What is the Incarnation?
Hebrews 2:14 Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, Jesus also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil;
The subject of the incarnation is very interesting, perhaps because it is such a simple concept… God becoming a man… And yet it is probably the most complex doctrine in all of Christianity. From a theological perspective the incarnation means that the eternal "Logos", or the Word of God became clothed in flesh. The second person of the eternal Godhead put on the clothing of flesh and became a human being. Becoming a man he was and is 100% human and 100% God. This Hypostatic Union never ceases to be. The Book of Philippians contains the most often used Bible verses on the subject.
Philippians 2:6-8 "Christ Jesus Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Philippians indicates that the whole idea of Christ becoming a man originated in his mind. He thought that to be equal with God is not a thing to be grasped or held onto, the whole idea of humiliating himself was no problem. Therefore he "emptied himself" which is from a Greek word "kenoo" from which comes the word "kenosis" which means to be emptied. The Latin translation is "incarnatio" which is where we get the English word "incarnation" which means to empty himself. Many scholars have come to agree that the word "kenosis" indicates that Jesus did not empty himself of any of his divine attributes, but that he chose to restrict the use of them in whatever way he chose to in order to identify with man and man's limitations, and to fulfill his mission on earth. The glory of God that was in Christ was veiled in flesh, yet he made the claim that if anyone would not believe that he was Yahweh they would die in their sins. The Gospel of John begins with the eternal word becoming flesh and in Latin this is the word "incarnation":
John 1:14 "And the Word became 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."
Paul the apostle also attested to the deity and the Incarnation of Jesus Christ and in his second letter to the Corinthians he encouraged the Christian believers
2 Corinthians 8:9 "For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich."
Paul also said in Colossians 2:9 that "all the fullness of the Deity dwells in Christ in bodily form," and he also said in Romans 8:3 that God sent "his own son in the likeness of sinful flesh." When Jesus prayed in the garden of Gethsemane just before his betrayal he prayed "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was."
it is also interesting that Paul mentions that Jesus Was “Made in the Likeness of Men”. When John made the claim that the "Word became flesh", and Paul said that God sent his own son in the "likeness" of sinful flesh, the message in the Bible is clear that Jesus was a bonafide human being, a person that walked the earth. He was not only a man, but a servant, and not only a servant but the lowest of slaves according to the original language. Almighty God made a decision to take on humanity and to dedicate his life to serving man and doing good, to the point of death even the death of the Roman cross.
"There is no greater love than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends"
Jesus was born, he had a birth, he was born of the virgin Mary who was from the lineage of King David and Abraham the first Hebrew. Jesus grew up as a child, throughout his childhood the Bible says he "increased in wisdom and in stature," he also learned as a man observing the world around him. His body was completely human flesh and blood, experiencing all the daily things like eating and drinking and walking and thinking. He was a man with a name, his name was Jesus, which is the Greek word for the Hebrew Joshua which means "Yahweh has become salvation." The Bible mentions that Jesus experienced humanity with all the needs that people experience, he hungered, he thirsted, he grew tired, he slept, and so on. Jesus was referred to throughout the entire New Testament as a man that lived and walked the earth, he died as a man feeling all the pain, when he rose again he had the appearance of a man, and right now the Bible says that he is a man seated at the right hand of God in heaven (1 Timothy 2:5), he will return to this earth as a man, and will judge the world as a man (Acts 17:31).
Listen to how the Lord characterizes a situation in Ezekiel 34 where his leaders called "Shepherds" are mistreating his people called "His sheep" and what He decides to do about it.
"The word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them: ‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: Woe to you shepherds of Israel who only take care of yourselves! Should not shepherds take care of the flock? You eat the curds, clothe yourselves with the wool and slaughter the choice animals, but you do not take care of the flock. You have not strengthened the weak or healed the sick or bound up the injured. You have not brought back the strays or searched for the lost. You have ruled them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd, and when they were scattered they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill. They were scattered over the whole earth, and no one searched or looked for them.
God saw the religious rulers of Israel profiteering and taking advantage of His flock without a care for their well-being. God noticed His shepherds. Read the passage again slowly and see how God feels about those who abuse his flock. Because these Shepherds do not have a heart for His people, God decides He has to remove them from their position.
“This is what the Sovereign Lord says: I am against the shepherds and will hold them accountable for my flock. I will remove them from tending the flock so that the shepherds can no longer feed themselves. I will rescue my flock from their mouths, and it will no longer be food for them.”
But what is God going to replace them with? God announces something that is beyond comprehension; He Himself will come for His Sheep.
"For this is what the Sovereign Lord says: I myself will search for my sheep and look after them. As a shepherd looks after his scattered flock when he is with them, so will I look after my sheep. I will rescue them from all the places where they were scattered on a day of clouds and darkness. I will bring them out from the nations and gather them from the countries, and I will bring them into their own land. I will pasture them on the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and in all the settlements in the land. I will tend them in a good pasture, and the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down in good grazing land, and there they will feed in a rich pasture on the mountains of Israel. I myself will tend my sheep and have them lie down, declares the Sovereign Lord. I will search for the lost and bring back the strays. I will bind up the injured and strengthen the weak, but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd the flock with justice.”
God came to us as our Shepherd to replace the harsh taskmasters of the Law. Throughout the Gospels we read of constant tension with the religious leaders of that time, until they finally decided to kill Jesus. But Jesus, the Son of God fulfilled the tender promise of the God Shepherding us Himself, in His coming and became like one of us. He displayed all His reactions and how God would react, how God feels, how God would do it, were He in our position. But even further, in order to truly break the grip of the Law, which is the judgment of God's holiness, Jesus must also offer Himself as a substitute to die in our place.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. I am the good shepherd; I know my sheep and my sheep know me— just as the Father knows me and I know the Father—and I lay down my life for the sheep. I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd. John 10:11, 14
What about us today? We didn't get to experience Jesus in the flesh. And we have our doubts. Even those who were with Him were constantly disturbed by the idea of losing Him. To them and to us, He offered this comfort:
“If you love me, keep my commands. And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. Whoever has my commands and keeps them is the one who loves me. The one who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love them and show myself to them.” John 14:15-21
Jesus promised that "another advocate" would come to help us and be with us forever. This is the Holy Spirit. He is moving everywhere and available to all who want to be a part of this amazing salvation. He was "with" the disciples at that time but soon would be "in" them. This is because Jesus would pay the price of sin, and so God was freed up to be intimate again with man in full integrity. The incarnation of God, the Son is is absolutely mind boggling and beyond comprehension on so many levels. But so is all of creation. Why is there anything instead of nothing? It's all incomprehensible.
But when one ponders that God in His Triune Nature so loved us, that the Father gave His Son, and the Son came to give His life a ransom for many, and now the Holy Spirit is given to all who ask, it can move us to truly worship God in deepest deepest gratitude.
Do you want to be a part of this? Offer your heart to God, ask for His forgiveness for anything you have done wrong. And ask Him to fill you with Himself. Here are some sample words to help, but you can use any language you like. You are turning your life over to His care and starting a new and exciting life beyond imagination. And then you can join all of us Christians in knowing Him and making Him known. Begin to read your Bible in the New Testament and ask God to lead you, you'll find a good place to fellowship. Watch what He does!
Heavenly Father. I suddenly and strangely feel a yearning deep inside myself for You. I want to be a part of your Kingdom. I understand Jesus died for my sins on the cross in my place. Please forgive my sins and fill me with your Holy Spirit. Please change my heart and cause me to hunger to know you. Lead me to where I need to go. I trust You Lord. Amen.
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