When God Became Man
December 15th, 1963 @ 8:15 AM
WHEN GOD BECAME MAN
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-15-63 8:15 a.m.
In your Bible, if you would like to follow the reading of the text, the first chapter of Luke, beginning at the twenty-sixth verse:
And in the sixth month the angel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,
To a virgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.
And the angel came unto to her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among women.
And when she saw him, she was trouble at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be.
And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary: for thou hast found favor with God.
And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a Son, and shalt call His name Jesus, Savior.
He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David:
And He shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end.
Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I am not married?
And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
You are listening to the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas, and this is the pastor bringing an early morning message on the mystery, the miracle of the incarnation, the virgin birth of the Son of God.
There are two objects above all others against which the rationalist, the higher critic, inveigh by day and night. They never let up, they never deviate, they never turn aside; there are two things that are particularly the object of their ire and their contempt. One is the inspiration of the Scriptures. To them the Word of God is full of inaccuracies, and inconsistencies, and errors, and is a product of the hand of man as any other piece of literature of any other people or of any other nation. And they never turn aside from that bitter and ceaseless attack against the inspiration of the Scriptures; that’s one. The other and this has become a touchstone in itself of whether a man belongs to a Bible believing people or whether he is a modernist and a liberal; the other thing against which they so constantly inveigh is the virgin birth of Christ. They avow He was the son of Joseph, as you are the son of your father, and that this story found in the Bible of the unusual conception and birth of the Lord Jesus is a myth, it’s a legend, it has no basis in truth or reality.
Now this morning, until the time comes for me to have to cease speaking, this morning we’re going to look at this mystery, at this miracle of the incarnation of the Son of God. And there are several avowals, four of them, I have chosen; there are several avowals to be made about this marvelous miracle.
First and above all, we are to remember that this is a work of the Holy Spirit of God. “And the angel said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” [Luke 1:35]. The eighteenth verse of the first chapter of Matthew: “Before they came together, Mary the espoused wife of Joseph, was found with child of the Holy Ghost” [Matthew 1:18]. And the twentieth verse, the same thing is repeated when the angel speaks unto Joseph, and says, “Fear not to take unto thee Mary thy wife: for that which is to be born of her is conceived of the Holy Spirit” [Matthew 1:20]. The life of our Lord, all the way through, is this story of the supernatural work of the Holy Spirit of God. His life ended in a resurrection that Romans 1:4 says was achieved by the power of the Holy Spirit. And His entire life was a presentation of the work of the Spirit of God in the flesh.
When He was baptized, He was anointed for His messianic ministry by the coming upon Him in the form of a dove of the Holy Spirit of God [Matthew 3:16]. When He was driven into the wilderness, there to be tried by the devil, He was thrust forth by the Holy Spirit of God [Matthew 4:1]. When He made His way to Nazareth and in the synagogue preached His first sermon, He turned to the sixty-first chapter of Isaiah, and took as His text, “The Holy Spirit of God is upon Me” [Luke 4:16-18]. Mathew says that the healing miracles of Jesus were wrought by the Holy Spirit of God [Matthew 12:28]. And when I read of His birth, it is of the same pattern: this is something that has been brought to pass by the Holy Spirit of God [Luke 1:35]. And all of these exclamations where men turn to natural science for similes and for comparisons and for parallels—I’m thinking of things like this thing of parthenogenesis that you see in some fungus and some algae, where a spore or a unicellular animalcule or vegetable will propagate itself without relationship to one of an opposite sex. To compare Mary to a spore, or to an alga, or to a fungus, to me, is beside the point; it has no relationship whatsoever. I feel the same way about mythology. To go to the myth in Greek and Roman literature, and say, “See here are parallels”; they are not parallels. They are manifestly myths, and they have no theological context whatsoever. This is a work of the Holy Spirit of God and is presented as such in the whole pattern of the life of our Lord.
There was a tremendous purpose in this work of the Holy Spirit of God. In the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews and in the ninth chapter of the Book of Hebrews, the author quotes from the psalmist, and he says, speaking of its fulfillment in our Lord:
Sacrifice and offering Thou wouldest not; for it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sin.
But a body hast Thou prepared for Me.
Then said I, Lo, I come (In the volume of the book, it is written of Me) to do Thy will, O God
Before the foundation of the world, the Holy Scriptures say God chose a sacrifice for our sins, an atonement for our iniquities [1 Peter 1:20; Revelation 13:8]; and all of those sacrifices, all of them from the days of Abel, through the millenniums and the centuries that followed, wherever a sacrificial fire burned toward heaven and a sacrificial animal was offered unto God, it was a type, and it was a figure of the great sacrificial atonement for our sins that God purposed in His Son from before the foundation of the world [Hebrews 13:11-12]. And the preparation of that sacrifice, you could not sacrifice a spirit, you could not sacrifice the preexistent Son of God, the body prepared for that sacrifice, the tenth chapter of the Book of Hebrews says is a work of the Holy Spirit of God [Hebrews 10:29]. And the Lord God fashioned the body of the preexistent Christ to possess, to occupy, to live in. God prepared, the Holy Spirit prepared the body for that sacrifice in the womb of a Jewish virgin by the name of Mary [Luke 1:35]. And in the ninth chapter, the previous chapter in the Book of Hebrews, the author says that Christ through the eternal Spirit offered Himself to God to purge us from our sins [Hebrews 9:14]. This is a work of the Holy Spirit of God for the atonement of the world: “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, Iesous, Savior: because He shall save His people from their sins” [Matthew 1:21]. And the whole work of Christ through the eternal Spirit, even those incidents and circumstances of the cross, the crucifixion [Matthew 27:32-50], all of that, the whole life of our Lord was a work of the hands of the…it is a product, it is an issue of the Holy Spirit of God. That’s my first avowal; and all of these other things of scientific similitudes, and Greek and Roman myth, and all of these other explanations are beside the point: according to the Word of God, this is a work of the Holy Spirit, this is the body God prepared for the preexistent Son, that He might be offered a sacrifice for our sins [Hebrews 10:4-14]. That’s the first avowal concerning the incarnation, its mystery and its miracle [Matthew 1:20-25].
Now I have a second avowal. This passage that I have read, “The angel answered and said unto her,” when Mary said, “But I am not married; I have known not a man” [Luke 1:34], the angel answered and said unto her, “The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God” [Luke 1:35]. My second avowal: this is another instance of the apocalyptic intervention of God in the history of the world. This signalizes a new era, a new day, a new blessing, a new outpouring, a new intervention, a new beginning, a new dispensation, a new age. This is not strange, or peculiar, or unique, or alone in the story of God. That is the way God does His work in this earth: in interventions, in visitations, and God has done it throughout the millenniums and the ages.
For example, I have often thought that the reason the Holy Spirit is likened to a dove coming upon the Lord Jesus, anointing Him for His messianic ministry [Matthew 3:16-17]—I’ve often thought that ultimately the figure that lies back of that dove abiding upon the Son of God, “Upon whomsoever thou shalt see the Holy Spirit as a dove, falling and abiding,” said God to John the Baptist, “the same is He that shall baptize with the Holy Spirit” [John 1:33]; pointing out the Son of God by that similitude of a dove coming upon the Son of God, a figure of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate that lies back of that figure, the Holy Spirit, is not a dove, it is a figure; it has in it a type. It refers, I think, to the brooding and the hovering of the presence of God. And you first found that in the second [verse] of the Book of Genesis, when the earth became waste, and void, and dark; the Spirit of God hovered, brooded over the deep and over the dark: the working power of the presence of God [Genesis 1:2].
That same intervention that you have read in the second verse of Genesis is the story of the intervention of God in human history, time and time and time again. God intervened at the Flood, in the days of Noah; it was an intervention of God what happened [Genesis 6:1-8:22]. God intervened at the tower of Babel [Genesis 11:1-9]. God intervened when He appeared to Moses in the burning bush on the back side of the Sinaitic desert [Exodus 3]. God intervened when He sent Pentecost into the world [Acts 2]. God shall intervene again in the great apocalyptic judgment described in the Revelation.
And this is an intervention of God in human history [Luke 1:26-35].
I have said that God works that way; that is the story of the Lord. In the eighth verse of the second chapter…of the third chapter of 2 Peter, Peter says, “For a thousand years are with the Lord as a day, and a day as a thousand years” [2 Peter 3:8]. A thousand years will pass by in ordinary stream and form and happening, and then suddenly, there will be a great apocalyptic intervention. That’s the way God does. That’s the way God works. A thing will go along and go along, and then suddenly, there will be a judgment, or a visitation, or an intervention, a marvelous thing that God will do, or permit to come to pass.
Now I want to speak of that a minute. In the beginning, somewhere, sometime, there was an apocalyptic intervention of God; when He created matter, when He made this world, when He flung these spheres out into space [Genesis 1:1-19; Isaiah 40:22]. And then thereafter, you have the matter that makes up this universe, space; but there was a time when God did it. And I have always thought He did it by fiat, by word, “Let there be worlds!” and the worlds were born. As He said, “Let there be light!” [Genesis 1:3], and light was born; an apocalyptic way, God’s way. Another is life: the creation of life [Genesis 1:20-31]. There was a time when God made life as you know it, and then He fixed it. And for these thousands of years thereafter, it has remained in that fixed form; but there was a time when God did it!
I read not long ago of a proud and egotistical evolutionist, who said, so confidently, “Why, we prove evolution every day of our lives, every day,” he says. Why, he says, “Take these fruit flies, drosophila, take these fruit flies.” Why, he says, “We have bred them cross-eyed, and bow-legged, and fuzzy-winged, and three-quartered, and squared, and round.” Why, he said, “That is a proof in itself of the fact of evolution.” You know, what they have done for years and years and years? They have subjected the genes, the hereditary characteristics, the chromosomes of drosophila, the fruit fly, they have subjected them to X-rays, and they have mutated them, and mutated them, and mutated them, and mutated them until now after these years and years of experimentation, the generations of the fruit fly by natural evolution represent millions and millions and billions of years of evolution. And you would think that if the thing were true, what these scientists like that man says, that you would have that thing demonstrated in the mutation of drosophila until you could see, “Why, there’s an instance of it.” But I say there is not that instance of it because after these representations of millions and millions of mutated generations, he still is a fruit fly: he’s not a June bug, and he’s not a bumble bee, he’s not an ordinary house fly; he’s still a fruit fly! Now he may be cross-eyed, and he may be bowlegged, and he may be fuzzy-winged, and he may be three-cornered, but he’s still a fruit fly. That’s all I’m saying.
There was a time when God fixed these patterns of life. And for the thousands and thousands of years since, they’re still fixed. And when you kids have a professor teaching you in school who says something different, ask him to write out a demonstration of what he says, and just let me look at it. I’d just like to see him try. I’d like to see him try. Whenever he turns a rose bush into an orange tree, you call me, I want to look at it, I want to look at it. I want to look at it. Anywhere, anytime, this is God and God’s work.
So all of the work of our Lord: time will flow, things will continue, then God intervenes, as in the days of Adam, and our parents sinned [Genesis 3:1-6], and thereafter, thereafter is the story of sin. There was no open vision, then God appeared to Samuel, the first of a great succession of prophets [1 Samuel 3:1-21]. For a hundred years, time flowing along, then an angel appears to Zacharias, announcing the birth of John the Baptist [Luke 1:11-13]. Life flowing along, and then the great judgment day of the Lord; and this is one of the apocalyptic, miraculous interventions of the Lord God of heaven in human history [Luke 1:26-35]. “A thousand years is a day, a day a thousand years” [2 Peter 3:8], and suddenly God will do something miraculous. That’s my second avowal.
My third avowal is this: the mysteries of God are always beyond human comprehension and analysis. The mark, the footprint of the presence of God, is mystery, miracle. I see it all around me. There’s not a living man who ever shall or ever has lived who can explain anything: he just observes, that’s all; he just sees, that’s all. For example, the mystery of gravity, or the mystery of anything else God has done, we just observe it and look upon it.
There are these men who would take out of the Gospel records the story of the miraculous birth of Jesus. “It doesn’t belong,” they say; “It’s a legend,” they say. First of all, these stories of the virgin birth of Jesus are in the Gospel of Matthew [Matthew 1:20-25], and in the Gospel of Luke [Luke 1:26-35, 2:7-16]. From the beginning, every manuscript and every version contains them. There is no such a thing as an unmutilated Gospel of Luke or of Matthew but that possesses this marvelous story of the birth of the Lord Jesus. And any ordinary Christian, anyone, anyone, just let him read the Gospel, and he will find no incongruity at all in passing from the marvelous birth of Jesus to the glorious ministry, and death [Matthew 27:46-50], and resurrection [Matthew 28:5-7], and ascension of our Lord [Acts 1:9-10]. It’s of the same piece, and it’s of the same pattern: it all belongs together.
And that’s why you can take your Bible, Mark 1:1, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God,” Mark begins the story in His Galilean ministry; he doesn’t say how He became the Son of God. We know: He was born, virgin mother Mary [Matthew 27:46-50; Luke 1:26-35]. All right, John: John just says, “The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” [John 1:14]. He doesn’t tell us how the Word was made flesh. We know: He was virgin born; the glorious, pre-incarnate, existent Christ became a man in the marvelous, miraculous birth in Bethlehem [Matthew 1:23-2:1]. This wonderful and first promise, “God said to the serpent, I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her Seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise His heel” [Genesis 3:15]. Who is this Seed of a woman? A man has seed, not a woman. Who is this Seed of a woman that shall crush Satan’s head? And the understanding is the glorious virgin birth of our Lord. The apostle Paul will say in Galatians 4:4, “In the fullness of time, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made of a woman.” He doesn’t elucidate, he doesn’t go beyond. Just like John, “The Word became flesh” [John 1:14], he doesn’t tell how. So Paul, “Made of a woman” [Galatians 4:4]. We understand how: created in the womb of a virgin peasant girl named Mary [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:26-35].
Or take the incomparable Immanuel prophecy, Isaiah [chapters] 7 and 9, “A virgin shall conceive, and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel” [Isaiah 7:14]. How was that fulfilled? “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government shall rest upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6]. No wonder you will hear them sing about it tonight: it’s the intervention, the miraculous presence of God.
Or one other prophecy: Micah, “Little Bethlehem, little Bethlehem, out of thee shall come forth unto Me the Ruler of Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting” [Micah 5:2]. How could such a thing be? This Child born from everlasting He was, whose goings forth have been of old [Micah 5:2], why, it is the miracle of the incarnation [Matthew 2:1-12], the preexistent Christ coming down in the form of human flesh and dwelling among men.
My last avowal: our part, it seems to me, our part is the part of the shepherds [Luke 2:8-16], and of the magi, and of the holy people who look for redemption [Luke 2:38]; our part is to adore, and to love, and to praise, and to let our souls exalt in thanksgiving and infinitely spiritual gratitude. Our part is as the virgin mother Mary herself, when she said, “My soul doth magnify the Lord. My spirit doth rejoice in God my Savior” [Luke 1:46-47]. Our part, reading, learning, listening, feeling; our part is to rejoice and to praise and to adore.
In the 1700s, an unknown poet wrote in Latin this incomparable call to praise and adoration, called “Adeste Fideles”:
O come, all ye faithful, joyful and triumphant
O come ye, come ye, to Bethlehem.
Come and adore Him, born the King of angels;
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
Yea, Lord, we greet Thee, born this happy morning;
Jesus, to Thee be all glory given;
Word of the Father, now in flesh appearing.
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
O come, let us adore Him,
Christ the Lord.
This is our spirit, our devotion, when we read of the glorious, miraculous incarnation of the Son of God.
Our time is spent. We must sing just one stanza, just one stanza. Why don’t you sing that? Just sing that song. It’s a Latin poem, translated into English it doesn’t rhyme, but oh how meaningful, how beautiful. As we sing that one stanza, somebody today to give his heart in trust to Christ or to put his life in the fellowship of the church, while we sing the song, you come and stand by me, while all of us stand and sing.