• PONDERING THE INCARNATION

    by Shawn Merithew on November 30, 2010

    It is December now, and with the Christmas season coming into full swing, I have been taking some time to ponder the significance of the incarnation of our Lord.  After the Gospels, the book of Hebrews is the source of some of our greatest Christology in the New Testament, and it has much to say on the subject of the incarnation.  Consider the following:

    “God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.  And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power.”  (Hebrews 1:1-3a)

    Consider the first verse.  God revealed Himself in many ways and through many means up to the point of the incarnation, but in sending Jesus Christ to take on human flesh, God gave us the ultimate disclosure of Himself.  Jesus is, as it were, the ultimate Word spoken by God to men.  God had not dwelt among men since Adam and Eve sinned in the garden, but in the person of Christ, the One who made the world once again came to live among us — to identify with and sacrifice Himself for sinful men.

    John echoes this same thought in John 1:14 when he writes, “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  The Greek word used for “dwelt” in this verse could actually be translated as “tabernacled”  which alludes to Old Testament imagery of God coming into Israel’s midst in the tabernacle, or the tent of worship, that was the center of Jewish religious life.

    This whole idea of sinful men being able to behold the incarnate glory of God in the person of Christ is staggering, to say the least.  It reminds me of words written by Charles Wesley in his song, “Hark, The Herald Angels Sing”:  “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; Hail th’incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Emmanuel.”

    Infinite God dwelling through finite humanity. . . Infinite spiritual holiness perfectly united with limited human flesh. . . Jesus existing as 100% man and 100% God.  It is this truth that Hebrews 1:3 seeks to elucidate.  Jesus is the exact representation of God among men.  And as Philippians 2 teaches us, Christ took on flesh for a purpose — “Although He existed in the form of God, {He} did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:6-8)  The infinite clothed Himself in the finite to accomplish our redemption from sin.  Praise be to God!

    In the end, when we plumb the depths of the doctrine of the Incarnation, we eventually come to a point where must resign ourselves to divine mystery.  Scripture tells us that it happened, and Scripture tells us why it happened, but it does not fully disclose to us exactly how God united the infinite with the finite.  Yet this mystery is marvelous and beautiful in how it brought about our redemption from sin.

    I want to close with a quote from Charles Spurgeon.  He said, “As Jesus Christ is a child in his human nature, he is born, begotten of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. He is as truly-born, as certainly a child, as any other man that ever lived upon the face of the earth. He is thus in his humanity a child born. But as Jesus Christ is God’s Son, he is not born; but given, begotten of his Father from before all worlds, begotten—not made, being of the same substance with the Father.  The doctrine of the eternal affiliation of Christ is to be received as an undoubted truth of our holy religion. But as to any explanation of it, no man should venture thereon, for it remaineth among the deep things of God—one of those solemn mysteries indeed, into which the angels dare not look, nor do they desire to pry into it—a mystery which we must not attempt to fathom, for it is utterly beyond the grasp of any finite being. As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the Eternal God. A God whom we could understand would be no God. If we could grasp him he could not be infinite: if we could understand him, then were he not divine.”

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