The Incarnation :: by Dave Hunt

Paul reminds us, “Great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tm 3:16). What a mystery the incarnation is! How astonishing – and yet essential to our salvation – that God, as the Hebrew prophets in the Old Testament foretold (Is 7:14; 9:6; Mic 5:2; Zec 12:10, etc.), could become a man. Nor did He, at His incarnation, cease to be God, which would be impossible. God and man now exist together in one Person, the Lord Jesus Christ, the unique God-man!

Mary, a virgin when Jesus was conceived and born, knew that God was His Father, but it was too much to understand. He nursed at her breast, grew as a child, and at night His rhythmic breathing mingled with that of the other sleeping children to whom Mary gave birth by Joseph (Mt 12:47; 13:55; Mk 3:32; Lk 8:20). So “normal” was He as a child that Mary lapsed by habit into calling Joseph His father – “thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” When Jesus gently reproved her – “wist ye not that I must be about my Father’s business” – she and Joseph “understood not” what He meant. Mary pondered this mystery “in her heart” (Lk 2:19,48-51).

Jesus was not popularly acclaimed in Nazareth. He was unrecognized and even hated “without a cause” (Jn 15:18,25)! Here was God himself, the Creator, walking among His creatures – and they despised Him! How deep was the alienation between God and man! Few were those who could say, “And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father), full of grace and truth” (Jn 1:14).

The careful language of Scripture calls Christ “the second man” (1 Cor 15:47). From Adam until this One, there was never a man who deserved to be truly called “man” in the fullness God purposed. As Adam was created by God, so Christ’s body was created in the womb of a virgin: “A body hast thou prepared me” (Heb 10:5). Here was man once again as God had intended him to be. Here, too, was God as man: “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (Jn 14:9).

As the progenitor of a new race of those who have been born again, Christ is also called the last Adam (I Cor 15:45). Those redeemed by His blood (Eph 1:7; Col 1 :14), to whom He has given eternal life as a free gift of His grace, will “never perish” (Jn 10:28). Never will there be a third Adam or a fourth. How incredible it is that God became a man; and how wonderful are the implications for us for eternity! God had to become a man to pay the penalty which His infinite justice required of man for sin: “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin” (Rom 5:12), So it had to be that “by man came also the resurrection of the dead” (1 Cor 15:21).

The God of the Bible created the universe out of nothing. The universe is not God nor an extension of Him, nor is He part of it. Therefore, to speak of God as “She” or to refer to “Mother Earth” or “Mother Nature” or even “Mother/Father God” promotes a grave heresy. A woman nurtures her offspring within her womb and gives birth out of herself, precisely what God does not do. Nor is man, though in God’s image (Gen 1 :26-27), an extension of God or part of God but a separate being entirely.

Obviously, being made “in the image of God” has nothing to do with man’s physical form, for “God is a Spirit” (Jn 4:24). Man was made in the spiritual and moral image of God. God made man’s body from the “dust of the ground.” Man’s soul and spirit, however, are nonphysical: “And the LORD God… breathed into his [Adam’s] nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul” (Gen 2:7). Reflecting the triune nature of God (Father, Son and Holy Spirit), man is also a triune being: body, soul and spirit. Paul wrote, “I pray God your whole spirit and soul and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ (1 Thes 5:23). And God’s Word causes a “dividing asunder of soul and spirit” (Heb 4:12). Having made man a triune being in His image, God could become a man in order to redeem His creatures.

At first, the Spirit of God indwelt the spirits of Adam and Eve. Their focus was toward God. The enjoyment of bodily pleasures and sense of their own identities was more wonderful than we can imagine because it was all to the glory of God rather than for self-gratification. When they sinned, the Spirit of God departed from their spirits and their orientation turned from God to self. Thus we, their descendants, are by nature sensual, selfish and materialistic. Instead of the joy of fellowship with God, man finds his joy in this world’s “lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life” (1 Jn 2:16).

These three lusts are all that Satan and the world have to offer. We see them in Eve’s sin: the forbidden fruit’s delicious taste, its enticing visual appeal, and the wisdom with which it would endow her. We see them in Satan’s tempting of Christ: to turn stones into bread to satisfy his bodily hunger; to succumb to the appealing panorama of “all the kingdoms of the world, and the glory of them”; to cast himself from the pinnacle of the temple, causing the angels to catch Him in midair and the watching Jews to worship Him (Mt 4: 1-11). Unlike the first man and first Adam, the Second Man and Last Adam refused Satan’s offer.

In everyone else except Christ, the unique God-man, the battle rages between man’s flesh and God’s Spirit: “For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh” (Gal 5:17). Even Paul acknowledged, “For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do” (Rom 7:18-19). Man’s spirit has become a slave to his soul and body. He can never be right – even his morality and uprightness can never be anything but the “filthy rags” (Is 64:6) of self-righteousness – until the Spirit of God indwells and rules in man’s spirit once again. Only Christ, in Whose person God and man have been united, can bring this reconciliation within man’s heart. Paul, who said, “O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death?”, declared in triumph, “I thank God [that there is deliverance] through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 7:24-25)!

David exulted, “I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Ps 139:14)! Materialism has trivialized man. Materialistic science has denied the nonphysical spirit and soul of man and turned him into a stimulus-response mechanism. It alleges that man’s thoughts, ambitions, likes, dislikes, even his sense of right and wrong and the experience of love and compassion, can all be explained in terms of electrical and chemical impulses in his brain and nervous system. Such folly was the basis for Sigmund Freud’s theories and is still behind the treatment of mental disorders with drugs.

Yes, the brain may be like a computer, but no computer can think on its own. Someone must tell it what to do. What folly to imagine that thoughts originate in the brain! If so, we would be prisoners of our brains, helplessly dragged along as its chemical/electrical processes determined our thoughts and even our morals and emotions. In fact, thought is initiated by the soul and spirit, which use the brain to operate the body and to interface with this physical world of sensual experience in which our bodies function.

There are more cells in the brain than stars in the universe, and these cells make up hundreds of billions of neurons and trillions of synapses in perfect balance. Moreover, the mysterious link between the spirit of man, made in God’s image, and his brain and body is forever beyond the grasp of science. Yet that connection is being tampered with by drugs in order to adjust man’s behavior – behavior which was meant to reflect God’s perfect purity, but instead reflects man’s rebellion and sin as a child of Satan: “ye are of your father, the devil” (Jn 8:44). There are no chemical solutions to spiritual problems. Yet millions take drugs such as Prozac, Effexor, Valium, Ritalin, Zoloft, Paxil, etc. to deal with spiritual problems.

The Bible declares that man’s inner turmoil, insecurity, lust, anger, his conflict with himself and others and any other “emotional problems” which beset him are spiritual at their root (2 Cor 7:1; Gal 5: 16; Col 1:21). They result from man’s rebellion against God and the wrenching separation from God which that rebellion effected in the depths of his being. Therefore, the solution to man’s emotional and spiritual problems is reconciliation to God. Tragically, that solution is being set aside in favor of correcting a “chemical imbalance” in the brain with drugs.

There is no doubt that much can go wrong with the brain as a physical instrument. However, even secular psychiatrists admit that the brain is far too complex to be precisely “adjusted” with drugs. Although we don’t endorse all of his views, Peter R. Breggin, M.D., is one of the world’s leading experts on psychoactive drugs. He reminds us, “the biochemical activities that run the brain remain almost wholly shrouded in mystery. If depression… has a biological or genetic basis, it has not been demonstrated scientifically…. Biopsychiatric theory remains pure speculation and runs counter to a great deal of research and clinical experience, as well as common sense….”1 Breggin continues,

“The biochemical imbalance theory is merely the latest biopsychiatric speculation, presented to the public as a scientific truth. [T]he ironic truth is this: The only known biochemical imbalances in the brains of nearly all psychiatric patients are those caused by the treatments…. Curiously, in light of so much psychiatric concern about the dangers of biochemical imbalances, all known psychiatric drugs produce widespread chemical imbalances in the brain…. (Emphasis added) It seems foolhardy to imagine that blocking one of the brain’s biochemical functions [which all psychiatric drugs are designed to do] would somehow improve the brain and mind. At the root lies a dangerous assumption that it is safe and effective to tamper with the most complex organ in the universe!”2

The awesome implications of tampering with the brain are not generally recognized by those relying upon chemical solutions. Nor are Christian psychologists acknowledging the even more serious consequences of tampering with the brain’s response to the soul and spirit of man, so “fearfully and wonderfully” made in the image of God!

A word of caution: We are not advocating that anyone now taking medication should stop abruptly. Psychiatric drugs can be addictive, and to stop suddenly could have serious consequences. Any change in medication should be only under the supervision of a physician. We are simply pointing out that no one really knows how drugs work or the full range of their effects. Many drugs prescribed by physicians for years have only later been found to have such devastating effects that they have been removed from the market.

The connection between the spirit and the brain and body is known only to God. The moral and spiritual consequences of tampering with the brain and nervous system through drugs could be far worse than the physical dangers. Consider depression, for example. Drugs too often mask the real need and hinder one from turning to Christ for the spiritual solution that can only be found in Him. In pursuing a chemical solution, science ignores (because it cannot deal with it) what ought to be the first priority: getting right with God through the redemption which is in the Lord Jesus Christ alone. His incarnation united God and man in His own person; and He brings that reconciliation and union within the human spirit when He is received as Savior and invited to dwell there. Christianity (unlike Hinduism, Buddhism, Islam, etc.) is not a set of rules for one to follow in one’s own strength. Only Christ can live the Christian life, and He will live it in and through those who believe in Him. Note the wonder of what Paul said: “[I]t pleased God… to reveal his Son in me” (Gal 1:15-16). He wants to reveal His Son in us as well. That’s what Christianity is!

The indwelling of Christ within the human spirit is as great a mystery as the incarnation itself. To those who trust Him and obey His Word, He becomes their very life: “I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me” (Gal 2:20); “ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God” (Col 3:3). Obviously, the Spirit of Christ within needs no help from psychotherapy or drugs. What we need above all is to trust, obey and rejoice in Him. Nor does Christ promise an easy path. The Christian life is beset by trials and temptations and conflicts between the flesh and the Spirit, allowed by God to test us to see whether or not we will really trust and obey Him. As He told Israel,

“And thou shalt remember all the way which the LORD thy God led thee these forty years in the wilderness, to humble thee, and to prove thee, to know what was in thine heart, whether thou wouldest keep his commandments, or no. And he humbled thee, and suffered thee to hunger,… that he might make thee know that man doth not live by bread only, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of the LORD doth man live” (Dt 8:2-3).

Without the Incarnation, mankind was doomed eternally. “[A]ll have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom 3:23); and “[T]he wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Rom 6:23). We believe in Christ as our Savior from the penalty of sin. Let us also trust Him fully as the One who indwells us and will overcome sin in our lives. May we rejoice in “the riches of the glory of this mystery… Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col 1:27)! TBC


1 Peter R. Breggin, M.D., Talking Back to Prozac: What Doctors Aren’t Telling You About Today’s Most Controversial Drug (St. Martin’s Paper-backs, 1994), 34, 39.

2 Ibid, 34, 37, 38-40.