God’s Incarnation and the Church

The “doctrine of the Incarnation” is no bad phrase as long as we remember that it is only a shorthand way of affirming that something happened, something actually was done and that it was God who did it. When we reflect on what it is that the Almighty God has actually done we use words to speak about it but we don’t use words as a substitute for what God has done.

The one Christians speak of as “the Lord Jesus” is God being a man. The Lord Jesus is the man that God is being.

But we can’t leave it there for God does not want us to leave it there, won’t permit us to leave it there. We then try to unpack the meaning of it and the divine reasons for it and, in addition, we want to know how it affects us. Or should affect us.

None of us is competent to unpack all the truths that are imbedded in God’s eternal purpose to become a human or why he ceaselessly chooses to be a human but as we gain a deeper understanding of the character and purpose of God we gain an enriched understanding of his Incarnation in and as Jesus Christ.

There are social ramifications of all the major doctrines the Bible reveals to us. That is, we aren’t taught these major truths simple to give us correct information—they are truths to live by. For example, Paul affirms the OT doctrine that there is no God but one [see Romans 3:29]; he concludes from that that there must be one Creator and one human family. From that he concludes that God cares for the entire human family and offers them life in and through the Lord Jesus [3:30].

He earlier concluded that the entire human family is faithless [3:19, 23] in contrast to God’s faithfulness [3:21-22] but in and through the faithfulness of Jesus God’s maintains his commitment to the human family. Paul insists that humanity knowingly embraced the world spirit that makes itself visible in the principalities and powers and was enslaved and was in need of rescue. Instead of despising humanity and keeping his distance God came nearer than near, became incarnate in and as Jesus, became one of us [see Romans 8:3 and note Hebrews 2:10-11] and came to humanity’s rescue.

This rescue work continues in “the body of Christ” [that is, the Church, the NT covenant People] in which Jesus dwells as and by the Holy Spirit

[see Galatians 4:6, Ephesians 2:22; 2 Corinthians 3:17; Acts 16:7]. The Church is in a real way an “extension” of the Lord’s incarnation.

It would be strange, then, if the corporate body of the Lord Jesus were to despise humanity, would it not?

It won’t do for us to say that humans are terrible sinners and that we are to distance ourselves from them if we are to be good people and, more to the point, if we are the body of Christ. It won’t do because God who knows better than anyone how sinful the human family is and who is goodness in perfection refuses to distance himself from us and chooses to be one of us so that he might rescue us.

We cannot make our moral uprightness a reason to distance ourselves from sinful humans when God would not do it. As Bonhoeffer has taught us, we can’t despise humans if God has so loved them that he became one of them to rescue them. If we despise humans we despise what God has become in Jesus and in despising God’s choice to be one of us we despise God himself.

However we are to engage with our fellow-humans it mustn’t be out of contempt for them but always with the purpose to rescue them [however doubtful we might be about the effectiveness of our attempt]. While we’re at it we are to remember who we are and what we have been though now we may be more morally upright then many of them [see Titus 3:2-7].

The Church that [however it goes about its business] is not and refuses to be in the business of rescue is not the NT Church; it is not the Body of Christ.

©2004 Jim McGuiggan. All materials are free to be copied and used as long as money is not being made.

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