How Could the World Be Made Flesh?
Tom: Thanks, Gary. You’re listening to Search the Scriptures Daily, a program in which we encourage everyone who desires to know God’s truth to look to God’s Word for all that is essential for salvation and living one’s life in a way that is pleasing to Him. Dave, I distinctly remember saying last week that we would discuss the major doctrine of the incarnation on today’s program. But, I also remember saying the same thing the week before, and somehow we never got around to it.
Dave: Well, Tom, you’re the guy that’s running this show—that’s got to be your fault, not mine!
Tom: [Laughing] Hopefully, while we are trying to get from one point to the next, there are some interesting things that do come across. But anyway, we’re going to get at it right now. The term “incarnation”—it means “in flesh,” and the Bible tells us that the eternal Son of God, through the virgin birth, became a sinless human being without ceasing to be God.
Dave, before we begin discussing these, let me give some scripture verses. John:1:14: “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” First Timothy 3:16: “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh.” Now, you can’t be clearer than that.
Dave: Are those your scriptures?
Tom: I have more.
Dave: Yeah, go ahead, give us some more.
Tom: Okay. Philippians:2:6-8: “ . . . Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death on the cross.”
Dave: You have something from Romans there?
Tom: You got one?
Dave: Well, “He came in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans:8:3) . . . but go ahead.
Tom: I have lots of other verses that deal with . . .
Dave: Hebrews:10:5, do you have that one in there?
Tom: Right, go ahead.
Dave: Well, when He comes into the world, He says, “A body hast thou prepared me.” Now, you and I are not incarnations, Tom. We are soul and spirit living within a body, but we are not incarnations because our soul and spirit began at the same time that our bodies began.
Tom: So, like what the Mormons believe—that they were spirit entities before they took on flesh, right?
Dave: Right. The Mormons would say we are all half-brothers of Jesus and Lucifer. In the pre-existent state, they would say, that we were spirit beings first of all, and then we came to this earth. And one of their great apostles, Orson Pratt, said the reason that you don’t remember being up there is because you were grown to full stature as a spirit, and you had to get compressed to get into a baby’s body, so you lost your memory of that—if you can believe that. The Bible doesn’t say that at all.
It doesn’t say or suggest that we had some pre-existent state, but God is from eternity past, so Micah:5:2 would say—it says, “But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be least among the thousands of Judah, yet out of these shall he come forth who will be ruler over my people Israel.” So, this is the Messiah, and it says, “ . . . whose goings forth have been from old, from everlasting.” Or, Isaiah:9:6, “Unto us a child is born [and that’s the babe in Bethlehem], unto us a Son is given.” That’s the eternal Son of God, who became a man, and, of course, 1 John:4:3 says, “All those that do not confess that Jesus Christ is come once and for all in the flesh, this is that spirit of Antichrist.” So, we are not incarnations, but He is, because He existed eternally as God before He became a man.
Tom: So, Dave, there’s absolutely no doubt that the Bible teaches the incarnation.
Dave: Oh, no doubt about it! He tabernacle . . . well, you read it: “the Word was made flesh.” Who is the Word? “In the beginning was the Word.” All things were made by Him, and then He became a man. Now God couldn’t become a monkey, God could not become an apple, or a boar, like in Hinduism, Krishna. . . .
Tom: Go back to the Egyptians where they were half-men and half-animals—their gods.
Dave: Right. No, Jesus is fully God and fully man. Man was made in the image of God. Now, there are a number of reasons why this had to be. We have offended infinite justice; we have broken God’s laws. That’s serious! I don’t think most of us realize how serious sin is. It’s rebellion against God. We have forfeited the right to be in God’s universe. He created us and gave us our life and existence, and we have robbed—talk about robbery! That we would dare to take the life and existence that God has given us and presume to live it for ourselves! That’s a crime like nothing you could imagine, and because of that, we have forfeited the right to live in God’s universe. The penalty is infinite.
Tom: Let’s go back to the penalty. Genesis:2:17—God’s condition for Adam and Eve: “The day you eat thereof, you will surely die.”
Tom: So, their sin created a division—eternal separation from God.
Dave: It’s not just physical death, but it’s separation from God.
Tom: Okay, and the condition, then, was that they had to pay the consequences for their sins.
Dave: Well, God’s law cannot be broken. What God says He can’t go back on it and say, “Oh well, I’ll overlook it, and I’ll just forgive you.” There has to be a penalty paid. It can be illustrated in many ways, but let me get back to what I was saying. The penalty is infinite because God is infinite, His justice is infinite. We are finite beings. We could never, ever pay an infinite penalty. It’s separation from God forever, and the horror of what that means—I mean, even an ungodly person in this world today is not separated from God to that extent.
The Spirit of God is still striving with them, still available to woo them and win them to Christ. But one day they will be cast into what Jesus called “outer darkness,” total separation from God. That is horrible beyond our imagination. So, we couldn’t pay the infinite penalty. Now God could pay the infinite penalty because He is infinite. That would not be just, because how could He represent us? He’s not one of us. And so God became a man to represent us on the cross as the man—Pilate didn’t even know what he was saying, “Behold the man,” he said.
Here He is—this is man as God intended Him to be, and He takes the judgment for us because He is God and man. He is infinite, and He is sinless and perfect. He can pay the penalty for the rest of us. Now, I don’t understand that in many ways, Tom, but it makes sense. And this is what the Bible teaches. And, those who will accept that payment for their sins . . .
Tom: Dave, it not only makes sense—awesome, because God, who has to be perfectly just . . .
Tom: That’s why, as we’ve said on the program many times, He couldn’t just write it off and say, “Okay we’ll give you another shot at this.” Perfect justice had to be satisfied. But then He satisfies it with perfect love by paying the penalty, as we’ve said, by becoming Jesus Christ—the eternal Son of God becomes a man and pays the penalty completely, absolutely, which He’s the only one who could!
Dave: That’s right, and that’s why the incarnation—because of God’s love. Now, when God cast Adam and Eve out of the Garden—you know, there was the Tree of Life, there was the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. I don’t think that fruit had any special power; it simply was that when you disobey and eat of that tree, you have learned good and evil now. You are separated from God. You have died to God. That’s why you need to be born again.
Tom: They knew good, but knowing evil was something that was a curse.
Dave: Yeah, well, I’m not sure whether they knew good either, Tom. It’s like if you live in the light, and you never saw darkness, you wouldn’t know that light was light. I mean, that’s all you knew—that was all they knew. Or, if you lived in the darkness—you had never seen light—you wouldn’t have a concept. But anyway, I don’t know about that. They certainly knew God, and God is good, and they were good. God pronounced them good. So, there must have been a wonderful relationship between Adam and Eve, perfect love, and no selfishness and so forth before that all began.
But He cast them out of the Garden and out of His presence, and He kept “the way,” it says, “to the Tree of Life.” There were cherubim there, angels with flaming swords to prevent man from coming back. Now, I don’t know whether that was literally the case. In other words, I don’t know that Adam even knew where the Tree of Life was. We read of it in the New Testament. The last chapter in the Bible—[we see] the Tree of Life, which “bears twelve manner of fruits for the healing of the nations,” and so forth.
Again, I think that’s a metaphor. I think it’s a picture of something spiritual, because there’s is no physical tree, you know, like the fountain of youth and so forth, there is no physical tree that would give you eternal life, because eternal life is spiritual. It involves reconciliation with God. But we all fled from that sword and the death penalty.
In fact, I did a little Q and A on that in our April newsletter coming up because I had a question, actually from Europe, from Germany, about that. The death penalty is a controversial idea today. Well, if you want to know where the death penalty came from, it comes from God, and God pronounced it. But we fled from it, and we complained against that sword. “That is too harsh! Can’t God just kind of tone things down a little bit? Why does He have to be so narrow-minded and dogmatic?”
Well, if we couldn’t believe what God said about “the wages of sin is death,” why would we believe what He says about anything? God cannot deny Himself. He cannot go back on His Word.
So, we fled from that sword. But one day, a man walked up to that sword, the Second Man, the Bible calls Him in 1 Corinthians 15. The Bible is very careful in its language. Oh, there were a lot of people that you thought were men but never anyone—from Adam, who was created fresh from the dust of the ground, you know, God’s fresh creation—never anyone that deserved to be called a man as God intended a man to be, until the Second Man, Jesus, a body created fresh in the womb of a virgin, and God the Son comes and He becomes a man. So, He is called the Second Man; He’s called the last Adam. There’s not going to be a third Adam and a fourth Adam—this is the solution, the final solution, and there will be a new race, and those who are born again of the Spirit of God will live in a new universe where sin will never enter.
So, this man, the man Christ Jesus, He walked up to that sword, that flaming sword, and He took it in His heart for us. And, I remember the old hymn that says: “His blood that flaming blade must quench. His heart, its sheath must be.” And this is how He became the way into the presence of God for us, because He opened the door. That sword sleeps now; there is no more sword of judgment upon those who will accept Christ as having paid the penalty for their sins. That sword of judgment, eternal judgment, still awaits those who reject Christ. So, this is a major reason for the incarnation.
Tom: And, Dave, as you said, the death penalty—Jesus took the death penalty for us, or else we have to pay the death penalty, separation from God.
Dave: So, if you complain against the death penalty you are complaining against what Jesus Christ suffered at the hands of God. Because, as we have reminded people in the past, it’s not just the nails driven in His hands and feet, the spear in His side—that’s what we did to Him. That would only add to our condemnation. That was man rejecting God—that’s horrible beyond comprehension, but that wouldn’t save us. It was when He hung on the cross, He was made sin, “He who knew no sin was made sin for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. It pleased Yahweh [Jehovah, however you want to pronounce it], it pleased Yahweh to bruise Him. Thou, God, thou hast put him to grief when thou shalt make his soul an offering for sin.”
So this is . . . Tom, there is nothing in human literature, there’s nothing in poetry, in novels, or operas, even in the imagination of the human heart, that can begin to compare with this. That God loves us so much that He became a man. He was considered to be an illegitimate child. He was despised, rejected, hated, lied about, maligned, and eventually beaten, flogged, and mocked and nailed to the cross, and He did that for us because of His love! And, there is no other way! He did it because there is no other way, and we have talked about that in the past. In the Garden, He wept, “Father, if it be possible, don’t make me go through with this! Don’t make me go through with this if there is any other way that man can be saved.”
Now, that’s pretty powerful. I don’t see how you could argue with God. But people that say, “Oh that’s too narrow minded”; “Oh, I think so long as I am sincere . . . so long as I believe in a higher power . . . so long as I turn over a new leaf or my good deeds outweigh my bad or . . . ” The Son of God himself, on His knees, “sweating as it were drops of blood” in that Garden the night before the crucifixion, He cries out to His Father: “If there is any other way, don’t make me go through with this.” And God says there is no other way. And then you, I don’t know, somebody that may be listening out there, and you are going to say to God, there is another way? And you don’t have to believe in Jesus Christ—that He didn’t need to die for your sins? That it really isn’t that serious, but you can, by your own righteousness, your own good deeds, your own sincerity, you can please God? I wouldn’t want to be in your position, defying God in that way.
Tom: Dave, it’s such a contrast to the truth of what we have been saying. Not because you’re saying it or because I am saying it—this is what God’s Word says! It’s laid out very simply for people to grasp and understand. On the other hand, Dave, it cuts through all the other religions out there. All that you have been articulating here, try and find it in any other religion, it’s not there.
Dave: Well, Buddha didn’t die for our sins, Confucius didn’t, Muhammad didn’t. In fact, for none of them are there any prophecies. They didn’t even pretend! Buddha said, “Don’t come to me with your sins—I’ve got my own to worry about.” “Don’t follow me, I don’t know the way—I am just trying to find it.” And any honest person would have to admit that. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, the life; no man comes to the Father but by me.”
Now, if there are Buddhists or Hindus or Muslims or atheists or whatever out there . . .
Tom: Or even Protestants who think they are going to work their way . . .
Dave: Well, wait a minute. I haven’t got to that yet, Tom [laughing].
Tom: Oh! I’m jumping the gun . . .
Dave: No, but whoever is out there, and you’re—they’re probably not listening to us anyway. They probably turned this off long ago . . .
Tom: Dave, I think some are there. Go for it.
Dave: . . .but we’ll trust the Lord that some people are listening out there who maybe would be challenged by what we are saying. And, you don’t like this. You say, “That’s too narrow-minded and dogmatic for Jesus to say, ‘I am the way, the truth, the life.’” For God to say, “There’s no other way, folks! I have to be true to My Word, My holiness, My justice. I cannot compromise it. Now, I have given you, in My grace, salvation! It’s paid for, and I’m offering it to you as a free gift if you will believe it.”
Now, do you think that’s too narrow-minded? Okay, that’s up to you. You take that up with God, and take it up with your own conscience.
But now, I’d like to talk about these Protestants, or Catholics, or whoever they are that call themselves Christians. Pastors, theologians—the Jesus Seminar, for example—and you are going to call yourself a Christian, or claim that you are a Christian theologian, or whatever, and you are rejecting what Jesus himself said? You are rejecting what God said? And, oh, you don’t think the Bible is true.
Well, look, if the Bible is not true, if this is not God’s Word, then forget it! Shut down your seminaries, shut down your churches, because it’s just your opinion. If God has not really spoken to us, and we don’t know for sure what He said, forget it! I’m not interested in . . . . Tom, you and I could have a discussion here about our opinion. We could bring in some so-called experts, and we could . . .
Tom: Create controversies . . .
Dave: Oh, we could have dialogue—the Catholics dialogue with the Buddhists, with with the Muslims, and the Southern Baptists dialogue with the Catholics, and so forth. Jesus didn’t say go into all the world and dialogue. It’s that simple. If there is no way to know what God really said and His purpose for us, forget it!
But if there is, don’t call yourself a Christian and then you reject what Jesus Christ said. And anybody out there that’s following someone like that—you go to a church and so forth—you’d better be certain before you step into eternity that the pastor or the Bible teacher or the leader, that they are following God’s Word, and you check them out; you check us out! That’s why we call this Search the Scriptures Daily. Check us out from God’s Word. He is our authority. We’re not the authority. The Bible is the authority.
Tom: Dave, this is so important. We’ve been working our way up to the Incarnation—we’ve been talking about a lot of other things that are critical.
We kind of got there today.
Tom: Yeah, we got there, but there is another aspect of the Incarnation that’s really important. How would we know God, if Jesus did not walk this planet? I’m looking at verses ahead of me (John:14:9), “Jesus said unto him, have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? He that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Show us the Father?”
Dave: He came to reveal God in the only way, I guess, that we could really know because God is a Spirit. “No man has seen God at any time; He dwells in a light that no man can approach unto.” But Jesus Christ comes, and He lives as a man among us.
Tom: The image of the invisible God.
Dave: Fantastic, Tom, you won’t find this anywhere.
Tom: And we just encourage everyone out there, as Dave has said, we’re talking about this, but we’re getting our content from God’s Word, and if you want to know Him, you have to study His Word. You have to get to know Him through His communication, objective communication, to mankind. This is God’s Word.