Paul E. Zell
For many congregations, the Gospel of the Day is the keynote for each worship service. The Gospel for Christmas Day is John 1:1-4. Based on that reading, the heading for the service might be “the Incarnation of our Lord” as the evangelist declares that God’s one and only Son, the eternal Word, became flesh. (The word “incarnation” draws from the Latin for “the act of being made flesh.”)
The identity of Jesus Christ is of critical importance to all who call on his name. It comes as no surprise, then, when the devil prompts false teachers to attack it. Believers must be prepared to proclaim the truth and defend it.
Only seemed to be a man?
For instance, some have taught that Jesus Christ only seemed to be a man. They will say that his body was that of a phantom, that his suffering was more theater than reality.
Read Hebrews 2:14-18.
● Which phrases indicate that God’s Son truly and fully became a human being?
- “flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity”(v. 14)
- “he had to be made like them, fully human in every way”(v. 17)
- “he himself suffered”(v. 18)
● Christian doctrine is always practical. The writer mentions at least four practical outcomes of the Son of God’s incarnation. Underline them in your Bible.
- “he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death”(vv. 14,15)
- “in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God”(v. 17)
- “that he might make atonement for the sins of the people”(v. 17)
- “he is able to help those who are being tempted”(v. 18)
● Recall at least three instances in the ministry of Jesus that give evidence to his being fully God.
- Matthew 17—The transfiguration
- John 8:58—“Before Abraham was born, I am!” In the entire chapter, Jesus asserts that he is God come to earth.
- Mark 2:1-12—Jesus forgives and heals a paralyzed man. Jesus asserts his ability to forgive because he is God, and he proves it by healing this man.
● Recall at least three instances in the ministry of Jesus that give evidence to his being fully human.
- Jesus wept (John 11:35).
- Jesus was tired (John 4:6).
- Jesus bled and died (gospel accounts).
A symbolic testimony?
Some scholars have asserted that a virgin birth is biologically impossible. It would not pass the test of scientific inquiry, and it must be regarded as a “symbolic” testimony to the Christian message.
Read both Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38.
● Which verses proclaim the virgin birth of Jesus as real fact?
- “before they came together”(Matthew 1:18)
- “what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit”(Matthew 1:20)
- “he did not consummate their marriage until she gave birth to a son”(Matthew 1:25)
- “a virgin”(Luke 1:27)
- “‘How will this be,’ Mary asked the angel, ‘since I am a virgin?’ ” (Luke 1:34)
- “The angel answered, ‘The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.’ ” (Luke 1:35)
● What Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled by this event?
“Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son and will call him Immanuel” (Isaiah 7:14).
● How do Joseph’s and Mary’s reactions to the angel’s words set the tone for the way God’s people today will respond to the doctrine of the virgin birth?
Joseph responded by believing what God revealed to him. He obeyed when he took Mary as his wife. Mary humbly accepted the word of Gabriel that she would have a son by a miracle.
● What announcements elsewhere in Scripture refute the allegation that certain statements in the Bible are impossible because they do not adhere to the laws of nature?
The Bible asserts throughout that God is almighty and can do whatever pleases him. Ordinarily he will work through the laws of nature, but he can suspend those laws and act outside them to accomplish his purpose if he so wills.
The church at Colosse came under attack from false teachers who felt that all matter is evil. Since the Son of God is good, they said, he could not have become an actual flesh-and-blood human being.
Read Colossians 1:15-20 and 2:9-12.
● The fact that Jesus is fully God could not be more obvious. Where, however, does the apostle also point to his human nature?
- “the firstborn”(1:15,18)
- “blood, shed on the cross”(1:20)
- “in bodily form”(2:9)
● What is one of the practical outcomes of this God-man’s work?
- “through him to reconcile to himself all things”(1:20)
- “you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead”(2:12)
● Colossians 2:9 is a brief and bold statement of the two natures of Christ. Glance through what follows. By what means have you been joined to him and his bodily resurrection from the dead?
In baptism (2:12)
As true man, Jesus lived under the demands of God’s law without sinning. As true man, he shed his blood and died, redeeming sinners from death and hell. As true God, his obedience to God’s law and his substitutionary death count for all human beings. It’s no wonder that angels mark the incarnation of the Son of God with reverent and joyful worship. As do we. “Glory to God in the highest!”
Paul Zell is pastor at Living Savior, Hendersonville and Asheville, North Carolina.
Read answers online after Dec. 5 at wels.net/forwardinchrist. Read more about the Word made flesh on p. 10.
For further reading
The Athanasian Creed (pp. 132,133 in Christian Worship)
The People’s Bible: John by Gary Baumler. See especially pp. 6-22. Available from Northwestern Publishing House, nph.net.
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Author: Paul E. Zell
Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 2019
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