Summary: A review of the importance of the Incarnation to us who are Christians.
THE REASON JESUS CAME
“I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
We don’t usually think of Paul’s Letter to the Churches of Galatia as a resource for Christmas sermons. However, the Incarnation of the Son of God is a central theme of the book. Christmas can be wrapped up in a simple statement—God became man to present Himself as a sacrifice for sinful man. Paul repeatedly makes this point in order to stress the liberty we now enjoy in Christ Jesus.
Pleading with the wayward Galatian churches, the Apostle makes one statement concerning the love of God that can only be classified as great, both in intent and in impact. Paul’s purpose in life is stated in our text, and that noble purpose would well serve each Christian as we seek to commemorate the birth of the Saviour. Examine the Apostle’s statement with me that together we may discover the reason Jesus came.
GOD’S LOVE PERSONALISED — “I have been crucified with Christ.” The Apostle personalised God’s love. Without making the central truths of the Gospel personal, one cannot be saved. Not only can an individual not be saved without making the Gospel personal, but one cannot begin to comprehend the love of God without recognising that the provision of forgiveness was because of the love of God in Christ the Lord.
One of my favourite passages in the entire Bible is ROMANS 10:9, 10, 13. Almost always I quote these verses at the conclusion of the messages I deliver. I do this because I am convinced that with these verses Paul makes the issue of salvation so very clear. Note how these verses stress the need to make the message of life personal. “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Then, the Apostle cites the Prophet Joel who testifies that, “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
“If you,” an individual, one somebody—you—confess with your mouth and believe in your heart, you will be saved. It is a tragic error of too many of our Paedobaptist friends to give the false hope that an adult can believe in the place of an infant. Even those churches that aver that such is not their intent must admit that the common perception is that salvation is conferred on the infant who is christened.
It is a glorious truth that Jesus loves children, instructing His disciples not to hinder them as they are coming to Him. However, accepting children is quite different from declaring them saved because of a rite. Salvation is not bestowed because someone other than yourself has intervened or believed. Salvation is offered to anyone willing to receive the sacrifice of the Lord Jesus as an individual. “With the heart one believes … and with the mouth one confesses.” Salvation implies forgiveness of sin for individuals.
It has been well said that God has no stepchildren. Just because you were raised in a Christian home, or just because your father went to church, does not make you a Christian. Just because you were born in Canada does not mean you are a Christian. Going to church no more makes you a Christian than living in a garage makes you a Mercedes Benz. Salvation is offered to those who are lost, and if one will be saved, he must individually come as one who is lost, receiving the reign of Christ over his life and accepting His sacrifice because of their own sin. If we will be saved, we must each receive the offer of life individually.
We Baptists insist upon a testimony of faith preceding baptism as this is taught both by precept and by example in the Word of God. Those baptised on the Day of Pentecost first received Peter’s word that they must repent and believe the Lord Jesus [ACTS 2:41]. Those who were baptised in Samaria were baptised when they believed [ACTS 8:12]. The jailer in Philippi who was baptised submitted to the ordinance because he believed the message of life in Christ the Lord [ACTS 16:31].
Beyond this, however, the very act of baptism itself demands that the candidate receiving the ordinance will have already accepted the truth pictured through the rite. Listen to the Apostle as he explains the significance of baptism in his letter to the Romans [ROMANS 6:3-11]. “Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.