Well, Happy Lord’s day to all of you. I bring you greetings from our own church. I’m here not alone. I am here with a few members from back home. So, aside from me, Josh, we have my wife, Steffy, who many of you probably know. She is ther with our children, Sabella and Samara also known as Poppy and Pepper and also, Steffy’s sister, Gabby, is here with us and she used to be a member of your church. Do you remember that? Yes? Do you remember that Gabby? And, we’ve also got Michael, right here and he is from our church as well..and he has reasons for being here. Visiting..visiting this wonderful congregation. It’s an amazing privilege to be preaching the word of God to you. It’s been 3 years since I’ve seen a lot of you and in God’s providence and Pastor Xley assured me of this that it is in God’s providence today we’ll land in Matthew chapter 1 verses 18 to 25. So, it’s uh, indeed a blessing that every Lord’s day, we get to think about the incarnation and especially today, we are in this passage. So, let’s open up our bibles and turn to Matthew chapter 1 verses 18 to 25. Matthew 1 18 to 25, this is about th ebirth of Jesus Christ. Here’s the word of God – Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. When his mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. But as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit. She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet:
“Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall call his name Immanuel”
(which means, God with us). When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.
Let’s pray. Almighty God in heaven, Sovereign, Almighty Ruler of the universe, we come to your word Lord asking You, begging You that You might speak to us. That Your very Spirit Who has inspired these words would illuminate this passage of scripture to us that we might know You. That You would reveal Yourself to us through Your precious Son, Jesus Christ. And through His birth, and we ask Lord, that we would indeed as we have already prayed be in awe of the fact that the Sovereign God of the universe is able to break into creation and dewll amongst us. You are a God that draws near to us. Please draw us near to You. We ask this in Jesus’ Name. Amen.
Why was God made man? Why was God made man? Or in Latin: Cur Deus Homo which was the title of a very popular book in the medieval church by Anselm of Canterbury. He lived in the 1000s AD, around that time.
And his writings were very influential. He wrote a book: Cur Deus Homo, Why was God made Man to simply answer that question. Why did this happen? Why did this have to happen? And that question was already being asked 2000 years ago. A question was asked in the medieval church. It’s being asked today. Many people still wonder why it is that Jesus was born. Why it is that God had to become man. Now, if you open up that book from Anselm, in that first chapter of that book, he writes this quote:
The unbelieving often question, and the faithful wonder in their own hearts, for what reason, and by what necessity, God was made man, and by His death, as we believe and confess, gave life to the world; since He might have done this by another person, whether angelic or human; or by His sole will. On this point not the learned only, but also many unlearned persons inquire much, and ask the reason of it.
So, what Anselm is saying there is that somebody might say God could have accomplished this redemptive purposes, maybe through an angel, maybe through a normal human being. I mean a lot of people believe that Jesus is just a normal human being. So why is it that He needed to be God and man? That would become flesh. The Word becomes flesh? Why was the incarnation of the Son of God necessary? And it’s been interesting to observe the stark contrasts between how Christmas season os celebrated back in Australia and than how is it being celebrated here. Now, there are a lot of similarities like both, in both cases, people like to put up lights and decorations. And in both cases, people are singing old Christmas songs which are classics. Well, maybe not the classic one here, It’s not really being sung there. They don’t know that famous artist. But there’s Christmas songs being sung in both places . Now it’s definitely much more festive here. Much, much more festive. But I’ll tell you what..in Australia, this past 3 years, every Christmas season towards the end of the year, we see lots of decorations, but me and my family have never for once seen a nativity scene in public. Not for once, in the past 3 years. Now, you might say, praise God! That’s great because there are no statues of baby Jesus and there’s no breaking of the second commandment. And if that were the reason why there were no nativity scene there, that would indeed be the blessing. But that’s not really the reason. The reason, the reason is because it’s a, it’s a post-christian country. They don’t care about religion. They don’t care about the christian faith, they very much don’t want it to be a part of public life. And then you come here and the first thing that happens, we get out of the airport and what’s in front? A huge nativity scene. And I think it was the first time my daughter Sabella saw a huge nativity scene. And she walked up to it, and she saw the so-called statue of baby Jesus. And I said, what do you think about that? Do you think that it should be there?
And she took the, like a blanket thing and she covered it and she said “ This is not, it’s not supposed to be here.” Now, convictions about images aside, this culture, it is captivated by this scene..that scene that you find everywhere..Jesus, the Saviour of the world, born as a baby. We’re captivated by it. How could someone supposedly so powerful enter into this world in such a helpless state? As an old children’s hymn says:
Away in a manger, No crib for His head, The little Lord Jesus Lay down his sweet head. The stars in the sky Looked down where He lay The little Lord Jesus, Asleep on the hay.
So why did this happen? Well, let’s go even earlier into the early church. The first few centuries, the man named Irenaeus, an important theologian in the church. He answered this question I think very well. He writes quote: For it was for this end that the Word of God was made man, and He who was the Son of God became the Son of man, that man, having been taken into the Word, and receiving the adoption, might become the son of God. Close quote. Or as some theologians have put it and it’s been quoted by this person quoted by this perosn who really said it originally. That the Son of God became the Son of man so that the sons of men would become sons of God.
God became flesh inorder to come to us, to unite us to Himself and to save us! And as we come to Matthew 1 verses 18 to 25, this is what I hope the Spirit would help us learn. The doctrine of the incarnation reveals how the highly exalted God of the universe can also be near and intimate with His people. I mean, this does seem like a contradiction, right? That, that God is completely other. He’s Transcendent. He is not like us. He’s not contained by creation. He is above creation, He is outside of creation. And then we also say, He is Imminent. He is cloe, He is near, that we might reach out to Him and find Him that we might turn to Him and realise that He is right there. How do these two things, how can these two things both be true at the same time and there’s many things that we could say here’s what scripture says at the very heart of the answer to this question is the Incarnation. That He comes to be with His people in the flesh and God makes this possible, firstly, firstly, through a MIRACULOUS CONCEPTION
Miraculous conception, kinda rhyme with Immaculate Conceptio. And immaculate conception we wish, we wish would be the doctrine that says that Jesus was conceived and was sinless and that the, in the womb of Mary, it was super-intended by the Holy Spirit keeping her undefiled and true and and pure. But unfortunately, what is often called the Immaculate Conception actually speaks of Mary being a sinless one, which is not exactly what the bible is talking about when it comes to amazing miraculous conception. We’re talking exclusively about the conception of Jesus Christ, the Only sinless One in the womb of the virgin Mary. Look how it begins in Matthew 1 verse 18 – Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place in this way. Now we can go to Luke, we can go to different places, we can harmonise the gospels, we can make this story a lot longer. But I think God has reasons for inspiring certain events in the gospel’s different ways or through different vantage points. Uh, the one in Matthew chapter 1, what, it is relatively short, but it is loaded, there is so much going on in it. And just as christians have believed throughout the centuries, we come to this passage and we see that scripture says: Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. Do you believe that? Well, you must believe that. You cannot be a historic christian if you do not believe that. Read the Apostles Creed, read the Nicene Creed, read the Chalcedonian Creed, read the Athanasian Creed. Read all of the Reformed Confessions. All of them say that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. It’s always been believed. Since the days of the apostles, and then in the early church, the first few centuries, the christians wrestled within and and it was written in our Creeds and it’s here until today. Anybody who outright denies this basic truth, not that you have a hard time understanding it, that’s fine, go keep learning; not that you’re still a new christian and it’s hard for you to grasp these truths, that’s fine.
I’m saying, if anybody outright denies this doctrine of Incarnation, that He was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of the virgin Mary, you are outside of the christian faith simply because the bible teaches it so dogmatically, so plainly. And this is what happened. When the mother Mary, when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, she was found to be with child from the Holy Spirit. So, you see the formula? Who was pregnant? Who was with child? Mary. Mary is a real human being. She lived a real human life. She had two earthly parents, she did not a miraculous conception. She had two earthly parents. You guys, studied it last week in the genealogy of Jesus Christ or you could also study it in the altitude of of the gospel Joseph, Mary, all of these things. So, you know that Mary was a normal human being. A real person. She was pregnant with Jesus. So from that, we could say that what do people give birth to, okay. Pregnant people pregnant women, mothers can only give birth to human beings, correct? That is true. So she was betrothed to Joseph, but she hadn’t consummated her marriage yet. She was engaged but they have not covenanted yet. She was a virgin, yet she was pregnant. Now how can this be? Okay? How in the world could that happen?
Well, it says in scripture that she was pregnant and it was from the Holy Spirit.Verse 19 says And her husband Joseph, being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly. You see that word? Divorce. This is interesting. This was a potentially very scandalous situation. Why? Because they were engaged, they were betrothed but then she’s pregnant. ‘You ever have that experience when maybe you meet people and they like, “hey! When did you get married, you know? Oh, we got married and they give you the date and you look at the child, they’re like, your child is older than your marriage..okay, Alright, it happens, yes, it does. And so, that’s the case here. It wouldn’t be too far off. The wedding is probably soon but she is still betrothed and now pregnant. And here we see that Joseph consider exercising his right, his old covenant right to put her away, to divorce her. So before we go any further, I want us to go, you’ll see it in your notes on a little excursus. Now this is a warranted detour. This is not an unwarranted detour. We should talk about this because it’s in the text. Betrothal in Ancient Israel
Engagement back then was I think you will see very different from how we do it today. So, married men, there’s a bunch of you here. When you asked your now wife to marry you when you proposed and she said yes, was there a contract? Was there a legally inding agreement? Probably not. Maybe, if your parents are super strict, they made one and they said, you better if you’re gonna propose, you’re gonna marry her. But probably not. It’s sad though when weddings don’t push through and that does happen. But these days, let’s be honest, we would say that you can have a whole bunch of reasons to call off a wedding. And even in christian circles, we would say, before the, okay, you’re engaged, you’re getting married in 8 months, you better make sure, you better make sure..there’s still time, there’s stll time to call it off. There’s still time if you do’t think you’re compatible, there’s still time if you don’t think you’re in love, not in nation Israel. Back then, betrothal, engagement, was a legal pledge.
It was legally binding. The two would already be considered or called
Bride and Groom. And the bride and groom is just waiting for the marriage to be covenanted and consummated. This is important because it gives you much more of insight into this concept that Jesus has given the dowry, the Holy Spirit, we are the church, His betrothed, His bride awaiting the consummation of the greatest marriage ever. This is not one of these modern day engagements where we give the ring, and then when’s the wedding? I don’t know, we delay a year, we delay two years, are you ever gonna get married? Oh, they’re living together already, they probably don’t care anymore. It’s not like that. This is in its biblical context a pledge. The two would essentially be bride and groom, awaiting consummation and you couldn’t just terminate the betrothal because you realise you’re “no longer in love.” That’s not how commitments work back then. So to terminate this engagement would, in Ancient Israel, be considered divorce. That’s what it would be called, divorce. Now, it’s not the same as divorcing once you’re already married. That’s in some sense far worse. But it was considered a divorce nonetheless because the two were already pledged to each other. They took their commitments very, very, seriously. Now I’m not saying we must make a one-to-one parallel to ancient engagements into modern day engagements. But this should be an exhortation as well to engaged couples as the bible says. Let your ‘yes’ be ‘yes and let your ‘no’ be ‘no.’ So be very careful.
“Divorce” is the word used in verse 18 literally to loose away from. Now God, never established divorce, okay. Jesus told the Pharisees. It’s not because God wants you to divorce. Moses gave the provision of divorce. Why? On account of adultery, account of the hardness of your hearts. That’s what he said.
So, Joseph here is considering exercising his right, as provided by the Mosaic Law, on account of the sin of adultery to put away his berothed Mary. And why does he want to do this? Why does he come to this conclusion? Well, he’s just using logic, right? The logic in this situation would say, my betrothed has been impregnated by another man. You don’t just find our that you’re about to marry a woman, you find out she’s pregnant and o just go ‘oh! It’s from God, it’s okay. It’s not just the normal way that we are thinking, right? And he thinks, yeah! I mean she’s pregnant! Somebody impregnated her. So Joseph though he’s a kind man, and he decided that he would put her away, divorce her in private. He didn’t want to bring shame upon her. He cared about her. He respected her. He didn’t want to make a huge scandal out o it, so he was going to put her away, quietly. But then in verse 20, as he considered these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream saying, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife. For that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.” So, it takes an angel of the Lord sending Joseph a message through a dream about Mary’s miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit to convince him that she was actually chaste, pure and that he should not put her away, he should not divorce her. All of this is further evidence that not only was Jesus truly in the womb of the virgin Mary with a true human body, a real human nature, human mind, human will, human soul, but because he does not have an earthly father. But God is his Father and His conception is by the Holy Spirit. This is further evidence for us to say that He was also truly divine. He was also truly God. The child in Mary’s womb was from the Holy Spirit. Now, I want us, after this excursus now to zero in, to focus in on a very important doctrine. The doctrine of The Hypostatic Union, okay. We’re gonna use a couple of big words and then we’re gonna explain it simply, don’t worry.
The Hypostatic Union. So, if the doctrine of the incarnation is simply the biblical teaching that God became flesh, that’s what it, that He became Incarnate. He took upon Himself a human nature. He assumed flesh. Now, the Hypostatic Union is the related teaching that says this. Hypostatic Union, two natures in union, two natures united. Two natures Human and Divine, united in the One Person of Jesus Christ.
Jesus is not two persons. He is One person but this One person has two natures: divine and human. That’s the Hypostatic Union. And like we’ve seen, Mary is truly His mother. But He was conceived by the Holy Spirit. Both human and divine. God and man. The God-Man. What does First Timothy 2 say? That there is only One Mediator between God and man, the Man, Christ Jesus. Why? He is both God and man. He’s truly God so He can properly represent God to us. He’s truly man so He can properly represent us to God. There is no one else that can do this kind of mediation. And as we just read from the London Confession 8.2, well there’s a hwole bunch of things we read there. It’s a beautiful portion of the Confession actually. That the Son of God, the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, it says here that He is very an eternal God. Don’t miss out on that. He is very an eternal God. He’s no less God than the, He is God. He’s the brightness of the Father’s glory. He’s of one substance and equal with Him Who made the world. He upholds and governs all things that He made and this is what he did…When the fulness of time was complete, He took upon Him man’s nature. Now listen to this careful language.. with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it, yet without sin. Jesus had a human body, a human, rational soul, complete with a mind and will. There are two natures in Christ. And get this, contrary to what some Eastern Orthodox have said in the past, oh, I forget who it was exactly. But there are two Wills in christ as well. This is what helps us make sene of Jesus being in the Garden of Gethsemane and saying not My will Father, but Yours. Well, wait a minute..I thought that the Son is one with the Father and God doesn’t have three Wills. God has one Will. How can Jesus in any sense submit His will to the Father and say, Your will, not Mine is because Jesus Himself was truly human. He had a real human will like you and I as well, yet, without sin. This is a beautiful mystery. And as to his humanity, remember His lineage is significant. You’ve studied this, that the, the opening verses of Matthew, it says that it’s the book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the Son of David, he’s a descendant of David, the son of Abraham, he’s a descendant of Abraham. This is all very important. His humanity is very important. And I don’t know if you know but the earliest heresies that crept into the christian church didn’t have anything to do with denying the divinity of Christ. The earliest heresies had to do with denying the humanity of Christ. Even for the Gnostics. It made a little bit of sense that deity would come down and do something great here in this fallen world. But what they couldn’t accept is that God would become a real man. That was just unthinkable to the ancient mind. Atleast the religious ancient mind.
And I want you to pay attention also that in the very first verse of Matthew which says this is the book of genealogy of Jesus Christ. There is an identical construction of that in the Old Testament. The book of the genealogy of Adam. So here’s Christ, truly born as a man being presented to us as the Seed of Abraham, the Son of David, and it goes all the way back to the opening chapters of Genesis also a New Adam. A new man to bring about a new race. A new humanity, a new creation for God. And as to His divinity, He is no other than God Himself. I do want to read to you from one of those Creeds. That I mentioned..the Athanasian Creed. Now, I don’t have any new notes or anything like that, but I have it here. I want to read from the Athanasian Creed. It was not written by Athanasius. Athanasius had died before this. But it was nicknamed after him because Athanasius, who was a deacon, alright, so I exhort all of you deacons to be like the theologian, Athanasius. He was a deacon in the church of the Lord Jesus Christ and he continued fighting against the heretic Arius. You know, the guy who Saint Nikolas slapped in the face. Yeah, so, the church after condemning the heresies and all of that stuff, they actually re-instated Arius. I don’t know if you knew that. And Athanasius was one of the guys that kept fighting against him and the whole world felt like they didn’t agree with him. And he had this saying, Athanasius, Contra Mundum..Athanasius against the world. Even if the whole world is against you, he would stand firm in the doctrine of the Trinity, the deity of Christ and all that..I still haven’t found the Athanasian Creed in my flipping. I’ll get there. So, yes..alright! Athanasian Creed. Here it is..It begins by saying whoever desires to be saved should above all hold the catholic faith. Cathoic there, not being roman, but the universal, christian faith….Anyone who does not keep it whole and unbroken will doubtless perish eternally. And then it goes on to outline the doctrine of the Trinity which you know, we’re not going to go into all of it today but the doctrine of the Trinity and now there’s not three gods. There’s one God. And you know the classic, the Father is God, the Son is God, the Spirit is God but the Father is not the Son and the Son’s not the Spirit and the Spirit is not the Father. Then it comes to Christ and it says this: But it is necessary for eternal salvation that one also believe in the incarnation of our Lord Jesus Christ faithfully. I’m about to read to you some complex stuff. But we really need to , we need to switch our brains on because this is, this is really important. He is God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time; and he is man from the essence of his mother, born in time; completely God, completely man, with a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as regards divinity, less than the Father as regards humanity. Pause…that’s why you can make sense of Jesus submitting to the Father, right? Although he is God and man, yet Christ is not two, but one. He is one, however, okay, listen to this..not by his divinity being turned into flesh, but by God’s taking humanity to himself. God, the Son in His divine nature did not morph. He didn’t experience any change. He didn’t experience anything like that, whatsoever. God as to His divine nature is and always will what He is.The change that is experienced is in the creation. The change that is experienced is in the humanity. The human nature. It’s the human nature of Christ that grows and increases in wisdom and stature and feels pain and experiences and all of those things. For just as one man..oh sorry..He is one, certainly not by the blending of his essence, the divine and the humanity didn’t mix together to form a demi-god. The two remained distinct but by the unity of his person. For just as one human is both rational soul and flesh, so too the one Christ is both God and man. So we don’t have time to pause every single phrase there. Maybe afterwards today, you go online or you get a copy of the Athanasian Creed and just study it and meditate on what it’s setting forth and see if it’s consistent with the scriptures and we have throughout history have said that it is.
Now, I want to give you, fellow Christians, an incentive to getting these doctrines about Jesus Christ, the Incarnation, the Hypostatic Union right. Why are we bringing this up? Why are we reading these complex phrases from an old awesome creed? Well, here’s the question…Do we want to increase in our love for Jesus Christ? Now any well-meaning christian would say, yes, I do want to increase in my love to Jesus Christ. Well here’s an exhortation for you: Know the doctrine of Christ and therefore love the person of Christ. If you know the doctrine of Christ, you will be helped to love the person of Christ. Why? Because Theology, these biblical doctrines..this is fuel for love. This can help fan a flame your love for Christ.
Part of loving someone is knowing them more. Knowing them more. Some of the most beautiful marriages that you’ve ever heard of, they get really old and the spouses or whatever will tell you ‘I’m still getting to knoe my wife more. I’m still getting to know what she likes more.’We often say and pray: Jesus I want to know you more. I’m still pursuing her or that kind of sweet thing.’ And we often say, Hey! We pray..Jesus, I want to know You more. But how does that actually happen? You can’t just love Him more by saying a prayer then something magical just happens in your brain. Yes, it’s the Spirit’s work but it’s not this mystical thing that just happens out of nowhere. This mystical thing that happens apart from the means of grace such as scripture and prayer. We increase in our love for Him consciously, when we increase in our knowledge of who He is, in our knowledge for who He is begins when we dig into scripture. We get to, oh, great, He’s Jesus, He’s my Saviour. He’s my Lord. And you get to know these things and you’re mine, and you’re mine, and you’re mine and you dig deeper and deeper and you, you start saying stuff like the Athenasian Creed wouldn’t that be amazing? And you start thinking in these deep biblical ways about two natures being distinct but united in one. Not inter- mingled and therefore, I can pray to Jesus, I can relate to Jesus as truly God as truly man. As truly man, as truly man, he is relatable. He is close, He is near, I can speak to Him. He has a real human body. He can sympathise with me. And then he’s truly God as well so He’s above and He’s beyond and I’m under him and worship Him and He’s all over things and He’s powerul. He can answer prayer. He can answer all these things because He is God and man. So drill and mine, and dig deeper.
As we read from the Athanasian Creed, let me ask you, is that the Christ that you’re getting to know better? Do you know these things about Him? These truths from the Scriptures. Has he..he has introduced Himself to the pages of scripture. He reveals His Person, His work, he reveals what he is like, he reveals what He loves, what He hates. Are we paying attention to Him? He is talking. He is speaking. He’s telling us this stuff about Himself. State simple things like John 1 1..In the beginning was the the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God. You get down to verse 14, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. How can I know God? I wanna know God more than..you get to verse 18 and it says, no one has ever seen God but the only begotten God Who was in the bossom of the Father, He has made Him known. He has revealed Him. See, you, you can’t enjoy to the fullest the beauty of Christ becoming man and coming near to us if we’re not seeking to understand it. If we’re not seeking to understand what’s going on in the Incarnation, so go! And wrestle with the beautiful mystery of the incarnation.
Wrestle with that union of Divine and Human in Christ, and as you wrestle with these truths, pray, pray that the Spirit would use this knowledge to help you know to a greater measure the height, depth, and width of the love of Christ, Who is by the way the Son of God, who came down from eternal glory to dwell amongst us because what? He was resolved to come near to us. And that brings us to the second thing..
In this Marvelous Conception, we witness a..sorry, in this Miraculous Conception, we witness a Marvelous Condescension. Now, the word condescension here, is not like He’s de-meaning us. He’s condescending. It’s speaking of a voluntary descent from one’s rank in relations with an inferior. Even our own confession, on the chapter of the covenant in chapter 7, it says that the breach, the gap, the schism, the distance between God and man is so great that it required a voluntary condescension from God. And this wasn’t just in the Incarnation. This is true from the very beginning. In the opening chapters of Genesis with Adam, God created Adam in His own image and likeness. God didn’t need to hang out with Adam! God didn’t need to walk in garden in the cool of the day and speak to him and have a relationship with him and well, make a covenant with him in all humanity! That’s all above and over nature. That’s, that’s supernatural stuff that God decided to do on top of the plain and amazing thing of just creating man. And so even in the garden, even before sin, it was necessary that God would condescend. That He would stoop down to us. And as Calvin, John Calvin would say he would begin lisp at us. He would begin to speak with baby talk. I mean, if God spoke the way that He understands Himself in His very being in nature, we would not understand anything at all. He begins to speak to us in a lowly human way. In ways that we can understand and that is elevated to the uttermost! That condescension at the Incarnation. So this is what the angel told Joseph after he told him that she will conceive a son, she conceived the Son from the Holy Spirit, he says in verse 21 – She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” All of these took place says Matthew to fulfill what the Lord has spoken by the prophet. He quotes Isaiah: “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel.” ..which means God with us. So plainly scripture says that Jesus Christ is who?
He is God with us. He is the Savior of sinners. And again, there is so much here. He came to save his people from their sins. He came to be with His people. That’s why the incarnation had to happen. If God did not become man, He could not save man. Why? Because it’s not an angel that sinned although angels have sinned. But when we talk about our redemption, it is an image bearer of God. A human being that has sinned. And without shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins, the bible says. Animal blood, the blood of bulls and rams, they were great, but they can only cleansed externally. But because God became man, He Himself perfect and pure, is able to worthily lay down His life in our place, so that He can truly be our substitute. Animals are not true substitutes for human beings. Only a Man, can be a true substitute for a human being. And that’s why we read this in Hebrews chapter 9, if you are able, turn to Hebrews chapter 9..Hebrews 9 verses 11 to 14 – But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Only a real man, who had real flesh, who had real blood coursing through his veins could do the work of a High Priest on our behalf. And this work of redemtion, thanks to the Incarnation was not an afterthought in God’s plan, okay. We should not read the bible as well Adam messed up, now God’s got to do something to fix the situation. He made the whole Levitical system, with all of the animal sacrifices hopefully that work, oh no! It still didn’t work. The people are still sinful, maybe I gotta send Jesus…no! This was His plan mapped out from eternity. He had a blueprint from eternity past. We, we like to call it the Covenant of Redemption. This, this concept that the Father, Son and Spirit covenanted together. Particularly, the Father chooses a people as a love gift, as a bride for His Son, and the Son is resolved to enter into this creation and lay down His life for that bride. This is from eternity past. God chose the people, the Son is resolved to purchase a people, and the Spirit is sent to draw and indwell these people to unite them to Christ. And all of that, as great as a plan as it is, has to take place in time, space and history. And at the very centre of what makes all of that makes sense of what makes it all possible..is that God became man. He willingly condescended. He stepped down from His throne in heaven, and He came to us in the flesh. Now, Matthew tells us that Isaiah prophesied about this in Isaiah 7 14, Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign, the prophet says. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel. Now, it is true as many who war against Christianity point out that in the Hebrew, the word used there is not necessarily “virgin.” It is a more general term that can also be translated a young woman. But, thank God for the New Testament because there is no doubt that Matthew is here quoting this verse, under divine inspiration, giving us the true meaning of the Old Testament text. One would come to us born of a virgin. This is an impossible miracle in a marvelous condescension. In the Old Testament, we have met Barren women, who by the miraculous work of God through His Spirit were able to bear children. It’s amazing. But a virgin!? One without a man, who actually lay with her and impregnated her? Just, just a virgin?! This is uheard of..completely unheard of. But it is through this virgin birth, Christ not having a biological father, I mean, that’s unique! Even all of you, if you made a test tube or something. Technically, you had a biological father. It’s through the fact that He has no biological father; He’s conceived by the Holy Spirit that He comes to us, not under the headship of Adam, the first sinner. He comes to us as a new sinless Adam to do what the first Adam failed to do, and to undo the curse that the first Adam brought upon us. And in this great true virgin birth comes to us, the promised Seed of the woman from Genesis chapter 3, The Offspring Who would bless the nations promise to Abraham in Genesis 12, the Son of David the Servant of the Lord that we see in our prophets and out comes of the womb of the virgin Mary in this miraculous birth, the serpent Crusher, the nation Blesser, the Everlasting King, the Humble Servant who came to accomplish God’”s work of redemption. That is Who comes to us in a manger.
Yes, He was an innocent, crying helpless little baby, but He was nonetheless God with us, that’s literally what Immanuel means. Ahe was a cute little baby, I’m sure. But right there, we see a man on a mission to save sinners and bring us into the family of God. The incarnation solves that problem that we spoke of earlier the problem of transcendence versus immanence. Is God high and lofty and over and above and we can’t reach Him because He is great? Or is He intimate and close and personal and near? Is He with us?! Well, in the Incarnation, we realise that truly it is both! Philippians 2 says that He was in the form of of God but He did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped but emptied Himself by taking the form of a servant being born in the likeness of men. Now in considering these things, we have to be honest to our tiny human minds, there is tension, there is great tension here. He was God but He was born in the likeness of men. He is the Master but He is also the Servant. Did He cease to be God? Is he a demi god? Did He morph and hopefully a sound understanding of the hyspostatic union puts those question to rest and allows you to simply glory in the beatiful mystery that He is both God and Man in one Person? But there’s one more doctrine I want to bring up and it’s in Latin. But we’ll, we’ll get there. The doctrine known as the The Extra Calvinisticum. Now, like some good doctrines, it is indeed nicknamed after a man named John Calvin. But not because he invented it. But because in hiday, he really wrestled with this idea. If the Son became man, is He still continuing to be the God of the universe who upholds all things by the word of His power? How is this possible if He’s walking on earth now. The Extra Calvinisticum as one modern author summarises it says, it teaches that “the Eternal Son of God, even after the Incarnation, was united to the human nature to form One Person but was not restricted to the flesh.” What is that saying?! It’s saying that even as Jesus Christ walked this earth as truly God and truly man, the Son remained Omnipotent, Omniscient, Omnipresent in heaven and on earth. He’s everywhere. He’s there bleeding and dying but at the same time, He’s upholing all things by the word of His power..all at the same time!It’s amazing! And we have no choice but to believe it because the infallible word of God presents to us a Son, Who is the same yesterday, today, and forever. He never ceases to do what He’s always been doing as the Creator of the universe through Whom all things were made and apart from Him, nothing was made as John says. So God the Son did not cease to be God the Son. And this is good news because now we can really say that Jesus Christ is Immanuel.
God with us. If God the Son in any sense became lesser or cease to be God, how can Jesus be God with us? He’s the same, always. The Son eternally existed before the Incarnation and He continued to be God at the Incarnation. Another divine mystery. He dwelt among us, yet He was truly Divine. While He walked this earth, He still continued to do all His God stuff amazingly. He was not limited to this body.
Omnipresent, everywhere at once. Yet walked this earth,with a body, and emotions, feeling pain, and anguish, and as per His humanity, died for sinners. So I hope this doctrine, with this weird name, the extra calvinisticum helps us understand the biblical data: He’s truly God, He’s truly man and He never ceases to be either! Guys! Even to this day, even to this day, many christians have this misconception after Jesus rose from the grave, He ceases to be man. No..He remains forever The God-man, the Mediator. Brothers and sisters, when we go to heaven, just imagine this: If it weren’t for the Incarnation, remember what John said, no one has ever seen God. No one! So, without the Incarnation, how exactly would you truly feel and experience, and encounter, and maybe even embrace God. You wouldn’t be able to becaue God has no body. God is Spirit. He doesn’t have any of these human stuff. But because of teh Incarnatin, when we meet God in glory, we will be meeting a real person, an actual person to be looked at. And to be spoken to..and He will open His lips and He will speak tender words to us. And He will use His hand to wipe every tear from our eyes. We will meet Him in the flesh. We will touch Him and embrace Him. It’s not possible without the Incarnation. In Him, the fulness of deity dwells bodily. So I pray that you would heighten your reverence for the Son. He really is truly God so you might deepen your worship of the Son. We worship Christ as God! We worship Christ in His humanity, in His divinity, His one person as our Lord. How do you approach God? Again, jus tbe conscious of what the bible says, about Him being both divine and human. That will help you know how to speak to Him. That will help you know how to relate with Him, knowing that He is both these things. Let me wrap up with these last two verses. Joseph, coming to terms with Who it was that was in His betrothed’s womb. He does what was right. He woke up and he did exactly what teh angel said. He still married her. He still consummated the marriage. But, he didn’t sleep with her. ‘He knew hwe not! Until she had given birth to a Son and he called His Name, Jesus. In the greek, Iesous. In the Hebrew, Yeshua, which is the same name with Joshua, but He is far more greater than the Old Testament one. Much greater conquest. Far more significant deliverance He provides. His Name means Yahweh saves. The Lord saves.And He is called Immanuel, for truly He is God with us. His actual name is Yahweh saves,Jesus, because in and through him, God saves us from our sins.
We ought say with absolute confidence because the Incarnation happened because the death, burial, resurrection of Christ actually happened. We can say with absolute confidence when you repent of your sins and believe in the Son of God, you will be a child of God. You will be saved. You will be cleansed of all of your sins. Absolute confidence, we should have when we say that because of the Incarnation, because of Christ’s humanity and divinity. And do you, do you sometimes feel like, maybe, maybe God is far? Almost every christian has that experience. Times when you pray, and you feel like no one’s listening. Time that maybe you’re, you’re backsliding and you feel like God is nowhere to be found. Well, experientially, you may very legitimately feel that way. You may feel that way very often. But come back to the truth of the Incarnation. Come back to the truth that God condescended in the greatest way and the word of God will put those lies to rest. He is near. He’s so near and He’s so willing to be near thaHe was born like one of us.
The incarnation is the centrepiece not just of the bible. It’s the centrepiece of all creation, the centrepiece of all history. It’s at the very centre of everything. God created the world so that He can enter the world and have a relationship with the people that he created.
That’s why this world exists. In eternity past, the love of the Father overflowed for His Son and that overflow of love burst into the creation of the universe making humanity for Himself. And at the centre of the universe God enters. That’s why He made you. That’s why He made me.That’s wy He made stuff. That’s why He made the world..because He wanted to make a world that would be His platform and stage for His glory. That He would enter into and vanquish the enemies of satan’s sin and death. And take these people that belong to Him. He, He binds the strong man and He plunders His goods and He takes back what is His. His people..that’s why He made this world. That’s His main purpose for everything. So thank God, Christ is born! Thank God He came to us! Thank God for the Incarnation!
I conclude with this..There is no other way to have communion with Almighty God apart from being united to the One who is God with us. Nearness of God is found in the Son Who has come near to us.
Let’s pray together. Almighty God is heaven, high and exalted You are! Enthroned, surrounded by myriads of angels praising You and worshiping You. Today on this festal gathering of both saints in heaven and saints on earth, this marketplace of the soul where You pour out Your Spirit of grave upon us. We ask Lord, that as we have meditated upon this passage of Scripture about the Incarnation of Your Son, help us Lord to never again feel or believe in the lie that You are far away. Draw us ever so closer to Yourself. Focus our eyes of faith to Your beautiful Son, Who in a very real way is God but is also One of us, our older Brother in the faith. May we find refuge and comfort in Him alone. We ask this in His Name, Amen.