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Archives / 1971 / May

 

The Incarnation of Christ and Its Purpose

Bruno W. Steinweg

 

(Part 1)

A compilation of inspired comments on the mystery of the Incarnation and its purpose.

I. INTRODUCTION.

A. The incarnation of Christ is a mystery that man cannot fully comprehend (1 Tim. 3:16).

"In contemplating the incarnation of Christ in humanity, we stand baffled before an unfathomable mystery, that the human mind cannot comprehend. The more we reflect upon it, the more amazing does it appear."—Ellen G. White, quoted in Questions on Doctrine, p. 647.

"We cannot explain the great mystery of the plan of redemption. Jesus took upon Himself humanity, that He might reach humanity; but we cannot explain how divinity was clothed with humanity. An an gel would not have known how to sympathize with fallen man, but Christ came to the world and suffered all our temptations, and carried all our griefs."—Ibid., p. 648.

B. While certain aspects of the incarnation have not been revealed, other aspects have been made known for man's benefit (Deut. 29:29).

1. We are encouraged to study this theme.

"When we want a deep problem to study, let us fix our minds on the most marvelous thing that ever took place in earth or heaven—the incarnation of the Son of God."~Ibid., p. 65.

"As the worker studies the life of Christ, and the character of His mission is dwelt upon, each fresh search will reveal some thing more deeply interesting than has yet been unfolded. The subject is inexhaustible. The study of the incarnation of Christ, His atoning sacrifice and mediatorial work, will employ the mind of the diligent student as long as time shall last; and looking to heaven with its unnumbered years, he will exclaim, 'Great is the mystery of godliness!' "—Gospel Workers, p. 251.

2. We must approach this study with contrite hearts, seeking the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

"When we approach the subject of Christ's divinity clothed with the garb of humanity, we may appropriately heed the words spoken by Christ to Moses at the burning bush, 'Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.' We must come to the study of this subject with the humility of a learner, with a contrite heart."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Phil. 2:5-8, pp. 904, 905.

"That God should thus be manifest in the flesh is indeed a mystery; and without the help of the Holy Spirit we cannot hope to comprehend this subject. The most humbling lesson that man has to learn is the nothingness of human wisdom, and the folly of trying, by his own unaided efforts, to find out God."—Ellen G. White, quoted in Questions on Doctrine, p. 648.

3. The study of this topic, when done in humility, will be rewarded.

"And the study of the incarnation of Christ is a fruitful field, and will repay the searcher who digs deep for hidden truth." —The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Phil. 2:5-8, p. 905.

II. CHRIST IS THE SECOND ADAM

(Rom. 5:12-19).

A. Similarities Between Christ and Adam.

1. In Christ, as in Adam, there was no inclination to evil nor any propensity to sin.

"In the fullness of time He was to be revealed in human form. He was to take His position at the head of humanity by taking the nature but not the sinfulness of man."—Signs of the Times, May 29, 1901, p. 339.

"In taking upon Himself man's nature in its fallen condition, Christ did not in the least participate in its sin."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on John 1:14, p. 1131.

"Be careful, exceedingly careful as to how you dwell upon the human nature of Christ. Do not set Him before the people as a man with the propensities of sin. He is the second Adam. The first Adam was created a pure, sinless being, without a taint of sin upon him; he was in the image of God. He could fall, and he did fall through transgressing. Because of sin his posterity was born with inherent propensities of disobedience. But Jesus Christ was the only begotten Son of God. He took upon Him self human nature, and was tempted in all points as human nature is tempted. He could have sinned; He could have fallen, but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity. He was assailed with temptations in the wilderness, as Adam was assailed with temptations in Eden.

"Avoid every question in relation to the humanity of Christ which is liable to be misunderstood. Truth lies close to the track of presumption. In treating upon the humanity of Christ, you need to guard strenuously every assertion, lest your words be taken to mean more than they imply, and thus you lose or dim the clear perceptions of His humanity as combined with divinity. His birth was a miracle of God.. . . Never, in any way, leave the slightest impression upon human minds that a taint of, or inclination to, corruption rested upon Christ."—Ibid., on John 1:1-3, 14, p. 1128.

"The work of Christ in cleansing the leper from his terrible disease is an illustration of His work in cleansing the soul from sin. The man who came to Jesus was 'full of leprosy.' Its deadly poison permeated his whole body. The disciples sought to prevent their Master from touching him; for he who touched a leper became him self unclean. But in laying His hand upon the leper, Jesus received no defilement. His touch imparted life-giving power. The leprosy was cleansed. Thus it is with the leprosy of sin,—deep-rooted, deadly, and impossible to be cleansed by human power. 'The whole head is sick, and the whole heart faint. From the sole of the foot even unto the head there is no soundness in it; but wounds, and bruises, and putrefying sores.' But Jesus, coming to dwell in humanity, receives no pollution. His presence has healing virtue for the sinner. Whoever will fall at His feet, saying in faith, 'Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean,' shall hear the answer, 'I will; be thou made clean.' "—The Desire of Ages, p. 266.

2. Christ was subject to temptation even as was Adam (Heb. 4:15).

"Many claim that it was impossible for Christ to be overcome by temptation. Then He could not have been placed in Adam's position; He could not have gained the victory that Adam failed to gain. If we have in any sense a more trying conflict than had Christ, then He would not be able to succor us. But our Saviour took humanity, with all its liabilities. He took the nature of man, with the possibility of yielding to temptation. We have nothing to bear which He has not endured."—Ibid,, p. 117.

"Letters have been coming in to me, affirming that Christ could not have had the same nature as man, for if He had, He would have fallen under similar temptations. If He did not have man's nature, He could not be our example. If He was not a partaker of our nature, He could not have been tempted as man has been. If it were not possible for Him to yield to temptation, He could not be our helper. It was a solemn reality that Christ came to fight the battle as man, in man's behalf."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Matt. 4:1-11, p. 1082.

3. Christ began with the same problem with which Adam began.

"Christ is called the second Adam. In purity and holiness, connected with God and beloved of God, He began where the first Adam began. Willingly He passed over the ground where Adam fell, and redeemed Adam's failure."—Ellen G. White, quoted in Questions on Doctrine, p. 650.

"With Christ, as with the holy pair in Eden, appetite was the ground of the first great temptation. Just where the ruin began, the work of our redemption must be gin. As by the indulgence of appetite Adam fell, so by the denial of appetite Christ must overcome."—The Desire of Ages, p. 117.  

B. Contrast Between Christ and Adam.

1. Christ was tempted more severely than Adam, and much more severely than men are tempted today.

"Christ was tempted by Satan in a hundredfold severer manner than was Adam, and under circumstances in every way more trying. The deceiver presented himself as an angel of light, but Christ withstood his temptations. He redeemed Adam's dis graceful fall, and saved the world."—My Life Today, p. 323.

"On Jordan's banks the voice from Heaven, attended by the manifestation from the excellent glory, proclaimed Christ to be the Son of the Eternal. Satan was to personally encounter the Head of the kingdom which he came to overthrow. If he failed, he knew that he was lost. There fore, the power of his temptations was in accordance with the greatness of the object which he would lose or gain. For four thousand years, ever since the declaration was made to Adam that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head, he had been planning his manner of at tack."—Review and Herald, March 18, 1875, p. 90.

"In the councils of Satan it was deter mined that He [Christ] must be overcome. No human being had come into the world and escaped the power of the deceiver. The whole forces of the confederacy of evil were set upon His track to engage in warfare against Him, and if possible to prevail over Him. The fiercest and most inveterate enmity was put between the seed of the woman and the serpent. The serpent him self made Christ the mark of every weapon of hell....

"The life of Christ was a perpetual war fare against satanic agencies. Satan rallied the whole energies of apostasy against the Son of God. The conflict increased in fierceness and malignity, as again and again the prey was taken out of his hands. Satan as sailed Christ through every conceivable form of temptation."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on Matt. 4:1-11, p. 1080.

"Satan made stronger attacks upon Christ than he will ever make upon us. There was much at stake with him, whether Christ or himself should be conqueror. If Christ resisted his most powerful temptations, and Satan did not succeed in leading Him to sin, he knew that he must lose his power, and finally be punished with everlasting destruction. Therefore Satan worked with mighty power to lead Christ to do a wrong action, for then he would gain advantage over Him. . . . You can never be tempted in so determined and cruel a manner as was our Saviour. Satan was upon His path every moment."—Sons and Daughters of God, p. 156.

"He was tempted in all points like as man is tempted, yet He is called 'that holy thing.' It is a mystery that is left unexplained to mortals that Christ could be tempted in all points like as we are, and yet be without sin."—The SDA Bible Commentary, Ellen G. White Comments, on John 1:1-3, 14, pp. 1128, 1129.

2. Upon Adam rested no effects of sin, while Christ took the weaknesses of degenerate humanity (Heb. 2:16; Rom. 1:3; Phil. 2:7; Rom. 8:3).

"In our humanity, Christ was to redeem Adam's failure. But when Adam was as sailed by the tempter, none of the effects of sin were upon him. He stood in the strength of perfect manhood, possessing the full vigor of mind and body. He was surrounded with the glories of Eden, and was in daily communion with heavenly beings. It was not thus with Jesus when He entered the wilderness to cope with Satan. For four thousand years the race had been decreasing in physical strength, in mental power, and in moral worth; and Christ took upon Him the infirmities of degenerate humanity. Only thus could He rescue man from the lowest depths of his degradation."— The Desire of Ages, p. 117.

"Christ was not in as favorable a position in the desolate wilderness to endure the temptations of Satan as was Adam when he was tempted in Eden. The Son of God humbled Himself and took man's nature after the race had wandered four thou sand years from Eden, and from their original state of purity and uprightness. Sin had been making its terrible marks upon the race for ages; and physical, mental, and moral degeneracy prevailed throughout the human family.

"When Adam was assailed by the tempter in Eden he was without the taint of sin. He stood in the strength of his perfection be fore God. All the organs and faculties of his being were equally developed, and harmoniously balanced.

"Christ, in the wilderness of temptation, stood in Adam's place to bear the test he failed to endure. Here Christ overcame in the sinner's behalf, four thousand years after Adam turned his back upon the light of his home. Separated from the presence of God, the human family had been departing every successive generation, farther from the original purity, wisdom, and knowledge which Adam possessed in Eden. Christ bore the sins and infirmities of the race as they existed when He came to the earth to help man. In behalf of the race, with the weaknesses of fallen man upon Him, He was to stand the temptations of Satan upon all points wherewith man would be assailed.

"Adam was surrounded with everything his heart could wish. Every want was supplied. There was no sin, and no signs of decay in glorious Eden. . . . Adam was in the perfection of manhood, the noblest of the Creator's work. He was in the image of God, but a little lower than the angels.

"In what contrast is the second Adam as He entered the gloomy wilderness to cope with Satan single-handed. Since the fall the race had been decreasing in size and physical strength, and sinking lower in the scale of moral worth, up to the period of Christ's advent to the earth. And in order to elevate fallen man, Christ must reach him where he was. He took human nature, and bore the infirmities and degeneracy of the race. He, who knew no sin, became sin for us. He humiliated himself to the lowest depths of human woe, that He might be qualified to reach man, and bring him up from the degradation in which sin had plunged him."—Review and Herald, July 28, 1874, p. 51.

(To be continued)

 

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