Paul E. Zell
For many congregations, the Gospel of the Day is the keynote for each worship service. The Gospel for Christmas Day is John 1:1-4. Based on that reading, the heading for the service might be “the Incarnation of our Lord” as the evangelist declares that God’s one and only Son, the eternal Word, became flesh. (The word incarnation draws from the Latin for “the act of being made flesh.”)
The identity of Jesus Christ is of critical importance to all who call on his name. It comes as no surprise, then, when the devil prompts false teachers to attack it. Believers must be prepared to proclaim the truth and defend it.
Only seemed to be a man?
For instance, some have taught that Jesus Christ only seemed to be a man. They will say that his body was that of a phantom, that his suffering was more theater than reality.
Read Hebrews 2:14-18.
- Which phrases indicate that God’s Son truly and fully became a human being?
- Christian doctrine is always practical. The writer mentions at least four practical outcomes of the Son of God’s incarnation. Underline them in your Bible.
- Recall at least three instances in the ministry of Jesus that give evidence to his being fully God.
- Recall at least three instances in the ministry of Jesus that give evidence to his being fully human.
A symbolic testimony?
Some scholars have asserted that a virgin birth is biologically impossible. It would not pass the test of scientific inquiry, and it must be regarded as a “symbolic” testimony to the Christian message.
Read both Matthew 1:18-25 and Luke 1:26-38.
- Which verses proclaim the virgin birth of Jesus as real fact?
- What Old Testament prophecy was fulfilled by this event?
- How do Joseph’s and Mary’s reactions to the angel’s words set the tone for the way God’s people today will respond to the doctrine of the virgin birth?
- What announcements elsewhere in Scripture refute the allegation that certain statements in the Bible are impossible because they do not adhere to the laws of nature?
The church at Colosse came under attack from false teachers who felt that all matter is evil. Since the Son of God is good, they said, he could not have become an actual flesh-and-blood human being.
Read Colossians 1:15-20 and 2:9-12.
- The fact that Jesus is fully God could not be more obvious. Where, however, does the apostle also point to his human nature?
- What is one of the practical outcomes of this God-man’s work?
- Colossians 2:9 is a brief and bold statement of the two natures of Christ. Glance through what follows. By what means have you been joined to him and his bodily resurrection from the dead?
As true man, Jesus lived under the demands of God’s law without sinning. As true man, he shed his blood and died, redeeming sinners from death and hell. As true God, his obedience to God’s law and his substitutionary death count for all human beings. It’s no wonder that angels mark the incarnation of the Son of God with reverent and joyful worship. As do we. “Glory to God in the highest!”
For further reading
The Athanasian Creed (pp. 132,133 in Christian Worship)
The People’s Bible: John by Gary Baumler. See especially pp. 6-22. Available from Northwestern Publishing House, nph.net.
Author: Paul E. Zell
Volume 106, Number 12
Issue: December 2019