Posted by: Standing Solus Christus | August 6, 2007

What Was the Significance of the Word Becoming Flesh? (Lesson 3: Question 1 Answer)

1.  What was the significance of the Word becoming flesh?

The statement “the Word was made flesh” as found in the original Greek (ο λογος σαρξ εγενετο) is neither definite nor indefinite, but qualitative in nature.30 A qualitative use of the noun in this verse infers that the subject (the Word) is adopting the properties that are inherent with the flesh.  The word flesh (σαρξ) in this passage carries the connotation of one who is or becomes a physical being with flesh. 31 Thus, we can discern explicitly from the Scripture the concept of the doctrine known as the incarnation.  It (the incarnation) describes, as it were, a vertical movement from heaven to earth, from the divine to the human, in which the pre-existent Messiah appears entering into human nature, the super-historical descends into the stream of history. 32 As we quoted above, John Calvin points out that the Apostle could have elected to say that the Word was made man but rather uses the term flesh.  The crude connotation of the term flesh seems to be intentionally emphasizing the humiliation that our Lord endured on our behalf.  We may not grasp the weight of this condescension, however the inspired authors of the New Testament did as we see in the following passage:

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:5-11

Embedded within this mysterious doctrine are the seeds of our redemption, which provides us with a fuller appreciation of the Gospel.  It illustrates to us the Lord of glory who could have remained in heaven, forsaken us and left us to wallow in our sin and misery took the sole initiative to rescue us.  Leaving celestial paradise in the fullness of time (Gal 4:4) He humbled Himself by “taking the form of a servant”.  He fully identified Himself with us by taking on flesh and becoming a man who could endure pain, hunger, fatigue, sorrow and injustice.  Although, He suffered what we suffer and experienced what we experience, He did it all without sin (Heb 4:15).  In doing this (remaining without sin) He was able to accomplish the demands necessary to enter into heaven, which we were unable too.  On behalf of humanity He fulfilled every aspect of the law of God perfectly (Matt 5:48), thus making it possible for us to achieve eternal life by a righteousness that is not our own but made ours through faith.

This verse by the Apostle manifests another complex mystery about the Word.  At the beginning of this prologue it was unequivocally established that the Word was God.  As we encounter this verse it is stated explicitly that the Word became flesh or man.  Herein lie’s a quandary about the Person and nature of the Word or Christ.  Was He God?  Or was He Man?  Many early Christian theologians offered a variety of answers to these questions and became entangled in a web of speculations that caused them to depart from the Scriptures.  Not to belittle the challenge of this controversy, which was the cause of tons of ink being spilled, but realizing the limitations of this work we will reserve our response to these questions in the following quote:

And the Speech was made flesh:  On this article of faith there are two things chiefly to be observed.  The first is, that two natures were so united in one Person in Christ, that one and the same Christ is true God and true man.  The second is, that the unity of person does not hinder the two natures from remaining distinct, so that his Divinity retains all that is peculiar to itself, and his humanity holds separately whatever belongs to it. 33 

It was necessary for our Savior to possess both natures divine and human.  He had to be human, because it was humans who had sinned and needed to be redeemed from their just desserts.  However, the voluminous gulf that stood between us and God could only bridged by God Himself.  The incarnation was the only prescription that would be able to reverse the curse that stood against us.  Since therefore the children share in flesh and blood, he himself likewise partook of the same things, that through death he might destroy the one who has the power of death, that is, the devil, and deliver all those who through fear of death were subject to lifelong slavery. For surely it is not angels that he helps, but he helps the offspring of Abraham. Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” Heb 2:14-18

30 Daniel Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics, (Grand Rapids, MI; Zondervan, 1996) p 264

31 Walter Bauer, A Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament and other Early Christian Literature/ revised and edited by FW Danker (Chicago:  The University Chicago Press) p 915

32 Geerhardus Vos (1948) Biblical Theology Old Testament and New Testaments (Banner of Truth Trust, 2000) p 305

33 John Calvin (1550) Commentary on the Holy Gospel of Jesus Christ According to John (Calvin’s Commentaries, 17; Baker, 2005) 46

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  1. […] Christ Himself was an anti-type (fulfillment of the type) of the tabernacle/temple when He assumed flesh and dwelled among men.  Although, the full disclosure of His glory was only seen by some, the […]


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