Knowing God, Chapter Five: God Incarnate by John K. Jones
What is light? What is matter? Science has long been puzzled by questions like these because, when we perform experiments, both light and the constituencies of matter behave like a particle some of the time and a wave some of the time. Particles are things that move in a straight line like small billiard balls. Waves are spread-out things that expand like ripples in a pond. In theory, something cannot be both. Science has its mysteries.
As J. I. Packer points out in Chapter 5 of Knowing God, Christianity has mysteries too. The supreme mystery of Christianity is the idea that God became a man to walk, talk, eat, sleep, hunger, thirst, hurt, and be all that it means to be human on this earth (Hebrews 2:17-18, 4:15-16).
Some try to deny that the Bible teaches that Christ was God and man, but they ‘run up against a brick wall’ erected by the First Chapter of John’s Gospel. Packer outlines seven things this chapter teaches us about Christ (The passages from the Bible are in italics.):
Christ is eternal. “In the beginning was the Word…” Packer says Christ did not have a beginning, that, “when other things began, he – was.”
2. Christ is a personality separate from God the Father. “And the Word was with God…” Christ has his own distinct personality.
3. Christ possessed deity. “And the Word was God…” Christ is one with God the Father in being. Packer writes, “The mystery with which this verse confronts us is thus the mystery of personal distinctions within the unity of the Godhead.” God is one in being, but three in Persons.
4. Christ created. “Through him all things were made…” Packer writes, “All that was made was made through him.”
5. Christ is animating. “In him was life…” Packer states, “Here is the Bible answer to the problem of the origin and continuance of life, in all its forms: life is given and maintained by the Word.”
6. Christ was revealing. “And that life was the light of men…” All of us learn of God from the life and teachings of Christ.
7. Christ was the Word incarnate. “The Word became flesh…” Packer says the Christian’s message “rests on the staggering fact that the child in the manger was God.”
Christ laid aside his glory and submitted himself to God the Father ultimately so that he could die on the cross for our sins and rise from the dead (Philippians 2:5-11). Christ’s resurrection shows us that God accepted his death on our behalf.
Packer says Christ did not lay aside his “power and attributes” as God, instead he laid aside his “divine glory and dignity.” Yet Christ submitted to his Father’s will so perfectly that he did not “do all the things he could have done, because certain things were not his father’s will,” nor did he consciously know all the he might have known,” but only what the Father “willed him to know” (Matthew 26:53-54; Mark 5:30, 13:32).
This is the true spirit of Christmas: that we should lay aside our own glory for the good of others. “ You know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich” (2 Corinthians 8:9, NIV).
[The other articles in this series can be found at this link.]