Is The Incarnation Unfitting?
In 1 Timothy 1:17, God is described as “the King eternal, immortal, invisible, the only wise God, [to Him] be honour and glory for ever and ever.”
From Genesis to Malachi, we are told many things about God. God is a spirit. God is the uncreated Creator. God is glorious, He is high and lifted up, none compares to Him who is above all. And if we were to stop there in our knowledge of God, we would certainly have a God worthy of all our worship. A God that is utterly transcendent, totally beyond us, incomprehensible and divine. From this perspective, we might say that it would be unfitting for that God to become man. Just as it is unfitting for a king to do his servant’s chores, scrubbing the floor of his own palace, it would be incongruous, improper, unfitting for God, being beyond being, to take on the likeness of human frailty. Men stink. Men sin. Men die. What could be farther from godlikeness than that?
It is not uncommon for believers of other religions, be it Muslims or pagans or philosophers, to mock the idea of God dying for sinners. As Paul says in 1 Corinthians 1:23, “We preach Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumblingblock, and unto the Greeks foolishness.”
The stumblingblock and foolishness of the gospel, is that God became man and died for sinners. This stumbles Jews who rightly believed that God is a spirit and invisible. This looks like foolishness to Greeks who believed in malicious gods that were just as unreliable and changeable as men. Certainly, it would be incongruous, improper, unfitting for the eternal God to become man.
But is it really? Is the central doctrine of our faith a contradiction in terms.
In answer to this question, the greatest theologians in church history argued what I will argue now:
- It might seem unfitting at first, that God should become a man.
- But only until you consider His goodness and His love.
- It belongs to the essence of goodness to overflow, to communicate itself to others. Goodness cannot keep itself to itself.
- We could consequently say that Creation is an effect of the goodness of God, which is why Paul can say in 1 Timothy 4:4, “Every creature of God is good, and nothing to be refused, if it be received with thanksgiving.” All creation participates in the goodness of God inasmuch as we derive our being from Him.
- So if it is the essence of goodness to communicate itself, and the essence of love to desire the good of its object, then it would actually be most fitting for God who is the highest good and very Love, to communicate to creatures in the highest manner possible, and what could be higher than God joining to Himself a human nature? What could be more fitting than for God, who is essential love and goodness, to become incarnate and die, so that we might participate in His goodness and love forever.
- This is the gospel message, the glory of the incarnation, and it is why God became man: to die and rise for sinners.
- In the name of the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Amen.