“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” 1 Timothy 3:16
Today, we celebrated the mystery that begins Paul’s list of mysteries: God was manifested in the flesh. Year after year, this fact continues to astound His church. Even before that first Christmas, the psalmist was gripped with God’s exalted highness and humble attentiveness:
“The LORD is high above all nations, His glory above the heavens. Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?” Psalm 113:4-6
Truly, the incarnation, God becoming man, is something we could wonder at forever. Recently I shared a short lesson in a kids’ Sunday school class about it, and we discussed three reasons the incarnation is so important. Why was God’s Son born as a human baby?
God Became Human to Offer Us Salvation
God, from His throne in Heaven, could create us, care for us, and even judge us–but He, on His throne, could not save us. All people have rejected God and disobeyed His perfect law (Romans 3:9-20), and if He is to forgive us, blood must be shed (Hebrews 9:22). The wages of sin is death (Romans 6:23). Either we must face the punishment, or a perfect Substitute must take our place, bear our penalty, and offer us the rewards of His perfection.
Jesus, becoming human, was made like us (Phil. 2:7). Because He was God, He was without sin, but because He was human, He could represent our race (Romans 5:18-19). Because He had a body, He could die in our place (1 Peter 2:24). Because He became flesh, His blood could pay the price to forgive our sins and bring us into a relationship with God the Father (Colossians 1:14, 20). God the Son became a human to forgive our sins.
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil… to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:14, 17
God Became Human to Understand our Human Experiences
God in Heaven lives without the presence of sin (Psalm 5:4-5). He cannot even be tempted to sin (James 1:13). He is holy, self-sufficient, and far above us (Isaiah 6:3, 40:12-18, 55:8-9). God in Heaven could never sympathize with our difficulties, our weaknesses, or our temptations.
Jesus, becoming human, lived a life of difficulty. For three years as an itinerant Preacher, He had no home (Luke 9:58). He was constantly bombarded by people just looking for a hand-out and continually frustrated by even His closest friends’ lack of faith (John 6:26, Luke 8:24-25). He Himself was tempted to sin; He felt the tug of His flesh pulling Him away from God’s plan (Luke 4:1-2, Matthew 26:36-39). He was weak, He was persecuted, He was forsaken, He was rejected, not because He had to experience life on earth like the rest of us do, but because He wanted to be able to respond to our prayers with, “I get it. I went through it, too.” Jesus Christ chose to experience our experiences so that He could help us through them. He can empathize, guide, encourage, and ultimately lead us in His victory through every human struggle. God the Son became a human to understand every part of our experience in this life.
“Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God…For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:17-18
God Became Human to Reveal Himself to Us
God in Heaven, being holy and above us, is beyond our comprehension. We could never understand Him or know Him in our limited and fallen human state.
“Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and His ways past finding out! For who has known the mind of the Lord? Or who has become His counselor? Or who has first given to Him
And it shall be repaid to him?” Romans 11:33-35
But God desires that we know Him, that we become His friends and His children (John 15:13-16). So He communicated with us. He spoke through prophets who preached His words and scribes who wrote them down. Sometimes He used angels or visions or even a finger writing on a wall. But when we still refused to hear and failed to understand, He came down to us Himself.
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son…being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person.” Hebrews 1:1-3
He didn’t just descend in a flash of thunder and lightning. God in His glory could never be seen by our human eyes (Exodus 33:20), so He came in a form we could see. He became like us. His knowledge was astounding, His words authoritative, His presence gracious and powerful, but He was fully human: fully human, yet completely God, to reveal God’s fullness to us.
“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…And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace.” John 1:14, 16
Jesus came that we might receive Him and become His friends. Jesus came so He could give us the truth in a way we understand. God the Son became a human to show us the Father and share with us His fullness and grace.
This is our Father’s gift to us. This is Jesus. This is our God. This is Christmas.
Then, adored in highest Heaven,
We shall see the virgin’s Son,
All creation bowed before Him,
Man upon th’eternal throne:
Where, like sound of many waters
In one ever rising flood,
Myriad voices hymn His triumph,
Victim, Priest, incarnate God.
Worthy He all praise and blessing
Who, by dying, death o’ercame;
Glory be to God forever!
Alleluia to the Lamb!