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THE INCARNATION

 

 

Jesus of Nazareth was not the founder of a Jewish sect or even a new religion; He was God incarnate, God in human flesh. No other religion can say the same of its god or founder; Christianity is unique in this respect. It is the Incarnation that makes Christianity possible and that is why this article of faith is second in the Apostles’ Creed after the acknowledgment of God the Father Almighty. Jesus was none other than the Son, the Second Person of the Godhead, in human flesh; fully God and fully man.

 

The Incarnation

 

The Incarnation is not just a doctrine made up by the Church; it is a fact and a fact that is essential to salvation from sin. A person cannot be a Christian without believing the fact of the Incarnation. To deny the fact is to deny Jesus’ claim to be the Son of God and is to call God a liar as the Apostle John makes clear in 1 John 5:10, “he who believes in the Son of God has the witness in himself; he who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he has not believed the testimony that God has given of His Son.” To deny the Incarnation is to deny the only means by which God could make salvation possible to the fallen human race.

As with the fact of the Trinity, the Incarnation is difficult to understand and it raises several questions to an inquiring mind. How could God become a man? How could God become a man without ceasing to be God? How can God become a man without the man becoming God? More questions could be asked; but, as with the Trinity, God does not ask us to understand the Incarnation, He only asks us to believe it.

The word “incarnation” does not appear in the Bible, but the truth of the Incarnation does. The word “incarnation” is derived from the Latin word incarno, which is the combination of the prefix in-, meaning “in” as used in English, and carno, meaning flesh. The literal meaning of incarno is “to make into flesh.” The Apostle John articulates the truth of the Incarnation in John 1:14, “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.” In Latin, the first phrase of this verse is et Verbum caro factum est. The etymology of the word incarnation from this phrase is readily discernable.

The Apostle John is not the only New Testament writer to speak of the Incarnation for we see such an incarno expression in Romans 8:3 where the Apostle Paul writes, “For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh.” Human flesh is weak because of its exposure to sin and to remedy this condition God the Father sent His Son into this world in the actual likeness of that same sinful flesh. When Paul wrote “the likeness of sinful flesh,” this in no way implies that the flesh indwelt by the Son of God was sinful in any way. The Greek word translated likeness is homoioma, meaning a form, or specifically, that which has been made after the likeness of something.[1] Jesus had a human nature the same as all humans and as a human, He was subjected to temptation as much as any human can be, “in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15). Albert Barnes in his Notes On The New Testament comments on expression “the likeness of sinful flesh”:

 

That is, he so far resembled sinful flesh that he partook of flesh, or the nature of man, but without any of its sinful propensities or desires. It was not human nature; not, as the Docetæ taught, human nature in appearance only; but it was human nature without any of its corruptions.

 

The Second Person of the Godhead entered this world in the form of Mary’s babe, Jesus, for the sole purpose of doing for the human race what was not possible to be done through the Law of Moses. All mankind are aliens by birth and sinners by choice and as such are separated from God, spiritually dead, and facing the sentence of eternal death. The Law of Moses provided for sacrifices that, when made in faith, purchased a forgiveness for the sinner but which could not save the sinner from sin. Christ came in the Incarnation to do for sinful mankind what the sacrifices of the Mosaic Law could never do. Christ condemned sin in the flesh. That is a strange sounding statement to modern American ears as we think of a criminal being condemned and sent to prison after a trial; how can sin in the flesh be condemned, especially as most American Christians have been taught that the sinfulness of the flesh is a permanent condition arising from original sin. Adam Clarke in his Commentary helps us to understand how the Incarnation deals with the problem of sinful flesh:

 

Did that which the law could not do; i.e. purchased pardon for the sinner, and brought every believer into the favor of God. And this is effected by the incarnation of Christ: He, in whom dwelt the fullness of the Godhead bodily, took upon him the likeness of sinful flesh, that is, a human body like ours, but not sinful as ours; and for sin, and as a Sacrifice For Sin, (this is the sense of the word in a multitude of places), condemned sin in the flesh—condemned that to death and destruction which had condemned us to both. . . .The design and object of the incarnation and sacrifice of Christ was to condemn sin, to have it executed and destroyed; not to tolerate it as some think, or to render it subservient to the purposes of his grace, as others; but to annihilate its power, guilt, and being in the soul of a believer.

 

Christian salvation is not the mere forgiveness of sins, as wonderful as that is; it is the condemning, or destruction, of sin in the flesh. Some theologians use words such as cleansing and eradication to describe what happens to sin in the flesh through the new birth, particularly in the aspect of entire sanctification. The Apostle John wrote that the blood of Christ cleanses us from all sin and from all unrighteousness,[2] which is another way to say Christ condemned sin in the flesh.

Therefore, to receive Christian salvation, one must believe in the Incarnation, that the Son of God actually became a man for the sole purpose of destroying the power of sin in the being and soul of the believer. To deny the Incarnation is not to be a Christian no matter how much one may believe in God, be religious, attend church, or do the best he can in life.

 

Why The Incarnation?

 

The moral law of God necessitates the Incarnation, God becoming man, to make salvation from sin possible for the fallen human race. The moral law of God is based in the nature of God and relates to mankind’s position with God. This truth is seen in one of the very first revelations of God we find in the Bible.

 

And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.” (Genesis 2:16–17).

 

At first impression, this may not appear to be a moral law, but what God said to the man reveals important information about God, man, and God’s requirements of man. The first thing to be seen is that there are such things as good and evil and it is God Who defines what those things are. God is not a moral relativist; He declares some things to be good and some things to be evil and they always remain so under any and all conditions. God did not give the man a vote in the distinction between the two. It may not be obvious from what God said, but as God is the Creator and the fact He declared His creation to be good,[3] all moral values are reflections of the very nature of God: that which is like God is good and that which is unlike God is evil. How, then can God create an evil tree? What is the distinction between a good tree and an evil tree? The distinction is in the fact that God said the man could eat the fruit of some trees but not the fruit of this certain tree. The tree itself had no moral quality of good or evil, that quality was to be found in the man’s response to the moral law of God.

The second thing to be seen is that there is, in fact, such a thing as moral law. Obviously, God created the man a moral being with the ability to distinguish between good and evil and the ability to do good and evil. But being a moral being has no meaning unless there is a moral law, a law commanding to choose what is good and to refrain from that which is evil. God gave His moral law to the man in no uncertain terms: “Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat; but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.” Unregenerate mankind sees God as a cosmic killjoy, taking away all that is pleasant and desirable and leaving him with very little else, only the dull and mundane. This attitude shows the ignorance of the unregenerate as it can be seen from the choices that God gave the man there were more good options, “every tree of the garden you may freely eat,” and only one restriction, “of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat.”

The third thing to be seen is that there is a penalty for disobeying God’s moral law: “you shall surely die.” For God to add the word “surely” to this penalty indicates the absolute certainty of the penalty; and, it does not provide for a way around the penalty. Violating the moral law of God has automatic consequences; the first being death in both the literal and the spiritual sense, and the second is the consequence following actions contrary to the moral law. People do not realize until too late that consequences do and will follow any and all evil actions. The first consequence is guilt; other consequences involve the degradation of character and retaliation from those who are injured by one’s evil actions.

God created man a moral being and does not compel him—us—to obey His moral law and neither does He restrain him—us—from doing evil. We have free will, or the ability to obey or disobey His moral law, and therefore we are held responsible for our choices, actions, behavior, and the consequences that follow them. However, because of the fall of Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, mankind’s free will has been skewed in the direction of sin because of what some theologians call native depravity without demerit. This means that humans born into the world are spiritually dead, that is, they do not have a spiritually sustaining relationship with God. This is different from the concepts of original sin or inherited sin, which are essentially the same things in effect. These concepts impute the sin Adam committed and the resulting guilt to all his posterity. The doctrine of original sin in most churches that hold to it condemns even unborn babes to hell unless they are baptized and cleansed from original sin. The doctrine of inherited, or inbred, sin is similar as it assigns a sinful nature to either the spirit or flesh of the babe but holds that it is innocent of committed sins until it attains an age of moral accountability. The concept of native depravity without demerit holds that, without the presence of the Holy Spirit, even though a child is innocent, the natural and material influence of its fleshly nature predisposes it to be sinful. The term “without demerit” means that God does not hold the innocent child accountable for immoral acts it commits, such as lying (a very common childhood occurrence), because of its lack of moral knowledge. God holds the child unaccountable until the child becomes morally awakened at which time it is held accountable for those deeds and all future immoral deeds it may commit.

The consequence of disobeying God’s moral law is death. The Scriptures reinforce this in many places, of which Ezekiel 18:4 is quite plain, “The soul who sins shall die.” The natural course of human existence leads people to this death. The Apostle Paul wrote in Romans 5:12, “As through one man sin entered the world, and death through sin, and thus death spread to all men, because all sinned.” Adam’s sin brought sin into the world with the universal proclivity being for people to commit sin; therefore, all people are dead in sin.

It would appear from this that there is no hope for anyone to escape from such condemnation. However, it was not God’s plan to create mankind and then have to destroy him. God expressed His desire and intention to deal with sin in such a way as to make a deliverance from sin possible. The first glimpse is seen in Genesis 3:21 where God killed innocent animals to make tunics of their skins to cover the shame of Adam and Eve. In this action is the foreshadowing of the shedding of innocent blood and an atonement (covering) for sin. Sin does not alter the love of God for His created beings in spite of their rebellion against His moral law. The Bible speaks so lovingly to us in 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord . . . is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.” God established the penalty of death for sin but yet He does not want a single human to die in a state of spiritual death and go on to experience eternal death. God wants all people to repent, i.e., give up sinning and come to Him.

In establishing the penalty of death for sin, it may appear that God sort of painted Himself in a corner. He set Himself as the definition and arbitrator of all moral value and demands the death of all who sin against His moral law, a sentence that cannot be repealed. God cannot abrogate any part of His moral scheme, even out of love. He cannot just forgive a transgression of His law because He demands a death for the violation of that law. God cannot rescind the penalty just as He cannot change His mind and declare that something that was once evil is now good, or something that was once good is now evil. Even if people do repent of their sins, how can God forgive sins for which He demands death? Repentance, no matter how sincere and earnest it may be, is not the same as death and by itself it cannot atone for a single sin.

 

Blood And Life

 

So, how does God deal with this conundrum? The answer was hinted in the Garden of Eden. Innocent animals were slain, their blood shed, so that their skins could be made into coverings, which is the Biblical concept of atonement. In Genesis 9:4 God gave Noah the scientific fact that life is in the blood. God brings blood into a direct relationship with atonement in Leviticus 17:11 where He lays out the specifics of blood sacrifices under the Mosaic System, “For the life of the flesh is in the blood. . .”

 

Blood is fundamental to the function of every cell of every component in our bodies. Cells need food to survive, grow, repair themselves and to fulfill their specific functions, and, to reproduce. Cellular food is transported in blood to provide energy for all the cells’ needs. As humans are multicellular organisms, having separate specialized organs with highly sophisticated functions, transport and communication between these structures is essential.[4]

 

More could be said about the technical issues of blood and its relationship to life but such is not necessary to pursue in this discussion. In the economy of God, blood is identified with life as the very source and substance of life; so, for God to tell the man he would surely die if he sins means, in no uncertain terms, that his transgressing the moral law of God necessitates his death, the shedding of his own blood. God puts it to Noah in very straightforward language in Genesis 9:6, “Whoever sheds man’s blood, by man his blood shall be shed.” Killing another human being (i.e., murder) is a violation of the moral law of God. The expression “sheds man’s blood” here means to murder and the consequence God ordains for murder is the shedding of the blood of the murderer—his life is to be taken away—“you shall surely die.” You will notice there is no forgiveness for a transgression of God’s moral law; there was no forgiveness in the law God gave to Adam; and, there is no forgiveness, and neither can there be, for any and all violations of God’s moral law; in fact, the violation of God’s moral law in any respect requires the death of the sinner. There can be no atonement in the shedding of the sinner’s blood for his own sin as his death is the inescapable penalty for his sin; the guilt of sin follows the sinner into eternity where he will suffer eternal death in a place the Bible calls hell.

The New Testament reinforces the awful truth of the inescapable consequence of sin and man’s total inability to compensate for it and make himself right with God. Sin is the universal condition of all people as the Apostle Paul states in Romans 3:23, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” He repeats the consequence of sin in chapter 6 verse 23, “the wages of sin is death.”

The moral law of God leaves man in a dire circumstance: he sins and cannot help but sin and he is condemned to pay for his sin with his own blood in eternal death; there can be no forgiveness. “It is impossible for God to lie,” (Hebrews 6:18), therefore God cannot abrogate either His law or the consequence for its violation. In the simplest of terms, God cannot just forgive sin; He demands the shedding of blood for the sin committed. If God would arbitrarily forgive one person’s sin, He would be unjust in not forgiving all sins that all people have ever committed or are yet to commit. God’s law would be meaningless and, in a sense, God would be irrelevant in the affairs of mankind. This might work in the mind of the Universalists, but this is not the nature of the unchangeable Creator God. James, the Lord’s brother, reminds us this aspect of God’s nature in James 1:17, “with whom there is no variation of shadow of turning.” The sun, as stationary as it is in our solar system, appears to turn in the sky, giving us morning and evening and moving north and south to allow for the seasons. But God is not like the sun,

 

. . . there is no variableness, not even the appearance of turning. He is always the same, at all seasons of the year, and in all ages; there is no change in His character, his mode of being, his purposes and plans. What he was millions of ages before the worlds were made, he is now; what he is now, he will be countless millions of ages hence. We may be sure that whatever changes there may be in human affairs; whatever reverses we may undergo; whatever oceans we may cross, or whatever mountains we may climb, or in whatever worlds we may hereafter take up our abode, God is the same.[5]

 

We know there is salvation from sin and the forgiveness of our past sins, but how can God forgive our sins and be morally just and righteous; how can He forgive us without contradicting His very nature? The answer is in the Incarnation.

 

Atonement

 

The moral law of God requires the death of the sinner. There can be no atonement in the death of the sinner for his own sins as we have seen above. Can it be possible that there could be a vicarious death in behalf of the sinner that would atone for the sinner’s sin? If that is possible, the victim would first have to be totally innocent of any personal sin whatsoever, and, second, the victim would have to be willing to die and take the responsibility for the sinner’s sin. How could God accomplish this? Consider the following:

 

For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it to you upon the altar to make atonement for your souls; for it is the blood that makes atonement for the soul. (Leviticus 17:11)

 

According to the Law almost all things are purified with blood, and without shedding of blood there is no remission. (Hebrews 9:22)

 

These texts show us how God dealt with the problem of a viable atonement under the Law of Moses. God revealed to Moses the plan for the tabernacle, which contained altars and various appliances for making animal sacrifices applicable to specific classifications of sins and trespasses. The animals chosen to be sacrificed had to meet strict standards with regard to imperfections and diseases: they had to be as physically perfect as a natural animal could be. Under the Law there were different procedures for different kinds of sacrifices but what was common to them all was the shedding of the animal’s blood. In each case, the blood had to be collected in a vessel and poured out at the base of the brazen altar. On the Day of Atonement, a special sacrifice was made and the blood of this animal was taken into the Holy of Holies and sprinkled before the Ark of the Covenant.

In Leviticus 17:11 it is clearly stated that blood makes atonement for the soul. The life offered up and blood shed was not the sinner’s blood, but the blood of an animal. God decreed that the blood of the sacrificial animal poured out on the altar was an element that could make atonement for the sinner’s sin. The writer of Hebrews records that under the Law of Moses this blood served to purify the sinner in the sense that his sins had been remitted. The word “remission” used here is the Greek word aphesis, meaning freedom and signifies pardon. We then understand that with the shedding of the animal’s blood in behalf of the sinner, the sin involved was effectively pardoned.

How, then, could the death of an animal in behalf of a sinner justify the moral law of God and the strict penalty imposed for disobeying that law? First, the animal was without sin. Animals do not have free will and are incapable of moral choice, let alone the knowledge of good and evil. So, the death of an animal was the death of an innocent in behalf of the guilty. However, the animal was not a willing participant; how, then, can its death be suitable for an atonement? The will in this case lies with the sinner; that is, the sinner had to be willing to present the animal and suffer the loss of this possession. In the case where a person did not own animals, he willingly had to purchase the appropriate animal and suffer the financial loss.

In as much as these animals were truly innocent of any sin and they were willingly offered by the sinner, their deaths were allowed to stand as vicarious deaths in behalf of the sins of the people. In the economy of God, the death of the innocent animal stood for the death of the sinner and the shed blood of the animal made atonement with God for the sin of the sinner.

The Hebrew word translated atonement is kaphar, which means to cover so as not to be seen. In a ceremonial sense, the shed blood of the innocent animal covered the sinner’s sin so that it could not be seen by God and, in a ceremonial sense, the sin no longer existed. In the practical sense, the sin for which the animal’s death made atonement was no longer seen by God; that is, it was forgiven and the penalty for that sin abolished.

However, even though the Law of Moses was given by God and the sacrifices were effectual for the time, the negative conjunction “but” is also attached to the animal sacrifices. In Hebrews 10:3–4, the writer points out the one deficiency of the sacrifices, “But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins.” The first deficiency is that, while sins were forgiven through the agency of the sacrifice, there was no change in the moral nature of the sinner to keep him from continuing to commit sin. The second deficiency was that the blood of the animals could not actually take away sins. It was a wonderful thing that God could forgive committed sins and dismiss the penalty for those sins, but it was inevitable that the sinner would again commit sin.

The animal sacrifices fit some of the criteria necessary for atonement, but as the animals were incapable of making moral choice and they had exercised no act of their own wills in being sacrificed, the shedding of their blood was not sufficient to produce a once-for-all atonement that could release the sinner from sinning and put him on the path of consistently choosing to obey the moral law of God. Therefore, there was still need of a sacrifice, capable of making moral choice and choosing to consistently obey and conform to the moral law of God, that could make a true and final atonement for sin. To make up for this deficiency, God stepped in with His final solution, “. . . we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:10) The word sanctified here means to be set apart from sin by the atonement made through the death and blood of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ met all the criteria necessary for atonement: He was a moral being capable of free will who did no sin and who willingly offered Himself to be the one and only sacrifice for the sins of all mankind.

 

God Planned Redemption

 

The New Testament postulates that Jesus meets the criteria to be the one and only suitable sacrifice that could possibly make atonement for the sins of mankind. John the Baptist, when he first saw Jesus said in John 1:29, “Behold! The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He called Him a lamb, which was one of the sacrificial animals under the Law of Moses, and he stated that His purpose was to take away sin, which “denotes his bearing the sins of the world, or the sufferings which made an atonement for sin.”[6] This was not by chance; it was the plan of God from eternity past. The Apostle Paul in beginning his letter to the church at Ephesus encourages them with the knowledge that God’s plan of redemption was planned before the very creation of the earth:

 

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ, . . .  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love, having predestined us to adoption as sons by Jesus Christ to Himself, according to the good pleasure of His will, to the praise of the glory of His grace, by which He has made us accepted in the Beloved. In Him we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of His grace which He made to abound toward us in all wisdom and prudence, having made known to us the mystery of His will, according to His good pleasure which He purposed in Himself, that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.  In Him also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will, that we who first trusted in Christ should be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also trusted, after you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also, having believed, you were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, to the praise of His glory. (Ephesians 1:4–14).

 

Read the passage over several times; there is a great deal of truth to be absorbed. The short explanation is that God determined before He made the world to redeem mankind after the fall of Adam. (God did not plan the fall, He foresaw that it would happen.) He revealed His plan of redemption over time and from dispensation to dispensation, then Christ came, the perfect sacrifice, and made redemption possible. What the Israelites experienced under the Law of Moses was finally perfected in Christ. Adam Clarke expresses this so well in his Commentary:

 

As he has decreed from the beginning of the world, and has kept in view from the commencement of the religious system of the Jews, (which the phrase sometimes means), to bring us Gentiles to the knowledge of this glorious state of salvation by Christ Jesus. The Jews considered themselves an elect or chosen people, and wished to monopolize the whole of the Divine love and beneficence. The apostle here shows that God had the Gentiles as much in the contemplation of his mercy and goodness as he had the Jews; and the blessings of the Gospel, now so freely dispensed to them, were the proof that God had thus chosen them, and that his end in giving them the Gospel was the same which he had in view by giving the law to the Jews, viz. that they might be holy and without blame before him. And as his object was the same in respect to them both, they should consider that, as he loved them, so they should love one another: God having provided for each the same blessings, they should therefore be holy—fully separated from earth and sin, and consecrated to God and without blame—having no spot nor imperfection, their inward holiness agreeing with their outward consecration.

 

Because God determined to make a plan of redemption for the fallen human race, He knew that in His holiness and righteousness He could not just forgive sins; there had to be a sinless and vicarious sacrifice for those sins. Animal sacrifices were an imperfect solution. For the perfect solution, God chose to take the responsibility for sin on Himself. God took responsibility for the fact He created mankind moral beings with the ability to make moral choices, including the ability to commit sin. In the atonement God is saying, “You committed sin and you deserve to die for it, but I will take the responsibility and satisfy my moral judgment and character in the only way I can—and that is to die for your sin myself.”

But the problem is, God cannot die for the sin of mankind. The penalty for disobedience fell on mankind and only a man, a mankind, can take the responsibility for sin because man is the subject of God’s moral law and its penalty. God is not a man; therefore God cannot die for the sins of mankind. The solution: God had to become a real man; and that man was Jesus of Nazareth.

 

The Incarnation Is The Solution

 

Then I said, “Behold, I have come—In the volume of the book it is written of Me—To do Your will, O God.”  Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. (Hebrews 10:7–10).

 

Perhaps the formal language of the New King James Version is not easily understood as to make the writer’s meaning clear. The Living Bible paraphrase perhaps makes the meaning a little clearer:

 

Then I said, “See, I have come to do your will, to lay down my life, just as the Scriptures said that I would.” After Christ said this, about not being satisfied with the various sacrifices and offerings required under the old system, he then added, “Here I am. I have come to give my life.” He cancels the first system in favor of a far better one.

 

Jesus of Nazareth was conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary. While we cannot explain how this happened, it was a simple thing for the God, who created all things. The baby born to Mary was a real human baby and at the same time fully God by reason of hypostatic union.[7]

Jesus lived His life on earth under the same restrictions and in the exact same human nature as all other persons. He did not resort to His divinity at any time to overcome any of life’s battles and temptations. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

Some theologians argue that in some ways Jesus was unlike “regular” humans. The crux of the argument has to do with peccability, whether or not Jesus could have sinned. Their position is that Jesus could not have sinned. They believe He was tempted and while the temptation affected His physical man, it did not touch His spirit and therefor Jesus was incapable of committing sin, impeccable. But that begs the questions, why was Jesus tempted and how would His impeccability help us? If Jesus could not have sinned, He was not in jeopardy of violating moral law as did Adam; if He could not violate moral law there would have been no personal volition on His part and He would have been no different than a real, wooly lamb as far as being a sacrifice is concerned.

 

For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. (Hebrews 1:14–16, NASB)

 

This text is somewhat awkward to speakers of modern English; it makes more sense in Greek. The point of the verse is that “He HAD TO BE MADE LIKE HIS BRETHREN IN ALL THINGS.” (Capitalization for the purpose of emphasis!) The Second Person of the Godhead did inhabit and was one with his real human body, a body just like ours; His human disposition, desires, and urges were identical to ours; and, He had to cope with all His human traits as do we. We have not been successful in dealing with personal sin; but Jesus was. He put Himself and all divinity at risk by becoming the second Adam and going through the same process He required of Adam at the beginning. It is the qualities of free will and sinlessness that made Jesus the perfect sacrifice for sin. As a man, His voluntary and innocent death on behalf of our sins made propitiation, or atoned, for those sins.

 

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. (Philippians 2:5–8)

 

Jesus kept His divinity—the form of God, and was equal with God—and took on a very real human body that was subject to all the spiritual stress we humans experience—the likeness of men. The difference between Christ as the second Adam and the first Adam is that Christ obeyed the moral law of God to the point of death, even the death of the cross—the vicarious death of the perfect God-man. This was God’s plan.

 

For when we were still without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. For scarcely for a righteous man will one die; yet perhaps for a good man someone would even dare to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:6–11)

 

The Incarnation Is Essential To Christianity

 

Without the Incarnation there is no possibility of salvation from sin. God took on human form and lived a perfect life so that He could make a sinless, voluntary, vicarious sacrifice for sins on behalf of the entire human race. This is not just a doctrine of the Christian church, it is a fact to be believed; a fact necessary to be a Christian.



[1] Thayer, Joseph H.,  Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament,  Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI,  1979,  p. 445.

[2] 1 John 1:7, 9.

[3] Genesis 1:31.

[4] www.creation.com/life-is-in-the-blood.

[5] Barnes, Albert,  Notes on the New Testament,  Baker Book House: Grand Rapids, MI,  1949.

[6] Barnes, Albert,  Notes on the New Testament.

[7] A term used to denote the union of a perfect human nature with the eternal Logos without confusion of natures in the person of Christ. Hypostatic is used to emphasize that it was one subsistence in the divine essence, or as we would say, one person in the Trinity, namely the Son of God, who took a human nature into union with Himself. The Trinity did not become incarnate; one hypostasis did. (Alan Cairns, Dictionary of Theological Terms)