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The Incarnation: God’s Saving Work in His Humanity

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The fall of man, as described in the book of Genesis, was a monumental event in human history that drastically altered the course of humanity’s existence. It was the moment when humanity’s disobedience towards God resulted in a separation from their Creator, commonly known as “original sin.” This separation is the fundamental reason why all humanity is subject to sin and death, unable to perfectly obey God and restore their relationship with Him on their own. Because of Adam’s sin, and Adam as the original representative of the human race, human beings, as an entire race, are imputed with that guilt.

However, God in His infinite wisdom and grace did not leave humanity in this state of separation. He already had a plan to redeem humanity from their sins and restore the broken relationship with Him. This plan was fulfilled through the incarnation, one of the central tenets of Christianity and the fulfillment of God’s promise to send a human being rescue us from sin and death.

Throughout the Old Testament, there were many figures known as “types” of the Messiah, who were human beings that revealed aspects of God’s ultimate plan to send His perfect Son, Jesus. However, these figures were not the Messiah themselves, and always fell short of God’s perfect standard of righteousness. The Messiah, or savior, had to be sinless and perfectly fulfill God’s requirements of the law in order for the judgment and wrath that God would pour out on Him to be sufficient. While many of these figures, such as Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses, or David, demonstrated qualities of the coming Messiah, none of them were able to fully bear the weight of the monumental task of being the Messiah.

For a time, God established a system of priests and animal sacrifices as a way for the Israelites to communicate with Him and atone for their sins. This system was established as a temporary measure to point the Israelites towards a greater, more perfect mediator.

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The book of Hebrews in the New Testament explains this, stating “For the law having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually make the comers thereunto perfect” (Hebrews 10:1) and “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). These sacrifices, while they were ordained by God, could not truly atone for the sins of the people and could not fully satisfy God’s wrath.

This system of sacrifices served as a reminder of their sin and a foreshadowing of the coming of a much greater mediator, Jesus Christ, who would fulfill all these things perfectly. This is where Jesus and the incarnation come in. Hebrews 9:11-15 states:

“But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifieth to the purifying of the flesh: How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.”

The incarnation was not a random or arbitrary act of God, but rather a necessary one, because of God’s nature and character. Only an infinite, Holy, righteous, and perfect God could fulfill the demanding requirement of being the perfect sacrifice for humanity’s sins, and only that same God would be able to bear the infinite wrath that was poured out upon Him as a result of humanity’s sins. The Bible states this in Romans 3:25: “Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God.” This passage explains that God provided a propitiation, a spotless and unblemished lamb named Jesus, on our behalf because we are unable to provide one ourselves.

In order for humanity to be reconciled to God, a human representative was necessary. This is why Jesus had to take on flesh, it was necessary for the atonement of humanity’s sins and couldn’t just bear the wrath of God in spirit form. As stated in Romans 5:12, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned.” Adam, as the first representative of humanity, brought sin into the world through his disobedience, and as a result, death and separation from God became a reality for all of humanity. In order for humanity to be saved from this state of separation, a new human representative, a “second Adam,” was needed to fulfill God’s righteous requirements and stand before Him on our behalf. Jesus, the Son of God, took on human nature and became incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth to fulfill this role as our representative.

The second person of the Trinity, God the Son, known as Jesus Christ, voluntarily took on human nature and became incarnate in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. This is known as the doctrine of the hypostatic union, which describes how the eternal Son of God, who is fully God, could also become fully human while remaining fully God and how He does so without any blending or mixing of the two natures. It is not a fusion of two natures, but a real personal union of the divine and human nature in one person.

The hypostatic also affirms that there is no change, alteration, division, separation, or confusion in the two natures of Jesus and that the properties of each nature are preserved and remain distinct in one person. Much like the doctrine of the Trinity, this is a concept that is difficult for the human mind to grasp but important to believe since the Scriptures clearly teach it.

Not only is the hypostatic union essential to Christianity because it explains how Jesus could be fully God and fully man at the same time, but it also explains how Jesus could truly represent humanity before God and make atonement for the sins of humanity. The doctrine affirms that Jesus is the God-man, fully divine and fully human in one person and that He is the only mediator between God and humanity.

This further explains why the punishment poured out on Christ, known as the penal substitutionary atonement, was temporary while the punishment poured out on sinners in Hell is eternal and everlasting. God was able to pour out an infinite amount of wrath on Jesus because Jesus was the infinite God Himself. Jesus’s infinite and eternal righteous and sinless nature is able to absorb the infinite and eternal wrath of God in one finite act.

Jesus lived a sinless life and willingly gave his life on the cross as a sacrifice for the sins of humanity. He rose from the dead on the third day, conquering death and redeeming all who would come to Him in faith and repentance.

The incarnation is a reality that has changed the course of human historyโ€”it gives humanity hope and the assurance that we are not alone in this world and that we are able to fulfill our purpose in glorifying God through a relationship with Him. Despite our sin and rebellion against God, because of the incarnation, we can know that we have an advocate and a representative to stand before us in the presence of the Father who will intercede on our behalf.

The importance of the incarnation cannot be overstated as it is the very foundation of the Christian religion and the means by which humanity can be reconciled to God. It is the ultimate act of love and sacrifice that demonstrates the depth of God’s love for humanity and His desire to restore our relationship with Him. Ultimately, the incarnation brings glory to God in that He is able to demonstrate his love and his eternal, divine attributes to humanity through humanity.

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