INCARNATION, Questions and Controversies?
This is a bedrock teaching of Christianity and provides an anchor to one’s belief. Without it, the whole foundation of this religion will crumble. It is no wonder that believers are passionate about it, being a starting point of the process of salvation. But, it is not without dissenters.
Did it happen?
In the 1st-3rd century, rejection of incarnation has been championed by Ebionites and Gnostics (1). The word itself is not found in the Holy Bible. What is known from the Tanach(Old Testament) and carried through New Testament times was the prophecy of and certainty by the prophet Isaiah, testified also by Luke that a human Messiah would come from God, as in:
Isaiah 7:14 “Therefore the Lord (Adonay/YHVH) himself shall give you a sign; Behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.“(God with us).
Isaiah 9:6 “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given: and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace”
Luke 1:31-33 “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there will be no end.”
Luke 2:11 “For unto you is born this day in the cityof David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.
Micah 5:2 “But you, O BETHLEHEM Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah,Yet OUT OF YOU (Bethlehem) SHALL come forth to ME THE One to be RULER in Israel, Whose goings forth have been from of OLD, from EVERLASTING.”
Notice that Isa. 7:14 suggests that he himself will give a sign or re-translating the original Greek can be construed as he himself will be given as a sign, although to some this maybe a stretch. In Lu. 2:11, the word “Christ” means Messiah, and the “Lord” is “kyrios” meaning the supreme/YHVH, suggesting he himself will be the Savior. In Micah 5:2, this newborn baby has an everlasting beginning.
While the preceding verses “intimate” the process of incarnation, they were not specific enough nor precise and leave some to doubt the interpretation. These verses may rightly assume but did not actually nor emphatically attest that God will become flesh, i.e., incarnate, in the person of Jesus. No one has seen the moment YHVH ELOHIM incarnated or changed from immortal to mortal human.That being said, an unequivocal proof that incarnation in fact occurred had to come only from testimony from YHVH ELOHIM himself. After all, he was the one who incarnated. That is why that has to begin with Jesus and subsequently attested to by writers of the Bible. This subsequent testimony appears to be a later understanding as progressively revealed and understood about Jesus. Remember that the gospel of John, written way after Jesus’ resurrection, is different in emphasis compared with the previous 3 synoptic gospels(2).
Notice the following:
The Father God identified Jesus as in Mark 1:11 “And a voice came from heaven: You are my Son whom I love; with you I am well pleased”.
Jesus said in John 8:58 “Before Abraham was, I am”. Jesus himself was quoted as witnessed by John that he lived before Abraham. Likewise, Jesus clues us in as to his beginning, as in John 17:5 “And now O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself with the glory I had with You before the world was”
Then, apostle John testified in:
John 1:1 “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, And the Word was God”
John 1:3 “All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made”
John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth”
John 3:31 “He who comes from heaven is above all”
John 6:62 “What then if you see the Son of man ascend where He was before”
I John 1:1 “That which was from the beginning, which we have seen with our eyes, which have looked at and our hands have touched-this we proclaim to you concerning the Word of life.”
Paul also testified in:
I Timothy 3:16 “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh”
Colossians 1:16 “For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were made through Him and for Him”
Hebrews 1:10 “To the Son He says, ‘…You O Lord, in the beginning, laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of your hands”
The preceding verses are patently obvious and compelling that YHVH ELOHIM, the Creator of all, came from heaven, that he was with God-Father before the world was and he incarnated into human flesh. Jesus himself testified that he was YHVH/Creator, the “I am”. It is impossible for a human witness to testify to the actual change from immortal to mortal, except the man-Jesus, who “came from above“. As guided by the Holy Spirit, Paul testified to the same fact, in the same mechanism that Peter testified that Jesus was the Messiah(Mk 8:29; Matt. 16:17). And on that truth lies the very essence of incarnation, and by extension salvation, that it is based on faith, anchored on trustworthy testimony of the Creator YHVH Elohim himself, who became man-Jesus.
Why did he incarnate?
It is very difficult for anyone to voluntarily give up position and power. For a human king, monarch or queen of a kingdom, President or Prime Minister of a country and for that matter, a dictator, a tyrant to step down from a position of honor, respect or power, is inconceivable. Can a Chairman of the Board, CEO or any management position accept a lower position or become an ordinary person ? That would be unheard of. Unless, temporarily and of course, a trade-off was made that would make the person better in whatever capacity. Yet, YHVH Elohim, the Creator of all visible and invisible, did just that. From a spiritual body he became human flesh, for excellent reasons, thus reflecting his love for his creation and “oneness” with the Father as to the ultimate plan for humans.
I heard people gave reasons for incarnation like love and glory of God to be shown. Some may give other altruistic reasons, and rightfully so. Yet, no one should forget the most basic reason alluded to in:
Isaiah 53:10 “Yet it was the Lord’s good plan to bruise him; put Him to grief, make His soul an offering for sin . . .”
Also, notice the following reason given clearly by Paul:
Romans 5:15, 18-19 “But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if many died through one man’s trespass, much more have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of that one man Jesus Christ abounded for many. . . . Then as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to acquittal and life for all men. For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so by one man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” (Note: righteousness is of faith (not works) and obedience is to the plan of the Father that attains salvation based on faith (not works of Jesus even); this is not about obedience to the Law/Ten Commandments but to the Law of faith as planned by the Father; see Gal 5:1-26).
Hebrews 9:14 “How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, cleanse your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? “
Hebrews 10:4-5 “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said, ‘Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, but a body You have prepared for Me”
1 Corinthians 15:22, 45 “For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive. Thus it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being’; the last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”
2 Corinthians 5:21 “For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin FOR us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.”
1 Peter 1:19 “We were redeemed, . . .with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.”
In essence, all the sins of humanity (whether before or after the garden of Eden narrative) were imputed on (the first) Adam so that righteousness can be imputed from the “second Adam”/Jesus, based on faith and love, not Jesus’ works of the Law/Ten Commandments but his “obedience” or concurrence with the Law of faith (the righteousness of faith) as planned by the Father, so no one can boast. He took on the consequence of death for mankind; he died the “appointed“(Heb. 9:27) first (temporary) and eternal death . All of us will experience this first death. And he also died the “eternal death” to free us from second “eternal” death( Rev 2:11, Rev 20:6,14, and Rev. 21:8.). By his resurrection as promised by the Father, he proved that we can also be freed from “eternal death”. Jesus then received the Holy Spirit of power (John 16:7) to be given to us for our “seal and sanctification” along this process of salvation . With Jesus resurrected as immortal and having himself been freed by the Father from second death, others also will. He died the first death as a mortal man, and the “second death” so we do not have to die the “second/eternal death” as promised by the Father to become “immortal, spirit-composed bodies” through a process of being “born again of the spirit”. As an immortal YHVH, he has to incarnate into mortal flesh, otherwise how could he have died and be a propitiation/atonement for our sins? See I John 2:2.
Moreover, incarnation made YHVH/Creator a “begotten Son” (as we will be “children of God”), a more exalted position than previous.
Mechanics of Incarnation and its sequelae
The story of Nicodemus in John 3:1-12 gives us an inclination of what entails incarnation. In the narrative, Nicodemus was asking how could man be born again. Notice verses 3-6 “ Jesus answered and said unto him, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot † see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can † he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot † enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.”
Here, it is obvious that Jesus was referring to 2 births, viz., first human birth to flesh as in “born of water” (not water baptism which mimics death) and subsequently a second birth as in”born of the Spirit”. There had to be 2 births, otherwise John 3:3 states, no one (including Jesus) will not see the kingdom of God; no salvation without those requirements. He differentiated the 2 births in v-6, ” that which is born of the flesh is flesh and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” The mechanics therefore of YHVH’s incarnation is, from his previous immortal composition, he has to become flesh through the human process of inception, growth and development in-utero of a mother, be delivered from the womb to become an actual live mortal person. This human process is different from any known human existence. Jesus “came from above”, heavenly; unlike other humans that came from the ground, “earthy“. As an incarnate YHVH, he did not sin and therefore did not carry the penalty of death from the sin of Adam. Mary was pregnant with him, not because of Joseph; she was a mother by “surrogacy“, i.e., nothing from Mary’s egg nor Joseph’s sperm contributed to Jesus’ inception; nothing from mortals. Having no sin as imputed to all from Adam’s, Jesus can rightfully be a pure/clean substitute, a Passover, for mankind.
After going through human inception, intrauterine growth and development, birth (born of water), childhood-to-adulthood growth and development, then, and only then can a person, including man-Jesus, be “born of the spirit” through a process of “adoption-Sonship “, starting with “spirit-baptism”. And Jesus went through the process as “first of the firstfruits” for his “church-body” that will individually also has to go through the same. As YHVH-Creator, he created all. When he became Son of God at resurrection, from mortal man-Jesus to immortal, then he received from the Father, the spirit-power to create “his body-church”, “spirit-composed” children of God, a “God-kingdom”.
As a potter, with the spirit-power given to him by the Father, the prophecy in Jeremiah 18:1-4 (RSV) is being fulfilled:
“The word that came to Jeremiah from the Lord: “Arise, and go down to the potter’s house, and there I will let you hear my words.” So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do.”
He died and resurrected to receive this power as in,
John 16:7 “Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I go not away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I depart, I will send him unto you“.
Acts 2:32-33(ESV)”This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.”
Power of flesh is weak?
Somehow, Christians believe that YHVH incarnated but maintained all his powers as before. As a newborn baby, did Jesus have the consciousness, wisdom and power of YHVH, the Almighty Elohim? If he did, why the need to escape the massacre by Herod? He could have easily overcome that with his power, if he had such power, instead of fleeing to Egypt. Why did they have to wait until Herod’s death before going back? Do these clues suggest “lack of power”? Or, as some assumed, Jesus just chose not use his inherent power?
Intellectually, did the 12-yr.old boy Jesus have the knowledge of the Tanach without reading and/or being taught? It does not appear that, as a human, he somehow just spontaneously got this knowledge. Remember that when he went to the Temple as a child, he was quoted as having a discourse with the Rabbi who was surprised of what he knew (Luke 2:41-52). But, is having an advanced understanding of the Tanach, any more different than anyone who really studied and got immersed in what was written? Many scholars can be outstanding in this regard, as well. In verse 52 of the narrative:
“And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” suggests “growth” and knowledge not intrinsic in him.
Moreover, the compelling key observation that man-Jesus, being mortal-flesh was weak (Matt 26:41 and did not have spiritual powers was the lack of “miracles” ever performed by him prior to the “spirit-baptism” by the Father at river Jordan (Luke 3:22). Only after he was imbued with the Holy Spirit, seen by John the Baptist as a “dove descending and filling him up”, did he have the power to overcome the temptations of Satan (Matt. 4:1-11) and the 1st miracle of turning water into wine in Cana (John 2:11). The spirit of the Father given to him at river Jordan was for him alone to utilize, much like the spirit we are baptized with at conversion. That is why it was necessary for him “to go away” to receive a specific spirit-power to be given to us for creating his “body/church”, as in Matt. 16:18 and:
1 Corinthians 12:27 “Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it.”
Romans 12:4-5 “For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another.”
Son of God, when and why?
As Jesus said to Nicodemus, one has to be human as in “born of water” before becoming “born of spirit“; “what is born of water is flesh; what is born of the spirit is spirit.”
As mentioned early on in this post, no one voluntarily gives up his position of power unless the trade-off will be better. In fact, YHVH’s trade-off was indeed superior, not only for him but for his creation. And, his choice was not selfish. Rather, it was out of love for his creation and on following the “will” of the Father (Luke 22:42). At the beginning, YHVH Elohim created all, visible and invisible, including angelic beings. But, while he had the power to create a human Adam in Genesis,he did not have the power to create “sons and daughters of the God-kingdom”, spirit-composed. Otherwise, why wait until after his own death and resurrection to receive this creative power? After having “born of the spirit” with immortal spirit-body, as “Son of God”, he becomes that Creator for the ultimate gift to humanity. Humans are currently “lower than angels” (Hebrews 2:5-13) but as “sons/daughters of God” will be higher than them as the “world to come” will not be subject to angels, unlike before. Sons and daughters of God are being created within the “church/body of Christ” environment. The Father planned for humans to be in the God-kingdom not have a human-kingdom. Is it any wonder that all human kingdoms fail?
With all the powers given to Jesus now manifested as as “Son of God“, all the works of the devil will be destroyed, as in,
I John 3:8 “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.
In a nutshell, when YHVH said he incarnated, he actually became human with all that it entails, including “tempted but without sin”, as in:
Heb. 4:15 King James 2000 Bible
“For we have not a high priest who cannot be touched with the feeling of our weaknesses; but was in all points tempted like we are, yet without sin.”
Yes, he has all the weaknesses (and the strengths) of a human being. He did not maintain the powers of an immortal YHVH Elohim. What in “incarnation” do we not get? Somehow, people wanted man-Jesus to maintain his YHVH powers as from the beginning, not realizing that by this assumption, they are actually diminishing the ultimate faith of YHVH in the promise of the Father regarding the plan of salvation for humanity. Imagine the YHVH Creator agreeing to become “lower than angels” as a man? THAT IS ultimate trust in the Father that is faith-based; the righteousness of faith providing the basis of salvation.
In the creation of the God-kingdom, the requirements are to have 2 births, viz., born of water as a human and then born in spirit as Son of God. What is born of water is flesh; what is born in spirit is spirit. This is the “unwritten covenant” between YHVH ELOHIM and the Ancient of Days/God-Father (Daniel 7:13): that YHVH will give up all his powers through incarnation (born of water, as man-Jesus), grow and develop as man-Jesus, receive the Holy Spirit of power at baptism at the river Jordan, crucified as a Passover for humanity, “born in spirit” by resurrection as immortal Son of God, receive the Holy Spirit from the Father to be given to humanity for the creation of spirit-composed God-kingdom. Thus providing an example of the path to salvation, Jesus the “beginner(pioneer,author) and finisher(perfecter) of our faith” (Heb. 12:2). And all of this plan was based on supreme faith of Jesus in and unswerving love of the Father. The Son and the Father are “one” and so shall we be “one” with them .
1. Controversy of Christmas. Retrieved 12/19/2016 from http://thecripplegate.com/the-controversy-of-christmas/
2. The Gospel of John. Retrieved 1/8/17 from http://www.mycrandall.ca/courses/ntintro/john.htm
Original post: 1/12/17
The power of the flesh section might be debatable. But overall, it is well written and accurate. I’m rusty on my Hebrew and Greek, but the Spirit bares witness to it that it’s true.
It seems a bit college. I’d humbly suggest when teaching this, simplify it to those who still can only handle the milk of the word.
Maybe you can improve it in some ways to your audience? My role is merely to help advance the “message”.
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