The Incarnation of Jesus Christ

Compiled by Derek Gentle


1. THE FULL DEITY OF JESUS CHRIST 

"For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily"   Colossians 2:9 

We see evidence for Christ's deity in that He does things which only God does and has attributes which only God has. For a few examples, we see Christ's deity in His: 
 

A. PREEXISTENCE

"...He who came down from heaven, that is the Son of man who is in heaven"    John 3:13 

"He who comes from heaven is above all"    John 3:31

"The birth of Jesus was not, as in ordinary births, the creation of a new personality. The person - already existing - entering on this new mode of existence"    James Orr 

"It is not possible to speak of the incarnation of one who had no previous existence"   L. Berkof
 
 

B. ETERNALITY 

"Before Abraham was, I am"    John 8:58 

"For unto us a Child is born... And His name will be called... Everlasting..."    Isaiah 9:6 
 
 

C. BEING CREATOR 

"All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made"  John 1:3 

"For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were made through Him and for Him"   Colossians 1:16 

"To the Son He says, '...You O Lord, in the beginning, laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of your hands"    Hebrews 1:10 
 
 

D. FORGIVING SINS    Luke 5:20-25 

"Who can forgive sins but God alone?"   vs. 21 

"The Son of man has power on earth to forgive sins"    vs. 24 
 
 

E. BEING CO-PARTNER IN DIVINE GLORY 

God alone possesses Glory: 
"I am the Lord, that is my name; and my glory I will not give to another"    Isaiah 42:8 

Jesus possessed this glory with the Father: 
"And now O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory I had with You before the world was"    John 17:5 
 
 

F. RECEIVING WORSHIP 

The Father says of the Son: 
"Let all the angels of God worship Him"    Hebrews 1:6 
 
 Jesus accepted the worship of others: 
"And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!' Jesus answered and said to him, 'Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed.  Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'"    John 20:28-29

Notice that Jesus does not shun his worship or redirect Thomas to worship more appropriately as the angel does in Revelation 19:10, "Then I fell down at his feet to worship him, but he said to me, "You must not do that! I am a fellow servant with you and your brethren who hold the testimony of Jesus. Worship God."  
 
 

G. SAYING HE WAS GOD 

"I and the Father are one"    John 10:30 

The Jews who heard Him say this understood what He meant. They were about to stone Him because, in their words, "You being a man, make Yourself God"  (vs. 33). 

"Philip said to Him, 'Lord show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.' Jesus said to him, 'Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father..."    John 14:8-9 
 
 

H. BEING CALLED GOD 

By the Father: 
"But to the son He says: 'Your throne O God...'"    Hebrews 1:8 

By the Gospels: 
"And the Word was God"    John 1:1 

By the Apostles: 
"And Thomas answered to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'"    John 20:29

By the prophet, Isaiah: 
"Immanuel"    Isaiah 7:14    Immanuel="God with us" 
"His name will be called Mighty God"    Isaiah 9:14  



 

2. THE GENUINE HUMANITY OF JESUS CHRIST 

"For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus"    I Timothy 2:5 

"Greek mythology abounds in stories of gods who walked the earth giving the impression that they were men. They looked like men. They acted like men. But when need arose they cast off pretense, put forth their powers, and revealed their identity. They were not really men, but gods in disguise" 
Leon Morris 
 

A.  HE TOOK ON AN ACTUAL BODY 

He was tangible: 

"That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim to you concerning the Word of life."  

I John 1:1 (NIV)

"Look at my hands,and feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have" 

Luke 24:39 (NIV)

He knew : 

Physical growth   Luke 2:52 

Weariness   John 4:6 

Hunger    Matthew 4:2; 21:18 Luke 4:2 

Thirst   John 19:28 
 

B.  HE EXPERIENCED HUMAN EMOTIONS 
Sorrow    Matthew 26:37 

Astonishment    Mark 6:6 Luke 7:9 

Grief    John 11:33 

Being Troubled    John 12:27 

Agony    Luke 22:44 

Loneliness & Abandonment    Matthew 26:38;  Mark 15:34

 

C.  HE TOOK ON A HUMAN SOUL/SPIRIT 

"He groaned in the spirit"   John 11:33 

"Father, into Your hands I commit My spirit"    Luke 23:46

"My soul is troubled"   John 12:27


"Humanity was spoiled and corrupted by the sin of Adam and Eve. Consequently, we are not true human beings, but impaired, broken down vestiges of essential humanity, and it is difficult to imagine this kind of humanity united with deity. But when we say that in the incarnation Jesus took on humanity, we are not talking about this kind of humanity. For the humanity of Jesus was not the humanity of sinful beings, but the humanity possessed by Adam and Eve from their creation and before their fall. There is no doubt then as to Jesus' humanity. The question is not whether Jesus was fully human, but whether we are..."

Millard J. Erickson

 
 
3. TWO NATURES IN ONE PERSON 

"And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh"    I Timothy 3:16 


A.  AS DISCUSSED, SCRIPTURE AFFIRMS BOTH HIS DEITY AND HIS HUMANITY 

B. HE ALWAYS REFERRED TO HIMSELF AS A SINGULAR PERSONALITY 

"I'    "Me"   "Mine"

There is nothing like, "Let us make man in our own image" (Genesis 1:26)

Thus, two natures exist in one person.


C.  CHARLES HODGE LISTS FOUR CLASSIFICATIONS OF SCRIPTURAL REFERENCES TO CHRIST

(1) Those which apply to His whole Person as the God-Man "Redeemer"   "Priest" (2) Those which apply exclusively to His divine nature

"Before Abraham was, I am"    John 8:58
"The glory which I had with You before the world was"   John 17:5

(3) Those which apply to Him exclusively in His humanity 

"I thirst"     "Jesus wept"
    Hodge names two subdivisions in this category: 
  • Those references to His divine nature which are true due to His human nature

  •  
    "The church of God which He purchased with His own blood"    Acts 20:28 
     
  • Those references to His human nature which are true due to His divine nature

  •  
    "What then if you see the Son of man ascend where He was before"  John 6:62  
(4) Those which apply to Him as the God-Man, but are not true of Him in regard to His deity alone 
"The Son will be subject to Him who put all things under Him"    I Corinthians 15:28
"My Father is greater than I"   John 14:28



4. REASONS FOR THE INCARNATION 

"For the virgin birth itself carries by implication the sum and substance of the gospel" -  Carl F. H. Henry 
 

A.  The Necessity of Christ's Full Humanity 

(1) To Reveal God To Us 

"No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him"   John 1:18 
 

(2) To Be An Example To Us 

"...Leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps"     I Peter 2:21 
 

"He who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk just as He walked"    I John 2:6 
 
 

(3) To Be Able To Be Tempted 

"...God cannot be tempted by evil..."        James 1:13 

Jesus was, "In all points tempted as we are, yet without sin"   Hebrews 4:15 
 
 

(4) To Be Able To Die As Our Sacrifice 

As God Jesus could not die; God is immortal. Only as man could He die.

"You are the same and your years will have no end"    Psalm 102:27

"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, 'Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me"  Hebrews 10:4-5

 
(5) To Be Able To Fulfill God's Promise To David 

"When your days are fulfilled and you lie down with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, who shall come forth from your body, and I will establish his kingdom.  He shall build a house for my name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom for ever." 

(II Samuel 7:12-13 RSV)


 "And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end."   (Luke 1:31-33 RSV)


(6) To Defeat The Devil 

"For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil"  I John 3:8  


(7) To Be The Second (and last) Adam 

"For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. . . Thus it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being'; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit."

(1st Corinthians 15:22, 45 RSV)

"But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man's trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. . . . Then as one man's trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man's act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man's disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man's obedience many will be made righteous."   (Romans 5:15, 18-19  RSV)

Man got us into this mess; a man would have to get us out. 

"Man is the one who wronged God and must therefore make the wrong right"  

James Montgomery Boice summarizing Anselm 
 

"He is the second man, the Lord from heaven, the Son of Man who is also the Son of God incarnate for us men and for our salvation."   

Carl F. H. Henry
 

B.  The Necessity of His Full Deity 


(1) To Truly And Fully Reveal God 

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth"   John 1:14


(2) To Be A Sinless Sin-Bearer 

How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? Hebrews 9:14

We were redeemed, . . .with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 1st Peter 1:19

"The man who yields to a particular temptation has not felt its full power. He has given in while the temptation has yet something in reserve. Only the man who does not yield to a temptation, who as regards that particular temptation, is sinless, knows the full extent of that temptation"  

Leon Morris (quoted by Erickson)


(3) To Be A Sufficient Sin-Bearer 

"God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself"  II Corinthians 5:19

". . .The debt was so great that, while man alone owed it, only God could pay it, so that same person must be both man and God"   Anselm

"It was evident for the writers of the New Testament, as it should be for us, that Christ could not save if he were not fully divine. The all-sufficiency of the sacrifice depends on his absolute authority. Had he been a created being, he would have been in some sense under compulsion, a victim... And only of one who had himself absolute immortality could it be said that 'he became obedient unto death'" 

F. F. Bruce and William J. Martin


(4) To Be Outside of Adam 

"By one man's disobedience many were made sinners"   Romans 5:19

"A man born in the normal way could have been one with sinners, but he could not have been a sinless sin-bearer"   Carl F. H. Henry

 
"If Christ had been generated by man, He would have been born a human person, included in the covenant of works, and as such would have shared the common guilt of mankind. But now that His subject, His ego, His person, is not out of Adam, He is not in the covenant of works and is free from the guilt of sin. And being free from the guilt of sin, His human nature could also be kept free, both before and after His birth, from the pollution of sin." -  
L. Berkof, Systematic Theology, page 336


(5) To Unite God and Man In Reconciliation   II Corinthians 5:19 (quoted above)   


5. THE MEANS OF THE INCARNATION- THE VIRGIN CONCEPTION AND BIRTH

Jesus has neither a mother in heaven nor a father on earth
Various church fathers


"'How will this be,' Mary asked, 'since I am a virgin?' The angel answered, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God."  

Luke 1:34-35 (NIV)
 

"But after he had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, 'Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit"    

Matthew 1:20 (NIV) 
 

"What God did was to supply, by a special creation, both the human and component ordinarily contributed by the male (and thus we have the virgin birth) and, in addition, a divine factor (and thus we have the incarnation)."  

Millard Erickson, Christian Theology, page 755 
 

"The virgin birth is important because of . . . (4) The sinlessness of Christ. If he were born of two human parents, it is very difficult to conceive how he could have been exempted from the guilt of Adam's sin and become the new head of the human race." 

J. M. Frame, "Virgin Birth of Jesus"
in Evangelical Dictionary of the Bible
  


6. THE SELF-EMPTYING OF CHRIST 

The Son, never ceasing to be God, nor in any way compromising His identity, chose to, for a time,  lay aside His royal rights as God and to temporarily cease to display the splendor of His glory. He took on humanity and human responsibility. "When the time had fully come, God sent his Son, born of a woman, born under the law" (Galatians 4:4 NIV). He played by the same rules by which we play. He, as man, lived in dependance upon the Father and relied on Him for His power. 

"For I have not spoken on my own authority; the Father who sent me has himself given me commandment what to say and what to speak." (John 12:49 RSV)

"Do you not believe that I am in the Father and the Father in me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on my own authority; but the Father who dwells in me does his works." (John 14:10 RSV) 

"Who although being essentially one with God and in the form of God [possessing the fullness of the attributes which make God God], did not think this equality with God was a thing to eagerly grasped or retained; but stripped Himself [of all privileges and rightful dignity] so as to assume the guise of a servant (slave), in that He became like men and was born a human being."     Philippians 2:6-7 (Amplified) 

". . . The glory I had with you before the world was."  

Jesus praying to the Father in John 17:5 
 
  7. FALSE UNDERSTANDINGS OF CHRIST 
"A study of errors should help clarify the truth and make us more careful how we express it. Semantics are very important in the statements of theology." 
C. C. Ryrie 

A. That Christ was God and only appeared to be a man.  
(Docetism, 1st century)
 
 

B. That Christ was not God, but was elected to be the Son of God at his baptism.   
(Ebionism, 2nd century) 
 

C. That, being begotten, Christ had a beginning and was, thus,  "only" the Son of God.  That He was similar to God but not, in fact,  fully and truly God.  
(Arianism, 4th century - condemned by the Council of Nicea in 325) 
 

D. That Christ did not have a human soul and spirit.  
That as God the Divine Logos filled that role instead. (Apollinarianism, 4th century - condemned by the Council of Constantinople in 680) 
 

E. That Christ's two natures (divine and human) were distinct because He was really two separate persons. (Nestorianism, 5th century - condemned by the Council of Calcedon in 451) 
 

F. That Christ had only one nature and was neither fully divine nor fully human.    
(Eutychiansim, 5th century - condemned by the Council of Calcedon in 451)


 
Definition of Chalcedon (451 AD)

Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ. This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul [meaning human soul] and a body. He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted. Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these "last days," for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness. 
 
We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ-Son, Lord, only-begotten -- in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function. The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the"properties" of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one "person" and in one reality [hypostasis]. They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word [Logos] of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers [the Nicene Creed] has handed down to us. 
 


Christian Theology, Millard J,. Erickson, Baker Book House, 1983, 1984, 1985

"Our Lord's Virgin Birth" by Carl F. H. Henry in Readings in Christians Theology, Volume 2: Man's Need and God's Gift, Millard Erickson, editor, Baker Book House, 1976
 
"Virgin Birth of Jesus" by J. M. Frame in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Walter A. Elwell , editor, Baker Book House, 1984

"The Virgin Birth of Christ" by James Orr in The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, R. A. Torrey, A. C. Dixon,and others, editors, Baker Books, 1917 (reprinted 1996)

Systematic Theology, L. Berkof, Eerdmans, 1939, 1941

Foundations of the Christian Faith, James Montgoemery Boice, InterVarsity Press, 1986