THE INCARNATION OF GOD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-23-79 8:15 a.m.
All of you who are listening on radio, this is the pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas; and the title of the message is The Incarnation of God, God Incarnate. And it has a little different turn to it than what we have been following the last two Sundays. In Galatians 4:4, "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman," referring to the virgin birth of our Lord [Matthew 1:20-25]. "When the fullness of the time was come," when every detail of the political, and ecclesiastical, and sociological, and psychological, and economic, and every other condition was just according to the purpose of God, "When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman" [Galatians 4:4].
Now, I want to show you another passage in 1 Peter 1, beginning at verse 10, that speaks also of the meticulous preparation of the Lord God for the coming of Christ into the world. In verse 9 of the first chapter of 1 Peter, the apostle has written about our salvation [1 Peter 1:9], then he continues in verse 10:
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, those who prophesied of His coming: Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand of the coming of our Lord, of His sufferings, and the glory that should follow. Unto those prophets whom it was revealed these things, but not unto them alone, but unto us they did minister these things, they wrote them down, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you, by us who are preaching it to you now, with the Holy Spirit sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
[1 Peter 1:10-12]
That is a remarkable passage. These prophets, the apostle says, talking about these Old Testament prophets, these Old Testament prophets wrote about the coming of our Lord, and how His ministry would be in the days of His flesh, and of the glory that should follow after, "And" – this is an amazing thing – "And," he says, "those prophets who carried that message to their day and through their writings to us, and the apostles who now preach it to us, those prophets searched diligently and inquired" [1 Peter 1:10], and then not only does he emphasize that in the tenth verse, but, in the eleventh verse, he starts it off with "Searching what, or what manner of time [1 Peter 1:11], exzeteō, translated here "inquired," that’s a strong word, "to search out, to scrutinize, to investigate diligently" [1 Peter 1:10]. Then as though that were not enough, he uses another word exeraunaō, translated here "searched"; that is, "to seek out and to examine closely" [1 Peter 1:10]. That’s just as strong as the apostle could write it. What these men did, who were prophets in the Old Testament, they searched and sought out diligently these prophecies that they themselves wrote [Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11], concerning the coming of our Lord into the world [1 Peter 1:10-11].
Now the message today is a deduction from that; it’s a corollary. And it is one that is very apparent, namely, if the Lord God in the coming of our Savior into the world chose the exact time and the exact way, and if He prophesied about it, He foretold it, in the centuries before, then it is a correct deduction and a most logical one to avow that everything that pertains to the coming of our Savior into the world was according to the elective purpose of God, everything. God did it this way, by choice; not by adventitious circumstance, God did it this way and not that way. And He came in this manner and not in that manner. God chose every detail of the coming of our Lord into the world. And He prophesied of those details; He revealed it to the apostles, I mean, to the prophets, and they looked at it, and searched diligently concerning the coming of our Lord [1 Peter 1:10].
Now, I of course can’t enter into all of the infinite judgments and elective purposes of God in the coming of our Lord into the world; but there are some things that are very apparent about Him, and each one of them is the choice of God. And insofar as my finite mind would enter unto it, I want to speak in the message today of why God did it that way and not some other way.
All right, first of all, in His coming into the world, He came as a baby. In Luke 2:11 and 12, "For unto you is born," He was born, "unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, that Christ the Lord. This shall be a sign unto you," this is how you can find that Child, "you will find Him wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger, this Baby" [Luke 2:11-12]. It’s what the Book says; this Baby. Now to go back to my deduction: if all of the coming of our Lord into the world was according to the elect purpose of God, it was just this way, and not some other way, and He revealed it to the prophets centuries before they were fulfilled, then it was by the elective choice of the Lord that He came in that way. So first, He came as a baby. Now why?
All of you are acquainted with the name of the capital city of Attica, and finally of all Hellas, all Greece, Athens, Athena. The Greek goddess Pallas Athena of Athens, Athena, they named their capital city after her, and that great beautiful Parthenon is dedicated to Pallas Athena; that was their patron goddess. She was the goddess of art and science and literature and war. Now, how did Greek mythology say that Pallas Athena came into the world? Do you remember? She was born full grown out of the mind of Jove, of Zeus. Now you remember that. In Greek mythology, Pallas Athena came into the world, burst into the world full grown, even with her panoply of armor, her helmet and her spear. Well, why did not the Lord Christ appear into the world in glorious form, full grown? He could have, just like one of those angels, just suddenly appear. Why didn’t the Lord God appear into the world full grown with all the panoply of glory about Him? Why is it that He came into the world as a baby?
Now, I have two answers to that, and, as I say, these things are just human judgments as I look at it. First, it’s an answer to the judgment of God concerning the everlasting sacredness of human life. He was born as a baby. I have to show you what I mean. The cynic used to decimate me. I don’t try to hide from you that in my studying and in my reading and in my schooling, I fall into a great many doubts and difficulties. I have; I do it less now than I used to. But in my reading, in my studying, a lot of things that the critic and the cynic would say deeply disturb me. I had a hard time finding an answer for the doubts they sowed in my soul; and this is one of them. The cynic says, as he describes the infinitude of this universe, he says, "In the vastness of the creation around us, this little universe of ours, our sun and its planets, is tucked away in the most inconsequential of all of the galaxies." Then he says, "This earth on which we ride is one of the tiniest of all of the specks of creation! And do you mean to say that out of all of the vast, immeasurable universes around us, that God would deign to come down to this little tiny speck of an earth! Is that what you’re saying? Ha, ha, ha! Such inanity!"
Well, that bothered me! That bothered me! Out of all of the vastness of God’s creation, that the Lord God who made it should deign to come down to this little speck of a piece of dust called the Earth; that bothered me. Then I began to turn it over in my mind, and I began to think about it. Suppose a man had an enormous mansion on Fifth Avenue or Park Avenue in New York City; I mean a beautiful mansion such as Carnegie’s mansion; oh, glorious, room after room after room! And on the inside of that marvelous mansion, there were tapestries, and draperies, and paintings, and furniture, and silver pieces, and gold pieces, marvelously furnished as the richest man in the world only could furnish it. And suppose he and his wife had a little baby. Oh, the little thing doesn’t weigh more than seven pounds; had a little baby. And they lived in that beautiful mansion, that rich man and his wife, and they have that little seven pound baby, little bitty thing you hold in your hands like that.
All right, suppose while he’s way up high in one of those skyscrapers on Manhattan, suppose he gets a telephone call. And the telephone call says, "Oh! Oh! Oh! Did you know your mansion is completely on fire? It’s flaming." And he replies, "Oh! Oh! what of my draperies? Oh, what of my paintings? Oh, what of my furniture? Oh, what of my silverware?" It all depends on how he’s made: if he had a heart, you know what he’d say? "Oh, is my baby safe? No matter about the draperies! No matter about the silverware! No matter about the tapestries! Is my baby safe?" That’s what he’d ask.
And God has a heart. I don’t deny that the mountains are spectacular, and the oceans with their tides are almost immeasurable, and the glory of the stars exceeds the imagination of man; but God has a heart, and He loves us more than He loves His mountains and His oceans, and His great vast galaxy of stars that shine in the chalice above us. That’s one of the lessons God teaches us: He is born a baby; the sacredness of human life.
All right, another reason why I think He was born a baby: the Bible teaches us – and we’re coming to it again: the Bible teaches us that in all of His life He knew what we experience, all of it. All of the trials and sorrows that we go through, He experienced [Hebrews 4:14-15]. All right, a second reason why He is born as a baby: I think that the tears and the disappointments and the hurts of childhood and youth are as real and as genuine as ours in manhood and womanhood. Why do I think that? Because I can remember some of the trials, and sorrows, and troubles, and tears of my own childhood and my own growing up; and they were just as real as the tears, troubles, and trials sometimes I have today. And if He was to be like us and to understand all about us, then He also had to know what it was to be a child and a youth and to grow up as all the rest of us grow up. He was born a baby, and God chose it that way for an infinite purpose. And I’ve tried to say two of the reasons why I think He came as a baby.
Number two: if He came into the world according to the exact choice and purpose of God, then how He came was chosen of the Lord in heaven; second thing about Him, He was born poor. He said in Matthew 8:20, "The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." He was poor. Now that’s the opposite of what I would have thought; it is the opposite of what the wise men, the magi thought. They supposed that when the star announced to them that there had been born a King of the Jews, they supposed He would be in a palace. Isn’t that right? Wouldn’t you have thought so? If I had been told that there had been born a king to the British people, I’d go to Buckingham Palace and look for him, wouldn’t you? Well, they did the natural thing; and they’re response was reasonable. When they came to Jerusalem, they went to Herod’s palace and said, "Where is He, this King born of heaven? Where is He?" [Matthew 2:1-3]. But He wasn’t born in a palace. He was born in a stable [Luke 2:11-16].
Now, why? That’s the elective purpose of God; now why? I have two reasons also for that, as my mind enters into the thinking of God, trying to think God’s thoughts after Him. All right, the first reason: I think He was born poor because no matter how the social programs of government and no matter how the advancement of the world, practically all of the peoples of the world are poor. They will always be that. The Lord said that: "The poor ye have always with you" [John 12:8]. Why, I listen to these men who write in editorials and news magazines and who speak on television and radio, and they say that there will be a billion people every night who go to bed hungry! The poor, if you’ve traveled at all, you’ve seen them by the millions, by the millions; the poor.
Now you look: if He had come rich, affluent, in a king’s palace, you tell me, would the poor of the earth have felt welcome in His presence? Why, bless your heart, if I had the assignment to go up to Buckingham Palace in London and knock at the door, I’d be filled with all kinds of timidity and hesitancy. That’s just an earthly queen over there; much less to come into the presence of the great God Almighty if He lived in a mighty palace! But you tell me. I think anybody would feel welcome in a stable, anybody. And I think anybody would feel free to approach a manger, even common shepherds in the field [Luke 2:8-16]. That’s God and God’s infinite care for the peoples of this earth. He was born poor and in a stable.
All right, the second thing about that, just trying to think God’s thoughts after Him, why He came as He did into the world, the second reason: not only that the poor of the earth would feel welcome into His presence, but, second, I think in the life of our Lord there is the greatest and most infinite of all the lessons that God could teach us, that the great rewards of life are never monetary, but they are spiritual! It isn’t how rich the man is, it’s how godly the man is. And the values of life are never to be interpreted in terms of fame or popularity or advancement or success; but the true values of life are always to be interpreted spiritually and inwardly. The integrity of the man, the godliness of the man, the spiritual worshipful attitude of the man, and a thousand other like virtues so beautifully exemplified in the Lord: God, what a lesson! What a lesson! And what we need in our own lives is to strive after the image of our blessed Savior; not after secular and monetary rewards, but that we might be more like Jesus. He was born poor.
All right, a third thing, trying to think God’s thoughts after Him: He was born to suffer. When I read this passage, it’ll be in the second chapter of Hebrews, beginning at 9, I want you to see how much he will emphasize the suffering of our Lord:
We see Jesus, made lower than the angels for, in order for, the suffering of death . . . that by the grace of God He should taste death for every man. For it became Him, even Him for whom all things, and by whom all things are made, in bringing us to glory to make the captain of their salvation perfect, complete, through sufferings.
Now 17 –
Wherefore in all things it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God,For in that He Himself hath suffered being tried, He is able to succor them that are tried.
Now why that? Why come into this world in order to suffer? Well, the answer is found when I turn the page:
For we have not a High Priest that cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but He was in all points tried as we are, though He without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
That’s why He came to suffer. Two reasons: to make reconciliation to God for our sins, to pay the price of our sin, "The wages of sin is death" [Romans 6:23], and He paid it; that’s one reason. And the other reason, that He might be a faithful High Priest, being moved by the feeling of our own human weaknesses [Hebrews 4:15-16].
In my reading, I read about a missionary who was asked, on the island of Honshu – that’s way up there in the north, that long slender island in the north of Japan, on the island of Honshu, he was asked to go way up there in the high mountains to preach to a little Christian congregation. There were no Christians anywhere in that part of the world, but he was told that there was a little church way up there in those mountains. So he went. It was a snowy, snowy day, but he plowed through the snow and finally came to the farmhouse. And there inside the farmhouse, he found a little Christian congregation. There were eight women and one man. They were seated on a cold rice mat around a little charcoal burner. And he led the service of praise and worship to God and preached to them the best that he could. And after the service was over, why, he was walking with the man through the snow, down to the village. And he asked the man, "Where did that congregation come from? There are no Christians in this part of the whole world. Where did that little congregation come from?" And the answer was this: in the group was a dear woman, Mrs. Matsuyama, and her husband and three children living in their home way up there in the mountains of Honshu, he died; the man died, her husband died and left her with those three children.
In great sorrow, she sought comfort and help, and she went to her Shinto shrine, the national religion of Japan. She went to the Shinto shrine and prayed for her ancestors to help her. Not finding comfort or answers, she went to the Buddhist temple, and there prayed before that affluent prince of India, Gautama, the Buddha, and found no surcease from sorrow. One day, walking through the village, a little child placed in her hand a ragged little book. And the child said to her, "I picked this up on the street; somebody must have lost it." It was tattered and worn. You know what it was? The little child said, "It tells about a Man who can help the helpless." It was a tattered copy of the Gospel of Luke. And she read of His coming into the world. And as you know, the Gospel of Luke presents Jesus as the great humanitarian Savior. And on her knees, listening to the story of the Lord Jesus in His suffering ministry, she found answer and encouragement for her soul. And she witnessed to others around, and she had eight others.
She went to a missionary – she had a difficult time because there were no Christians in that part of the world – she finally heard of a missionary and went to him and was baptized. Now isn’t that what I tell you? When anybody is converted, the first thing they want to do is to be baptized. And if you don’t want to be baptized, I don’t think you’re saved. The first thing she wanted to do was to be baptized. And finally hearing of a missionary far off, she was baptized at the end of that seeking journey; and coming back had won eight others to the Lord. And that’s why the missionary was up there preaching.
He is that kind of a Savior. He is not a fair-weather friend; and He is not someone who in glory and in affluence doesn’t know all the troubles that we have in this world. He knows them all, and He has experienced them all; and He is understanding and sympathetic when we come before Him with any trial or any request. Take it to Jesus, tell Him all about it; just lay it before Him. He is the wisest counselor, the dearest friend, and He knows how to help in time of need. That’s why He came to suffer [Hebrews 4:14-16].
One other, just brief: He came to be Lord and King over all the earth. "I wept much,"
in the fifth chapter of the Book of Revelation –
Because no one was found in earth, in heaven, or in the netherworld to open the seals. And one of the elders said unto me, Do not weep. Do not weep: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof. And I beheld, and lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four cherubim, and in the midst of the four and twenty elders, when I turned around, I looked!
There’s a note here in this Criswell Study Bible that is so pertinent. When he turned around, he had just been told that the Lion of the tribe of Judah had prevailed! And when he turned to look, wouldn’t you have thought he would expect to see a ferocious lion? Isn’t that right? He’d just been told, "The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to open this book of redemption" [Revelation 5:5]. When he turned, what did he see? The Bible says, "He saw a Lamb, as it had been slain" [Revelation 5:6]. And then that burst of glory, "They sang a new song, Worthy is the Lamb to receive honor and dominion and glory; for He hath redeemed us by His blood to God, and made us kings and priests in the earth" [Revelation 5:9-10, 12].
Now you look at this. Sweet people, I think it’s nothing short of a miracle, no matter what part of the life of our dear Lord you’re preaching about, or no matter what age or what stage or what development, no matter what, you can’t expose Him too much. You can’t preach about Him too much! There is no part of His life that is not worshipful and glorious and heavenly. Born to reign, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain!" [Revelation 5:12]. Preach about His birth [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:26-35, 2:1-16], as I’ve been doing the last three Sundays; it’s a glorious and worshipful experience, just thinking about the coming of our Lord into this world! Preach about His birth. Preach about Him as a Child in the temple, talking to the doctors of the law; it’s a worshipful experience! [Luke 2:41-47]. Preach about His being baptized by John the Baptist! [Matthew 3:13-17; Luke 3:21-22]. Preach about His walking on the water! [Matthew 14:25-27; Mark 6:47-51]. Preach about His marvelous words, "Never a man spake like that Man!" [John 7:46]. Speak about His parables! Talk about His miracles! Speak of His sympathy and understanding of the needs of the people, these who wept over their dead or were hurt in their suffering and illness! Speak about His cross and His sufferings! [Matthew 27:32-50]. Speak about His burial in the tomb! [Matthew 27:57-61]. Talk about His resurrection from among the dead! [Matthew 28:1-7]. Speak of His ascension into heaven [Acts 1:9-10], and His session at the right hand! [Romans 8:34]. Talk about His coming again! [Acts 1:11; 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17]. There is no part of the life of our Lord that is not beautiful and preciously worshipful.
He is born to reign. And that’s why the Revelation closes with that marvelous paean of praise: "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive honor, and glory, and dominion, and majesty" [Revelation 5:12]. And the thousands, the Greek word can’t even say it, the thousands times thousands and thousands of thousands of angels picked up the tune and the song; "and the four and twenty elders bowed down," twelve of them representing the Old Testament, twelve of them representing the New Testament; all the saints and the cherubim bow down and worship Him that liveth forever and ever and ever [Revelation 5:14]. It is a miracle and a marvel: the Lord’s coming into this earth [Matthew 1:20-25; Luke 1:26-35, 2:1-16].
Now may we stand together?
Our Savior, if the shepherds came and felt welcomed in that stable, and bowed down before that manger [Luke 2:8-16], and if the rich magi came from the East bearing gifts of gold and frankincense and myrrh [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11], and if the whole hosts of heaven bowed down and praised God for the coming of our Lord into the earth [Luke 2:13-14], blessed Jesus, how much more would we? Each one of us, we would add to those who kneel in Thy presence our own loving, worshipful adoration. "O Lord, Thou art so worthy" [Revelation 5:12].
And in this moment that our people wait before God and we sing in a moment a song of appeal, to bow down with us, to worship with us, to accept the Lord as your Savior, to love and follow close by His side through this pilgrimage, if today you would choose Him, come. Welcome. Bring your family; rear your children in this faith and communion. And a thousand blessings be upon you every step of the way and every moment of the day. It’s the way to go. It’s the way to live. It’s the way to work. It’s the way to worship. It’s the way to die. It’s the way to go to heaven. And it’s the way to rear your children.
And our Lord, grant us a sweet response this beautiful hour, in Thy name, Amen.
To come out of the balcony, you must go down one of these stairways. In the press of people on this lower floor, down one of these aisles, "Pastor, I give you my hand; I give my heart to God, and here I am." Do it now. And bless you as you respond with your life, while we sing.