Vol. 8, No. 4
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The incarnation (or taking a fleshly body) of Jesus Christ is essential and foundational to Christianity; the incarnation of Jesus Christ cannot be overemphasized. Without the substitutionary sacrifice of the incarnate God on Calvary's cross, there could be no forgiveness of sins. Without the resurrection from the dead of incarnate God, death would not have been vanquished so we also may resurrect from the dead someday. The incarnation of Jesus Christ is so vital to Christianity that it is a chief test of fellowship!
First, we must define what we mean by the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The English word "incarnation" does not appear in our translations. "Neither the noun 'incarnation' nor the adjective 'incarnate' is biblical, but the Gk. equivalent of Lat. in carne (en sarki, 'in flesh') is found in some important NT statements about the person and work of Jesus Christ" (New Bible Dictionary). "INCARNATION A theological term for the coming of God's Son into the world as a human being. The term itself is not used in the Bible, but it is based on clear references in the New Testament to Jesus as a person 'in the flesh' (Rom 8:3; Eph 2:15; Col 1:22)" (Nelson's).
The word "incarnation" summarizes or represents in short an indisputable Bible doctrine.
That very person who was in the beginning-who was with God-and who was God, John 1:1, in the fullness of time became flesh-became incarnated by the power of the Holy Spirit, in the womb of the virgin. Allowing this apostle to have written by divine inspiration, is not this verse [John 1:14], taken in connection with John 1:1, an absolute and incontestable proof of the proper and eternal Godhead of Christ Jesus? (Clarke)
The Virgin Birth was the means by which the incarnation of Jesus Christ came about (Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:31-35; 2:11; Galatians 4:4; cf. Genesis 3:15).
Jesus was born "according to the flesh" (Rom. 1:3), in order that "through death he might bring to nought him that had the power of death" (Heb. 2:14); and further, that he might be "made like unto his brethren" so as to be a merciful and faithful high priest (Heb. 2:17). The incarnation was necessary in order for Jesus Christ to accomplish these purposes. The virgin birth was necessary in order for him to become flesh. (Highers 22)
"Absolutely essential to the Christian system is the Incarnation of Christ-and, the virgin birth is the how and the when of the Incarnation" (Cates 301). John 1:1, 14 makes it clear that "the Word became flesh" "by being born in Bethlehem of the Virgin Mary" (McGarvey and Pendleton). Briefly, the incarnation pertains to God the Son coming to earth (sent by God the Father, John 3:17; 5:37; 1 John 4:14) in bodily form (i.e., with a literal body, Hebrews 10:5).
The incarnation (or taking a fleshly body) of Jesus Christ is essential and foundational to Christianity; the incarnation of Jesus Christ cannot be overemphasized. "The doctrine of the incarnation is fundamental to Christianity, and is the basis upon which the entire fabric of revealed religion rests. It is presented to our faith from the plane of the miraculous, and is to be considered as the one all-comprehensive miracle of Christianity" (McClintock and Strong).
The subject of the incarnation of Jesus Christ necessitates the pre-existence of Jesus Christ. "Incarnation of the Savior. God manifested in the flesh. Jesus didn't begin His life in Bethlehem. He was there when Bethlehem's site was created (John 1:1-14). He was eternally God and equally God. John describes his incarnation in four words where Luke used hundreds (Heb. 5:7-8). 'Who in the days of his flesh'" (Clark, "Members" 262). "Christ was the Word in His pre-existent state, not the Son until the incarnation: Luke 1:35; John 1:1)..." (Mosher 312).
We hasten to acknowledge that Jesus Christ, though incarnate, retained his full Deity. Thomas acknowledged the humanity and Deity of the resurrected Lord (John 20:27-28). The apostle Paul affirmed the simultaneous humanity and Deity of Jesus Christ (Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6-11; Colossians 2:9).
The incarnation of Jesus Christ is the subject of Scripture in both testaments of the Bible. The Old Testament predicted the incarnation of Jesus Christ. The apostle Paul affirmed that the incarnation of Jesus Christ was "promised fore by his prophets in the holy scriptures" as pertaining to "the seed of David according to the flesh" (Romans 1:2-4). Genesis 3:15 is the very first intimation of the then future incarnation of Jesus Christ. "The first announcement of the divine incarnation was given not while Adam and Eve remained in a state of innocency, but after they had rebelled against their Maker" (Pink). God's promise to Abraham about the blessing upon all humanity through a descendant of Abraham was found to be further intimation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Genesis 12:3; Acts 3:22-26). The inspired prophecy of Moses respecting another Prophet/Lawgiver (of the New Testament) coming from among the Israelites was found to be further intimation of the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Deuteronomy 18:15, 18; Acts 3:22-26). Prominent Old Testament passages about the Virgin Birth of "the mighty God" foretell the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Isaiah 7:14; 9:6). "When one deals with the virgin birth of our Lord, he deals with the incarnation of Jesus" (Clark, "Virgin Birth" 188). Old Testament prophecy that the Being "from everlasting" who would "be ruler in Israel" and come from Bethlehem speaks to the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Micah 5:2).
In the OT prophecies, which represent Christ as a person both human and divine, He is set forth in "the seed" of the woman, a descendant of Abraham, of Judah, and of David, "a man of sorrows." But He is also called "the Mighty God," "the Eternal Father," "the Son of God," "the Lord [Jehovah] our righteousness." Although these familiar Scriptures do not formally state the doctrine of the incarnation, they logically suggest or lead up to it. (New Unger's)
The New Testament is filled with doctrinal statements about the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Although the doctrine does not rest for its authority upon isolated proof texts, but rather upon the Scripture revelation as a whole, still there are certain utterances of great weight in which the truth is distinctly, and we may say even formally, stated (see John 1:1-14, cf. 1 John 1:1-3; 4:2-3; Rom 1:2-5; Phil 2:6-11; 1 Tim 3:16; Heb 2:14). The only way in which the force of these teachings can be set aside or lessened is by proving lack of authority on the part of the Scriptures. (New Unger's)
John 1:1 and 14 are unexcelled in reference to the incarnation of Jesus Christ. "Even the most casual of readers must be impressed with the logical and verbal connection between verse 1 and verse 14 of this remarkable chapter. The Word was (evermore existed) and became flesh (at a specific point in time) and dwelt among men" (Woods). Philippians 2:7-8 avows that Jesus Christ "was made in the likeness of men" and "in fashion as a man." The "Son of man" passages affirm the incarnation of Jesus Christ (Daniel 7:13; Matthew 8:20; 9:6; 10:23; 11:19; 12:8, 40; 16:27-28; 17:9, 12; 19:28; 20:18; 24:27, 30; 25:31-46; 26:24, 64; Mark 10:45; 14:61-62; Luke 9:43-44; 19:10; John 1:51; 3:13-14; 6:27, 53; 12:23; Acts 7:56; Revelation 1:13; 14:14). Scripture is riddled with passages respecting the incarnation of Christ so that hardly any other doctrine has more biblical support (as evident from citations variously organized herein).
The incarnation of Jesus Christ is an indisputable fact. The apostle Paul affirmed that the incarnation of Jesus Christ was "without controversy" (1 Timothy 3:16). "Paul emphasizes that there is no dispute about the truth which he is about to state. It is 'without controversy.' He continued by saying, 'Great is the Mystery.' The truth about to be stated had been a great mystery, but is not at this time a mystery at all" (Cook 116) .
Even the divinely given names of Mary's child indicate the incarnation of Jesus Christ. "The name Jesus was given to emphasize salvation (save His people from their sins), and the name Emmanuel was given to emphasize incarnation (God with us)" (Webster 478).
Denial of the incarnation of Jesus Christ is heresy! Ralph Gilmore correctly assessed Scripture when he wrote that "...the doctrine of the incarnation of Jesus is a matter that presents a test of fellowship" (207). "The apostolic writers clearly see that both the deity and the manhood of Jesus are fundamental to his saving work. ...We should, therefore, expect the NT to treat any denial that Jesus Christ was both truly divine and truly human as a damning heresy, destructive of the gospel; and so it does" (New Bible Dictionary). Anyone denying "that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh...is that spirit of antichrist" (1 John 4:2-3; 2 John 7). Jesus Christ himself plainly proclaimed that he came bodily (Luke 24:39). The apostle Paul affirmed that mankind knew Jesus Christ "after the flesh" (2 Corinthians 5:16). The apostle John affirmed that he and others had "looked upon" and "handled" the flesh of Jesus Christ, which also he preached (1 John 1:1-3).
The purposes of the incarnation of Jesus Christ are many. The incarnation of Jesus Christ permitted God to experience the temptations that humans face (Hebrews 2:18; 4:15). "The mystery of the Incarnation would have been needless and fruitless, had His Humanity not been subject to all its right and ordinary conditions" (Edersheim).
The incarnation of Jesus Christ enabled mankind to have a perfect High Priest between humanity and God (Hebrews 2:17). The incarnation of Jesus Christ provided a perfect sacrifice for the sins of the world (Hebrews 9:26; 10:12). Jesus Christ was "put to death in the flesh" and "suffered in the flesh" (1 Peter 3:18; 4:1). Humanity is "reconciled in the body of his flesh through death" (Colossians 1:21-22; cf. Ephesians 2:15-16).
The incarnation of Jesus Christ was God's special means of seeking and saving the lost (Matthew 1:21; Luke 19:10; 1 Timothy 1:15; Hebrews 9:26, 28; 1 John 3:5). The power of death over humanity was destroyed through the incarnation of Jesus Christ and his subsequent resurrection from the grave (2 Timothy 1:10; Hebrews 2:14-15). The incarnation of Jesus Christ was God's means to "destroy the works of the devil" (1 John 3:8). Mankind has the opportunity to enjoy an 'abundant life' through the incarnation of Jesus Christ (John 10:10). The incarnation of Jesus Christ was victorious over the flesh, whereas the rest of humanity faltered in the flesh (Romans 8:3).
With Edersheim one must wholeheartedly exclaim: "The Incarnation of Christ was the link which bound earth to heaven..." "The incarnation was the ultimate act of communication. It testifies to the extent of God's love as he reached out to his creation. He not only knew his audience, he became one with them" (Adcox 5). Imagine the awesomeness of the incarnation of Jesus Christ.
The incarnation of the Lord Jesus Christ is the greatest miracle of all human history. That God Almighty, who made this world and made man, would condescend to the level of man, that the Son of God would take upon himself the form of man and become a servant and live among men, that he would be born of woman, whom he created, that he would subject himself to his own law and then live accordingly, are truly remarkable things to consider. (Laws 2)
God purchased his church through the blood of Jesus Christ (Acts 20:28). Through the "washing of regeneration" (baptism) we can come in contact with the saving blood of Jesus Christ (Titus 3:5; Revelation 1:5). That saving blood is also available to Christians (1 John 1:7-10).
Adcox, Jimmy. "Teaching on Preaching." Glory to God Through Christian Living and Through Christian Living. Winford Claiborne, ed. CD-ROM. Henderson: Freed-Hardeman College, 1989. 1-9.
Cates, Curtis A. "Was the Virgin Birth of Christ Necessary for Man's Salvation?" The Bible None Like It. Curtis A. Cates, ed. CD-ROM. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 1989. 301-315.
Clark, J. Winfred. "Members Must Be Prepared." Expositions of the Expositor. vol. 1. Michael R. McDaniel, ed. CD-ROM. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 2001. 259-263.
Clark, Winfred. "The Virgin Birth of Jesus Christ." Major Lessons from the Major Prophets. B.J. Clarke, ed. CD-ROM. Southaven: Southaven Church of Christ, 1995. 177-189.
Clarke, Adam. Adam Clarke's Commentary. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 1996.
Cook, Kenneth. "The Church and the Mystery of Godliness." The Epistles of I and II Timothy and Titus. Curtis A. Cates, ed. CD-ROM. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 1986. 113-120.
Edersheim, Alfred. The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah. CD-ROM. Escondido: Four Group, n.d.
Gilmore, Ralph. "Is the Restoration Movement Complete?" Family, Church and Society Restoration and Renewal. David L. Lipe, ed. Henderson: Freed-Hardeman University, 1995. 201-210.
Highers, Alan. "Why I Believe in the Virgin Birth of Jesus." Spiritual Sword 23.1 (1991): 20-22.
Laws, Jim. "The Role and Purpose of Miracles." Spiritual Sword 25.1 (1993): 2-4.
McClintock and Strong Encyclopedia. CD-ROM. Seattle: Biblesoft, 2000.
McGarvey, J.W. and Philip Y. Pendleton. The Four-Fold Gospel. Cincinnati: Standard, 1914. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2004.
Mosher, Keith A., Sr. "The Pre-existence of Christ." Jesus Christ, The Gift of God's Grace and the Object of Man's Faith. Curtis A. Cates, ed. CD-ROM. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 1992. 310-317.
Nelson's Illustrated Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Nashville: Nelson, 1986.
New Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Wheaton: Tyndale, 1962.
New Unger's Bible Dictionary. CD-ROM. Chicago: Moody P., 1988.
Pink, Arthur W. The Life of David. CD-ROM. Escondido: Ephesians Four, n.d.
Webster, Wade. "Isaac and Christ." The Book of Genesis. Curtis A. Cates, ed. CD-ROM. Memphis: Memphis School of Preaching, 2001.475-490.
Woods, Guy N. A Commentary on the Gospel According to John. Nashville: Gospel Advocate, 1989. CD-ROM. Austin: Wordsearch, 2005.