In our last article, we explored When Jesus was Born. Today, we’re going to look at how Jesus was born. We’re going to explore nothing less than the incarnation of the only begotten Son of God. (I must say, for a fantastic study on the word “Begotten”, be sure to check out Larry Gabbard’s recent article. Totally epic!)
Luk 1:26 And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, Luk 1:27 To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
Whereas what happened with Zacharias was a vision (Luke 1:22), Gabriel was sent down from Heaven to make a personal appearance to Mary, which conveys to all of us the massive importance of what’s being said. And what’s being said to Mary here is nothing less than the birth of the redeemer, the long-prophesied Messiah of Israel.
Luk 1:28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
What does it mean when Gabriel tells Mary that she was highly favored? As Bullinger explains in his Companion Bible notes, Mary had been graced by God, endued with grace, accepted with grace. She found grace in the eyes of God, just like Noah. She had been faithful, obedient. She had a relationship with God. And as a result, she had been chosen by God to be uniquely blessed in a way no woman had ever been blessed in the history of mankind, that is, to give birth to the Son of God.
Luk 1:29 And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
No doubt Mary had a million thoughts running through her mind. She was perplexed as to what Gabriel was talking about, and she knew that, sure, she was faithful, but she wasn’t any less imperfect than any other faithful saint. No doubt, also, that her first reaction had to have been to feel unworthy of this overwhelming blessing she’s about to receive from God. And, also, I suspect, she may have been concerned about the responsibility this blessing would entail. Plus, getting this news was so sudden, it had to have been hard to believe at first. Look at what Gabriel says next.
Luk 1:30 And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.
He repeats himself to let all of this sink in. “No, Mary, all I’m telling you is true. You have actually found favor with God Himself. Believe it.”
Luk 1:31 And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS.
Her miracle son would be called Iesous (ee-ay-sooce), which is the same as the Hebrew “Jehoshua,” which means [the] Salvation of Jehovah, or Jehovah [the] Saviour. “Jesus” is the name associated with the shame He endured in order to “save His People from their sins” (Matt. 1:21). At His baptism, the Spirit descended upon the Son, and at the same moment the Father’s voice was heard from Heaven. In that moment, He earned the title of Christos, Christ, “the anointed one,” or Jesus Christ, which is to say, “Jesus the Messiah,” Jesus who humbled Himself but is now exalted and glorified as “Christ.”
Luk 1:32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: Luk 1:33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Luk 1:34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? Luk 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Here we have the Incarnation of the child to be called JESUS.
“Incarnation” is a fascinating word. Webster’s 1828 tells us that the word “incarnation” is “The act of clothing with flesh. The act of assuming flesh, or of taking a human body and the nature of man,” which is exactly what happened with the Lord Jesus Christ.
An incarnation has 2 requirements.
- There must be the existence of that being first in a non-fleshly form, and then
- That being must take upon a body of flesh.
First, His Pre-Existence
First, we have the fact that Christ always existed, which is easy to support in Scripture. The Lord said His prayer in John 17:5 “And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.” He also said in John 6:38, “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me…”
And how can you not also think of John 1:1? “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
We can never separate the Living Word from Christ Himself. The Living Word and Christ are inseparable concepts. You cannot have one without the other. You cannot have Christ without the Living Word, and you cannot have the Living Word without Christ. Bullinger would write, “As the spoken word reveals the invisible thought, so the Living Word reveals the invisible God.” I love that thought. Just as words reveal hidden thoughts, Christ came into this world to reveal the hidden God, and Christ Himself is the Living Word of the living God, the one who speaks the words of the Father, revealing to us the very hidden thoughts of the Father for us.
So is the Living Word the Lord Jesus Christ or the words He spoke? YES. When John says the “Word was with God, and the Word was God,” he’s saying that Christ was with God the Father, that Christ was also an equal member of the Godhead, because the Father and the Son are one, just as they are one with the Spirit, but that Christ Himself is also the Word of God, because He verbally expressed the thoughts and will of His Father in Heaven. He was not only with God, but He always is to us the Word of God itself, because He expresses the thoughts, the words, and the will of God the Father. The Word of God is more than just the written Word. The Word of God are the words themselves spoken by Christ who is verbalizing the thoughts and will of the Father. Christ is the mouthpiece, if you will, of the Word of God the Father. The idea of the Living Word is inseparable from Christ because He was the one expressing the words of God the Father and those words are living not simply because they contain the life of God in the words but also because those words are the means by which we can obtain eternal life because it’s the Father who justifies the believer.
The Lord would tell Philip in Joh 14:10, “Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works.” In John 17, we have the famous high priestly prayer of Christ to the Father. In verse 14, the Lord says in prayer to the Father, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” Christ was and is the Word of God because He expresses the words of God the Father. It’s not that God the Father is incapable or unwilling to verbalize His own thoughts, but this is the process by which the entire triune Godhead chose to operate as one unit in how their will is expressed to us. The will of the Father, expressed by Christ, is recorded, preserved and taught to us by the Holy Spirit through the Scriptures. So the Living Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, and the written Word are all called by the same name. They are all called the Word of God.
Second, Christ Became Clothed with Flesh.
The promise that God would accomplish this amazing incarnation goes all the way back to the fall in the garden and Gen 3:15 in which the Lord said to the serpent “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” That was a prophecy of pure grace. As soon as man fell into sin, a remedy was promised and a hope was given, although the Lord makes it clear that the coming redeemer would win a victory over the serpent while He Himself would suffer as well. The bigger point is that all of humanity would be saved by Eve’s child-bearing, that is, by the promised seed who shall descend directly from her. From her seed shall come the deliverer of fallen man out of the power of Satan.
This prophecy is echoed in the words of Isa. 7:14, “Therefore the Lord himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” He also wrote in Isa. 9:6, “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.” The Mighty Creator, who formed man from the dust of the earth, took upon Himself that same form and entered the world He Himself had spoken into existence, which is just amazing.
And how can you not also think of John 1:14? “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.”
Of the Lord’s incarnation, Paul would write in Rom. 8:3, “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” He possessed the flesh of mankind that was like sinful flesh but without that corruption of sin. He did not live in the reality of sinful flesh as we do, but only had the likeness of it. He would also write in Phil. 2:7 that He “made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.” Christ as He was, Christ as He is, Christ as we will always know Him, an eternal member of the Godhead, who was clothed with flesh in the form of a human body with the nature of man while also divine, was the model to us of a humble servant.
The Virgin Birth: A Miracle of the Highest Rank
So we have the perfect scenario, the virgin birth. How was this conception realized?
Lukw 1:35 “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.“
Mary would conceive by the power of the Holy Spirit, which is called the power of the Highest. The divine power of the Holy Spirit undertook the work of conception. Notice how the Holy Spirit will overshadow her. It won’t possess her, like a person demon-possessed, but the Spirit will simply overshadow her. The Spirit will encompass her. The Spirit will envelope her in a haze of brilliancy. In the process, the Holy Spirit will produce a human life, even more miraculously, the life of the Son of Man both human and divine.
The Unique Person of Christ
Pastors use the expression hypostatical union to indicate that the union of the two natures (human and divine) was a personal one for Christ. This is the Greek word translated “person” in Hebrews 1:3: “the express image of His person” – His hypostasis. It means primarily that though Christ has two natures He is but one Person. How can this be? How can He be both human and divine? How can He be finite and yet infinite? It is an incomprehensible mystery. I think God wanted to do something so mind-blowing to us that it would be forever a mystery, forever fascinating, and forever beyond our human grasp.
Below is a somewhat modified list of Christ’s human and divine nature as found in Charles Baker’s book, Dispensational Theology.
1. His Human Nature
- Jesus had a normal, human birth. The conception was supernatural, but everything in the development from that point on was normal (Luke 2:1-7).
- He had a normal human body. He was circumcised according to the law (Luke 2:21). He was handled by His mother and by others, and there is no indication that His body was different from that of any other child.
- He possessed a human soul (Matt. 26:38; John 12:27; Acts 2:31).
- He had a human spirit (Luke 23:46).
- He was called the Son of man (Matt. 11:19). As descended humanly, He is also called “the son of Abraham,” “the son of David,” (Matt. 1:1).
- He manifested the limitations of human nature: He was hungry (Matt. 4:2), weary (John 4:6), thirsty (John 19:28), sleepy (Matthew 8:24), and limited in prophetical knowledge (Mark 13:31-32). Christ also understood what it was like to lose a friend closer than a brother, and He can relate to having a broken heart over being rejected.
2. His Divine Nature.
- He is called “the only begotten Son of God” (John 3:16).
- He is called God (Heb. 1:8).
- He accepted worship due only to God (John 9:38).
- He is the “image of the invisible God” and “the express image of His person” (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3).
- He is the Creator and Upholder of all things (Col. 1:16,17).
- He exercised the prerogatives of Deity, such as forgiving sin (Matt. 9:2, 6; Luke 7:47, 48), executing final judgment upon all who have ever lived (John 5:22-27; Acts 17:31; Matt. 25:31, 32; 2 Tim. 4:1; 2 Cor. 5:10).
- He has divine attributes. He is eternal (Micah 5:2; John 1:1). He is omniscient (John 16:30). He is omnipotent (Heb. 1:3; Col. 1:16, 17; Rev. 1:8). He is immutable (Heb. 13:8; 1:12). All of the moral attributes are also His: holiness, righteousness, goodness, and truth.
Question: did the Lord surrender His Deity? Did He empty Himself and give up all of His divine attributes? Absolutely not. He was not unable to assert His powers. He was able to not assert His powers.
A Voluntary Death
One of my favorite old-school, Irish, grace authors from the late 1800’s, William Kelly, once wrote, “I return then with the firmest conviction that the death of our Lord was, in the fullest sense and up to the last, voluntary, though in obedience to His Father. He tasted death by no doom of [His own] fallen nature, but by the grace of God. And this is entirely borne out by Philippians 2, which clearly shows that in His case death was in no way through the common mortality of fallen flesh. For ‘being found in fashion as a man,’ He did not necessarily die; but [for] the purposes of grace, He ‘humbled Himself and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.’ It was for our sins, and therefore, as far as He was concerned, on a wholly different principle and for ends transcendently divine. Adam, failing man, disobeyed and died; Christ became obedient up to that point of death, the death of the cross. He was made sin for us; He was made a curse for us; He was crucified in weakness… He [gave] His life a ransom for many. This was the triumph of grace in the Son of man.”
One last question: could Christ have said no to the cross?
I believe so. He was not only fully God but He was also fully man. He had no sin in Him. If He was sinless, how could He sin? Lucifer was sinless and he sinned. Adam and Eve were sinless and they sinned. Whereas Adam and Eve chose to sin despite their sinless state, Christ chose to not sin every day, and He chose to go to the cross. If it was His choice to go, it was also His choice not to go. Why should Paul praise His obedience unto death, even the death of the cross, if disobedience was impossible? The Lord learned obedience through the things He suffered. How could He LEARN obedience if there was no open door to disobedience? How could He FEEL temptation if there was no possibility to succumb to it? Who but Jesus, Jehovah-Messiah, could be said to yield up or dismiss His own spirit? It was He who had before asserted calmly His authority. He said, “I lay down My life that I might take it again. No man taketh it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay down My life, and I have power to take it again.” His choice to not sin, His choice to obey His Father all the way to the cross, makes His love sacrifice for us even more personal, even more glorious, even more astounding, and that should make us love Him and praise Him forevermore.