The Incarnation of Christ
April 17th, 1973 @ 12:00 PM
THE INCARNATION OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
1 John 1:14
4-17-73 12:00 noon
The theme of the week is "The Great Doctrines of the Faith"; and yesterday it was The Reality of God, that God is real and knows us and cares for us. Tomorrow it will be The Atonement for Sin, the forgiveness, the remission of sin. And Thursday it will be The Resurrection from Among the Dead; and Friday, The Triumphant Coming of our Lord; and today, The Incarnation of God, whom we know by the name of Jesus the Christ.
As I pointed out yesterday, it is statedly and explicitly expressed that God was incarnate in the body and frame of Jesus. And I read one of those passages now, one very familiar to you, "And the Word was God" [John 1:1]. And again:
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.
There are two avowals to be made in this brief message today: one, that the Jesus of the Bible, that the Jesus of history is deity, He is God [Titus 2:13]. And second, that the Jesus of our experience, the Jesus whom we know as our Savior is deity, He is God [John 1:1].
You notice I never use the word "divine," He is "divine." Because the modernist and the liberal have so bemoan and besmirched that word, they have so prostituted it and lowered it as to make it refer to all of us; "We also are divine." So I use the word "deity, Godhead," He is one with the Father [John 10:30]. So the first avowal: the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus of history, the Jesus who walked in flesh and stood upon this earth, who came down to this planet, that Jesus is God [Matthew 1:23]. We see it demonstrated, for example, in the very method and manner of His teaching. Look, He will say to His disciples, "Whom say ye that I am?" [Matthew 16:15]. What an amazing didactic method, when teacher persistently, and zealously, and constantly, and continually calls attention to himself. He is ever and always presenting Himself. No wonder the rabbis and the rabbinical students, no wonder the scribes and the doctors of the law, as they listened to Him speak, said, "This Man blasphemes!" [Mark 2:7]. No man before or since ever employed a pedagogical method like that.
For example, to look at it carefully, think of Moses, Isaiah, John the Baptist whom Jesus said was the greatest born of woman [Matthew 11:11], Aristotle, Plato, Confucius, Mahavira, Mohammad, Erasmus, Emerson, name any great teacher and compare his pedagogical approach with that of the Lord Jesus. All other teachers propose to point to the truth; but Jesus says He is the truth [John 14:6]. All other teachers will look upon themselves as messengers from heaven, but He says He is the message [John 6:51]. All other teachers will be conscious that they are light bearers to the truth; He says, "I am the light of the world" [John 8:12]. All other teachers will discuss and speculate concerning immortality; He will say, "I am the resurrection, and the life" [John 11:25]. To a man who is lost in this weary world He will say, "I am the way" [John 14:6]. To one who seeks eternal life He will say, "Believe in Me" [John 3:16]. To one who seeks entrance into heaven He will say, "Follow Me" [Matthew 19:20-21]. And to one who will search for a vision of God He will say, "Hast thou not known Me?" And then add the amazing words, "He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father" [John 14:8-9]. What other teacher ever lived or shall live who speaks of the truth – not that he points to it, but that it is He Himself [John 14:6] – who speaks of the vision of God, not that he has seen it, but that it is an epiphany, a revelation of Himself? His very pedagogical approach, His very didactic method is astonishing. No wonder men said, "Never a man spake like that Man" [John 7:46]. No such man ever did.
Not only is the deity of our Lord presented in the Bible, the Jesus of history, not only is He God as we look at His didactic method, His pedagogical approach, but also look at the infinite resources by which He vindicated and affirmed – and affirmed – the deity of His incarnation. He not only has strength in Himself, He not only personally is so able, but also there is about Him, and in Him an abounding abundance of ableness for all of us: grace and healing abounding, an answer for every human need. He will say, "Does any man thirst? Let him come unto Me, and drink" [John 7:37]. He will say, "All ye who are weary and heavy laden, come unto Me, and I will give you rest" [Matthew 11:28]. After healing the people of all manner of diseases [Matthew 8:16], Matthew writes, "That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophet, saying, Himself took our sicknesses, and bare our infirmities" [Matthew 8:17]. There was an abounding infinitude of grace, and healing, and mercy, and help in Jesus; like God Himself. Why, He would just touch the eyes of the blind, they could see [Matthew 9:27-30; Luke 18:35-43]; touch the ears of the dumb, they could hear [Mark 7:32-35]; touch the polluted form of a leper, and he was clean [Mark 1:40-41]; speak to the very dead, and they would live [John 11:43-44]. He is God manifested in the flesh.
Not only that, but look at Him, this Jesus of history, of the Bible, the Jesus of this earth, of the days of His flesh, look at His essential greatness; in Himself, what He was. A Roman historian, Suetonius, referred to Jesus in a sentence, and that was all, explaining why it was that Nero laid the blame of the burning of Rome upon Christians. So Suetonius felt compelled to describe what Christians were, and took a sentence and that was all. And for the first century, that little reference by Tacitus and by Suetonius in a sentence is the only reference for a hundred years to the Lord Jesus in the secular world. The Greek satirist, Lucian, dismissed the Lord with a sneer; but the verdict of the centuries since has been, it was a blind civilization, and it was a blind system of ethics, and it was a blind culture and political economy that did not recognize the infinite greatness, the essential marvel and wonder of the Son of God.
There are two things that make a man great. One, his influence upon humanity; and the other, what he is in himself; for no man is essentially great who is not also inherently good. And in both of those tests, Jesus is unique, apart, incomparable, and alone [Hebrews 7:26]. There has never been a life that influenced humanity like that life. And there has never been one so pure, so good, and so holy. When we stand in His presence, the best of us feel abjectly unworthy. We don’t classify Jesus as just one of the greats, we just don’t. And when we see a list of the great, say, religious leaders of the world, starting with Confucius, or Krishna, and ending with, say, Joseph Smith or Mary Baker Glover Patterson Eddy, when you see Jesus in a list like that, you kind of have a feeling that it is an offense – not so much as against orthodoxy as against decency itself – for Jesus is not just one of the great religious teachers of the world. There may be some who are great, and we call them that; Alexander the Great, Charlemagne, Charles the Great, Napoleon the Great, Fredrick the Great, but whoever heard an epithet, "Jesus the Great?" No, He is Jesus the unique, the separate, the one and only, the apart from all mankind, unlike, deity, God.
Not only is the Jesus of history, the Jesus of the Bible, the Jesus on these sacred pages, God incarnate [Matthew 1:23], but the Jesus of our experience is no less so the presence of God in our lives [Colossians 1:19-20]. There has never been, in time or tide, a life that ever affected mankind like the life of Jesus, yesterday and today. Yesterday, Jesus was born in a world that exposed little children. The father had the privilege of saying whether the child was to live or to die. And if the child was to die, they exposed the child; that is, they took the youngster and placed him on the side of an abandoned road where the jackals, and the wolves, and the foxes, and animals would eat it, or worse still, somebody would pick it up and break its bones and set it in a city street where it would beg alms. That was the kind of a world in which Jesus lived. And the ethical society of Greece and Rome never found fault with it. Jesus was born in a world where womanhood was degraded. Jesus was born in a world of universal slavery. And Jesus was born in a world of infinite brutality, as witnessed by the Coliseum and the horrible institution of crucifixion. All of these have passed away; He cut across the conscience of the world, far beyond the agitation of reformers, and the disquisitions of moralists, and the speculations of philosophy. Jesus Christ, in three short years, literally changed the moral complexion of the human race.
But that’s just there. He is manifest God in the influence that He has upon our personal lives. We read about Emerson, or Bacon, or Shakespeare, or Milton, or Dante, or Virgil, or Homer, and we are intellectually stimulated and we fold the book and place it down, and that’s all. But when we are introduced to Christ, somehow, we don’t just lay it down and go on our way, unmoved and untouched. In a strange and miraculous way, the question of, "Who is this Christ?" and "Whom do men say that I am?" [Matthew 16:13], becomes, "What shall I do with Jesus?" Somehow, in His introduction into our lives, somehow it carries with it a decision that a man has to make. Christ probes the heart, He judges the conscience, He moves in our spirits, our souls. Always there is some kind of a decision that is demanded when we are introduced to Him. When the decision is against Him, life changes somehow in a downward graph. But when the decision is made for Him, life somehow is gloriously elevated; its vision is raised heaven-ward and God-ward.
I would suppose that Saul of Tarsus was a splendid man. In defense of his apostleship, for example, he said, "Regarding the law, blameless; touching religion, zealous; I was a Pharisee" [Philippians 3:5-6]. In background, in ethnic culture, "I was of the seed of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin, named after the first king" [Romans 11:1]. Yet that Saul of Tarsus, when he met Jesus, fell on his face, blinded by the glory of that light, and was led by the hand into the city of Damascus [Acts 9:1-8]. And the Saul of Tarsus became Paul the apostle [Acts 13:9], because he had met Jesus in the way [Acts 9:1-6]. And it was never the same again.
Any man is like that. And you are like that. However we may be or may not be, when you’ve met the Lord you’re somebody else, and it is somebody glorious. Look around you; wonderful monuments to grace, and love, forgiveness, encouragement, blessing, in the lives of God’s people all of which came to us through Jesus.
I stood at the tomb of Christopher Wren, the great architect who built St. Paul’s Cathedral in London. He is buried in a crypt beneath the sanctuary. And over his grave, over that sepulcher, are these Latin words, Lector, si monumentum requiris, circumspice; "Reader, if you seek a monument, look around you." That is the invitation of Christ; would you see the moving power and Spirit of God in human life? Look around you. Would you see a monument of grace and glory? Look around you. Would you see expressions of praise, and hope, and love, and worship, and devotion? Look around you, these who have met the Lord and are never the same again; God in the flesh, God in human experience, and with Thomas, "My Lord and my God" [John 20:28]; the incarnation of Christ [Matthew 1:20-25].
And our Lord, may we love Thee more, serve Thee better, praise Thee more fully, live in Thy faith, die in Thy grace; some day see Thee face to face, in Thy precious name, amen.
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