The Incarnation 



LogoIs Jesus Christ God or man? The Bible answers, both. He is true man:



  • "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone...For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying: 'I will declare Your name to My brethren; In the midst of the assembly I will sing praise to You.' And again: 'I will put My trust in Him.' And again: 'Here am I and the children whom God has given Me.' 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, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage."
  • (Hebrews 2:9-15).




In numerous scriptures, Jesus Christ is specifically called, and also calls Himself, a 'man,' which is surely not without significance:

  • "And so it is written, 'The first man Adam became a living being.' The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.'" (1 Corinthians 15:45).
  • "This is he of whom I said, After me cometh a man which is preferred before me: for he was before me." (John 1:30).
  • "Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know. . ." (Acts 2:22).
  • "Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained." (Acts 17:30-31).
  • “Behold, the Man whose name is the BRANCH! From His place He shall branch out, and He shall build the temple of the Lord; Yes, He shall build the temple of the Lord. He shall bear the glory, and shall sit and rule on His throne; so He shall be a priest on His throne, and the counsel of peace shall be between them both.” (Zechariah 6:12-13).
  • "But now you seek to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth which I heard from God. Abraham did not do this." (John 8:40).
  • "He is despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief." (Isaiah 53:3).

There are other scriptures in which activities and characteristics which pertain to men, but not to God, such as sleeping, thirsting, growing tired, and possessing flesh, blood and bones, are ascribed to Jesus:

  • "After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, 'I thirst!'" (John 19:28).
  • "Behold My hands and My feet, that it is I Myself. Handle Me and see, for a spirit does not have flesh and bones as you see I have." (Luke 24:39).
  • "For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist." (2 John 1:7).
  • "But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons." (Galatians 4:4).
  • "By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world." (1 John 4:2-3).
  • "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).
  • "Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, and declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead." (Romans 1:1-3).
  • "But one of the soldiers pierced His side with a spear, and immediately blood and water came out." (John 19:34).
  • "...who, in the days of His flesh, when He had offered up prayers and supplications, with vehement cries and tears to Him who was able to save Him from death, and was heard because of His godly fear, though He was a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered." (Hebrews 5:7-8).
  • "I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches.  I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star." (Revelation 22:16).
  • "And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and men." (Luke 2:52).
  • "For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham.  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, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.  For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted." (Hebrews 2:16-18).
  • "Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour." (John 4:6).

In Psalm 40, as quoted in Hebrews 10:5-7, the Messiah makes mention of a 'body,' which is characteristic of flesh, whereas "God is a Spirit" (John 4:24): "Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not; but a body hast thou prepared me: whole-burnt-offering and sacrifice for sin thou didst not require. Then I said, Behold, I come: in the volume of the book it is written concerning me, I desired to do thy will, O my God, and thy law in the midst of mine heart." (Psalm 40:6-8 Brenton Septuagint).



  • “Then Jesus came out, wearing the crown of thorns and the purple robe. And Pilate said to them, 'Behold the Man!'”
  • (John 19:5).




So we know that He is true man.

...and He is true God:

  • "...of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen." (Romans 9:5).
  • "And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life." (1 John 5:20).
  • "And Thomas answered and said to Him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (John 20:28).

Both questions receive an affirmative answer. How can this be?







Two Natures

The nature of deity is not the same as humanity. The Old Testament teaches that God does not sleep: "My help cometh from the LORD, which made heaven and earth. He will not suffer thy foot to be moved: he that keepeth thee will not slumber. Behold, he that keepeth Israel shall neither slumber nor sleep." (Psalm 121:2-4). But Jesus slept: "And he was in the hinder part of the ship, asleep on a pillow: and they awake him, and say unto him, Master, carest thou not that we perish?" (Mark 4:38). God cannot die: "Who only hath immortality, dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto; whom no man hath seen, nor can see: to whom be honor and power everlasting. Amen." (1 Timothy 6:16). But Jesus died: "For in that he died, he died unto sin once: but in that he liveth, he liveth unto God." (Romans 6:10). This indeed is why God the Son became man, in order to die for us. He took on human nature, which is not the same as His own eternal divine nature. He was God before the ages, who late in time became a man. He lost nothing in the transaction:

"'The Word was made flesh. . .' The Word who was in the beginning, who was with God and was God, became incarnate, yet He who dwelt among men was still the Word. In Person, He remained all that He had ever been, and yet became that which He had never been. He became flesh by taking to Himself all that pertained to true manhood — human spirit, human soul, and human body — yet all apart from sin." (H.. C. Hewlett, The Glories of Our Lord, p. 49).

Dissenters use His humanity as proof against His Deity. Mohammed ibn Abdallah considered the fact that Jesus (and His mother!) ate food an irrefutable disproof of His Deity: "The Messiah, Son of Mary, is but an Apostle; other Apostles have flourished before him; and his mother was a just person: they both ate food. Behold! how we make clear to them the signs! then behold how they turn aside!" (Koran, Sura 5:79). To eat food pertains to humanity not deity:

"For every beast of the forest is mine, and the cattle upon a thousand hills. I know all the fowls of the mountains: and the wild beasts of the field are mine. If I were hungry, I would not tell thee: for the world is mine, and the fullness thereof. Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats?" (Psalm 50:10-13).

But Jesus felt hunger: "Being forty days tempted of the devil. And in those days he did eat nothing: and when they were ended, he afterward hungered." (Luke 4:2). Inasmuch as Jesus Christ is both man and God, His eating food does display His humanity but in no way disproves His deity. Since no one ever claimed His mother was anything other than human, her eating food is scarcely remarkable! One odd Bible fact to share with your Muslim friends is the time when God, visiting Abraham, did eat:

"And he took butter, and milk, and the calf which he had dressed, and set it before them; and he stood by them under the tree, and they did eat." (Genesis 18:8).

God is omnipotent. The burden of proof should be on those who say, there is one thing which the omnipotent God cannot do, and that is to become a man.


Unto Us a Child is Born


Humankind have not the same nature with God: "God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man, that He should repent." (Numbers 23:19). This does not mean, though, that He cannot take on our nature in addition to His own: "Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, 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." (Philippians 2:5-7).




What can God not do that He wills to do?: "But our God is in heaven; He does whatever He pleases." (Psalm 115:3).  It is this combination of Bible truths: that human nature is not the same as the divine nature, yet that the Word, God before the ages, was made flesh, which leads believers to speak of two natures in Christ.

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Humbled Himself

 "My Father is greater than I."



The Apostle John

Ancient tradition ascribes authorship of the fourth gospel to the Apostle John:

"The Gospel of John was revealed and given to the churches by John while he was yet in the body, as one Papias by name, bishop of Hierapolis, disciple of John and dear to him, related in the Exoterica at the end of the five books, indeed he wrote the Gospel at John's dictation. But Marcion the heretic, when he was disapproved by him because of his wrong opinions, was cast out by John. Indeed this person had brought writings, or letters, to him from the brethren who were in Pontus.'" (Latin Anti-Marcionite Prologue, quoted p. 659, The Mission and Message of Jesus, H. D. A. Major, T. W. Manson, C. J. Wright).

This is disbelieved by many nowadays, but not because any contrary information has come to light. This apostle, who reportedly left the building when the docetist Cerinthus entered, through concern lest the ceiling come crashing in onto the heretic, insists particularly on the real incarnation in the flesh. The Lord hungered and thirsted, shed tears and felt pain; He was no phantom:



  • “Now Jacob’s well was there. Jesus therefore, being wearied from His journey, sat thus by the well. It was about the sixth hour.”
  • (John 4:6).


  • “Jesus wept.”
  • (John 11:35).


  • “When Jesus had said these things, He was troubled in spirit, and testified and said, 'Most assuredly, I say to you, one of you will betray Me.'”
  • (John 13:21).



Docetism is a heresy, like Simon's, which arose early enough in church history to receive an apostolic rebuke:

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Docetism

 Docetism



Nestorius

If there are two natures in Christ, are there also two persons? This might seem an odd question, except it's been answered in the affirmative. The fifth century bishop of Constantinople, Nestorius, began his career as a heresy-hunter: "Being ordained on the 10th of April, under the consulate of Felix and Taurus, he immediately uttered those famous words, before all the people, in addressing the emperor, 'Give me, my prince, the earth purged of heretics, and I will give you heaven as a recompense. Assist me in destroying heretics, and I will assist you in vanquishing the Persians.'" (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, Book 7, Chapter 29),— who ended up among the hunted.

Nestorius' system posited two hypostases in Christ, deity and humanity, and three prosopa, two of which, deity and humanity, are subsets of the third, which is the union of the two. Nestorius described the flesh as a subsisting person in its own right prior to the incarnation: "He [Nestorius] thus says: 'He who is the similitude of God has taken the person of the flesh.' Also: 'And it is known that God the Word is said to have become flesh and the Son of man after the likeness and after the person of the flesh.'" (Harry Austryn Wolfson, The Philosophy of the Church Fathers, p. 452, quotes from Nestorius, The Bazaar of Heracleides).  After the incarnation, which Nestorius considered to have taken place in the womb, he continues to describe "the person of the humanity" and "the person of the divinity" as distinct, carefully segregating their attributes and biographies. In Nestorius' system, Jesus' human traits like hungering, thirsting and sleeping were to be predicated of the "person of the humanity,"— the "Son of man,"— while divine attributes were predicated of God the Word. While Nestorius did believe that Jesus Christ was God incarnate, his segregation of divine attributes from human and his refusal to predicate both of the same subject could leave him sounding as if he denied even that: "When many had declared that Christ was God, Nestorius said: 'I cannot term him God who was two and three months old. I am therefore clear of your blood, and shall in future come no more among you.'" (Socrates, Ecclesiastical History, Book 7, Chapter 34).



The new religious movement of 'Oneness' Pentecostalism effectively teaches something much like Nestorius' system of two persons in Christ.  His complex and difficult system met with the following rebuff, teaching two natures united in one person as orthodox:

"Following, then, the holy fathers, we unite in teaching all men to confess the one and only Son, our Lord Jesus Christ.  This selfsame one is perfect both in deity and in humanness; this selfsame one is also actually God and actually man, with a rational soul and a body.  He is of the same reality as God as far as his deity is concerned and of the same reality as we ourselves as far as his humanness is concerned; thus like us in all respects, sin only excepted.  Before time began he was begotten of the Father, in respect of his deity, and now in these 'last days,' for us and behalf of our salvation, this selfsame one was born of Mary the virgin, who is God-bearer in respect of his humanness.
"We also teach that we apprehend this one and only Christ -- Son, Lord, only-begotten -- in two natures; and we do this without confusing the two natures, without transmuting one nature into the other, without dividing them into two separate categories, without contrasting them according to area or function.  The distinctiveness of each nature is not nullified by the union. Instead, the 'properties' of each nature are conserved and both natures concur in one 'person' and in one reality ['hypostasis'].  They are not divided or cut into two persons, but are together the one and only and only-begotten Word of God, the Lord Jesus Christ.  Thus have the prophets of old testified; thus the Lord Jesus Christ himself taught us; thus the Symbol of Fathers has handed down to us."
(Definition of Chalcedon).

While those alarmed at the excesses of Mariolatry wince at the description of Mary as 'God-bearer' — theotokos — the dispute is not about who Mary was but about who Christ is.  There is compelling Bible evidence that there are not two persons in Christ but only one: the Holy Spirit does not, as Nestorius insisted upon, segregate divine attributes from human, ascribing each to its own proper subject. 'Son of man' is, on its face, a title addressing the humanity of Christ,— yet a divine attribute like omnipresence can be ascribed to the 'Son of man' in scripture: "No one has ascended to heaven but He who came down from heaven, that is, the Son of Man who is in heaven." (John 3:13).

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Son of Man

Where does the Lord's title, 'Son of man,' come from?:

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Daniel's Vision I the Son of Man
Common Sense Rabbi Akiba
The Other Beloved Son
Psalm 80 Psalm 8