David says in Psalm 49:7-8 that “No man can by any means redeem his brother or give to God a ransom for him. For the redemption of his soul is costly, and he should cease trying forever.” Hence, “No man” could provide an actual redemption for man. However, Jesus is God in the flesh and as fully God, His atoning work had infinite value; and as fully man, Jesus was the perfect representation of man; thus, He was the perfect sacrifice. Paul states that Christ “redeemed us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse huper hēmōn [‘for, on our behalf of’]” (Gal. 3:13; cf. also Rom. 8:32).

 

Essential Gospel Element

So important was the incarnation of God the Son that the Apostle Paul tells Timothy to, “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant [spermatos] of David, according to my gospel” (2 Tim. 2:8). The Christ that Paul taught was the incarnate God, the two natured person, “the Lord of glory” (2 Cor. 2:8). Thus, a gospel presentation that omits the deity and perpetual incarnation of Christ would be an incomplete presentation.

The covenant of redemption among the persons of the triune God established that the Son would step into His own creation through His self-emptying—namely, His “being made in the likeness of men and being found in appearance as a man” (Phil. 2:7-8). The incarnation of our Lord was perpetual—namely, He is forever God in the flesh (Acts 1:11; 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5). So essential was the perpetual incarnation that the Apostle John sees it as a defining mark of true Christianity and a denial of it as a distinguishing characteristic of ho planos kai ho antichristos (“the deceiver and the antichrist,” 2 John 1:7; see also 1 John 4:2-3).

 

Accomplishments of God Incarnate:

1. As God-Man, Christ provided a real propitiation.[1] The atoning work of the divine Son accomplished all that was necessity to secure our justification (Rom. 5:6-10; Gal. 2:16, 20; Heb. 10:11-14). His work was definite, eternal, and infallible, “Not dependent on the one willing, or the man running but on the eleōntos theou (‘the mercying God,’” Rom. 9:16). His reconciliatory work was accomplished vicariously on behalf of God’s predestined elect. God the Son satisfied both the penalty required for sin and the requirements of the law perfectly:

For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved [‘from the wrath of God,’ v. 9] by His life” (Rom. 5:10).

The Son was God incarnate, the perfect sacrificial offering, who performed a definite atonement in His physical body:

having made peace through the blood of His cross. . . . 22 yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Col. 1:21, 22).

The Gospel of John unequivocally highlights the Son’s deity and personal distinction from the Father and Holy Spirit. However, it also features in the same robust way, the Son’s definite atonement (esp. John 1:29; 3:14-18; 6:37-39, 44; 8:43, 48; 10:15). John also enunciates the same in his Epistles. For example, 1 John 2:2: “And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins; and not for ours only, but also for those of the whole world.” John begins in verse 1, with the affirmation that Jesus Christ “the Righteous” is our Advocate when we sin. It is in light of this affirmation that John then assures his readers that the Righteous Christ “is the propitiation for our sins.”

The term “propitiation” (“atoning sacrifice,” NET, NIV) is from the Greek noun, hilasmos, from the verb hilaskomai, which has the linguistic idea “an appeasing, propitiating” (Thayer); “appeasement necessitated by sin, expiation” (BDAG); “a means by which sins are forgiven, sin-offering” (Newman); “atoning sacrifice, sin offering” (Mounce). The noun is only used here and 1 John 4:10 (verb used only at Luke 18:13 and Heb. 2:17).[2]

The real death of Christ appeased God. The first clause reads, Kai autos hilasmos estin (lit., “And He Himself propitiation is”). Note that the verb “IS” (estin) is in the present tense (“He is”), not a future tense (denoting possibility—as “He will be.” The present action of the verb along with its indicative mood (i.e., a mood of certainty) specifies the definiteness of the propitiatory (atoning) action. This is in contrast to the Arminian notion of a universal, hypothetical atonement, which did not redeem anyone specific.

The Son’s cross work was accomplished in His incarnate state. The NT affirms very plainly that the atoning sacrificial work was accomplished in His physical body (Rom. 7:4-6; Col. 1:21-22; Heb. 10:10; 1 Pet. 2:24), in His life (Rom. 5:10), through His blood (Acts 20:28; Rom. 3:25; 5:9; Eph. 1:7; Col. 1:20; Heb. 9:12; 1 Pet. 1:2, 18-19; 1 John 1:7), on the cross (Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20; 2:14-15), and in His death (Rom. 5:10; Col. 1:21-22; Heb. 2:9-10, 14; 9:15).

 

2. As God-Man, Christ is both a priest and a sacrificial lamb simultaneously (esp. Heb. chaps. 8-10). There are only two recognized priesthoods in the Bible, the Aaronic (Levitical) and Melchizedek. Regarding the Aaronic priesthood, in Leviticus we find specific requirements and functions of this exclusive priesthood, which include: 1) Being a literal descendent of Aaron and from the tribe of Levi, 2) Providing sacrifices to God for all the people (Heb. 5:1) and for themselves (Heb. 9:7), 3) Cleansed by way of a special ritual (5:3); 4) Chosen by God for their office (Heb. 5:4).

According to Hebrews, Jesus was considered an eternal priest, in the order of Melchizedek (Heb. 7:13-17).

Contrasting human priests with the Son, who is the eternal Priest, the author of Hebrews explains that since the human Aaronic priests died, it was a temporary priesthood (Heb. 7:23). Further, the Aaronic priesthood did not nor could it bring perfection (Heb. 7:11). Like Melchizedek, Jesus was not from the tribe of Levi nor was He a physical descendent of Aaron. According to Jewish Law then, Christ (and Melchizedek) would not be qualified for the priesthood (Heb. 7:14).

However, Jesus was distinct and superior from that of Aaron and his successors: “So much the more also Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant” (Heb. 7:22). As God-Man, Jesus’ priesthood, unlike the Aaronic priests and Melchizedek, is eternal:

but Jesus, on the other hand, because He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently. 25 Therefore He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them (Heb. 7:24-25; cf. Ps. 110:4).

Note, Jesus’ unique priesthood, which only Jesus and Melchizedek possessed, was nontransferable: “He continues forever, holds His priesthood permanently.” The term translated “permanently” (“not transient,” Young’s; “unchangeable,” KJV) is from aparabatos, which carries the lexical semantic of “without a successor, unchangeable, nontransferable,” etc.

Only as incarnate God is Jesus able to abide forever as an intercessory Priest in the order of Melchizedek. As fully God, His priesthood is permanent, eternal, and “without successors”—through which He can save us completely and eternally—“to the utmost.” As fully man, He is the High Priest who offers Himself as the atoning sacrifice and the only intermediary between the Father and man: “By this will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb. 10:10). nd as man, Jesus identified with man in His weakness and sufferings:

He [Christ] 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. 18 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 (Heb. 2:17-18).

Only as the incarnate God is Christ priesthood eternal, “a mediator of a new covenant” providing the elect with His “promise of the eternal inheritance” (Heb. 9:15). God the Father “offering the body of Jesus Christ once for all”— who is both High Priest and the propitiation.

 

3. Christ is our intermediary between God and man. In 1 Tim. 2:5, Jesus is said to be the mesitēs (“mediator, intermediary”), between God and man: “There is one God and one Mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus.” An intermediary represents two parties. Jesus is the two natured person, fully God and fully man functioning as both eternal Priest and Mediator (and propitiation). Christ the Son is not merely a representation of God and man, rather His state as eternal Priest and Mediator (or Intermediary) between God and man consists of the Son as God-Man ontologically.

Chalcedonian Creed: “That is, that “the eternal Son of God took into union with himself in the one divine Person that which he had not possessed before–even a full complex of human attributes–and became fully and truly man for us men and for our salvation.”[3]

 The Apostle Paul informs us in his glorious Carmen Christi (Phil. 2:6-11) that God the Son emptied Himself by taking the nature of a servant having been made in the likeness of men and having been found in the appearance as a man (Phil. 2:6-8).

The eternal Word became flesh in order to propitiate the Father, thus redeeming (through His perfect life and sacrificial death) all those that the Father gave Him (John 6:37). The incarnation of God the Son is an essential doctrine, since it is a vital part of the gospel (2 Tim. 2:8), it should be included in our evangelism. The propitiation, priesthood, and mediatorial role is accomplished by Christ, as the two natured person—the God-Man.

 

Rejoice, because of God-Incarnate you now have eternal life!

Hallelujah! Amen.


Notes

[1] Or “atoning sacrifice.”

[2] The verb is frequently used in the LXX (i.e., the Septuagint, Lev. 25:9; Ps. 65:4; 78:38 et. al.).

[3] 546.