Friday, July 25, 2014

The Son Came

To save his people
When I named my children, I thought about what their names meant, but meaning wasn't the most important consideration.  Not so with God. When God's Son, the second person of the Trinity, came into our world from his place at the Father's side, God instructed that he be named Jesus, which means God saves, because "he will save his people from their sins” (Matthew 1:21). The meaning of his name pointed to the purpose of his coming: The eternal Son of God came to save his people. This is his planned role in the Triune God's plan of redemption.


The first step for the Son in God's plan of redemption was for him to enter our world as one of us.  John's gospel says, "The Word"—the eternal Son—"became flesh" (John 1:14). This doesn't mean the Son stopped being God, or became a little less God (whatever that would be), for John's gospel is filled with testimony to the full deity of Jesus. Rather, the eternal Son of God was joined forever with genuine human nature, so that Jesus was—and still is—fully God and fully human in one person.

In other words, the Son became human by addition, not subtraction. He took on a human body, a human mind, and a human soul. Theologians sometimes express it like this: "Remaining what he was, he became what he was not." The term Christians use for the union of the eternal Son with human nature is incarnation.

If you're left wondering how the incarnation works, you're not alone. Wayne Grudem writes,
The fact that the infinite, omnipotent, eternal Son of God could become man and join himself to a human nature forever, so that infinite God became one person with finite man, will remain for eternity the most profound miracle and the most profound mystery in all the universe.1
Each person of the Trinity had an active role in the incarnation. The Father sent the Son (Romans 8:3; Galatians 4:4) and the Son came willingly, "emptying himself," according to Philippians 2:7.

And the Holy Spirit? Well, it's only right that the most profound miracle in the universe starts with a miraculous conception, isn't it? The person Jesus, true eternal Son and true human, was conceived without a human father by the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit.

For Our Salvation

It's because of his miraculous conception that the human Jesus was morally pure (Luke 1:35). Unlike the rest of humanity conceived by ordinary means, Jesus did not inherit a sinful nature from Adam. This is an important detail in the fulfillment of the purpose of the incarnation. If Jesus came "to save his people from their sins," then he himself needed to be sinless. Only another human being, but one without any sin, even a sinful nature, could be an atoning sacrifice to bear our sins and die in our place. (We'll look more closely at how Jesus saves his people, including his atoning sacrifice, in the next post of this series.)

This is one reason our Saviour had to be a human being. But why did he have to be God incarnate? Because, for one, only someone who is both human and God could be the mediator who represents us to God and God to us (1 Timothy 2:5; John 14:9). What's more, because Jesus is God, he is able to accomplish everything he intends to do. He will surely save those who come to him; he can be an effective Savior because he is God.

The incarnation, then, was necessary for God to save us. The union of God and man in Jesus Christ stands at the very center of the Christian faith, because without it there would be no Christians—and no Christianity.

Definition of Chalcedon

The ancient Christians took the biblical data on the nature of the incarnate Son of God and formulated the Definition of Chalcedon, a statement of what all Christians must believe regarding the person of Jesus. Briefly, the Definition of Chalcedon teaches that Jesus has two natures, a human nature and a divine nature. His divine nature is just like God the Father's; his human nature is just like our human nature, except our human nature is sinful and his is not. In Jesus, the divine nature and human nature remain distinct yet united in one person.

Learn More

Here are a few ways to learn more about the incarnation of the Son of God.
  1. Study John 1:1-18, Philippians 2:5-11, and Hebrews 2:14-18.
  2. Study the Definition of Chalcedon.
  3. Read up on the person of Christ in your favorite systematic theology. It's in chapter 25 of Wayne Grudem's Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Here's the section from Louis Berkhof's Systematic Theology. There's also a section on Christ's State of Humiliation which includes information on the incarnation.
  4. Listen to The Doctrine of the Incarnation by D. A. Carson.
  5. Listen to The Two Natures of Christ by Gerald Bray.
[1] Systematic Theology by Wayne Grudem, page 563.

This post is the latest in a series of posts on truths every Christian woman should know. Here are the previous posts:
  1. God Has Spoken (posted at the True Woman Blog)
  2. God Is Three and God Is One
  3. God Is Who He Is
  4. God Had a Plan
  5. God Created the Universe
  6. We Are Made in God's Image
  7. We Are All Sinners
  8. God Saves


  1. This is perfect for the next week's Christian Beliefs chapters that we will be doing at our church's summer study! The chapters are on Christ, the atonement and the resurrection. Timing is incredible! :-)

    1. It's always nice when things work out like that. :)