Dogmatology Seminar 16 Incarnation of the Son of God
Andrew Hodge MB, BS (WA); FRACS (Cardiothoracic); FANZCS 13th January 2006
CMI Dogmatology Seminar 16
The Incarnation of the Son of God
L.P.Chafer "Systematic Theology" Kregel Publications, Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Dallas Theological Seminary 1948 and 1976 God the Son: His Incarnation I, 348-364
Expound the significance of the Incarnation and the Virgin Birth:
Chafer approaches this by asking three questions:
1. Who became incarnate?
The answer to this question determines the foundation of Christianity. If it was not God that became man, then Christianity is based on no more than the thoughts of men, in common with all other hell-bound religious systems.
Jesus as God Eternal was not only intimately involved in the creation of man in His own image, but is currently actively involved in sustaining His creation, and will bring to pass His prophesies for the future. No other system can claim a God like that; no other religion is based on a personal continuous relationship with God their Saviour, the One Who is eternally alive.
All other religions involve people who, in passing through the common end of all men in death, bequeathed a framework or ‘holy’ book with rules to be followed, not a relationship to be pursued. The Christian saved therefore have ‘got a life’, and a secure hope for now and eternity.
Jesus has not changed His Deity into flesh, nor has His flesh been absorbed into Deity but He is both fully God and fully man. Chafer puts it “Suffice it to point out that Christ is God in His divine nature and man in His human nature, but in His Personality as the God-man He is neither one nor the other apart from the unity which He is. Isolation of either nature from the other is not possible, though each may be separately considered. The divine nature is eternal, but the human nature originates in time. It therefore follows that the union of the two is itself an event in time, though it is destined to continue forever.”
The union of a human soul with its physical body at conception is also an event in time and is destined to continue for ever. Until salvation occurs, there is no Divine Presence inherent in this union, making the hypostatic union of Christ entirely unique, not just the simple union of a soul and body.
In Micah 5:2 (“But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall he come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting”) Jehovah says that the Everlasting One who shall come, will come from a specific physical location, thus identifying Him with the normal run of humanity.
The clearest statement of God becoming man is the comparison of John 1:1 with 1:14.
Nevertheless, some caution must be exercised in determining exactly what kind of man Christ became. Externally, He was obviously human, and displayed all the normal human characteristics (eg physical tiredness, emotions, hunger, thirst, the need for shelter and clothing, etc) except without a display of any sinfulness. The facts of His Deity and incarnation are established in many scriptures. As described in my notes for Seminar 15 (page 3), Philippians 2 indicates the difference between “form” and “fashion”: “This passage is illuminating because of the use of the English terms “form” and “fashion”. “Form” is the Greek morphe which describes the intrinsic and essential nature; “fashion” is the Greek schema which describes the extrinsic physical appearance. Hence, Christ has the essential nature of God and the essential nature of a servant (vv6 and 7), but only the outward appearance or likeness of men (v7).”
This is not to say that Jesus in His physical form just presented a ‘front’ for what He was really like on the inside, because apart from being essentially God He was also essentially a servant, which required Him to be fully man. Almost as an aside, He needed to be accepted as fully human (with a spiritual focus), just as saved humanity should be. In other words, a saved human being has the indwelling Holy Spirit to give wisdom, guide and empower; Jesus in His hypostatic union had all of these things immediately available because of His Deity, but chose not to operate in that way. Rather, in His humanity, He allowed the power of the Holy Spirit to accomplish His Father’s will, just as we should (eg His forty day temptation in the wilderness Luke 4:1ff).
Chafer also rightly cites Colossians 1:13-17 and 1Timothy 3:16 to support the incarnation of God Himself.
Explain how the incarnation of God was possible:
2. How did the Son become incarnate?
Chafer states - Isaiah 7:14. “Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” This twofold prediction is explicit in that it avers that One is to be born of a woman, which under no circumstances could imply, as to derivation, more than that which is human; yet this One thus born is Immanuel, which, being interpreted, is “God with us”—but with us in the deeper sense of these words, which is, that He has become one of us.
There are some difficulties with this. It is not logical to believe that something that ‘is born of woman which under no circumstances could imply, as to derivation, more than that which is human’ when the Gospel of Matthew referring to the same event states that “which is conceived in her is of the Holy Ghost” (1:20). I am not sure just what your meaning is here. Matt. Confirms that Mary was a virgin – implying the supernatural.
God chose not to present the Saviour to the world as a mature individual ready to commence His ministry. He deemed it necessary for Him to be born physically as we are and experience all the things that we do so that we could readily identify with Him as a human being and follow His lead in dealing with life (also see below).
A second difficulty is that Chafer makes Isaiah 7:14 imply that the One who is born to be with us actually is one of us. Clearly this cannot be extended to include a sin nature. This why the word Almah has to be understood virgin than a young woman
Isaiah 9:6-7 makes it clear that the Child is born, but the Son is given - the physical and the divine are separate but combined in the one individual.
Could the physical have a sin nature without contaminating Deity? Virgin birth In my view the intermingled combination of the two in the hypostatic union makes this impossible and would take away entirely Christ’s capacity to be an effective sacrifice to satisfy the Father on our behalf. But then how could Christ ‘be tempted as we are’ if He did not have the capacity to sin? See Seminar 18. That is the “big question” Heb. 4:15
It is necessary that not only Christ be born sinless, but that Mary is not seen as also being sinless. She herself knew that she needed a saviour (Luke 1:47).
Is sin only passed down through males? This logic implies that all females are sinless, starting with Eve after the fall when she had already disobeyed the commandment of God, and subsequently Eve’s daughters sired by the sinful Adam. Ridiculous. Yes it is as both Adam & Eve were cast out of the garden because of sin and that from then on both parents were sinners but the bible clear teaches that sin is passed on through the father. Rom. 5:12
The Christ is the ‘seed of the woman’ (Genesis 3:15 cf Galatians 3:16), therefore hasn’t Christ been formed (physically at least) using Mary’s DNA? The other half being miraculously provided by the Holy Ghost? Scripture is silent on exactly how sin is transferred down the generations; nevertheless we must assume that the sin of the offspring comes down through both parents, not just one, for the reason mentioned above. Luke 1:35 makes it clear that the child born of Mary was “that holy thing which ….. shall be called the Son of God”. In my view it is impossible that Mary should contribute anything of her fallen nature to the physical formation of her Saviour, otherwise He could not be her Saviour. She has been described as being just the human incubator for Christ.
‘Seed’ as translated from the OT is represented by one Hebrew word (zera). First mention is Genesis 1:11, and broadly applies to all seeds of plants and animals, including human sperm. It is therefore exegetically unwise to make a categorical statement that the ‘seed of the woman’ is Mary’s ovum when this phrase could just as easily mean that Christ is Mary’s child, her seed. From the Enhanced Strong’s Lexicon, zera has”229 occurrences; AV translates as “seed” 221 times, “child” twice, “carnally 7902” twice, “carnally” once, “fruitful” once, “seedtime” once, and “sowing time” once. 1 seed, sowing, offspring. 1a a sowing. 1b seed. 1c semen virile. 1d offspring, descendants, posterity, children”. -– A puzzle isn’t
In my view, which I believe is entirely doctrinally consistent, is that the Holy Spirit conceived the whole of Christ’s body within Mary’s womb and she acted as a surrogate to nurture this conception to term. I agree.
Because of the input from both parents, all human conceptions are genetically different from their mothers (including Christ for at the very least He was male, His ‘mother’ female) and there are elaborate physiological mechanisms in place to prevent the mother recognising the new child as ‘foreign’ and mounting an immune rejection which would routinely abort the pregnancy. Thus the only communication between mother and foetus is the essential basic building blocks for growth - anything more would result in disaster. Therefore if Mary followed the path of a ‘normal’ pregnancy her physical and spiritual nature would remain quite separate from Christ’s, which I believe is the scriptural requirement. Sounds good.
Chafer mentions another issue which follows logically from the fact of the incarnation - His bodily resurrection. Having received human form, that form is transformed into immortality (1 Timothy 6:16), the firstborn of many brethren ie us (Philippians 3:21). The term ‘resurrection body’ appears to apply to everything that a saved person has after death ie body, soul and spirit (see Romans 12:1, 1 Timothy 3:16), although little is said in the scripture regarding the soul and spirit of Christ (eg Hebrews 10:5, 2:14).
Discuss the purposes of the incarnation:
3. For what purpose did He become incarnate?
Chafer lists seven reasons:
a. That He might manifest God to man. The logos demonstrates what God is like (John 14:9). The God of the OT demonstrated many qualities, but Jesus came to fully display God’s love to us as ‘sinners’ and ‘enemies’.
b. That He might manifest man to God. Christ is the perfect man, and He pleased His Father as such. His current ministry interceding for the saints from the right hand of God partly depends on the Father accepting Him as human. The capacity of the saved to do the will of the Father depends entirely on being ‘in Christ’. The unsaved depend entirely on Christ representing them to God for salvation.
c. That He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest. Only a blood-sacrifice is effective for human sin, and only God can perform a sacrifice that will meet the demands of infinite holiness and justice. The Cross therefore does not just shed the physical blood of the standard human victim, but the blood of the Second Person (Acts 20:28). This fact demonstrates part of the quality of the intimacy of the hypostatic union.
d. That He might destroy the works of the devil. Temptation is a purely human failing (James 1:13), therefore Christ needed to be incarnate in order to be tempted as we are (Hebrews 4:15). Death is a human physical reality; if Christ’s death was to be effective in achieving victory over Satan, He must be incarnate first.
e. That He might be head over the new creation ie the Saved. Christ is the firstborn among many brethren (Romans 8:29) and we shall be conformed to His likeness (1 John 3:2). He is the Head of the one body, the Church.
f. That He might sit on David’s throne. Christ’s birth was heralded with this purpose in view Isaiah 9:6-7, Luke 1:30-33. It is also a part of the resurrection (Acts 2:30-31), and of course the prophecies of the second Advent (Matthew 25:31, cf 19:28, Acts 15:16). Christ completes this covenant made by God to David, which was a prophecy to be fulfilled during the earthly reign of Christ during the millennium and continue into eternity - a fulfillment only possible by a God-man.
g. That He might be a Kinsman-Redeemer. The OT type of the kinsman-redeemer, ultimately fully expressed in Christ, requires three qualities: i. the redeemer must be a kinsman
ii. the redeemer must be able to redeem
iii. the redemption is accomplished by the redeemer paying the righteous demand.
In terms of the necessity of the incarnation, # i. requires that Christ become human.
Investigate the error that Jesus Christ became the Son of God at His incarnation (www.ggy.org):
I wasted considerable time at this website and found nothing of value. Some links were interesting but not specific enough to contribute to this question. There was also nothing readily useful that I could find at www.gty.org.
From A Biblical Theology of the New Testament: “The picture of a “Christology from above”—that of the heavenly, preexistent Son coming into the world and becoming fully human—is rejected by some, who insist that a Christology from below is more truly the picture given in Hebrews. As Hurst says, “The first two chapters of Hebrews are not concerned primarily with a preexistent figure who lowers himself to become man; they focus rather upon a human being who is raised to an exalted status.”43 Robinson argues for a similar view of the whole book.44 The textual support for this approach is the stout emphasis in Hebrews on the real humanity of Jesus. But emphasis on Jesus’ humanity must not be used to distort the verses in Hebrews which so clearly teach His heavenly preexistence and incarnation.45 As noted above, Hebrews uniquely combines both humanity and deity in its Christology.”
If Jesus only became God at His incarnation then
1. Scripture is wrong and God is a liar
2. Jesus had no role in the OT
3. He could not have been creator, but would have been created
4. Such an idea contradicts the nature of God as being eternal
5. Jesus was entirely mistaken that He had an existence in glory with the Father before the foundation of the earth.
6. Etc,etc Hermeneutic stupidity.
Clarify to a non-Christian the importance of the virgin birth and incarnation of Christ for the salvation of their soul:
1. Your sin (which you know in your heart is true) is bad enough to condemn you to hell for eternity
2. God in His love for you has done something perfectly effective about this.
3. Firstly, the cost of paying for your sin needed to be good enough to satisfy the infinite sense of justice God has
4. Secondly, the only sacrifice that could measure up to that was the infinite love of God Himself. This was found in Christ, who as God was physically conceived by the Holy Spirit of a virgin, so that He was not contaminated by any human sinfulness.
5. Thirdly, He needed to be a man so that you and I could relate to Him just like any other person and learn a lot about how to live rightly.
6. Fourthly, unlike everybody else, Jesus as God and man died for you and me in our places so that His perfect death counted against our sin. God the Judge then reckons us to be sinless under the blood of Christ, and we have His perfection which lets us into heaven.
7. In His love, Christ offers this gift of salvation from sin with no strings attached. It only works if you agree with Him that you are a sinner, deserve to go to hell, and trust Christ’s death alone to save you from that, and guarantee a place in heaven instead.
Apply key passages in Hebrews in light of the incarnation:
Even a superficial treatment of this question is well outside the scope of these notes.
The topic is treated at some length in the section “Incarnate, earthly Son” and “Exalted Son” of A Biblical Theology of the New Testament pp377-388. Two short early quotes regarding sonship are reproduced:
“This then leads to the other element of this first theme in 2:10–18—the Son’s true incarnation established a vital link with all humankind so that we may become His “brothers.” The theme of “the Son and sons” is uniquely developed in Hebrews as a way of expressing the solidarity established in the incarnation between the Savior and those He came to save.”
“The theme is picked up immediately in Hebrews 2:10 where God’s action in Christ is described as “bringing many sons to glory.” This thought is expanded in 2:11–13, which emphasizes Jesus’ work for them: “he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are from one” (nasb; cf. niv: “are of the same family”). The family motif is continued—“So Jesus is not ashamed to call them brothers”—and supported by Old Testament quotations that highlight the relationship between God’s leader and the community of God’s people whom he leads (Ps. 22:22; Isa. 8:17–18). They are His brothers, the children God has given to Him. In Hebrews 2:14–18, this solidarity with believers is seen to be a necessity because of the redemptive mission the Son came to accomplish: “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity . . . . For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham’s descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way.” In these verses the breathtaking truth of Christianity shines forth again: the eternal Son did not serve from afar but came to be one of us and to walk the costly path of obedience which leads us to glory!”
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. Originally Published: Dallas, Tex. : Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-1948., Vol. 1, Page 350-351. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993.
Chafer, Lewis Sperry. Systematic Theology. Originally Published: Dallas, Tex. : Dallas Seminary Press, 1947-1948., Vol. 1, Page 351. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993.
Strong, James. The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible : Showing Every Word of the Text of the Common English Version of the Canonical Books, and Every Occurrence of Each Word in Regular Order. electronic ed., H2233. Ontario: Woodside Bible Fellowship., 1996.
43. Hurst, “Christology of Hebrews 1 and 2,” 152. In this he is summarizing George B. Caird, “Son by Appointment,” in The New Testament Age: Essays in Honor of Bo Reicke, ed. William C. Weinrich, 2 vols. (Macon, Ga.: Mercer Univ., 1984), 1:73–81.
44. Robinson, Human Face of God, 155–61. Pryor responds to Robinson’s views and concludes that preexistence and incarnation cannot be excluded from the Christology of Hebrews (“Hebrews and Incarnational Christology,” 44–50). See a similar conclusion in Ronald Williamson, “The Incarnation of the Logos in Hebrews,” Expository Times 95 (1983):4–8.
45. See, e.g., the non sequitur in John Knox, The Humanity and Divinity of Christ: A Study of Pattern in Christology (Cambridge: Cambridge Univ., 1967), 61–70, 73, 93–95, 106. He argues in effect, “since Jesus was fully human, then He could not have been divine or pre-existent.” This suggests the need for C. E. B. Cranfield’s reminder, in response to a similar argument by Dunn, that the distinction between full humanity and true humanity is worth preserving in Christological discussion (“Some Comments on Professor J. D. G. Dunn’s Christology in the Making with Special Reference to the Evidence of the Epistle to the Romans,” in The Glory of Christ in the New Testament, 271 n. 6).
Zuck, Roy B., Darrell L. Bock, and Dallas Theological Seminary. A Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1994.
Zuck, Roy B., Darrell L. Bock, and Dallas Theological Seminary. A Biblical Theology of the New Testament. Chicago: Moody Press, 1996, c1994.