God in the Flesh

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The Nativity by Gustav Dore, late 19th century

Colossians 2:9 For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, . ..

In the Bible we learn that God came down and dwelt in the body of man. He was born of a woman, lived, ate, slept, cried, and died. In theology, this is known as the Doctrine of the Incarnation. The word “incarnation” means to be made into flesh. The Incarnation is one of the vital doctrines of the Christian faith although it has had its critics over the centuries. Here I seek to explore and defend the concept of God in the flesh.

In the Book of Genesis, God tells Eve that her Seed will crush the head of the serpent but the serpent will bruise the Seed’s heel (3:15). This was a promise from God that a man born of a woman would be the one to defeat the serpent, Satan. This gospel is the first revelation of who the Messiah would be. As time goes on in human history we are provided more info on this Man (progressive revelation).

In Isaiah 7:14, we are told that there will be a virgin who will give birth to a Child and His name will be Immanuel. Often in the Old Testament times, a name given to a person was actually a description of that person. Such is the case with Immanuel which means “God with us.” So this will be literally God dwelling among us as a man. Isaiah goes on to say in chapter 9, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Of the greatness of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom…” So more is now revealed. God will dwell among man as a man. He will be of the lineage of David and will establish His kingdom. And from Genesis, Satan will bruise His heel but He will defeat Satan.

Now we come to the fruition of the promise made to Eve and to the people of God. The birth of Jesus. The only man born of a virgin, Jesus came to earth as the Immanuel that Isaiah foretold of 700 years before.

Like I’ve stated previously, in Matthew we see that Jesus is the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. And in the Gospel of John, He is described as the Word that was with God and the Word that was God (John 1:1). In Colossians 1:15, He is the “image of the invisible God.” In Philippians 2:6, He is the very nature, or form, of God. Hebrews 1:3 says He is “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature.”

Jesus is the “uncreated incarnate Creator of creation”. All things were created from Him, through Him, and for Him (Romans 11:36). Yet, the Creator came to earth and dwelt in His creation. This is referred to as the Hypostatic Union; Jesus being truly God and truly man. Jesus is the two natures of God and man in a single hypostasis (essence, substance, nature). He is the theanthropos, or God-man.

The dual nature of Jesus may sound confusing, but God is not the author of confusion. John 1 calls Jesus the light. Scientists have discovered that light also has a dual nature. The scientific community was once divided on whether light was wave or whether it was particle. However they’ve discovered that it is both wave and particle, something scientists used to consider an impossibility.

Some have argued that Jesus is not God because the Scriptures says He slept and that an all-powerful God does not need to sleep. This argument basically comes from a person who doesn’t take their own premise to its logical conclusion. That is, that God being all powerful can choose to place himself in a human body and limit that human body to the natural laws that govern all other humans; like the need for rest and food and water. He also came as a Jew meaning that He had to obey the spiritual laws He had given Moses about 1,200 years before. And He did so, perfectly.

Some people would say “is this like Hercules who was the progeny of a god and human mother?” NO. Jesus was fully God and fully man. The fictional Hercules was half-god and half-man. Some would say that Hercules only became a god after his death. Unlike Hercules, Jesus the Son was ALWAYS God. He says in the Gospel of John, “Before Abraham was, I am.” Jesus says in the Garden of Gethsemane that He shared the glory with God before the world began (John 17:5). Therefore, there was no progression, or apotheosis, of Jesus to divinity. He was always God.

Jesus came to earth to be the propitiation, or atoning sacrifice, of our sins. He could only be this as a perfect man, but since there is no perfect man, God came to earth to be just that.

As John Piper states, “In order for Jesus to suffer and die, he had to plan way ahead of time, because … he couldn’t die. Immortal. He didn’t have any body, yet he wanted to die … for you. So he planned the whole thing by clothing himself with a body so that he could get hungry and get weary and get sore feet. The incarnation is the preparation of nerve endings for the nails – the preparation of a brow for thorns to press through. He needed to have a broad back so that there was a place for the whip. He needed to have feet so that there was a place for spikes. He needed to have a side so that there was a place for the sword to go in. He needed fleshy cheeks so that Judas would have a place to kiss and there would be a place for the spit to run down that the soldiers put on him. He needed a brain and a spinal column with no vinegar and no gall so that the exquisiteness of the pain could be fully felt. I just plead with you – when you’re reading the bible and you read water toy texts like “he loved you” and “gave himself for you,” you wouldn’t go too fast over it. Linger, linger, linger, and plead with him that your eyes would be opened.

Further reading: John 1:1-14, Romans 1:2-5, 8:3, 9:5, Philippians 2:6-11, 1 Timothy 3:16, Hebrews 2:14, 1 John 1:1-3, 4:2

Derrick Stokes
Theologetics.org

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