The Incarnation, part 2
Aug 13, 2019
The question of Christ’s incarnation has been debated for many centuries. There is little chance that my input into this question will have any serious impact on the overall debate. I have refrained from delving into this topic, because up to now God had given me only fragments of revelation which could not yet be pieced together.
In addition, I was still listening to arguments from those who have arrived happily at settled opinions. But I try to separate soulish opinions from spiritual revelation, whether these come from within or from other sources.
Something must have changed a few weeks ago, and so I believe that I have been shown enough to start dealing with these controversial theological topics. The big problem is that one’s understanding of the incarnation cannot be isolated from other issues. Unfortunately, all of these issues must be integrated at the same time, but it is not possible to deal with all of them at the same time.
I covered the issue of the virgin birth first, mostly because it was the easiest to isolate and study by itself. Matthew’s language makes it very clear. The other issues are far less clear.
Using Language to Express Truth
Perhaps the biggest challenge is in defining our terminology. Much seems to be lost in the translation from the tongues of angels to the tongues of men. What God speaks is not necessarily what we hear, because words tend to conjure pictures in our mind that are shaped by our earthly experiences and soulish biases. In addition, theologians have developed a host of extra-biblical religious terms in their attempt to define or explain truth. Language is a tool to communicate truth, but men have often found that their language lacks the words necessary to express precise truth (as they see it).
The moment we use non-biblical terminology and begin to develop our own churchspeak, we run the danger of adopting men’s philosophical definitions that go with those terms. Some of those philosophical terms have been pressed into service with new definitions.
In studying the issues at hand, I find that the key is to find a way to express spiritual truths in understandable earthly language. The biblical languages, I believe, express these truths as God inspired the writers, yet we seldom find universal agreement on the important passages. In the first century, the Sadducees and Pharisees interpreted many Scriptures differently. In recent centuries, Catholics and various Protestants have the same problem—and there have been countless variations within each of these groups, in spite of their unifying creeds.
Truth has always been doled out sparingly and progressively over the centuries. Original truth may be considered more authoritative than later creeds, but at the same time we must recognize that original truth was simple and lacked details. For instance, the law was given by Moses, but the prophets explained it and applied it in ways not seen in the books of Moses. The gospels and epistles of the New Testament shed even more light that the prophets themselves lacked.
The point is that once we reach the end of biblical explanations, we are not expected to deny further revelation, for the Holy Spirit was given specifically to lead us into all truth (John 16:13). In other words, Jesus told His disciples that they would receive further truth than what they had learned from Him. When the apostles died, are we to believe that all further revelation ceased? Do we not possess the same Spirit that they did?
Scripture provides us with settled truth, and our own revelation should thus clarify it or fill in the gaps without contradicting it. What Moses and the prophets wrote with partial understanding, we should understand with greater light today, if truly led by the Holy Spirit.
The biggest danger, however, has always been that many who view themselves as spiritual are actually only religious. True revelation is imparted to one’s spirit, which then can be shared with one’s soul as necessary. But many study the Bible without hearing the word. In other words, many engage in soulish understandings of the word apart from true inspiration.
Paul teaches us the true source of knowledge and wisdom in the second chapter of 1 Corinthians, but few seem to understand what Paul was teaching. Vast numbers of theologians still believe that soul and spirit are essentially synonymous, and the practical result is that they depend fully upon their souls to obtain the knowledge of God. Without knowing that their soul is limited, it is not likely that they will be able to distinguish between soulish education and spiritual revelation.
The Study of Origins
John’s gospel and his first epistle both focus upon origins. The apostle takes us on a journey to explore the beginnings of creation and how it relates to the second beginning at Christ’s first coming. This is supported by Paul’s treatises on the two Adams, earthly and heavenly, and Luke, Paul’s companion, refers to each of them as “son of God” (Luke 1:35; 3:38). Because the first Adam failed and the Second succeeded, we must compare and contrast the two Adams to understand the truth. Truth is best understood by comparison with its contrast.
The first awdawm was made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26) but lost that image later through sin. The last Adam was begotten in the image of God, a distinction not lost on those who wrote the Nicene Creed in 325 A.D. Christ did not succumb to temptation but overcame and remained in God’s image (Hebrews 1:3 KJV). It was not possible for the first Adam to be begotten, for no mother yet existed on earth in which he might have been begotten by God. Hence, Christ is shown to have a superior birth that avoided the problem that Adam faced.
At the outset, we must acknowledge that the church is divided into those who acknowledge the incarnation of Christ and those who see His birth as the beginning of His existence. Breaking this down further, some incarnation believers say He pre-existed only from the dawn of creation, while others say that, as a member of the Trinity, He had no beginning.
Those who deny Christ’s incarnation believe that Christ came to exist at the time of His conception. But these too are divided into two main camps: those who believe that He was a subordinate “God” but not the Most High God, and those who deny Him all divinity, adopting the Jewish view that the Messiah was merely a perfect man, a model for all to follow.
Disputes and Charges of Heresy
Because of the countless books already written on this subject, and because of the heated disputes and charges of heresy for even the slightest variance from an established creed, it is not possible or feasible for me to deal with all of these disputes apart from writing many volumes. Neither could I take any position without someone labeling me a heretic. I am used to such charges already, due to other teachings, so this matters little to me. The main thing is that I am not prepared to write a dozen books to deal with all the convoluted arguments that wracked the church in the fourth century.
The fourth-century church declared that to be part of the church one had to subscribe to every word of the creeds, making them vital to one’s salvation. They went far beyond Paul’s simple formula that “you have been saved through faith” (Ephesians 2:8) and again that “faith was credited [reckoned] to Abraham as righteousness” (Romans 4:9).
Paul’s “faith” was defined by the New Covenant grace principle in Romans 4:21 as “being fully assured that what He had promised, He was able also to perform.” But the fourth-century church added a host of truths that one must believe in order to be saved. In essence, they claimed that “by grace are you saved through faith in the established set of creeds.”
The immediate problem, of course, was that with every church council, new doctrines were added to the creeds, making us wonder if those who had died before seeing those creeds might not have been true Christians after all. Yet the church adopted the “fix” that if they died in ignorance, most, at the discretion of the church leaders, could still be considered “orthodox.”
By Paul’s standard, however, faith is immutable, timeless, and the only true test of orthodoxy. Therefore, faith is an absolute requirement for every age since the beginning of time. No man has ever been justified by his works or even by his acknowledgment of a set of doctrines beyond that primitive formula. Men may add more and more baggage to Paul’s formula, but the more they do so, the more they place their faith in the church councils and their ability to bring salvation, rather than in God’s promise to do it by the council of His own will.
This is part 2 of a series titled "The Incarnation" To view all parts, click the link below.