Five Truths About the Incarnation

Joseph Scheumann: Christmas is about the incarnation of Jesus. Strip away the season’s hustle and bustle, the trees, the cookies, the extra pounds, and what remains is a humble birth story and a simultaneously stunning reality — the incarnation of the eternal Son of God. This incarnation, God himself becoming human, is a glorious fact that is too often neglected, or forgotten, amidst all the gifts, get-togethers, pageants, and presents. Therefore, we would do well to think deeply about the incarnation, especially on this day. Here are five biblical truths of the incarnation. 1. The Incarnation Was Not the Divine Son’s Beginning The virgin conception and birth in Bethlehem does not mark the beginning of the Son of God. Rather, it marks the eternal Son entering physically into our world and becoming one of us. John Murray writes, “The doctrine of the incarnation is vitiated if it is conceived of as the beginning to be of the person of Christ.

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Immanuel

“‘Immanuel, God with us.’  It is hell’s terror.  Satan trembles at the sound of it. . . . Let him come to you suddenly, and do you but whisper that word, ‘God with us,’ back he falls, confounded and confused. . . . ‘God with us’ is the laborer’s strength.  How could he preach the gospel, how could he bend his knees in prayer, how could the missionary go into foreign lands, how could the martyr stand at the stake, how could the confessor own his Master, how could men labor if that one word were taken away? . . . ‘God with us’ is eternity’s sonnet, heaven’s hallelujah, the shout of the glorified, the song of the redeemed, the chorus of the angels, the everlasting oratorio of the great orchestra of the sky. . . . Feast, Christians, feast; you have a right to feast. . . . But in your feasting, think of the Man in Bethlehem.  Let

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The Fullness of God Dwells Embryonically

Jared Wilson: And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” – Luke 1:35 Really, the Advent season runs from Genesis 3 onward, and Christmas Day is when the miracle prophesied in Luke 1:35 is fulfilled. For those of us who believe personhood can be derived from Psalm 139:13-15 and Job 31:15, we believe the Incarnation did not begin at Jesus’ birth but at his conception. And if this is so, when Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” we know that the fullness of deity dwelled in fertilized ovum. Will the Empire State Building occupy a doghouse? Will a killer whale fit inside an ant? And here we are told that omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, utter eternalness and holiness dwelled in a tiny person. This makes Santa coming down a chimney seem a logistical cakewalk. “The head

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Bethlehem Wasn’t the Beginning

By David Burnette: As you reflect on the significance of Christ’s coming this Christmas, allow me to make one suggestion that may actually add to your holiday cheer: Don’t begin in Bethlehem. That may sound scrooge-like, but hear me out. Bethlehem looms large in our minds during Christmas, and rightfully so. The prophet Micah had predicted centuries earlier that a ruler would hail from this obscure town (Mic 5:2). As King David’s birthplace, Bethlehem would also be the scene of the Messiah’s birth. In that sense, it’s difficult not to think of Bethlehem this time of year.  That’s fine, but don’t forget that the Christmas story was set in motion long before the nativity scene. Bethlehem wasn’t the beginning. Jesus spoke of the glory he had with the Father “before the world existed” (Jn 17:5). As the Second Person of the Trinity, He was in communion with the Father and the Spirit from all eternity. We’re even told that the world was

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Jesus’ non-grasping attitude

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. (Philippians 2:5-7 ESV) Bruce Ware:  …he cannot mean that Christ gave up equality with God or that he ceased being fully God. Since he is fully God he cannot cease to be fully God. God is eternal, self-existent, immortal, and immutable, and thus he cannot cease to exist as God, nor can he fail to be fully God. Surely what Paul means is this: Christ being fully God, possessing the very nature of God and being fully equal to God in every respect, did not thereby insist on holding onto all the privileges and benefits of his position of equality with God (the Father) and thereby refuse to accept coming as a man.

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The Babyhood of God

“The tremendous revelation of Christianity is not the Fatherhood of God, but the Babyhood of God – God became the weakest thing in His own creation, and in flesh and blood He levered it back to where it was intended to be. No one helped Him; it was done absolutely by God manifest in human flesh. God has undertaken not only to repair the damage, but in Jesus Christ the human race is put in a better condition than when it was originally designed.” “Beware of posing as a profound person; God became a Baby.” – Oswald Chambers (HT: Trevin Wax)

Christmas and the Trinity

Guy Davies: If it is true that all three divine persons are involved any act of God, then the incarnation of the Son involved the whole Trinity. That does not mean that the Father and the Holy Spirit as well as the Son became incarnate. It was fitting that the Son as the image of the invisible God became man, created in the image of God according to his human nature. But the Son did not become incarnate apart from the Father and the Holy Spirit. The Father sent the Son into the world as man and sustained, taught, guided and empowered him by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of the incarnation was that Christ might redeem us from sin by offering himself without blemish to God through the eternal Spirit. The Father raised his Son from the dead by the Spirit of holiness and by that same Spirit exalted Christ to his right hand in glory. The

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How wisely is the method of our recovery laid

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14) “Jesus Christ did really assume the true and perfect nature of man, into a personal union with his divine nature, and still remains true God and true man, in one person for ever. Had he not this double nature in the unity of his person, he could not have been our Prophet, for, as God, he knows the mind and will of God, and as man he is fitted to impart it suitably to us. As Priest, had he not been man, he could have shed no blood; and if not God, it had been no adequate value for us. As King, had he not been man, he had been no fit head for us, and if not God, he could neither rule nor defend his body the Church. Here infinite wisdom has also left a famous and everlasting mark of itself; which invites, yea, even chains the eyes of

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Why Christmas Morning Was a Trajectory

  Kenōsis is the Greek word in Philippians 2:7 translated “made nothing” (ESV). It’s what Jesus did to himself — “he made himself nothing . . .” Donald Macleod writes, In becoming incarnate God not only accomodates himself to human weakness: he buries his glory under veil after veil so that it is impossible for flesh and blood to recognize him. As he hangs on the cross, bleeding, battered, powerless and forsaken, the last thing he looks like is God. Indeed, he scarcely looks human. He looks like nothing but a hell–bound, hell–deserving derelict. Everything about him says, “An atheist and a blasphemer!” . . . We should notice, too, that the kenōsis involved the willingness to go ever lower. Behind it, there lay two great decisions. The first, pre-temporal, was a decision of the eternal Son to assume the form of a servant in the likeness of men. Second, taken once he was incarnate, was the decision to humble himself even further. From this point

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The Fullness of Deity Dwells Babely

  Jared Wilson: the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.” — Luke 1:35 Really, the Advent season runs from Genesis 3 onward, and Christmas Day is when the miracle prophesied in Luke 1:35 is fulfilled. For those of us who believe personhood can be derived from Psalm 139:13-15 and Job 31:15, we believe the Incarnation did not begin at Jesus’ birth but at his conception. And if this is so, when Colossians 2:9 says, “For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily,” we know that the fullness of deity dwelled in fertilized ovum. Will the Empire State Building occupy a doghouse? Will a killer whale fit inside an ant? And here we are told that omnipotence, omniscience, omnipresence, utter eternalness and holiness dwelled in a tiny person. This makes Santa coming

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Even in the moment of His conception

. “For, as you see, Christ Jesus was conceived in the womb of the Virgin, and that by the mighty power of His Holy Spirit, so that our nature in Him was fully sanctified by that same power. And this perfect purity of our nature in His Person covers our impurity, for He was not conceived in sin and corruption as we are, but by the power of the Holy Spirit, who perfectly sanctified our nature in Him, even in the moment of His conception. Thus in that He was thoroughly purged, His purity covers our impurity.” Robert Bruce, The Mystery of the Lord’s Supper, p. 25 (HT: John Fonville)

The more staggering it gets

  “The supreme mystery with which the gospel confronts us . . . lies not in the Good Friday message of atonement, nor in the Easter message of resurrection, but in the Christmas message of incarnation.  The really staggering Christian claim is that Jesus of Nazareth was God made man – that the second person of the Godhead became the ‘second man’ (1 Cor. 15:47), determining human destiny, the second representative head of the race, and that He took humanity without loss of deity, so that Jesus of Nazareth was as truly and fully divine as He was human. Here are two mysteries for the price of one ­- the plurality of persons within the unity of God, and the union of Godhead and manhood in the person of Jesus.  It is here, the thing that happened at the first Christmas, that the profoundest and most unfathomable depths of the Christian revelation lie.  ’The Word was made flesh’ (John 1:14);

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Blessed Is She Who Believed

  John Bloom: Mary was “blessed among women” (Luke 1:42). She received the singular holy gift of being the mother of our Lord (Luke 1:43). God the Son dwelled inside of her body in human form. Then he lived in her home and was under her care until adulthood. This has tempted some to worship her. In fact, one woman publicly exalted Mary by crying out to Jesus, “Blessed is the womb that bore you, and the breasts at which you nursed” (Luke 11:27)! But Jesus corrected her by replying, “Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and keep it” (Luke 11:27-28)! Do you see what Jesus is doing? In this correction Jesus is protecting Mary’s true blessedness and protecting us from idolatry. Gabriel told Mary that she had “found favor with God” (Luke 1:30). Certainly bearing and raising the Christ Child was an incredible favor. But it was not the greatest favor God bestowed on Mary.

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God in a Manger

  David Mathis’s three part series is a great refresher course on Christology (the doctrine of Christ). He writes: Advent is my yearly reminder to brush up on Christology, the doctrine of the person of Christ. I’ve found it helpful to approach the subject under three headings: Jesus as Lord (fully divine), Jesus as Savior (fully human), and Jesus as Treasure (one person). God in a Manger, Part 1: Jesus Is Lord In this Christological triad (Lord-Savior-Treasure), Jesus’ Lordship is tied to his divinity. He is rightly called Yahweh, the name surpassingly more excellent than the angels (Hebrews 1:4), the name above every name (Philippians 2:9). Here’s the connection between Lordship and the divine name. God in a Manger, Part 2: Jesus Is Savior Not only did he remain fully divine when he took humanity to himself, but the humanity that he took was full humanity. And so Jesus has a fully human body, emotions, mind, and will — and this in

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Lose the Incarnation, Lose It All

. From Matt Smethurst: The Vital Question More than 30 years ago, J. I. Packer wrote an article titled “The Vital Question” for Themelios (the entire archives can be accessed for free at TGC). In it he considers whether Jesus of Nazareth was and remains God in person—that is, whether the deity of Jesus is “an item of factual truth” or “a notion with the status of a non-factual myth.” For [most people], this question is intriguing; for Packer, however, it’s imperative. He writes, “This is as far-reaching an issue as can well be imagined. On it hangs your view both of God and of salvation.” All Christologies, Packer argues, can be boiled down to two basic brands: “Man Plus” and “God Plus.” “Man Plus” Christologies almost unanimously agree that Jesus was an utterly unique figure. He was no ordinary man. He was man plus a number of things—a unique sense of the divine, uncommon personal charisma, unfettered religious devotion, God-given insight, and so forth. Jesus

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The Feeble Infant Came to Conquer Satan

  Jonathan Parnell posts this Jonathan Edwards quote: His infinite condescension marvelously appeared in the manner of his birth. He was brought forth in a stable because there was no room for them in the inn. The inn was taken up by others, that were looked upon as persons of greater account. The Blessed Virgin, being poor and despised, was turned or shut out. Though she was in such necessitous circumstances, yet those that counted themselves her betters would not give place to her; and therefore, in the time of her travail, she was forced to betake herself to a stable; and when the child was born, it was wrapped in swaddling clothes, and laid in a manger. There Christ lay a little infant, and there he eminently appeared as a lamb. But yet this feeble infant, born thus in a stable, and laid in a manger, was born to conquer and triumph over Satan, that roaring lion. He came to subdue

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How Jesus Made Himself Nothing

. K. Scott Oliphint writes: What then does Paul mean when he says that this preincarnate Son, who was in the form of God but who took on the form of a servant “made himself nothing”?. . . We are, says Paul, to incubate within ourselves the same mind-set that Christ himself had when he chose to come down to us. More specifically, we are told, “do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves” (Philippians 2:3). We are not, then, to hold on to whatever status or position we think we might own, but rather to consider that the position or status of others is more significant. In this light and because of this context, it becomes clearer to us what Paul is saying about our Savior. In his decision to take on the likeness of humanity, he did not simply look to his own position or status, nor did he count that

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“the gospel is something that can only be proclaimed, because it’s about someone else”

Excerpts from an interview with Michael Horton on his new book, The Gospel Commission: Recovering God’s Strategy for Making Disciples: What are some problems you see with people identifying their ministry as “incarnational”? By “incarnational” a lot of people mean that, like Jesus, we should identify with our neighbors in humility, rather than stand aloof. But it often is attended today by a lot of loose language about “doing the gospel” and “being the gospel,” of our work of partnering with God in the redemption and reconciliation of the world, and so forth—“Preach the gospel at all times and if necessary use words,” as the oft-quoted saying attributed to Francis of Assisi goes. The problem is that this confuses us with Jesus, the redeemed with the Redeemer, the ambassadors with the King. In Philippians 2, we are called to imitate the humility of Christ, revealed in his descent from glory in order to save the lost. However, everything else in that passage

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