“Revealed in the Flesh”

God in the flesh

Although the word “Incarnation” is not in Scripture, the concept is certainly biblical. Incarnation means “taking on flesh” and is commonly used of Jesus leaving heaven to become human.

Of the six great truths Paul cites about Jesus in First Timothy 3:16, the first is that He “was revealed in the flesh.”

Martin Luther wrote, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sank Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding” (Table Talk).

J. I. Packer said, “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as the truth of the Incarnation” (Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 6).

God made visible

Before the Incarnation He was invisible to the world. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

But then He made Himself visible. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory . . .” (John 1:14).

Through His Incarnation Jesus: 1) identified with us, 2) made it possible for us to have a clearer picture of God (John 14:8-9), 3) connected Himself to a human line of ancestors stretching all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38), and 4) took on a body capable of dying, by which He could defeat Satan’s hold on us (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Wesley’s hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” includes these lines: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; / Hail th’incarnate Deity; / Pleased as man with men to dwell, /Jesus, our Immanuel!”

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Six Great Truths About Jesus Christ

Distilled truth

“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: / He who was revealed in the flesh, / Was vindicated in the Spirit, / Seen by angels, / Proclaimed among the nations, / Believed on in the world, / Taken up to glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

This concise, one-verse summary of the greatness of Jesus Christ is obviously not the complete picture revealed in more detail in the New Testament, but what it does say should be enough to fill us with wonder.

A life-changing message

Consider who wrote this. At one time he did not believe a word of it. More than that, he violently opposed those who did believe it.

But all that changed suddenly and dramatically when the glorified Christ appeared to His arch-enemy Saul as he was on his way to arrest more Christians.

Three days later he was baptized, and soon the gospel’s greatest adversary became its greatest advocate.

We know him today as the apostle Paul. For the next thirty or so years he “Proclaimed [Him] among the nations” so that He could be “Believed on in the world.”

Like no other

From Jesus’ birth (“revealed in the flesh”) to His ascension (“Taken up to glory”)—in those 33 years Jesus made far more impact on our world than anyone else who ever lived before or since. This impact continues to our day.

That’s because of who He is and what He did.

If you doubt that, I challenge you to read the Gospel of Luke and then its sequel, the Book of Acts.

Then decide.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

Separating Fact from Fiction

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Tales vs. Truth

According to ancient apocryphal sources (certainly not biblical), Jesus could do miracles even as a boy. He could form birds from clay, then order them to fly away.

If Joseph the carpenter had miscalculated the length of a board he had cut, Jesus could stretch it to the desired length.

Etc.

What ludicrous tales these are—the product of overly fertile imaginations! According to John 2:11, Jesus’ first miracle was turning the water into wine at a wedding feast, after He began His ministry.

Biographers often provide detailed information about the childhood of the person being discussed—far more than we know about Jesus’ early years. We know almost nothing about Him between infancy and adulthood.

What we do know

The emphasis of Scripture is on who Jesus is and what He came to do.

From the four inspired Gospel records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we learn that Jesus fulfills many Old Testament prophecies, that He is the long-awaited Messiah, that He is the Son of God.

He could do genuine miracles: walking on water, stilling the storm, healing afflictions of all kinds, even raising the dead. He did these primarily to offer convincing proof of His claims (John 5:36; 10:25, 37-38; 11:41-45; 14:11; 20:30-31).

We learn that He was rejected by His own people, then executed in Jerusalem, that He rose from the dead, then appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions before ascending back to His Father.

All this and more that God has chosen to reveal is not to satisfy our curiosity but to give us what we need to know.

And it is enough.

 

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Our Maker in the Manger

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It may come as a surprise to some that Jesus was actually God’s agent of creation.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made . . . . and the world was made by him . . .” (John 1:3, 10).

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16).

God has “in these last days spoken unto us by his Son . . . by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:2).

Our Designer

Science continues to discover the spectacular evidences of Jesus’ creative handiwork—planets and caverns and plant and animal species unknown until recently. As research continues, we can expect many more marvels to come to light.

But even more astonishing is this: Jesus, the Creator of all, entered the womb of the virgin Mary, developed as babies do for the duration of the pregnancy, then was delivered into the world He Himself had made!

And yet even more astounding: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10).

Our decision

John goes on to explain, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Even His hometown Nazareth rejected Him. “And He wondered at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6).

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born . . . of God” (John 1:12-13).

Two millennia later many still reject Him, while others receive Him.

Our Maker won’t make us serve Him.

But His offer still stands . . . .

 

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Scripture quotations from Mark 6:6 and John 1:10-13 taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

Born to Die

Why was He born?

“But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:4-5).

For Jesus to be Redeemer He had to die. For Jesus to die He had first to be born.

If you add up the chapters of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, the total is 89. About 29 of these chapters pertain to Jesus’ last week, His death, burial, resurrection, and His appearances following His resurrection.

So about a third of the Gospels is devoted to what Paul refers to as matters of “first importance” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).

But while the great weight of the Gospels is on His redeeming work, only about three of the 89 chapters pertain to Jesus’ birth, and only Matthew and Luke give much attention to it. All four emphasize His death, as does the apostolic preaching in the book of Acts. Jesus instituted a memorial to His death, not His birth (1 Corinthians 11:26).

This is not at all to minimize His birth, but to put it in perspective: Jesus was born to die.

The shadow of the cross

Even in the birth narratives the cross casts its long shadow.

The angel announced to Joseph regarding Mary, “She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21).

As Simeon held the infant Jesus in his arms, he prophesied to Mary, “Behold, this Child is appointed . . . for a sign to be opposed—and a sword will pierce even your own soul . . .” (Luke 2:34-35).

Mary gave birth to Jesus, but also watched Him die. She experienced pain on both occasions—followed by great joy (John 16:20-22).

Myrrh was one of the wise men’s gifts, but it was also used in Jesus’ burial (Matthew 2:11; John 19:39-40).

Look in the manger and you see a babe whose tiny hands and feet will one day be pierced by cruel Roman nails, and whose infant brow will someday wear the crown of thorns.

The wise men asked, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews?” (Matthew 2:2).

The sign on the cross said, “This is Jesus the King of the Jews” (Matthew 27:37).

Born to die.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Why Did Jesus Leave Heaven for Earth?

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God . . . . And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory . . .” (John 1:1, 14).

“. . . although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men” (Philippians 2:6-7).

That the Son of God became Son of Man has to be one of the most astounding historical events of all time.

Even more amazing is that He was willing to do it! Never before or since has anyone undergone such an austere demotion.

But why?

Why would He voluntarily give up the glories of heaven for the hardships of earth, knowing how dearly it would cost Him? The author of the book of Hebrews explains:

First, since those He would come to save “share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives” (Hebrews 2:14-15).

In other words, in heaven Jesus was immortal. Since His death would be the price of our redemption, He had to take on a body capable of dying.

Second, “He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18).

Finding our place in His plan

God sent His Son not only to rescue us from our sins, but also that we would “become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren” (Romans 8:29).

He became like us so we could become like Him.

Will wonders never cease!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Accused!

Guilty as charged?

What would you think of someone who was a subject of persistent rumor? How would you feel if you heard that this person ate and drank to excess? And that he was demon-possessed and in league with Satan? And that he was guilty of deception?

What if you heard that he was a law-breaker? And that he advocated not paying taxes?

Who was this person? Jesus!

By reading the accounts of His life as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, we keep running into accusations leveled against Him. John especially emphasizes the undercurrent of controversy swirling around this carpenter/teacher/healer from Nazareth (John 7-10).

Slander without substance

But would the charges stick? Once Jesus challenged His critics, “Which one of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46). They could accuse Him all day long, but where was the evidence?

They absolutely hated Him! Highly motivated to find fault where there was none, they tried to turn as many against Him as they possibly could.

The rumors flew but never hit the mark. Jesus was innocent. Unlike His accusers, He had never sinned—not even once (Hebrews 4:15).

True, His opponents did succeed in having Him executed. But did they have the last word?

Jesus was able to use the cross as the altar for sacrificing Himself for the sins of the world.

And then God raised Him from the dead and exalted Him to the place of supreme authority and glory He now occupies—as King of kings and Lord of lords.

Even to this day

But the story doesn’t end there. Those who follow Christ today may also be faced with unfair accusations. As He said to His apostles, “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you . . .” (John 15:20). A certain degree of opposition from the world is to be expected (2 Timothy 3:12; 1 Peter 2:12; 3:16; 4:3-5).

But what a blessing there is in it! (Matthew 5:10-12; 1 Peter 4:14)

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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