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.

All Christians should be biblically familiar with the real meaning of what most call “Christmas”, which is the most important event in all of human history: God became flesh. It is a celebration of God the Son adding a new nature and becoming flesh, in order to live the perfect life and die on the cross fulfilling the requirements of God’s perfect and holy justice. This produced both forgiveness of our sins and the evasion of divine wrath that was due to us because of sin (cf. 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13). The fact that the eternal Word, Jesus Christ, stepped into His own creation to provide redemption for sinners is the theological trademark and faith to which true Christians are devoted.

Essential Part of the Gospel 

The perpetual incarnation of God the Son is one of the most essential and foundational doctrines of Christendom – not only does it define true Christianity, but it defines the work of the Son—the gospel itself! The Incarnation is fully revealed in the NT. Paul calls it a “mystery”[1] meaning that it was once hidden (pre-NT), but now has been revealed (NT). However, we do see allusions of it in the OT (cf. Isa. 9:6: “child[humanity] will be born to us, a son [deity] will be given to us”). The Apostle Paul says in 2 Timothy 2:8: “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel.” The term translated “descendant” is from the Greek spermatos (from sperma), which means that He was from the literal bloodline of David, nothing metaphorical or figurative about it—God actually became flesh (cf. Rom. 9:5). Only as God-man could Paul say that is was the “Lord of glory” that was crucified (1 Cor. 2:8; cf. 1 Sam. 15:29; Acts 7:1), or say in his farewell address to the elders/overseers (pastors) of the church of Ephesus: “the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood (Acts 20:28). God’s “own blood” is the blood of the God-man, Jesus Christ(Acts 20:28).

JOHN 1:1 (trans. mine): In the beginning before time, the Word was (ēn) already existing [eternally, cf. Phil. 2:6], and the Word was with [pros], distinctly and intimately, God [the Father], and the Word as to His essential nature/essence [i.e., qualitatively] was fully God [theos—in the same sense, but not the same person as that of God the Father].” Two distinct persons sharing the same nature of God.

JOHN 1:14 (trans. mine): And the Word [who was God] became flesh and tabernacled among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the one and only, unique one, from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The verb eskēnōsen (“dwelt among us,” NASB) derives its meaning from the Hebrew term sākan referring to Yahweh coming down to earth to dwell (cf. Exod. 25:8; cf. 2 Sam. 7:5-6). In verse 1, the Apostle John positively affirmed that the Word was (a) eternal/preexistent (1:1a), (b) distinct from God the Father (1:1b), and (c) absolutely God (1:1c). In verse 14, John further identifies the bodily incarnation of God the eternal Word showing that Jesus Christ was not merely a temporary “theophany” (theos phainō, lit., “God appearance”; e.g., Gen. chaps. 18-19), but rather “the Word became flesh [ho logos sarx egeneto].” The Greek here clearly indicates that God the Son did not “wrap” Himself in flesh as one would put on an outfit or costume, but He actually BECAME (egeneto) flesh.

JOHN 1:18: “No one has seen God [the Father] at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” The prologue of John (vv. 1-18) contains some of the highest Christology in the NT (as does the prologues of Col. and Heb.). After having established the Word’s deity (including His role as the Creator), preexistence, distinction from the Father, and His incarnation, now in verse 18, the perpetual incarnation of the eternal Word is expressed. The phrase (“who is”) present active articular participle ho ōn (“who is,” lit., “the one being”) denoting timeless ongoing existence (as with Rom. 9:5: “Christ according to the flesh, who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the one who is/being always”] over all, God blessed forever. Amen.”

Systematic theologian, Robert Reymond remarks on the significance of the articular participle: “The present participle ho ōn . . . indicates a continuing state of being: ‘who is continually in the bosom of the Father’” (Reymond, Systematic Theology) In the LXX of Exodus 3:14, we find the same articular participle denoting Yahweh’s eternal existence: Egō eimi ho ōn, literally, “I am the eternal/always existing One.” Thus, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is [ho ōn, i.e., “the one who is/being always”] in the bosom of the Father, He has explained [“exegeted”] Him.”

PHILIPPIANS 2:7: He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, and being made in the likeness of men.” Verse 6 starts with the affirmation that Christ is “always existing” in the form/nature of God (as clearly taught in John 1:1, 5:17-18; Titus 2:13; Rev. 1:8, 22:13 et al). However, He “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,” that is, to be used for His own independent advantage. “But [He Himself][2] emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross”— God the Son emptied Himself by incarnating Himself in order to provide definite redemption by His vicarious and perfect life and substitutionary death on the cross.

The Necessity of God Becoming Man

First, no “mere man” can provide redemption (cf. Ps. 49:7-8), but as perfect man and fully God, Jesus’ redemptive work has infinite value, as He declared on the cross, “It is finished”! Second, as perfect man,Christ lived the perfect life fulfilling the “covenant of works” that Adam did not keep and to which all humans are related (cf. Gen. 2:17; Hosea 6:7; Rom. 5:5-13). God required perfect obedience, which resulted in the promise of eternal life. Adam, as well as all humans, could not keep this covenant. So, God enacted a new covenant, a covenant of grace, in which salvation is granted to sinners, but not on grounds of their own merits, rather the merits of the incarnate “God Christ,” the “second Adam,” who met all the requirements of the justice of God in not only His vicarious cross work, but also His perfect and substitutionary life. That is why Paul says that we “shall be saved by His life” (Rom. 5:10).

Hence, the incarnation of God the Son was the very means God provided to redeem His people—“the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” Only because the Son is both God and man is He now our Priest in which He intercedes (mediates) forever between God the Father and us (cf. 1 Tim. 2:5; Heb. 7:24-25).

The Perpetual Incarnation

The incarnation of the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, was not a temporary event, rather it was perpetual and is permanent—He is forever more God in the flesh.

COLOSSIANS 2:9:“For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” The book of Colossians sharply refutes the dualistic ideology (i.e., spirit vs. matter) of gnostic philosophy that rejected the material/physical world). Some the “Docetic” gnostics went so far as to say it really did not exist—anything physical was illusory only seeming to be real. Hence, they naturally repudiated the concept of Jesus being God in the flesh. Paul opposed this view, definitively presenting the Christ as the Creator of all things and (cf. 1:16-17), and in Him, Christ, presently, continuously, and permanently “dwells” (katoikei) all the fullness (plērōma) of Deity (theotētos) in bodily form (sōmatikōs)—namely, Jesus is God in the flesh. Therefore, against the Gnostics, in 2:9 (and many other places), Paul stresses in the strongest way that in the person of God the Son, Jesus Christ, continuously and permanently dwells all the fullness of God in human flesh.

1 & 2 JOHN. In these two epistles, we find the same problem that Paul addresses in Colossians. The incarnation of Jesus Christ was so essential to the Christian faith that the Apostle John sees it as the ultimate test of true orthodoxy—namely, genuine Christianity. As with Colossians, John provides a sharp refutation against the flesh-denying Gnostics. This is especially seen in 1 John 4:2-3:

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist.

Note the phrase translated “has come” is from the Greek verb elēluthota, which is a perfect active participle (from erchomai, “to come”). The general import of a perfect tense is a completed action occurring in the past with continuous effects; it denotes a present condition or state resulting from a past action (the perfect is used in John 19:30: “It is [has been for all time] finished.” Thus, the literal reading of verse 2 is “Every spirit that confesses/acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come and remains in the flesh is from God.” The two-natured person, God the Son, became and remains in the flesh. John expresses the same in 2 John 1:7 where the present active participle is used to express the same thing:

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming [and remaining] in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist.

The Apostle John sees that believing that Jesus Christ is God in the flesh presently and forevermore is a mark of true Christianity. In fact, so important is this biblical truth to John that anyone who denies it (as with JWs) is not only characterized as “the spirit of the antichrist,” but in 2 John 1:7, this person is ho planos (‘the deceiver”) and ho antichristos (“the antichrist”)—note the definite article precedes both nouns.

Scripture explicitly stresses both the necessity and importance of the incarnation—namely, knowing and understanding that Jesus Christ became man and thus remains the God-man forever (cf. Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5). Hence, we must always include the incarnation and deity of the Lord Jesus Christ in our proclamation of the gospel, just as biblical authors and the early church did—not merely on December 25th.

Because He became flesh, He is our Prophet, Priest, and King. Scripture presents that God the Son actually substituted Himself on behalf of His people, in their place. His cross work perfectly secured salvation for them. Because He became flesh, His substitutionary atonement did not merely make salvation a possibility for all men, but rather it actually and infallibly saved those for whom He died. Christ’s death removed the wrath from those who were effectually called – both Jews and Gentiles, “men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation” (Rev. 5:9)—only because God the Son became flesh.

NOTES

[1] By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He [or “God”] who was revealed in the flesh. . . .”

[2] Here the reflexive pronoun heauton (“Himself”) precedes “emptied” (heauton ekenōsen, lit., “He Himself emptied”), which denotes a “self-emptying.”