December 18th, 1977 @ 8:15 AM
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-18-77 8:15 a.m.
Once again it is with infinite gladness, appreciation, thanksgiving to God that we welcome the great multitudes who listen to this early service on the radio of the city of Dallas, and, of course, with thanksgiving to God for the great throngs who come every Lord’s Day at this 8:15 hour to be with us as we open God’s Book and listen to the voice of the Lord from its sacred pages.
The title of the sermon this morning is The Incarnation. I never know, though I carefully prepare and pray, I never know quite how I will succeed when I start off on something that I have never done before. And this sermon this morning is very much that. I have never done anything like this before, but it is something that I see in the Bible. I have turned it over in my heart many, many times, through many, many years. So we shall just see if God blesses it to your heart, as in my studying and thinking and praying the Lord blessed it to mine.
In the passage that you read just a moment ago, and this will be just a background of the message, in the passage that you read just a moment ago, there is a phrase that is used that you do not much recognize in the English translation; Paige will have it back there in his Greek Testament, and it is used twice in just two verses. In the English it reads, “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” [John 1:1-2].
Now to begin with, it is unusual that he would repeat that little phrase. In Greek it is, pros ton theon, translated here, “with God,” and repeated twice in those two verses, “with God.” Why repeat it? Well, repetition, as you know, is always the finest instrument of emphasis, so the sainted apostle John by inspiration writes twice that, this word logos—I think the word is philosophical—when John wrote this, the Greek sophists and Gnostics, and how many other groups and sects in the spectrum of the Greek philosophical world, they used that word logos extensively. And in my humble opinion, it refers to the active God, the manifested God, the doing God, the creative God, the God of reason and of manifestation, of creation, the Word, Logos: “In the beginning was the Logos” [John 1:1].
Now that phrase, pros ton theon, literally that phrase means, “and the Word was face-to-face with God,” just like that, equal, the same, pros ton theon, and the Word was with God, face-to-face with God.
Then in the fourteenth verse, the last verse that you read, he makes this avowal, and that creative God, that active God, that manifested God, that moving God, the One who works, who does, who reveals Himself, “And the Logos was made flesh, and dwelt among us” [John 1:14]. “And we saw Him,” as he writes in the first chapter of his first epistle, “that which our hands have handled, and our eyes have seen, and our ears have heard” [1 John 1:1]. “The Word, the Logos 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” [John 1:14].
Now when you read the Bible, just reading all the way through the Word of God, when you read the Bible, over and over and over again there is a mysterious, incomparably glorious, “Somebody” that appears again and again and again. He is a theophanic Angel. He is the Angel of the theophany, theophany, the manifestation of God. He is called sometimes “the Angel of the Lord” [Genesis 31:11]. Not an angel, not a part of the heavenly hosts, but a glorious Somebody, exalted Deity. He is sometimes called “the Angel of the covenant” [Malachi 3:1]. He is sometimes called “the Angel of the Presence” [Isaiah 63:9], that is, “the Angel of the face of God.” He is called “the Angel of Jehovah” [Genesis 31:11], not an angel, but God Himself.
Now look at it just a moment. In the thirty-first chapter of Genesis, in the thirty-first chapter of Genesis, it says, “And the Angel of the Lord. . .” [Genesis 31:11], the Angel of Jehovah, “appeared unto Jacob and said, I am the God of Bethel” [Genesis 31:13]. Well, what an amazing description, a self-description of this incomparably glorious Somebody. “And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto Jacob saying, I am the God of Bethel” [Genesis 31:11, 13].
Look again in the next chapter, and we are just taking typical things, in the next chapter, the thirty-second chapter of Genesis, there is an Angel who wrestles with Jacob, who changes his name that night from Jacob to Israel, “the prince of God” [Genesis 32:24-28]. And, when the contest is over, Jacob called the name of the place Peniel, which is Hebrew for “the face of God,” because, he says, “I have seen God face to face” [Genesis 32:30]. But he had wrestled with an Angel.
All right, take again in the forty-eighth chapter of the Book of Genesis, Jacob blessing the two sons of Joseph says, and he uses this language, “The God who fed me, the Angel . . . .” And in your King James’ version, it will be a capital A, “The Angel who redeemed me.” What an unusual nomenclature, “The God who fed me, who took care of me—comma—the Angel who redeemed me. . . “ pros ton theon, face-to-face, together [Genesis 48:15-16].
You have a very typical passage in the fourteenth chapter of Exodus [Exodus 14:19-20], where it is described that it is this Angel of the Presence, it is this Angel in whom is the name of God, that is, all that God is, is in Him. It is this Angel who directed Israel, and delivered Israel out of Egypt, and directed Israel through the wilderness. And that you will find all through the Bible.
Now, we are going to look at the appearances of this glorious Somebody all through the Old Covenant. In these ages past, He will appear again and again and again. Now you look at this, as I shall go through the Old Covenant, and read this strange, remarkable Somebody who appears again and again. In the fourteenth chapter of the Book of Genesis:
And Melchizedek king of Salem—
king of peace, shalom—
king of shalom, brought forth bread and wine: and He was the priest of El Elyon, the Most High God. And He blessed Abraham, and said, Blessed be Abram of the Most High God, Possessor of heaven and earth;
And blessed be the Most High God, who hath delivered thine enemies into thy hand. And he gave Him tithes of all.
Who is this Melchizedek? In the seventh chapter of the Book of Hebrews:
For this Melchizedek, king of shalom, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God, who met Abraham . . . and blessed him . . .
Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest for ever.
Who is this strange Melchizedek? No progenitors, no descendants and successors, just there He is. And Abraham bows before Him. All right, look again at this strange and remarkable Somebody. In the third chapter of Exodus:
And the Angel of the Lord appeared unto Moses in a flame of fire. . .
And He says, Draw not nigh; put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
[Exodus 3:2, 5]
And Moses says, “What is Your name? What is Your name? And when I go down into Egypt and they ask me, What is the name of this glorious Somebody who appeared unto thee and sent thee?” And that glorious Angel replied, “I AM THAT I AM: Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent thee” [Exodus 3:13-14].
There is that glorious Somebody described as “the Angel of the Lord” [Exodus 3:2]. And His name is Yahweh. When you take the vowel pointing of Adonai, the Lord, put it into those words that, the Hebrews never named the name of God, so His name was lost. Nobody knows the name of the Lord, how to pronounce it. They just took the vowel pointing of Adonai, put it there with Yahweh, and it came out, “Jehovah.” Isn’t that remarkable? This Angel says, “My name is Yahweh, My name is Jehovah.”
Now He will appear again. I am reading now from the twenty-fourth chapter of Exodus, “Then went up Moses, and Aaron, and Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel: And they saw the God of Israel” [Exodus 24:9-10]. Now, you look at that; John 1:18 says, “No man hath seen God at any time.” “God is Spirit” [John 4:24]; and you don’t see spirit.
Then went up Moses, and Aaron, and Nadab, and Abihu, and seventy of the elders of Israel:
And they saw the God of Israel: and there was under His feet as it were a paved work of a sapphire stone, and as it were the body of heaven in its clearness.
And upon the nobles of the children of Israel He laid not His hand: they saw God, and did eat and drink.
Whom did they see? The Bible expressly says, “No one, no man, has ever seen God at any time” [Exodus 33:20; John 1:18; 1 John 4:12]. But they saw this remarkable Somebody [Exodus 24:10]. Who is He? He appears again and again. Look here, in Joshua:
And it came to pass—
in chapter 5—
And it came to pass, when Joshua was by Jericho, that he lifted up his eyes and looked, and, behold, there stood a Man over against him with His sword drawn in His hand: and Joshua went unto Him, and said, Art Thou for us, or for our adversaries?
And He said, Nay: but as Captain of the host of the Lord am I now come.
Whoever He is, Somebody, is the Lord of all of the angels in glory, “As Captain of the host of God am I come” [Joshua 5:14].
And Joshua fell on his face to the earth, and did worship Him—
He is an idolater if he worships a creature—
and He worshiped Him, and said unto Him, What saith my Lord unto His servant?
And the Captain of the Lord’s hosts said—
this glorious Leader of the angels in heaven said—
Loose thy shoe from off thy foot; for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.
Who is this Somebody so glorious, who appears again and again and again? Look again, David, singing of Him in a psalm, says:
Serve the Lord with fear, and rejoice with trembling.
Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and ye perish from the way, when His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are they that trust in Him.
Who is this Somebody that we are to love and to kiss and to trust, lest we “perish from the way?” [Psalm 2:12]. Or again, in the one-hundred-tenth Psalm, “The Lord God in heaven hath sworn, and will not change. Thou art a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek” [Psalm 110:4]. Who is this Somebody so glorious who abides forever? “A priest after the order of Melchizedek.”
Look again, in the sixth chapter of Isaiah: “In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord . . . .” [Isaiah 6:1]. Whom did he see? No man hath seen God at any time [John 1:18].
In the year that King Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and His train filled the temple.
And I said, Woe is me! for I am undone; I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the Lord of the hosts of heaven.
[Isaiah 6:1, 5]
Who is this that Isaiah saw so glorious and marvelous? Look again in Ezekiel; He appears again. In the first chapter of Ezekiel:
And above the firmament that was over their heads, the four cherubim,
was the likeness of a throne, as the appearance of a sapphire stone: and upon the likeness of the throne was the likeness as the appearance of a man upon it.
He looked like a man seated upon that glorious throne.
And I saw as the color of amber, as the appearance of fire round about, from the appearance of Hs loins even upward, and from the appearance of His loins even downward, I saw as it were the appearance of fire, and it had brightness round about.
As the appearance of the bow that is in the cloud in the day of rain, so was the appearance of the brightness round about. This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord. And when I saw Him, I fell upon my face, and I heard a voice of Someone speaking.
Who is that incomparably glorious One? “The appearance of His loins upward and downward, the brightness of the fire and the glory of God” [Ezekiel 1:27]. Or look again; here He appears. These three men, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego fell down bound into the midst of the burning, fiery furnace [Daniel 3:23]:
Nebuchadnezzar the king was astonished, and rose up in haste, and spake, and said to his counselors, Did not we cast three men bound in the fire? They answered and said, True, O king.
But he said, Lo, I see four men loose, walking in the midst of the fire, and they have no hurt; and the form of the fourth is like the Son of God.
Who is that who appears again and again and again, this marvelous Person? I turn the page, in Daniel, in chapter 7:
I saw in the night . . . behold, One like unto the Son of Man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of Days, and they brought Him near. . . .
And there was given to Him dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, and nations, and languages, should serve Him: His dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and His kingdom that which shall never be destroyed.
Who is this marvelous, glorious Son of Man, who approaches the Ancient of Days, and to Him is given a kingdom that shall never pass away?
And just once again, in the last book of the [Hebrew] Bible:
Behold, I send My messenger before My face, and he shall prepare the way before Me: And the Lord, and the Lord whom you seek, shall come suddenly to His temple, even the Messenger of the covenant, whom you delight in: behold, He shall come. . . .
But who may abide the day of His coming? And who shall stand when He appeareth? for He is like a refiner’s fire, and like fullers’ soap:
And He shall sit as a refiner and purifier of silver: and He shall purge the sons of Levi, and purge them as gold and silver, that they may offer unto the Lord a righteous offering.
Who is that, this marvelous, glorious Somebody who is coming? Who is He?
Now, that is the ages past, this glorious Somebody, always, again and again, ever appearing, this Somebody. Now, that same glorious Somebody is in the ages of the ages to come, look at Him; He appears. And as Saul journeyed to Damascus; suddenly there shined around him a light from heaven, and blinded by the glory of that light he fell to the earth and heard a voice saying, “Saul, Saul, Why persecutest thou Me?” And he said, “Lord, who are You that I persecute You?” And that glorious Somebody said, “I am Jesus whom thou persecutes.” And trembling, and astonished, he said, “Lord, what will Thou have me to do?” [Acts 9:1-6].
Look again, now, in the first of the Revelation:
And I turned to see the voice that spake with me. And being turned, I saw seven golden lampstands;
And in the midst of the seven lampstands One like unto the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the foot, and girt about the breast with a golden girdle.
His head and His hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and His eyes were as a flame of fire;
His feet like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace; and His voice as the sound of many waters.
And He had in His right hand seven stars: and out of His mouth went a sharp two-edged sword: and His countenance was as the sun shineth in his strength.
And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. And He laid His right hand upon me, saying unto me, Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last:
I am He that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore, Amen; and I, I have the keys of Death and of Hell.
Who is this marvelous Person who appears again and again and again? In the ages past, and in these ages that are yet to come? Who is this pros ton theon, “face to face with God?” [John 1:1-2]. That glorious Somebody is the God who stooped, and down and down did He descend [Hebrews 10:5-14], until He was made in the likeness of a man, a babe born to a woman [Galatians 4:4], humble, a servant, delivered unto death, raised for our justification [Romans 4:25].
I cannot conceive of it. The wonder and the glory of it are beyond my comprehension. The condescension of God, the ages past, that glorious One; the ages to come, that glorious One; and in that little vale of a valley in-between those infinite ages, the story of the incarnation, the Christ Child, the gentle Jesus [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 2:10-16].
May I close, because the rest of it would be a sermon that would last forever. Why did He come, this incomparably glorious Somebody, who appears again and again in the Scriptures, why? He came that He might have a body to offer for our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14]. A spirit could not shed blood, “and without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins” [Hebrews 9:22]. “The life of the flesh is in the blood: and I have given it upon the altar to make atonement for your souls: for it is the blood that maketh atonement for the soul” [Leviticus 17:11]. He was given a body that He might die for our sins, to make expiation, propitiation, satisfaction, atonement for our sins, that He might pay the penalty of our sins [Hebrews 10:5-14]. That is the first reason for His incarnation [Matthew 1:20-25; John 1:1, 14]; He came into this world to die [Mark 10:45].
Second, why did that glorious Being, pros ton theon, “face to face with God” [John 1:1], why did He come down incarnate, “made like a man?” [Hebrews 2:17-18]. The second reason: that we might have a faithful High Priest who could be moved by the feeling of our infirmities, tried in all points as we are, knows all about us [Hebrews 4:14-16].
What a God, what a Savior, what a Lord! Hunger; He knows all about being hungry. Hurt; He knows all about being hurt. Sorrow; He knows all about sorrow. Disappointment; He knows all about disappointment. Death; He knows all about death. Tried as we are, that He might sympathize and understand and be our faithful Mediator, and Pleader, and High Priest for us [Hebrews 4:15].
When you think about things like that? Lord, Lord, how do you reply? How do you say? How do you put it in words? You can’t. You just bow in the presence of the glory, loving God in Jesus. O Lord, how blessed we are who have found the way in Him. That is the incarnation [John 1:14]. And that is the story of Christmas.
In this moment we are going to stand and sing a hymn of appeal. And while we sing it, a family you, a couple you, or just one somebody you, out of the balcony and down one of these stairwells, in the throng on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, “Here I am, pastor. I have decided for God [Romans 10:9-10], and I’m coming. I believe in the goodness and the mercy of the Lord extended to me [Titus 3:5], and I am on the way. May God count me among the redeemed who will be present in glory [1 Peter 1:18-19], praising the blessed Jesus forever.” Come, and welcome, while we stand and while we sing.