Manifest in the Flesh
by E. J. Waggoner
"And the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." John 1:14.
NO words could more plainly show that Christ was both God and man. Originally
only Divine, He took upon Himself human nature and passed among men as only a
common mortal, except at those times when His Divinity flashed through, as on
the occasion of the cleansing of the temple or when His burning words of simple
truth forced even His enemies to confess that "never man spake like this
man." John 7:46.
The humiliation which Christ voluntarily took upon Himself is best expressed
by Paul to the Philippians. "Have this mind in you which was also in Christ
Jesus, who being originally in the form of God, counted it not a thing to be
grasped [that is, to be clung to] to be on an equality with God, but emptied
Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, becoming in the likeness of men; and
being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient even unto
death, yea, the death of the cross." Philippians 2:5-8, Revised Version,
The above rendering makes this text much more plain than it is in the common
version. The idea is that, although Christ was in the form of God, being
"the brightness of his glory and the express image of his person"
(Hebrews 1:3), having all the attributes of God, being the Ruler of the
universe, and the One whom all Heaven delighted to honor, He did not think that
any of these things were to be desired, so long as men were lost and without
strength. He could not enjoy His glory while man was an outcast, without hope.
So He emptied Himself, divested Himself of all His riches and His glory, and
took upon Himself the nature of man in order that He might redeem him. And so we
may reconcile Christ's unity with the Father with the statement, "My Father
is greater than I." John 14:28.
It is impossible for us to understand how Christ could, as God, humble
Himself to the death of the cross, and it is worse than useless for us to
speculate about it. All we can do is to accept the facts as they are presented
in the Bible. If the reader finds it difficult to harmonize some of the
statements in the Bible concerning the nature of Christ, let him remember that
it would be impossible to express it in terms that would enable finite minds to
grasp it fully. Just as the grafting of the Gentiles into the stock of Israel is
contrary to nature, so much of the divine economy is a paradox to human
Other scriptures that we will quote bring closer to us the fact of the
humanity of Christ and what it means for us. We have already read that "the
Word was made flesh (John 1:14)," and now we will read what Paul says
concerning the nature of that flesh:
"For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh,
God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned
sin in the flesh: that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us,
who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." Romans 8:3-4.
A little thought will be sufficient to show anybody that if Christ took upon
Himself the likeness of man in order that He might redeem man, it must have been
sinful man that He was made like, for it is sinful man that He came to redeem.
Death could have no power over a sinless man, as Adam was in Eden, and it could
not have had any power over Christ, if the Lord had not laid on Him the iniquity
of us all. Moreover, the fact that Christ took upon Himself the flesh, not of a
sinless being, but of a sinful man, that is, that the flesh which He assumed had
all the weaknesses and sinful tendencies to which fallen human nature is
subject, is shown by the statement that He "was made of the seed of David according
to the flesh." Romans 1:3. (All emphasis supplied unless otherwise
noted.) David had all the passions of human nature. He says of himself,
"Behold, I was shapen in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive
me." Psalm 51:5.
The following statement in the book of Hebrews is very clear on this point:
"For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him
the seed of Abraham." ["For verily not of angels doth He take hold,
but He taketh hold of the seed of Abraham." Revised Version.]
"Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren,
that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to
God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself
hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted."
If He was made in all things like unto His brethren, then He must have
suffered all the infirmities and been subject to all the temptations of His
brethren. Two more texts that put this matter very forcibly will be sufficient
evidence on this point. We first quote 2 Corinthians 5:21:
"For he [God] hath made him [Christ] to be sin for us, who knew no sin;
that we might be made the righteousness of God in him."
This is much stronger than the statement that He was made "in the
likeness of sinful flesh." He was made to be sin. Here is the same
mystery as that the Son of God should die. The spotless Lamb of God, who knew no
sin, was made to be sin. Sinless, yet not only counted as a sinner, but actually
taking upon Himself a sinful nature. He was made to be sin in order that we
might be made righteousness. So Paul says to the Galatians that "God sent
forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were
under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." Galatians
"In that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor
them that are tempted." "For we have not an high priest which cannot
be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted
like as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of
grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need."
Hebrews 2:18; 4:15-16.
One more point and then we can learn the entire lesson that we should learn
from the fact that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us." How
was it that Christ could be thus "compassed with infirmity" (Hebrews
5:2) and still know no sin? Some may have thought, while reading thus far, that
we were depreciating the character of Jesus by bringing Him down to the level of
sinful man. On the contrary, we are simply exalting the "divine power"
of our blessed Saviour, who Himself voluntarily descended to the level of sinful
man in order that He might exalt man to His own spotless purity, which He
retained under the most adverse circumstances. His humanity only veiled His
divine nature, by which He was inseparably connected with the invisible God, and
[it was His union with the Holy Spirit--which is available to every believer],
which was more than able successfully to resist the weaknesses of the flesh.
There was in His whole life a struggle. The flesh, moved upon by the enemy of
all righteousness, would tend to sin, yet His divine nature never for a moment
harbored an evil desire nor did His divine power for a moment waver. Having
suffered in the flesh all that men can possibly suffer, He returned to the
throne of the Father as spotless as when He left the courts of glory. When He
lay in the tomb, under the power of death, "it was not possible that he
should be holden of it (Acts 2:24)," because He "knew no sin."
But someone will say, "I don't see any comfort in this for me. To be
sure, I have an example, but I can't follow it, for I haven't the power that
Christ had. He was God even while here on earth; I am but a man." Yes, but
you may have the same power that He had if you want it. He was "compassed
with infirmity," yet He "did no sin," because of the divine power
constantly dwelling within Him. Now listen to the inspired words of the apostle
Paul and learn what it is our privilege to have:
"For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named, that he would grant you,
according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his
Spirit in the inner man; that Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye,
being rooted and grounded in love, may be able to comprehend with all saints
what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and to know the love of
Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fullness
of God." Ephesians 3:14-19.
Who could ask for more? Christ, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the
Godhead bodily, may dwell in our hearts so that we may be filled with all the
fullness of God. What a wonderful promise! He is "touched with the feeling
of our infirmity." That is, having suffered all that sinful flesh is heir
to, He knows all about it and so closely does He identify Himself with His
children that whatever presses upon them makes a like impression upon Him and He
knows how much divine power is necessary to resist it, and if we but sincerely
desire to deny "ungodliness and worldly lusts" (Titus 2:12), He is
able and anxious to give to us strength "exceeding abundantly above all
that we ask or think." Ephesians 3:20. All the power which Christ had
dwelling in Him by nature, we may have dwelling in us by grace, for He freely
bestows it upon us.
Then let the weary, feeble, sin-oppressed souls take courage. Let them
"come boldly unto the throne of grace," where they are sure to find
grace to help in time of need, because that need is felt by our Saviour in the
very time of need. He is "touched with the feeling of our infirmity."
If it were simply that He suffered eighteen hundred years ago, we might fear
that He had forgotten some of the infirmity, but no, the very temptation that
presses you, touches Him. His wounds are ever fresh, and He ever lives to make
intercession for you.
What wonderful possibilities there are for the Christian! To what heights of
holiness he may attain! No matter how much Satan may war against him, assaulting
him where the flesh is weakest, he may abide under the shadow of the Almighty,
and be filled with the fullness of God's strength. The One stronger than Satan
may dwell in his heart continually and so, looking at Satan's assaults as from a
strong fortress, he may say, "I can do all things through Christ, which
strengtheneth me." Philippians 4:13.