This is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about: His mother Mary was pledged to be married to Joseph, but before they came together, she was found to be with child through the Holy Spirit. Matthew 1:18
When the fullness of the time came, God sent his Son born of a woman.... Galatians 4:4
What does the Incarnation mean to you?
The incarnation is not just about Christmas, it could be said it is the prologue to Christianity. It is introducing to us the God-Man, who is eternally existing and who comes as fully God and becomes fully man. He becomes flesh and dwells among us. God is now one of us, God among people, personally conveying His Love, personally giving us His grace! As God extends His grace outward and forward to all people. God is the God of the universe-of all things. Christ brings the Gospel to all. Jesus is relevant to all people of all times, of all ethnicities, ages, and places. The only restriction is to those who are not His-who refused His offer.
The Incarnation simply means God came to be a man. He was fully man while remaining fully God. The Incarnation fulfills God's purpose, as Christ the Creator submitted to the Father in His manifestation into humanity, becoming Fully God and Fully Human, to become and serve humanity, this was His ultimate triumph. He is Holy and as the "incarnate Son," remained loyal and obedient to His own precepts and the challenge of sin and worldliness (Heb. 1:2; 3:1-2; 4:15; 5:7-14; 7:26; 9:14; John 1:1-18).
As the Gospel of John put it, The Word became flesh. Christ who is fully God-the ultimate "reason," the same "substance" and "essence" of God, the Creator-came into His creation as both an eternal being and a created being, a man-fully God and fully man. Not a half and half or some hybrid! The Holy Spirit and full force of God came together. Christ, who is not a created or made being, came into the world as one of us. This means that Jesus Christ, being fully Divine, was also born into the world as a full-fledged person who would live in our place, fulfill the law, and become our substitute for the penalty of sin we incurred. He took that penalty and paid it by His sacrifice on the Cross and His shed blood (Joel 2:32; Matt. 20:28; 26:36-46; John 1:14-19; 29; 3:13-18; 8:28, 58; 19:35; 21:24; Rom. 5:8; 8:32; 9:5; 10:9-13; 2 Cor. 5:19-21; 8:9; 12:8-9; 13:14; Phil. 2:5-8; Col. 1:15-17; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:3-12)..
This is the heart and purpose and reason of not just Christmas but Christianity, of whom and what Christ is, and what He came to do. Without this Incarnation or His Virgin Birth, we have nothing of real substance, nothing that can save us; rather we just have a meaningless religion with some good ideas!
The Incarnation means Christ dwelt amongst us and is still dwelling in and within us. As the early Jews entered God's Tabernacle or Temple where God can be found, now we pitch our tent (life) with God, as now He comes to us. Theologically this indicates the temporary period of time Jesus would be on earth and, in context of the Gospels, the eternity He gives us to be with Him. Here is Jesus, being fully God, dwelling among His people, and now living in our hearts and in eternity. But wait, there is more! Now we have an active, involved, loving, and caring God who knows us as our Creator and who also lives humanity's experiences firsthand. He is the One in whom we can place our hope, love, and faith. Even though, the Divine is dynamically opposed to human nature, God made it possible for Jesus (Ex. 3:12-14; 25:8; 33:7-11; 40:34-35; John 6:35, 48-51; Acts 14:11; Col. 2:9).
The incarnation creates the Way, so Jesus could not only save us from our sins, but can also identify with our plight in life. As He lived a normal human existence for over thirty years, He experienced all that we experienced, including all the emotions, joys, hurts, frustrations, anger, relationships, and temptations. This means we receive His work of redemption and regeneration through grace, and we belong to Christ. We even share in the Son's rights as well as blessings we receive as the children of God. This also means we have victory as He delivers us and tramples our sin, our enemies; our future inheritance is insured. What we earn is placed as our eternal reward (Psalm 3:2, 8; 18:2; 35:3; 71:15; 132:16; Rom. 8:17, 29; Heb.2:10; 6:12).
The incarnation, as Hebrews puts it, God brings his firstborn into the world. This means Jesus as the "Royal Personage" who humbles Himself to "condescend" to be human, to assume our nature to battle sin. As the Firstborn, the Almighty Lord God (Yahweh) is applied to Christ. He takes the inheritance rights and is the ranking leader, The Supreme Superiority in the universe, a King of kings, LORD of lords-The KING. This does not mean Jesus was born, because He is eternal; rather it is His role to rule (Ex. 4:22; Deut. 21:17; Psalm 89:26-27; 97:7; Luke 2:13-14; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:5-14).
The incarnation is exemplified in the Christmas story as God's angels worshiped Him. Angels worship Christ as they proclaimed His superiority by worshiping Him. Christ is superior and greater than any angel, deity, thought, religion, ritual, philosophy, idea, role or priesthood, or any tradition; He supersedes any decree of any religion, Prophets or Law (Heb. 2:5-18).
Do you just see a baby Jesus or do you see LORD Jesus?
The incarnation may show us a helpless baby Jesus in a manger, but He is still greater than everything! He is greater by His Name, His role, His Work and His purpose. These have been given by God for Him and presented to us. Jesus is the Son and the eternal Sovereign God; God wants the entire universe to recognize Christ's LORDSHIP and rule. In fact, all that ever was and ever is and ever will be must recognize and worship Jesus as LORD. All must know and see the Son as Royal, God eternal. He who made the universe made you and me, runs all things, and knows all things; His love is inexhaustible and His holiness indescribable. He has always existed and will always endure forever, yet all other things will eventually fade. His enemies-those who hate God and everything that is good-will be judged and will be humiliated. Yet, the baby is what we see at Christmas, surrounded by angels, shepherds and servants of God, who worship Him and care for Him as a seemingly powerless infant Jesus, who of ultimate power came to save and serve us!
Here are some thoughts for your Christmas
A few years ago a secular singer named Joan Osborne wrote and sang a popular song, "One of Us," which asked the question, "What if God were one of us?" I found this song riveting. Although the theology was way off, a plea was made, seeking to know why we exist. Where is God in all of this life, and what if He lived my life? The answer of course is yes, Joan, God is one of us, or at least was. That is what the incarnation is all about.
Jesus is one of us, as He drove nails as He worked with His earthly father, where God the Father sent Him to the cross, where nails were driven into Him for us. He obeyed His earthly mother when she asked Him to take out the trash. He played, He worked, and He lived the life of a man, a human being, with all that we have in our makeup that makes us human. He went to sleep at night, and awoke to a normal life with all of the stresses and opportunities a human could have in the first century. Therefore, we can never say to Him, Hey, God, You do not understand my situation or me! For, He does indeed understand. He has indeed been where we are. He may not have gone to high school in Burbank, driven a car, programmed a DVR, or held a job in a cubical with an annoying boss, but He has experienced all that is important in life that we experience and wonder about!
We need to have a grasp on who we are in Christ, and who Christ is. This is the foundation of being a Christian. Who is He? What did He do for me? What is my role and purpose? These themes stand out as we celebrate Christmas, because Christmas is the celebration of what we call the incarnation, that is, that Christ, being fully God Who created the universe, Who always existed, chose to come down to us, to be one of us. Consider what you may have learned in school, especially in science, since science demands that every event must have a cause. Science demands the classic if/then statement in logic and reasoning. If it is raining, then it must be cloudy. If you are a Christian, then you have been saved. That event had a cause. If you sinned and you are saved, then you received some kind of a miracle. The cause of sin itself (original sin as well as our willful disobedience) creates the ultimate need of our salvation.
Then comes the other cause of our being a Christian, and that is a Redeemer Who was necessary to save us. God, Who was one of us, lived in this world and in its sin. Yet, Christ remained sinless. He did not concede to the temptation thereby enabling us to be saved so that we would not be lost forever. Then, comes the if of the logical equation of we humans in temptation, and sin, which is in need. The if is the presence of a sinless man in the midst of a universally sinful human race. It all comes down to the cause for which we celebrate, which is the Christmas miracle. That miracle happened, the incarnation happened, for our salvation. So, why have the Incarnation?
Why have a Virgin Birth?
Because such a person as Jesus Christ demanded it! This was a special birth that, as the Gospels record, showed us His Divine nature. The HOW of the birth becomes believable when the WHO of the birth is taken into account. We, as humans, are all born into, and with, original sin. By skipping the original sin, Christ became the second Adam (more precisely the first, since He is preexistent). As Adam represented all of humanity in the fall, Christ represented all of humanity in the redemption. Christ needed to be isolated from the original sin so it would not affect Him, so He could do what Adam could not do which was to remain sinless. If this had not been so, then the unique Jesus, who was born as one of us, would have created an unapproachable hurdle without the Virgin Birth. He would be unable, as we know it, to overcome the original sin that plagues us all. Would not the pre-existence of Christ necessitate such a miracle birth? Perhaps He could have come in some other way. We just do not know all of the options. But, if He had, then He would not have been one of us!
However, if we do not accept that Jesus was born special and unique, then we cannot accept that He is God. The incarnate Son of God is pure and holy and thus cannot touch sin. If He did, then He would be corrupted and unable to take our place by living a sin free life. He would be unable to save us. Thus, the Virgin Birth becomes logically inevitable and necessary. Who could be the Father of the Son of God but God Himself?
Do you know who Jesus is? He is the face of God! He is the One who eternally lives and reveals to us the Father. He is the one who gives you life and the light of the Word for your salvation! We know God by knowing Christ, who is God. We know Him by knowing His written Word that carries to us His living Word. Are you living your life because of Who He is and what He has done for you? Are you forever devoted to Christ as LORD? Does your character reflect Who Christ is and what He is doing in you? Do you believe in the eternal Christ? Are you living up to what you believe with trust and hope? If not, why not?
Liberals use the Virgin birth as a scapegoat to reject the Truth claims of Christ, so they can insert their own false truths and live the way they want to live, not in service to the King! Do not let this doctrine distract or excuse you because you may not understand it. Consider that it was accepted by the early church and is included in all of the great Christian creeds. Justin Martyr included it among the cardinal items of Christian belief. The apologist Aristides accepted it. Ignatius, Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, and Luther insisted on it. So, how about you (1 Pet. 4:19)?
The Meaning of Virgin Birth
What does the term, Virgin Birth, mean? Jesus was born by the result of what we call the Miraculous Conception. His mother, Mary, who did not have sexual relations with His earthy stepfather Joseph, conceived our Lord in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit. Then Mary gave birth to Jesus without a human father. (why Mary is not the poster women for women's rights and liberation groups, I will never know!) The Virgin Birth does not imply that Jesus was born in a manner different from any other child. He was born in exactly the same way as you and I. Nor, does it suggest that there was merely a Miraculous Conception as in the case of Sara or Elizabeth who were past age. Mary was a young woman, perhaps in her late teens, as was the custom then. It does not mean Immaculate Conception as taught by the Roman Catholic Church, for that dogma asserts that Mary was also conceived and born without original sin, a claim for which there is not a scant of Biblical evidence!
Jesus came into this world as a baby, with all of the human weaknesses, needs and desires. He had to be fed, changed, cared for, nurtured, educated, protected and loved, just as one of us. Yet, it was a virgin conception, an event entirely without parallel! Yet, He was still fully God Creator and Sustainer of all things. Modern science with test tube babies, artificial fertilization, insemination and genetic resequencing still requires the seed of a man and the egg of a woman. Even in the case of cloning, the building blocks of the human geneo are already in place, for God created them. Science does nothing but rearrange the "Legos" that God created. Contrary to the course of nature, Jesus was miraculously conceived in the womb of Mary. She was the host or segregate, as the Holy Spirit overshadowed her. To which percentage of her DNA did God use, 100%, 50%, 10%, or 0%? We do not know. So, our Lord and Savior could not only be identified as humanity's own, as one of us, but also still be able to save us.
The normal process of original sin was short circuited so He could be the Adam who did not sin, so He could take our place in life and in death, so He could live for us in the perfection that we could not, and take the punishment of God's wrath that we deserved, not Him! All this was possible because of the Virgin Birth. The transmission of humanities sinful nature and heritage was interrupted by this miraculous conception. Yes, Christ was one of us, He was fully human born without corruption, and yet, He was also, and still is, and forever will be, fully God. Was He still able to sin? Yes. Although this may be debated theologically, the Biblical evidence is that He was able to fall, but He did not! That was what His temptation in the wilderness was all about; yet He remained steadfast as our Protectorate and Savior.
Alternatives to the Virgin Birth
It is argued by liberal thinking people that the Bible does not insist on our believing in the virgin birth as a requirement for salvation. It is further argued that the virgin birth did not even take place, but that Believers added it later. Many pastors and denominations dismiss the supernatural aspects of the Bible and cut the virgin birth from their beliefs. In fact, surveys state that with Reformed and conservative Evangelicals, over 90% of pastors polled believe in the resurrection, virgin birth, and the validity of Scriptures. Depending on the denomination, only between 19% and 60% of mainline ministers believe in the virgin birth of Jesus (FASICLD and Barna).
So, does a belief in the virgin birth require our obedience? The Bible plainly teaches the fact of the virgin birth. If you believe the Bible to be true, then the virgin birth must be true also. And, Jesus has to be God for us to be saved. Is it possible for a person to be saved without knowing the details of the process? I believe so. Just as babies are born without any knowledge of embryology or just as I type this article into my computer without knowing all the details of how a computer works, the process continues. It is the integrity of the fact of Whom Christ is, not our knowledge of every detail that lays the basis for our salvation.
Let us consider the alternatives, and ask if this doctrine is fact or fiction.
If the Virgin Birth did not happen, then...
· The New Testament narratives are proven false and the Bible's authority is raided. Thus, it is also inaccurate in other matters.
· Mary, instead of being blessed among women, is a fornicator, an adulteress, and must be branded as unchaste, for Joseph asserted that Jesus was not his son.
· Jesus becomes the ordinary child of sinful parents with the corruption of original sin, and is not the result of incarnation. Thus, His preexistence did not happen, and thus He not only is not God, but also, He is not able to redeem us, and is not worthy of our worship and adoration.
· We no longer have a sufficient explanation of His unique character, if He had one. Thus, He did not have a sinless life, and was unable to take our place in life, living the sinless life that we could not live. He was unable to pay the price of our sin and appease God's wrath for us.
· He was begotten of a human father. This could be the only alternative to the virgin birth. He was just a man, a good teacher, maybe a prophet. Jesus Christ could not be the Second Person of the Trinity as He claimed, and therefore has no power to forgive our sin.
· The miracle of Miraculous Conception is refuted and nullified. We no longer have a Savior, thus there is no need to "do" church.
· Logically, we should deny all miracles, as they do not nor cannot happen. The question we should be asking and seeking is, are we willing to accept the super-naturalistic claims of Scripture or not?
The Incarnation and Virgin Birth are the starting point of knowing who Christ is. It points to His humanity, as He became one of us, and His Godhood, as the One Who came to save us. When we deny this essential doctrine, we deny Scripture. We set ourselves up, as fallen humans, to be the ultimate authority. We say in essence that God is irrelevant and perhaps even non-existent in our lives. We say there is no sin, which even the daily newspapers testify to be a false statement. We make the claim for ourselves that we have no need to be saved. What extreme arrogance and hopelessness we would have.
The incarnation shows us The God, who deeply loves us and has a plan, even against our hurts and the most heinous evil powers, persecutions, and disruptions of liberty and life. God is in control! As a Christian, we are a deeply and truly loved child of God; we are accepted in Him and we have a plan that is in Him; thus, we have no need or reason to freak, fear, or to stress, for He is in control and is Sovereign. Satan cannot buffet against Him nor can he buffet against us when we are in Christ.
The incarnation plainly tells us that we have abundant peace and serenity when we are in Christ, because He is our All in All! Keep in mind our call to faithfulness as the most supreme honor we can give our Lord. Christ insists on our active faith, commitment, and loyalty fueled in our passionate devotion to Him for which there is abundant reward!
As Christians, whether leaders and pastors or new or old, we all have the same standards and call to be of faith, to trust and to obey. God works it all out for His glory as stated in Romans, chapter eight. God is indeed in control. He is indeed a friend to all who will call Him Lord. He is a friend to sinners, the obscure, the poor, and the friendless, the depressed, the hurting, the needy and those who think there is no need-His hand is always reaching out. He comes as a helpless baby, but He does not stay as one. We need to see the magnificence, at least a small glance into the mystery, awe and wonder of God's Grace and incarnation, and how He intercedes and loves. It all points us to Christ, the One who saved us and the One whom we worship and trust as Lord over all-with our lives too!
Take this key point to heart and into the streets of your life: God is the God of promises. God made promises, and God keeps His promises! This means for you too! We all have hope beyond all hope, reason, and purpose! We have faith that is deeper and wider than we could ever imagine, a gift that we did not earn or deserve. Jesus the King, who was also the son of David and the son of Abraham, fulfilled that promise and demonstrated this faith! In addition, when you accepted Him, you became part of the promise and faith fulfilled.
Faith is not inherited! We cannot get it from our parents or our church, even though our lineage may be passed down for generations. Faith is personal and relational to Christ for each individual person who is in community with the Church, and it is to be real! As parents, we are responsible for bringing our children up in His light and character, but we are also responsible for receiving His grace and modeling His faith!
Because of the Incarnation we can...
· Have the faith and confidence that God does keep His word!
· Trust Him with all of our needs, worries, and problems, even if we do not understand what God is doing!
· Know that God transcends time. Therefore, when we are going through trials and tribulations, He is there-before, during, and after-carrying us through!
· Emulate Christ by keeping our promises to our faith, and our behaviors toward others around us!
· Be reminded of God's Grace and mercy!
Jesus is the ultimate humbler; He humbled Himself by becoming a helpless infant taking on the likeness of a mere man; He was still also fully God when He came to this earth. He is God, Messiah, the Lord who was foretold and who has come, our Lord, our Savior and the King (Phil. 2:5-8; Heb. 2:9-18)!
It should be stated that this doctrine is at variance with nothing taught elsewhere in the New Testament. But, on the other hand, it positively correlates the pre-existence of Christ and His incarnation (Isaiah 7:10-16; Matt. 1:23; Luke 1:34-37; John 1:1-18; Rom. 1:3-4; I Cor. 15:45-49, Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:5-11; Col. 1:15-19; Heb. 1:1-14; 2:14-18; 4:15).
Have a very merry Christmas, and do not forget the Christ in the Christmas!