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“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1,2,14).

THE INCARNATION (GOD TAKING UPON HIMSELF HUMAN FLESH) IS THE HEART OF THE GOSPEL. It is, as C. S. Lewis put it, the “Grand Miracle” that makes all the other miracles, including the Resurrection, meaningful. It is very important to understand this.

Out of all our problems, there is only one that required God to become flesh: the problem of sin. To fix that problem God had to die in our place, and to do that He had to become a man capable of being killed. In the words of John Donne, “God clothed himself in vile man’s flesh so he might be weak enough to suffer.”

Toward the end of the first century, there began to be those who denied the Incarnation. Influenced by the attitudes of Gnosticism, some began to suggest that Jesus was not really God in the flesh. They denied that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us,” offering what purported to be a more advanced gospel. Sadly, this revision of the gospel is still extremely popular.

If the Incarnation is not true, however, then the gospel of Christ is just another religious philosophy. Take away the Incarnation, and what you have left is something that is antithetical to (“against”) Christ and His gospel. John saw this error for the perversion that it is: “Many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist” (2 John 1:7).

It would be nice if our worst problem was nothing worse than poverty, disease, injustice, or emotional distress. God could have alleviated those kinds of hardship without the Incarnation. But there was a deeper sickness that required a more drastic solution, and we can be thankful He was willing to do what had to be done.

The gospel is about the forgiveness of our sins — and our need for forgiveness is why God had to become a man and die. May we not water the message down. The Incarnation is astonishing and hard to believe, but it is not optional. If it was not God who died on the cross, the gospel may be an interesting story, but it cannot save us.

“If we waver on the Incarnation we cease to be Christian” (Zach Kincaid).

Gary Henry — +

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