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Just what was our God thinking when He sent His only beloved Son to earth? Sent Him to be born of a human mother. Sent Him to live among the fallen race, hunted by forces of evil from day one, and on the run much of His adult life? Sent Him to live in poverty with a small, some would say rag-tag band of followers who never quite seemed to get it when they were together on earth. Sent Him to die a criminal’s tortuous execution-style death among thieves, separated from support and forsaken. Sent Him to be buried in a borrowed tomb, but then to be resurrected to life again after three days. What was that all about?
The answer to this questions is of vital importance to all humans everywhere. It is a complex question, and the answers are correspondingly complex. In this post I will explore two purposes behind the incarnation of the Christ that reveal in part what our God’s thoughts were. A third and quite startling purpose will be explored in the next post. But first, let us look at the first two important reasons our God sent His Son to earth as the Child.
First, our God wanted to reveal Himself to us in a way to which we could relate. To do this, He incarnated Himself among us through the birth and life of Jesus, His Son and our Savior.
John 1:14 “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us; and we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.”
The message or Word of our God (Gr. “logos”) became flesh (Gr. “carne,” as in “flesh and blood,” from which we get the word, “incarnation”) and dwelt (tabernacled, or “pitched His tent”) among us. To what end? “…And we saw His glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.” The nature, the love, the wisdom and the glory of our God were all on display for humanity to see and to be recorded in writing .
There is something deeper here. The relationship between God and his human creations was finally being restored after having been significantly disrupted for centuries. One has to go all the way back to the creation account to see that this walking among us in communion was the original intent for the race. This was the original state in which humans lived with their God…until sin began the great separation.
Jesus pitched His tent with humans, sharing common union – communion – with them daily. The people disciples of Jesus were experiencing the purposeful life for which the human race was originally created. No one since Adam, Eve, and perhaps Enoch had ever lived this life. It had been awaiting restoration for a long, long time, and now the intimate fellowship between God and humans was restored.
Second, our God intended to remove the barrier between Himself and His people. Standing in the way of a fuller experience of restoration was the problem of our sinful, fallen nature, which separated us from a righteous and holy God. This situation had to be rectified before the relationship between God and humans could fully return to a union and conversational communion as it had been centuries prior. Atonement had to be made for the race, the removal of all guilt and relational barriers between the people and their God. The return to union and oneness with our God would be possible only by way of the cross of Christ.
At Christmas we often speak of the love of our God, and rightly so. “God demonstrated His love for us in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us,” wrote Paul to the Christians in Rome (Romans 5:8). But it was not love alone that brought Jesus to earth as a baby. It was divine decree. From before the world began our God knew that sin would separate His beloved people from Himself, and within the Godhead it was determined that Jesus the Son would come to earth as a baby to die on the cross. Only by His death could atonement be made and fellowship between God and humans be fully restored.
The cross of Christ has no power in itself, either as an instrument of salvation or as an icon. The cross is merely a symbol of the powerful transaction that was made to bring us back into fellowship with our God. Thus, Oswald Chambers writes:
“Never build your case for forgiveness on the idea that God is our Father and He will forgive us because He loves us. That contradicts the revealed truth of God in Jesus Christ. It makes the Cross unnecessary, and the redemption “much ado about nothing.” God forgives sin only because of the death of Christ. God could forgive people in no other way than by the death of His Son, and Jesus is exalted as Savior because of His death. “We see Jesus…for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor…” (Hebrews 2:9). The greatest note of triumph ever sounded in the ears of a startled universe was that sounded on the Cross of Christ— “It is finished!” Anything that lessens or completely obliterates the holiness of God, through a false view of His love, contradicts the truth of God as revealed by Jesus Christ. Never allow yourself to believe that Jesus Christ stands with us, and against God, out of pity and compassion, or that He became a curse for us out of sympathy for us. Jesus Christ became a curse for us by divine decree.”
What was God thinking? In part, He was thinking – purposing, if you will – to begin the restoration of our fellowship and intimate communion with Himself in a manner like that of the relationship He had with Adam and Eve before the fall of the race into sin. And He was focused on the great act of redemption of the entire human race through the atonement gained by Christ Jesus in His death on the cross.
Yet, our God had another purpose in mind, quite unexpected even among those deeply in touch with the workings of God in the world at that time. In the next post, I will explore that purpose and how it plays out today in us.