Editor’s note: “Matters of faith” is a column that provides local religious leaders a place to write about how their respective faiths provide hope, courage and strength in these modern times.
Many folks find this time of year to be one of joy, reflection, celebration and wonder. I want to share with you some of my own wonder as it relates to the Incarnation.
I have reflected upon the Incarnation this season as I look forward to presenting a Christmas sermon for my local church on this unique event in human history. I hope to reinvigorate in all of us the wonder that I believe should come from contemplating “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” (John 1:14).
The word incarnation is defined as “embodied in or taking on flesh.” It’s no wonder we use this term to describe the conception, birth, life, death, resurrection and ascension of Jesus, since He did all of these things by taking on flesh. So then, what is so cool about the Incarnation? I think there are at least three things:
1. God demonstrates His mercy through the Incarnation of Jesus. In Romans 5:6-11 we learn God extends a gift, a free gift, a grace gift, a merciful gift and that gift is the eternal life found in Jesus Christ. And then in Romans 6:22-23 we discover the significance of this gift as Paul the Apostle explains, “the wages of sin is death.” In other words the just payment for your sin, you’re sinful inclination, activity and life is that you die, both physically and spiritually.
This is the same mercy that the Apostle Paul addressed in his letter to the church of Ephesus in Ephesians 2:4. “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us …” God’s mercy is so vast, so immeasurable in our salvation that Paul speaks of it in terms of life and death.
We were dead, laying there lifeless and God resuscitated us — He made as alive. He filled us spiritually with Himself and made it so that we are able to both want to obey and then follow through on that desire.
Instead of condemning us for our sins, instead of paying us our just reward of separation from Him for eternity, God chooses to accept the sacrifice of Jesus — His blood, His Son’s blood as payment for our transgressions as a satisfaction of His wrath for our sin.
God chooses to accept one life for another — the perfect, sinless, blameless, spotless, unblemished life of Jesus Christ, for yours and mine.
This is an exchange of the righteous for the unrighteous. How merciful towards us must the Triune God be when He sacrificed Himself so that we might be redeemed.
2. God reveals His grace through the Incarnation of Jesus. The Apostle Paul also speaks of the immense grace of God in his letter to Titus. In Titus 2:11 he writes, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men…”
“The grace of God” is not some abstract principle of systematic theology, and it is not a topic relegated to the ivory tower of theological academia. The grace of God is a reference to the unmerited favor, goodness, kindness, compassion and mercy toward undeserving sinners. The Sovereign God of all creation reached down from heaven and rescued those same undeserving sinners from the bondage of sin and spiritual death!
The joy we can have in this truth about God’s grace is that He has not kept it a secret; He hasn’t left us wondering what it is because scripture clearly points out God’s grace has appeared! It has been revealed, it has been made known within the timeline of human history in a very particular way: Jesus Christ, Who is the personification of God’s Grace! All of this is revealed, made known, manifested in the Incarnation of Jesus!
3. God reveals the name of salvation through the Incarnation of Jesus. The final passage from the Holy Bible I would like to point out is Acts 4:12. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
Within the context of Acts 4 this verse explains that it is only by faith in the Incarnate One — Jesus Christ — that anyone might be saved from their sins. I recognize not everyone reading this agrees with me on this issue; however, I am convinced this is exactly what the Holy Bible teaches and I am bound to communicate the same.
Although there are volumes that have been and will be written on this mystery, I leave you with the encouragement to take some time this season and consider the wonder of the Incarnation. And if you are wondering where to start, try John 1:14 “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” May you each have a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year.
Andy Lynch is pastor at Stansbury Park Baptist Church.