Why did God become a man? So far we have seen that God became a man so that he might share in our suffering and die our death. But what was the purpose of all of this suffering and dying? On this extremely cold Epiphany, I want to post the final part in this series asserting that God became a man so that he might make us his children. This was the purpose of God from before time began.
“Aren’t we all the children of God already?” Some might ask. The answer is partly “yes,” and partly, “no.” By his role as creator, provider, and sustainer of all that is, including humanity, God is the “Father” of creation by his very nature. Therefore, everyone owes him love and adoration as “Father.” But because of man’s fallen condition in sin, we are alienated, separated from God and from his blessings.
In Ephesians 2, the Apostle Paul makes clear that, because of sin, man does not rest in a state of peace with God. Far from friends, let alone children of God, sin has made mankind enemies of God, rebels against his will, and children, not of his love, but of his wrath.
Apart from Christ, this aptly describes our relationship to God. We might say to ourselves, “I don’t hate God, I’m not an enemy of God;” but apart from the righteous blood of Jesus Christ, our sins are like a foul stench and a filthy garment in the presence of holy God. Our sin is nothing less than outright rebellion against the holy Law of God.
But, if you’ll notice, Paul is speaking in past tense, “you were dead,” “you once walked,” “you were children of wrath.” Thank God the passage does not end there. Paul continues saying that for those whose faith is in Jesus Christ, they have been adopted out of that state of wrath and death and have been grafted into the very family of God. That great exchange that takes place is because of nothing more than the grace of God. No goodness of our own causes God to make us want him as his children; it is merely his love, mercy and grace given to us in Jesus Christ.
We somehow take offense when called, “sinners deserving of God’s righteous wrath.” For some reason, we think we deserve more, our human dignity demands what we might call “fairness.” We tend to put offense in the wrong place. We get offended when we think about a holy God putting men into Hell, we say “that’s not fair,” “a loving God would never do that!” But have you ever stopped to think that we have our offense backwards? Isn’t it more scandalous that a holy God, a righteous and perfect judge, would let sinners go free, even sending his own Son to take their punishment for them? “‘Tis mercy all immense and free,” says Wesley, and we ought to echo “and praise my God, it found out me!”
When we weren’t seeking for him, when we had turned aside from him, when we were his enemies, rebels against him and his holy Law, his mercy, his love, his grace found us! Hallelujah, what a Savior!
I’ve continued to point us to Hebrews 2 for the answer to our question, “why did God become a man?” I want to point to that passage again in this final section. Verses 12-13 continue saying that the “ones being sanctified,” and the “sanctifier,” have “one source.” What in the world could that possibly mean? Well, who is the one who sanctifies? Who is our subject? None other than our Lord Jesus Christ. Then who are the ones being sanctified? Those whose faith is in Christ. And according to this verse, we both have “one source.” And what is that source? Think about John 3:16, “For God so loved the world that he _______ his only begotten ______.” Surely you can fill in those blanks. God “gave,” his only “Son.” The Son is sent from the Father, he is from him; and according to this passage, we are now from him by our union with Christ. Our source and parentage is no longer the devil and wrath, but God himself. In fact, the author goes on to call us “brothers” of Christ because of our adoption through him to God the Father. What strange language that we should be called “brothers” of Christ; but how marvelous is that truth. We are brothers of Christ, the children of God, heirs of the Kingdom.
And what does this have to do with God becoming man? Everything.
In the incarnation, that is the act in which the immortal God became “carnal” or “fleshly;” he took on flesh. Christ perfectly unites, in himself, humanity and divinity. In the God-Man Jesus Christ, heaven and earth are brought together, united in his work, life, and ministry. So that line of Wesley’s carol, “God and sinners reconciled,” is only possible because the attributes of deity and humanity were perfectly reconciled in the person of Jesus Christ. No other formula is even possible. And because God, in Christ, became a human being, we might be raised to the very presence and throne of God, not merely as slaves, which would be fitting, but as children and co-heirs with Christ.
Apart from Christ, we are all without hope and are alienated from God, we are not his children, but we are children of wrath, children of the wrath that God will pour out on sin. We are enemies of God, rebels to his will and scoffers of his grace. But what grace has the Father lavished on us that we should be called his sons and daughters! Not because of any good works done by us in the flesh, not because of our love for him or our human will, but because of his glorious grace; simple, unmerited, unearned grace. How is this possible? In the birth of Christ, the birth of the very Son of God, very God of very God became very man of very man, wrapped himself in our flesh and humanity and descended to us in the form of a baby. In that instance and throughout his perfect life and ministry, Christ was reconciling God and man.
On this final day of the Christmas season, Christians have traditionally commemorated a day called “Epiphany.” Very early on in Christian history, this was the one and only commemoration of the first events in the life and ministry of Jesus Christ, from his birth to his baptism in the Jordan. Western Christianity has come to associate this day, January 6 with the arrival of the Magi to worship the Christ-child and to offer him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh. It has been called “Epiphany,” because for the Magi (and all gentiles) it was just that, a sudden manifestation and realization of God. Think of it, God, in his grace, drawing pagan gentiles to come and worship the incarnate Son of God. For those whose faith is in Christ, this is our story. We were once lost, separated from God, and alienated from the promises of Israel. But a “light has shown” on us. God has pulled us from darkness and into his very own Kingdom, not merely as servants, but as children.
God became a man that night in Bethlehem to share in our suffering and to die our death so that he might make us his very own children. The light of God is Jesus Christ, “he is the radiance of the Father’s glory” (Heb. 1:1), and the fullest revelation of God. Look to him, trust him, and believe in him. Receive his light and flee from the darkness. If you will but only turn to Christ and repent of your sin, God will receive you back, not merely as a gracious Master and King, but as a loving Father.