Why the Incarnation?

incarnation

We all love Christmas. I’ve been listening to a lot of Christmas music as we approach this season, and have been reading a bit on the Christmas story. We get a lot of happy feelings when Christmas comes along. I’d like to think that it’s because we meditate on the love of God breaking into the creation he made; but more realistically, it’s probably the time with family and abundance of desserts.

But in reality, Christmas should awaken much different thoughts and feelings. This time celebrates the entrance of the writer into his own story. This time announces the creator’s condescension into flesh and blood. During Christmas, what we should most think about is the incarnation, when God the Son, became a man. When the infinite added to himself finiteness. What a wonderful mystery, is it not?

Have you ever thought about God becoming man? Have you ever tried to fathom the depths of the doctrine of the incarnation? If you do, you will soon find yourself in amazement over the unfathomable riches of this great doctrine. An infinitely omnipotent God became a helpless baby. What humility! What love!

But also, have you ever wondered about the purpose of the incarnation? Why did God become a man? The book of Hebrews gives us some insight on this. In Hebrews 2:9, the author says,

“9 But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone.”

First, Jesus became a human that he might taste death for everyone. This is the first reason: God the Son had to become a man in order to taste death. If God was to die for the sins of mankind, he first needed to be able to die. The Trinitarian God cannot die. But humans can. And so, the eternal God became a man that he might become defeated, and die.

Of course, this is quite obvious. But then we must ask: why did God need to die? Why did the unkillable God need to die for the world? Hebrews 2:14-15 tells us why:

“14 Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery.”

Second, the eternal God came and clothed himself in killable human flesh that he might die, and not only die, but supernaturally overcome death and the evil one. Ever since sin entered into the world because of sin, humanity has become subject to death and separation from God, and is now under the dominion of the devil (2 Cor 4:4, Eph 2:1-10). There is no human that is not overtaken by this curse. And because of this, there is no mere human that can wrestle with death and Satan and overtake them. No, we need a human that has not been affected by the curse, so that he might overtake the power of the curse. And this happened in Jesus’ supernatural conception.

Luke says that he was conceived of the Holy Spirit that he might be born holy (Luke 1:35). Jesus was not born of the stock of Adam, of the sinful seed, but rather, God the Son was conceived by the holy and supernatural power of the Spirit. And because of this Jesus was born without sin, without the threat of the curse, out from under Satan’s thumb, and without the punishment of death. And yet, he died still, and three days later defeated Satan and death by his infinite power. It’s because of this that Paul says Jesus was the firstborn from the dead (Col 1:18), the first to raise from death, overcoming it and leaving it powerless. So Jesus was incarnate that he might be able to die, and having died, supernaturally overcome the Satan and the curse.

Lastly, Jesus was incarnate that he might eternally and sufficiently atone for the sins of mankind. Hebrews 10:11-14 says,

“11 And every priest stands daily at his service, offering repeatedly the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. 12 But when Christ had offered for all time a single sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God, 13 waiting from that time until his enemies should be made a footstool for his feet. 14 For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified.”

This passage gives the last and final purpose of Christ’s incarnation, which is to provide final and eternal atonement. In the Mosaic Covenant, the priests had to repeatedly offer the sacrifices of goats and bulls. Every time Israel sinned, they had to kill an animal. And the reason for the multitude of sacrifices is because “it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Heb 10:4). And why is it impossible? Because bulls and goats are not sufficient. First of all, they are not human. And second of all, they are not perfect. For something to be able to atone perfectly and eternally, it needs to a be a suitable substitute, and it needs to be a spotless one.

Think about it. The concept behind the sacrifices was this: instead of the sinner receiving the penalty for sin, a bull or goat would receive the penalty. But humans are not bulls or goats. For this reason, they are not suitable substitutes. For someone to truly and finally take away our sins, we need a human to die in our place. That is why Hebrews says that, “since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, [Christ] likewise partook in the same things” (Heb 2:14). Christ partook in the same nature that he might substitute himself for us.

But also, we need a human who is eternally perfect and sinless in order for it to be a sufficient sacrifice. A sinful man cannot atone for the sins of another sinful man. We need a perfect man. But not only a perfect man; we need a man that is eternally perfect, one that that can remove our sins for all time. Only the God-man can do that. Only a preexistent and holy God-man can do that.

And so, when Jesus was born in that manger, taking on the a human nature, he did it for the very purpose of dying, overcoming death, and atoning eternally for the sins of mankind. This is what we should meditate on when we think about Christmas. An eternal God becoming man that he might become spurned, destroyed, and victorious over our sins. Have you ever thought of this?

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