The Incarnation

T. W. Carron, Worthing

Part 2 of 12 of the series Foundations

The foundations of the faith are being attacked today as never before in the history of the Church, and these attacks are coming from leaders in Christendom. Even the truth of the incarnation, which is a bedrock of the Christian faith, is under attack, and we need to be very clear about a matter of such vital importance. Those who deny the deity, the manhood and the virgin birth of our Lord offer a false religion which is not Christianity at all.

Incarnation means "becoming flesh", and this truth is clearly expressed in the opening words of John's Gospel. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God", John 1. 1, "And the Word became flesh", v. 14 r.v. He who had created all things, v. 3, became a man. On this stupendous fact the whole truth of Christianity depends. John's Gospel states the fact in unmistakable terms. The Gospels by Matthew and Luke tell us how it came to pass.

In the Epistle to Philippians we read: ". . . Christ Jesus: who, being in the form of God, counted it not a prize to be on an equality with God, but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becom­ing obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross", 2. 5-8 R.v. This truth runs like a golden thread through the Bible from Genesis to Revelation. It begins with the promised Seed of the woman in Genesis chapter 3 and appears again and again until in Revelation we find divine titles ascribed to Jesus, the Alpha and the Omega, the Root and the Offspring of David, the King of kings and Lord of lords. Jesus Himself asserts it; when here in flesh and blood He said, "Before Abraham was, I am", John 8. 58, and again "I and my Father are one", 10. 30.

The first chapter of Hebrews, which is filled with the divine and human glories of Christ, shows us that the One who made the worlds was the One who purged our sins on the cross. What mind can measure that descent from the eternal glory of deity to the depths of Calvary's humiliation and suffering? How it baffles our thoughts when we think of Him allowing Himself to be led as a sheep to the slaughter to bear the insults and cruelty of the creatures He had made. Yet our redemption depended on the incarnation, for God alone could make atone­ment for man. No child of Adam tainted by the fall could give himself a ransom for all, 1 Tim. 2. 6.

Immediately after the fall God pronounced that mysterious promise that the Seed of the woman should crush the serpent's head, Gen. 3. 15. Note it is the woman's seed. Satan had used her to bring in sin and death; God would use her to bring in the Saviour of mankind. The seed of the woman points to the virgin birth. Passing over the many allusions to the coming of Christ in the earlier books of the Bible we come to the well-known prophecy in Isaiah "a virgin (more accurately the virgin, R.v. marg.) shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel" (meaning God with us), Isa. 7. 14. This passage has been subject to attack by modernists and infidels from early times. It is most unfortunate that the R.s.v. renders the passage "Behold a young woman shall conceive and bear a son", for a young woman could mean in English a married woman and this leaves the matter open to misconcep­tion. In the first place the inspired Gospel of Matthew quotes the prophecy as "a virgin shall be with child". The Septuagint translation of the Old Testament, which was made in 200 B.C. in Greek, uses the Greek word "parthenos" which means virgin. The prophet states "the Lord himself shall give you a sign". It would be no sign at all for a young woman to bear a child; that is an everyday occurrence. But for a virgin to conceive would indeed be a miracle. Obviously it could not refer to the wife of Ahaz or Isaiah. The Hebrew word trans­lated virgin in our Authorised Version is "Alma". "In using the word alma Isaiah employs the one word which is never applied (either in the Bible or other Near East sources) to anyone but an unmarried woman" (New Bible Dictionary, I.V.F., p. 557). Now look at Isaiah 9. 5, "All the armour of the armed man in the tumult, and the garments rolled in blood, shall even be for burning, for fuel of fire. For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with judgment and with righteous­ness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts shall perform this", Isa. 9. 5-7 R.v. Who could this Child be but the virgin-born son of chapter 7, Immanuel -God with us, the Word become flesh, our Saviour and Redeemer the Lord Jesus Christ? He, the Prince of Peace, will bring peace to this troubled world, but this awaits His second coming.

Before turning to the account of our Lord's birth in the New Testament, let us look at one more Old Testament Scripture: "But thou, Beth-lehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting", Mic. 5. 2. Seven hundred years before it came to pass the very place where the Incarnation took place, the very town where the virgin bore the Child, Immanuel, is named and what does it say of Him? He is to be ruler in Israel - a prophecy yet to be fulfilled; and who is He? The One whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting, - the Mighty God of Isaiah.

Now for the fulfilment of these prophecies. In the first chapter of Matthew we read, "But while he thought on these things, behold, the angel of the Lord appeared unto him in a dream, saying, Joseph, thou son of David, fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost. And she shall bring forth a son, and thou shalt call his name jesus: for he shall save his people from their sins", I. 20-21. In Luke's Gospel we have a more detailed account which includes the angel's words to Mary, "The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God", 1. 35. The ancient promise is then fulfilled. Man, as such, had nothing to do with this. It was a miraculous operation of the Holy Spirit, so the angel adds "therefore that holy (the word "thing" is not in the original) shall be called Son of God". No babe born of any human father was born holy. David even says "I was born in sin". Every child of Adam carried the taint of sin, but this One was different, He was born holy - utterly sinless, undented and incorruptible from birth. Such a One could alone become an atonement for man's sin. Here was the true Lamb of God, without blemish and without spot.

At twelve years of age He expressed His divine Sonship in the words to His parents, "wist ye not (i.e. did you not know) that I must be about my Father's business?", Luke 2. 49. At thirty years of age when He emerged from the Jordan at His baptism the heaven was opened and God's voice declared: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased", Matt. 3. 17. Similar words were uttered again on We may follow His footsteps through the Gospels to the cross and the grave, and on to His resurrection and ascension, began. But here is a marvellous truth, He is still a man in heaven. He has not, and never will, discard manhood. He is no longer in the flesh and blood condition of His earthly life, He has a body of glory, Phil. 3. 21. "For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead (deity) bodily", i.e. "bodily form", Col. 2. 9. And, "when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is", 1 John 3. 2. He has for ever, yet, adorable mystery (!), He will never cease to be man. On this fact depend all our blessings now and eternally.