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Thursday, December 20, 2012

God Became Human

"Incarnation," it comes from the Latin and it means "in the flesh." Two thousand years ago, God the Son, the Second Person of the Trinity, became human. Jesus Christ, while never ceasing to be God, assumed a human nature literally becoming the God-man, "Remaining what He was, He became what He wasn't," states theologian Wayne Grudem. Jesus Christ in His incarnation became fully human while remaining fully God, and as the incarnate Son of God, He was one person with two natures, one human and one divine.

“’The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel’ —which means, ‘God with us’” (Matt. 1:23). John states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God…The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1, 14). The Apostle Paul says, “Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (Phil. 2:6-7).

To reject either the humanity or the divinity of Jesus is to deny the true identity of Christ. Why does that matter, you might ask? Because if Christ is not the God-man, then He not the Savior mankind needs!

The incarnation of Jesus Christ clearly:

1. Informs us of our sin and our desperate condition. “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, so that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9). His birth implies what the first three chapters of Roman’s assert—that man is lost. He neither could, nor would, choose to save himself.

2. Informs us of God’s desire and ability to save us. When we think of the love of God, we tend to think of the Cross, that’s because we fail to remember, as someone once said, “the wood of the cradle and the wood of the cross are the same.” There is no cross without the cradle!

3. Warns us of the absurdity of rejecting salvation in Jesus Christ. If man were not hopelessly lost in his sin and on his way hell, the Father would have never sent His Son to die on the cross via the cradle! If there were any other way by which we could be saved, then the Father wouldn’t have sent His Son to die on the cross via the cradle! How foolish indeed is the notion that a person will ever stand before God in any righteousness having rejected Jesus Christ, God incarnate. “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God…It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:26-27, 31).

Can God Be Known?

Is it possible for us to know God? Is God knowable? The differences between God and us are so great; He is for example, infinite, eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing, completely holy and righteous, just to mention a few, and we, well, are not! The truth is that on our own, there is no way we can come to know God, but if God were to reveal Himself to us, He would indeed be knowable. Even though the Almighty exists outside everything we perceive, since we were created in His image, God is not “totally other” than us.

What we could know and how much we could know about God was entirely up to Him since He is the only source of knowledge about Himself. Many might be surprised to learn that God has actually revealed quite a bit about Himself through both General Revelation (that which has been created) and Special Revelation (both Jesus Christ the living Word, and the Bible, the written Word).

At the risk of sounding like I am contradicting myself, let me say this: in one sense God is knowable, yet in another sense He is unknowable. He is knowable in that I can know something about God, yet He is unknowable in that my knowledge of Him is only partial. On the one hand I can know Him yet my knowledge of Him is not absolute, on the other hand He is unknowable yet not absolutely unknowable. My point being this, we can know God; we just can’t know everything about Him.

Consider Job 11:7: “Can you fathom the mysteries of God? Can you probe the limits of the Almighty?” The text clearly indicates that God is a mystery to us (unknowable). Then consider the words of Christ in John 14:7, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him,” a clear statement that God can be known in part (not completely unknowable).

So, can the Person of God be known? Yes, He can, the source of our knowledge of Him being the Old and New Testament scriptures. The Word of God tells us who He is, it reveals to us His characteristics, His purpose for revealing Himself, and it tells us about His wondrous works.

Here is the real question, though: can we only know facts about God, can the only way we know Him is through intellectual accent, or can God be known experientially, personally, and intimately? And what is the difference? The answer to the first is an emphatic NO, the answer to the second question is an emphatic YES, and the difference is the difference between life and death! If God has made it possible for us to know Him experientially, personally, and intimately, why would we not want to know Him that way?

The most famous of the questions of the Westminster Sorter Catechism is: What is the chief end of man? The answer: Man’s chief end is to glorify God (1)*, and to enjoy him forever (2)*. That can only happen if we confess and repent of our sin, ask God to forgive us, and ask Jesus Christ to come into hearts and lives.

“I tell you the truth, those who listen to my message and believe in God who sent me have eternal life. They will never be condemned for their sins, but they have already passed from death into life" (John 5:24 NLT).

"But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).

"So now there is no condemnation for those who belong to Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1).

*(1) Psalm 86; Isaiah 60:21; Romans 11:36; 1 Corinthians 6:20; 10:31; Revelation 4:11.
*(2) Psalm 16:5-11; Psalm 144:15; Isaiah 12:2; Luke 2:10; Philippians 4:4; Revelation 21:3-4.

A Matter of Interpretation?

If we had a dime for every time we heard someone say “that’s just your interpretation” when the Bible or God were brought up in conversation, chances are we would have saved up a ton of money by now!

To many, the reply seems reasonable enough, but only because they fail to consider the fallacy of it. They argue that people have a right to their own opinion, and in our post-modern society, having the right to an opinion has become far more important than the accuracy or truthfulness of the opinion itself. Honestly, does truth boil down to one’s own interpretation? What does that really mean anyway? It sounds more like a copout than a reasonable argument. I suppose it is much easier and painless to justify all form of sin with that type of reasoning than to call sin sin and deal with the consequences….or is it? They say that the Bible if replete of “contradictory statements” and sayings that are outright mysterious and impossible to understand, thus arguing that there can’t possibly be one view that is better or more truthful than another (which is just another way of saying “that’s just your interpretation”). So how do we respond to such objections? Here are a few points to consider:

(1) The Bible was written in common language to be understood by common people, its meaning is not restricted to certain people. Sure, there are challenging passages, but the truth is that if we approach the study of Scripture with genuine honesty and sincerity, its meaning will become quite clear to us. Let me give you an example of what I mean: take John’s prologue to the Gospel of John (1:1-18), about 85 percent of the words in the prologue are single syllable words, only a handful of words contain three or more syllables, an eight-year old could read it. The prologue is a summary of many of the major themes which will then be developed by John in the remainder of the Gospel. To be sure, I am not saying that because a very young person is able to read Scripture, that they are going to be able to fully understand everything they read, greater understanding will require serious study.

(2) Just because something in Scripture may not be easily understood doesn’t mean a person has the right to interpret Scripture anyway he wants. One’s interpretation of Scripture is right only when that interpretation corresponds to the author’s intent, and knowing what the author’s intent was requires more than sloppy and lazy thinking.

(3) God, among other things is infinite, eternal, and all knowing, what ever gave us the idea that as finite beings we were going to be able to fully grasp God and fully understand everything He said? “’For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,’ declares the Lord. ‘As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts’” (Isaiah 55:8-9). Everything God says is completely rational and logical, just because His understanding exceeds logic, it by no means means that it violates logic.

(4) There is no question that Scripture contains things that exceed our capacity to fully understand, but that does not mean that the Bible is incomprehensible, nor does it mean, as many argue, that Scripture contains contradictions. There is not a single place in Scripture (to the best of my knowledge) where God says in one place that something is what it is and in another place that it is not what it is at the same time and in the same way, that would be a legitimate contradiction. What the Bible does contain are paradoxes, statements that appear to be contradictions, which are resolved with further study.

Somehow I have the feeling that many who say “that’s just your interpretation,” are saying that in an attempt to make the Bible say what it doesn’t (a text out of context is just a pretext) in order to make it fit their personal preferences and to justify that which is unjustifiable, at least from a true biblical standpoint. You may have a right to your own “opinion,” but the real question is, does your “opinion” correspond with truth, with the way things really are?