From Your Pastor: A Biblical Theology of the Incarnation – “Immanuel: God with Us”

* Image of God (Gen. 1:26-28; Eph. 4:17-24; cf. Heb. 2:5-18) – In the beginning, God dwelled with man created in His image. Adam was not “God in the flesh” but he was “like God in the flesh”, and he enjoyed the “Immanuel presence of God” in the Garden. Man was made in God’s image and given the Holy Spirit (Gen. 2:7; cf. John 20:22), but was not exalted and confirmed in his righteousness through obedience (Ecc. 7:29; cf. Psa. 8; Heb. 2:5ff). Rather, man sinned and rebelled against his good Heavenly Father and Supreme Lord. Man lost the Immanuel presence of God. But this was not the end of the story…

* Seed of the Woman (Gen. 3:15) – Though man brought the curse upon Himself through sin and rebellion against God, tarnishing the image of God upon him, and losing the Holy Spirit, God promised hope for the future. This reveals God’s graciousness and steadfast love toward His own. Though sin has broken the relationship, God would restore the fortunes of His people through grace (Jer. 30:3, 18; Hos. 6:11; Amos 9:14). God would dwell with His people again. God would be “Immanuel”, God with us again!

* Son of Abraham (Gen. 12) – God promised to be a God to Abraham and His offspring, and to bless the whole world through him (Gen. 12:1ff; 15:1ff; 18:18; 22:18). The Spirit of God would be received in the fullness of the times to be God with us and to renew the corrupted image of God, and to lead Abraham’s children to their Heavenly Home (Gal. 3:14). Here is an overview of how God’s promise to Abraham is realized through promise over redemptive-history:

Abraham à Isaac (son of promise) à Jacob/Israel à Judah à Servant of God/Servants of God à God’s church, God’s people, God’s children, True Israel (Gal. 3:16, 26-29; 6:16)

Through Abraham, God would bring a son through His supernatural working and power. From Abraham would come Isaac (“Laughter” that God gives to His own because of His power and grace! See Genesis 21:1-6), and Jacob/Israel. From Israel, God would bring forth a servant to redeem Israel from sin and to rescue His people from their enemies (Isaiah 50:4ff; 52-53; Zech. 12:1ff; Luke 1:55, 73).

* “God with us” in the Old Testament: Immanuel Theophanies and Christophanies – In the Old Covenant, God granted a “prelude” to the Incarnation (J. Calvin) in making temporary appearances in human form in the Old Covenant to be God with us. God the Son appeared as the “Angel/Messenger of YHWH” to Abraham (Gen. 18), Moses (Exodus 3), and Gideon and Manoah (Judges 6, 13). Throughout Israel’s pilgrimage in the wilderness, the Angel of the LORD led them, fed them, blessed them, and mediated on their behalf before God (Num. 22; Judges 2:1; cf. 1 Cor. 10:1-4). These appearances were temporary, not permanent as the Incarnation would be. Yet God prepared Israel through prophetic promise for one who would be a faithful Israelite, who would be obedient unto death as God’s faithful servant, but who would also be the LORD Himself (Isaiah 42, 49, 52-53; Zech. 9:9ff; 12:13-13:1; cf. Matt. 1:1-18, 23).

* Son of David: Messiah- “Anointed King” (2 Sam. 7:12-17) – God prepared Israel through a promise of a “Messiah” or “Anointed King” from David’s offspring, who would also be the Son of Man and the LORD of glory (2 Sam. 7:12ff). “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever…” (Psalm 45, 110); “For unto us a child is born; unto us a Son is given…” (Isaiah 9:6-7); “…One like a Son of man…” (Daniel 7:13-14; cf. Hebrews 1). True Israel awaited this “visitation” of God in the flesh, the One who would be her Consolation, and her Great Davidic King as God with us (Luke 1:31-35, 68; 2:25; 7:16).

* “The Mystery of Godliness” (1 Tim. 3:16) – Revealed, yet concealed. The mystery of godliness is revealed in the fullness of the times (Gal. 4:4), when God the Son was united permanently to our human nature in the womb of the virgin (Luke 1:31-35); He was “born of a woman, born under law, to redeem…” (Gal. 4:4-6). Although God the Son had appeared occasionally and temporarily, now God would come permanently in the flesh “…And the Word was made flesh and dwelt in our midst…” (John 1:1-3, 14). All of the Old Testament is about Jesus Christ, HIs life, death, resurrection and ascension. All of the Old Testament revealed “…Things Concerning Himself [Jesus Christ]” (Luke 24:25-27; John 5:39). Though this had been “kept secret…[it has now] been made known…” (Romans 16:25-27). This teaches us that God is revealed and at the same time, He is hidden to a certain degree. God chose to make Himself progressively throughout redemptive history. The “mystery” is that it was revealed in the Old Covenant, but not as clearly understood as it would be when Christ Jesus would come to make full sense of it all by His Spirit as God with us (“In the Old concealed, in the New revealed…,” Augustine).

* Creation Restored (Rev. 21-22)- God dwells with Man as Glorified Man forever and ever. The Son of God became flesh to live perfectly on our behalf, to die in our place for our sins, to be raised for our vindication, and to be exalted as Prophet, Priest, and King at God’s right hand! Through Jesus’ perfect and completed work, the restoration of all things has begun by His Spirit. Though now we suffer in and with Him, we shall be glorified in and with Him, too! (Rom. 6:1-11; 8:29). This glorious appearing we await with patience and eagerness, living holy lives for Him in service to God and one another! Rejoice, the LORD is Come!! (Tit. 2:11-14). He will be God with us forever!!


In Christ’s love,

Pastor Biggs


* Please see Graham Coles’ excellent book ‘The God Who became Human’ for many more biblical-theological insights! (IVP, 2013).