What do you know about the Incarnation?
This is the last in a series of articles on the Incarnation.
Over the last six columns, we have examined the doctrine of the Incarnation. As we complete our study, let’s test what we’ve learned about the person and work of Jesus. Answer the following questions (feel free to refer to previous columns). The correct responses are listed at the end of each question.
- What is the Incarnation?
(a) The state of living in a country that’s crazy about automobiles
(b) The eternal Son of God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth
(c) A floral decoration; a boutonniere
(d) The creation of Jesus as an archangel
Correct answer: (b)
- Which of the following are heretical views of the Incarnation (choose all that apply):
Correct answers: (a) and (d)
This is the sixth in a series of articles on the Incarnation. Previously: Six key passages on the Incarnation.
As we complete our examination of the Incarnation – the eternal Son of God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth – it’s important to identify a number of heretical views that have plagued the church throughout its history. Some of these heresies effectively have been countered, while others continue to rear their ugly heads and cause people who sincerely seek the truth to embrace “another Jesus” (2 Cor. 11:4).
In God Among Sages, Kenneth Samples highlights eight historical heresies with respect to the Incarnation.
Docetism. This was an early form of Gnosticism, a heresy that threatened the fledgling church throughout its first three centuries. Docetism advanced a type of dualism, expressing the belief that spirit is good and matter is evil.
Docetists argued that Jesus only appeared to be human. In fact, their name comes from the Greek word dokeo, which means “to seem.” They asserted that Jesus had a “phantom-like body.”
Docetism denied the true humanity of Jesus, which undermined the reality of His death on the cross, burial, and physical resurrection – all necessary elements in the gospel message. The apostle John countered Docetism head-on in 1 John 4:1-3.
Subordination and Scripture
This is the fifth in a series of articles on the Incarnation. Previously: Six key passages on the Incarnation
In the previous column, we examined six key passages of Scripture that help us understand the Incarnation – the eternal Son of God taking on human flesh in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
The Bible is clear that Jesus is one person with two distinct, but undivided, natures: human and divine. This means, at least in part, that by adding sinless humanity to His deity, Jesus did not become less than co-equal with the other members of the Trinity.
At the same time, we must address several verses of Scripture that seem to say Jesus is a lesser being than God. Those who promote this false view of Jesus, and who use these Scriptures to support their position, are known as “ontological subordinationists.”
These are people who believe that Jesus is less than God by nature of who He is. Rather than the eternal Son of God, Jesus either is a created being, a lesser god, or both.
This should not be confused with “relational subordination,” a biblically faithful position also known as “economic subordination.” According to this view, the three persons of the Godhead are equal in nature, but they voluntarily submit to each other respecting the roles they play in creation and salvation.
We should embrace relational subordination and reject ontological subordination.
Counterfeit Christian groups like the Jehovah’s Witnesses (JWs) reject Christ’s deity, along with the doctrine of the Trinity. Instead, they believe Jesus is subordinate in nature or essence to the Father. JWs insist that Jesus is the first of Jehovah’s creations, Michael the archangel.
Six key passages on the Incarnation
This is the fourth in a series of articles on the Incarnation. Previously: Ten truths about the Incarnation
By the term “Incarnation,” we mean 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 previous articles, 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. And we summarized 10 essential truths about the Incarnation.
Now, let’s look 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 – “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 always had a divine nature. He was with God in the beginning, and John makes it clear He was God (John 1:1). In the Incarnation, He added a real human nature and thus became both God and man.
The word “dwelt” may be translated “tabernacled.” Just as the divine presence was with ancient Israelites in the pillar of cloud and fire, the tabernacle, and the temple, Yahweh now manifested Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, the God-Man.
Ten truths about the Incarnation
This is the third in a series of articles on the Incarnation. Previously: Jesus as the God-Man
So far in this series, we have established 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’ve 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.
In this article, we summarize 10 essential truths about the Incarnation. They 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.
These 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 fully divine nature and a fully human nature. Thus, Jesus of Nazareth may rightly be called the God-Man.
2. Christ is the same person both before and after the Incarnation. As the writer of Hebrews notes, He is the same “yesterday, today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The difference is that before the Incarnation, Jesus had but one nature (divine). In the Incarnation, He added a human nature, one that exists together with the original divine nature, which did not and will not disappear.