Chapter 5: The Incarnation
… What no one could imagine …
Throughout the ages God revealed fragments of His mind. The Old Testament is a record of the many prophets, priest and scholars, scattered throughout many generations, who perceived portions of God’s purpose. The best scholars steeped themselves into detailed studies, trying to piece together this puzzle. The priests diligently performed their rituals, aware that the very repetition of these rituals pointed towards an event and meaning that would eclipse their activities.
A picture started to emerge … and it was shocking. All the fragments joined together, all the prophetic utterances stitched together painted a picture of … a shadow! However amazing these revelations were, they were still only a shadow of what God was about to unleash. The substance behind the shadow was about to appear!
Despite the thousands of years of inspired utterance and scholastic studies, there remained a mystery which no eye had seen, no ear had heard – a mystery beyond the capability of any imagination!
No one except God could ever have conceived such a plan: Eternity would enter time; the infinite would enter space. God would become a man!
The Word, the expression of God, the exact representation of God became flesh! This was no half-hearted attempt by which God simply disguised Himself in a human body. This was a permanent commitment by which God forever joined Himself to humanity – His eternal destiny bound up in the destiny of man. He became man in the fullest sense possible and would remain a man forever.
The authentic Creator, the true light that enlightens every man was coming into this world. His mission was nothing less than shattering our illusions, exposing the unreal, unoriginal and fake identity that we embraced outside of Him. He came with the clear message to darkness that its time was up. Darkness has had all the opportunity it needed and failed to fulfill man, failed to provide a viable alternative. The incarnation reveals that our true selves, our true humanity can only be found in union with God.
Jesus brings the final and thorough judgement that the law failed to bring: judgement on the ignorance and lies that man so desperately embraced. The emptiness and futility of separation is exposed by Christ.
Simultaneously He introduces us to our true substance, to our existence in Him. The Creator became part of creation to redeem it from the grasp of corruption. In the incarnation He draws His creation back into the significance and value for which He created it. He reveals our true significance, our eternal origin and destiny in Him.
… Fully God …
Jesus represents God in the fullest, truest sense possible. Jesus not only represents God, He is God. What He says, God says; what He does, God does. Jesus Himself said “if you’ve seen me, you’ve seen the Father”. Paul wrote in 2 Cor 5:19 that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself.
The implications of this incarnation are staggering! God became man without ceasing to be God. Jesus boldly declares “… before Abraham was, I AM.” Neither did this transformation, this form of existence as a man, frustrate God. In fact Col 1:19 shows that this was a pleasure! Col 2:9 reveals that God in all His fullness found expression in the body of Christ Jesus! Man is God-compatible!
God does not consider the human body an embarrassment to His desire to reveal and express Himself. He knows that our very existence is the result of His artistic expression to portray His image and likeness. The most accurate and exact reflection of God was revealed in the man Jesus Christ. “...Jesus is the radiant and flawless expression of the person of God. He makes the glory (intent) of God visible and exemplifies the character and every attribute of God in human form.” (Heb 1:3) Christ did not come to bring another dim or obscure view, but a full and complete and crystal clear view of our Father and our likeness to Him.
Whatever the Word was in God, before the incarnation, He now is within human form. He was not reduced in person or expressive ability when He became man. He is still the eternal Word, present to God, face to face with God, the mirror image of God, who Himself is God … and is man. To exist as a man was His plan from the beginning.
So in the person of Christ God gave unhindered expression to Himself and in so doing, revealed what He was really like. Jesus is the revelation of the true identity and character of God. Against a backdrop of rituals and laws and judgements which confused so many about the character of God, He shows up personally to remove every misconception. He is not vengeful – He is willing to take our just punishment for us. He is not easily offended, but rather at the peak of our enmity against Him, He is willing to reconcile us to Himself even while we were still dead in our trespasses and sins.
God is often described in lofty terms such as: Omnipresent (present everywhere); Omniscient (all knowing); Omnipotent (all powerful). However in becoming man in Christ Jesus, He limits Himself to a single location; we read that He grew in knowledge and wisdom, and that in His home town He could not do many mighty works because of their unbelief. Despite the fact that Jesus was no longer omnipresent, omniscient or omnipotent, God was still able to fully be Himself in Christ! Why? Because in essence God is love and the human existence is not in any way an inferior expression of His love or life.
He lived fully and continues to express Himself without constraint in the man Christ Jesus! Our humanity is not a constraint to God’s ability to fully and freely express Himself. You are not a frustration to God, you are His opportunity to be.
Jesus did not come to change the heart and mind of God concerning man. He came to reveal the truth about God and about us and in so doing make us true – genuinely ourselves.
“God, who has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” 2 Tim 1:9,10
God’s mind and attitude toward us was established before time began. He gave us grace – gave us Himself even before we were born, before we could do anything to deserve it, or not deserve it. Before we had any opportunity to impress or disappoint Him, He was already impressed – impressed with the image and likeness He stamped upon our beings. From His point of view we were found before we were lost – He found us in Christ before He lost us in Adam. We were given grace before the fall. He was simply waiting for the opportune time in which to appear – in which to reveal what has always been: the reality of our salvation in Christ Jesus.
… Fully Man …
God became man in the fullest sense possible – He embraced humanity in this act of incarnation to such an extent that all of humanity would be represented in His person. The extent to which He became man, is the extent to which this salvation is reality to us. We were in His life, His death, His resurrection and His ascension. He took humanity upon Himself, within Himself, with such intensity that God would consider His every act as the act of man. His accomplishments would be credited to the account of mankind. He represents man more completely, truly and fully than any other man.
Your birth did not take God by surprise! When you showed up on planet earth, is not when He found out about you. He knew you before you were born. He was intimately acquainted with your design and chose you individually before time began.
What He knew about you before your birth is still His only reference for who you are. Your successes or failures have not changed His mind about you. Love never stops believing the best; never stops hoping; never runs out of patience and love never fails.
He knows the truth about you. Eph 1:13 describes this message as the “word of truth – the gospel of your salvation” This is the good news of the reality of what God did for you and of what Jesus did on your behalf: He redeemed your original design.
We often read, especially in theological books, about the nature of man. (It’s interesting that this term is rarely used in the scriptures.) So I did some research as to what most theologians mean by ‘nature of man’. It means the truth or reality of man!
That is such a clear and simple definition – the problem is that many try to find the truth and reality of man in Adam’s fall. We should look a bit further back and discover Gen 1:26 – The truth and reality of man came out of God. His nature was the origin of our nature. His reality is the substance we were made from!
The key to understanding the mystery of God-and-man-in-the-one-person-of-Christ, is to realise that He designed man for this very purpose of unity with God. There is no conflict in God’s design between the nature of man and the nature of God.
Man is God’s idea. And so when God became man it was the original, authentic idea of man that manifested in the person of Christ – the perfect man. What God always knew to be true of man suddenly burst upon the stage of human history. “The true light that gives light to every man was coming into the world.” John 1:9 He is the light that reveals the truth about all of humanity, and to each one individually. The revelation He brings is “…full of grace and truth”.
The fact that God was able to become man, is testament to the integrity of our design. When He originally created man saying: “Be our image and our likeness”, He did not create an inferior creature to Himself – He created exactly what he said: His own mirror reflection in form and substance. In Jesus we recognise God as bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh. This likeness is the basis for intimacy without shame and without hindrance.
… Plan A …
The story of Adam and Eve has sometimes been presented as God’s first attempts at relationship with man. However the fall forced Him to think of an alternative. That is not true.
The need for the incarnation did not surprise God – He planned this before the fall. The incarnation – the event in which God would become man – was His idea from the start. The fall did not necessitate redemption; redemption was planned before the fall.
He did not simply endure being human for 33 years and then, with great relief, returned to being God! 1 Tim 2:5, was written after the resurrection and ascension and reveals that Christ Jesus is still a man: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus”. The incarnation is permanent. He united Himself with Humanity in such a way that He would never be separated again. He bound Himself to our existence; committed Himself to our destiny. The resurrection is proof that this God-man union is not a temporary event, but an eternal unbreakable union.
God has invested everything He has, everything He is, in mankind. He has no other investment, no other interest, no other occupation than you! He believes in you, He is fully committed to you. “...How many are Your thoughts toward me, how vast the sum of them...” Ps 139:17
… All of mankind …
Authentic speaks of that which is original. The truth about man, the authentic truth about you, is found in your origin. There is a greater reference and definition of man, than Adam’s fall. God individually knew us even before the fall of this world. The opposite of authentic, is derived or fake. Adam chose an unoriginal, unauthorised and fake identity, but the original reality from which man came remained preserved in Christ.
As surely as all mankind was represented in Adam and effected by His act of disobedience, so the same mass of humanity was included in the undeserved gift of Christ. (Rom 5:12-21) Christ is called the last Adam – this not only points to His uniqueness but to the fact that He brought a final end to the old Adamic race, a race identified by sin and the consequent guilt and judgement. In His death all and each one of that race died and in His resurrection, mankind – everyone of us – were restored to blameless innocence before God.
He is not only the last Adam, but He is God’s original thought of man – the original man. Eph 4 refers to Him as the perfect man. He came to unveil God’s authentic thought about man, to restore man to the image and likeness for which He designed us; to break the dormancy of the DNA of God that remained hidden, in lifeless seed form, in each man; to remind mankind that we belong, that we have the image of our owner stamped upon our being.
In Christ, God took decisive action to restore and bring you back to what He always had in mind. Christ reveals that God has made a decision concerning you, and that decision is to unite you with Himself. God is not slowly making up His mind about mankind as a whole or you individually as He observes our choices and actions. No! He made up His mind before He created you and determined that you would stand blameless before Him, enveloped in His love. Christ Jesus makes known what God decided about you: He believes in you!
… Personal …
This is no impersonal generic philosophy – this Word is as personal as a mirror. In a mirror, you see yourself. James wrote that if any man hears this word, he sees the face of his birth (origin) as in a mirror. When God became man, He did not only embrace humanity, He embraced you personally. He wants you to discover yourself in Him.
There is a vast difference between a shop window and a mirror. A shop window simply reveals potential – what you could have, could buy, could attain. A mirror reveals reality – what is. Jesus is so much more than a moral example for us to follow, so much more than a shop window that shows us what could be possible. He reveals the present reality of our identity.
“And all of us, as with unveiled face, [because we] continued to behold [in the Word of God] as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are constantly being transfigured into His very own image…” 2 Cor 3:18 Amp
Jesus is the mirror that unveils our true face. He reveals that God did not make a mistake when He declared you to be His very own image. Beholding this reality transforms every aspect of our lives.
You were represented in Him. He embraced your humanity. His death was your death; His judgement was your judgement; His resurrection was your resurrection; His glorification is yours; His blameless innocence is yours. His faith is a gift to you so that you no longer have to live by your own convictions, but by the faith of the son of God – live from His point of view! His life is now your life – you no longer have to live yourself, live Him!
The incarnation continues: you are God’s opportunity to continue to live and move and have His being amongst His own; His opportunity for the gift of truth and grace to continue in visible form; His opportunity for the light of life to continue to shine, for the revelation of the Father to continue to surprise humanity with His goodness. In you He has a face. In you He has a personality. Christ continues and you are His body.
… God and Man United …
Jesus is the union of God and man without separation, division or confusion. He fully represents God, in fact He is God. He fully represents man, in fact He is a man. The following is a short summary of what this union means:
Jesus is God’s initiative to reconcile and embrace humanity and He is man’s perfect response to that initiative. He is both God’s judgement and man’s perfect acceptance of that judgement. He simultaneously represents God’s demand for perfection and man’s perfect obedience to that demand – being obedient even unto death. He is both God’s act of salvation and man’s response of perfect faith.
When God became man in Christ, He became the man that God always had in mind. As such He does not represent just one single man, but all of humanity.
In Christ God dealt with the old Adamic race, having forgiven all their sin. In Christ, humanity shed its old sinful identity and received the blameless innocence provided by God. In Christ, God raised humanity to a new level of existence – seated at His right hand. In Christ, humanity responded by taking up this new position to reign and rule in life.
His death was the death of the fallen Adamic race. His resurrection was the birth of a new victorious humanity. His resurrection demonstrates that this union of God and man was not a temporary arrangement, but an eternal reality – God embraced humanity in Christ never to be separated again. This God-man union faced hell and death and came through in-tact.
His ascension is the restoration of man to the place and position that God always intended for man to occupy. If the incarnation was an act in which God humbled Himself to take on human form, then the ascension is an act of glorification in which man is restored to a place of honour and completeness.
Jesus Christ is simultaneously God’s invitation, and man’s acceptance; He is God’s call and man’s answer; He is God’s revelation and man’s response of faith.
So what is left to do? Wake up! Shake of the slumber of what seems to be real around you and see your true self – your embraced-by-God-self.
Awake to the reality of your true identity:
As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness: I shall be satisfied, when I awake in thy likeness. Ps 17:15
Awake to the reality of your new position:
Pursue with diligence the consequence of your co-inclusion in Christ. Relocate yourself mentally! His resurrection co-raised you to the same position of authority, seated in the strength of God’s right hand.
Becoming affectionately acquainted with Throne Room thoughts will keep you from being distracted again by the earthly (soul-ruled) realm.
Your union with His death broke the association with that world; the secret of your life now is the fact that you are wrapped up with Christ in God. Col 3:1-3 Mirror Translation
Awake, awake – the nightmares and contradictions are part of a temporary slumber. There are eternal realities to be discovered! Awake!
The practical implications of this God-man union in Christ is overwhelming! It means that my relationship with God is not based on my obedience, but on the obedience of this one man. It means that even my ‘faith’ is not mine – the faith I present to the Father has its origin in Christ and its perfection in Christ (He is the Author and perfecter of my faith)
(Sample chapter from the book ‘Imagine…’ by Andre Rabe)