How the incarnation of Christ demonstrates God’s love

Last time I posted, I promised that I would draw the connections between the incarnation of Christ and God’s love. It’s been a couple of weeks since then, but I wanted to follow through on my promise. I am going to draw from the writings of John for this post. Here are my thoughts…

Incarnation is: God becoming human.

Did John hold a theology of the incarnation? It seems so. If the Son came “into the world,” it means God entered the world in some unprecedented way. That phrase “into the world” indicates full immersion in the world. In his Gospel, John explains, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us” (Jn 1:14). The meaning is pretty clear. The Son, otherwise known as the Word, came into the world by becoming human. When John says the Word “made his dwelling among us,” he means that the Word became one of us. There are many places in John where Jesus talks about being sent by the Father into the world (not least of which is Jn 3:16).

Love is: preferring others over yourself and acting for their wellbeing.

Love is taking an intentional stance of preferring others over myself. It is taking action and not just wishing someone well. It is acting for someone’s wellbeing – what they truly need. It is doing all this no matter whether I feel like it or what it costs me.

The connections between love and the incarnation… John is pretty consistent that the incarnation of Christ is an expression of God’s love. Here is a key passage:

1 Jn 4:7-11 – 7Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. 8Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love. 9This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. 10This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. 11Dear friends, since God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.

Let’s unpack this a little. God is love (aren’t you glad?). God showed his love among us in a specific way:

The Father sent the Son into the world for a specific reason: so the Son might be an atoning sacrifice for our sins (v. 10), which is important so we might live through him (v. 9).

We can look at the incarnation from two angles. Did the Son actually become human? And was the man Jesus really God?

First, on the Son becoming human… The Son became human so he could be an atoning sacrifice for our sins, so we could have eternal life. If the Son did not become human, then we would not be saved, and God’s love would not have been demonstrated (at least not in terms of Jesus being an atoning sacrifice for us). So it is important that the Son became human. God’s love is riding on it. This is why John makes such a big deal out of believing that “Jesus Christ came in the flesh” (2 Jn 7). For John, it was one of the hallmarks of good theology and one of the indications that someone was a true teacher. The false teachers were trying to convince people that God would never take on flesh. The incarnation was unbelievable to them.

I have come to see that the incarnation is believable to me because it is a greater demonstration of God’s love if God made his dwelling among us than if he had simply called out some instructions from a distance.

Second, on Jesus being divine… According to John, the man Jesus was the manifestation of God entering our world as one of us. If God did not enter the world, then the man Jesus was a phenomenon, but he was not a manifestation of God. So it is important that Jesus really was God become human. God’s love is riding on it. Listen to how John connects the dots between God’s love and Jesus being divine:

1 Jn 4:12-14 -- 14And we have seen and testify that the Father has sent his Son to be the Savior of the world. 15If anyone acknowledges that Jesus is the Son of God, God lives in him and he in God. 16And so we know and rely on the love God has for us.

For John, it is critical to acknowledge that the man Jesus is “the Son of God” – that is, he is the same as the Word, though whom all things were created. The incarnation was something God did. And he did it not for himself but for us. Therein lies the love. Love is action taken for the good of another. The incarnation is the quintessential expression of love!

In my last post, I said that according to John, good theology gets expressed in love for one another. It is easy to see that a theology of the incarnation inspires love. As John says, "If God loved us like this, we also ought to love one another."

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