In the Flesh (Part 1 of 2)
The subject of the next 2 blog entries is the Bible’s teaching on Christ and his Incarnation. Why is this even worth discussing? We’ll spend some time answering just that question.
The incarnation is central to the Christian gospel. Why? As noted by several of the Church Fathers, anything that God did not assume is not redeemed. In Christ, the Father has provided us with the perfect mediator, and the One who institutes the New Covenant.
Who is this baby? Before we continue to discuss the nature and consequences of the incarnation, an important clarification must be made. We shouldn’t assume we know Who was incarnated, so discussing that is helpful. We need to know Who Jesus is before we can talk of His coming to earth in the flesh. The One carried in Mary’s womb, the One wrapped in swaddling clothes in a manger, is none other than the divine Second Person of the Holy Trinity, very God of very God, consubstantial (of the same substance) with the Father, begotten, not made, God the Son (cf. the Nicene Creed). Without a distinctively Trinitarian understanding of God the incarnation just doesn’t make sense at best, or, more likely, our explanations veer off into heresy. The Father sends the Son; the Son comes in the flesh to redeem creation, and the Son is conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit.
The God-Man. In the incarnation, the divine Son enters into his humiliation, and takes the form of a bondservant in order to fulfill the role of The Servant of the Lord (cf. Isa. 52-53, Phil. 2). This is accomplished not by the Son emptying Himself of His divine attributes (he did not cease to be God.), but by taking on a fragile human nature (again, see Phil. 2., also Jn. 1:14, Gal. 4:4), and by withholding the free exercise of His divine prerogatives. The Son is both fully God, and yet fully and perfectly human (theologians refers to this mysterious relationship between Christ’s two natures as the “hypostatic union”). Yet these natures are not confused, mixed, or altered in any way. Christ is always one person with two natures (contra early errors taught by guys like Nestorius, Apollinaris, and Eutyches.)
Likewise, the incarnation presents us with what might very well be the best example of God’s plan of redeeming the created order, rather than starting from scratch Christ’s human nature was not created ex nihilo (“from nothing”) as Adam’s was (well sort of, he was made from the dirt). He was born of a woman (Gal. 4:4), and had a mother just as all other humans do. Neither did He pass through Mary, like water does through a pipe. Adoptionism is ruled out, because the Father did not simply choose an existing man to indwell, but instead commissioned his Son to take the form of a human being, indwelt by the Spirit of God. This great plan, devised by God, implies the redemption of creation, not from creation.
Next we’ll continue and conclude our little exploration into the wonderful world of incarnational Christology.