December 2, 2009
The Christmas season is upon us and it is simply wonderful! My heart erupts in praise the more I consider the advent of the Christ-child, my Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ–the helpless infant lying in the dirty manger, and yet the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, the one who was, “in very nature God.” This truth is captured in the doctrine of the incarnation. As I pause to reflect on that truth, my mind is blown away by the implications for mankind and I am inspired anew to approach the One in the manger just as the shepherds did: telling others what they had seen and heard, and glorifying and praising God. The birth of Christ is truly one of the most amazing and incomprehensible events in the narrative of God’s plan of redemption. The deeper our understanding of the deity of Christ, the more authentic will our response of worship be at Christmas time, and throughout the entire year.
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14 NIV)
Before we consider the implications of the incarnation, it would be profitable to establish the truth of the doctrine first. The word “incarnation” is not contained in the Bible, but has been used by Christians to capture the truths that the Scriptures teach about the deity of Christ; mainly that Jesus was God in human flesh. According to Wayne Grudem in Systematic Theology, “The Latin word incarnare means “to make flesh,” and is derived from the prefix in- (which has a causative sense, “to cause something to be something”) and the stem caro, carnis-, “flesh.” Instead of an exhaustive study of the deity of Christ, I will attempt to help you “see his glory, the glory of the One and Only.” Let this glimpse inspire a response of worship with awe and reverence.
Going in chronological order, we first consider the prophecies by Isaiah. “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14 NIV) The name Immanuel means, “God with us.” Again Isaiah prophesies about the identity of the coming Messiah.
“For to us a child is born,
to us a son is given,
and the government will be on his shoulders.
And he will be called
Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God,
Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6 NIV)
Herein lies compelling evidence that the child in the manger is indeed “God with us.” Let’s examine what the Scriptures declare about the four names attributed to Jesus – and worship! The fullness of God is revealed in Jesus Christ, the Son. He will be called:
Wonderful Counselor: “All this also comes from the LORD Almighty, wonderful in counsel and magnificent in wisdom.” (Isaiah 28:29 NIV) Worth mentioning here is that Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as the Counselor who would remain with them after he departed. In this single name we see the mystery of the Trinity – God, Christ & Holy Spirit all being declared a wonderful counselor.
Mighty God: “For the LORD your God is God of gods and Lord of lords, the great God, mighty and awesome, who shows no partiality and accepts no bribes. He defends the cause of the fatherless and the widow, and loves the alien, giving him food and clothing.” (Deuteronomy 10:17-18 NIV) Imagine, the child born in Bethlehem as the Almighty God!
Everlasting Father: “But you are our Father, though Abraham does not know us or Israel acknowledge us; you, O LORD, are our Father, our Redeemer from of old is your name.” (Isaiah 63:16 NIV) It is too much for me to comprehend, that the Everlasting God spoken of by Moses was the child born in the manger. “Before the mountains were brought forth, or ever you had formed the earth and the world, from everlasting to everlasting you are God.” (Psalm 90:2 ESV)
Prince of Peace: “May God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through. May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
(1 Thessalonians 5:23 NIV)
It is pretty clear just from what Isaiah told us about the identity of the child that was to be born that he was in some mysterious way the same as the Almighty God, the LORD, the one and only, YAHWEH. Although surrounded with mystery, it all begins to make sense when you compare Isaiah’s prophecy with its fulfillment in Christ, especially considering how the first hand witnesses processed it all. No doubt the divinity of Christ amazed the New Testament writers. I wish I could ask each one the question, “When did you come to the understanding that Jesus was LORD?” All of Jesus’ disciples refer to him as Lord. The use of the word Lord is the same Greek word used in the Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which was commonly used at the time of Christ), for the Hebrew “Yahweh” which is translated, “The LORD” or “Jehovah.” Let’s consider a couple of instances here.
The angels declare the identity of the Christ-child in their announcement to the shepherds. “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11 NIV) Even the Shepherds understood the news to mean something extraordinary about the Savior. We are told that, “When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them.” (Luke 2:17-18 NIV) Before the angels’ announcement, Elizabeth understood that her son, John was the forerunner of the Messiah, and therefore declared that Mary’s baby, yet unborn, was “my Lord.” “In a loud voice she exclaimed: “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” (Luke 1:42-43 NIV) This is an extraordinary statement concerning the identity of Jesus and must have been based on her and Zachariah’s fresh understanding of the Old Testament prophesies! They knew that their son was the messenger, the forerunner of the Messiah. Matthew points this out about John in his gospel.”This is he who was spoken of through the prophet Isaiah: “A voice of one calling in the desert, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord, make straight paths for him.'”” (Matthew 3:3 NIV) John himself indicated his understanding of Jesus’ divinity when he said, “After me comes he who is mightier than I, the strap of whose sandals I am not worthy to stoop down and untie.” (Mark 1:7 ESV)
Jesus declared his own identity as LORD. “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”” (John 8:58-59 NIV) Grudem explains this encounter clearly.
Jesus combined two assertions whose sequence seemed to make no sense: “Before something in the past happened [Abraham was], something in the present happened [I am].” The Jewish leaders recognized at once that he was not speaking in riddles or uttering nonsense: when he said, “I am,” he was repeating the very words God used when he identified himself to Moses as “I AM WHO I AM” (Ex. 3:14). Jesus was claiming for himself the title “I AM,” by which God designates himself as the eternal existing One, the God who is the source of his own existence and who always has been and always will be. When the Jews heard this unusual, emphatic, solemn statement, they knew that he was claiming to be God. “So they took up stones to throw at him; but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple” (John 8:59).
The disciples and apostles also referred to Jesus as Lord and God. John begins his gospel by declaring Jesus as being the eternal Word of God who was in fact, God. Later he says, “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.” (John 1:18 NIV) Thomas upon seeing Jesus after his resurrection calls him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:29 NIV) Peter opens his second letter referring to, “… our God and Savior Jesus Christ …” (2 Peter 1:1 NIV) Paul says that he is, “…Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen.” (Romans 9:5 NIV) Finally, we see a picture in Revelation of Jesus at his second coming. “He is dressed in a robe dipped in blood, and his name is the Word of God… On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS.” (Revelation 19:13,16 NIV) The deity of Christ is powerfully demonstrated in the Scriptures. Pause to worship the Lord, Jesus Christ!
Christ by highest heav’n adored
Christ the everlasting Lord!
Late in time behold him come
Offspring of the virgin’s womb
Veiled in flesh the god-head see
Hail the incarnate Deity
Pleased as man with men to dwell
Jesus, our Immanuel
Hark the Herald Angels sing
Glory to the new-born King!
(From Hark! The Herald Angels Sing by Charles Wesley, 1707-1788)