Apart from the belief in a Creator God, shared by Christians, Jews, and Muslims, “the mysteries of the Trinity and the Incarnation of the Son of God [are] the sole foundation of Christian religion.” If these two things are not true, then Christianity is false. Many think creation contrary to reason and, even those who believe in a creator, think the other two claims—the Triune nature of God and the Incarnation—are false because they, too, appear to be contrary to reason, and such has always been the case (1 Corinthians 1:17–25).
To appreciate these two fundamentals of Christianity and why Jesus is so important to the recovery of the glorious image of God we lost, the fore-referenced “incarnation of the Son of God” must be understood. It means that the Second Person of the one essence that is God, the “Son of God,” took on a human nature like ours, but without that human nature being comingled with or subsumed by the other, or vice versa. This was the point of being born of a woman like all of us, and also the point of the virgin birth—that the divine nature of the Son of God, Jesus, would not be comingled with or subsumed by the “non-glorious” state in which our human nature now exists as a matter of course through our procreation (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:1, 3, and 5).
In this great act of unfathomable condescension to those who had sought their glory apart from Him whose being is truly glorious, the love of God was demonstrated to us.
The Father sent the Son to earth to bring “many sons to glory” (Hebrews 2:10). The Son, out of His great love for the Father and the Father’s glory and for the sake of the glory to be shared by those who would receive Him, was willing to cloak His divine glory as the Second Person of the Trinity in human flesh (Philippians 5:7). Jesus did this to “give [us] the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Christ” (2 Corinthians 4:6, ESV, emphasis supplied).
By faith, the disciples of Jesus “saw His glory” (John 1:14), and true disciples still do, and by faith, they are joined to Jesus by the work and indwelling of the Third Person comprising the one essence of God, the Holy Spirit, and it is of the “fullness” of Jesus’ righteousness in His perfect obedience to the Father’s will (John 1:16; Ephesians 3:19), that we receive righteousness, there being none in ourselves as demonstrated above.
This union, which God effects (1 Corinthians 1:30) and we do not earn or achieve by our efforts, is the beginning of what Christians call “sanctification,” a theological word describing the process during a Christian’s lifetime of becoming more like Jesus, “conforming to His image” (2 Corinthians 3:18).
The Bible puts it this way:
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (2 Corinthians 3:18, NKJV)
That is why the Trinity and the Incarnation are fundamental to Christianity and why it ceases to exist (at least in the Gospel sense conveyed in the Bible) if the Triune nature of God and the Incarnation are false. There can be no Incarnation if God is not one in essence and three in persons, for He cannot exist in two essences, which would be polytheism. And there can be no bridge, mediator, or connector between the God of glory and those now separated from His glory unless God provides it. Otherwise, it would be like water flowing uphill, rising above its source.
This, of course, is utter foolishness to many, and rightly so, if approached by human reasoning alone.
The view of the world given by the Bible commits those who accept it to a view of reality that is larger than their ability to explain everything
that it contains.
So, human reason which limits itself to what can be seem, heard, touched, smelled, and tasted would agree with the Apostle Paul that if this explanation for cosmos and our human experience of it is false, then Christians are, of all people, “most pitiable” (1 Corinthians 15:19).
Indeed, this theology is incompatible with any kind of religious scheme the mind of human beings would make up as part of their evolutionary progress. With human beings as a starting point, no human mind would conceive of anything glorious outside of what we can measure empirically by taste, sight, touch, or smell, nor would the human mind conceive of considering all humanity as utterly and hopelessly unredeemable by anything they could do. Plato thought there was more, a transcendent ideal beyond the particular things we know by our senses, but he could come to no final and clear knowledge of it, nor have any personal type of relationship with it.
Moreover, what God would seek to serve the lost by giving
them what they could never by any means
obtain? We are told by anthropologists and evolutionary philosophers that human beings created “God/gods” in their minds and by their imaginations, but these gods demanded something from them in return for “salvation,” whether it be from nature (withholding floods or sending rain) or from guilt feelings over something. But, the God of the Bible does not fit into any anthropological or evolutionary mold or template. (See Micah 7:18.)
What God has the human mind ever created who loves enough to give salvation as a free gift? But that’s the God found in the Bible (Romans 5:15–16, and 18).
But by faith we see that God the Father really is
love, not some amorphous brooding Omnipresence in the sky waiting to whack us if we do wrong and not a God whose goodness and love are untrustworthy and suspicious. No, God the Father “sent” His Son and “while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8, NKJV).
For those who see this, it is the most incredible news they have ever heard—it’s why this “news” is called the Gospel, meaning good news
Loving Your Neighbor in the Way Jesus Loved Us
For those who have a foretaste of that overabundance of glory that is to come and a firm assurance of having it in full, it would be the most unloving thing they could do to a neighbor to let that good news be obscured and hidden by our civil laws, because those laws inform our ethical sense and basis of how we see ourselves.
After all, this is the way Jesus loved both
God and His neighbor, fulfilling the whole
of the law of God. Jesus came to show us the glory of God (loving God) and the glory that exist in being bearers of His image and how conformity to the law of God, being actually suited to our nature and growth as image-bearers, would actually be our delight (loving His neighbor) See Psalm 1:2, 40:8, 119:16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 77, 92, 143, 174; Romans 7:14, 8:4).
John Owen, The Works of John Owen
, Vol. 1 (Edinburgh: T&T Clark, 1862), 287; see also, John Owen, The Glory of Christ
God being pure Spirit, apart from that which was manifested to us in the person of Jesus, and being a self-existing and eternal being, cannot be known by that which is not of the same “stuff,” not self-existing or eternal. It is, one might say, “over our heads” or “above our pay grade.” So, our knowledge of that which transcends us (different in nature of being, not distance as in Deism) is dependent on revelation from the Transcendent. Having originally been made in the image of God, we could truly know God and know the nature and character of God, though its infinite depths we could see but not fully plumb (as one has put it, “we can see the depths, but we cannot touch the bottom”). That direct face-to-face type of knowledge of God was lost in the separation of Adam (and his descendants) from God, though part of that knowledge is still revealed to us in what has been made (Romans 1:20; Psalm 191–4). Because all have access to some knowledge of God, we are all without excuse before God (Romans 1:20). As stated, even the unity and diversity of the male and female bodies in marriage is part of that revelation, though we “suppress” that kind of knowledge, even when explained to us, because of our unrighteousness (Romans 1:18).
The words “unveiled faces” is intended to remind the reader that under the Old Covenant, Moses had to wear a veil over his face after
he came out to see the people after having met with God in the tabernacle, because his face radiated with the glory of God (Exodus 34:34–35). Now, with the full revelation of God in Christ, that veil has been removed, though we still see in that mirror only darkly when compared to what we will see when our human flesh is put off. “For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I shall know just as I also am known” (1 Corinthians 13:12).