“But had we the tongue of men and angels, we were not able in any just measure to express the glory of this condescension; for it is the most ineffable effect of the divine wisdom of the Father and of the love of the Son – the highest evidence of the care of God towards mankind. What can be equal unto it? What can be like it? It is the glory of the Christian religion, and power of all evangelical truth.”
– John Owen, The Glory of Christ
I will not pretend all that can be said about the glories of the incarnation of the 2nd Person of the Trinity will be said here. However, since it is Christmas, it felt appropriate to call upon the Scriptures and be reminded of the wonder of the incarnation.
The incarnation of Christ is a beautiful thing. But the question could be asked, “Why the incarnation?” Why this way and not that way? Why did God do this, rather than something else? Certainly, the answer to that finds it’s ultimate solution in the eternal decree and plan of God to most glorify Himself (Ephesians 1: 20). However, the Bible does give us many reasons from that redemptive decree for why Jesus took on flesh. Here then are three biblical reasons for the incarnation. Here are three reasons why Jesus took on flesh.
I. To Serve
Philippians 2: 3-8,
“Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ 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.“
Paul addresses the Philippian congregation and calls them to humility. He calls them to be humble and to put others before themselves. He then proceeds to point to the greatest act of humility the world has ever seen to serve as their example; namely, the incarnation.
Paul had the mindset that the act of the incarnation is the premier act of humility to the world. That Christ Jesus, creator of all things, would become a creature, and not only be found in the form of a man, but also become a servant, is the highest expression of humility the world will ever know.
Certainly, as creatures, being a servant is part of our nature. We are not self-sustaining. We are serving creatures. Christ Jesus is no servant. He has no obligation to serve, to sacrifice, or to lay things aside, yet, He willfully emptied Himself.
This means that the incarnation is more than a means to an end. It certainly is that (see number II) but it is more than that. The act of the incarnation itself, apart from the cross, was an incredible act of humility and love to people. That God would become man, walk our soil, breath our air, and experience our hurts, that is proof that God loves us. That is proof He is for us and not against us.
The incarnation was the means for Christ to demonstrate His humility and love for man, that He would be made like us to serve us, and ultimately die for us, as one of us.
II. To Die
Hebrews 2: 14-15,
“Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”
The author of Hebrews presents in important argument. Jesus partook of flesh and blood, why? To destroy Satan and deliver His people through death, that is why. In other words, death was the only means to conquer evil and save sinners. The problem however, is two-fold. Only God has the right to do this, and God cannot die.
Only God, the only perfect Being, has the right and prerogative to die for sinners. Another sinner is not allowed that privilege.
Only God has the power to raise from the dead. No creature can raise themselves from death.
Clearly, only God can conquer evil and atone for sins. However, this must be done through death, and God cannot die. How can a God who cannot die, die for sins? The answer is the incarnation. Jesus took on flesh and blood so that God could die.
In the hypostatic union, Jesus added a human nature to Himself. He brought on a nature capable of bleeding and dying. Thus, God solved the problem. Because of the incarnation, God could finally die, and simultaneously not be defeated in death.
Attached to this idea is the ever important doctrine of substitutionary atonement. The incarnation is necessary because atonement for sins is necessary.
Were God unjust, He could simply “forgive” people without requiring payment. That’s what corrupt judges do. They disregard law in order to wink at crime. Were God unjust, He could do the same. He could avoid the cross, and “just forgive us.” The problem is, were God unjust, He wouldn’t be God.
God is just. This means sweeping sin under the rug with a “boys will be boys” attitude is not a possible means of absolution. God required payment, and only He had the funds to make this payment. “Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins” (Hebrews 22). Because of the incarnation, Love could bleed.
III. To Mediate
Hebrews 2: 18,
“For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.”
Hebrews 4: 14-16,
“Since then we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us then with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.”
One of the most significant roles of Christ is that of our High Priest. Christ forever intercedes for His people (Hebrews 7:25). This is made possible because of the incarnation. In order to represent us, He had to be us. He had to know who and what He represents.
As the verses above indicate, no mercy would be available in Christ were He not willing to be tempted, and to suffer as we do. Because He can emphathize with our weaknesses, we can expect grace. The incarnation allowed Jesus to be truly human. He experienced a real, human life. He endured what we endure. This makes Him fitting to be our mediator and representative. He can be our Priest; He is one of us.
Christmas is the best time of the year. In this time we remember who Christ Jesus is. We remember what He has done. We remember the greatest event in all of human history. God broke silence and pierced through the night. Through the virgin’s womb, God was made low. He humbled Himself, He came to our door, He came running to us.
God did not give us just another prophet, or just another apostle, or just another message. Through the incarnation, God gave us Himself.