Key passages about the Incarnation

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

Let’s look briefly at six key passages of Scripture that help us understand what it means when the apostle John writes, “The Word became flesh” (John 1:14).

John 1:14 – “The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. We observed his glory, the glory as the one and only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”

The eternal Son of God has always possessed a divine nature. He is with God in the beginning, and John makes it clear that Jesus was (and is) God (John 1:1). In the Incarnation, Jesus adds a real human nature and thus becomes the God-Man.

The word “dwelt” may be translated “tabernacled.” Just as the divine presence is with ancient Israelites in the pillar of cloud and fire, as well as in the tabernacle and the temple, Yahweh now manifests Himself in the person of Jesus Christ.

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The letter to the church at Philadelphia

Rev. 3:7-13 – To the angel of the church in Philadelphia write: The Holy One, the True One, the One who has the key of David, who opens and no one will close, and closes and no one opens says: I know your works. Because you have limited strength, have kept My word, and have not denied My name, look, I have placed before you an open door that no one is able to close. Take note! I will make those from the synagogue of Satan, who claim to be Jews and are not, but are lying – note this – I will make them come and bow down at your feet, and they will know that I have loved you. Because you have kept My command to endure, I will also keep you from the hour of testing that is going to come over the whole world to test those who live on the earth. I am coming quickly. Hold on to what you have, so that no one takes your crown. The victor: I will make him a pillar in the sanctuary of My God, and he will never go out again. I will write on him the name of My God, and the name of the city of My God – the new Jerusalem, which comes down out of heaven from My God – and My new name. 13 Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. (HCSB)

Twenty-eight miles southeast of Sardis is Philadelphia, built by King Attalus Philadelphus of Pergamum. “Philadelphus” is similar to the Greek word philadelphia, meaning brotherly love, which occurs seven times in the New Testament. Known for its agricultural products, Philadelphia also is situated on a geological fault and therefore prone to earthquakes. In B.C. 17 a major earthquake destroys Philadelphia, Sardis and 10 other cities. Its location is crucial, however, as it sits on a main route from Rome to the East and therefore is called “the gateway to the East.” It also is known as “little Athens” because of its many pagan temples.

The city hosts one of only two churches – the other being Smyrna – for which Christ has nothing but unvarnished praise. While the city’s good name preceded the church, the believers in Philadelphia no doubt enhance its reputation because of their love of Christ and love for one another. “But it is not enough to love God and our fellow believers; we must also love a lost world and seek to reach unbelievers with the Good News of the Cross,” writes Warren Wiersbe. “This church had a vision to reach a lost world, and God set before them an open door.”
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Ten truths about the Incarnation

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

In previous columns, we sought to establish that the Incarnation means the eternal Son of God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As such, Jesus is one person in two distinct but undivided natures: human and divine. In addition, we explored how these two natures work together as the eternal Son of God adds sinless humanity to His deity via the miracle of the virgin birth.

Now, it may prove helpful to summarize essential truths about the Incarnation. These truths help us form a framework for better understanding the person and work of Christ. They also help establish a foundation for exploring the thornier issues related to the Incarnation.

The following 10 truths are drawn from a number of sources, including the systematic theologies of Wayne Grudem, Charles Hodge, and Lewis Berkhof, and are summarized in God Among Sages by Kenneth Samples.

1. Jesus Christ is one person possessing two distinct natures: a completely divine nature and a completely human nature. Thus, Jesus of Nazareth may rightly be called the God-Man.

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The letter to the church at Sardis

Rev. 3:1-6 – To the angel of the church in Sardis write: The One who has the seven spirits of God and the seven stars says: I know your works; you have a reputation for being alive, but you are dead. Be alert and strengthen what remains, which is about to die, for I have not found your works complete before My God. Remember therefore what you have received and heard; keep it, and repent. But if you are not alert, I will come like a thief, and you have no idea at what hour I will come against you. But you have a few people in Sardis who have not defiled their clothes, and they will walk with Me in white, because they are worthy. In the same way, the victor will be dressed in white clothes, and I will never erase his name from the book of life, but will acknowledge his name before My Father and before His angels. Anyone who has an ear should listen to what the Spirit says to the churches. (HCSB)

Sardis is located 30 miles southeast of Thyatira and is an important commercial city situated on a major east-west trade route. Key goods produced there include jewelry, dye and textiles. From a religious perspective, Sardis is a pagan city with a temple to Artemis, the ruins of which still remain. Archaeologists also have located the ruins of a small Christian church building next to the temple.

Sardis is said to be the chief city of Asia Minor in John’s day and perhaps the first city in that part of the world converted to the preaching of John. It also may have been the first city there to abandon Christianity and come to ruin. Christ’s stern message is not completely in vain, however, for we know of the second-century bishop Melito who distinguishes himself with piety and learning. Even so, the local church does not endure, nor does the city; only a village called Sart remains today among the ruins.
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The doctrine of the Incarnation

This is another in a series of excerpts from “What Every Christian Should Know About the Trinity,” available through Amazon and other booksellers.

Lorenzo Snow, fifth president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, once claimed the Spirit of God fell upon him and revealed a principle that has become an apt summary of Mormonism: “As man now is, God once was; As God now is, man may be.”

In other words, the LDS god of this world once was a mere human who attained deity, showing us the path to our own godhood. This principle of “eternal progression” is a stunningly unbiblical doctrine that sets Mormonism outside the boundaries of historic Christianity. At the same time, it raises questions, not only about God, but about the Son of God: Who is Jesus? Where did He come from? Why and how did He become human?

The doctrine of the Incarnation – God becoming a human being in Jesus of Nazareth – is central to Christianity. Get it wrong and many other non-negotiable doctrines of the Christian faith quickly veer into counterfeit territory.
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