sin nature, yet this is not the way God normally operates.

 

The virgin birth is much to broad a subject for this work so the reader is referred to existing theologies and commentaries for further discussions on the subject.

 

IV. THE INCARNATION HAS ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES

 

Christ will always be in the glorified body state, it would seem.

 

A. He will sit on the throne of David. Luke 1:31-33

 

 

B. He will give us glorified bodies like His own. Our bodies will last for eternity thus; we might assume that His will do the same.

 

V. PRACTICAL VALUES OF THE INCARNATION

 

A. It makes clear, the perfect life Christ lived, and that sin was not an integrated part of that life, nor was sin essential to life.

 

B. It gives us a God that does know all there is to know about us. He is not afar off nor is he an uncaring God. He is a God that knows and cares for us on our own level.

 

C. We have mentioned that if we know Christ, we know God. We often give lip service to such teaching, but do we as believers in this century really understand the ramifications of such teaching? If we really wanted to know God the Father, then we would walk with Christ and follow His teachings. So many today concentrate only on Christ which is wrong, but others dwell only on the epistles, while others bury themselves in the Old Testament. All such concentrations are incorrect. We should have a balance between all the sections of Scripture. Even in our daily Bible reading, we should read from a variety of sources in the Word.

 

“This Lord Jesus is the indispensable Revealer of God. He is the Forgiver of sins, and He is the final judge. The alternative to these claims is undeniable and clear. There is no logical alternative to the truth as the Lord spoke it, other than that He was demented or an impostor. Both these alternatives are unthinkable. But the bit is here. You cannot accept some of His teachings and dismiss others, and still call Him a good Man, an honest Teacher and a worthy Example.

 

“Can you know God apart from Him? If you answer yes, you are on the opposite side from the Lord Jesus Christ — He said you cannot….To know Him is to know the Father, for He and the Father are one.”

 

William Culbertson; The Faith Once Delivered3

 

For your further study: Matthew 20:28; John 1:14; John 3:13; John 3:17;

John 6:51; Romans 1:3; Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians 15:47; 2 Corinthians 8:9; Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7,8; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:16;

Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 10:5; 1 John 3:5.

 

ENDNOTES

 

1. Taken from: “A Survey Of Bible Doctrine”; Ryrie, Charles C.; Copyright 1972, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. P 56

 

2. Reprinted by permission: Ryrie, Charles C.; “Basic Theology”; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, p 243

 

3. William Culbertson; The Faith Once Delivered, source unknown

 

THE INCARNATION HANDOUT

Incarnation comes from a Latin term meaning:

 

In Theology, the Incarnation speaks to that act of servant hood by which the Second Person of the Trinity stepped into the flow of mankind as man, taking upon Himself all that man is and limiting Himself to function within mankind’s parameters. John 1:14

 

Both Matthew and Luke mention the virgin birth: Matthew 1:18; Luke 1:26,27,34

 

Both are quite clear of the fact that Joseph was not the father of Jesus: Matthew 1:20; Luke 1:35

 

I. THE PURPOSE OF THE INCARNATION

 

Ryrie details the purpose of the incarnation in one of his books. I would like to quote his outline and then adapt it for our discussion.

 

“…to reveal God to men…to provide an example for living…to provide a sacrifice for sin…to destroy the works of the devil…to enable Him to be a merciful and faithful High Priest…to fulfill the promise of a son to sit on the throne of David forever….”1

 

 

A. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF DECLARING HIMSELF TO MAN

 

B. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF GIVING US AN EXAMPLE TO LIVE BY

 

1 Peter 2:21; 1 John 2:6

 

C. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF PROVIDING SALVATION TO MAN

 

Hebrews 10:1-10; John 6:51; John 10:10

 

 

 

 

 

 

1 John 3:8

D. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF SETTING HIS VICTORY OVER SATAN

 

 

E. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF PROVIDING A HIGH PRIEST FOR MAN

 

F. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF PROVIDING AN EVERLASTING KING FOR ISRAEL

 

Luke 1:31-33

 

G. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF PROVIDING A PROPER JUDGE

 

John 5:22,27

 

H. GOD WAS IN THE PROCESS OF PROVIDING A HEAD FOR THE CHURCH

 

Ephesians 1:19-23

 

II. CHANGES WROUGHT BY THE INCARNATION

 

A. CHRIST CAME FROM HEAVEN TO EARTH TO DWELL.

 

John 6:51

 

 

B. CHRIST LEFT THE RICHES OF HEAVEN FOR THE POVERTY OF THE EARTH.

 

2 Corinthians 8:9; Luke 9:58

 

C. CHRIST LEFT THE GLORY OF HEAVEN FOR THE PLAINNESS OF EARTH.

 

John 17:5

 

D. CHRIST LEFT THE EQUALITY WITH GOD FOR THE SERVANT HOOD OF EARTH.

 

Philippians 2:6-7

 

E. CHRIST LEFT THE FORM OF GOD (OR SPIRIT) FOR THE FORM OF MAN.

 

III. THE REQUIREMENTS OF THE INCARNATION THE VIRGIN BIRTH WAS NECESSARY

A. It Fulfilled Prophecy: Isaiah 7:14

 

B. It Maintained Christ Perfect Through The Conception Process: Ryrie leaves the door open to there not being a need for the virgin birth.

“What was the purpose of the Virgin Birth? It need not be the necessary means of preserving Christ sinless, since God could have overshadowed two parents so as to protect the baby’s sinlessness had He so desired. It served as a sign of the uniqueness of the Person who was born.”2

 

IV. THE INCARNATION HAS ETERNAL CONSEQUENCES

 

V. PRACTICAL VALUES OF THE INCARNATION

 

“This Lord Jesus is the indispensable Revealer of God. He is the Forgiver of sins, and He is the final judge. The alternative to these claims is undeniable and clear. there is no logical alternative to the truth as the Lord spoke it, other than that He was demented or an impostor. both these alternatives are unthinkable. But the bit is here. You cannot accept some of His teachings and dismiss others, and still call Him a good Man, an honest Teacher and a worthy Example.

 

“Can you know God apart from Him? If you answer yes, you are on the opposite side from the Lord Jesus Christ — He said you cannot….To know Him is to know the Father, for He and the Father are one.”

 

William Culbertson; THE FAITH ONCE DELIVERED3

 

For further study: Matthew 20:28; John 1:14; John 3:13; John 3:17; John

6:51; Romans 1:3; Romans 8:3; 1 Corinthians 15:47; 2 Corinthians 8:9;

Galatians 4:4; Philippians 2:7,8; 1 Timothy 1:15; 1 Timothy 3:16;

Hebrews 2:9; Hebrews 2:14; Hebrews 2:17; Hebrews 10:5; 1 John 3:5.

 

ENDNOTES

 

1. Taken from: “A Survey Of Bible Doctrine”; Ryrie, Charles C.; Copyright 1972, Moody Bible Institute of Chicago; Moody Press. Used by permission. P 56

 

2. Reprinted by permission: Ryrie, Charles C.; “Basic Theology”; Wheaton: Victor Books, 1986, p 243

 

3. William Culbertson; The Faith Once Delivered, source unknown[1]

 


[1] Stanley L. Derickson Ph.D. B.A. (n.d.). DERICKSON’S NOTES ON THEOLOGY: A STUDY BOOK IN THEOLOGY.

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