The fundamental Doctrine of Incarnation & the mystery of Christmas

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Last night my wife and I enjoyed a trip to a quaint little town. We had a jeweler install a new battery in my watch, ate some delicious Italian food, then looked at some Christmas lights. And of course, handed out Gospel tracts at each location. But what would not escape my mind while watching others enjoy this Christmas season was the fundamental Doctrine of Incarnation.

Did I say the dirty word Doctrine again? Yes, don’t believe the misconception, or lie, and in some cases the heresy, that Doctrine does not matter. The Doctrine of Incarnation is another essential Doctrine that we must believe in for salvation.  

The Apostle Paul described this fundamental Doctrine as a mystery.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

What is Incarnation? 

In layman’s terms, it means that God put skin on, or God became Man (as Jesus). That God incarnate came to us in the form of a Man. This is a crucial part of the Gospel.   

In my library, I have many scholarly definitions that are heavily technical. Admittedly, as my brain ages, some are too technical for me. Nonetheless, here are a few simpler ones to read and understand. 

The first definition of incarnation. 

Incarnation A reference to the doctrine that the Second Person of the Trinity, without giving up his deity, became a human being.

Millard J. Erickson, The Concise Dictionary of Christian Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2001), 99–100.

Another definition of incarnation is.

incarnation. Fundamentally, incarnation is a theological assertion that in Jesus the eternal Word of God appeared in human form (Jn 1). Many theologians picture the incarnation as the voluntary and humble act of the second person of the Trinity, God the Son, in taking upon himself full humanity and living a truly human life. The orthodox doctrine of the incarnation asserts that in taking humanity upon himself, Christ did not experience a loss of his divine nature in any way but continued to be fully God. See also hypostasis, hypostatic union.

Stanley Grenz, David Guretzki, and Cherith Fee Nordling, Pocket Dictionary of Theological Terms (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 65.

God is the Word, and the Word of God is God, and the Godman Jesus is the Word. The Divine Word is seen throughout the Triunity of the Godhead, the Holy Trinity.

Another definition of incarnation.

incarnandus/incarnatus: to be incarnate/incarnate or incarnated; an important distinction regarding the divine Logos, or Word of God. The Word of God (Verbum Dei, q.v.), understood as the Second Person of the Trinity, can be considered either in his eternal Godhead, in his revelatory work throughout history before the incarnation, or in his work as the Incarnate Lord. In the first two senses, the Word is not incarnate but is, nevertheless, not ever severed or divorced from incarnation in the eternal plan or purpose of God (consilium Dei, q.v.). In particular, the revelatory work of the Word in the Old Testament represents a foreshadowing of incarnation. Thus, both eternally and in the Old Testament history, the Word may be called the Logos incarnandus, the Word to be incarnate. Once the consilium Dei has been executed in time, and from thence to eternity, the Word is Logos incarnatus, the Word incarnate as the divine-human person of Christ. SEE incarnatio; unio personalis.

Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1985), 152.

It says in Isaiah 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.”

This Immanuel is the Greek Word ‛immânû’êl, which means “God with us” or “with us is God.”

This Word is a noun proper masculine.

It was prophesied that God Incarnate, would come to us in the form of a Man and that He would be born of a virgin. That God would become “God with us.” That baby Jesus is the Messiah. 

It says in John 1:1, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”

This Word is the Greek Word Logos, which is the Second Distinct Person of the Trinity. That God came to us in the form of a Man – Jesus is the perfect image of the Father. Jesus, He is truly God and truly Man. 

Logos asarkos (Λόγος ἄσαρκος): the Word or Logos without the flesh; a term derived from the fathers used to distinguish the Second Person of the Trinity in his preincarnate mediation from the Word “incarnate,” the Word having been made flesh. SEE ensarkos; incarnandus/incarnatus; incarnatio.

Richard A. Muller, Dictionary of Latin and Greek Theological Terms: Drawn Principally from Protestant Scholastic Theology (Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Book House, 1985), 179.

It says in John 1:14, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

As the image of the Son, God became Man, and He (Jesus) dwelt amongst us.  

Chapter 8, paragraph 6, of the London Baptist Confession of Faith says,

Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ till after his incarnation, *yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein he was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent’s head; (h) and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world, (i) being the same yesterday, and today and for ever. 

(*1Co 10:4; Heb 4:2; 1Pe 1:10-11; h Rev 13:8; i Heb 13:8)

Therefore, when you think about Christmas, think about God Incarnate and/or the Incarnation of Christ, and the necessity of His Incarnation on behalf of His elect.

Not everyone that celebrates Christmas will benefit from this vital Doctrine, but His elect is His beneficiaries. To know more about becoming a beneficiary, read the glorious Gospel message below. Because Doctrine matters. 

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