Introductory: The Incarnation

"God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son." Hebrews 1:1.

God has been speaking from the beginning. Creation itself is an expression of His thought, and all His providential government — where there are eyes to see — gives witness to His eternal power and Godhead, so that men are without excuse. In a special way, He has spoken through the prophetic ministry of His servants during the entire period covered by the Old Testament. These Old Testament Scriptures give us the record and manner of God's speaking in time past. The instruments He used were the prophets, but the Author is God.

But there is a change in the Gospels — the Son Himself has come, and is speaking. "In these last days" — an expression significant of a change from His former methods of appealing to man, as well as a declaration that no further unfolding remains to be revealed — "He hath spoken unto us by His Son," or to be absolutely literal, "in a Son." This does not suggest that there are other sons, but gives the great fact of His Son standing out all alone. There is but One; no need even to designate Him in any exclusive way.

The expression shows us that God's manner of communication has changed. It is not merely that we have inspired and authoritative messengers who declare unto us the will of God in many parts and in many ways — in details of biography, in historic events, in types, etc. but God Himself is present in the Son.

We have had foreshadows of this marvelous fact from the very beginning. There can be little doubt that creation itself and every succeeding step in the revelation of God to His intelligent creatures had in view the incarnation — was, we may say, a type of that. All inspiration, every appearance of the angel of Jehovah throughout the Old Testament, every ordinance and sacrifice, point to the fact now revealed, that God purposed to link Himself with His creation in a way of amazing condescension and intimacy which never could have entered into the thought of man, but which interpreted and met the yearning of his soul.

It is probably this which gives the various teachings of pantheism their speciousness. It has been said that "all error is part truth." The modicum of truth contained in the error appeals to man, whose will being unbroken and whose pride dictates to him, he is led on and away from the truth to link with it falsity and error. This Satanic work is in line with the lie of the great deceiver of mankind: "Ye shall be as God, knowing good and evil," in one form or another still holds out this allurement to poor man, who, in spite of the knowledge that his sin necessarily keeps him out of the presence of God, would vainly intrude himself, unforgiven, into that holy Presence. Wherever this is done, man tramples upon the very first principle of relationship to God, obliterating the infinite distinction between the creature and the Creator. The sense of responsibility is lost. The sense, too, of the infiniteness of God is gone. Man has not been lifted up into the Infinite, but the thought of the Infinite has been degraded and dragged down to the petty limits of the poor, fallen, mortal, sinful creature.

But the fact that a great truth has been perverted and misused by Satan and fallen man must not make us close our eyes to the glorious fact that it is still the truth, and it is this which the incarnation sets forth. God has spoken unto us "in Son," as it has been literally rendered; it is an adverbial phrase and modifies the verb expressing God's action with reference to man. God hath spoken "in Son." He has spoken, we may say, as Son. "God was in Christ." He Himself had drawn near, not merely now with some specific message, but in a Person and as a Person. It was God Himself who was here. "In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God … and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us."

This is the wondrous meaning of "Emmanuel," (God with us); not merely as omnipresent, filling heaven and earth and transcending all the bounds of His vast universe, but (amazing thought!) in the person of One who emptied Himself and took a servant's form and was made in the likeness of men of One who was perfect Man in the fullest sense of the word, spirit, soul and body — "the Man Christ Jesus."

We do not go further into details of this transcendent fact which God has been pleased to reveal to us. "Will God in very truth dwell with man?" — there had been glimpses of this, but now it is an accomplished fact. The wisdom of the world, which confessedly knows not God, closes its eyes to the only way in which He could be known, and stumbles at the Babe of Bethlehem, where all the eternal majesty of the Godhead was veiled in human form. Grace has taught us, through the very knowledge of our need, to welcome with adoring hearts this glorious, wondrous fact of "God with us."

It is the centre around which revolve all truths, past, present and future. Even the Cross — the amazing mystery of the sufferings of God incarnate, with all its blessed consequences for eternity, reaching out to the eternal reconciliation of all things in earth and in heaven — gains its significance from the great fact that "God was in Christ." Without incarnation, there could have been no Cross — no redemption, no resurrection, no forgiveness, no gift of the Holy Ghost, no formation of the Church, no kingdom of the Son of Man, no laying a ransomed creation at the feet of God, eternally bound to Him. Sin made the Cross a necessity; it brought out the sweetest proof of what divine love is, both in the objects upon which it rested and in the gift which it bestowed; but the Cross was a means — awful and necessary — for bringing man to God, removing barriers which neither justice nor love could ignore.

The incarnation, "God with us," shows the purpose of His heart, not only to have man with Him, but for Him to be with man. The Lord God walking amid the trees of the garden which His own hands had planted tells of the yearning of a heart which could not rest content, were He not with His creatures.

This does not mean to suggest that there could possibly be any link with God by the incarnation merely. "Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone." The very presence of God in the world only accentuated the awful fact of man's moral distance from Him. Man was no nearer to God at Bethlehem than outside the Garden of Eden, but God had drawn near to man with a purpose of love to remove the great barrier to true moral union. Most of those who speak of this union as being effected through incarnation will be found at bottom to be deniers of the true, essential deity of the Man Christ Jesus. His teachings, His example, His moral greatness, will be found to be considered as something to be imitated, a companionship after the manner of human friendship, to be enjoyed on a mere earthly plane, on the basis still of a fallen first creation. Even where His deity is not overtly denied, there is an implied ignoring of the necessity of redemption and the putting things upon an entirely different foundation than that which God has laid. It will be found that in some way or other, man as such has been introduced into the presence of God without the setting aside of all excellency of the flesh, and not having learned the dreadful fact that sin broke once and forever every link which bound him to God.

The resurrection and ascension, and the present display of divine grace in connection with the gospel preached with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, forming a new and wondrous fact, in which a Man, who is also God, is seen on high upon the very throne of God, linking with Himself as Man by the Holy Spirit an innumerable company of sinners saved through the blood of His Cross and by the power of His grace, to share with Him in the glory which has been given to Him as Man, in Headship over all things, to enjoy companionship with Himself and to be the object of His affections, close by His side forevermore — this glorious fact is but the full result of His incarnation. It was for this that He came and for this that He died. His Cross can never be forgotten throughout eternity, for our eternal blessing rests upon it but that He might have us with Himself as sharers of His joy, was what brought Him here and took Him back to heaven.