A Christian is one who believes God; and God makes it clear in His Word that His Son is God in the flesh (I Timothy 3:16) and that He was born of a virgin.
The word incarnate is derived from simple Latin meaning “in flesh.” The word carnal comes from the same root word. A carnal Christian is one who “lives after the flesh.” Another word that comes from the same root word is carnival. We usually associate this word with a side-show or merry-go-round, but the original meaning was “farewell-to-the-flesh” celebration which preceded Lent, a forty day period of fasting and penitence which some churches still observe. This was supposed to be the last “binge” before saying farewell to the flesh for 40 days. The idea was that they attended masked balls where they drank, caroused, and engaged in sin.
Incarnation means “in the flesh.” Applied to the Lord Jesus Christ the term means, “God embodied in flesh”—“Immanuel…God with us” (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:23). The Bible explicitly teaches that the God of the Ages, “the lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8), took upon Himself the flesh and form of man and walked upon this earth as a man. In Philippians 2:8 He is described as “being found in fashion as a man.” The One Who is “the same yesterday, today, and for ever” (Hebrews 13:8), “became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14); and in Him dwelled “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9).
One of the early heresies of the early church was that Jesus Christ came into being when He was born of Mary. That is not true. Jesus Christ is as eternal as God is eternal, for HE IS GOD. John emphasizes this. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1) Then he goes on to say “The same was in the beginning with God.” Jesus Himself taught His eternality and Oneness with the Father: “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58), “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30); “My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.” (John 5:18). This is the reason that the Jews sought to kill him, not because he had broken the Sabbath, but He had stated that God was His Father.
Jesus Christ made many appearances to earth before His birth in Bethlehem. The Angel of the Covenant, the Angel of the Lord, and similar appellations of the Old Testament have reference to the Lord Jesus Christ in pre-incarnate appearances. We tend to think of angels as being winged creatures. God’s Word so describes the Cherubim and Seraphim (Isaiah 6:2; Ezekiel 1:6), but there is no scriptural basis for such a description of angels. We do not know what an angel looks like. As long as we are in the flesh, if we see one (and we may) we will see a person; for to men, an angel looks like a man.
In the plains of Mamre, Abraham saw three men standing before him (Genesis 18). Though they looked like men, they were angels—one of them the Angel of the Covenant, the Lord Himself. When two of the angels went on to Sodom to pluck Lot and his family from the doomed city, the Angel of the Covenant remained with Abraham. There are places where God will not go, things God cannot do, and people with whom God does not associate. If a man backslides, God may deal with him, but God will not fellowship with him in his backslidden state. If we do not obey God and are not in fellowship with Him, we cannot find His presence close at hand. He will deal with us—will chastise and discipline us—but fellowship with Him demands OBEDIENCE.
At Peniel, Jacob wrestled all night with “a man”; and this Man was Jesus Christ (Genesis 32:24-32). At Jericho a man with a drawn sword stood in front of Joshua, “and Joshua…said unto him, art thou for us, or for our adversaries?” (Joshua 5:13-15). The Man with the sword replied, “As captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.” Then “Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship,” for this Captain of the Lord’s host was Jesus Christ.
But when He came to earth to pay the price of man’s sin and so make him acceptable to a sinless God, the Son of God had to come, not in the appearance of a man as in Old Testament times, but actually as a man in human flesh. He had to do more than LOOK like man—HE HAD TO BE MAN! The reason for this is simple: Man, in the flesh, sinned. The carnal nature—that is, the fleshly nature—of man is sinful and must be punished. “For to be carnally minded is death” (Romans 8:6). Thus in order to take upon Him the sin of man and the penalty of man’s sin, God took upon Himself the body of a man so that He might redeem man who, through sin, had sold himself under judgment. The blood of bulls and goats could not avail for sin, there being in those sacrifices “remembrance again made of sins every year.” (Hebrews 10:3-4); therefore, Christ, once for all, appeared to put away sin by the sacrifice of Himself (Hebrews 9:26). He Who had made the first Adam became the Second Adam; and as in the first Adam all die, even so in the Second Adam shall all be made alive (I Corinthians 15:22). “As by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by the obedience of one shall many be made righteous” (Romans 5:19).
In His earthly Body, Jesus Christ was heir to all the sufferings that are attendant upon the mortal body. There was, however, this difference: in Him was no tendency to sin. He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). In the weakness of physical hunger and exhaustion He was tempted of the devil to “take a short cut” instead of following God’s will. But He resisted the Tempter and humbled Himself to the obedience of the Cross—the hour for which He had been born. We are tempted to substitute “the short cut” for God’s way plagues us. But in that He Himself has suffered being tempted, He is able to succor us when we are tempted (Hebrews 2:17-18) and we do not have to yield to the devil’s subtlety.
Until you understand the truth of the Incarnation, you will not find the treasures of God opened to you. It is like a chest, which has two strong locks; before you can open the chest and revel in its treasures, you must have and use the key to both locks. So it is with the truth of the nature of our blessed Lord: there is both deity and humanity; and without both keys, one can never open the treasure chest. He is VERY GOD and at the same time VERY MAN.
Essential to, and inseparable from, the incarnation is the Virgin Birth.
We will take this topic up next time.