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The Incarnation, Explained by Jesus (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
December 17, 2022 3:00 am

The Incarnation, Explained by Jesus (Part 1 of 2)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 17, 2022 3:00 am

At Christmas, we celebrate the birth of Jesus. But what was the Son of God doing before He was born? Where did Jesus come from? Why did He come? Study along with us as we explore the answers to these questions on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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Music Playing At Christmas we celebrate the birth of Jesus, but what was the Son of God doing before he was born? On Truth for Life weekend we'll examine that question and more as Alistair Begg teaches a message titled, The Incarnation Explained by Jesus. John chapter 6 and verse 35. Here in this little section that begins at 35 and goes to 40, we have a wonderful summary statement that Jesus provides. You know, when you read the Gospel accounts in Matthew and in Luke and you read the prologue of John's Gospel, you find yourself saying, I wonder what Jesus has to say about all of this.

I wonder what his perspective is. And you have to wait for a little while, but eventually you find him explaining just exactly why it is that he has come. And in verse 38 here, Jesus gives us a summary statement. "'For I have come down from heaven,' he says, not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I shall lose none of all that he has given me, but raise them up at the last day."

The temptation this morning is that—and it's a temptation primarily for myself—but it is that I take as light a pass as I possibly can over the material of the birth of the Lord Jesus Christ, reasoning something like this. Well, these are dear people, and they came to church. Therefore, reward them by saying hardly anything and make it as easy as possible for them to listen and get on with their lives. After all, they're faithful souls, and there's no reason that you should take it out on them in any way by making them think unduly. Most of them have not been thinking for a number of hours now, and it's unlikely that they will be thinking to you as you speak. Therefore, try and say as little as possible, as quickly as possible, and hurry home for your lunch. Now, I must confess that I thought along those lines for quite a while, and I couldn't get any freedom to do so.

Not that I want to suggest to you that this morning is tremendously taxing. I hope that the youngest child that is here—and we want our congregation to be made up of children who can understand, as in Nehemiah chapter 8—but I hope the youngest child that is here will be able to walk away and say, Yes, I remember the questions, and I remember the answers. And I hope the person who is thinking deeply about the issue of the incarnation will also have enough to chew on when they go away. And to that end, here are the questions. We're going to ask the question, Where did Jesus come from? Why did Jesus come?

And what, if anything, does it mean to me? Where did Jesus come from? The issue of his origin. Why did Jesus come? The matter of his purpose. And what, if anything, does it mean to me?

The issue of significance. Now, the words of Jesus here in this section are set within a context, and it is a long chapter. Chapter 6 begins with the feeding of the five thousand. It's followed by Jesus walking on the water. The crowds are coming to seek him. They find him, verse 25 tells us, on the other side of the lake, and when they get there, they begin to ply him with questions. Jesus says to them, I know you're here only because you saw the miraculous signs. If you were really earnest about following me, then you would listen to what I say, and you would put it into practice. And in the course of conversation, these people say, Well, you know, Moses gave his followers manna in the wilderness.

What miraculous sign are you prepared to do in order that we might have the confidence to believe in you? And in verse 32, Jesus says, I tell you the truth. It's not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. And listen to verse 33.

For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world. Life to the world. So this message of Christmas is a message of life. We know that.

It's mentioned again and again. It is a message of light. Therefore, I put it to you as being a supremely relevant message. Even at cursory glance at the literature of recent days, the superficial perusal of contemporary magazines point to the fact that from a very secular point of view, we are greatly in need of a message of life in our world. For we live in a world in which it is not unkind to say that many are growing up and finding it to be almost totally without meaning. Teenagers in particular have grown up with such a diet of philosophy that they have decided that the world is without design and it is without purpose.

And so you have these young people who have everything to live with and nothing to live for. The world into which the message of Jesus comes is a world not only without meaning, but it is also a world largely without fulfillment. If it were that materialism fulfilled the longings of hearts, then we wouldn't have had that anticlimactic feeling yesterday when we had our seventh pair of socks given to us. And we claimed that, of course, we were not materialists at all until the seventh pair. Actually, I got no socks yesterday, so I'm not speaking from any sense of embitterment at all.

I'm not looking for them, but I'm just pointing out that there is nothing that can be given at Christmas that will answer the hole in your heart. For it is not a material hole, it is a spiritual hole. And until that spiritual void is filled, then we live in a world without fulfillment. We live, thirdly, in a world without freedom. Again, our young people are bright enough to understand that the message that is being conveyed to them is this.

Either they are a chance collection of atoms, or they are chemically determined. And their whole existence in life is devoid of freedom. They long for a freedom, but they continue to play Pink Floyd, sensing that the lyric there is correct and that they are nothing other than another brick in the wall. And consequently, it is no surprise to discover that for many it is a world without hope. Much of the fearfulness at the end of this century has to do with the fact that people are without God and without hope in the world. Now sketch that by way of background, albeit briefly, simply to remind you of the supreme relevance of one who stands straddling, as it were, time and eternity, and he says, I am the bread of God that has come down from heaven, and I give life to the world. Well then, where did Jesus come from? It's the kind of question that children ask their grandparents when they're trying to stave off being sent up to their beds. And when they know that it's time for them to go to bed, and they've exhausted every other question, if they have Christian grandparents, they may ask them a theological question, not in the hope that they get an answer but that they might be able to stay up a little longer. And so just when you're saying, Come on now, let's get you up to your bed, because your mother will be home soon, you say, Grandpa, where did Jesus come from? And Grandpa says, From heaven. And the kid says, Where's heaven? And Grandpa says, Well, heaven is the word in the Bible for the home of God. Heaven, both in Hebrew and in Greek, says Grandpa, is the word for sky. It's the place where the throne of God dwells. It's the place in which Jesus was before he came to earth and the place to which he has returned. And then, hitting his stride, Grandpa says, heaven appears in the Bible as a spatial reality that touches and interpenetrates all created space.

Now, get up to your bed, and that's enough for this evening. Of course, Grandpa didn't say that, because Grandpa's not smart enough to say that, and he's frightened that if he did say that, the child may be smart enough to come back with another question which, of course, would leave him completely flat on the floor. Simple answers are the best. Where did Jesus come from? Jesus came from heaven. Where is heaven? Heaven is where God dwells. Okay. Does it matter that Jesus came from heaven?

Yes. That's why it's emphasized so much, not least of all in John's Gospel. Look at the thirteenth verse of chapter 3. Jesus is speaking, No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven, the Son of Man. Verse 31 of the same chapter, The one who comes from above, says John the Baptist, is above all. When you turn to the sixth chapter, from which we read briefly, you discover that this is mentioned all the way through.

The coming of Jesus from heaven to earth is mentioned in verse 33, 38, 41, 42, 50, 51, and 58. In other words, it is a significant emphasis. This is not an extraneous piece of information. The fact that Jesus came from heaven is of vital importance.

Why? Because it is affirming and confirming this essential truth—the truth of the preexistence of Jesus of Nazareth. That when Christ was born as a baby in Bethlehem, in his incarnate state, he becomes in that instant a dweller in time.

But prior to that, he has existed in all of eternity in his creative power and in communion with the Father and with the Holy Spirit. Now, this is a somewhat robust thought for the Sunday morning after Christmas, but it is a vital thought if we are not to be allowed to sideline Christmas in terms of sentimentalism or in terms of the spirit of goodwill or of cashew nuts and blankets put over old ladies' legs so that they don't get a draft when the back door is open from the garage, and all of that kind of thing. I've had a marvelous Christmas.

I shoveled my neighbor's walk, and I ate a little more than I should, and it was nice to be with my friends. Now, we can put it all back in the box again with the decorations, and we can get on with our lives, you know, the real part of life. Jesus came. He was in a little place. We looked at it for a moment or two, and we put him back where he had been.

Not so quickly. Where did you come from, Jesus? I came down from heaven. What were you doing up there? I was creating the universe.

I was creating people like you that would ask dumb questions about me. Now, this is of distinct importance, because it is orthodox Christianity. Therefore, distinguishable from Unitarianism, from Mormonism, and from Jehovah's Witnesses. Every time I mention this, people write me letters, especially when it goes on the radio, and they send me information from their books showing to me clearly that many earnest and devout people do not understand the doctrine they are being taught in the cults in America. I had a letter this week from a Mormon explaining to me that I shouldn't have said what I said about the pre-existence of Jesus, and she sent me a large screed from the Book of Mormon, which of course I have on my shelf and read from time to time myself. The lady is deluded. She doesn't understand that what is being said in the book is actually denying the things that she thinks.

It's affirming. For Unitarianism and Mormonism and the Jehovah's Witnesses and all the other cults teach that there was a time when Jesus did not exist. And if you think that there was a time when Jesus did not exist, then you are not orthodox in your understanding of Christianity. And the Council of Nicaea in AD 325 met to deal with this because it was quickly becoming a problem in the early church, and they affirmed certain truths—that the Father and the Son and the Spirit are of the same substance as one another. And they began to formulate, although not explain, what we refer to as the doctrine of the Trinity. And emerging from our study last week, it is clear to me that the difficulty that some had with it, apart from the difficulty that I brought to it as a result of inarticulation, the difficulty in hearing is on account of the fact that some of you do not have an understanding of the Trinity at all. And you look in your Bible, and you say, Well, the Trinity isn't in the Bible. It's from Trinitas, the word for threeness. And when you take the Bible and you unfold it, you discover this—that God is one and three, that each person of the Godhead—the Father, the Son, and the Spirit—are coequal and coeternal, each being I in relationship to the other two who are you, so that the Son may address God, the Father as you, and the Father may address the Son as you, and both may address the Spirit as you.

Well, you say, What is it? That there are three roles being played by one person? No, that is modalism, which is a heresy. Is it, then, that there are three gods that just cluster up to one another?

No, that is tritheism, which is also a heresy. Well, then, what is it? That there is one God, and that one God is equally they.

If you want something to chew on in the afternoon, just before you fall asleep, write on the top of a sheet of paper, One is they. And have a pleasant afternoon. And when you go back into your Bible, you will discover that the Trinity is at work. God the Father initiating, God the Son complying, and God the Spirit executing. Think about it in relationship to salvation. God the Father plans it, God the Son procures it, and God the Spirit applies it to our lives. So what God the Father has planned in all of eternity in conjunction with the other members of the Trinity is then carried out by the Son and then is applied to people's lives by the Spirit, who takes the Bible when someone is speaking or explaining and rings a bell inside of your head and said, You know, what this fellow is talking about is exactly what you require. And all the elements of the Godhead are involved in that. Well, all of that simply to say that the child in the manger, the infant of Mary, is none other than the incarnate Christ. Veiled in flesh, says the Carol writer, the Godhead, see, hail the incarnate deity, pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus, our Immanuel, he is God with us. Incidentally, classic Unitarianism taught this, and there's a lot of Unitarianism in Cleveland.

Some of the finest architecture in Cleveland are Unitarian churches. They say that Jesus was a person who was just born like any other person. But because it says in the Bible that he came down from heaven, they said that he went up to heaven mysteriously, and then he came back down from heaven. But he wasn't in heaven to start with.

He sort of went up to have a visit so that he could come back down. Modern-day Unitarianism talks about an ideal existence in heaven rather than a real existence in heaven, which is a very clever piece of semantic work. And what they're saying is this, is that Jesus existed in heaven in the thought of God the Father. He was not God, but he existed in the mind of God, and therefore in that sense he came from God from heaven. Well, what did Jesus say? He said, I came from heaven.

Well, wouldn't it be with doing anything we ought to at least allow him to say what he says? He put words in the mouth of God. No, Jesus, that's not what you meant. Let me explain to you what you meant here.

How proud. Where did Jesus come from? He came down from heaven. Second, why did Jesus come?

Why did Jesus come? He tells us in verse 38, For I have come down from heaven… And then he tells us what he didn't come to do, namely his own will, and then he tells us what he did come to do, to do the will of him who sent me. In John's Gospel, as elsewhere in the Bible, the coming down from heaven is actually not the emphasis. The emphasis lies in the purpose of his coming down from heaven. And you'll notice that the purpose of Jesus in coming down from heaven is stated, first of all, in relationship to God and not in relationship to man. Why have you come down from heaven, Lord Jesus? I have come down from heaven to please my Father and to perform his will. Isn't that what he's saying? I didn't come down here to do my own will, but I came to do the will of him who sent me.

Now, this takes us back to where we were last week. Because it is impossible to understand the work of Christ in relationship to the will of God unless we see it in terms of a pre-time, pre-incarnational agreement that takes place between the members of the Trinity, in which the Son agrees to complete a specific task and the Father promises to uphold the Son in the fulfilling of the task and then to reward him for having done so. Now, when you get to grips with that, then you understand what it is that Jesus is saying all the way through. For example, in the thirtieth verse of John chapter 5, Jesus says, By myself I can do nothing.

I judge only as I hear, my judgment is just. Now, here's the phrase, For I seek not to please myself, but him who sent me. Verse 16 of chapter 7. My teaching says Jesus is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. Verse 16 of chapter 8.

But if I do judge, my decisions are right, because I'm not alone. I stand with the Father who sent me. John chapter 14 and verse 31—I won't keep this up—but verse 31, The world must learn that I love the Father, and I do exactly what my Father has commanded me. Now, when the work is accomplished, he is then able to return to his Father. That's the significance of his prayer in John chapter 17 and verse 4, where he prays to his Father, and he says, Father, I have brought you glory on earth by completing the work that you gave me to do. So when you think of Jesus, think of a man with a mission. Think of someone who, in growing into his manhood, exists to fulfill the plan and purpose of God. Indeed, even at the age of twelve, his parents are mystified, his mother Mary and his father Joseph, finding him in the temple, seeing that he is having these amazing conversations with the religious leaders of his day. They say to him, Hey, Jesus, we've been looking everywhere for you.

And remember his reply? Don't you realize that I have to be about my Father's business? Imagine them going down the road again back towards Nazareth and talking to one another the way parents do once the children are out of earshot, and Mary saying to Joseph, What do you make of that business back there in the temple?

What is that stuff I have to be about my Father's business? She still hadn't grasped it when, at the wedding of Cana in Galilee, she comes around to Jesus and she says, Hey, Jesus, they're all out of wine. It's a faux pas here. They are done with wine. Can you do something? You remember Jesus' reply? Woman, my time has not yet come.

It's an amazing statement. Can you imagine his mother again? She walks away, she said, All I said was they ran out of wine. I mean, I don't know about his time coming around. I just said, Jesus, we're out of wine. My time has not yet come.

Why? Because he was a man with a mission. He knew that the issue was not that they run out of wine. He knew that the issue was that they needed the wine of cleansing, that they needed the water of life, that the real thing that they required was not that their party keep going, but that they might meet him, who was himself the incarnate Christ. So don't think for a moment, if you've come here today and you're questioning these things and you're wondering about these things—and I hope that there are many who are in that position—don't think for a moment that you can so quickly sideline Jesus and push him away, as it were, with the Christmas ornaments and say, Well, that's enough for a while, because he doesn't allow us to do that.

He won't allow us to wriggle away so easily. In fact, the statement, I have come down from heaven here in John chapter 6.38, the statement, I have come down from heaven, if that had a full stop after it, without the explanatory phrases which follow—namely, not to do my will but to do the will of him who sent me—then frankly, it would remain a marvel, but it wouldn't make any sense. And that's where many people are with Jesus. First of all, they're not sure that he ever did come down from heaven. But if you can bring them to believe that perhaps he did come down from heaven, they have a full stop after heaven. Jesus came down from heaven.

Huh? Well, why did he come down from heaven? Not to do my will, but to do the will of him who sent me. The Jesus who came down from heaven is a Jesus who has existed throughout eternity. He is co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father and God the Spirit. That's Alistair Begg affirming that Jesus the Son came from heaven to do the Father's will.

We'll find out more next weekend. You're listening to Truth for Life Weekend. There's a book we are currently recommending that we think you'll find useful in the new year. It's titled Every Moment Holy. This is a book of prayers that you can pray to acknowledge God's presence and his sovereignty during the everyday moments of life. For example, there are prayers for common experiences that often pass relatively unnoticed.

Things like cooking a meal or working around the house, even spending time with friends. There are prayers for more significant moments in life like moving into a new home, preparing for a medical procedure, or suffering the loss of a loved one. There's even a section of the book that has prayers designed for memorization so you can easily recall them in a moment of need. This is a beautiful leather-bound book.

It's small enough to carry around with you so you'll always be ready for a time of prayer. You can learn more about the book Every Moment Holy when you visit our website at When you download the Truth for Life app, you can take Alistair's teaching with you wherever you go. If you're not listening through the app today and you've yet to download it to your phone or your tablet, take a moment and do so before you travel for the holidays. The app takes you directly to each day's program. You can also access Alistair's entire teaching library, the daily devotional, you can read articles and check out our book recommendations.

Just search Truth for Life in your app store. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for joining us this weekend. Today we learned that Jesus came from heaven to do the Father's will, but what significance does that have for each one of us?

We'll find out next weekend. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2022-12-17 07:42:42 / 2022-12-17 07:52:23 / 10

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