7 minutes to read
Each year as Christians celebrate the incarnation of Jesus around the 25th of December, an objection raised by some is that it is impossible for God to have become a man. They point to verses in the Bible that sound like it is not possible for God to become a man. Verses like Numbers 23:19: “God is not man, that he should lie, or a son of man, that he should change his mind. Has he said, and will he not do it? Or has he spoken, and will he not fulfil it?” Or 1 Samuel 15:29: “And also the Glory of Israel will not lie or have regret, for he is not a man, that he should have regret.” Or Hosea 11:9: “I will not execute my burning anger; I will not again destroy Ephraim; for I am God and not a man, the Holy One in your midst, and I will not come in wrath.” Do these verses show that God cannot become man?
If we look at the context of these verses and understand them properly, what we notice is that these verses are not talking about whether God can become man or not. Instead, the authors are showing a contrast between human behaviour and God’s behaviour. Man speaks lies, but God cannot. Man sins, but God cannot sin. It is in comparison between man’s character and God’s attributes, that these verses say that God is not man. So, the Bible does not say or teach that God cannot become a man.
For people who believe in the existence of a sovereign God, it is self-contradictory and logically inconsistent to also hold the position that God could not have become a man. If God is sovereign and is really all-powerful and all-wise, then becoming a man should not be a big deal for God. It is true that it is hard for us to imagine how an infinite God can become a finite man. It is like imagining putting the whole universe in a small cardboard box. While it seems impossible to us, God’s ways are beyond our human logic. We cannot fathom them. God’s existence is beyond our reason though not void of it.
If we search through the Bible, we see that there are only two things that God cannot do: God cannot lie and God cannot sin. It is with respect to these attributes that the Bible says that God cannot behave like a man. But is it possible for God to become a man? What does the Bible say about it?
We can find the answer to those questions in the Christmas story. When we look at the birth of Jesus, we see that it happened in a very special way. Mary conceived supernaturally and gave birth to Jesus. His birth has prophesied some hundreds of years ago (Isaiah 7:14), but it has been promised since the beginning of the creation (Genesis 3:15). It happened exactly as it was prophesied and promised. A virgin conceived and gave birth to a child, which was never heard of in the history of mankind until that time. “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:23) So, if that is true then this must be a unique child.
Jesus was in the beginning, and was with God, and was God, and He who made the world came into the world. Jesus came in flesh and lived among his people. (John 1:1, 10, 14) Jesus is God who became man. When he became a man, he still was fully God. So, he is both God and man at the same time. This is what the Bible teaches. This is what the early Christians and Church fathers believed too. Here is how saints who have gone before us spoke about this:
“The Son, which is the Word of the Father, begotten from everlasting of the Father, the very and eternal God, and of one substance with the Father, took Man’s nature in the womb of the Blessed Virgin, of her substance: so that two whole and perfect Natures, that is to say, the Godhead and Manhood, were joined together in one Person, never to be divided, whereof is one Christ, very God, and very Man; who truly suffered, was crucified, dead, and buried, to reconcile his Father to us, and to be a sacrifice, not only for original guilt but also for actual sins of men.” (Article 2, The Thirty-Nine Articles)
“And in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God, Begotten of the Father before all worlds; God of God, Light of Light, Very God of Very God, Begotten, not made, Being of one substance with the Father; By whom all things were made; Who, for us men and for our salvation, Came down from heaven, And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary, And was made man; And was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate; He suffered and was buried; And the third day he rose again, According to the Scriptures; And ascended into heaven, And sitteth on the right hand of the Father; And he shall come again, with glory, To judge both the quick and the dead; Whose kingdom shall have no end.” (The Nicene Creed)
Not only was it philosophically possible for God to become man, Jesus actually lived in this world nearly 2000 years ago. There were people who saw him, spoke to him, got healed by him, and got raised from death by him. There were also people who challenged him, mocked him, ridiculed him, beat him, crucified him, and killed him. All these took place publicly in a way that no one can deny. It is a historical fact that Jesus lived and died and rose again from the grave. “And when they saw him they worshipped him, but some doubted.” (Matthew 28:17) “For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8) People not only saw Jesus before his death on the cross but also after his death because He is risen. People saw the resurrected Jesus. In short, his life, death and resurrection are undeniable historical facts.
And the reason Jesus became a man is to die for our sins. That was the unique purpose for which Jesus lived. No sinful human being can stand before a Holy and Righteous God. No one can even get close to that. Only a person who is fully God and fully man can stand in between God and man to intercede for man. Since Jesus is fully God, he represents us before God and acts on our behalf. He did so by living the sinless life that we could not live and by taking our sins and our punishment upon him on our behalf on that cross. All those who believe that Jesus became a man, took their place and sacrificed himself on that cross and rose again will be forgiven forever. They will enjoy eternal life through faith and by the grace of God alone.
And so, the incarnation of Jesus was not only possible, it is an undeniable historical fact, and mankind’s only hope for eternal life.