IT must ever remain to us the mystery of mysteries that God Himself was manifest in the flesh. God the invisible was manifest; God the spiritual dwelt in mortal flesh; God the infinite, uncontained, boundless, was manifest in the flesh. What infinite leagues our thought must traverse between Godhead self existent, and, therefore, full of power and self sufficiency, before we have descended to the far down level of poor human flesh, which is, at its best, but as grass, and, in its essence, only so much animated dust! Where can we find a greater contrast than between God and flesh?
Yet the two are perfectly blended in the Incarnation of Jesus Christ the Savior of the lost. “God was manifest in the flesh;” truly God, not God humanized, but God as God. He was manifest in real flesh; not in manhood deified, and made superhuman, but in actual flesh.
Since this matchless truth is “without controversy,” let us not enter into any controversy about it, but let us reverently meditate upon it. What a miracle of condescension is here, that God should manifest Himself in flesh! This is not so much a theme for the tongue or the pen, as something that is to be pondered in the heart. It needs that we sit down in quietness, and consider how He, who made us, became like us; how He, who is our God, became our Brother man; how He, who is adored of angels, once lay in a manger; how He, who feeds all living things, hungered and was athirst; how He, who oversees all worlds as God, was, as a man, made to sleep, to suffer, and to die like ourselves. This is a statement not easily to be believed. If He had not been beheld by many witnesses, so that men handled Him, looked upon Him, and heard Him speak, it would have been a matter not readily to be accepted that so Divine a Person should ever have been manifest in flesh. It is a wonder of condescension.
And it is, also, a marvel of benediction, for God’s manifestation in human flesh conveys a thousand blessings to us. Bethlehem’s star is the morning star of hope to believers. Now, man is nearest to God of all His creatures; now, between poor puny man that is born of a woman, and the infinite God, there is a bond of union of the most wonderful kind. The Lord Jesus Christ is God and man in one Person. This brings our manhood very near to God, and by so doing it ennobles our nature, it lifts us up from the dunghill, and sets us among princes; while, at the same time, it enriches us by endowing our manhood with all the glory of Christ Jesus, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.
Lift up your eyes, ye downtrodden sons of men, for ye have a brotherhood with Christ, and Christ is God. O ye, who have begun to despise yourselves, and think that ye are merely sent to be drudges upon earth, and slaves of sin, lift up your heads, and look for redemption to the Son of man, who has broken the captives’ bonds! If ye be believers in the Christ of God, then are ye also the children of God; “and if children, then heirs; heir’s of God, and joint heirs with Christ.”
There is, in this truth, a fullness of consolation, as well as of condescension and benediction; for if the Son of God be man, then He understands me, and He has a fellow feeling for me. He knows, at times, my unfitness even to worship Him; He knows my tendencies to grow weary and cold in His service; He knows my pains, my trials, and my griefs; yea, “He knows what fierce temptations mean, For He has felt the same. ” Man, truly man, yet sitting at the right hand of the Father, Thou, O blessed Savior, art the delight of my soul! Is there not the richest comfort in this truth for all the people of God?
And, withal, there is most gracious instruction, too, for God was manifest in the flesh. If we desire to see God, we must see Him in Christ Jesus. The apostle does not say that God was veiled in the flesh, though under certain aspects that might be true; but he says that “God was manifest in the flesh.”
The brightness of the sun might put out our eyes if we gazed upon it, and we must needs look through dim glass, and then the sun is manifested to us; so, the excessive glory of the infinite Godhead cannot be borne by our mind’s eye till it comes into communication and union with the nature of man, and then. God is manifest to us.
My soul, never try to gaze upon an absolute God; the brightness of the Deity will blind thine eye, “for our God is a consuming fire.” Ask not to see God in fire in the burning bush, nor in the lightning upon Mount Sinai; be satisfied to see Him in the man Christ Jesus, for there God is manifested.
Not all the glory of the sky and of the sea, nor the wonders of Creation and Providence, can set forth the Deity as does the Son of Mary, who from the manger went to the cross, and from the cross to the tomb, and from the tomb to His eternal throne at His Father’s right hand in glory.
That “God was manifest in the flesh,” is one of the most extraordinary doctrines that was ever declared in human hearing. Were it not so well attested, it would be absolutely incredible that the infinite God, who filleth all things, who was, and is, and is to come, the Omnipotent, the Omniscient, and the Omnipresent, actually condescended to veil Himself in the garments of our inferior clay. He made us, yet He deigned to take the flesh of His creatures into union with Himself; the Eternal was blended with mortality. That manger at Bethlehem, tenanted by the express image of the Father’s glory, was a great sight indeed to those who understood it.
Well might the angels troop forth in crowds from within the gates of pearl, that they might behold Him, whom Heaven could not contain, finding accommodation in a stable with a lowly wedded pair. Wonder of wonders!
Marvel of marvels! Mystery of mysteries!
The greatness of this mystery consists, first, in the fact that it concerns God. Any doctrine which relates to the Infinite and the Eternal is of the utmost importance to us. We should be all ear and all heart when we have to learn anything concerning God. Reason teaches us that He who made us, who is our Preserver, and at whose word we are so soon to return to the dust, should be the first object of our thoughts. Turn ye hither, ye wayward children of Adam, and behold this great mystery, for your God is here.
The mystery of God “manifest in the flesh” will also appear to you great if you consider the great honor which is thereby conferred upon manhood.
How wonderfully is mankind honored in God’s taking the nature of man into union with Himself! “For verily He took not on Him the nature of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham.” Whichever of all His creatures shall come nearest to the Creator will evidently have the preeminence in the ranks of creatureship; which, then, shall bear the palm?
Shall not the seraphs be the chosen ones? Shall not the swift winged sons of light be chief among Heaven’s courtiers? Behold, and be astonished, a worm of earth is preferred to the angels; rebellious man is chosen, and the sinless angels are passed over! Human nature is espoused into oneness with the Divine!
There is, at this hour, no gulf between God and redeemed man. God is first, but next comes man in the person of the God man, Christ Jesus. Well may we say, with David, “When I consider Thy heavens, the work of Thy fingers, the moon and the stars, which Thou hast ordained; what is man, that Thou art mindful of him? and the son of man, that Thou visitest him?
For Thou hast made him a little lower than the angels, and hast crowned him with glory and honor. Thou madest him to have dominion over the works of Thy hands; Thou hast put all things under his feet.” Man became royal when Christ became human. Man was exalted when Christ was humiliated. Man may go up to God now that God has come down to man.
This is a great mystery, is it not? A mystery, certainly, but great in every way. See that ye despise it not, lest ye miss the abounding benefit which flows to man through this golden channel.