The Incarnate God

John 1:1-18 will be the basis of our study tonight though we will look at some other references too. This evening we continue our new series on Knowing God very appropriately by looking at the incarnate God, and therefore at the climax of God's self-revelation in the person and work of Jesus Christ. The word incarnate means made flesh or coming in flesh. So our theme is the fact that God became flesh in the person of Jesus. That in Christ, God was made man. Or to put it even more precisely God the Son, one with God the Father, became flesh. I know it's only October but Christmas is coming. There are only 11 weeks to go. There are only 74 shopping days left. The shops are already stocking up. Many stores say their businesses depend on a good Christmas. On the news the other day they were saying that you can already buy advent calendars - chocolate ones with the latest cartoon film characters and objects. This year one of them features a new film 'Small Soldiers' and each window has a gun or a grenade on the outside and a chocolate version on the inside. The message of Christmas - that the baby born at Bethlehem was God made man, that the baby in the manger was God, that God came in human form fully God and fully man to save us from our sins is almost lost. And perhaps we forget it too sometimes. But without the incarnation there is no Christianity, just as there is no Christianity without the cross and the resurrection. If God the Son did not become flesh then he could not have atoned for our sins. Christ could only represent mankind before God if he became one with us. He had to become one with us, fully God and fully man and die as a substitute for us. God in the person of Jesus Christ came from heaven to earth, given by the Father, to rescue us and to show us the way to live and the way to the Father. And he could only do that as fully God and fully man. How can we know God? How can we know what He is like? How can he save us and help us in times of trial and temptation? Perhaps some of us here tonight feel that God is a distant God, an impersonal God. Look at verse 18 of John chapter 1: "No one has ever seen God". In the OT we are told that no-one can see God and live (Ex. 33:20). But as we saw last week God has revealed himself in his Word and in his Son. Hebrews chapter 1 says: "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophetsbut in these last days he has spoken to us by his Sonwho is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being". And to go back to verse 18 of John 1: God the one and only, ie Jesus Christ, the incarnate son of God, who is now at the Father's side, has made him known. In John 14 Jesus says: "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father". In Jesus Christ God became man: fully God and fully man. And only through Jesus Christ can we know God personally. "No-one can come to the Father except through me", says Jesus. And continues Jesus in John 14: "If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well". Do we know Christ? Do we know him as our Lord and Saviour? as the only way to the Father? As the way, the truth and the life? Then you know the one true God - God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. One God in three persons. If you don't know Christ then you can't know God. Christianity is Christ. Why not come to know Christ this evening? The Christ who is fully God and fully man who became flesh who became incarnate who died and rose again for us and who loves us and understands us, and who knows what we are going through - our sufferings, our weaknesses, the temptations we face at home, work, school or college or within ourselves and who can save us and help us because, says Heb. 2:18, he himself suffered when he was tempted. Yes many reject him as verses 5,10 and 11 of John 1 make plain, just as his own did 2000 years ago. But, verse 12, to those who receive him, to those who believe in his name he gives the right to become children of God. If you do come to know Christ, then as Jesus says in John 14:7, "From now on you do know God and have seen God". But to some of us perhaps all this seems difficult to comprehend and believe. You thought you believed in Christmas or at least in the spirit of Christmas but now you're not so sure about the facts and the meaning of the first Christmas. The incarnation of God. Some people say they have problems accepting the cross and the resurrection of Christ and yet their alternatives for what happened are actually more unbelievable. But perhaps their problem really lies with the fact that the baby in the manger was God. Certainly that is the problem for the Jews, the Muslims, and the JW's. For here is the supreme mystery of the gospel: that Jesus was God made man. That the second person of the Godhead became the second man, the second Adam. That God the Son took full human nature upon himself without any loss of deity. Christmas, which many think of as being really for the children, is where people go wrong with belief. For if we haven't understood and accepted the truth of the incarnation then we probably will have difficulties with other parts of the gospel. Whereas if we have grasped the reality of the incarnation then these other problems disappear. You see if Jesus wasn't the incarnate Son of God but rather just a godly man then believing what the NT tells us about his life and work would be very difficult. But if he was the same person as the eternal Word in John 1, the Father's agent in creation, the author of life, the immortal Son of God, fully God and fully man then the virgin birth, his death and resurrection become believable. As Jim Packer writes: "Once

we grant that Jesus was divine, it becomes unreasonable to find difficulty in any of this. The incarnation is in itself an unfathomable mystery, but it makes sense of everything else that the NT contains".

So we must now go back to John chapter 1 and look first at the fact that the Word or Jesus was and is God. That the baby born at Bethlehem was God. And this is my first heading: THE WORD WAS GOD John1:1 Look at verse 1:

"In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God".

We can see from vv. 14 and 18 that the term the Word refers to Jesus the Son of God. A term which would have spoken to both the Jews and the Greeks who made up John's initial readership. To the Greeks it meant the reason or the rational principle that governs all things while the Jews used it as a way of referring to God. So what do we learn about the Word or Jesus the Son of God? Firstly we learn that 'in the beginning was the Word'. Our Lord Jesus Christ is eternal. He had no beginning of his own. When other things began he was. He did not begin to exist at the creation of the world or at the birth in Bethlehem. John 17;5 says that he had glory with the Father before the world was and Colossians 1:17 tells us that he was before all things. Secondly we learn that the Word was with God. The Word or Jesus or God the Son is a person distinct from God the Father and yet they are one. Thirdly we learn that the Word was God. Jesus is God. Though distinct from the Father he is not less divine than the Father. He was and is God in the fullest sense. Fourthly we learn going on to verse 3 that all things were made by him. That Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things. Look at v.3: "Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made". "He was the father's agent in every act of creation that the Father has ever performed. All that was made was made through him." (Packer) Christ therefore is not a creature. He was not made. He was begotten before all worlds. He is the one who made the worlds. Fifthly, verse 4, "In him was life". As one writer comments: "There is no physical life in the realm of created things save in and through him. Here is the Bible's answer to the problem of the origin and continuance of life: life is given and maintained by the Word. Created things do not have life in themselves, but life in the Word, the second person of the Godhead - God the Son". (Packer) Is that what is taught at school and at university? Life is Christ's gift and he is the life! Sixthly, verse 4, "And the life was the light of men". From Christ comes all true spiritual illumination. He is the light of the world (John 8;12) who holds out the only hope for man. The light shines in the darkness, verse 5, but the darkness has not understood it. As we have seen already from vv. 10 and 11 many do not recognise him or receive him. They prefer the darkness. Jesus has even been left out of the prayer for the millennium , the event which is supposed to mark the incarnation of the Son of God. The prayer which will be delivered to all homes in Britain along with a candle at a cost of £6m. is designed to read by all at the start of the year 2000. It reads like this: "Let there be respect for the earth, peace for its people, love in our lives, delight in the good, forgiveness for past wrongs, and from now on a new start". No mention of God or Christ. But how are people going to have a truly new start without Christ? Most have not understood the light, not even the prayer writer, but if we have true spiritual life and light then we owe it all to Christ. For none of us deserve it. Lastly, verse 14 as we shall see in more detail in a moment, the Word became flesh. The Word incarnate. The baby in the manger at Bethlehem was the eternal Word of God. God the Son. The only begotten of the Father. The Christmas message rests on the fact that the child in the manger was God. Jesus was and is God. Just contrast the facts that the Word was God, that the Word became flesh, that God gave his only Son, that God the Father sent his only Son, God the Son with the fact of verse 5. "There came a man who was sent from God; his name was John." John the Baptist was a witness to the light, not the light. Jesus was not only a man sent from God. He was God. The Word was God. But there is more, which brings us to my final heading: THE WORD BECAME FLESH AND MADE HIS DWELLING AMONG US John 1:14 Look at verse 14 of John 1:

"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."

There is more. The baby born at Bethlehem was God made man. He was fully God and fully man. And the risen and ascended Lord Jesus is now fully God and fully man. The Word became flesh. God the Son became man. The divine Saviour really took human nature upon him in order to save sinners. He became man like us except that he was sinless. He was born of a woman. He grew from infancy to boyhood to manhood, Luke 2:52. Like us he became hungry and thirsty, he ate, drank, slept, wept, rejoiced and was moved to anger and compassion. He prayed, read the Bible and suffered temptation. He who made man, writes Packer, was now learning what it felt like to be man. He was now in a state in which he could be tempted by the devil and indeed was tempted by the devil. We can draw comfort and strength from him because of that as the writer to the Hebrews does in chapter 2:14f. and chapter 4:15f.

(Heb 2:14-18) Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death--that is, the devil-- {15} and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. {16} For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. {17} For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. {18} Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.

(Heb 4:15-16) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are--yet was without sin. {16} Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Are we suffering from temptation? Then look to Christ, full of grace and truth who dwelt among us who can both sympathise and help. He understands and he's defeated the devil. Because Christ our high priest has experienced human temptation, he stands ready to give immediate and sympathetic help when we are tempted. He is eternally Emmanuel, God with us. He really suffered, shed his blood, died, was buried and rose again. Yet all that time he was fully God and fully man. He was no less God for becoming man as some theologians have suggested. Jesus was perfect God and perfect man from the moment of his incarnation. He never ceased to be the eternal Word. He who was made sin for us was God in the flesh. The blood of God was shed says Acts 20:28. Stressing that Jesus was fully God and fully man is crucial. Crucial because it and nothing less qualifies him to be the Mediator sinners need. ( See Col. 1:22; Eph. 2:15; Rom. 8:3) Our mediator is One who can sympathise with us because he is fully man. Yet because he is also fully God he can go to the Father for us on equal terms. And the crucial significance of the incarnation is in its relationship to Calvary. And in 2 Cor. 8:9 we find not only the fact of the incarnation but also this key meaning and interpretation. READ 2 Cor. 8:9. The incarnation is a wonder of grace. And therefore we are not to spend years puzzling over the physical problems the incarnation raises for it is an unfathomable mystery. Rather we are to contentedly to adore the Lord, we are to worship God for the love that was shown in the incarnation. For as Paul writes in Philippians 2 it was a great act of condescension and self humbling. Phil. 2:6-8 READ. And in our worship we are to follow the perfect pattern and example of the incarnate Son of God in our daily life. Our attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus. Which in conclusion brings us back to Christmas. For the Son of God the incarnation meant a laying aside of glory, an acceptance of hardship, isolation, ill treatment and death on a cross. It meant loving unlovely men who through his poverty might become rich. The Christmas message and surely the message for the millennium celebrations is that there is hope for a ruined humanity - hope of peace with God and hope of glory - because at the Father's will Jesus Christ became poor and was born in a cold stone trough so that he might later hang on a cross for you and for me. The Father sent the Son. The Word became flesh. God was in Christ. At root God came not in his full glory as God but rather as man; as a baby crying in his mothers arms, requiring feeding and changing, and as a condemned criminal on a cross. He hid his glory. Remaining one with and equal to God he took the form of a slave. By becoming one with us, he was able to share our sorrows, bear our burdens, atone for our sins and unite us to God. How can we not turn to him and cast all our cares on him. How can we not respond with adoration and sacrificial worship? How can we not all the year round follow his example of becoming poor for the sake of others - by giving others time, care, concern and the gospel as we as a church build up to Food for Thought, the Tavern and Mission 98.

(2 Cor 8:9) 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.

(Phil 2:5) Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus:

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