Title: “Of The Incarnation of Christ”
Author: Dr. John Gill
“And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: And he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.” Luke 1:31-33
The incarnation of Christ is a most extraordinary and amazing affair; it is wonderful indeed, that the eternal Son of God should become man; that he should be born of a pure virgin, without any concern of man in it; that this should be brought about by the power of the Holy Ghost, in a way unseen, imperceptible and unknown, signified by his overshadowing; and all this in order to effect the most wonderful work that ever was done in the world, the redemption and salvation of men: it is a most mysterious thing, incomprehensible by men, and not to be accounted for upon the principles of natural reason; and is only to be believed and embraced upon the credit of divine revelation, to which it solely belongs
First, The subject of the incarnation, or the divine Person that became incarnate. The evangelist John says it was the Word, the essential Word of God; “The word was made flesh, and dwelt among us”, #Joh 1:14. And therefore not the Father; for he is distinguished from the “Word”, in the order of the Trinity, #1Jo 5:7. And, he is said to be the “Word with God”; that is, with God the Father; and therefore must be distinct from him, #Re 19:13 Ac 20:32 Joh 1:1. Besides, the Father never so much as appeared in an human form; and much less took real flesh; nay, never was seen in any shape by the Jews, #Joh 5:37. And though their ancestor heard a voice, and a terrible one at Sinai, they saw no similitude, #De 4:12. And wherever we read of any visible appearance of a divine Person in the Old Testament, it is always to be understood, not of the first, but of the second Person. And it may be further observed, that the Father prepared a body, an human nature in his purpose, council and covenant, for another, and not for himself, even for his Son, as he acknowledges; “A body hast thou prepared me”; #Heb 10:5. To which may be added, that that divine Person who came in the flesh, or became incarnate, is always distinguished from the Father, as being sent by him; “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh”, #Ro 8:3. And again; “God sent forth his Son made of a woman”, #Ga 4:4 that is, God the Father, in both passages; as appears from the relation of the Person to him, sent in the flesh, his Son. Once more, if the Father had been incarnate, he must have suffered and died; for that is the end of the incarnation, that the Person incarnate, might obey, suffer, and die, in the room of sinners; so Christ suffered in the flesh, and was put to death in the flesh. There were a set of men in ancient times, who embraced the Sabellian folly, and were called Patripassians, because they held that the Father suffered; and, indeed, if there is but one Person in the Deity, and Father, Son, and Spirit are only so many names and manifestations of that one Person; then it must be equally true of the Father as of the Son, that he became incarnate, obeyed, suffered, and died. But this notion continued not long, but was soon rejected, as it must be by all that read their Bible with any care. Nor is it the Holy Spirit that became incarnate, for the same reasons that the Father cannot be thought to be so: and besides, he had a peculiar hand, and a special agency, in the formation of the human nature, and in its conception and birth: when the Virgin hesitated about what was told her by the angel, she was assured by him, that the Holy Ghost should come upon her, and the power of the Highest should overshadow her; and accordingly the birth of Christ was on this wise, when Joseph and Mary were espoused, before they came together, “she was found with child of the Holy Ghost”; and Joseph was told, in order to encourage him to take her to wife, that what was “conceived in her, was of the Holy Ghost”; and therefore he himself was not incarnate; see #Lu 1:35 Mt 1:18,20. It remains, that it is the second Person, the Son of God, who is meant by “the Word that was made flesh”, or became incarnate; and, indeed, it is explained of him in the same passage; for it follows; “And we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father”. And it is easy to observe, that the same divine Person that bears the name of the Word, in the order of the Trinity, in one place, has that of the Son in another; by which it appears they are the same; compare #1Jo 5:7 with #Mt 28:19. When this mystery of the incarnation is expressed by the phrase, “God manifest in the flesh”; not God the Father, nor the Holy Spirit, but God the Son is meant, as it is explained #1Jo 3:8 for “this purpose the Son of God was manifested”; that is, in the flesh; and as before observed, it was the Son of God that was sent in the likeness of sinful flesh, and in the fulness of time was sent forth, made of a woman, #Ro 8:3 Ga 4:4. He, therefore, is the subject of the incarnation, or the divine Person that became incarnate.
The moving cause of the incarnation of Christ, is the love of the Father, and of the Son, to mankind. God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son to become man, obey, suffer, and die for sinners; herein is love, and this love manifested, that God sent his Son in human nature to be the propitiation for the sins of his people, and save them from death, #Joh 3:16 1Jo 4:9,10. And such was the love and condescending grace of the Son, that though he was in the form of God, of the same nature with him, and equal to him; yet he took upon him the form and nature of man in a servile condition, humbled himself, and died in it. The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ is well known; who, though rich in his divine Person, became poor in human nature, to make his people rich, #Php 2:6-8 2Co 8:9.
The final cause, or for whose sake, and for what the Son of God became incarnate. It was for the sake of the elect of God; “To us”, or “for us”, for our sakes, “a Child is born; a Son is given”: it was “unto all people”; or rather, “unto all the people”; for the sake of the whole people of God among Jews and Gentiles, that Christ was born a Saviour, or to be a Saviour of them; for which reason, as soon as he was born, his name was called Jesus, because he was to save his people from their sins; for which end he was born and came into the world. But of this more hereafter; see #Isa 9:6 #Lu 2:10,11 Mt 1:21.
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Excerpts from Book 5, Chapter 1 – Of the Incarnation of Christ, “A Body of Doctrinal Divinity”