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Monday, October 22, 2012

What It Means to Be a Christian # 4

The Incarnation of the Lord Jesus

We come now to the next phase of things - the incarnation of our Lord Jesus: for it is just at that point - the incarnation - that all that was appointed for Him, all the Divine design and conception of God's Son in this universe, all the creative activity through Him and by Him and unto Him, and all the meaning of man's creation, as we have been trying to show, is taken up in a definite way for realization.

This incarnation, the coming of the Lord Jesus into this world, is a far, far greater thing than any of us has yet appreciated. The Word of God makes a great deal of this coming into the world. You know that, at a certain season of the year, we are talking all the time about the birth of Jesus - about Jesus being born in Bethlehem. There is much about that in our carols and in our talk. It is all about the birth of Jesus. But the Word of God, while it uses that phrase, "Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem ..." says far, far more than that about His coming. That was not the beginning of Jesus: that was the "coming" of Jesus. He definitely and deliberately and consciously, in that full form of His eternal existence with God, made a decision about this matter, a deliberate decision to come. Coming in baby form had its own particular meaning - we cannot now stay with all the details of this - but it was a coming.

And what the Word of God says first of all about that coming is that it was a mighty, mighty renunciation on His part. Listen again. "Who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men; and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross' (Phil. 2:6-8). And there is a clear implication in that sentence in His great prayer: "Father, glorify Thou Me ... with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was" (John 17:5). He has let it go. He has given it up. That was the mighty renunciation by God's Son of His heavenly, eternal glory, of His position of equality - down to what? Servanthood. The word is "bond-servant": a bond-slave, the form of a bond-slave. You and I cannot grasp all that, because we cannot grasp what it meant for Him to be equal with God. We cannot understand all that He was and had in the eternity past. We know so little about that; we understand less. But here it is: it has all been renounced, and He is now here in incarnation, not as a master, but as a bond-slave. "The Son of man," said He, "came not to be ministered unto, but to minister" (Matthew 20:28). "I am in the midst of you as He that serveth" (Luke 22:27). "He took a towel, and girded Himself. Then He poured water into the bason, and began to wash the disciples' feet" (John 13:4-50. That was the job of the slave, the bond-slave.

The next part of the statement as to this cycle from glory to glory is - "being found in fashion as a man." This just relates to the central feature and inclusive meaning of the Incarnation: i.e., to all that is meant by the fact that everything was by Man - as man - for man. There were many theophanies in Old Testament times (theos = God; phaino = to show), manifestations of God to man by actual appearances (some believe that these were the Second Person of the Trinity, but that need not be discussed here). But the Incarnation is something different, and its essential point is that the great work of redemption was not committed to angels, but, as the hymn goes: 
"O generous love! that He who smote
In man for man the foe,
The double agony in man
For man should undergo."

It was Man for man assuming responsibility for this state of things, and for the recovery of what was lost and the reinstating of what had been forfeited, the redeeming of man and creation. For that He became incarnate, and then straight to the Cross. He had no illusions about that - He had come for that. One of His great imperatives was always related to the Cross. "The Son of man must be delivered up ... and be crucified" (Luke 24:7). That imperative was in His heart as overruling and overriding everything else. He knew it, and that is why He repudiated and rejected the cheap offer of the kingdoms of this world at the hands of the devil: because He had come, not to have them as they were, but to have them as God ever intended them to be, and that could only be by the Cross.

So the Cross was the great repudiation of the world as it was and is, the great repudiation of man as he had become, whom God could not accept, in whose heart was found this pride. For, representatively, in the judgment and death of Jesus Christ God was saying concerning the whole race, "I have finished with that," and turning His face away. The heart of the Son was broken as He cried, "Thou hast forsaken Me!" Why? Because He was there as man's representative, the world's representative as it was, and He had to die as it. He "tasted death for every man," which meant experiencing God-forsakenness, repudiation, and the closed door of Heaven, God's eternal "No" to that fallen creation. By that means He redeemed man, He redeemed the creation, and in His resurrection-ascension to the right hand of God He reinstated man, representatively, in the place that God ever intended man to have. This is not all isolated action on the part of Jesus Christ. This is related all the time. He is the inclusive One, and what happens to Him is what God means to happen to man. Until man is in Christ he is repudiated by God. There is no way though. "No one cometh unto the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6). But in Christ the inheritance which was lost is recovered. In Christ, personally at God's right hand as His representative, man is reinstated. Christ is there as the earnest of what we shall be and where we shall be, by the grace of God. But, mark you, the Christ risen is not now the Christ made sin in our place, but with sin put away, and a new creation instated, though still man.

~T. Austin-Sparks~

(continued with # 5)

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