What does ‘incarnation’ mean? What does emptying oneself mean? Basics in a Q & A format.
Here are the States of Christ. We are talking about Kenosis.
For a quick explanation of the entire image, click here:
Kenosis means he emptied himself of his former, heavenly glory and took the nature of a servant. He did not lose or lay aside his divine attributes, but surrendered them to the Father, who ordained that they should be hidden behind his humanity, until they both cooperated to reveal them. In that image, his incarnation began at his virgin conception and his birth.
Let’s get right started in the Q & A format, for clarity and conciseness.
If you would like to see the following verses in many translations and in their contexts, please go to biblegateway.com.
1.. What does the word Incarnation mean?
Literally it means “the process or act of (being, coming) in flesh” (-carn– means “flesh”). It refers to the eternal Son of God taking on, assuming, or becoming the flesh of humanity.
God becomes man, deity and humanity in one person, Jesus Christ. He took on human nature at his birth (or conception).
2.. Is this the same as reincarnation?
Not at all. Reincarnation means you were here on the planet in a previous life, like a cow or chimp. You died as a cow or chimp, and you were promoted to a human because you were a good cow or chimp. You will die as a human, and then you will come back either as a lower life form, which means you are a bad human now, or you will come back as a higher human, which means you are good right now. This whole process is called samsara—life-death-rebirth.
Jesus sets us free from samsara. You are born once, you become born again by receiving Jesus by his Spirit, you die, face judgment of the loving Father through Christ. If you have Christ as your advocate, you will enter heaven. If you don’t have him as your advocate, you will go to hell. Simple, but serious. Choose Jesus.
Now let’s return to the biblical incarnation of the Son of God.
2.. What does the word theanthropos mean?
The– means God, and anthrop– means man (-os ending is masculine nominative), so it means the “God-man,” which is a perfect word for Jesus’ incarnation and the union of his two natures, in one person.
3.. What are Scriptures about the Incarnation?
For the priceless doctrine of the Incarnation (the heavenly Son of God becoming flesh), we appeal to four passages, again from the Gospels of Matthew and John and from Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. This is the culmination or highest expression of Christ’s divine identity.
First, Jesus is Immanuel, “God with us.”
22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: 23 “The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel—which means, ‘God with us.’” (Matt. 1:22-23; cf. Isaiah 7:14).
A major theme in the Gospel of Matthew is Christ’s fulfillment link to How Christ fulfills the Law of Old Testament promises and prophecies. That above quotation from Isaiah is Christ’s first fulfillment in Matthew.
Second, Jesus was the Word who created the world and who became flesh.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that was made . . . 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him . . . 14 The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. (John 1:1-3, 10, 14)
John always views the Old Testament in the background to his Gospel, and this passage is a clear reference to Genesis 1:1, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” . . . . The fuller New Testament revelation says that God the Father created all things through the agency of God the Son (note the word “through” in verse 3). Blessedly, the Word became flesh and lived among us.
Third, Jesus repeats a theme about his being sent by his Father, often using such clauses as “he has sent me or I have been sent” (Matt. 10:40, 15:24; Mark 9:37; Luke 9:48; John 4:34; 5:24, 30, 36; 6:38). In the larger context of Jesus’ ministry, he has been sent down from heaven.
For example, John 5:24 says:
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.
Fourth, Paul the Apostle, formerly a Rabbi and a strict Pharisee whose knowledge of the law was deep, records his understanding of Christ’ Incarnation that also circulated around the earliest Christian communities.
Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing, by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross. (Phil. 2:6-8)
Many scholars agree that these verses are part of an early hymn. This is a remarkable fact. Philippians was written between AD 53 and 61. The hymn likely circulated around the Christian community before this timeframe. This means that not too long after Christ’s resurrection and ascension, the believers understood and celebrated the deity of Christ as established doctrine. It is often believed that much later Christians, in the third, fourth and fifth centuries, for example, fabricated the idea of the deity of Christ. But this early hymn or passage in Philippians contradicts this belief. The incarnation was an early belief, very early.
4.. Will Jesus be forever a man?
Yes. When he was born, crucified, resurrected, and exalted to heaven he did not lose his human nature and his (spiritualized, glorified) body.
He told his disciples to see and fell the nail prints in his hands.
But he said to them, “Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
26 A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you!” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.”
28 Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:25-28)
He had flesh and bones:
37 They were startled and frightened, thinking they saw a ghost. 38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled, and why do doubts rise in your minds? 39 Look at my hands and my feet. It is I myself! Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” … 42 They gave him a piece of broiled fish, 43 and he took it and ate it in their presence. (Luke 24:37-29, 42)
He promised he would return in the same way he ascended:
11 “Men of Galilee,” they said, “why do you stand here looking into the sky? This same Jesus, who has been taken from you into heaven, will come back in the same way you have seen him go into heaven.” (Acts 1:11)
In heaven Jesus is called a man:
For there is one God and one mediator between God and mankind, the man Christ Jesus. (1 Tim. 2:5)
In the Book of the Revelation, Jesus still appears like the Son of Man:
13 and among the lampstands was someone like a son of man, dressed in a robe reaching down to his feet and with a golden sash around his chest. (Rev. 1:13)
Jesus did not temporarily become a man, but he will be such forever. He is now both God and man, yet one person, forever.
The good news for us: our resurrected bodies will be like his.
So how do I get to know Jesus more deeply?
The Incarnation is the most blessed doctrine for all of humanity. The God of the Bible is not remote and distant. He stepped down out of eternity and entered time.
We should not put God in a distant, remote cage or box, way up in heaven, isolated and lonely. He revealed himself in the ultimate way that humans could understand—in Christ Jesus who was fully human and fully divine united in one person.
Once we realize his heavenly origin and now his heavenly life we can know him better, as he really is. We have been raised up with him, as well. So what should we do? “Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God” Col. 3:1). Set your affections and mind on him.
Written by James Malcolm
ARTICLES IN “DO I REALLY KNOW JESUS?” SERIES
3. Do I Really Know Jesus? He Was God Incarnate