Summary: Explore the huge step of God becoming human and what that means for God understanding our struggles.
Our Incomparable Christ—Incarnation; Col 1:15-20; Phil 2:5-11; Nov 15, 2015, p.m.; 2nd of 4.
It’s great to be with you, and I’m grateful for the op-portunity. We’re considering “Our Incomparable Christ” as we explore Colossians 1:15-20. So far we’ve noted that Christ is the agent of creation, and everything that was cre-ated was created “for him.” God made us with a purpose, which means our lives have value and meaning. And that purpose is to honor God. So we ask ourselves, WWHG, “What would honor God?”
A little kid was drawing a picture at the kitchen table. His mom studied it for a moment and asked, “Hey, bud, what are you drawing a picture of?” The child said, “God.” Mom said, “But nobody knows what God looks like.” The child re-plied, “They do now.”
Our text says Jesus is, “the image of the invisible God” (1:15). We can’t see God, but Jesus came in the flesh so we could see him. And when we’ve seen Jesus, we’ve seen God. Verse 19 says, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in [Christ].” All his fullness. Everything of God was in Christ. Christ was God in human form. Later in Co-lossians it says, “In Christ all the fullness of the deity lives in bodily form” (2:9). The unique, true, and living God revealed himself to us in the bodily form of Jesus of Nazareth. We call it the incarnation, and it is as theologically significant as the crucifixion and the resurrection. Without it there is no Christianity.
Before I retired a year ago we lived in central Ohio. Traffic was terrible. I remember sitting in backed up traffic one day and thinking, “If other people in other parts of the country are dealing with this same kind of traffic and spend-ing this much time sitting in their cars, we are really becom-ing an in-car-nation.” Sorry. That’s not what we’re talking about tonight.
The incarnation is another factor that makes Christ “incomparable.” I want to dig into it a bit and then think about its implications for our lives. Again, we’ll invite your questions and ideas at the end, so keep them in mind.
Another excellent passage of scripture that talks about the greatness of Christ is in Philippians 2. It says, “Christ Jesus, who being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped (or exploited)” (2:6). Jesus was truly God in every way, but he didn’t cling to his prerogatives and privileges as God. He didn’t “pull rank.” Another translation says, “Though he was God, he did not demand and cling to his rights as God” (NLT). He certainly could have. He had every right to the full exercise of his sovereign power as God. But he did the unthinkable.
“He made himself nothing” (2:7). Literally it says he emptied himself. It can be translated, “He laid aside his mighty power and glory” (NLT margin). He didn’t stop being God, but he set aside or limited the exercise of his divine at-tributes in order to become human. It says he took “the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness” (2:7). It isn’t that he stopped being God, but he added human attrib-utes to who he already was. This is what theologians refer to as the dual nature of Christ. He was fully God and fully human in one person. How that works is a mystery and a miracle. We can’t really understand how it happens, but we can affirm it to be true. We would expect God to be able to do some things that we simply can’t explain, right?
So the infinite God became a finite human and was born to the Virgin Mary. Christ’s birth didn’t mark the begin-ning of his existence. He always existed, but his being was somehow funneled or crammed into human cells that devel-oped in Mary’s womb, and he was born as a real baby that had all the messy bodily functions that we know in babies today. As John puts it, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (1:14). The sovereign God became a vulnerable human being.
How can this be? Why would God do such a thing? It can only be the incomparable love of God that could moti-vate such sacrifice. In no other major religion is there such a concept. Other religions establish rules and laws for people to follow to try to earn their way to the favor of the gods. The founders of other religions are considered great teachers, but what is important is the teaching, not the person of the founder. But Christianity is not a religion of rules. It is a rela-tionship with a person. Christianity is Jesus, not rules.
A Christmas card captured this truth very well. On the front of the card was a montage of many kings and dictators who have appeared throughout history: Alexander the Great, Julius Caesar, Napoleon Bonaparte, Adolf Hitler, Vladimir Lenin. The caption on the front of the card said, “History is crowded with men who would be gods.” Then on the inside were the words: “But only one God who would be man.”