“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind… The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.” (Jn 1:1-4, 14)
Thank you again for joining in our young adult worship service today. Today is the second Sunday of Advent during which we remember and celebrate the coming of Jesus. Last Sunday, we talked about the virgin birth of Jesus Christ and the three significant meanings it contains regarding our salvation.
First, the virgin birth of Jesus allows us to know that our salvation is in God’s hands and His control. When the angel Gabriel spoke to Joseph in his dream, he said that what was conceived in Mary was from the Holy Spirit and that it “took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet” (Mt 1:22)
In the next verse, Matthew quoted what the prophet Isaiah said 700 years before Jesus’ birth: “The virgin will conceive and give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.” (Is 7:14)
But the promise of an offspring from a woman goes all the way back to Genesis chapter 3 in which God rebuked Satan, saying that the offspring of a woman would crush his head.
So, the first thing we know from the virgin birth of Jesus is God’s divine plan for and His sovereign role in our salvation. The virgin birth didn’t happen randomly . It had been planned by God and promised, implied, and prophesied throughout the Old Testament.
Second, through the virgin birth of Jesus, we understand how full deity and full humanity are perfectly united in one person. The virgin birth was God’s mysterious way for Jesus to become like us while perfectly having both natures—divinity and humanity.
Jesus’ full humanity is evident in His ordinary birth from a human mother. But at the same time, Jesus’ full deity is also evident in the fact that He was conceived by the powerful work of the Holy Spirit, without a human father.
And the fact that He is fully God and fully human at the same time explains how He could serve as the Mediator between God and us. Paul said, “There is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tm 2:5)
Third, through the virgin birth of Jesus Christ, we know how He could be the only person without sin. Jesus was just like us in every way, but there was a big difference between Him and everyone else. “Yet he did not sin” (Heb 4:15).
Even though He came to the world as “the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (Jn 1:29), He was “a lamb without blemish or defect” (1Pt 1:19).
Before she conceived Jesus, Mary was told by Gabriel, “The holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Lk 1:35).
Because Jesus didn’t have a biological human father, He didn’t descend from Adam, the first representative of all human beings, and thus didn’t share his sinful nature that all people have as his descendants.
And, as the Son of God, Jesus became the second representative of all people through whom we share in His righteousness and eternal life.
These are the truths that we can find in the virgin birth of Jesus Christ. We know that salvation only comes from our heavenly Father. We know that Jesus is fully God and fully human so that He can serve as the Mediator between God and us. And we know that Jesus is the only Man without sin who gave Himself as the ransom for all people’s sin.
The Incarnation of Jesus Christ
Today, I want us to think more deeply about Jesus’ coming into the world. Even though the word ‘incarnation’ does not explicitly occur in the Scriptures, the church has used the term to refer to the fact that Jesus was God in human flesh. The incarnation of Jesus can be defined as God’s gracious act to take a human form.
The word incarnation derives from the Latin verb ‘incarno’. In means in and caro means flesh or the body. So, ‘incarno’ means to make into flesh or to be made into flesh.
So, incarnation is the fundamental Christian belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God in the flesh. The incarnation of Jesus is a central Christian doctrine that the Son of God took human form.
The meaning of the incarnation of Jesus is explained in John chapter one. Let’s start with Jn 1:1-4. Let’s read it together.
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind”. (Jn 1:1-4)
It says that there was the Word in the beginning, and through it all things were made. It refers to God’s creations in Genesis chapter 1. There’s a phrase that’s repeated throughout this chapter: “God said… and there was…”
“God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.” (Gn 1:3)
That was the start of God’s creation. Before God spoke, there was nothing but chaos and darkness in the universe. But when God spoke, everything changed. What had not been, came to exist. God created spaces and filled them with stars, clouds, water, plants and living creatures.
Genesis never implies that God used any materials to make things. The Hebrew verb that is translated into ‘create’ in Genesis 1:1 is בָּרָא (bârâ). This verb is differentiated from ‘make’ in the sense that the word ‘bara’ connotes the concept of creating something out of nothing.
When we make something, we always use materials. There is nothing that has been made by human beings out of nothing. That’s why the word ‘bara’ can be only used to refer to God’s divine act of creation.
That’s what John emphasizes in the first passage of his gospel. Through God’s Word, all things were made. But John doesn’t stop there. He rapidly develops the concept of God’s Word by personifying it. John says that the Word through which all things were created was different from the words from our mouths in that it has personality.
So, John calls the Word not ‘it’ but ‘Him’: “Through him all things were made” (Jn 1:3)
What’s more surprising is that John calls the Word not only ‘Him’ but ‘God.’ “The Word was with God, and the Word was God” (Jn 1:1).
This verse is hard to understand and I think we can never fully grasp its meaning with our limited knowledge, but this verse has been used as one of the significant foundations of ‘the Trinity.’ The Word was with God but at the same time the Word was God. We see two persons who share one essence.
And later, John said,
“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).
John said that the Word, who was with God, who was God, and through whom all things were made, became flesh. It means that the invisible word of God made itself visible by taking the form of a human body.
Words don’t have a shape. We can’t see them but only hear them. But John says that he has seen the Word because the Word was made flesh and made His dwelling among us. And the Word refers to the one and only Son of God who came from the Father.
That’s the meaning of the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Even though we can’t find the name Jesus in the Old Testament, He was with God from the beginning. He was the Word of God through which all things have come to exist.
But the Word chose to become flesh to make His dwelling among us and to allow us to see Him and feel His presence. “No one has ever seen God,” but we can be sure of His existence because “the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known” (Jn 1:18) to us.
This is one of the most essential truths we believe as Christians. It’s what differentiates Christianity from other religions. Unlike other religions, which try to seek their gods through certain acts, Christianity says that God came down to earth to seek His people even when we didn’t seek Him.
When people tried to build the tower of Babel that would reach to the heavens to make a name for themselves against God’s will, Genesis 11:5 says, “the Lord came down to see the city and the tower the people were building.” (Gn 11:5)
John also said that “the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world.” (1Jn 4:15) Jesus was God in His very nature, but “He made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.” (Php 2:7)
After Jesus ascended to heaven, the church started with the coming of the Holy Spirit.
“When the day of Pentecost came, they were all together in one place. Suddenly a sound like the blowing of a violent wind came from heaven and filled the whole house where they were sitting.” (Ac 2:1-2)
In these three cases, we see the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit—come to the world for our salvation. That’s what makes Christianity unique compared to other religions. And this coming of the triune God shows that our salvation is built upon God’s grace, not by our actions. And His grace was clearly shown in His coming to the world.
Again, the incarnation of Jesus is essential in our salvation. The incarnation shows that Jesus was fully God and fully human. And that fact leads us to see how perfect the salvation He gives us is.
Because Jesus was God incarnate, He could bear the full penalty for all the sins of those who would believe in Him. And because Jesus was the Son of God and the Son of man, He could mediate between us and God both by bringing us back to God and revealing Him to us.
Therefore, if Jesus weren’t incarnated, we would not have salvation. For John says,
“No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” (1Jn 2:23)
So, we should make every effort to “see that what you have heard from the beginning remains in you. If it does, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.” (1 Jn 2:24)
One of the central beliefs that we are to continue to hold on to is that Jesus is God who became flesh and that He is fully God and fully human.
The biblical teaching about the full deity and full humanity of Christ is so extensive that both have been believed from the earliest times in the history of the church.
But it seems that there was no clear understanding of how full deity and fully humanity could be combined together in one person. So there were several flawed views of the nature of Christ.
1) Apollinarianism: Human Body but Not Human Mind
Apollinaris, who became a bishop in Laodicea about A.D. 361, insisted that Christ had a human body but not a human mind or spirit, and that the mind and spirit of Christ were from the divine nature of the Son of God. This view is called Apollinarianism.
He thought that Jesus had a human body, but not a human mind because his mind was from the divine. This view was rejected by many church leaders at that time who realized that it was not just our human body that needed salvation, but our human minds and spirits as well.
Hebrews 2:14 and 17 is against this view.
“Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity… He had to be made like them, fully human 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.” (Heb 2:14, 17)
2) Nestorianism: Two Separate Natures
After that, Nestorianism appeared in Christianity. Nestorius was a popular preacher who became the bishop of Constantinople in A.D. 428. He insisted that there were two separate persons in Christ: a human person and a divine person.
This view wasn’t accepted by the church because nowhere in Scripture do we have any indication of the human nature of Christ deciding to do something contrary to the divine nature of Christ. We can’t find any indication of the human and divine natures struggling within Christ. Rather, we have a consistent picture of a single person acting in complete unity.
3) Monophysitism: A Third Nature
A third flawed view is called monophysitism which insists that Christ had one nature only. It’s also called Eutychianism because it was first insisted by Eutyches, who was the leader of a monastery in Constantinople.
What he denied was Jesus’ full humanity. He insisted that the human nature of Christ was absorbed into the divine nature so that both natures were changed into a third kind of nature. This view caused great concern in the church because by this doctrine, Christ was neither truly God nor truly man.
And if that was so, He could not truly represent us as a man nor could he be truly God and able to earn our salvation.
The Chalcedonian Definition
So, I just briefly introduced three major flawed views of Jesus’ nature. You don’t need to remember them. What I really want to emphasize by describing these views is how the church rejected them and came to an agreement about who Jesus is.
In order to solve the problems raised by the flawed views of Christ, a large church council was held in the city of Chalcedon in A.D. 451. Many church leaders gathered to discuss the matter of the nature of Christ to guard against the three wrong views.
The resulting statement is called ‘the Chalcedonian Definition.’ It has been accepted as the standard definition of the biblical teaching on the nature of Christ, which is very important for us to know as Christians. The statement is not long, so let’s read it together.
We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a reasonable [rational] soul and body; consubstantial [coessential] with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood;
In all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood;
One and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God, the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ,
As the prophets from the beginning [have declared] concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has been handed down to us.
Against the view of Apollinaris that Christ did not have a human mind or soul, the definition says He was “truly man of a reasonable soul and body...consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us.”
In opposition to the view of Nestorianism that Christ was two persons united in one body, the definition says “indivisibly, inseparably...concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons.”
And, against the view of Monophysitism that Christ had only one nature, and that his human nature was lost in the union with the divine nature, we have the words “to be acknowledged in two natures inconfusedly, unchangeably...the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved.”
So the Chalcedonian Definition teaches that Christ definitely has two natures (a human nature and a divine nature), that His divine nature is exactly the same as that of the Father, and that His human nature is exactly like our human nature, yet without sin.
That’s the conclusion reached by the big church council held in Chalcedon. What I want to say is that what we believe as truth is not easily given to us. There have been many fights and struggles over the matter of who Jesus is. So we should also cherish what we believe about who Jesus is and try to hold on to those beliefs.
Today, we talked about the incarnation of Jesus Christ and how it is related to our salvation. There are many different opinions about who Jesus is, but as Christians, we must proclaim that He is God who became a human to save us by giving Himself as ransom for our sins and to reconcile us with God.
Today is the second Sunday of Advent. I want us to think more deeply about who Jesus is and stand firmly on the strong foundation of the biblical truth of who He is. Let’s pray.
Heavenly Father, we thank You for giving us this time to think about who Jesus is. We proclaim that we wouldn’t know who You are or who Jesus is if You hadn’t sent Your Son to the world.
We believe that Jesus is the Word of God who became flesh to be with us. We believe that He is fully God and fully man. And we believe in everything You’ve done to save us through Christ Jesus Your Son.
Please open our eyes and help us remain in the truth of Jesus Christ so that we can experience Your amazing grace and presence among us in Him.
Again, we thank You, Lord, for coming to us to seek us.
In Jesus’ name we pray, Amen.
Today, we talked about the incarnation of Jesus.
1) What do you believe about the incarnation of Jesus Christ? Why do you think it is important to believe Jesus is both fully God and fully human? How does it affect your faith and your life?
2) What are the areas in your life in which you can follow the example of Jesus’ incarnation?