Dr. W. A. Criswell
12-23-79 10:50 a.m.
This is the pastor bringing the message concerning The Incarnation of Our Lord. The sermon is a deduction. It is a corollary. And it comes out of avowals that the Scriptures make concerning the birth of our Savior. Here is one. In Galatians 4 and 4; chapter 4, verse 4, the apostle Paul writes: “When the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman” [Galatians 4:4].
He is avowing there that God prepared the whole earth for the coming of our Lord. Political, ecclesiastical, social, psychological, in every area of human life, all things work toward the coming of our Savior. That is what Paul writes in that verse: “When the fullness of the time was come,” when it arrived, at that exact moment “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman,” referring to His virgin birth [Galatians 4:4].
Now another typical passage: the apostle Peter writes in 1 Peter chapter 1, beginning in verse 10, in verse 9 having spoken of our salvation [1 Peter 1:9], now he writes:
Of which salvation the prophets have inquired and searched diligently, those who prophesied of Him who was to come:
Searching what manner of time the Spirit of God, the Spirit of Christ, which was in them did signify, when they wrote beforehand of His coming.
Unto them it was revealed and not unto them only, but unto us.
They spoke those words. They ministered those things, those things which are now preached unto you by the apostles and the evangelists that the Lord God in the Holy Spirit sent from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
This is a remarkable, remarkable word that the apostle says. He says that the coming of our Lord into the world and all of His ministry was revealed to the prophets of the Old Testament hundreds and hundreds of years before the Lord Jesus came.
And having spoken of it, moved by the Holy Spirit of God, those prophets of the Old Testament having spoken of the coming of Christ, they exetazō. They sought out diligently. They scrutinized. They investigated. And as though that were not a word, he says exeraunaō, translated here “search diligently” [1 Peter 1:10]. Exeraunaō means to examine carefully. The word that they had spoken they searched diligently and investigated and scrutinized carefully to see how it was, its manner, and the time of the appearing of our Lord in the earth [1 Peter 1:11].
Now the deduction and the deduction is the sermon. If what these prophets said is true and if what the apostles write is also no less the truth of God, that the coming of Christ was carefully arranged for both in its time and in its manner and that the Lord God revealed that to the prophets hundreds and hundreds of years before the day of His coming, then the deduction is logical.
What God chose in the coming of our Lord was by elective purpose. It was not by adventitious circumstance. It was by the purpose and the choice of God how He came, the manner in which He was given to the world.
So we’re going to look at some of the things that characterize the incarnation of our Lord. And if God will give us clarity of mind; not that we can encompass the infinitude of the mind of the Lord, but we can look, we can think God’s thoughts after Him. And we can try to see why it is that God elected the coming of our Lord in the way that He did.
All right, the first deduction: He was born a baby. In Luke 2:11-12: “For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior. He is Christ the Lord. This shall be a sign unto you that you can find Him, Ye shall find the Baby wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.” He was born a baby. That is not adventitious circumstance. That is by the elective purpose of God and revealed to the prophets hundreds and hundreds of years before the event [Isaiah 9:6]. He was born a baby by the elective purpose and choice of God.
Now why? Why was He not born full, full-grown, mature? There’s not a school boy acquainted with Greek mythology but that knows that Pallas Athena—the Athenians named their capital city Athens after their patron goddess, Athena; Athena, Athens—there’s not a schoolboy but that knows that Pallas Athena was born full, full-grown out of the mind of Jove, out of the mind of Zeus, out of the mind of Jupiter. In her panoply she was the goddess of war. She was the goddess of the arts, of literature, of science, of learning. She was born full-grown out of the mind of Zeus.
Now why was not Christ born that way? He could have just been presented to us like the glory of an archangel, like the Prince of heaven. He could have just come down to earth and there He is, the Prince of glory. Why did He not come that way? Why was He born a baby? I repeat: it is not by accident. It is by the elective purpose and choice of God that He appeared that way.
Why did He come born a baby? [Luke 2:11-12]. Now this is just an attempt on the part of the pastor to think God’s thoughts after Him. Why? I have two reasons.
Number one: He was born as a baby to signify and to emphasize the sacredness of human life in the sight of God. Rather than expatiating on it for an hour, I can do better by an example—not that it ever happened, but just conjuring up an illustration of what I mean.
Suppose there was a man, very, very rich, like Mr. Carnegie. Suppose there was a man who has a magnificent mansion as he had on Fifth Avenue in New York City. And it is a glorious house, room after room after room. And being wealthy—at that time the wealthiest man in the earth—it is filled with beautiful things. Oh, the glory of that house! The tapestries, and the draperies, and the furniture, and the paintings, and the silverware, and the gold pieces, but also in the house is a little babe born to him and his wife, a little thing. Always seven pounds, just a little baby, just like that.
And while he is up there in the top of one of those skyscrapers in Manhattan, the telephone rings on his desk. And he picks it up, and on the other end of the line, there is an excited voice. And it says, “Oh, oh, oh, the tragedy! Your house is on fire. All of it is aflame.” And he answers. He says, “Oh, my house, my house is on fire! What of my tapestries?” Or, “What of my draperies? My house is on fire,” or “What of my carpets, and what of my furniture, and what of my silver and gold?”
It all depends upon what kind of a man that he is. It all depends upon whether he has a heart or not. If he had a heart and that excited voice says, “Your house is on fire, it’s aflame!” he would answer, “My, my God, man, what of my baby? What of my baby? Is my baby safe?” Compared to that little bundle the tapestries, and the paintings, and the furniture, and the carpets, and the draperies, and the whole house is trash!
What of the baby? What of the baby? That’s God. God has a heart. The Book says He flung these constellations into space. He created this universe [Genesis 1:1-1]. The mountains are His, and the great oceans and the vast prairies, they’re all the work of His hands. But mountains can’t love God. Oceans can’t think God’s thoughts after Him. The universe magnifies the Lord only in existence. But we, we can call His name. We can think His thoughts. We can love Him with our souls. We can be like Him. We’re made in the image of God [Genesis 1:26-27]. And when He came as a little babe [Luke 2:11-12], it magnifies the eternal worth of the humblest of the human race. Beyond mountains, and oceans, and stars, and constellations, and sidereal spheres is the worth of a little child. That’s one reason.
A second reason why He came as a baby: a second reason the Book says—and we’ll refer to it later—the Book says that He came that He might sympathize with us, that in all of His life He understood us, and He shared the sorrows and tears and trials of our life [Hebrews 2:17-18].
Sweet people, I’ve been there, and you have too. The tears and the sorrows and the disappointments of childhood are as real as those of manhood and womanhood. And He came as a little child. And there are no hurts, and disappointments, and frustrations, and tears of childhood that He does not understand. In all of our life He is one of us. Isn’t that an amazing thing that a man would dare to preach that the great God who is on the throne of the universe is a man, a human being? Incarnate God, and He was a child, and He knows all about us.
Number two, the second deduction: why did God do this as He did? Number two: He was born poor. Jesus saith unto them, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head” [Luke 9:58], poorer than the birds that fly, poorer than the foxes of the field, our Lord Jesus.
Why? Why? Why wasn’t He born in a palace? Wouldn’t you have thought so? We’d been exactly like those Magi, those wise men from the East. They saw His star [Matthew 2:1-2]. A King had been born. And they made the long journey to Jerusalem, to go where? To go to the King’s palace [Matthew 2:1]. I would have done the same thing. A King has been born, and they make their way to the palace of Herod, and said, “Where is He? [Matthew 2:2]. Where is He?” If I were told that a king, a prince, had been born in England, and I went over there to London and had opportunity to see the child, I would go to Buckingham Palace, wouldn’t you? And I’d knock at the door, and I’d say, “The word has come that a king has been born to the British Empire. We’ve come to worship him. Where is he?” Wouldn’t you do that? That’s what they did naturally.
But He wasn’t born in a palace. He was born in a stable. And His mother, not being able to buy Him even a little dress, a little covering, wrapped Him in rags and laid Him in a manger [Luke 2:7, 12, 16]. He was born poor.
Now, the deduction: God chose that, and He revealed it to the prophets [Isaiah 53:2]. It wasn’t by happenstance. It was according to the elective purpose of God. He was born poor, lived all His life in poverty. Now why?
Two reasons here, if I can think the thoughts of God after Him. Number one: practically all of the peoples of the earth, all of them, are forever poor. Jesus said, “The poor you have always with you” [John 12:8]. I can hardly realize it, but these statisticians say that every night there is something like one billion people who live on this globe who go to bed hungry every night, hungry every night—the poor.
Now you tell me. Had He been born in a palace, would the poor bedraggled of the earth have felt welcome and at home going up to the King’s house and knocking at the door? I’m frank to confess to you that if I were in London walking up to Buckingham Palace and knocking at the door, I would be very ill at ease.
But my brother and sister, anybody—including the poor shepherds out there in the field [Luke 2:8-16]—anybody would feel I’m dressed all right and I’m acceptable walking in a stable and bowing down at a manger. That’s the elective purpose of God; born poor. Anybody is welcome and anybody feels at home bowing down before the Lord.
A second thing why God would choose that the Prince of glory be born poor: it gives us an evaluation of life that is beyond anything that He said. The great godly purposes of God for us are never that we be rich, or that we be famous, or that we be successful, but the great purposes of God for us are that we be godly and spiritual, and that we be rich toward Him [Luke 12:21]. Why, world without end do people persuade themselves, “I’m a failure. I’m not rich,” or “I’m a failure, I haven’t succeeded,” or “I’m a failure, I’m not famous.” In how many ways are we pulled into the evaluations of the world that are always monetary, or political, or secular, or worldly.
God says, “Not so.” The great of the earth are the meek and the humble, they inherit it, God says [Matthew 5:5]. God says it’s the pure in heart who shall see His face [Matthew 5:8]. The values in life are never to be defined in terms of money or fame or success, but the great values in life we see in Jesus: godliness, loving the Lord, praying, living a beautiful and exemplary and precious life. What a message for us in the life of our Lord who was never rich, born poor!
Number three, another deduction: born to suffer. In this passage that I’m going to read from the second chapter of the Book of Hebrews, beginning in verse 9, I want you to see how often He will use that word ‘suffer.’ Hebrews 2, beginning at verse 9:
. . . Jesus, who was made lower than the angels, in order for the suffering of death . . . that by the grace of God He should taste death for every man.
For it became Him, for whom are all things, and by whom are all things, to bring many souls unto glory, to save us, to make the captain of their salvation perfect—mature, reaching the purpose of God for Him—through suffering.
Then the last two verses:
Wherefore, 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, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
For in that He Himself hath suffered being tried, He is able to succor—to strengthen them—that are tried.
Now here again are two reasons why He was born to suffer.
Number one, the author writes: “He came to make reconciliation to God for our sins” [Hebrews 2:17]. We are separated from God by our sins [Isaiah 58:2]. And He came for the purpose of “at-one-ment,” you pronounce it atonement. That’s the only theological word made by the English language, is the word ‘atonement.’ At-one-ment. He came on the cross to suffer for our sins and to make us at-one-ment, atonement, reconciliation to God [Hebrews 10:5-14]. That’s why He came into the world. He came to suffer and to die for our sins [John 1:29]. “The wages of sin is death” [Romans 6:23]. “The soul that sins shall die” [Ezekiel 18:4, 20]. And He died for our sins [1 Corinthians 15:3]. He paid that penalty for us. Now to us who look in faith to Jesus, death is just an open door to the Lord Jesus Christ [John 11:26].
Why, bless your heart! I got down by the side of the bed of my old mother and asked God to release her. “Lord, take her. Seven years she has been like this. Lord, Lord, release her.” Why? Because God says it’s better over there than it is here [Philippians 1:21-23]. And, when our task is finished and our work is done and the chapter is closed, Lord, let me just go to sleep in Thy arms. “Let me go to be with Thee.” That’s death to the Christian. Our finest hour ought to be the hour of our death, when we say goodbye to all of the ills and sicknesses and hurts of this life, and we say good morning to Jesus, and to the angels, and to the saints in glory. That Jesus did for us in His sufferings. Death is robbed of its sting and the grave of its victory [1 Corinthians 15:55-57], and in His atonement we are now just invited into the presence of the glory of heaven [Hebrews 10:20]. That’s why He suffered.
And the other He spells out very carefully: that He might be a faithful High Priest. On the next page, he wrote it like this:
For we have not a [High] Priest that is not touched by the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tried as we are, though He without sin.
Wherefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that you might find pity, mercy, and grace to help in time of need.
There’s not any sorrow that you will ever experience but that He knows all about it. There’s not any trial, there’s not any hurt, there’s not any disappointment He has wept Himself. He has cried Himself. He has been hurt. There are no sorrows that we know in life with which He is not already acquainted. Therefore come boldly to the throne of grace and tell Jesus all about it [Hebrews 4:16]. It will be a revelation to you how, if you will do that, how He will reply. Come nigh, understand, answer from heaven. That’s why He suffered. He came forth to suffer, to make reconciliation for our sins [Hebrews 2:17], and to be a faithful and understanding High Priest when we have need. And we’re invited to come boldly [Hebrews 4:16]. O Lord! What a grace of God extended toward us!
And last, the purposes of our Lord, how He was born just that way: born a baby, born poor [Luke 2:7, 12, 16; John 12:8; Luke 2:8-16], born to suffer [Hebrews 2:9-10, 17-18, 10:5-14; 1 Corinthians 15:55-57]. Now you look again: born to reign [Matthew 2:2], to be loved and adored and exalted, and not in a way that you might think, but in this way.
In the fifth chapter of the Revelation, John says, “I wept much, because no one in heaven or in earth or under the earth was found worthy to open the book of redemption and to look thereon” [Revelation 5:4-5]. Sealed in that book are the names of the children of God. Our names are in that book, and it’s a sealed book. And search was made in the whole creation of God to find one who could open that book of redemption. And no one was worthy. And John burst into tears, weeping inconsolably [Revelation 5:2-4].
And while He was weeping, one of the elders touched Him, and said, “Weep not, weep not: behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, hath prevailed to open the book, and to loose the seals thereof” [Revelation 5:5]. And John says, “I turned to look at this Lion of the tribe of Judah that was able to open that book and to break those seals” [Revelation 5:6-7].
And down here in this Criswell Bible is one of the most precious notes that you’ll read in the entire volume. Wouldn’t you have expected when John turned to look to see, he would see a ferocious lion? “The Lion of the tribe of Judah hath prevailed to break the seals, and to open the book, and to read the names of God’s redeemed thereon” [Revelation 5:5]. Wouldn’t you have thought it would have been a lion?
What he saw, the Book says: “And when he turned, he saw a Lamb as it had been slain” [Revelation 5:6]. And He took the book, and He opened it, breaking the seals [Revelation 5:7]. And when He did, they burst into song. And He names them here; the angels by the thousands, and the thousands, and tens of thousands, and thousands of thousands, and the cherubim, and the four and twenty elders, twelve of them representing the saints of the Old Testament and twelve of them representing the saints of the New Testament: the whole creation of redemption burst into glory singing: “Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive honor, and glory, and dominion forever and ever. Amen” [Revelation 5:7-14].
Now I want you to look at that just for a minute. There is no part of the life of our Lord but is worthy and beautiful and worshipful. No part of it. This is the third Sunday that I’ve been preaching about His birth. What a beautiful story! What a glorious gospel message of love and redemption! This Jesus, born in a stable, laid in a manger, worshiped by the shepherds [Luke 2:8-16], and by the magi [Matthew 2:1-2, 9-11], welcomed into the earth by the angels who sing [Luke 2:13-14], that’s the Lord Jesus.
Wherever in His life you preach, it’s a gospel of glory and hope. Preach about Him in the temple as a little boy, talking with the doctors [Luke 2:46]. Preach about Him baptized in the Jordan River by John the Baptist [Matthew 3:13-17]. Preach about Him in His miracles of mercy, opening the eyes of the blind [Matthew 9:27-29], cleansing the lepers [Luke 17:11-14], raising the dead [John 11:43-44]. Preach about Him in His words; “Never man spake like that Man” [John 7:46]. Preach about Him suffering on the cross [Matthew 27:27-50]. Preach about Him laid in the tomb [Mark 15:46]. Preach about Him raised from among the dead [Matthew 28:1-6; Mark 16:5-6]. Preach about Him ascending up into heaven [Luke 24:49-51; Acts 1:9]. Preach about Him coming again [Acts 1:11; Revelation 1:7].
There’s no part of the life of our Lord but that is glorious and worthy, beautiful, precious, adorable, worshipful. That’s what God did when the Lord came down from heaven, born as a baby, born poor, born to suffer, and every part of His incomparable life, born to be adored and worshiped forever, and ever, and ever. Amen.
Lord I just wish I had the eloquence and the power to say it as it really is. It is a precious and beautiful thing to walk in the ways of the Lord, to rear your children in the love and nurture of Christ Jesus, to call upon His name in joy, in sorrow, to grow old loving Jesus, to die commending our spirits in His loving care, to be welcomed by His own nail-pierced hands into the company of the saints of glory [John 14:3]. It is great and grand to be a Christian. Now may we stand together?
Our Lord in heaven, by the side of those shepherds, and by the side of those Magi, and by the side of those innumerable angels, and by the side of the saints of the Old Testament and the New, we also bow down before Thee. O Lord, Thou art so worthy. Whether in childhood, in manhood, in atoning grace, in resurrection power, in intercession at the throne of God, in coming again; every part of Your divine life is beautifully precious. We love Thee, Lord Jesus. And on this glad day of advent celebrating the incarnation of the Prince of heaven [Matthew 1:23], all of us join in that song of praise and love. Thank Thee, God, for the unspeakable gift in Christ Jesus [2 Corinthians 9:15].
In a moment when we sing our hymn of appeal, a couple you, or a family you, or just one somebody you, out of that balcony down the stairway, on the lower floor, into one of these aisles, “Pastor, today we are giving our home, and our hearts, and our lives to the blessed Jesus.” And our Lord, speed them in the way as they come, and make them glad in this decision. May this be a beautiful moment. And we shall love Thee for the answered prayer, in Thy saving and keeping and adorable worshipful name, amen.
Now we are going to sing our song, and while we wait for this moment, into the aisle, down the stairway a family, a couple, or just you, “Here I am, pastor.” And may the Lord bless you as you come, while we sing.
THE INCARNATION OF OUR LORD
Dr. W. A. Criswell
John 1:14, Galatians 4:4
A. Paul avows that God prepared the whole earth for the coming of our Lord(Galatians 4:4)
B. The coming of our Lord into the world and His ministry was revealed to the prophets of the Old Testament(1 Peter 1:10-12)
C. What God chose in the coming of Christ was by elective purposeII. Born a baby(Luke 2:11-12)
A. Why was He not born full grown?
1. To signify and emphasize the sacredness of human life
a. Wealthy man gets a call his house is on fire
b. We are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27)
2. That He might sympathize with the experiences of childhood (Hebrews 2:16-18)III. Born poor(Luke 9:58)
A. Opposite of what we would think(Matthew 2:1-2, Luke 2:12, 16)
B. Why wasn’t He born in a palace?
1. Practically all of humanity is poor(John 12:8)
a. Anyone would feel welcome at a stable
2. Values of life not to be found in money, success(Matthew 5:5, 8)IV. Born to suffer(Hebrews 2:9-10, 17-18)
A. He came to suffer for our sins (Hebrews 2:17, Romans 6:23, Ezekiel 18:4, 20, 1 Corinthians 15:55-57)
B. That He might be a faithful High Priest (Hebrews 4:15-16)V. Born to reign
A. He was born to be loved, adored, and exalted
1. The Lamb slain (Revelation 5:2-14)
B. Wherever in His life you preach, it’s a gospel of glory and hope(Luke 2:46, 17:11-14, 24:-51, Matthew 3:13-17, 9:27-29, 27:27-50, John 7:46, 11:43-44, Mark 15:46, 16:5-6, Acts 1:9, 11, Revelation 1:7)