The Incomparable ChristThe Incarnation of Christ
Leslie Basham: Nancy Leigh DeMoss invites you to be amazed.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Today we’re going to look at what one theologian has called "by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible—far more amazing than the resurrection and more amazing even than the creation of the universe.”1
Leslie: This is Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss for Monday, March 14.
As Nancy continues the series The Incomparable Christ, she’ll tell us about the most amazing miracle in all the Bible.
Nancy: Well, what’s that all about? Let me ask you to open your Bible, if you have one there, to the Gospel of John, chapter 1. I want to read two verses from that chapter, verse 1 and then verse 14.
John chapter 1, verse 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Then verse 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.”
Now, as you know, we are spending several weeks leading up to the Passion Week and Easter, during what some would call the Lenten season to ponder Christ, to consider Him. We’re using as a track to run on a book called The Incomparable Christ, a book by J. Oswald Sanders. It’s a book that’s been a blessing to me, and we’re walking through this book on the life and the work and the passion of Christ.
If you want to follow along in the book, it’s not too late to order a copy yourself, just give us a call or go online. You can read the chapter and follow along.
Today we’re looking at chapter 3 in this book, The Incomparable Christ. Even if you’re not following along in the book, you can go online and see which chapter we’re looking at each day and some of the Scripture verses that you can meditate on in relation to that chapter.
Today we’re looking at the Incarnation of Christ, what this theologian called "by far the most amazing miracle of the entire Bible.”1
The word incarnate comes from a Latin term that means "to make into flesh, to become flesh." Now the word itself—incarnation—is not found in the Bible, but it’s a term that’s been coined to describe the fact that Jesus was God in human flesh—the Incarnation—when the Word, God, was made flesh.
It’s that point in history when the Son of God was miraculously conceived in the womb of a virgin. Don’t try and understand that. You can’t. But you’ve got to believe it. It’s true. He was conceived in the womb of a virgin. He became a man and took on a human nature.
In his book called Systematic Theology, Wayne Grudem says, “The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature . . . will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.”2
When I was a kid, my parents got to know a man named James Irwin, who was one of the U.S. astronauts who actually went to the moon. He’s now with the Lord, but on his return to earth after walking on the moon, Astronaut Jim Irwin said, “The most significant achievement of our age is not that man stood on the moon, but rather that God in Christ stood upon this earth.”
This is yet another way that Christ is incomparable, and in each of these sessions over these weeks, we’re looking at Christ and saying, “How is He unique? What makes Him incomparable?”
When it comes to His incarnation, His becoming flesh, we have to agree that there is no one else like Him in all the universe, past, present, or future. The Incarnation is what we celebrate at . . . what time of year? Christmas. Many of our Christmas carols reflect this mystery, this miracle, this amazing thing that God would become a man.
We sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing.” One of the stanzas in that Christmas carol by Charles Wesley talks about the Incarnation:
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail the incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh [as man with man] to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.
God taking on flesh, pleased with us to dwell in the flesh. He came to dwell with us . . . Jesus, our Emmanuel.
So as we contemplate the Incarnation, we see the majesty, the power, and the greatness of Christ, who was born of a virgin—that’s miraculous. No human being could be born that way. He is God.
We see His power and His greatness. But we also see His meekness, His humility, and His love as He made Himself of no reputation, Philippians 2 says. He came to this earth to become one of us, to take on flesh. We see His greatness, His exaltation, and we see His humiliation all in the incarnation of Christ.
Now, you have your Bible open there to John chapter 1. Look again at verse 1: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This is incomprehensible to us.
- Christ is infinite.
- We are finite.
- He is holy.
- We are sinful.
- He has pure, unbroken fellowship with God.
- We are alienated, enemies from God because of our sin.
But in eternity past, this Word who was with God and the Word who was God, in eternity past God designed a plan through this Word, Jesus Christ, to reconcile us to Himself.
That’s when we come to verse 14: “The Word [Christ Jesus] became flesh and dwelt among us.”
He left the palaces, the ivory palaces, the glory, the splendor, the riches of heaven. He left that amazing presence of God, and He came down to this earth. He pierced the time barrier, pierced the geography barrier. He came to this earth. He became flesh, and He dwelt among us—among us, human beings.
That word dwelt is a word that could be translated, “He tabernacled; He pitched His tent” down here among human kind.
- The infinite became finite.
- The immortal became mortal.
- The Creator became as one of His creatures.
He came to live where we live. He pitched His tent among us. He camped down here on earth for 33 years.
Matthew Henry, the great old-time commentator said, “The everlasting Father became a child of time. . . . The Ancient of days became an infant of a span long.”3 It’s amazing!
Philippians 2 tells us that "though He was in the form of God, [Jesus] did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped." He didn’t cling to His rights as God, but He "made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men" (Philippians 2:6-7).
So He emptied Himself at the Incarnation. When God took on human flesh, He emptied Himself. Not by laying aside His divine attributes—He was still God—but by taking on our humanity and voluntarily restricting the use of those divine attributes.
At the Incarnation, by becoming a man, He took on our human weaknesses, our frailties, our limitations. Just think about it. (It’s been a joy for me, by the way, in this series to have lots and lots of time to just ponder these amazing realities.)
- The One who never sleeps, became tired—as a man.
- The Creator of the oceans of water—all the bodies of water on the earth—became thirsty.
- The one who fed His people with manna in the wilderness became hungry.
- The one who flung the stars into space slept under the stars.
- The one who inhabited heaven’s ivory palaces was born in a borrowed cattle shed.
- The omniscient God had to learn how to talk and walk as a child, as a baby, as an infant, as a human.
- The eternal Word of God had to learn how to read.
- The Helper of His people became helpless and dependent.
- The beloved Son of God became the rejected Son of Man.
- The one who created angels had angels come to His aid during His temptation in the wilderness, and again in Gethsemane.
So why did He do it? Why did He do that? He did it to bring us to God. We were rebels. We were separated from God by our sin. We were under His wrath. We were subject to the righteous judgment of God on sinners.
So 1 Timothy tells us: “Christ Jesus came into the world [why?] to save sinners.” (1 Tim 1:15)
John 3, verse 17—John 3:16 is maybe the most famous verse in the Bible . . . “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that if anyone would believe in him, he would not perish but would have eternal life.” The very next verse, “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. (John 3:17)
You see, in order to save us, Jesus had to be born. He had to live. He had to die as a human. He had to take on human flesh. He voluntarily chose the pathway of humiliation, condescension. Stepping down, crossing that infinite gap between heaven and earth, between God and us, all for our sakes, all for love’s sake.
So what? What does that mean for us? Why does it matter? How much does it really matter? Well, it’s only our eternal salvation that is at stake, but think about it:
What if there had been no Incarnation? What if Jesus had not come to this earth? What if God had not given His Son for us? What if Jesus, the Word, had not become flesh?
Well, we could not know God as Jesus has revealed Him to us. John 1 says, “We have seen God’s glory.” We’ve seen the glory of God because we’ve seen Christ. In the face of Christ, we have seen God. We’re able to know God because Jesus has come to this earth and revealed Him to us.
If there had been no Incarnation, we could not be reconciled to God. We would be eternally separated from Him and under His righteous judgment. There would be no way to atone for our sins. We would be without hope. We would be eternally lost. We would live a few years on this planet and then die and be eternally separated from God.
It’s something that most people don’t think about, but we need to think about it. We need to think about where we would be if there were no Incarnation.
The Incarnation means:
- Jesus lived our life, though without sin.
- He perfectly obeyed the Father.
- He died our death in our place.
- He paid the penalty we deserved for our sins so that we could be forgiven, so that we could be released from the penalty of death.
Then, by becoming a man and sharing our flesh and blood experiences, Jesus has become a merciful Savior, a merciful High Priest who can not only save us from our sin—as if that weren’t enough—but He continues to be able to meet us at every point of need because He has been one of us. He has lived our life.
You see this concept in the book of Hebrews, chapter 2, beginning at verse 14:
Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, [He became flesh and blood] that through death [by dying on the cross] he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil (vv. 14-16).
The power of the devil to keep us in bondage, to make us die eternally, that power was broken when Jesus died as the sinless Son of God, as the substitute in our place on the cross.
Verse 16 of Hebrews 2:
For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. [Jesus came to earth to help us, to be our savior.]
Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people (vvs. 16-17).
That’s a big theological word that means He satisfied the wrath of God against our sin because He died the death that we deserved to die for our sin.
Some of you, by the way, you’ve heard these things so long that the spectacular has become commonplace in your thinking. Some of you, you’ve not heard this before, and you’re going, “Really? Wow!” But some of us need to see these things with fresh eyes, hear them with fresh ears, as if we’d never heard them before.
Some of us have lost the wonder. You’ve been around this Christian stuff all your life. You’ve been in church all your life. It’s just, “Oh, yeah, ho hum—the Incarnation—yeah, what, what, what.”
No! Not “What, what, what.” Yes! It is the most amazing miracle in the history of the world in all time and eternity, that Jesus would have come to this earth to save sinners. He couldn’t save us without coming.
And not only does He make propitiation for the sins of the people—back to Hebrews 2—but verse 18: “Because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted."
He’s a merciful, faithful High Priest who continues to serve us, to act on our behalf, to minister grace to us in our point of need. When we’re tempted, He’s able to help us because He’s been tempted. He’s been there, and He never sinned once. So He lives within us to enable us to say, “Yes,” to God and “No,” to our flesh. He is an ever-present help in time of need, all because He came to this earth.
It’s important to remember that the Incarnation is not just past tense. It’s not just something that happened 2,000 years ago or so. The Incarnation, think about this, did not stop when Jesus left this earth and went back to heaven.
It has value for us today because the God who became flesh, who came to set up His tent among us, who dwelt here on this earth for 33 years. . .He was crucified; He rose again; He ascended to heaven, and today He is seated in His glorified human body at the right hand of God—the God-Man. And from that place in heaven, He is our Advocate today, and He intercedes for us before the throne of God—today—the Incarnate Christ.
I think sometimes we get this picture that Jesus was born; He lived His life; He died; He went up to heaven, and He’s gone. He is no more. Yes, He is! He is still the Incarnate God-Man, God in the flesh, God sitting on the throne in heaven, the Son of God, the Incarnate Christ, ever living to make intercession for us. The Incarnation matters hugely.
Some of you are familiar with the Valley of Vision, which is a great devotional book. It’s a collection of prayers taken from the Puritan Era. One of those prayers is called “The Gift of Gifts.” It just summarizes the heart of what we have in the Incarnation, the gift that is ours because Christ came to earth.
Let me read just a portion of that prayer to you:
Herein is wonder of wonders;
He came below to raise me above,
Was born like me that I might become like him.
Herein is love:
when I cannot rise to him he draws near on wings of grace,
to raise me to himself.
Herein is power:
when Deity and humanity were infinitely apart
he united them in indissoluble unity,
the uncreated and the created.
Herein is wisdom;
when I was undone, with no will to return to him
and no intellect to devise recovery,
he came, God incarnate, to save me to the uttermost,
as man to die my death,
to shed satisfying blood on my behalf,
to work out a perfect righteousness for me. . . .
In him thou hast given me so much
that heaven can give no more.
Ladies, God doesn’t have anything more to give you. There is nothing more that He could give than what He has given for you in Jesus Christ. I know that in many of our hearts, as we’re talking about the Incarnation of Christ, there’s a fresh sense of gratitude, appreciation, love for Christ, just focusing on the wonder, the marvel that He would leave heaven and come to earth for us. It’s good to think about these things, to be reminded of them, to be refreshed in our love for Him and our appreciation of what He has done for us.
But I know there are some listening to me today who have never experienced a personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Maybe it’s never dawned on you until today why He even came to earth, what that’s all about. You may be a church member; you may listen to Christian radio every day; you may love Revive Our Hearts, but you don’t know Jesus. You don’t have a relationship with Him.
I hope today that God has opened your eyes and your heart and your understanding to realize why Jesus came. He came for you.
- He came to bridge that gap between heaven and earth that we never could have bridged.
- We could have never had fellowship with God.
- We never could have had life.
- All we would have had to look forward to was judgment and the wrath of God forever and ever had Christ not come to earth.
I wonder if the Holy Spirit has not been tugging at your heart and saying, “This is true. I did this for you. Now put your faith in Me.”
I want us to bow our hearts in prayer for just a moment here. I’d just like to invite anyone that God has been speaking to, and you realize that you’re not a child of God, you’re still separated from God, but today God has opened your eyes. He’s opened your heart. He’s given you faith to believe that Christ is the Son of God, come to earth, and that He came to live and to die for you in your place. And you just want to receive Him, to trust Him.
Would you right now from your heart just say, “Lord Jesus, I believe. I’m not worthy that You should come to earth and die in my place, that You should stoop to become a Man for my sake, but You did, and I believe it, and I receive You. I receive You as my Savior. I want You to be the Lord of my life, not just the Lord of this creation, the Lord of this world, but the Lord of my life. I turn by Your grace. I repent from the sin that separated me from God. I want to be a child of God. I trust You to save me, to come into my life, to forgive my sin, and to make me the person You created me to be.”
It’s not so important what words you just said, but if your heart has been expressing to the Lord the desire to be His, to receive Him as your Savior—and God knows your heart—and by faith you can believe that He has heard and answered that prayer.
I want to encourage you, if you trusted Christ as your Savior today, to contact us here at Revive Our Hearts. Let us know that you have received Christ. We’d like to send you some information to help you get started in your faith, to help you grow as a child of God.
Oh, Lord, how I thank You for the mystery, the wonder, the miracle of what You did those thousands of years ago when You put on human flesh, when You came to this earth to save us from our sin. Thank You, Lord, thank You, thank You. In Jesus’ name, amen.
Leslie: If you just prayed with Nancy Leigh DeMoss to come into a relationship with God, we’d like to encourage you in your new-found faith. So we’ll send you the information Nancy told you about as our gift. Just contact us at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.
Today’s program on the Incarnation is part of the series, The Incomparable Christ. Nancy is focusing on important aspects of Jesus’ life. She’s following an outline from the book The Incomparable Christ by J. Oswald Sanders.
When you donate any amount to Revive Our Hearts, we’ll send you this book. Your support will help us continue sending out free resources to those new in their faith and it will help us continue broadcasting in your area. Ask for The Incomparable Christ when you donate any amount at ReviveOurHearts.com, or call 1-800-569-5959.
How much do we know about Jesus’ childhood? Not much was recorded in Scripture, but if you reflect carefully on what we do know, you’ll gain a new appreciation for the humility of Christ. Join us for the childhood of Jesus tomorrow on Revive Our Hearts.
Scriptures for Meditation
- Matthew 1:18-25—Read the simple Christmas story.
- Philippians 2:6-7—Think about what Jesus left behind—and what He took on—when He came to earth.
Making It Personal
- There are so many beautiful carols we sing at Christmas. If you have a hymnal handy, sing all the verses of “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” today, to celebrate Christ’s coming. Or sing another song that helps you focus on Jesus, like the simple chorus, “Oh, come let us adore Him . . . Christ, the Lord.”
- The Christmas story doesn’t just include a cradle; it looks forward to a cross. The Bible teaches that Jesus came to be our Lord and Savior. Consider what your life would be like if God had not sent Jesus. Where would you find hope in the dark times? Where would you find forgiveness? What reason would you have for joy? What would eternity hold? Thank you God, for giving us your Son.
Revive Our Hearts with Nancy Leigh DeMoss is an outreach of Life Action Ministries.
All Scripture is taken from the English Standard Version.
1 Wayne Grudem. Systematic Theology. Zondervan, 1994, p. 563.
3 Matthew Henry. Matthew Henry's commentary on the whole Bible: Complete and unabridged in one volume (Lk 2:1–7). Peabody: Hendrickson, 1996.Offers available only during the broadcast of the radio series.
Topics: The Son