John Reveals the Purposes of the Incarnation
December 17th, 1967 @ 8:15 AM
JOHN REVEALS THE PURPOSES OF THE INCARNATION
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-17-67 8:15 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. This is the pastor bringing the message entitled John Reveals the Purposes of the Incarnation; why Jesus came from heaven to earth, the purposes of the incarnation. It is taken out of the Gospel of John, out of the first epistle of John, and out of the Revelation; all of them written by the beloved disciple.
The text and the beginning of the message is in the passage that we read together this morning, in the first chapter of the Gospel of John: "John" – John the Baptist – "bare witness of Him, and cried, saying, This is He of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for He was before me" [John 1:15]. Even though Jesus was younger than John, yet John says, "for He was before me." That refers to the eternal pre-existence of God our Savior. "And of His fullness have all we received, and grace for grace" [John 1:15-16]. Grace on top of grace, surmounting grace, piled-upon grace. Of His fullness, of His gracious abounding life and mercy, "have all of us received, and grace for grace for grace."
For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.
No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him.
The purposes of the incarnation: why God came down to earth and suffered like a man. Possibly the greatest sentence ever written is John 1:14: "And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth." That is the incarnation, the assumption of flesh and blood and body and bone and human life on the part of deity.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God.
All things were made by Him; and without Him was not any thing made that was made.
The Word was God, and the Word was made flesh; this is deity taking upon Himself the form of human life, of human flesh, with all of the attendant sorrows and sufferings thereunto. Now why? Why would God come down in the form of a man and live a man’s life, and die a man’s death; why the incarnation?
First: John says the Lord came down to reveal to us the Father: "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is now in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him" [John 1:18]. The first purpose and the first reason for the birth of the Babe in Bethlehem, for the coming down from heaven of God to earth in the form of human flesh, the first reason lies in the purpose of God to reveal Himself: Jesus came to reveal the Father.
Philip said to the Lord Jesus in the fourteenth chapter of the Gospel of John, "Lord, show us the Father, and it sufficeth us" [John 14:8]. If we could just see God it would be vision enough, experience enough, if we could just see God. I would think that that request of the disciple, Philip, represents the heart cry of all of us and of all humanity through all of the centuries. What is God like? "O," cried Job, "that I knew where I could find Him!" [Job 23:3]. Possibly that request of Philip, "Show us the Father, what is God like? Let us see God"; possibly Philip had in his mind something an experience like that of Moses.
When Moses said to God, "Let me see Thee; show me Thy glory" [Exodus 33:18], and God took Moses and hid him in a cleft of the rock and covered him there with His hand, and the glory of the Lord passed by. Then God took His hand off of the cleft in the rock and Moses saw the afterglow, the sunset of God’s greatness and almightiness; for no man could see God’s face, and live [Exodus 33:19-23].
Possibly Philip had something like that in his mind, "Show us God" [John 14:8]. Possibly he had in mind the experience of Isaiah the prophet when he saw the Lord "high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple [Isaiah 6:1]; and the whole earth was full of the glory of the almightiness of God" [Isaiah 6:3]. "Show us the Father, and it sufficeth us" [John 14:8]. Possibly Philip had in mind the experience of Ezekiel, when the young exile priest was called to his ministry. On the River Chebar, by the waters of Babylon, he saw a vision of heaven; and in the first chapter of his prophecy tried to describe the indescribable; for words could not bear the burden of the glory upon which Ezekiel looked [Ezekiel 1:1-28]. Philip: "Show us the Father, we want to see God." And the answer of the blessed Lord Jesus is astonishing and amazing in the extreme: "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" [John 14:9].
What is God like? What does He look like? What does He say? How does He speak? How does He do? He came to reveal God; and when we see Jesus, we see God. When we hear Him speak, we hear God’s words. When we follow the deeds of His gracious and precious hands, we see God’s works. When we receive of His fullness and of His grace, of His mercy, we receive of God’s fullness and God’s grace and God’s mercy.
All of these revelations of the Almighty in the Old Testament were partial. The burning bush [Exodus 3:2-8], the thunder and the fire on Mount Sinai [Exodus 19:16-20], or the shekinah glory above the mercy seat [Leviticus 16:2], even the vision of God given to Moses [Exodus 33:18-23], or to an Isaiah [Isaiah 6:1-13], or to an Ezekiel [Ezekiel 1:28], all of these were but partial. They were given in types, and in figures, and in rituals. But the fullness of God is not seen until He is incarnate, until we look upon the Father in Jesus our Lord [John 1:14, 14:8-9]. As the author of Hebrews begins his glorious epistle, "God, who at sundry times and in divers places spake unto our fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us, revealed Himself unto us, in His Son" [Hebrews 1:1-2]. The Jehovah of the Old Testament and the Jesus of the New Testament is the Lord God whom we shall worship and love in this life and forever and forever. The purpose of the incarnation, first, is to reveal God.
The second reason for the incarnation is that God might take away sin from the world. "The next day John the Baptist seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]. The second reason why God came down and was born in Bethlehem was – is to take away sin from the world. John the Baptist is a man who was born to say one sentence. And that glorious, incomparable introductory sentence was not, "Behold a man who can raise the dead." How marvelous such a thing that could be said. Nor was he born to say, "Behold a man who can cleanse the leper and heal the sick"; or, "Behold a man who can feed the hungry multitudes"; or, "Behold a man of such miraculous power that he can walk on the water." Anything John could have said would have been a marvelous and startling introduction. But John turned in the Spirit of inspiration to the very heart of the reason for the coming of Jesus into the world and said, "Behold the Lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29].
It is the purpose of God to eradicate, to root out all of the sin in this world, the unholy, unrighteousness that blights our lives and damns our souls and destroys this earth in which we live. The fabric of its life, the blessedness of its vision. It is the purpose of God not to deal with the results of sin so much as to deal with the root of sin. Take away a gun from the murderer, and he is a murderer still. Take away the bottle from the drunkard, and he is a drunkard still. Take away the needle from the dope addict, and he is a dope addict still. Take away the harlot from her paramours, and she is a harlot still. It is the purpose of God to take away the source and the root of the sorrow and sin of the world. "Behold the Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29]. For you see, somehow in a sovereign – in the character of God, somehow, the Lord has linked together sin and suffering.
This lies at the basis of the moral law of the universe. "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23]. "And the soul that sins shall die" [Ezekiel 18:4]. Sin and suffering, these are linked together, are weld together, by the very character and being of God. And when God deals with sin, always it is in that pattern, it is in that course, it is in that way. And when the Lord God came to take sin from the world [1 John 3:5], you find a working out in visible form of the purposes of God in redemption, in judgment, in suffering, in death. And God came down and was made flesh like a man, that He might bear our suffering and our agony and our death [1 Peter 2:21]. For only in suffering, in blood, and in death is sin washed away [Hebrews 9:14]. A Lamb of God, a sacrifice of God, an offering of God, the suffering of God that takes away the sin of the world [John 1:29; 1 John 2:2]. I am not blasphemous when I say that sin does not have its repercussion, and its sorrow, and its tears, and its sobs, and its death only in this world and in our lives, but sin also has its suffering and its sobs and its tears in God in heaven. The theologian will say, "That’s a monstrous thing, and an impossible thing." And I recognize that.
Could God suffer? How could God be God and know tears and suffering? I have not theological answers for such a theological question. I just know that in God’s grace and in God’s mercy our sins bring tears and heartache to heaven. And God took upon Him the penalty of our transgressions that we might be delivered in the abundance of His love and His grace [Romans 5:8]. "The Lamb of God, that taketh away the sin of the world" [John 1:29].
Third: the purpose of the incarnation, according to John this purpose, "For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil" [1 John 3:8]. The third reason for the coming down of deity into human life, the Prince of glory assuming the form of a man, was that He might destroy the works of the devil. The arch enemy and the supreme sinner is Satan, Lucifer; he is the one who has over sown God’s field and covered it with tares [Matthew 13:24-25, 37-39]. It is Satan who has brought in his deceptions all of the tears and sorrows and heartaches that we know in this life and in this world. The Lord Jesus said, "He is a murderer from the beginning" [John 8:44]. It is Satan that destroys life and alienates us from God, our spiritual life shutting out from our souls God. It is Satan who blinds our eyes and we lose the vision of heaven. It is Satan who brought into this world the curse and the damnation of our death, the grave, the sorrows and tears of bereavement and separation [Hebrews 2:14].
And it is the purpose of God to undo and to destroy the works of Satan. These words that are used here in this passage in 1 John 3:8 are terrific words: "For this purpose the Son of God was phaneroō," translated here "manifest." That means, first and emphatically, the pre-existence of Jesus in heaven, He was manifest:
He was in the form of God and thought it not a thing to be grasped to be equal with God:
But poured Himself out and made Himself of no reputation; and took upon Him the form of a servant . . .
And being found in fashion as a man humbled Himself, became obedient unto death, even to the death of the cross.
He was manifest. He was the Prince of glory; and now we see Him in the form, in the morphos of a man. That is, the Lord, Prince of glory, came down into this world, into human life, into human flesh, that He might grapple with sin and with death and with the devil. "For this purpose was the Son of God manifested, that He might destroy" [1 John 3:8], and here’s another wonderfully dramatic word, it’s the paradigmatic word that you study in Greek. If you study Greek, this is the paradigmatic verb that you study, luō, luō; translated here "destroy." That’s all right, but luō, it literally means "to loose, to dissolve, to break up." For example, in the use of the Gospels, John the Baptist will say, "He that cometh after me, mightier than I, whose shoe’s laces I am not worthy to luō – to unloose" [John 1:27].
In the thirteenth chapter of the Book of Acts, Dr. Luke will say, "And the congregation was luō – it was broken up" [Acts 13:43], translated there. In the twenty-seventh chapter of the Book of Acts, Dr. Luke writing again says that "The ship at Malta was driven into the beach, and the hinder part luō – was broken up – by the fierceness of the storm" [Acts 27:41]. That’s the word that John uses here: "It is the purpose of Christ to break up, to dissolve, to loosen up, to forever destroy the works of the devil" [1 John 3:8]. The souls that are imprisoned and the program of damnation and the penalty of death, these did Christ come into the world forever to destroy, to break it up [Hebrews 2:14-15].
And that leads to my fourth reason that I find in the writings of John for the coming of Jesus into the world, the purposes of the incarnation: He came to bring to us an ultimate and a final triumph. In the twelfth chapter of the Revelation, in dramatic form John describes the casting out of Satan from heaven, and the fierceness of his wrath as he walks among men, and of his depredations among the saints in the earth [Revelation 12:7-10]. Then he writes this sentence, Revelation 12:11: "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb, and by the word of their testimony"; by the commitment of their lives unto Jesus. "And they overcame him by the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 12:11].
He came the first time to give Himself a sacrifice for our sins [Romans 6:10; Hebrews 9:28]. He came the first time to make sin more sinful, darkness darker. And in the cross and the sufferings of our Lord, sin reached its abysmal depths; it is darker around the cross than at any other time in human history. This is the powers of darkness riding at their worst and their fiercest. When Jesus died and poured out His blood upon this thirsting earth, sin seemingly was at its most triumphant [Luke 22:52-53]. He came the first time to be made sin, to die, to suffer, that He might gather into His own body all of those spears of judgment that should rightfully have fallen upon us [2 Corinthians 5:21]; He gathered them all into His own soul, and into His own breast. And God saw it; "And the Lord shall see the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied" [Isaiah 53:11]. What is the penalty for our sins? Jesus bore it [1 Corinthians 15:3]. What is the price of our eternal salvation? Jesus paid it [John 3:16]. What is the agony and the suffering that should have been ours because of our wretchedness and our sinfulness? Jesus suffered it, bore it on the tree [1 Peter 1:24]. "And they overcame Him by the blood of the Lamb" [Revelation 12:11]. The first time He came, coming to suffer and to die for His people [John 11:-51].
And to those who place their trust in Him, there is forgiveness, and mercy, and salvation, and joy, and glory, and heaven yet to come. He is coming a second time, apart from sin, unto salvation [Hebrews 9:28]. And to those that look for Him, and love His appearing, will He bring a crown of life and a halo, and a glory of righteousness [2 Timothy 4:8]. So the church is standing, looking heavenward; not stargazing, not almanac examining, but expectantly with our loins girt, and with our lamps lighted [1 Peter 1:13; Matthew 27:67], in service and in love and in ministering waiting for the final and triumphant and glorious Day of the Lord. All made possible for us, all the blessedness sweetly dispelling upon us, all of God’s grace and abounding mercies given to us in the incarnation of Jesus Christ. "Of His fullness have we all received, and grace for grace" [John 1:16].
And while we sing our appeal, you, to give your heart to Jesus, will you come? A family you, putting your life in the fellowship of our church, would you come? A couple you, or one somebody you, while we sing our song, while we make our appeal, would you come now? On the first note of the first stanza, down one of these stairwells to the right and the left, in the throng of people on this lower floor, into the aisle and down to the front, "Here I am, pastor, here I come. I make it this morning." Do it now, decide now. And when we stand to sing, you stand up coming. Welcome, God bless you; and may angels attend your way as you come. May we stand and sing?
I. To be one of us (Hebrews 2:14-18,
A. The gathering on the
plain of judgment
B. The suffering of
II. To reveal the Father (John 1:18)
A. The heart-cry of all
humanity (Job 23:3, John 14:8)
B. The revelation in
the Old Testament is only partial
C. The full revelation
III. To take away sin (John 1:29)
A. Our sorrow and death
more deeply felt in heaven
B. To address Himself
to the root and cause of our damnation
IV. To destroy the works of the devil (1
A. Satan has universal
power in this world
B. A murderer and liar
from the beginning (John 8:44, Genesis 3:1, 4)
V. To make possible the final victory
(Revelation 12:7-9, 11)
A. He bore the sins of
B. Ultimate and final