Christ the Incarnate Word
by Rick Shrader
And the Word was made 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).
Christ, by highest heaven adored;
Christ, the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold Him come,
Offspring of the Virgin’s womb:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased as man with men to dwell,
Jesus, our Emmanuel.
Hark! The herald angels sing
“Glory to the new-born King.”
(“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”—Charles Wesley)
We ought to remember that Christmas and Easter are distinctively Christian holidays. We know that there have been various pagan customs mixed in over the years, but we are able to remove what is foreign to the Christian message and keep what is vital. Satan’s attacks today remain as subtle and yet ferocious as ever. The great imitator of Christ has exalted the many world religions to equal prominence with Christianity even in (so-called) Christian countries like America. But with even greater subtlety he has created great antipathy toward the Christmas and Easter message by redefining tolerance into intolerance for anything that claims to be absolute truth.
Christianity, of course, specifically and uniquely proclaims that it is the only way to God and heaven. It claims that Jesus is the only begotten Son of God and that no one comes to God but by acceptance of Him as the only Savior and His atoning work on their behalf. Christianity’s claim of Christ’s incarnation through virgin birth as well as His death, burial, and bodily resurrection makes it an “all or nothing” belief system. No other religion rises or falls on specific miracles. Theirs is based on moral teaching and good works. Christianity is based on whether or not God became a man.
To the postmodern mind this is as narrow and bigoted as you can get! How can Christianity claim to be the only belief system that can take one to heaven? Many think this way of thinking should be a hate crime in America. If you claim to be right and someone else wrong, then you are setting yourself up as better than the other person and therefore think you are superior to them. As illogical as it may seem, claiming to have absolute truth, especially in religion, is equal to hate in many peoples’ minds.
Each year Christmas and Easter force this issue. Saying that God became a man only once in the Person of Jesus Christ; and that Jesus Christ is the only Person to have risen from the dead (thereby proving that He was indeed the God-man), is the exact equivalent to John 14:6, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me, or to Acts 4:12, Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. It is this exclusivity about Christianity that our generation simply cannot tolerate.
Of course, Christianity is actually both inclusive and exclusive. It is inclusive in its provision, offer, and application of salvation. Whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16); For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved (Romans 10:13). But it is also exclusive in that no one can come to God except through Jesus Christ. This is the factual and historic Christmas and Easter message.
No biblical statement is clearer about the uniqueness of the Christian message than John 1:14. Westcott said that this verse is “absolutely unique. The phrases which point towards it in St. John (1 John iv.2), in the Epistle to the Hebrews (ii. 14), and in St. Paul (Rom. viii.3; Phil ii.7; I Tim. iii.16) fall short of the majestic fullness of this brief sentence.”1 Here, by this one verse, all religions fall short, all religious leaders fade into oblivion, all spiritual thought becomes dumb before the infinite divine Word who became flesh on that first Christmas morning.
The subject of the sentence has been John’s subject from verse one. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (John 1:1). From eternity this Logos was; without beginning, without ending, whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting (Mic. 5:2). His name is Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace (Isa. 9:6). Throughout eternity He existed with God. He was preexistent because He was eternal. But most startling and unique, this Logos was God! Charles Ryrie wrote,
Without the Incarnation we would have no Savior. Sin requires death for its payment. God does not die. So the Savior must be human in order to be able to die. But the death of an ordinary man would not pay for sin eternally, so the Savior must also be God. We must have a God-Man Savior and we do in our Lord (Heb. 10:1-10).2
The fact of Christ’s deity has been offensive to Satan from the beginning and will be offensive to his antichrist yet in the future, who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshiped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God (2 Thes. 2:4). And this is why the truth of Christmas is still offensive to non-Christians today. The mere fact of the Word existing eternally before becoming a man is absolutely unique.
Was Made Flesh
What did begin on the first Christmas morning was the humanity of Jesus Christ. The eternal Second Person of the Godhead made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:7). Whereas in verses 1 and 2, speaking of the eternal Logos, four times we read that He was, now, speaking of His humanity, we read egeneto, He became. Arthur Pink wrote,
The Infinite became finite. The Invisible became tangible. The Transcendent became imminent. That which was far off drew nigh. That which was beyond the reach of the human mind became that which could be beholden within the realm of human life. Here we are permitted to see through a veil that, which unveiled, would have blinded us. ‘The word became flesh:’ He became what He was not previously. He did not cease to be God, but He became Man.3
Without ceasing to be divine He became human. No less God and no less man. Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing, and yet Jesus Lord at thy birth. Isaiah felt no contradiction in proclaiming, For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given and calling Him The mighty God, The Everlasting Father (Isa. 9:6). Neither did Wesley feel a contradiction in singing, Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, hail the incarnate deity!
Never will the world understand this hypostatic union apart from the regenerating work of the Holy Spirit of God. The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor. 2:14).
And Dwelt Among Us
For a short time the God-Man dwelt on the earth. He tabernacled among us; lived a tent-life during His brief trip away from Home. The Royal Son had no pillow for His head, was touched with the feelings of our infirmities; and was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Heb. 4:15). It’s not that the humanity itself was a temporary tabernacle. Christ had a body after His resurrection too, one fit for the next life. We also temporarily have flesh fit for this life. But mortality will one day be swallowed up of life, corruption will put on incorruption, mortal will put on immortality and we shall be changed! (1 Cor 15:53-54).
Jesus took His humanity back to heaven with Him at His resurrection and ascension. But this man, because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood. Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (Heb. 7:24-26). Our humanity will go into heaven with us too. But whereas the God-Man could raise Himself from death and take His humanity to heaven by His own power, we must attach ourselves to Him by faith if we are to be raised.
For a while Christ’s tent looked like our tent. It was fit for folding also. It was given to Him for the purpose of dying! Wherefore when he cometh into the world, he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared for me . . . we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus once for all (Heb. 10:5, 10).
And We Beheld His Glory
Now and then His followers caught a glimpse of the body to come! When we were with him on the holy mount, Peter says, we were eyewitnesses of his majesty (2 Peter 1:16, 18). No one, having seen such Christmas truth, could desire this life over the next. Yea, I think it meet, as long as I am in this tabernacle, to stir you up by putting you in remembrance (vs 13) became Peter’s message.
John was on that mount. He was also in the boat when Jesus came walking on the water, and when He commanded the storm to obey Him, when by miracle He brought heaven close to earth, His glory shining through from the inside of the tent. John beheld it all. It was a theomai, a “theater” of spectacular sights like a display of shooting stars against the still dark night.
The Glory as of the only begotten of the Father Full of Grace and Truth
This is the first time John calls the Word the only begotten. Luther wrote,
In this thou hearest clearly and distinctly that the Word which was from everlasting with the Father, and is the light of men, is called the Son, yea, the only begotten Son of God. . . . God has many other sons and children, but only One is the only-begotten, of whom it is said, that all was made by Him: the other sons are not the Word, by which all things were made; but they were created by this only-begotten Son, who, like the Father, is the Creator of heaven and earth. The others all become sons by this only-begotten Son, who is our Lord and God, and we are called many-begotten sons: but this is alone the only-begotten Son, whom He was begotten in the Godhead from everlasting.4
John does not use the word “grace” very often. His emphasis is much more on “truth.” We worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24). Though we call this the age of grace, and surely it is, John sees it as an age when truth has been fully revealed. Darkness is past and true light is now shining. And Jesus, the Word, the God-Man is the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world (John 1:9). By this incarnate Deity, as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name (vs 12). As one writer put it, “He is entirely what He is; as it were, thoroughly God; therefore is never behind the expectations which His own cherish of Him—gives no promises which He does not keep, awakes no hopes which He does not satisfy, never forsakes His own in times of difficulty.”5 What grace!
And So . . . .
Let the world’s religions say what they will but envy what we say:
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning,
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing;
Oh come, let us adore Him, O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him, Christ the Lord!
Notes: 1. B.F. Westcott, The Gospel According to St. John (Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1964) 11. 2. Charles Ryrie, Basic Theology (Wheaton: Victor Books, 1987) 245. 3. Arthur W. Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1971) 32. 4. Quoted by E.W. Hengstenberg, The Gospel of John (Minneapolis: Klock & Klock, 1980) 46. 5. E.W. Henstenberg, Ibid., 47.