Purpose of this Session
Jesus existed long before His incarnation (being born as a man). The Scriptures testify to His existence from eternity to eternity, and His eternal work is seen all around us.
The Bible clearly declares that Christ existed as God before His incarnation. He was not a creation of God, and did not come into existence when conceived in the womb of Mary. He always was, one with the Father and the Holy Spirit, in the God-head.
The Scriptural testimony through John the Baptist declares:
“John bore witness of Him and cried out, saying, “This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me is preferred before me, for He was before me.’ ”” (John 1:15 NKJV)
According to Luke 1:36 John was born six months prior to Jesus, but John here declares Christ’s pre-existence
John the Apostle states:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NKJV)
“the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested to us—” (1John 1:2 NKJV)
The Apostle Paul teaches:
“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.” (Phil 2:6-8 NKJV)
“He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you” (1Pet 1:20 NKJV)
Finally, Jesus Himself referred on many occasions to His existence prior to His life on earth:
“For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me.” (John 6:38 NKJV)
“Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”” (John 8:58 NKJV)
“And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5 NKJV)
The activities of the divine pre-existent Christ
1. He was creating the universe
“All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.” (John 1:3 NKJV)
“For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Col 1:16 NKJV)
2. He was controlling the created universe
“And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.” (Col 1:17)
3. He was communing with the Father
““Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” (John 17:24)
4. The pre-existent Christ is also active in the Old Testament record
In several theophanies (pre-Bethlehem appearances of Christ) Christ appears to various Old Testament Saints.
- Appearances of what the Old Testament refers to as the ‘Angel of the Lord’ [see Module 4: Spiritual Realities: Angels]
- Joshua’s encounter with ‘The Captain of the Lord’s Host’ in the early chapters of Joshua.
- The ‘Fourth Man’ in the fiery furnace in the Book of Daniel.
Incarnation simply means:
“God taking upon Himself human flesh."
The Bible teaches that Jesus was born of a virgin
The Bible declares that God decided His Son would have a miraculous entrance into humanity. Seven hundred years before the birth of Christ, the prophet Isaiah said,
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel" (Isaiah 7:14, NASB).
The New Testament records the fulfilment of Isaiah's prophecy:
“Now in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a city of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin engaged to a man whose name was Joseph, of the descendants of David; and the virgin's name was Mary ... And the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary: for you have found favor with God. And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus... "
And Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?"
And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit, will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God ... For nothing will be impossible with God" (Luke 1:27-37, NASB).
The gospel record of the virgin birth
The virgin birth is set down in the Bible as an historical fact. The writers who recorded the story were Matthew - an eyewitness to the events in the life of Jesus - and Luke, the doctor, who presents many things in the life of Christ from Mary's viewpoint, and gathered his information from first hand witnesses, including Mary herself. The passages in both Matthew and Luke are authentic, with no evidence at all that they were later additions to the text.
John reveals Christ as the pre-existent, eternal God, and describes the entrance of Jesus into the world 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.” (John 1:14 NKJV)
Mark, who presents Jesus as the Servant of God, tirelessly doing His Master’s work, provides no genealogical record, nor description of His birth. Such details would not be expected of a slave or servant!
From the inception of the church this doctrine has been upheld by the believing church. Ignatius, who lived at the start of the second century, wrote to the Ephesians:
"For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb by Mary, according to a dispensation, of the seed of David but also of the Holy Ghost."
I urge you not to consider this as a mere doctrine, or as a touching Christmas story, but to really deeply ponder the breath-taking truth that Almighty God humbled Himself in order to be born as a helpless baby boy, that He might save you and I. Truly, God so loved the world!
Why was the Incarnation necessary?
On page 161 of Conner’s ‘Foundations of Christian Doctrine’ he proposes two things which necessitated the incarnation:
1. The Covenant-keeping God.
God has bound Himself to mankind in a special way, and as such obligated Himself to redeem man should He fall from His place of authority. As we have already witnessed, the Godhead bound themselves prior to Creation to this work of redemption which they knew in their omniscience would be necessary.
2. The sinfulness of man.
When mankind fell in the garden of Eden, they came under a penalty of death, and into strict bondage and servitude to the nature of sin to which they had yielded. Thus a Redeemer was required who was not under similar servitude.
The necessity of the Incarnation
Man sinned and came under the penalty of death:
“But the Lord God gave him this warning: “You may freely eat any fruit in the garden except fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. If you eat of its fruit, you will surely die.”” (Gen 2:16-17 NLT)
Adam and his posterity thus needed someone to redeem them from death.
All born of Adam’s race would be born in sin, needing redemption from sin and death themselves.
“When Adam sinned, sin entered the entire human race. Adam’s sin brought death, so death spread to everyone, for everyone sinned.” (Rom 5:12 NLT)
This meant that no one could by any means redeem another,
for all needed redemption themselves.
“Yet they cannot redeem themselves from death by paying
a ransom to God. Redemption does not come so easily, for no one can
ever pay enough” (Psalm 49:7-8 NLT)
Spiritual law demanded only a man could pay the penalty for another man. Because no man of Adam’s race could do this, the only hope was that God provide a Redeemer. God’s answer was to provide the necessary kinsman through the birth of His Son as a man, through a human vessel, but not from contaminated human seed.
“Because the blood of bulls and goats is powerless to take sins away. Hence, when He [Christ] entered into the world, He said, Sacrifices and offerings You have not desired, but instead You have made ready a body for Me [to offer];” (Hebrews 10:4-5 AMP)
The angel told her, “You will become pregnant and have a son, and you are to name him Jesus.”
Mary asked the angel, “But how can I have a baby? I am a virgin.” The angel replied, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the baby born to you will be holy, and he will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:30-35 NLT)
By the virgin birth, God brought forth a sinless being out of a sinful being.
The nature of the incarnation
The nature of the incarnation and of Christ’s humiliation is outlined by Paul in Philippians 2:6-8:
1. Who, being in the form of God,
2. thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
3. But made himself of no reputation,
4. and took upon him the form of a servant,
5. and was made in the likeness of men:
6. And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself,
7. and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”
“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 be 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. And after He had appeared in human form, He abased and humbled Himself [still further] and carried His obedience to the extreme of death, even the death of the cross!” (Phil 2:6-8 AMP)
The meaning of this passage can be summed up as follows:
Jesus was essentially one with God, but did not think His equality was a prized possession to be grasped at and retained at all costs. Instead He chose to humble Himself by becoming a man, in order to die on the cross, paying the ultimate price for the redemption of the prize He sought to possess - precious mankind.
This humiliation required that Christ ‘empty Himself’. This is known theologically as the ‘Kenosis Theory’. The expression ‘made Himself of no reputation’ comes from the Greek word ‘kenoo’ meaning “to make empty”.
Marvin Vincent points out in His Word-Studies in the new Testament regarding this, “The diversity of opinion prevailing among interpreters in regard to the meaning of this passage is enough to fill the student with despair, and to afflict him with intellectual paralysis”.
We will not here enter deeply into the discussion, but will briefly outline the main points regarding Christ’s emptying Himself in order come in the form of a man.
When Christ “emptied Himself:
He DID NOT:
i. Empty Himself of His deity, becoming a mere man. He was always and always will be God. Jesus was God manifest in the flesh.
ii. Empty Himself of the POSSESSION of DIVINE ATTRIBUTES. Jesus did not give up the possession of divine essential attributes such as omnipotence, omnipresence and omniscience. If Christ has ceased to possess such attributes He would have ceased to be fully God. Rather, He gave up independent use of these attributes, submitting them entirely to the will of His Father.
iii. Empty Himself of the USE of DIVINE ATTRIBUTES. At times Jesus did exercise divine attributes.
i. Assume the nature of a man, without ceasing to be wholly and completely God. He took humanity upon Himself. Deity became clothed with humanity. Christ added to His already divine nature a human nature, thereby becoming the God-Man. This did not create a third hybrid nature, but both His divine and human natures remained whole and complete within the Person of Christ. He was both completely human and completely God, not half human, half-God.
ii. Possess and exercise divine attributes.
In His earthly life Jesus exercised His:
omnipresence: knowing He existed both in Heaven and earth simultaneously. (John 3:13)
Omnipotence: did works that only God could do, forgave sins, declared the divine name I AM.. (John 14:11; 10:25, 37-38; 15:24)
Omniscience: Jesus knew all men, and what was in them, in His deity nothing was hidden from His sight. (John 2:24-25; 18:4)
Immutability: Jesus character, love and life are unchangeable (Hebrews 13:8)
Self Existence: He offered men eternal life and said that this life was in Himself. (John 8:58; 5:26)
Jesus also displayed the perfect moral attributes of holiness, righteousness, love and faithfulness.
Jesus was and is God, possessing both essential and moral attributes of deity. These were never laid down, and Jesus was as conscious of His deity as He was of His humanity.
AS GOD CHRIST BECAME A DEPENDENT MAN.
“Though He was God and never ceased to be God in the incarnation, Christ became a subject, obedient and dependent Man upon the Father for the exercise of His essential attributes. Of His own free will He subjected Himself as the God-Man to the Father’s will in total dependence upon the Holy Spirit. This self-humbling was not forced upon Him but was compelled by the Godhead’s love for mankind.”
Kevin Conner, Foundations of Christian Doctrine, p164
His emptying consisted of:
Giving up the glorious outshining majesty that is the outward expression of the Godhead. (John 17:5)
Giving up the form of God, and taking upon Himself the form of man. (John 1:14)
Giving up His self-will in continual submission to His Father’s will.
He taught only what the Father told Him to say (John 5:30; 8:28,35; 12:44-49); Did only what the Father showed Him to do (John 5:36); Exercised only the authority the Father gave to Him (John 10:18); Became completely dependent upon the anointing and enabling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:38; Luke 4:14-18); He laid aside independent exercise of divine attributes, only exercising them as the Father willed.
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