It would be disastrous to only affirm the deity of Jesus Christ, ignoring that the divine “Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). The Scriptures affirm equally that Christ was both divine and human. For the Christian, Christ’s humanity holds tremendous significance, beyond even the supreme necessity of salvation. Indeed, as John Flavel notes regarding this doctrine, we can lay the world upon it.
Christ in His divine nature assumed humanity. This means He took upon Himself a nature that was truly human. He remained what He was (divine) while He took to Himself that which He had not yet been (human). He became bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh in all respects, yet without sin.
The Scriptures reveal Christ’s real human nature from birth to burial.
- He was born (Luke 2:7).
- He grew to maturity (Luke 2:40).
- He was hungry (Luke 4:2).
- He labored (John 5:17).
- He was tired and slept (Luke 8:23).
- He ate and drank (Luke 24:42–43).
- He was sorrowful and wept (Mark 14:34).
- He experienced pain and suffering (Luke 22:44) both in body and soul (Matt. 26:38; 1 Peter 2:24).
- He died (Mark 15:37) and was buried (v. 45–46).
There are at least six reasons why Christ had to become truly man:
- To meet the demand of God’s righteousness that the nature which had sinned must also be the nature to pay for sin.
- To be able to suffer and die for His elect.
- To be able to be our self-sacrificing and sympathetic High Priest.
- To be subject to the law in His obedience.
- To be our nearest Kinsman to redeem us.
- To be the Second Adam who restores us from our fall.
There are many applications of Christ’s incarnation for the believer. John Flavel in volume one of his Works outlines several of these affections for Christ the believer experiences.
- Adoration. “Adore the love of the Father, and the Son, who bid so high for your souls.” Flavel notes that the love of God is expressed chiefly in this: that Christ took upon Himself the form of a servant and became obedient unto death. The Father so earnestly “willed our salvation, that he was content to degrade the darling of his soul to so vile and contemptible a state” as humanity. The Son became of no reputation—“how astonishing is the love of Christ, that would make such a stoop as this to exalt us!”
- Wonder. Gaze at the wisdom of God at devising such a means for His people’s salvation. This even “chains the eyes of angels and men to itself” as unimaginable. That the Word should become flesh, and dwell among us—“oh, how wisely is the method of our recovery laid!”
- Delight. Taste the “incomparable sweetness” of Christianity that allows us to rest our “trembling consciences” upon a sure foundation. Though the misery of His state and the distress of His soul overwhelms him, the believer can safely rely on the incarnation. Christ united His divine person with our flesh; “hence it is easy to imagine what worth and value must be in that blood; and how eternal love, springing forth triumphantly from it, flourishes into pardon, grace, and peace.”
- Consolation. Assuming a human nature and experiencing the suffering and misery of humanity, Christ is now touched with the feelings of our infirmities (Heb. 4:15). He is a merciful High Priest (Heb. 2:17–18). Flavel writes: “God and man in one person! Oh! Thrice happy conjunction! As man, he is full of an experimental sense of our infirmities, wants, and burdens; and, as God, he can support and supply them all.”
- Happiness. Christ’s incarnation was to bring many sons to glory (Heb. 2:10). “Hence we see, to what a height God intends to build up the happiness of man, in that he hath laid the foundation thereof so deep, in the incarnation of his own Son.” The soul of man joys in salvation, but the body also will be glorified. Christ assumed the flesh to demonstrate “how God intends to honour and exalt it” in eternity.
- Comfort. Flavel concludes with this last point: “How wonderful a comfort is it, that he who dwells in our flesh is God?” The struggling Christian can say: “But let me be a sinner, and worse than the chief of sinners, yea, a guilty devil, I am sure my well-beloved is God, and my Christ is God. And when I say my Christ is God, I have said all things, I can say no more. I [wish] I could build as much on this, My Christ is God, as it would bear: I might lay all the world upon it.”