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.
In the previous post we looked at John 3:16 as giving the fact of God’s love for us as the sufficient reason for the incarnation. The second part of our question is actually a comment: “Surely there has to be a better way.” It raises the question of what is God’s ultimate purpose of providing the Lord Jesus Christ as the incarnate “Immanuel”.
The Last Adam
John 12:24 gives a profound expression to get us started on an answer to this question. There we read, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.” It is important to understand the importance of the word “unless” (or, “except”, KJV). This tells us of the necessity of the particulars of God’s plan including the incarnation as well as the death and resurrection. It is in resurrection that the Lord Jesus is the “Last Adam.” In other words, there is no other way. How is this accomplished?
To answer that we must first think for a moment of the demands of the very nature of God. We read that “God is Love.” (1 Jn. 4:8) An illustration may help us appreciate the significance of this fact. Imagine parents who are expecting a second child. The first child is delighted but concerned as he asks whether the parents will love him less because he will have to share their love with the new sibling. The parents explain that love is not divided between its objects but is multiplied and grows with the number of its objects. Similarly, we see God’s love is magnified1 when we consider that the Lord Jesus is “bringing many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10) and that God is even willing to bear the burden of having some of his creatures reject him (Rom. 9:22) in order to “make known the riches of his glory” to those He has “prepared beforehand for glory.” (Rom. 9:23) So here we have the first link in the chain of necessary steps God will take to magnify his love to his creature.
The next issue is the establishment of an indissoluble relationship between God and those God will bless. How is this to be accomplished? Here the verse in John’s gospel helps. That verse tells us of the necessity of death and resurrection to accomplish the purpose of “bringing many sons to glory” or bringing “much fruit” in the words of this verse. Again, we have to ask the question, How is this accomplished?
To start on an answer, consider other created moral creatures, the angels.
Angels were the first created beings, so far as Scripture reveals. They were not given material bodies as Adam and Eve were, nevertheless they were living beings. They were, and some still are, messengers for God. (Heb. 1:7) Yet, some sinned and became disassociated from the purposes of God (Ez. 28:11–18; 2 Pet. 2:4; Jude 6). They, as living beings, apparently were given free will. So, the curious property of spirit life2 is that it has a strangely independent constitution such that such beings may choose to either obey God or not.3
At this point, we must remember Acts 2:23, “this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men.” Even before creation the Lord Jesus had been appointed to be our savior, or in the words of Isaiah—”Here am I! Send me.” (Isa. 6:8; Ps. 40:7; etc.) Thus, it must be that the creation itself was designed to provide the platform for death and resurrection.4 God could not create a world in which the “Last Adam” had no meaning from the very beginning.
Once again, we must ask, how can this be accomplished? Clearly, with respect to the created world we must start with Adam, the “first Adam.” He is the “first man” and the type (Rom. 5:14) and contrast to the Last Adam. The apostle Paul tells us “But it is not the spiritual that is first but the natural, and then the spiritual.” (1 Cor. 15:46) So, it is necessary that the natural creation in which Adam was created and into which the Second Man came precedes the accomplishment of the final purpose and is (as we said) the platform for death and resurrection.
But, now we have come to the significance of the title “The Last Adam.” (1 Cor. 15:45) As the first Adam was head of the present natural creation so the “Last Adam” is head of the new creation. His place as the Last Adam necessitated His incarnation, death, and resurrection.
So, the creator Himself must enter into the realm of His own creatures to establish for them the foundation (be the Head) for a new creation (2 Cor. 5:17). The One who grants eternal life through new birth (Jn. 3:3) must Himself be The Eternal Life, the source and sustainer of eternal life for those who are renewed (Jn. 5:21, Tit. 3:5). This eternal life entails the divine nature (2 Pet. 1:4) which is the only means by which we can be in a complacent relationship for eternity with God (Rev. 21:3). Thus, the only way we can be truly secure in an indissoluble relationship with God is to have a vital connection with God. This is what it really means to be “a child of God.”
1. I had thought to say “multiplied” here to more tightly tie in my illustration. However, I do not want any thought that somehow the eternal relationships between the persons of the Godhead were enhanced. The love between Father, Son, and Spirit was and always will be infinitely beyond comprehension as is His love for us (Rom 5:5).
2. Animals are also called “living souls” but do not possess a spirit thus are not spiritual beings.
3. This topic has been hotly debated by skeptics and theologians; but, I must leave that discussion to others.
4. Some might be puzzled by my inclusion of “death”, but without death there can be no resurrection. So, if resurrection is a necessity, then death must be also. All of God’s works are orderly. (1 Cor. 14:33) Death as a penalty was certainly applied to Adam contingent upon his disobedience, but for this to even make sense death as a process must already be available. Some misinterpret Romans 5:12 forgetting that this has to do with the penalty. The apostle is quite clear when he says “so death passed upon all men.” (My emphasis.)