The Good News

Discussion of the Best News in the World, the Gospel of Jesus, and related topics

The Glory of His Virgin Birth (God-Man)

This series is on Jesus, the God-Man.  This article appeared on Desiring God and Desiring God owns rights to this content.

Jesus was born of a virgin. This is a glory unique to the one God-man.

Of the billions of humans who have lived throughout history, only one person entered the world in this way. There is only one mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5), and there is only one human who was virgin born.

Jesus’s distinctive birth is no myth or mere random fact from the Gospels. It is a special honor conferred only on the Son of God incarnate. And it is full of significance for knowing the person of Jesus and the God who has revealed himself in him.

Supernatural, Not Mythical

Matthew and Luke wrote the authoritative accounts. We have no good reason to think either was gullible in the least. Matthew was a former tax-collector and less likely to be deceived than most of us. Luke was a doctor. True, medicine has come a long way in twenty centuries, but it is no recent discovery that virgins don’t have babies. As N. T. Wright remarks in his strong defense of the virgin birth against John Selby Spong,

First-century folk knew every bit as well as we do that babies are produced by sexual intercourse. When, in Matthew’s version of the story, Joseph heard about Mary’s pregnancy, his problem arose not because he didn’t know the facts of life, but because he did. (Who Was Jesus?, page 78).

Luke even consulted personally with Jesus’s mother — he twice records that Mary “treasured up all these things” in her heart (Luke 2:18, 51), reflecting some kind of personal communication with her. She would have been able to confirm or deny that Jesus’s birth was supernatural.

On Guard at the Door of Christmas

From the very beginning of Jesus’s human life, his eternal Father set him apart as exceptional. Without any compromise of his true humanity, God gave markers that this man was more than mere man.

Scottish theologian Donald Macleod writes,

The virgin birth is posted on guard at the door of the mystery of Christmas; and none of us must think of hurrying past it. It stands on the threshold of the New Testament, blatantly supernatural, defying our rationalism, informing us that all that follows belongs to the same order as itself and that if we find it offensive there is no point in proceeding further. (The Person of Christ, page 37)

Blatantly supernatural. Defying our rationalism. And, sadly, a favorite target of modern critical attack. But it now appears the virgin birth survived the myopic hubris of modernism. It seems more readily embraced today, if only slightly, among the more postmodern types who grant that pure naturalism need not explain the birth of the God-man. One 2003 poll found that 79% of Americans believe in the virgin birth, and even more surprisingly, 27% of self-proclaimed non-Christians affirm the doctrine.

Why the Virgin Birth?

But what is the significance of the virgin birth? Why might it be that God chose to do things this way?

To begin with, it highlights the supernatural. On one end of Jesus’s life lies his supernatural conception and birth; on the other, his supernatural resurrection and his ascension to God’s right hand. At both ends, the God-man’s authenticity was attested to by the supernatural working of his Father.

Secondly, the virgin birth shows that humanity needs a saving that it cannot bring about for itself. The fact that the human race couldn’t produce its own redeemer implies that its sin and guilt are profound and that its savior must come from outside.

Thirdly, in the virgin birth, God’s initiative is on display. The angel didn’t ask Mary about her willingness. He announced, “Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus” (Luke 1:31). God doesn’t ask Mary for permission. He acts — gently but decisively — to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21).

Finally, this virgin birth hints at the fully human and fully divine natures united in Jesus’s one person. The entry of the eternal Word into the world didn’t have to happen this way. But it did happen this way. Here’s how Wayne Grudem puts it:

God, in his wisdom, ordained a combination of human and divine influence in the birth of Christ, so that his full humanity would be evident to us from the fact of his ordinary human birth from a human mother, and his full deity would be evident from the fact of his conception in Mary’s womb by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit. (Systematic Theology, page 530)

God chose to mark the coming of his eternal Son, his specially anointed one, with this extraordinary birth.

Must We Believe in the Virgin Birth?

If God didn’t have to send his Son in this way, then is it important that we believe in the virgin birth? The answer is a resounding yes. It didn’t have to happen this way, but God did make it to happen this way. God appointed it this particular way, and chose Matthew and Luke to record it clearly in their Gospels. To deny this doctrine is to open the door to denying anything plainly affirmed in the Bible, as Macleod observes, “Dismissal of the virgin birth is seldom the end of an individual’s theological pilgrimage.” Mark Driscoll is right to claim,

If the virgin birth of Jesus is untrue, then the story of Jesus changes greatly; we would have a sexually promiscuous young woman lying about God’s miraculous hand in the birth of her son, raising that son to declare he was God, and then joining his religion. But if Mary is nothing more than a sinful con artist then neither she nor her son Jesus should be trusted. Because both the clear teachings of Scripture about the beginning of Jesus’s earthly life and the character of his mother are at stake, we must contend for the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. (The Supremacy of Christ in a Postmodern World, page 136)

Yes, Jesus’s extraordinary and magnificent virgin birth is well worth contending for. And everything worth contending for is worth rejoicing in. No human person ever has existed prior to conception, except the preexistent Jesus. And no human being was virgin born like this man. This is a unique glory of the God-man.


This post is a reversed version of “The Virgin Birth” which originally appeared at Desiring God on December 24, 2007.


For more Christmas reflections on the person of Christ —

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Churchin Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited and contributed to several books and is author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

What is the Hypostatic Union? (God-Man)

This series is on Jesus, the God-Man.  This article appeared on Desiring God and Desiring God owns rights to this content.

This is part 3 of 4 on the Incarnation

The term hypostatic union is much easier than it sounds, but the concept is as profound as anything in theology.

The English adjective hypostatic comes from the Greek word hupostasis. The word only appears four times in the New Testament—maybe most memorably in Hebrews 1:3, where Jesus is said to be “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of hisnature.” Here the author of Hebrews uses the word in reference to the oneness of God. Both the Father and the Son are of the same “nature.” Jesus is “the exact imprint of hisnature.”

However, in early church discussions, as Greek thinkers tried to find agreeable terms with those who spoke in Latin, the word hupostasis came to denote not the sameness in the Godhead (God’s one essence) but the distinctness (the three persons). So it began to be used to refer to something like the English word person.

The Personal Union of Jesus’ Two Natures

So “hypostatic union” may sound fancy in English, but it’s a pretty simple term.Hypostatic means personal. The hypostatic union is the personal union of Jesus’ two natures.

Jesus has two complete natures—one fully human and one fully divine. What the doctrine of the hypostatic union teaches is that these two natures are united in one person in the God-man. Jesus is not two persons. He is one person. The hypostatic union is the joining of the divine and the human in the one person of Jesus.

What Is the Significance?

Why bother with this seemingly fancy term? What good is it to know about this hypostatic union? At the end of the day, the term can go, but the concept behind the term is infinitely precious—and worshipfully mind-stretching.

It is immeasurably sweet—and awe-inspiring—to know that Jesus’ two natures are perfectly united in his one person. Jesus is not divided. He is not two people. He is one person. As the Chalcedonian Creed states, his two natures are without confusion, without change, without division, and without separation. Jesus is one.

This means Jesus is one focal point for our worship. And as Jonathan Edwards preached, in this one-person God-man we find “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies.”

Because of this hypostatic, one-person union, Jesus Christ exhibits an unparalleled magnificence. No one person satisfies the complex longings of the human heart like the God-man.

God has made the human heart in such a way that it will never be eternally content with that which is only human. Finitude can’t slake our thirst for the infinite.

And yet, in our finite humanity, we are significantly helped by a point of correspondence with the divine. God was glorious long before he became a man in Jesus. But we are human beings, and unincarnate deity doesn’t connect with us in the same way as the God who became human. The conception of a god who never became man (like Allah) will not satisfy the human soul like the God who did.

One Person, For Us

And beyond just gazing at the spectacular person of Jesus, there is also the amazing gospel-laced revelation that the reason Jesus became the God-man was for us. His fully human nature joined in personal union to his eternally divine nature is permanent proof that Jesus, in perfect harmony with his Father, is undeterrably for us. He has demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, he took our nature to his one person and died for us.


For more Christmas reflections on the person of Christ —

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Church in Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited and contributed to several books and is author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

Jesus – Fully Human (God-Man)

This series is on Jesus, the God-Man.  This article appeared on Desiring God and Desiring God owns rights to this content.

This is part 2 of 4 on the incarnation. Part One: What Is the Incarnation?

Jesus has a human body, emotions, mind, and will. And this in no way compromises his deity.

When the Word became flesh—when the eternal Son of God took on full humanity—he did not merely become human in part. He fully became truly human.

Jesus’ Human Body

It is clear enough from the New Testament that Jesus has a human body. John 1:14 means at least this, and more: “The Word became flesh.” Jesus’ humanity is one of the first tests of orthodoxy (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). Jesus was born (Luke 2:7). He grew (Luke 2:40, 52). He grew tired (John 4:6) and got thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matthew 4:2). He became physically weak (Matthew 4:11; Luke 23:26). He died (Luke 23:46). And he had a real human body after his resurrection (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27).

Jesus’ Human Emotions

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus clearly displays human emotions. When Jesus heard the centurion’s words of faith, “he marveled” (Matthew 8:10). He says in Matthew 26:38 that his “soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” In John 11:33–35, Jesus is “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” and even weeps. John 12:27 says, “Now is my soul troubled,” and inJohn 13:21, he is “troubled in his spirit.” The author to the Hebrews writes that “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7) John Calvin memorably summed it up: “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh.”

Jesus’ Human Mind

Jesus also has a human mind. Two key texts make this undeniable:

  • Luke 2:52: “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
  • Mark 13:32: “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

The second verse, of course, is striking. For Christians who clearly affirm Jesus’ deity,Mark 13:32 seems like trouble. But what looks difficult at first glance proves to be a glorious confirmation of Jesus’ humanity and a very helpful piece in formulating our Christology.

If Jesus is God and God knows everything, how can Jesus not know when his second coming will be?

In addition to being fully divine, Jesus is fully human. He has both an infinite, divine mind and a finite, human mind. He can be said not to know things because he is human and finite—human minds are not omniscient. And Jesus can be said to know all things (John 21:17) because he is divine and infinite in his knowledge.

Paradoxical as it is, we must affirm that Jesus both knows all things and doesn’t know all things. For the unique, two-natured person of Christ, this is no contradiction but a peculiar glory of the God-man.

Jesus’ Human Will

Now, trickiest of all, Jesus not only has a divine will but also a human will. Two wills—one divine and one human. Two key texts mention his human will:

  • John 6:38: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
  • Matthew 26:39: “Not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus has an infinite, divine will that he shares with his Father. And he has a finite, human will that, while being an authentic human will, is perfectly in sync with and submissive to the divine will.

This Jesus is a spectacular person! Fully God. Fully man. He is utterly unique. There is only one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus (1 Timothy 2:5).

Fully Divine, Fully Human

Jesus is like us in every respect—human body, heart, mind, and will—except for sin (Hebrews 2:17; 4:15).

How amazing that the divine Son of God would not just take on part of our humanity but all of it—and then take that true humanity all the way to the cross for us.

Jesus took a human body to save our bodies. And he took a human mind to save our minds. Without becoming man in his emotions, he could not have saved our emotions. And without taking a human will, he could not save our will. In the words of Gregory of Nazianzus, “That which he has not assumed he has not healed.”

He became man in full so that he might save us in full. Hallelujah! What a marvelous Savior!


For more Christmas reflections on the person of Christ —

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Churchin Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited and contributed to several books and is author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.

He Came Down from Heaven

John 1:1–3, 14–18

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. . . .

14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. 15 (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’ ”) 16 For from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. 17 For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. 18 No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.

We believe in Jesus. That’s the title of our five-week series to kick off 2016. Our focus is the person and work of Christ. The Nicene Creed, which was first drafted in 325 A.D., then updated in 381, then accepted in 451, begins with this brief word about the Father:

We believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

Then the heart and lion’s share of the creed focuss on Jesus, and serves to structure our five-part sermon series:

And [we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made; of the same essence as the Father. Through him all things were made.

For us and for our salvation he came down from heaven [our topic for this morning]; he became incarnate by the Holy Spirit and the virgin Mary, and was made human [next week we’ll look at Jesus’s human life].

He was crucified for us under Pontius Pilate; he suffered and was buried [week three we’ll focus on the his death]. The third day he rose again, according to the Scriptures. He ascended to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father [week four will be his resurrection and ascension]. He will come again with glory to judge the living and the dead. His kingdom will never end. [Fifth and finally, we’ll focus on Jesus’s Second Coming]

(The last section of the creed turns to the Holy Spirit. We also believe in the Holy Spirit, and that his main work — not his only work — is to glorify Jesus (John 16:14). We think he would be very happy with a five-week series that focuses each week on Jesus.)

But this morning, we set the table for his life and death and resurrection and return by turning to “the incarnation.”

What Is the Incarnation?

The incarnation refers literally to the in-fleshing of the Son of God — putting on human flesh and becoming man. The doctrine of the incarnation says that the eternal second person of the Trinity took on humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. A helpful way to remember the key aspects of the incarnation is John 1:14: “The Word became flesh.”

So let me walk you through this summary of the incarnation. First, “the Word,” then “became,” then “flesh” — and we’ll close by drawing out some of the magnificent implications of Jesus’s incarnation for our lives.

The Word

The Word refers to the eternal Son of God who was “in the beginning with God” and who himself is God (John 1:1). From eternity past until he took on humanity, the Son of God existed in perfect love, joy, and harmony in the fellowship of the Trinity. Like the Father and the Spirit, he was spirit and had no material substance. But at the incarnation, the eternal Word entered into creation as human. He became a first-century Jew.

This is what we’ve just celebrated at Christmas — the incarnation of Christ, God becoming man. Christmas is not simply the celebration of Jesus’s birth. Unlike the rest of us, Jesus’s story doesn’t begin with his birth.

Prior to our earthly beginnings, we simply did not exist. But it is not so with the Son of God. His “coming forth is from of old, from ancient days” (Micah 5:2). Unlike every other human birth, Jesus’s was not a beginning, but a becoming. It wasn’t his start, but his commission. He was not created; he came.

No other human in the history of the world shares in this peculiar glory. As remarkable as his virgin birth is, his preexistence sets him apart even more distinctively. The New Testament teaches three important things about “the Word” who became flesh.

1. He existed before the incarnation.

The Word existed before he was made man at the incarnation. Jesus himself made the claim, so stunning — and even offensive to first-century Jewish sentiments, so offensive that “they picked up stones to throw at him” — when he said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58–59).

True as it was, this jarring reality didn’t go over much better in John 6. “‘What if you were to see the Son of Man ascending to where he was before?’ . . . After this many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him” (John 6:62, 66).

But those who were given eyes to see the glory didn’t turn back; their number would eventually include Paul and the author of Hebrews. Melchizedek, who lived a thousand years before Jesus, resembled the Son of God by “having neither beginning of days nor end of life” (Hebrews 7:3). And Israel’s wilderness generation “drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ” (1 Corinthians 10:4).

Beyond that, four New Testament refrains join the chorus that the person of Christ existed long before that first Christmas.

He Came

Mark’s Gospel opens under the banner of Jesus as Yahweh himself come to earth (Mark 1:1–3). He came from outside the created realm, into our world, to bring God’s long-promised rescue. “The Son of Man came . . . to give his life as a ransom for many” (Matthew 20:28; also Mark 10:45 and Luke 19:10). In John, the language of coming, as in John 6:62, isdescending. “The Son of Man descended from heaven” (John 3:13). Mere humans don’t descend; they begin. But Jesus came down from heaven.

Again, Paul and Hebrews follow in the Gospel wake. “Christ came into the world” (Hebrews 10:5), and in one of the most terse and potent gospel summaries, “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Timothy 1:15). Related to coming is manifestation. “He wasmanifested in the flesh” (1 Timothy 3:16). “He was foreknown before the foundation of the world but was made manifest in the last times for the sake of you” (1 Peter 1:20). He came.

He Was Sent

Prophets were sent without preexisting, but not so with God’s own Son. He was sent from outside the world of flesh, into it, to redeem his people. The context is fundamentally different when we’re talking about sending the eternal Son, rather than mere human messengers.

In the parable of the tenants, the owner of the vineyard, at long last, sent his “beloved son” (Mark 12:6), decisively distinct in relationship from the other servants he had sent prior. “When the fullness of time had come,” Paul writes in Galatians 4:4, “God sent forth his Son, born of woman.” God didn’t take an already born human and send him forth; he sent forth his own divine Son to be human. Likewise, in the sacrifice of his Son, God did what we non-preexistent humans could not do for ourselves: “By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:3). He was sent.

He Was Given

Third, and perhaps most memorably, the preexistent Christ was given. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son” (John 3:16). The sacrifice of Christ loses all its force as an expression of God’s love if Jesus did not preexist his incarnation.

The Mount Everest of biblical promises presupposes the Son’s preexistence in saying that God “did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all” (Romans 8:32). He was given.

The fourth refrain in the New Testament about the preexistence of Christ is “became,” and we’ll move to that in just a moment. But we have more to say about the Word than that he existed before the incarnation.

2. He existed before creation.

But not only did Christ preexist that first Christmas; he also preexisted all creation. It’s difficult to imagine the New Testament being any clearer on this account. The Nicene Creed confesses he was “begotten from the Father before all ages” on the firm foundation of Scripture.

John’s Gospel opens with the declaration,

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. (John 1:1–3)

Human flesh didn’t become the Word. The eternal Word became flesh. And all things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made. So also, Colossians 1:16–17:

By him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities — all things were created though him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.

And so Jesus prays in John 17:5, “Now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.”

3. He is pre-existent because he is God.

That Christ existed before his incarnation, and even before the foundation of the world, is finally a function of his divinity. He is first and last, Alpha and Omega (Revelation 1:8), because he is God. “No formal distinction can be made between deity and preexistence” (Donald Macleod, Person of Christ, 57).

So let it be well established that when we begin with “the Word,” we begin with God. God became man. But what, then, does it mean that he “became”?

Became

Became does not mean that he ceased to be God. In becoming man, he did not forsake his divine nature. Rather, what it means is that he became man by taking on human nature in addition to his divine nature. Addition, not subtraction.

It is essential to the incarnation — and important in all Christian theology — to recognize that divinity and humanity are not mutually exclusive. The Son of God didn’t have to pick between being God and being man. He could be both at the same time. The eternal Word became human. He was 100% God, and then became 100% man, without ceasing to be 100% God.

On its own, “becoming” wouldn’t necessitate preexistence. The key is to ask what he was before he became. He was divinely rich, and became humanly poor (2 Corinthians 8:9). He was in “the form of God,” then took “the form of a servant” (Philippians 2:6–7). One who was infinitely high, because he was God, became a little lower than the angels, because he became man (Hebrews 2:9).

His “becoming” was not a ceasing to be what he had been previously, but a “taking on” (Philippians 2:7) of human flesh and blood. The fully divine Son added full humanity to his person.

Flesh

Flesh isn’t merely a reference to the human body but the entirety of what makes up humanity — body, mind, emotions, and will. Hebrews 2:17 and 4:15 teach that to save human beings Jesus had to be made like us “in every respect” except our sin. In the incarnation, everything proper to humanity was united to the Son of God. The Son of God didn’t only become like man; he actually became truly and fully human.

Which means Jesus has a human body, emotions, mind, and will. And this in no way compromises his deity. When the Word became flesh, he did not merely become human in part. He fully became truly human.

Jesus’s Human Body

It is clear enough from the New Testament that Jesus has a human body. “The Word became flesh” means at least this, and more. Jesus’s humanity is one of the first tests of orthodoxy (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7). Jesus was born (Luke 2:7). He grew (Luke 2:40, 52). He grew tired (John 4:6) and got thirsty (John 19:28) and hungry (Matthew 4:2). He became physically weak (Matthew 4:11; Luke 23:26). He died (Luke 23:46). And he had a real human body after his resurrection (Luke 24:39; John 20:20, 27).

Jesus’s Human Emotions

Throughout the Gospels, Jesus clearly displays human emotions. When Jesus heard the centurion’s words of faith, “he marveled” (Matthew 8:10). He says in Matthew 26:38 that his “soul is very sorrowful, even to death.” In John 11:33–35, Jesus is “deeply moved in his spirit and greatly troubled” and even weeps. He says in John 12:27, “Now is my soul troubled,” and in John 13:21, he is “troubled in his spirit.” The author to the Hebrews writes that “Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears” (Hebrews 5:7).

John Calvin memorably summed it up: “Christ has put on our feelings along with our flesh.”

Jesus’s Human Mind

Jesus also has a human mind. Two key texts make this undeniable:

  • Luke 2:52: “Jesus increased in wisdom and in stature and in favor with God and man.”
  • Mark 13:32: “Concerning that day or that hour, no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.”

The second verse, of course, is striking. For Christians who clearly affirm Jesus’s deity, Mark 13:32 seems like trouble. But what looks difficult at first glance proves to be a glorious confirmation of Jesus’s humanity and a very helpful piece in knowing the full humanity of Christ.

If Jesus is God and God knows everything, how can Jesus not know when his second coming will be?

In addition to being fully divine, Jesus is fully human. He has both an infinite, divine mind and a finite, human mind. He can be said not to know things because he is human and finite — human minds are not omniscient. And Jesus can be said to know all things (John 21:17) because he is divine and infinite in his knowledge.

Paradoxical as it seems, we must affirm that Jesus both knows all things and doesn’t know all things. For the unique, two-natured person of Christ, this is no contradiction but a peculiar glory of the God-man.

Jesus’s Human Will

Now, trickiest of all, Jesus not only has a divine will but also a human will. This took the church the longest to wrestle with. Two wills — one divine and one human. Two key texts mention his human will:

  • John 6:38: “I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.”
  • Matthew 26:39: “Not as I will, but as you will.”

Jesus has an infinite, divine will that he shares with his Father. And he has a finite, human will that, while being an authentic human will, is perfectly in sync with and submissive to the divine will, by the power of the Holy Spirit.

Jesus’s Human Home

That Jesus took on full humanity — body and mind and affections and will — also means he entered into our world and surroundings, and with it, the pain of relationships, the difficulties of disciplemaking, and the aggravations of everyday life. He shared our world and environment. He worked a “secular” job for decades before there was any “public ministry.” Think of that! The Son of God lived on the planet in relative obscurity for over three decades. Don’t give up because you’re laboring in obscurity.

That Jesus became fully human also means he took on human sexuality. Which means Jesus knows what it’s like to have sexuality but not to express it sinfully. You don’t have to have sex to be fully human. And Jesus never married — which means that you don’t have be married to be fully human.

Jesus knows what it’s like to be human, to be finite, to be frail. Hebrews 2:17 and 4:15 says that he is like us in every respect — except for sin. Jesus lived a perfect human life, a life totally without sin.

What the Incarnation Means for You

So the Word became flesh.

  • The Word: the eternal second person of the Trinity, God himself, fully divine
  • Became: without ceasing to be God, he took full humanity to his person, such that two full, unconfused, unchanged, undivided, inseparable natures are united together in one person
  • Flesh: fully human, in body, emotions, mind, will, and surroundings

This is the incarnation: two whole and uncompromised natures in one spectacular person. The significance of the Creator becoming a creature alongside of us is greater than we can fully trace out, but let’s close with seven implications for our lives, among many more.

1) You can be human.

The incarnation sanctifies our humanity. Humanity and divinity are not at odds, but complementary. God created humanity — and then became human. Humanity is good, made in the image of God. It is not a sin to be human. It is sin to rebel against God. Don’t feel guilty about being human; glory in it. This also means the gospel is relevant to our whole humanity. Not just our souls, but also our minds. And our bodies.

2) You can be ordinary.

The incarnation sanctifies the normalcy of our lives, like work and family and hygiene and eating and exercise — all the normal, boring things we need to do everyday to be human. Jesus lived three decades on earth in relative obscurity as a common laborer. Your life doesn’t need to feel spectacular. You are freed from the demand to be dramatic. Your life doesn’t need to be celebrated. God himself walked the earth for thirty-some years and hardly anyone took notice.

3) You are not alone in your pain.

God himself knows what it’s like to suffer the pains and losses of life in a fallen world. Jesus knows what it’s like to be abandoned and betrayed. He knows what it’s like to suffer loss. He knows what it’s like to grieve as human (A secondary point here is that you can be single. Jesus never married. God himself when he became human never had sex. The human life of Jesus is a testament that you don’t need marriage and sex to be fully human.)

4) You can fight and defeat sin.

In the incarnation, we see the possibility of living in holiness and righteousness. None of us is perfect like Jesus, and none of us will live from now until the end of today without some sinful attitude or action. However, what the incarnate life of Christ demonstrates for us is that is it is possible for humans, with the help of the Holy Spirit, to resist temptation and have victory over sin.

Never once, as we observe him struggle with temptation, do we see him deriving comfort from the fact of his own impeccability [which means inability to sin]. All that we see is his having recourse to the very same weapons as are available to ourselves: the company of his fellow-believers (Mark 14:33), the word of God (Matthew 4:4), and prayer (Mark 14:35). (Macleod, Person of Christ, 230)

5) You can be saved.

There is a reason he became fully human: “for us and for our salvation,” as the church creeds read. The incarnation was not for show, but to save. He is not only our sovereign by virtue of being God, but now also, made possible by being man, he is our sacrifice and substitute. He is not only our creator, but also our redeemer. He is the Lamb who was slain. He died for sins, not his own.

How amazing that the divine Son of God would not just take on part of our humanity but all of it — and then take that true humanity all the way to the cross for us. Jesus took a human body to save our bodies. And he took a human mind to save our minds. Without becoming man in his emotions, he could not have saved our emotions. And without taking a human will, he could not save our will. In the words of Gregory of Nazianzus, “That which he has not assumed he has not healed.” He assumed it all, and saved it all.

He became man in full so that he might save us in full. And so the incarnation is an eternal testimony that the fully divine Son and his Father are unswervingly for us. The incarnation is permanent proof that Jesus, in perfect harmony with his Father, is unstoppably for us. He has demonstrated his love for us in that while we were still sinners, he took our nature to his one person and died for us.

6) You can know God.

Jesus is the revelation of God.

  • John 1:18: No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
  • John 14:8–9: “Have I been with you so long, and you still do not know me, Philip? Whoever has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?”
  • John 12:45: “whoever sees me sees him who sent me”

This is why he is “the Word.” He is God communicating himself to us. He is God revealing himself to us, so fully and richly that it’s not just a word proposition but a Word person. He is God’s full and final Word to humanity. Human can know God because God became human.

7) You can be truly happy.

God has made the human heart in such a way that it will never be eternally content with what is only human. Finitude can’t slake our thirst for the infinite.

And yet, in our finite humanity, we were made to ache for a point of correspondence with the divine. God was glorious long before he became a man in Jesus. But we are human beings, and unincarnate deity doesn’t connect with us in the same way as the God who became human. The conception of a god who never became man (like Allah) will not satisfy the human soul like the God who did.

You can be truly happy because no one person satisfies the complex longings of the human heart like the God-man.

Related:

Full Sermon, audio and text

Incarnation, the God-Man

This series is on Jesus, the God-Man.  This article appeared on Desiring God and Desiring God owns rights to this content.

Advent is my yearly reminder to sharpen and deepen my understanding of the incarnation. So in this spirit, this is the first in a series of four Advent posts related to the incarnation.

What Is the Incarnation?

The incarnation refers literally to the in-fleshing of the eternal Son of God—Jesus becoming human. The doctrine of the incarnation says that the eternal second person of the Trinity took on humanity in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. A helpful way to remember the key aspects of the incarnation is John 1:14: “The Word became flesh.”

The Word…

The Word refers to the eternal Son of God who was “in the beginning with God” and who himself is God (John 1:1). From eternity past until he took on humanity, the Son of God existed in perfect love, joy, and harmony in the fellowship of the Trinity. Like the Father and the Spirit, he was spirit and had no material substance. But at the incarnation, the eternal Word entered into creation as human. He became a first-century Jew.

…became…

Became does not mean that he ceased to be God. In becoming man, he did not forsake his divine nature. It means that he became man by taking on human nature in addition to his divine nature. It is essential to the incarnation—and very helpful throughout all theology—to recognize that divinity and humanity are not mutually exclusive. The Son of God didn’t have to pick between being God and being man. He could be both at the same time. The eternal Word became human.

…flesh.

Flesh isn’t merely a reference to the human body but the entirety of what makes up humanity—body, mind, emotions, and will. Hebrews 2:17 and 4:15 teach that to save human beings Jesus had to be made like us “in every respect” except our sin. In the incarnation, everything proper to humanity was united to the Son of God. The Son of God didn’t only become like man; he actually became truly and fully human.

The Word Became Flesh

So the eternal Son of God, without ceasing to be God, took on a fully human nature. This is the incarnation.

And what a magnificent doctrine and fuel for worship this is! Jesus didn’t just become man because he could. This was no circus stunt, just for show. He became man “for us and for our salvation” (in the words of the old creed). The Word became flesh to save us from our sin and to free us to marvel at and enjoy the unique union of divinity and humanity in his one spectacular person.

The incarnation is not only the way in which Jesus became Immanuel—God with us—but it’s an eternal testimony that he and his Father are unswervingly for us.


For more reflections on the person of Christ —

David Mathis (@davidcmathis) is executive editor for desiringGod.org, pastor at Cities Churchin Minneapolis/Saint Paul, and adjunct professor for Bethlehem College & Seminary. He has edited and contributed to several books and is author of Habits of Grace: Enjoying Jesus through the Spiritual Disciplines.Related:

 

Juicy Add!

What to Remember when You Read the Bible

 

 

Be a Christ Follower


Read all the cards and reflect on your life…

Hey there! I’m Emanuella. I’m a Christian. I have been a “good” Christian most of my life. It was my identity. I used to like to tell people how “good” I was, how I kept all the Commandments. I thought that was “Good”……

Then I realized something…I Failed!!! “Christian” was just a name I wore…kind of like a pretty coat over a dirty body…It didn’t match my heart. Here’s why:

If you were an Atheist or Agnostic or anything else…And if you didn’t agree with me…I would disdain you as a person. I feel like a hypocrite! I feel disgusting! And I can’t take it anymore! I wasn’t interested in being your “Friend”. I just wanted to change you. I thought that was my job.

Christianity is about being like “Christ”. Jesus loved everyone, First. If they didn’t accept what He said, He still loved them. Its not my job to change you, I can’t. But it’s my job to love you. That I can.

So this is an appeal to my Christian Brothers and Sisters, not all but some… stop the Damnation. Stop the Judgement. Stop the Religism. That’s not our business.

It doesn’t matter how well you can preach…How many Bible Verses you’ve memorized or How many people “think” you are all that. If you don’t have love, you’re nothing. Love is not a chore. Its a revelation. The Christ you serve revealed it in its purest form.

Gandhi said: “I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians.”

Don’t be one of “those”. This is an invitation…Start the LOVE…Join the movement…

 

Veneered Christianity

Jeff Clarke just wrote an interesting article about fake Christianity which is pervasive in the West.

He starts out: “If we want to connect with the world on our doorstep the Church must allow our collective experience of sadness to be our point of contact.”   I’d venture that it is not just sadness and pain we need to be honest about.  We need to be authentic in whatever state we Jesus followers find ourselves.

 

He says: ” The plastic, cheaply fabricated, celebrity-driven style of Christianity that has come to characterize a variety of churches in the West will never be able to effectively offer a healing response to the pain we carry within us and see around us.”  I say Amen!  Those outside see right through the veneer.   They know something is up and we are not being honest.   Drop the pose.   Remove the facades.   They are sin and so lets be honest and just admit that!!!   Be real dear believer!

Clarke’s solution:  “When we consciously integrate our lives with the person next door; when we allow ourselves the space to feel the depth of our own pain and loss, combined with the uncertainties we all experience; then and only then will we be in a position to effectively engage our world with an authentic, down-to-earth, real-life ministry of healing and restoration.” I like these thoughts. I do believe that much internal spiritual transformation is still needed in many who call themselves Jesus followers. The average Western Christian does not understand Jesus’ commands to take up a cross. We’ve had it too easy too long and we don’t know how to be authentic. There is so much group think in Christian circles.

Learning to embrace our pain

The Western church is largely unapproachable.

Are you approachable?   I find myself in a hurried state and miss opportunities to engage other hurting people.   We have to slow down and put the radar up for opportunities to support others.  If we aren’t willing to do this, those opportunities just won’t come.

Veneered Christianity

I’m becoming increasingly convinced that a celebrity mindset, combined with a love of the stage and performance, has not only disabled us from actually being able to minister to people, but has also made people feel like they can’t approach us because of the appearance of perfection we have so often communicated.

I believe Clarke is going after the large churches with following around the country and maybe some multi-site churches whose engagement to put on a show and even entertain for an hour or so.   We have to watch that the meetings are not make for TV, rather made for worship of Jesus and believer enrichment.

I’m tired

Clarke next comes up with some very classic “I’m Tired.” statement which are worth replicating here:

I’m tired of being forced to smile on the outside in an attempt to look the part, instead of giving myself the space to be vulnerable enough to express how I truly feel on the inside.

I’m tired of a plastic Christianity that tells us to wear a cookie-cutter, permanent smile, with veneers showing, to give the appearance that ‘all is well,’ when in reality we’re all tired, wishing we could just talk to someone about our pain.

I’m tired of Ken and Barbie pastors who love the stage and the bright lights, who love to talk about healing and restoration, but who lack the authenticity and depth to actually do anything about it; who minister ‘from a distance,’ rather than become intimately involved in the mess of the common.

I’m just tired. And, I think you are too.

Then,  “I want:”

I want the Church to grow into a genuinely caring community who aren’t afraid to be real and honest about their faults, failures, pain, questions and doubts.

I want the veneered Christianity we’ve become so comfortable with to quickly dissolve and to finally be honest with ourselves about how far removed we are from real-life, down-to-earth, biblical Christianity.

I want the Church to become forever dissatisfied with plastic Christianity and intentionally seek to replace it with a Jesus-centered, Jesus-shaped Gospel that allows love, humility and grace to inform and shape its identity and expression so that we can reach out to a world in pain with a message of hope, healing and restoration – and mean it.

I want Jesus to take center stage so that the spotlight will shine upon Him. 

And, I want Jesus to take center stage so that the spotlight will shine upon Him, and through Him, to the Church that bears His name, unto a world waiting for us to finally begin to show our true colors.

I have to agree Mr. Clarke.   So much the Western church needs to put away and forsake.   So much more also that we need to take up and put on.    We have a great model in a great Savior and more more we study Him and follow Him the better we will be.
Related:
Christian Week Article

Pushing Back the Dark

We all must push the dark of evil that surrounds us.  Don’t let it engulf you!  Push with all your strength and God’s strength who is your strength.

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America, Religion and Their History Together

Someone who has studied American history more than I has weighed in on what role religion or more importantly belief in God and America’s public forums.

I am speaking of Chief Justice Antonin Scalia.   His remarks were covered in the Salt Lake Tribune.

Below are quotes from the piece and not necessarily in the order presented there.

he asked. “To be sure, you can’t favor one denomination over another but can’t favor religion over non-religion?”

He also said  He said

Scalia said during the Sept. 11 attacks he was in Rome at a conference. The next morning, after a speech by President George W. Bush in which he invoked God and asked for his blessing,

“God has been very good to us.

  • That we won the revolution was extraordinary.
  • The Battle of Midway was extraordinary.
  • I think one of the reasons God has been good to us is that we have done him honor.
  • Unlike the other countries of the world that do not even invoke his name, we do him honor.
  • In presidential addresses, in Thanksgiving proclamations and in many other ways…”

“There is nothing wrong with that and do not let anybody tell you that there is anything wrong with that”

“God has been good to America because Americans have honored him.”

 “There is ‘nothing wrong’ with the idea of presidents and others invoking God in speeches.”

During the September 11 attacks Judge Scalia was at a conference of judges from multiple countries.  President George W. Bush spoke to the nation.  Bush invoked God and asked for His blessing in the speech.  “Scalia said many of the other judges approached him and said they wished their presidents or prime ministers would do the same.”

“To tell you the truth, there is no place for that in our constitutional tradition. Where did that come from?”

It did not come from American history.   The American history is full of references to God and His actions and favor.   It is full of quotes from the Bible.   Those quotes were made in Congress, by presidents, by governors, by people at all levels of government: federal, state and local.  American history is riddled with references to God, quotes from the Bible, stories about how God worked on multiple levels and with authentic faith in God on the part of the persons speaking or writing.

God was daily in the public discourse in an honorable way and He was not shouted down.  He was revered with the presupposition that wisdom would come forth and wisdom, His wisdom, would prevail.

We are there now.  Will we get back to that state? If not, what will be our state in the future?

Related:

Judge Scalia

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