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The incarnation of Christ is perhaps one of the most astonishing and difficult doctrines of the Bible. As such, a writer’s words concerning such magnificent truths are certain to fall short no matter how sure he is on the subject matter. His only hope is to turn to those words that do not fall short, those that God breathed out in the Holy Scripture (2 Timothy 3:16). So that is where I shall take you and that is where I shall leave you, in hopes that the Spirit of God would be pleased to show you the unsearchable joy and the surpassing value of knowing Christ, the God-man. After all, this is the task of every preacher and every Christian writer.
It is not a matter of debate for our hope to behold such truth is primarily found in praying. Otherwise, how are we, with our limited capacities, supposed to comprehend the reality of the infinite putting on the finite? Do we even know what the word ‘infinity’ really means? At the end of the day, isn’t that just another word we use to refer to that which is beyond our capacity to know? Like pointing to the horizon to show where the East lies, and no matter how far you travel in that direction, there is always a horizon and further East to go. So, I hope that you can see why any attempt on our part to talk about God becoming man must be done with care and humility, knowing that there’s much that we are unable to know.
However, there is much that we can and do sufficiently know about the incarnation of Christ because the Bible tells us about it. For instance, Jesus, truly God since eternity past, became truly man for all eternity future (John 1:1,14). In this second person of the Trinity was God incarnate, abiding in the human and the divine natures, both distinct yet not separable (Colossians 1:15-17; Hebrews 1:1-3). All these are facts we conclude from the clear narrative of the Bible. But our attempts to peer deeper, to understand how these two natures exactly coexist or co-operate, are often at risk of falling into many heresies. Therefore, we must be content with what the Bible tells us and hesitant to go further. That is not to say that those sound theologians throughout history who suggest plausible explanations are sinning by doing so, but that our sure foundation is that which the Bible lays out unambiguously and with certainty. Plausibility doesn’t make sound theology; sound theology makes sound theology.
Moreover, we are certain that Jesus is truly God and truly man, and that neither of these natures compromises, conflicts, or contradicts the other. Based on this certain conclusion, let us deal with the subject of this article, about why God became man. Why was the incarnation necessary for the redemption of mankind? What can we learn about the incarnation and how it relates to our salvation? Let me try and answer these questions under the following 5 headings.
The Sinful Condition of Man
The problem of man’s fallen condition ever since Adam ate the forbidden fruit is twofold. On the one hand, we are guilty of crimes against the Eternal God (Romans 3:9-18), and on the other, sin has corrupted our flesh to the point that we are unable, in our own capacity, to seek after God (Romans 8:7). We are sons of Adam, and the curse of sin is imputed on all his posterity (Romans 5:12). As sinners, we all stand condemned before God (Romans 6:23). But sin has not only lured us all into dungeons but has bound us in chains that we cannot break free from. In our corrupted state, we cannot redeem ourselves.
Therefore, we needed a redeemer who could set us free from this bondage of sin, by atoning for our crimes. “Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” (Romans 7:24) Freedom from sin does not release us from the judgment of God. His justice must punish the wicked for their crimes, and we are indeed guilty (2 Thessalonians 1:9). This redeemer who would save us from sin must fulfil the justice of God on our behalf. And that would require a man who is able to bear the eternal judgment of God.
The incarnation of Christ was necessary because Jesus had to identify himself with the sinner by becoming a man if he was to atone for their sin. In our inability to please God, he was the only one who could.
The Kindness of God
God was pleased then to send “his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him shall never perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). In our guilt and our corruption, there is none worthy or deserving of salvation. Therefore, the Gospel is entirely grace. And this grace would have to atone for the twofold problem of our condition, the forgiveness of our sins, and the breaking of the chains of our hostility toward God (Romans 8:7). This, God achieved through predestination. “In love he predestined us for adoption to himself as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of his will” (Ephesians 1:4-5).
The incarnation of Christ was purposed before the foundation of the world, according to God’s predestining plan to save his elect (Ephesians 1:4). When God became man, he did not stop being God. This is why in Christ we find the true man and true God. [Christ] is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Hebrews 1:3). Jesus, therefore, identified himself as one of us so that, according to the kind choice of God, he might bear the judgment that we deserve and turn our hearts back to God, those who are called according to his purpose.
The Atonement of Christ
The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23), and only through death could one destroy the power of the devil and deliver us from lifelong slavery (Hebrews 2:16). Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17). God becoming man was necessary for the atonement and redemption of the sinner who places his trust in Christ. We needed a new and better Adam who would not break, but keep God’s law, so that all the generations of those born of him (in faith) might be blessed with eternal life.
The incarnation of Christ reveals God’s heart for his people, that he was willing to set aside the glories of heaven for the sake of an undeserving people. 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. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross (Philippians 2:6-8).
The Inescapability of Grace
This still begs the question of our ability to receive this salvation. Even if such kindness is extended to us(and it is!), how do we, as corrupt, sin-loving, God-hating people, desire such glory? But thanks be to God who alone can turn our hearts of stone to hearts of flesh: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Hebrews 8:10).
The incarnation of Christ will succeed in the purpose for which God sent his Son. As Paul writes, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).
The Sustenance of the Spirit
Our hope for eternal life is not in our strength to keep our salvation secure, but in his strength that keeps us. Jesus himself stated, “No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him. And I will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:44). Earlier in the same gospel, Jesus explains, “All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out “(John 6:37).The incarnation of Christ is our hope of eternal life for we have a high priest who sympathizes with our weaknesses and enables us to endure by the power of His Spirit (Hebrews 4:15). And this Spirit is our seal, the guarantee of our inheritance in Christ, and in Him, we shall never be lost (Ephesians 1:13-14). Our hope for eternal life is secured in Christ who “always lives to make intercession for [us]” (Hebrews 7:25).