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The Word Became Flesh

A Message by R.C. Sproul

This album is a musical interpretation and celebration of the incarnation of the Son of God. The biblical narrative from creation through the fall to redemption is retold as familiar hymns, Christmas carols, and new choral pieces are performed, resulting in an epic presentation of salvation that resonates in mind and heart.

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    Born of the Virgin Mary

  2. devotional

    The Incarnation of the Son of God

  3. devotional

    The Incarnation

Born of the Virgin Mary

R.C. Sproul

Along with the great theologian and philosopher Anselm of Canterbury we ask the question, Cur deus homo? Why the God-man? When we look at the biblical answer to that question, we see that the purpose behind the incarnation of Christ is to fulfill His work as God’s appointed Mediator. It is said in 1 Timothy 2:5: “For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus, who gave Himself ….” Now, the Bible speaks of many mediators with a small or lower case “m.” A mediator is an agent who stands between two parties who are estranged and in need of reconciliation. But when Paul writes to Timothy of a solitary Mediator, a single Mediator, with a capital “M,” he’s referring to that Mediator who is the supreme Intercessor between God and fallen humanity. This Mediator, Jesus Christ, is indeed the God-man.

In the early centuries of the church, with the office of mediator and the ministry of reconciliation in view, the church had to deal with heretical movements that would disturb the balance of this mediating character of Christ. Our one Mediator, who stands as an agent to reconcile God and man, is the One who participates both in deity and in humanity. In the gospel of John, we read that it was the eternal Logos, the Word, who became flesh and dwelt among us. It was the second person of the Trinity who took upon Himself a human nature to work out our redemption. In the fifth century at the Council of Chalcedon in 451, the church had to fight against a sinister teaching called the Monophysite heresy. The term monophysite is derived from the prefix mono, which means “one,” and from the root phusis, which means “nature” or “essence.” The heretic Eutyches taught that Christ, in the incarnation, had a single nature, which he called a “theanthropic nature.” This theanthropic nature (which combines the word theos, meaning “God,” and anthropos, meaning “man”) gives us a Savior who is a hybrid, but under close scrutiny would be seen to be one who was neither God nor man. The Monophysite heresy obscured the distinction between God and man, giving us either a deified human or a humanized deity. It was against the backdrop of this heresy that the Chalcedonian Creed insisted Christ possesses two distinct natures, divine and human. He is vere homo (truly human) and vere Deus (truly divine, or truly God). These two natures are united in the mystery of the incarnation, but it is important according to Christian orthodoxy that we understand the divine nature of Christ is fully God and the human nature is fully human. So this one person who had two natures, divine and human, was perfectly suited to be our Mediator between God and men. An earlier church council, the Council of Nicea in 325, had declared that Christ came “for us men, and for our salvation.” That is, His mission was to reconcile the estrangement that existed between God and humanity.

It is important to note that for Christ to be our perfect Mediator, the incarnation was not a union between God and an angel, or between God and a brutish creature such as an elephant or a chimpanzee. The reconciliation that was needed was between God and human beings. In His role as Mediator and the God-man, Jesus assumed the office of the second Adam, or what the Bible calls the last Adam. He entered into a corporate solidarity with our humanity, being a representative like unto Adam in his representation. Paul, for example, in his letter to the Romans gives the contrast between the original Adam and Jesus as the second Adam. In Romans 5, verse 15, he says, “For if by the one man’s offense many died, much more the grace of God and the gift by the grace of the one Man, Jesus Christ, abounded to many.” Here we observe the contrast between the calamity that came upon the human race because of the disobedience of the original Adam and the glory that comes to believers because of Christ’s obedience. Paul goes on to say in verse 19: “For as by one man’s disobedience many were made sinners, so also by one Man’s obedience many will be made righteous.” Adam functioned in the role of a mediator, and he failed miserably in his task. That failure was rectified by the perfect success of Christ, the God-man. We read later in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians these words: “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural, and afterward the spiritual. The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven. As was the man of dust, so also are those who are made of dust; and as is the heavenly Man, so also are those who are heavenly. And as we have borne the image of the man of dust, we shall also bear the image of the heavenly Man” (1 Cor. 15:45).

We see then the purpose of the first advent of Christ. The Logos took upon Himself a human nature, the Word became flesh to effect our redemption by fulfilling the role of the perfect Mediator between God and man. The new Adam is our champion, our representative, who satisfies the demands of God’s law for us and wins for us the blessing that God promised to His creatures if we would obey His law. Like Adam, we failed to obey the Law, but the new Adam, our Mediator, has fulfilled the Law perfectly for us and won for us the crown of redemption. That is the foundation for the joy of Christmas.

The Incarnation of the Son of God

Matthew 20:20–28 demonstrates that first-century inhabitants of the Roman Empire understood the proclivity for people in power to use their position for their own gain. Back then, despotic rulers commonly used their already privileged status to grant themselves even greater advantages and to seek their own ends at the expense of others. Our Savior’s words in this passage show us that such rulers are not models for leadership, especially for the Christian. Moreover, Philippians 2:5–11 tells us that Jesus Himself exemplifies Christian service.

Although the Son of God possesses the highest dignity, worth, and glory because He shares fully in the one essence of God Almighty, He “did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6). That is to say, the Son, before His incarnation, did not see His status as an excuse to seek His own ends at the expense of serving others. On the contrary, His equality with God motivated Him to make Himself “nothing” and come to earth in the likeness of man to meet the needs of His people (vv. 7–8). This is a reference to His incarnation, the second person of the triune God taking to Himself a human nature in the person of Christ Jesus (John 1:14). Adding to Himself all that is essential to humanity, the Son of God walked the earth as the God-man Jesus Christ in order to meet our deepest need — nothing less than perfect atonement for our sin, that we might be reconciled to our most holy Creator (Rom. 3:21–26). In so doing, He provided the clearest revelation of who God is as One whose very disposition is to go to the ultimate lengths to benefit His people.

Christ’s existence as true God and true man, as well as the reality of the transcendent Lord of glory entering into history to save His people, are both profound mysteries. What we do know is that, against those who would espouse a “kenotic Christology,” the Son did not give up any of the attributes that are essential to deity in the incarnation. Instead, He manifested the form of God in the likeness of humanity. Augustine wrote, “He is said to have ‘emptied himself’ in no other way than by taking the form of a servant, not by losing the form of God. For that nature by which he is equal to the Father in the form of God remained immutable while he took our mutable nature” (ACCNT 8, p. 231).

The Incarnation

Justification by faith alone via the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer and the non-imputation of sin to those who rest only on Jesus for salvation is the focus of Paul’s attention in Romans 3:21–5:21. Before we move on to Romans 5 and its focus on Jesus as the last Adam and the manner in which God constitutes a righteous status for us in Christ, it will be helpful for us to look at the work of our Savior in more detail since it is His perfect obedience that is imputed to us. Dr. R.C. Sproul will assist us in this study as we base the next week of devotionals on his teaching series What Did Jesus Do?

The obedience that Jesus offered to His Father makes up what we refer to in systematic theology as the work of Christ. However, this work was done by a person, namely, the Son of God, so we cannot separate the person of Christ from what He did. Thus, we should briefly consider Jesus’ identity as the incarnate God-man, the one who is truly God and truly human. When we speak of the incarnation, we are speaking of an event that took place in time. At a particular point in history, God the Son—the second person of the Holy Trinity— took on a human nature without subtracting from Himself any of His divine attributes (John 1:1–14). In Him the whole fullness of deity is pleased to dwell, and this will be so for all eternity (Col. 1:19–20; Heb. 13:8). Yet while the incarnation took place in time, it has its foundation in eternity past in what we call the covenant of redemption, that commitment by the members of the Godhead to one another to send the Son to bear the divine wrath in order to effect reconciliation in the Spirit between the Father and His elect people (John 17).

Paul gives us some of the most profound reflections on the incarnation in the entire New Testament. Philippians 2:5–11 tells us that the Son of God did not consider His equality with God as something to be used solely for His own advantage at the expense of others; instead, He voluntarily condescended and took the form of a servant and became “obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross” (v. 8). In this condescension, our Savior did not surrender any divine attributes such as omniscience or omnipotence, though He did veil His glory. Without giving up His glory, He chose not to fully manifest it to all who saw Him as He walked the earth. But this veiling was only temporary. On account of His work, God exalted the God-man Christ Jesus, rewarding Him for His obedience and revealing Him as the source of eternal salvation for all who believe (vv. 9–11).

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