PULPIT TODAY SERMON
Robert D. Pace
THE INCARNATION OF JESUS
JOHN 1:1-4; 14
Awhile back, I asked several Christians what the term Incarnation meant, but nobody could define the word. I know Incarnation sounds complex, nevertheless its meaning is important, and that’s because it’s one of the preeminent realities of Christianity. Would you agree that there are certain words that deserve our understanding regardless of their complexity? Words like hypertension; malignant; embolism: (“An arterial blockage, primarily from a blood clot.”) These are words important to understand! Thus, the theological word, Incarnation is also worthy of understanding; especially during the Christmas season. So, what does it mean?
(Definition) The word Incarnation describes “the state of being clothed with flesh.” Let’s allow that to sink in for a moment. “The state of being clothed with flesh.” As it pertains to Jesus, the Incarnation means this: “The Almighty God fully assumed human nature—body, soul, mind, and spirit.” But let’s not stop here! Just so we understand the magnitude of the Incarnation I want to state it this way: It means, the omnipotent God that formed the universe; the One creating angels without number, stars without limit, and galaxies uncountable, came to Earth and became a man. And when he stepped out of eternity to enter our planet he never traveled more than 100 miles from his birthplace!
That is beyond our ability to conceive; and yet it is literally the greatest act of time and eternity. This is another one of those statements that bears repeating: The Incarnation is the greatest act of time and eternity! Nothing will ever supersede God’s demonstration to humble himself and become a man where he met temptations, contended with devils, ached with hunger, thirsted for water, bore our burdens, endured insults, and died on a cross. God in Christ Jesus did this! That is the Incarnation!
(Transition) I want to discuss three aspects of the Incarnation: Point One regards the disputation of the Incarnation; Point Two regards the magnificence of the Incarnation; and Point Three involves the charity of the Incarnation. Let’s begin with its disputation.
I. The Disputation of the Incarnation
As I noted in the Introduction, this doctrine is difficult to comprehend. However, like many things in the Bible, Christians must accept this “by faith.” On the other hand, many people don’t believe this profession of the Christian Faith at all! They totally reject the Bible’s assertion that Jesus is both God and man. But this is nothing new! The Incarnation has been controversial for thousands of years. And the first place it occurred was in the Bible!
1. It’s found in John 6:42 where people rejected this claim that Jesus made about himself. This is where Jesus said he was the ‘bread from heaven,’ and then multiplied the bread and fish to feed five thousand people. But even after this phenomenon miracle there were some that looked at one another and said, [He claims he’s from Heaven? “Is this not Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know? How can he now say, ‘I came down from heaven’?” So the first place this fact was disputed was right in the face of Jesus!
2. Then after the Resurrection, the early Church took up the debate; but in an odd way! Here’s why it was odd: There were thousands of Christians that had witnessed Christ’s miracles; hundreds knew he had risen from the dead; 500 testified to his ascension into Heaven. And with their perception of “Jesus the miracle-worker” and the “Conqueror of Death,” many Christians wouldn’t reduce him to a mere mortal. They saw Jesus as being completely divine! Thus, they concluded that Jesus only seemed to be human.
This assumption is called Docetism.(Pronounced: Doe-see-tism) It suggests that “Jesus only appeared to be human, [but] . . . his inner spirit was divine . . . [It even asserts that] his body was not a truly human body.” (Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible, Merrill Tenny, Zondervan Pub., 1976, Volume III, page 272.) The Apostle John refuted that error in I and II John.)
3. For 300 years following Christ’s Ascension people continued debating Christ’s dualistic nature. They couldn’t determine whether he was all God and none man; or all man and none God. And by the Fourth Century, the Incarnation so confused Christians that a special conference convened, known as the Council of Nicea, to settle the issue. Fortunately, the conference resolved that Jesus was, “substance of the Father, God of God and Light of Light, very God of very God.”
I know the Incarnation is difficult to decipher. But there’s only one conclusion when you examine the Scriptures. Jesus of Nazareth was 100% God and 100% man. Scripture doesn’t explain how these two natures intermingle, it just unequivocally states it, and then leaves Christians to believe it. And again, that’s how it is with everything in the Bible. It states the facts and then expects a faith-filled response.
Let’s take one more look at the dual nature of Jesus as the God-man:
When He fasted he grew hungry, as a man. But when He saw the famished multitudes He fed them, as God.
When He traveled, He grew weary and thirsted, and had to rest as a man. But when He encountered storms He domesticated them, as God.
When He lost a friend in death He wept, as a man. But when He stood at the gravesite He raised Lazarus from the dead, as God.
When He was gouged, pierced, and crucified He suffered and surrendered his life, as a man. But three days later He broke the chains of death, as God.
I want you to consider two things that the Incarnation makes possible:
If Jesus were not 100% man then his sacrifice would not have met God’s criteria as our substitute for sin. And thus, his work on the Cross would have been unacceptable.
Secondly, if Jesus weren’t 100% God our worship would be idolatrous, because God doesn’t not permit us to worship mere flesh!
But Jesus is more than a man. He’s the God-man. He is the perfect sacrifice and the One worthy of worship.
(Transition) That’s the controversy of the incarnation, but second, let’s discuss, The Magnificence of the Incarnation.
II. The Magnificence of the Incarnation
Reading the Gospel accounts from Matthew and Luke are beautiful. They furnish the script for the nativity story:
They portray animals at the manger.
They broadcast the angelic hosts calling for the shepherds.
They cast the wise men trekking after the star and then reaching him when he was about 2 years-old, they presenting Jesus with gold, frankincense, and myrrh.
But John’s production of the Christmas story takes another view. He telecasts from an infinitely higher venue.
John makes no mention of Christ’s genealogy.
Joseph and Mary don’t get a role. He doesn’t allude to stars, wise men, or shepherds.
Here’s what he says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (1:1,14). Let’s dissect that paragraph statement by statement:
“In the beginning” expresses Christ’s eternity.
The utterance, “the word was with God” identifies His equality with God.
The expression, “the Word was God” teaches His deity.
The declaration, “The same was in the beginning with God” explains His preexistence.
And the phrase, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” declares His incarnation, God is with us!
I want us to really understand this about the incarnation. The incarnation reveals God among men, not just a great man among humanity!
Turn to Philippians 2:6–11 and let’s read how the Apostle Paul discussed the Incarnation.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! 9 Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
Here’s why God had to become flesh. The first man, Adam, brought a pervading curse upon Creation when he sinned. That meant nothing from this sin-infected world could atone for our sinfulness. Everything from our soul to the soil to the stars was defiled. It would take something perfectly holy to redeem man. And that required heavenly intervention. That’s what happened in the Incarnation. God “became flesh and dwelt among us” and He accomplished what nothing earthly could accomplish. He provided redemption for men and restored Adam’s losses.
I want to talk about Adam’s losses for a moment. What do you suppose they were?
First, Adam’s sin forfeited Man’s moral purity and innocence. He no longer stood in right standing with God.
Secondly, Adam’s sin incurred the sentence of death.
Thirdly, Adam lost unobstructed fellowship with God.
And fourthly Adam lost Paradise.
Who could restore innocence, life, fellowship with God, and Paradise—that is, “Heaven on Earth”? Only something from another world—Jesus Christ! Take a moment to consider what Jesus recovered for humanity:
Chiefly, he restored our relationship with God. Jesus is the way into Heaven, which is the residence of God and his manifested presence.
Jesus empowered us to recover our purpose and direction in life.
And finally, he restored eternal life to all who believe on him; for those that were once dead in sins.
God spoke to the prophet Jeremiah about Israel recovering its losses. When Israel was on the verge of Babylonian Captivity, God assured Jeremiah three times with the phrase, “I will restore their fortunes” (32:44; 33:11, 26). That describes the wonder of God’s grace. Whenever the Bible shows God judging His people for their sin, it always included restoration. God’s goodness appears after judgment to restore what is lost through sin.
In other words, “Jesus came to suffer so that we could recover.” Isaiah 53 says: “by his wounds [stripes] we are healed.” Vine’s Dictionary defines that word heal as, “restoring to normal.”
“By his stripes” He restores your fellowship with God and man.
“By his stripes” He restores your purpose and direction.
“By his stripes” He restores the eternal hopes of the human race.
“By his stripes” means Jesus restores all of Adam’s losses.
You may interject, “But you don’t know the shambles of my life. My life is mangled. I don’t deserve for God to restore anything to me. But grace wouldn’t be grace if you deserved God’s blessings. And yet you may continue to object, I don’t see how God could ever restore certain things to me. Some people like this seem to have more faith in Satan’s ability to steal than God’s power to restore!
I want you to consider what Jesus said He would do for the last-day generation of Believers. Jesus said in Matthew 17:11, “Elijah [will] come and will restore all things.” And Peter said in Acts 3:21 that Christ’s Return would “restore everything.”
Jesus said the wonder of His Endtime work toward Believers would involve restoration! When Jesus returns to call Believers of every age to stand before His throne, His mercy will restore every loss incurred from Adam’s fall. Restoration is a redemptive guarantee!
(Transition) That’s the magnificence of the incarnation. Third, let’s consider, The Love of the Incarnation.
III. The Love of the Incarnation
There was no greater way God could express His love toward man than sending His only begotten Son to live and die in man’s depraved world.
(Example) What loving parent would purposely send their child into an infectious, disease‑riddled area a few people? Would you send your only child on a relief mission to a region infected from a nuclear spill or from chemical warfare? Would you send your only child to minister to a colony of patients dying from a highly infectious disease? Yet, our Heavenly Father sent His only begotten Son into this sin-infested world to minister to our contagion. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
Parents know what the Bible means when it says “children are a reward from the Lord” (Psalm 127:3). Normal parents have an indescribable love for their children. They couldn’t conceive of sentencing their children to a world that would curse, reject, scorn, and then murder them. But our Father’s incomparable heavenly love did that to His Son!
(Definition) Do you realize Jesus was God’s only begotten Son—the only Son He would ever beget from His very nature? The word begotten means, “to procreate as a father.” Jesus was the only Son the Father would ever procreate, and because of His love for humanity He sent Him here to die for us. What love!
(Illustration) Years ago, a missionary’s son was thousands of miles removed from his father during the Christmas season. The boy’s principal was a friend of the missionary so he called the youngster into his office. The principal asked what the boy wanted most for Christmas. He looked at the picture of his dad on the principal’s desk and then quietly said, “I want my father to step out of that frame.”
That’s the cry of humanity. Men want God to step out of the frame. And He did, He stepped out of eternity into time. He stepped out of mystery into certainty. He stepped out of the distant beyond into the here and now. And today, if you don’t know Him as Savior, He offers to step from Heaven’s throne into your heart.
For centuries, God’s love has pleaded with men to accept His offer of salvation. And there’s been nothing secretive about His appeal. The Holy Spirit’s convicting presence envelops the earth. The Church has sent thousands of missionaries into the world. The Gospel resounds through radio, television, and literature. This message you hear is yet one more appeal God is making for you to come to Him.
But one day the appeals will cease and the pronouncements will be silenced forever. Not even a still, small voice will tug at your heart. The Holy Spirit’s beckon will be hauntingly silent in hell. But He’s calling today, announcing that Christ is all Scripture declares Him to be—God’s Incarnate Son—your divine, magnificent, and loving Savior!