A Primer on the Incarnation (Part Two)

The purpose of the incarnation was so the Son of God would participate in the same things (flesh and blood) as we who have fallen into sin through the wiles of the devil, in order, that becoming like us, he would pull us out of slavery to sin and death. We come into the world dead “in Adam,” but because of the incarnation of the Son of God, those who believe in him are now, alive “in Christ.” This is the power of the incarnation: the redemption of God’s people. This is good news indeed.

In addition to the incarnation clearly being present in the Holy Scriptures, we find it taught all throughout church history in the creeds and confession of the catholic church—that is, the universal Christian church, of which the Reformation churches confess.

The Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (381)

“I believe in…one Lord Jesus Christ, the only begotten Son of God…Who, for us men and for our salvation, came down from heaven and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man…”

The Definition of Chalcedon (451)

“Our Lord Jesus Christ…Begotten of the Father before the ages regarding the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the God-bearer, regarding the manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of the natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved and concurring in one person and one subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ.”

The Athanasian Creed (ca. 5th Century)

“We believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, God’s Son, is both God and human, equally. He is God from the essence of the Father, begotten before time; and he is human from the essence of his mother, born in time; completely God and completely human, a with a rational soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as regards divinity, less than the Father as regards humanity…He is one, however, not by his divinity being turned into flesh, but by God’s taking humanity to himself.”

Here are some examples of the importance of the incarnation from the Reformed Confessions and Catechisms:

The Belgic Confession (1561)

“The Son took the ‘from of a servant’ and was made in the ‘likeness of man,’ truly assuming a real human nature, with all its weaknesses, except for sin; being conceived in the womb of the blessed virgin Mary by the power of the Holy Spirit, without male participation. And he not only assumed human nature as far as the body is concerned but also a real human soul, in order that he might be a real human being.” (Article 18, “The Incarnation”)

Why is it vital for the Christian to believe in the good news of the virgin conception and birth, and thus, the union of truly divine and truly human natures of Christ? Caspar Olevianus answered,

He is a Mediator whose body and soul were sanctified in this conception for two reasons: first, so that He might be a pure and holy sacrifice, by which all our corruption might be purged so as not to be imputed to us (Heb 7:26–27; Rom 7:20; 8:1). Second, so that the power of His fullness might gradually sanctify this polluted mass that we are, until He has delivered us fully from that natural corruption, and, by the same Holy Spirit by which [the Word] sanctified His own soul and body from the time He was in the womb, He might also reform our souls and bodies in God’s own time according to His image.1

In other words, the incarnation of Christ is good news because it is necessary for Christ to be our Mediator and redeem us from our fallen state.

The Heidelberg Catechism (1563)

“The eternal Son of God, who is and remains true and eternal God, took to himself, through the working of the Holy Spirit, from the flesh and blood of the virgin Mary, a true human nature so that he might also become, the true seed of David, and like his brothers in all things except for sin.” (Q. 35)

Regarding this, Williams Ames commented,

[Christ] must be born of a woman as from a mother, so that the first gospel promise, which concerns the seed of the woman that is to tread on the head of the serpent would be fulfilled [Gen. 3:15]. In a corresponding manner, He was born of Mary so that he might stand in some way descended from the tribe of Judah, the family of David according to the promises and the previous prophets.2

Therefore, we can see the connection between the great storyline of Scripture, as noted above, and its connection with the great mystery of the incarnation.

The Westminster Confession of Faith (1646)

“The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.” (Chapter 8.2, “Of Christ the Mediator)

The confession teaches several things in this paragraph—for example: the eternality of the Son, the union of the two natures of Christ (hypostatic union) in one person, and the reason for the incarnation, that is, that he would be the only Mediator between God and man, and thus redeem his people.

The Westminster Larger Catechism (1646)

“Christ the Son of God became man, by taking to himself a true body, and a reasonable soul, being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance, and born of her, yet without sin… It was requisite that the mediator, who was to reconcile God and man, should himself be both God and man, and this in one person, that the proper works of each nature might be accepted of God for us, and relied on by us, as the works of the whole person.” (Q. 37, 40)

What are the works of the two natures of Christ? Johannes G. Vos explained,

It was through his divine nature that Christ offered himself as a sacrifice to God for the sins of his people [Heb. 9:14]; his divine nature gave value and efficacy to the sacrifice and sufferings of his human nature…Scripture speaks of Christ’s obedience to the law, and of all his sufferings, and especially his death, all of which were works of his human nature, as essential parts of the work of accomplishing our salvation.3

As you can see, the incarnation of the Son of God is prominent in the creeds, confessions, and catechisms of the Christian church. One can even say that the incarnation is such a vital aspect of the Christian faith that without believing in the incarnation one cannot be a Christian.

In this primer we have considered both the biblical and theological support for the doctrine of the incarnation of the Eternal Son of God. It is the first aspect of the good news of Christ for the redemption of his people. Therefore, we can says that without the incarnation, there is no gospel. Without the incarnation, there is no salvation.

© Scott McDermand II. All Rights Reserved.

Part One.


1. Olivianus, An Exposition of the Apostles’ Creed, transl. Lyle D. Bierma (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2009, 67–68.

2. Ames, A Sketch of the Christians Catechism, transl. Todd M. Rester (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2008), 75.

3. Vos, The Westminster Larger Catechism: A Commentary ed. G. I. Williamson (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 2002), 95.


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