“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made…And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us…” – John 1:1-3, 14.
The Christian belief that God the Creator has entered His creation through His virgin birth into the human race, that He is identified as the God-Man Jesus Christ, is the great stumbling block for many. Many who would applaud much of the high moral, ethical and spiritual propositions of the Bible. Many who would admit the great achievements and theological formulations of the historic Christian faith. Many who would admire the human Christ Jesus set forth in the four gospels. But here they stop. They do not believe that this Jesus Christ was God Incarnate, God in the flesh, “Immanuel, God with us” (Matthew 1:23). For some religions He is just another of the avatars (a bodily manifestation of a deity) or a very great prophet. But no, not Almighty God, the maker of the heavens, the earth and all in them. Charles Hodge (1797-1878) sums up two thousand years of confident faith this way: “The doctrine of the Incarnation…is the key to the whole Bible…this is the great mystery…God manifest in the flesh is the distinguishing doctrine of the religion of the Bible; without the Incarnation Christianity would be a cold and lifeless corpse.” And this is the amazing proposition of those opening verses of the Gospel of John – that the Logos, the Word who is God, by Whom all was created, has become human and dwelt among us.
From within itself, the historic Christian Church (across its three main divisions of Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant) has met denials of this revealed truth by resting its case on the authority of the canon of Bible Scripture and setting out the Biblical doctrine of the Incarnation in several Creeds, Confessions and Catechisms.
Church teachers have drawn attention to the uniqueness of the Person of Christ. With the Fall of Man, the Scriptures promise a God-Man Redeemer, “Seed of the Woman” who would destroy the Enemy of God and men. He is Human but with Divine power to conquer the Serpent who will be called later by Christ, “the god of this world.” In Isaiah 7:14, a Son, born miraculously of a virgin mother is promised, whose name will be “Immanuel, God with us.” Isaiah will prophesy more fully in 9:6,7 of this Person who carries names of Deity and who is to be an everlasting Ruler. The Jews and those who believed the Jewish writings waited for many centuries for this Messiah, this Christ, Anointed of God. That when He did appear, He was rejected and killed was also foretold in their prophecies including Isaiah’s Chapter 53.
The Personality who walks the shores of Galilee, streets of Jerusalem and surrounding countryside is an amazing Figure indeed. He teaches with authority. His miracles are astounding and well recorded. He has control over nature and human disease including death. His words and promises have never been spoken by anyone before Him or since. The Church waits for future fulfilments of His pledge to return as Judge of the world and Saviour of those who believe in Him.
The Epistles written by His disciples provide a commentary on His Life and Works, on His Crucifixion and Resurrection, on His present whereabouts and status. The Apostle Paul who had been Christ’s enemy says in several places of Him, “in Whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.” (Colossians 1:14-16.)
Staying with Paul, whose words are echoed throughout the New Testament, he says the most amazing things about the One he regards as a living Divine Lord with all authority in heaven and earth, now! This to a mocking, unbelieving world, of his day and ours. The saga of Christ is far from over: Paul writes that God the Father (fully espousing the doctrine of the Triune Godhead, the Trinity,) “in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth.” (Ephesians 1:10.) For Paul, the Apostles and the faithful Church, then and now, God “raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places, far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all things under His feet, and gave Him to be Head over all things to the church..” (Eph.1:20-22.)
The New Testament presents as fact the death of Christ as a substitutionary, atoning sacrifice (He died in the place of His people, those who believe in Him); that He rose from the dead, was seen by many, including many of those who wrote New Testament Scriptures; that He ascended into heaven where He sits now at the right Hand of His father; that He will keep His promise to return to Judge all mankind and to rule as King of kings and Lord of lords. “God commands all men everywhere to repent, because He has appointed a Day on which He will judge the world in righteousness by the Man whom He has ordained. He has given assurance of this to all by raising Him from the dead.” (Acts 17:31).
The New Testament presents as proven fact the Divinity, the Deity, the Godhood of Jesus Christ. It presents Him as the Son of God even as he is the Son of man. He is the Second Person of the triune Godhead (another great mystery), the God-Man. He exerts even now, in this world that is falling apart everywhere, universal dominion as the Supreme Ruler. Evil and wickedness are doomed and will end. A new heavens and new earth are promised. In the words of theologian B.B. Warfield, “the deity of Christ is the presupposition of every word of the New Testament.”
Jesus Himself claimed to be the Son of God, with divine supremacy in both worlds, seen and unseen, human and angelic; He claimed absolute and indisputable power, including the power to forgive sins, to rise from the dead and to raise the dead. In this world of so much suffering and death, Paul says that Jesus “has abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel.” (2 Timothy 1:10.) He demands a total faith and loyalty that only God our Creator can request.
All the Church’s claims for Jesus Christ rest on the authority of Scripture as well as on the two thousand years of its faithful witness – in spite of many of its own failures to live up to the calling of its Master. Ultimately, those who want to know who this Jesus is – is He our Creator come among us, is He truly the Hope and Saviour of this messy world – must seek answers for themselves within the Bible Scriptures. He has promised to those honest seekers, “Seek and you will find.” (Matthew 7:7). His faithful disciples today continue to assert, with joy and steadfast faith, Jesus Christ is God with us, “the Word become flesh.”
John Robert Lee is an Elder with Calvary Baptist Church, Massade, Gros Islet and is a Christian writer. This article is dedicated to the late Andrew Solomon, Pastor for many years of the Church of Christ at L’Anse Road.