According to the Christian doctrine of justification, Jesus not only bears the guilt and penalty for our sins, but also imputes to us His perfect obedience so that we are counted as righteous before God. The obedience that Jesus offered to His Father on our behalf makes up what we refer to in systematic theology as the work of Christ. However, this work was done by a person, namely, the Son of God, so we cannot separate the person of Christ from what He did. Thus, we should briefly consider Jesus’ identity as the incarnate God-man, the one who is truly God and truly human.
When we speak of the incarnation, we are speaking of an event that took place in time. At a particular point in history, God the Son—the second person of the Holy Trinity— took on a human nature without subtracting from Himself any of His divine attributes (John 1:1–14). In Him the whole fullness of deity is pleased to dwell, and this will be so for all eternity (Col. 1:19–20; Heb. 13:8). Yet while the incarnation took place in time, it has its foundation in eternity past in what we call the covenant of redemption, that commitment by the members of the Godhead to one another to send the Son to bear the divine wrath in order to effect reconciliation in the Spirit between the Father and His elect people (John 17).
Paul gives us some of the most profound reflections on the incarnation in the entire New Testament. Philippians 2:5–11 tells us that the Son of God did not consider His equality with God as something to be used solely for His own advantage at the expense of others; instead, He voluntarily humbled himself and took the form of a servant and became “obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross” (v. 8). In this descension, our Savior did not surrender any divine attributes such as omniscience or omnipotence, though He did veil His glory. Without giving up His glory, He chose not to fully manifest it to all who saw Him as He walked the earth. But this veiling was only temporary. On account of His work, God exalted the God-man Christ Jesus, rewarding Him for His obedience and revealing Him as the source of eternal salvation for all who believe (vv. 9–11).
CORAM DEO Living before the face of God
The incarnation is a deep mystery, for we cannot fully understand how God could take on our humanity without giving up any of His deity. We can, however, understand that the incarnation reveals God’s infinite love and grace. He did not leave us alone in our sin but entered into the misery of this fallen world without becoming a sinner Himself in order to rescue us from eternal damnation. We will never tire of thanking and praising Him for this throughout all eternity.
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