“We, who should matter very little, who were in every right the very enemies of God, were blessed with God Himself meeting us on our own level”
After spending our Christmas season in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke to get the historical account of the birth of Jesus Christ, it is interesting to note that the Apostle John does not concern himself with genealogies or angelic announcements but with a richly abstract expression of the theology behind the incarnation. By the time John is writing his account, the proportions of the church had changed from a predominantly Jewish population to an increasing number of Gentile coverts. These Gentiles did not have a foundation of God’s self expression or a rich history of the Old Testament Law. As if in an effort to emphasize the foundations of our faith, to remind us that Christianity was not a new religion formed at Pentecost, and to connect the Gentiles with their brothers in Christ who were rooted in Judaism, the Apostle takes us all the way back to the beginning of creation where the very expression of God brought all things into existence.
In the Beginning was the Word...
King David points out that the heavens still proclaim the glory of God (Psalm 19). As if like picking up a nautical shell and being able to hear the ocean from where it came, we can just lift our eyes to the heavens and hear the reverberation of the voice of God which has called the stars into existence. I often wonder if the psalmist has to point us to the heavens because the rest of creation has been muffled by the echoes from our fall. The weeds that choke out the beauty of flowers are a constant reminder of what we have lost.
John makes this very clear when he describes how great this Word of God was to manifest Himself in creation as the light that shines in the darkness. David also makes this comparison that when we find ourselves engulfed in darkness we are never too far from the warmth of the sun, the true center of our universe.
The irony in this is that we are prone to think that we are the center of our own universe. We prefer the darkness because the light reveals our flaws. We prefer the cold because the heat of God’s wrath burns away the dross and leaves us with nothing of ourselves. (Ezekiel 22:19-22)
It was the very effort of Adam and Eve to add to their significance that brought upon their own destruction. After being cast out of the Garden of Eden, creation would be a constant reminder of God’s glory and our insignificance.
For the Law was given through Moses...
Even with the expression of God reverberating throughout creation it was not enough to satisfy the desire He had to communicate with those created in His own image.
It is through the Law that we get a more distinct image of God. We see the history of His dealings with mankind and the promises He made to Adam, Noah, Abraham, and Moses. We see how He constantly rescued His people and provided for their needs. We also see His righteous indignation and the seriousness in how He dealt with sin.
But there is a problem with this expression. In a theocracy ruled by God according to His Law everyone is guilty and unable to escape His righteous judgment.
One thing the Law makes evidently clear is that we are not only insignificant, but we are also enemies of God.
The Word Became Flesh and Dwelt Among Us...
It is in the midst of this world of insignificant enemies that a third form of God’s expression appeared. The Word that had called our world into existence and was written down to declare God’s glory became flesh. We, who should matter very little, who were in every right the very enemies of God, were blessed with God Himself meeting us on our own level.
The Apostle Paul captures this in Philippians 2:5-7, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.” (NKJV)
In the picture of creation we see the majesty of God’s glory and in the fall we are reminded of our insignificance. In the Law of Moses we learn of God’s holiness and our own inability to measure up to His standard of perfection. But still, within these pictures is an expression of hope. With the pain of childbirth would also come the picture of a promised redeemer who would selflessly suffer to bring new life. In the Law we have a picture of a lamb sacrificed to atone for the sins of mankind. Jesus puts flesh and bone on those pictures and promises. They are not just meaningless words. There has always been a plan for redemption.
The psalmist asks this question, “Who can understand his errors?” (Psalm 19:12) Additionally, we could ask the next series of phrases as questions as well. Who can cleanse themselves from secret faults? Who can keep themselves from presumptuous sins? Who can let sin not have dominion over them? Who can make themselves blameless and innocent of great transgressions? The answer is nobody. No one can stand in the presence of God and not be overwhelmed by the weight of His glory. Jesus not only humbled Himself by becoming one with His creation, but He was also numbered with the transgressors (Luke 22:37) and became sin for us (II Corinthians 5:21) so that He could satisfy the wrath of God on our behalf (Romans 5:9). In Jesus we don’t just have an expression of God’s Word, we have the Word made flesh.
Now we are made joint heirs with Christ. When He comes back to rule over His new creation we will reign with Him. We are given Christ’s righteousness so that we will never be tempted as Adam and Eve were in the garden with the notion that we could be equal with God. We are one in Christ.
God has progressively revealed Himself to us through different forms to point out our need for Him. In creation we see our insignificance. We constantly struggle to keep our universe in orbit around ourselves, even if through genuine effort to fix the mess we have made in our lives and the hope that we could restore balance in the universe. We can look to the Law as an attainable level of righteousness and by lowering the standard just a bit we can feel pretty good about ourselves and look down our noses at other people. We could do either of these two things, but in the end, when we are all alone we have the same burning need to feel significant and righteous.
That significance and righteousness is only made attainable because the Word was made flesh.
“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” John 3:16 (NKJV)