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SIGNIFICANCE OF THE INCARNATION

The significance of the Incarnation can be simply stated: two natures were united in one person. Thus there are three truths: Jesus is God; Jesus is man; and Jesus is one person.

In the Incarnation the Deity was not lost; rather, humanity was acquired. The Incarnation means that the Son came to live a fully human life—in the one Person—as the God-man. And He is the God-man forever.

Rightfully understood, the acts attributed to Jesus Christ are the acts of the one Person, not the acts of a particular nature, whether the human or the Divine. Always in Scripture it is the Person who is acting. For instance, it is not the human nature that is thirsty, but the Person who is thirsty; and it is not the Divine nature that walked on the water, but it is the Person who walked on the Sea of Galilee.

This means that the attributes of each nature belong to the one person; all the aspects of Deity belong to the person, Jesus Christ, and all the aspects of humanity belong to the person, Jesus Christ. Therefore, the Divine nature cannot become a human nature, nor can the human nature become a Divine nature—both natures are united but not confused; there is distinction without division. And the Divine nature is not limited to or fully enclosed by the one Person.

It must be remembered that individual actions are not the actions of a specific nature but the actions of the one Person. Ability to walk on water must be attributed to the Person, and hunger and need for sleep must be attributed to the Person. The Person performs the actions not the particular nature. While this does not deny the presence of two natures it does attribute the particular action, either natural or supernatural, to the single person, which is consistent with the language of the New Testament. The following statements in part summarize the significance of the Incarnation:

The Incarnation informs us how the uncreated God could become a man; in doing so He changed His dwelling place.

The Incarnations explains the two natures of Christ, Divine and human.

In the Incarnation the attributes of each nature, human and Divine, of Christ are communicate to the one person, but the attributes are not communicated to the other nature. Therefore, the Divine did not suffer, and the human did not know when He would return to this earth.

“the Word became flesh” (Jo. 1:14); Paul speaks of Christ “being found in fashion as a man” (Phil. 2:8).

The Incarnation makes it possible for Jesus to be man and to be sinless man.

The Incarnation provides an entrance for God to come into the world in order that He might save His own. God must come because only God could accomplish the redemption of man.

But the two elements of Christian truth belong logically together; the supernatural Person of our Lord belongs logically with His redemptive work; the virgin birth belongs logically with the Cross. Where one aspect is given up, the other will not logically remain; and where one is accepted, the other will naturally be accepted, too. There may be halfway positions for a time, but they are unstable equilibrium and will not long be maintained (Machen, The Virgin Birth, 391).

God will not do it because He ought not, and man will not do it because he cannot: therefore in order that God-and-man may do this, it is necessary that he who is to make this satisfaction should be in his same person be perfect God and perfect man; for he cannot do it unless he be very God, nor ought unless he be very man (Anselm, Cur Deus Homo, II, 7).

The Incarnation provides insight into Christ’s statement about His former glory: “And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was” (Jo. 17:5); in some manner Christ covered His glory while on earth.

The Incarnation explains Christ becoming poor, the One who is the “Possessor of heaven and earth” (Gen. 14:19, 22); Paul speaks of it: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor” (II Cor. 8:9).

The Incarnation challenges man to accept the supernatural.

The Incarnation gives man an opportunity to examine the degree to which he submits to the authority of Scripture.

Note on Kenosis or Kenotic Theology

Kenosis or Kenotic Theology is a more recent development in the area of Christology, with some devoting great attention and giving significant weight to the concept, while others view it as without valid contribution to the Christological discussion. Perhaps because of the influence of the critical concerns of the nineteenth century attention was given to the human Jesus, and innovative positions were proffered in order to explain and justify the passages in Scripture which reflect actions of human nature. As a result various views have developed with one thing in common: each present some concept of self-limitation on the part of Christ in regards to His divine nature.

Criticism has pointed out the problem of the immutability of the Son of God; He cannot limit Himself. For to limit Himself is for Him to cease to be God. Additionally, any Kenotic perspective is contrary to the classical approach to this problem. Orthodoxy has always asserted that in some sense Christ concealed in part His divine nature, but this has been done without bringing into question the unchangeableness of God. It does seem improper to affirm in any sense that Christ divorced Himself from any of the attributes of Deity. It does appear that Kenotic Theology does maximize the humanity of Christ at the expense of His Deity.


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