Why the Incarnation? (Introduction)

“Jesus is the reason for the season,” “Let’s keep the Christ in Christmas,” and many other seasonal slogans have started popping up on billboards and church marquees. It’s that time of year when we remember the birth of Jesus Christ. We see nativity scenes on display, advent calendars depicting the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke, and many other cultural symbols calling us to remember the first coming of Christ into the world two thousand years ago. Of course, it has been noted by many that Jesus probably was not born on the twenty-fifth of December, but this time of year still has a way of corralling our thoughts toward that stable in Bethlehem and the little one who was found sleeping in a manger so long ago.

Far from being some historical curiosity whose meaning is lost to us today, Holy Scripture tells us that something incredibly unique to world history was happening that night. God was doing something he had never done before, and would never do again. Without abandoning or diminishing his divinity, God became a human being. He became one of us! As Reformed theologian Louis Berkhof once put it, “In the incarnation the Son of God became flesh by assuming human nature… He really became one of the human race by being born of Mary.” It is an amazing proposition! Martin Luther marveled at this truth in one of his Christmas hymns:

These are the tokens ye shall mark,
The swaddling clothes and manger dark;
There ye shall find the young child laid,
By whom the heavens and earth were made.
(Martin Luther, “From Heaven Above to Earth I Come,” 1535)

The second person of the Trinity was born into the world as a true human being (Joh. 1:14). This is what we call the incarnation of the Son of God. The Son of God “[took] upon himself man’s nature, with all the essential properties,” without watering down his divine nature in the process (WCF 8.2).  The Westminster Confession of Faith, chapter 8, provides a Biblical and helpful way of understanding how Christ’s divine and human natures relate to each other. 

There is one critically important question that we need to ask about all of this. It’s the ‘why’ question. Why did the Son of God become man? Why the incarnation? Over the next week, Rev. Wilkins will be blogging about this important question, using Larger Catechism Q&A39.

Question 39. Why was it requisite that the Mediator should be man?

 Answer: It was requisite that the Mediator should be man, that he might advance our nature, perform obedience to the law, suffer and make intercession for us in our nature, have a fellow-feeling of our infirmities; that we might receive the adoption of sons, and have comfort and access with boldness unto the throne of grace.