Incarnation

John 1:1-17

You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.

Jesus says in John 18:36-37

“My kingship is not of this world; if my kingship were of this world, my servants would fight that I might not be handed over to the Jews; but my kingship is not from the world.” Pilate said to him, “So you are a king?”

Jesus answered, “You say that I am a king. For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world, to bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.”

The uniqueness of his birth is that he did not originate at his birth. He existed before he was born in a manger:

“For this I was born, and for this I have come into the world.”

The theological word to describe Christ’s birth is not creation, but incarnation.  His birth was not a coming into being of a new person, but a coming into the world of an infinitely old person (Micah 5:2).

In the early Christian era, there was considerable disagreement amongst Christians regarding the nature of Christ’s Incarnation. While all Christians believed that Jesus was indeed the Son of God, the exact nature of his Sonship was contested, together with the precise relationship of the “Father,” “Son” and “Holy Spirit” referred to in the New Testament.

Though Jesus was clearly the “Son,” what exactly did this mean? Debate on this subject raged most especially during the first four centuries of Christianity,

Eventually, the Christian Church accepted the teaching of St. Athanasius that Christ was the incarnation of the eternal second person of the Trinity, who was truly God and truly a man simultaneously.

All other beliefs were defined as heresies:

1. Docetism, Jesus was a divine being that took on human appearance but not flesh;

2. Arianism, Christ was a created being; and

3. Nestorianism,  Son of God and the man, Jesus, shared the same body but retained two separate natures.

The most widely accepted definitions of the Incarnation and the nature of Jesus were made by the First Council of Nicaea in 325, the Council of Ephesus in 431, and the Council of Chalcedon in 451.

These councils declared that Jesus was both fully God: begotten from, but not created by the Father; and fully man: taking his flesh and human nature from the Virgin Mary. These two natures, human and divine, were hypostatically (actually, concretely) united into the one personhood of Jesus Christ.

Traditional models of the Atonement, say that Christ must be human in order for the sacrifice of the Cross to be effective, for human sins to be “removed” and/or “conquered”.

In The Trinity and the Kingdom of God, Jürgen Moltmann differentiates between what he called a “fortuitous” and a “necessary” Incarnation.

The latter gives a salvation reason to the Incarnation: the Son of God had to became a man so that he could save us from our sins.

The former speaks of the Incarnation as a fulfilment of the Love of God, of his desire to be present and living amidst humanity, to “walk in the garden” with us. Moltmann favours this view of Incarnation primarily because he feels that to speak of an incarnation of “necessity” is to do an injustice to the life of Christ.

Just image

John Piper says I can conceive, though it stretches me to the limit, of a Being who never had a beginning, and has a particular character.

I can imagine that this God has always been conscious of himself. That is, he has always had his own image before him to contemplate and enjoy because of his greatness and his moral beauty.

And could it not be that this image, this form, is so clear and so real in God that it, too, is God, the image of God, the form of God, the Son of God?

The advantage of such a picture is that it helps us see that the Son, who is the very image and glory of God, is indeed begotten by the Father and yet is not created.

There never was a time when God the Father did not have this perfect, real, and living image of himself. They are co-eternal. The Son is eternally begotten, not created.

We should feel once more feel the awe, the fear, the astonishment, the wonder of the Son of God, begotten by the Father from all eternity, reflecting all the glory of God, being the very image of his person, through whom all things were created, upholding the universe by the word of his power.

You can read every fairy tale that was ever written, every mystery thriller, every ghost story, and you will never find anything so shocking, so strange, so weird and spellbinding as the story of the incarnation of the Son of God.

When Jesus said, “For this I have come into the world,” he said something as crazy and weird and strange and eerie as any statement in science fiction that you have ever read.