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What is the Incarnation?

Don't let Christmas become more about created stuff than the incarnation of the Creator.

We talk so much this time of year about the shepherds, angels, Herod, the Magi, Mary, Joseph, Bethlehem, and even the Virgin Birth. And those are all necessary, foundationally, because they are in the Bible!

And we will even affirm that Jesus “appeared in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). But what does that mean?

Let’s take a look at several truths that are good to remind ourselves of as we celebrate the coming of our Savior now and throughout the year.

What is the Incarnation?

#1 - No one ever started so high and humbled himself so low as did Jesus in his incarnation. 

The term "Incarnation" denotes the profound belief that Jesus manifested on earth "in the flesh" (1 John 4:2; 2 John 7); was "sent in the flesh" (Romans 8:3); "appeared in the flesh" (1 Timothy 3:16); "suffered in the flesh" (1 Peter 4:1); "died in the flesh" (1 Peter 3:18); brought peace by abolishing "in the flesh the enmity" (Ephesians 2:15); and "made reconciliation in the body of his flesh" (Colossians 1:21-22).

In essence, the Incarnation signifies the eternal Word or the second person of the Trinity taking on human form at a specific moment in time while maintaining his divine nature. The miracle of the incarnation is that God did not cease to be what he was in becoming who we are.

#2 - The doctrine of the Incarnation affirms the union of two distinct natures (divine and human) in the person of Jesus. He is not a dual entity of God and man. Rather, he’s a singular person—the God-man. There is no spiritual division within Jesus.

#3 - God the Son authentically "became" flesh; there was no hoax or mockup of humanity. The Word did not merely project a bodily form or enter into pre-existing flesh. Instead, the Word became flesh (John 1).

#4 - The "Word"--or God the Son--didn’t merely adopt human nature; rather, "the Word became flesh" (John 1:14), a vivid and direct reference to the entirety of human nature, encompassing body, soul, spirit, will, emotions, and more.

#5 - When the Word assumed flesh, he retained his divine essence while voluntarily limiting the use of certain divine powers (Phil. 2). The Incarnation does not imply an end of his deity. Rather, the Word concealed certain divine attributes temporarily.

#6 - Jesus incarnated "in the likeness of sinful flesh" (Romans 8:3), embracing fallen human nature without becoming identical to it. The use of "likeness" underscores his association with sinful flesh while maintaining his unfallen (never-sinned) state.

#7 - The Incarnation is an “eternal commitment.” That is, after his earthly life, death, and resurrection, Jesus didn’t rid himself of flesh. He exists presently as both God and man—and will forevermore.

#8 - In becoming incarnate, Jesus did not strip himself of divine attributes but temporarily suspended their independent exercise to live genuinely as a human being. He depended on the Holy Spirit's presence and power throughout his earthly journey (John 3:34-35; Matthew 12:28; Luke 4:1, 14; 18-19; Acts 10:38; etc.).

#9 - The Incarnation says Jesus possessed a genuine physical body (1 John 1:1; 1 Timothy 3:16; Luke 24:39, 43; John 20:17, 20, 27). Thus, he:

-hungered (Matthew 4:2),

-thirsted (John 19:28),

-grew weary (John 4:6),

-wept and cried aloud (John 11:35; Luke 19:41),

-sighed (Mark 7:34),

-groaned (Mark 8:12),

-glared angrily (Mark 3:5),

-and felt annoyance (Mark 10:14).

He also had a true:

-immaterial soul (Matthew 26:38),

spirit (Luke 23:46),

and will (Luke 22:42).

Thus, he had a genuinely human emotional life.

He felt:

-compassion (Matthew 9:36; 20:34; Mark 1:41; 6:34; 8:2; Luke 7:13),

-love (John 11:3; 15:8-12; Mark 10:21),

-anger (Mark 3:5; John 2:13-17),

-and joy (Luke 7:34; 10:21; John 15:11; 17:13).

#10- Rejecting the notion of God the Son becoming incarnate in Jesus is considered heresy, showcasing the spirit of antichrist (1 John 4:1-6).

Thank the Lord that Jesus came to this earth as truly God and truly man to save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).

Some devotional takeaways:

#1 - When facing the doctrine of the Incarnation, you must decide if you're too big for it, or it's too big for you. Only one response saves (Matt. 1:21).

#2 - The Incarnation is visible, historical proof that God keeps his promises. They are “yes” and “amen” in Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 1:20).

#3 - If your hope is in the Incarnation, the crucifixion, the resurrection, the ascension and the final return of the Lord Jesus, 2024 (or any year!) changes little for you.

#4 - If it took the Incarnation, the cross and the resurrection to defeat sin, then sin is not something we should mess with.

#5 - The Incarnation of the past is your guarantee of help in the present. If God freely gave his Son, won't he now give you all that you need (Rom. 8:31-39)?