What Has God Done?

What Has God Done? – Advent #1 Luke 1:35       12/03/19 Have you ever seriously considered the implications of what we celebrate on Christmas?  Some things are true… but unexplained.  It seems that God leaves it to us to think them through.  Such is the case with the “incarnation.”  Now, no matter how hard I may try, I will never fully explain, and you will never fully understand, the event that this innocuous little word “incarnation” describes.  All I can tell you is that God seems to delight in doing what should be impossible.  He’s been doing that all along.  In fact, miracles are really only surprising if your view of God is too small.  The incarnation, if given the thought that it deserves, will force us to expand our understanding of the nature, power, and wisdom, of our God.  Our text today is Luke 1:35-37, which, as usual, I leave to you to look up and read.  How could the man Jesus be God the Son?  How should we understand the title, “Son of God”?  Was Jesus a split personality?  Was the body of Jesus really just an avatar that the Son of God was driving?  Did the Son stop being God to become Jesus?  Did the man Jesus become a God?  The incarnation forces us to think these things through. Now… God’s power is manifestly obvious to anyone with eyes to see, but because of our sin, His love is often shrouded and hard to discern.  Interestingly, man was originally created in the image of God, and as God’s image bearers we were supposed to reflect His love.  Through sin this image was marred.  Rather than reflecting God’s image and His nature, now mankind produces children in the image of the parents.  The union of a man and a woman, both sinners by nature and by practice, can only produce a child with a nature[1] matching the nature of the parents.  The result is a universal state of sin. And so, God moved in power to make it possible for One suited to reveal His love to be born.  He would demonstrate that love through serving as our sin-sacrifice, but to accomplish this He would need to be something never before seen, hence the virgin birth.  Every year we celebrate the birth of the Savior through a virgin birth… so what?  There are two inter-related truths coming out of the incarnation, the first is that the Word was God.[2]  We start with God the Son, He’s introduced to us in John 1:1.  The second truth is that the Word was made flesh.[3]  The Father gave the Son, and the Son was conceived in the flesh by the Holy Spirit, and the Son became a human being;[4] John 1:14.  This birth is described briefly in Luke 2:1-7. It literally took centuries for the early Church to wrap its collective mind around exactly what took place.  In A.D. 381 the Council of Constantinople declared that God was a single eternal being existing as three distinct persons.[5]  I find it interesting that the early church developed a universally accepted doctrine for the Trinity before they came to agreement on the nature of Jesus as both God and man.  Ultimately, it was in the Council of Chalcedon, A.D. 451, that a universally accepted statement of the nature of Jesus was produced.[6]  You can find it on-line if you’re  interested.  It is called “the Caledonian Formula.”  It’s through the virgin birth that God the Son took on flesh producing the one person, Jesus, with two indissoluble natures.[7]  God the Son took into union with Himself what before He did not possess; a human nature.[8]  The result was (and is) God and man in two distinct natures joined forever in one Person.[9]  This was produced through the miraculous conception and birth of Jesus Christ.[10]  This is what the incarnation made possible. As difficult as it is to understand, this is absolutely fundamental to Christian theology.[11]  Jesus possessed two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the distinctiveness of the natures being by no means removed because of the union.[12]  All of this is required to make one single act possible, our redemptions.[13] Mary conceived a child, God’s child, by the power and work of the Holy Spirit, with the result that the Child Jesus was “the Holy One” who must be identified as “the Son of God.”[14]  This is the flip side of the incarnation, God determined that the Messianic Son would not be drawn from existing humanity.[15]  It was accomplished through a unique creative act that brings into being a Child who could otherwise never have existed.[16] We quickly bump up against a mystery.  The Person involved in all of this was already the “Son of God” prior to the incarnation.  But… the Person Jesus had a definite birth date.  Through the incarnation God and man are joined together in a single individual with two distinct natures.  There can be little doubt that we’re intended to be left with a mystery regarding “this child whose mode of origin is quite unprecedented.”[17] It’s not uncommon to have the doctrine of the virgin birth denied,[18] we’ve had people in our own congregation who did so.  However, you cannot have a Savior, you cannot have the forgiveness of sin through faith, without the virgin birth.  The possibility of salvation and the reality of the virgin birth go hand in hand.[19] Through taking on flesh, joining the life of the Creator with the life of the created, Jesus now invites us to enter into the love God shares within His own triune nature.[20]  It was nothing but God’s love that prompted Him to condescend to take on the form and nature of His own creatures.[21]  We find this, in Philippians 2:6-7 ~ 6 …who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, 7 but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.[22] We’re called upon to take on this same attitude.  We’re called upon to humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God.  We don’t need to chase power; we already serve an all-powerful God.[23]  We need to forsake power for the sake of love.  The command that we have is to do again what mankind was initially intended to do; reflect the love of God to the world.

[1] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume IV, Matthew – Romans, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 247.

[2] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, trans., Erico Ericus, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 1.

[3] E.L. Mascall, Christ, the Christian, and the Church: A Study of the Incarnation and its Consequences, trans., Erico Ericus, (Hendrickson Publishers, Peabody, MA.: 2017), 1.

[4] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume One: God, the Word, and Redemption, in Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Three Volumes in One, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 94.

[5] Roger Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform, (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.: 1999), 197.

[6] Roger Olson, The Story of Christian Theology: Twenty Centuries of Tradition and Reform, (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL.: 1999), 199.

[7] The People’s Bible Encyclopedia: Biographical, Geographical, Historical, and Doctrinal, ed., Charles Barnes, (The People’s Publications Society, Chicago, IL.: 1924), 524.

[8] R.L. Reymond, Incarnation, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, ed., Walter Elwell, (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI.: 2001), 601.

[9] R.L. Reymond, Incarnation, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, ed., Walter Elwell, (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI.: 2001), 601.

[10] The People’s Bible Encyclopedia: Biographical, Geographical, Historical, and Doctrinal, ed., Charles Barnes, (The People’s Publications Society, Chicago, IL.: 1924), 524.

[11] The People’s Bible Encyclopedia: Biographical, Geographical, Historical, and Doctrinal, ed., Charles Barnes, (The People’s Publications Society, Chicago, IL.: 1924), 525.

[12] R.L. Reymond, Incarnation, in the Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, Second Edition, ed., Walter Elwell, (Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, MI.: 2001), 601.

[13] J. Rodman Williams, Renewal Theology, Volume One: God, the Word, and Redemption, in Renewal Theology: Systematic Theology from a Charismatic Perspective, Three Volumes in One, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI.: 1996), 305.

[14] Larry Richards and Lawrence O. Richards, The Teacher’s Commentary (Wheaton, IL: Victor Books, 1987), 642.

[15] John Nolland, Luke 1:1–9:20, vol. 35A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1989), 56.

[16] John Nolland, Luke 1:1–9:20, vol. 35A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1989), 56.

[17] John Nolland, Luke 1:1–9:20, vol. 35A, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, Incorporated, 1989), 55.

[18] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume IV, Matthew – Romans, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 247.

[19] J. Vernon McGee, Thru the Bible with J. Vernon McGee: Volume IV, Matthew – Romans, (Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, TN.: 1983), 248.

[20] Ian McFarland, The Worde Made Flesh: A Theology of the Incarnation, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 2019), 74.

[21] Ian McFarland, The Worde Made Flesh: A Theology of the Incarnation, (Westminster John Knox Press, Louisville, KY.: 2019), 74.

[22] The New King James Version (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1982), Php 2:6–7.

[23] Eddie Hyatt, The Gift of Vulnerability: Why Jesus chose live over power two millennia ago, in Charisma, December 2019, (Charisma Media, Lake Mary, FL.: 2019), 28.

1 view