Does it make sense that God becomes flesh and lives a perfect life to die on the cross for our sins? Surely there has to be a better way. If we did not grow up in the Christian circle it would seem a very strange idea. Maybe this is a man-made concept to justify a historical event for their own agenda.
I have had this question on my “to-do” list for a very long time. I have put off attempting a response because of the vast nature of the topic and because many others have written so well on the subject. It is truly at the heart of the gospel. However, now in this Christmas season (2021) I want to provide some admittedly feeble and belated response. The first part of the question points to the familiar aspect of the purpose of the incarnation but the second part expressed as “Surely there has to be a better way” suggests a different perspective that touches the nature of God and His eternal purposes. Consequently, I will look at this question from two aspects which I will associate with the titles “The Second Man” and “The Last Adam.” (1 Cor. 15:45–47) I do not mean that these terms are associated exclusively with these two perspectives, but that it seems reasonable to identify them this way for this short study.
The Second Man
The first part of the question before us asks us to contemplate that “God becomes flesh.” The necessity of such an amazing event goes at least as far back as Job, one of the earliest books in the Old Testament.
But how can a man be in the right before God?Job 9:2b,32,33.
For he is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him,
that we should come to trial together.
There is no arbiter between us,
who might lay his hand on us both.
The angst of Job is vividly portrayed in these verses. We read of Job’s struggles, his pain and suffering, and the perplexity of these in relation to the God he has been serving. It is useful to meditate on Job’s perplexity as it is part of everyone’s experience when seeking resolution for our sin in the presence of God. Verses 32 and 33 express very pointedly the need. There must be an arbiter, an umpire, a mediator who can “lay his hand on us both.” How can such a one exist? How can there be one who can lay a hand on God and also on man? It might seem impossible. Only God can touch God, but then how can such a one touch man? God whose eyes are too pure to behold evil (Hab. 1:13) must somehow “touch” man without any imputation of evil to himself. The answer lies in the entrance into this world of the “Second Man.”
The angel told Mary “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God. (Lk. 1:35) So, The Lord Jesus was literally “Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14; Matt. 1:23). He is the answer to Job’s plea. Here was the One who could touch the casket and the leprous to restore life and heal and Himself not be defiled (Lev. 13:3; Num. 9:6; Hag. 2:13; etc.). He alone of all mankind could say “I lay down my life…no one takes it from me” (Jn. 10:17–18). He alone could be a sin bearer; “[God] made Him to be sin who knew no sin” (2 Cor. 5:21). In Him the words of Isaiah are fulfilled; “the Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all”(Isa. 53:6).
John 3:16 is one of the most familiar verses in Scripture. It declares that God’s love is the reason behind the incarnation. This reason is the one we commonly think of and the manifestation of it fills the gospels. It is the one that is personal and can be stated simply for the gospel message. “The Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost.” (Lk. 19:10) And, He is “indeed the Savior of the world”. (Jn. 4:42)
While the passion and perfection of the life of the Lord Jesus draws our hearts to Him, it is the great apostle Paul who lays out with methodical detail the doctrinal foundation of this “so great salvation” in his letter to the Romans. After showing in detail the complete ruin of mankind, he summarizes our condition in the memorable verse “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). But, the previous verses detail the complete ruin. This verse (v. 23) comes in the middle of a brief section that declares the grand consequence.
But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it—the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.Romans 3:21–26
In the apostle’s view here, it is the righteousness of God that provides an answer to the question that Job raised. It is the Lord Jesus Christ who is the One to satisfy the righteousness of God by His sacrifice “propitiating” God to provide salvation to the unrighteous, accounting them righteous. So, later the apostle would write “since we have been justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Rom. 5:1). Job is answered. In addition, we see that Job is one of those for whom God “passed over former sins.” (Rom. 3:25b)
This is real and personal. Yet, God’s intent is to expand the promise of peace to the whole world in a coming day as shown by the declaration of the angels upon the birth of the Savior more than 2000 years ago.
And in the same region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
“Glory to God in the highest,Luke 2:8-13 marg.
and on earth peace, good will among [toward, KJV] men!”
In the next post I will look at the aspect of the incarnation suggested by the statement in the question: “Surely, there must be a better way.” We will look at the profound statement “unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone” (Jn. 12:24) to see that indeed there was no other way for God to fulfill His purpose.