Q. How did Christ, being the Son of God, become man?
A. Christ, the Son of God, became man, by taking to himself a true body and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin. (Westminster Shorter Catechism, question 22).
These words are nearly 400 years old, but ring as true today as when they were first set to paper. They are a succinct reminder of the glorious and redemptive truth of the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. When man sinned in the Garden of Eden (Genesis 3:6), God set in motion a grand plan for redemption. From Paul’s words in Romans 5:12, we then discover that just as sin entered the world through the actions of one man, Adam, so did God’s grace overflow to the world through another man, Christ Jesus.
This is the divine beauty of salvation. God, though under no obligation to do anything for mankind, has chosen in his divine sovereignty to reach out to us in the most humble way possible. By sending his son to become a man — who both walked and lived among mankind, experiencing everything that we do (Hebrews 4:14-15) — God demonstrated his love for us and offered to us the hope of salvation and eternal fellowship with him.
The significance of Christ’s humanity, of course, is that it allows us a glimpse of the tremendous sacrifice God made on our behalf; for our benefit, as one of my professors is fond of saying. Not only did he humble himself (Philippians 2:7), he subjected himself to the pain and struggle with sin we also experience. This gives us a common experience, and far more importantly, demonstrates Christ’s qualification to rescue us from sin. By experiencing every temptation we do, yet without sin, Christ established his worthiness as the spotless sacrificial lamb who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29).
In all of this, is is important to recognize that Christ did not at any time gave up his deity to become man, because if he had, then he would not have been sinless, and his death on the cross would have no power to save us. This is one of the paradoxes of theology: that at the same time, Christ could be fully God and fully man. In recognizing this, we stand with the Bible and with the church throughout history in claiming Christ’s human and divine natures to be “inconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly and inseparably united” (Council of Chalcedon, 451 AD). By articulating (rather than attempting to solve) this mystery, we safeguard it, align ourselves with Christ’s humanity and confess his deity. That is, we speak the truth and draw closer to God in doing so.
Finally, in our affirmation of these doctrines, we humbly acknowledge both our weakness and our utter dependence upon Christ as our savior and lord. When we do this, we again stand with believers throughout history to proclaim one of the main distinctives of Christianity: the great love of God, which he demonstrated to us while we were still sinners, in the person of his son Jesus Christ. According to T.F. Torrance, this is God’s language to man (Theology in Reconstruction, 129).
If the fact that a supreme and sovereign God would care to speak to a sinful race such as ours awes you, join me in constantly and reverently worshipping him in word and deed. If you have questions about how to do this, get in touch with me!