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The Incarnation – A Practical Christian Belief

When Christian thinkers write about the incarnation they are speaking about the process whereby the eternal Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, without ceasing to be what he was, in Jesus became fully human.

This mystery is usually spoken of as Jesus having two distinct natures, human and divine in one person. It would be idolatry to worship Jesus if he were not in some way divine, or if he were divine in a lesser way than God the father. It would be “polytheistic” to worship “two” gods or “three.”

The mystery of the incarnation requires the teaching we refer to as the doctrine of the Holy Trinity to keep us from the errors of idolatry and polytheism. The teaching is not so much an explanation as a description of a great mystery. We who worship God as Father, Son and Holy Spirit must avoid both errors of idolatry and polytheism.

Jesus is the full revelation of who God is. Without Jesus, we can know nothing about God. Click To Tweet

Christians see Jesus as the full revelation of who God is. Without Jesus, Christians know nothing about God. Indeed the reformer Luther felt that without Jesus, God was indistinguishable from the devil! The incarnation means that Jesus is God in the flesh! The way that happened was through the virginal conception in Mary, the human mother of our Lord Jesus.

Practical Implications

This may seem like a heavy intellectual puzzle beyond the interest of most people. Yet, the incarnation, while being a great mystery and miracle, has very practical implications.

The late Robert Webber, one of my professors, never tired of saying,

The central problem of popular Evangelical Christianity is its failure to comprehend the full implications of the IncarnationGod becomes human to save us.

God accomplished salvation through a process of becoming, as it were, one of us! Click To Tweet

Salvation didn’t come simply via a decree from heaven, but God accomplished it through a process of becoming, as it were, one of us!

This means that we should not create walls between what we consider sacred and secular. God crossed the line in Jesus! Such a distinction results in the demonizing of creation and culture as if Christians were better off having nothing to do with either.

According to Genesis, creation was created good, yet it is fallen. However, it is the object of God’s redemptive activity in Christ. Salvation isn’t just about souls as if humans were merely souls with ears. In Christ, God dwelt in the flesh among us to redeem us and recreate us in his image. God will even renew the whole cosmos saving it and us.

Saved from the World - Back to the World

Christians are saved out of the world to be sent back into the world to save others. Click To Tweet

Paul speaks about becoming all things to all people so that by some means to be able to save them. He considered the incarnation to be a practical doctrine. As God, through Christ, entered into this world to save it, Christians, too, are saved out of the world to be sent back into the world to save others.

However, we should not cease to be who we are as new creatures in Christ. There need be no compromise on personal morality when we are being involved in other people’s lives. But, make no mistake about it, we must be involved “in the flesh” if we are to touch this world in a redemptive manner.

This means that we have to guard against an exaggerated doctrine of personal holiness that prevents us from reaching out to others—in flat denial of the great commission and the historic event of the incarnation. God was involved to save us? Why are we not more involved in this world to save others? Jesus said, “As my father has sent me, so I send you.”

Think about it. Let's do something about it.

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About the author

ChristianWeek Columnist

Dr. Garry E. Milley is an ordained PAOC minister, author, and speaker.

About the author