Friday, April 8, 2016

What Southern Baptists teach on the incarnation of Jesus Christ

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Introduction - two verses that introduce us to the truth of the incarnation
Today's post aims to consider what Christians in general, and Southern Baptists in particular, teach about the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ with respect to His incarnation. The "incarnation" or what older  theologians call "the enmanning" of the Eternal Son, refers to the event in which the Eternal Son came to take unto Himself a second, truly human nature. The two key verses above give us access into this central truth.

The first passage, Matthew 1:23, records the fact that the Person of the Son is no less than true Deity by way of the title "Immanuel". This title, originating from Isaiah 7:14, is translated by Matthew into the phrase: "God with us". The passage is situated in a conversation that the angel Gabriel is having with Joseph - Jesus' legal earthly father. 

The concern is to communicate to Joseph the conditions of his espoused fiance's pregnancy. How is it that his fiance, Mary, could be pregnant? The angel utilizes the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 to indicate that no wrong-doing had been done by her, since she remained a virgin. The miracle of the virgin birth/conception was to provide the way in which the Divine Person of the Son could enter from eternity into time. By not having a human father, the humanity of the Son would by-pass the sin nature that travels via the fathers bloodline (see for example 1 Peter 1:18-19). Henceforth, the baby developing in Mary's womb was, with respect to His identity, truly God who came to be also truly man. 

John 1:14, the second verse cited at the beginning of this post, tells us that the Divine Person of the Son "became flesh". In what is the clearest declaration of what theologians call "the incarnation", the Eternal second Person of the Trinity came by means of the virgin conception described in Matthew 1:23 and "became" or "assumed unto His person" a second way of expressing His unparalleled life - namely a true and full humanity. In so far as Matthew 1:23 points to the reality of Jesus Christ as "God incarnate", John 1:14 serves to explain what the reality of the incarnation is - namely "The Word" or "The Son" becoming human flesh. 

How the Baptist Faith and Message unpacks the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God
The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 is the official doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention. It's value lies in explaining and summarizing all the relevant scriptures that speak on various doctrinal subjects. With regard to the truth of Jesus' incarnation, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (henceforth BFM 2000) states the following:

"Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin."

So then, what does this statement tell us about this miracle of the incarnation of the Son of God? In 2007, key SBC leaders Charles S. Kelley Jr., Richard Land and R. Albert Mohler Jr. produced a teaching manual that served to expound on every article of the BFM 2000. In their explanation of the article on Christ's incarnation (above) they write on page 41:(1) 

"Christ's coming in human form is called the 'incarnation'; He was literally God in human flesh. As John put it, the eternal Word 'became flesh and took up residence among us." (John 1:14). This was an act of infinite humility, as Christ emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7). He who made the universe came into His own creation to save His people. This is the distinctive truth of the Christian faith: in Jesus, God came and dwelled among us." 

In another full-length book on the BFM 2000, editors Douglas K. Blount and Joseph D. Wooddell produced a work that attempted to explain how the doctrinal distinctives of the BFM 2000 impact the practical and doctrinal practices of Southern Baptists. Concerning the truth of the incarnation as so described in the BFM 2000, they note on page 21 of their book: (2)

"As Baptists have long affirmed, Jesus of Nazereth is not merely a partake of human nature. He is not merely partly human; He is rather fully human. He did not merely take on the demands and necessities of human nature; rather, He took on that very nature Himself. So says the Baptist Faith and Message 2000; and so say Southern Baptists as a people."

Closing thoughts
Today we aimed to see what Christians in general and Southern Baptists in particular teach from God's Word regarding the incarnation of the Son of God. We first looked briefly at Matthew 1:23 and John 1:14 as leading verses on this central truth. We then focused on our attention on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and two commentaries that explained it's article on the event and significance of Christ's incarnation as a central Biblical truth of historic Christian faith. To Jesus be the glory! 

1. Charles S. Kelley Jr., Richard Land and R. ALbert Mohler Jr. The Baptist Faith and Message. Lifeway Press. 2007. 

2. Douglas K. Blount and Joseph D. Wooddell. Baptist Faith and Message 2000 - Critical Issues in America's Largest Protestant Denomination. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 2007

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