INTRODUCTION: This devotional series is based on J.I. Packer’s classic work, Knowing God. There is no greater quest, no more important activity, nothing that should be a higher priority than getting to know God. Too many Christians know about God without making their time with him personal. These devotionals are designed to challenge you to ask questions of yourself, bring these questions before God, make you think, and transform your relationship with God. My prayer is that your study will overflow in emotion, in touching your heart, in connecting with God, and sharing your relationship with others. The book consists of 22 Chapters, thus this series last 22 days. Dig in!
Reflections on Chapter 5: God Incarnate
What is the most difficult Biblical miracle to believe?
· The resurrection?
· Jesus died to take away our sins?
Packer suggests the incarnation.
What does incarnation mean? Packer explains this through an exposition on the first few verses of John.
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 light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it. – John 1:1-4
1. The baby born in Bethlehem was God
· Eternal. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word” and “the Word was with God” – at least two distinct personalities existed in eternity (a personality does not mean the same thing as a “person”). A close reading of Genesis reveals that God the creator (v1), the Spirit (v2), and the Word (v3) all participated in the creation, culminating with the statement, “Let US make man in OUR image” (emphasis added). The eternal Trinity first appears in Genesis 1 together.
· Divine. John follows with the statement, “the Word was God” and later explains, “the Word became flesh and lived for a while among us.” Clearly, John teaches that Jesus himself is deity, God himself, distinct yet unified with the Godhead. That means Jesus pre-existed time. Jesus, God’s Son, possesses the same eternal nature as God himself, yet he took on physical flesh.
· Creator. “All things were made by Him” – Now, John reveals that Jesus is also the agent of creation. How did God create the universe? He spoke it into existence; meaning creation came through “the Word.” No wonder Peter said, “You killed the author of life” (Act 3:15).
· Living. “In him was life” – John explains that life came from life. Scientist struggle to explain how life somehow spawned from an inanimate creator. Christians believe that a living God creating living beings.
· Revealer. “That life was the light of all mankind” – Jesus is the light of all mankind, the one who reveals to us who God is. Consider that Jesus has always been the revealer of God, even in the Old Testament. The Word plays a special role in revealing to us who God is – somewhat mysterious, but nevertheless powerful.
2. The baby born at Bethlehem was God made man
· Human. “The Word became flesh” – God incarnated (took on the form of a man) to be present with us as a human. The incarnation explains this miracle: God sent His Son to earth as a man, the divine Son serving as a special agent of redemption. Immanuel, “God with us,” established God’s presence in physical form. The Spirit then followed – establishing continuing God’s presence in spiritual form by living inside each Christian. The incarnation enabled God to be present with us as one of us.
· Baby. “Jesus was born in Bethlehem” – Imagine God as a baby – cute, dependent, tiny, and vulnerable. Yet this baby remained eternal, divine, creator, living, revealer, and human.
· Tempted. Hebrews 2:17-18 explains how Jesus was tempted in every way we are!
For this reason 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. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
· Helper. Hebrews 4:14-16 continues the theme with an encouragement to approach God for help because he does understand us. God’s humanity somehow increased his compassion and mercy for us.
Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has ascended into heaven, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess. For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.
· Controversial. The concept that the man Jesus was actually God has always created controversy. During his lifetime, some worshipped him, followers called him “My Lord, and my God” (John 20:28), while others accused him of blasphemy for “claiming to be God” (John 10:33). He used the term “I AM” (in Hebrew “YHWH”) repeatedly of himself. Jesus distinguished himself from every other religious teacher by claiming to be God in the flesh. This controversy continues today.
· Incomprehensible. Throughout the ages, men have tried to explain just how much God and how much man he was. Some suggested that his humanity decreased his divinity – perhaps he was 50% man and 50% human – so which parts of him were which and what powers did he give up?
o Orthodox (which simply means “correct teaching”) Christianity continues to maintain that Jesus was uniquely 100% man and 100% God.
o Unitarians and Jehovah Witnesses reject Jesus’ divinity.
o New Agers and Mormons extend divinity to believers.
o Though Paul understood that Jesus emptied himself, he also knew that God exalted him to the highest place (Phil 2:6-11)
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature[b] of a servant, being made in human likeness.
And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!
Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
· Worthy. Though this concept is disputed and misunderstood, we are encouraged to worship the only being worthy of complete homage (Rev 5:12-13).
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
Let us remember that the baby that makes us celebrate the Christmas gift of incarnation is forever exalted as Lord of Heaven and Earth.