“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness; God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).
“The Word was made flesh.” This is the eternally glorious act of God. It has no parallel; indeed all other acts of Jehovah, as creation and providence, and in the gospel, redemption and regeneration, and the ultimate glorification of the elect of God are only relatively glorious. I feel it to be the deepest, the highest, the sublimest in all the revelation of God; and I desire to write upon the subject with reverence and godly fear.
“The angel Gabriel was sent from God, unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth, to a virgin espoused to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary. And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favored, the Lord is with thee; blessed art thou among women. And when she saw him, she was troubled at his saying, and cast in her mind what manner of salutation this should be. And the angel said unto her, Fear not, Mary; for thou hast found favor with God. And, behold, thou shalt conceive in thy womb, and bring forth a son, and shalt call his name JESUS. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob forever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end. Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man? And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee; therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. And, behold, thy cousin Elizabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age; and this is the sixth month with her who was called barren. For with God nothing shall be impossible. And Mary said, Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word. And the angel departed from her” (Luke 1:26-38).
“And she brought forth her first born son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn” (Luke 2:7). This child was not a corruptible child, who would grow up to be in his manhood a corruptible man, such as a child of hers would be by natural generation. The angel had said unto her, that Holy Thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. That Holy Thing is in distinction from a child she might conceive and give birth to by having known a man. “The Lord hath created a new thing in the earth, A woman (the virgin Mary) shall compass a man (‘geber’, mighty man – not ‘enosh’, a thortal)” (Jer. 31:22). The virgin wrapped him in swaddling clothes, he sucked the breasts of his mother (Psa. 22:9), she held him in her arms, and “his shoulders held up heaven and earth when Mary held up him.” “Upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). He was verily her child, the Son of the Highest; and thus she rejoiced before she brought him forth; “My soul doth magnify the Lord, and my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden; for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name” (Luke 2:46-49).
Abraham, David and the virgin Mary, like all the fallen race, were corruptible human beings. But the Son of God in taking upon him the seed of Abraham and being made flesh in the womb of the virgin, and partaking of flesh and blood partook of no corruption of the Virgin Mary. Jesus her first born son was distinct and separate from her in this. She was corruptible, and he, her very son, conceived in her womb by the Holy Ghost and born of her, was incorruptible. How can this be? This is one of the glories of the mystery of the incarnation of the Son of God.
The manhood of the eternal Son of God was indefectible, immeasurably full of grace. Christ “is the image of the invisible God, the first born of every creature; for by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers; all things were created by him, and for him; and he is before all things, and by him all things consist. And he is the head of the body, the church; who is the beginning, the first born from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” “In him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 1:15-19, 2:9).
There was no taint, or stain, or germ of Adamic sin, mortality and corruption in that Holy Thing born of the virgin. Our Lord Jesus Christ in his Godhead is the “uncorruptible God” (Rom. 1:23), and his manhood from the moment of its conception in the womb of the virgin was ever meet to be taken into union with himself, the Son of God. “It is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. Wherefore when he cometh into the world he saith, Sacrifice and offering thou wouldest not, but a body hast thou prepared (fitted, adjusted thoroughly to) me” (Heb. 10:5). I shrink from the thought that when the Son of God came delighting to do the will of his Father, saying, “Lo, I come (in the volume of the book it is written of me) to do thy will, O God, a body hast thou prepared me,” that God prepared a corruptible body, that such a body was “fitted, adjusted thoroughly” to the uncorruptible Son of God.
If the body of Christ was corruptible as Abraham’s and the virgin Mary’s then his body was sinful, mortal and corruptible. These three are inseparable in human beings.
But Christ was holy, harmless undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (Heb. 7:26). His manhood was absolutely sinless. Jesus saith, “The prince of this world cometh, and hath nothing in me” (John 14:30). This could not be said, if his body were corruptible (subject to decay, destruction). When the prince of this world cometh to us he findeth in our Adamic natures something indeed---the old man which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; but there were no deceitful lusts in Christ’s flesh. The Apostle Paul writes, “We all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath even as others” (Eph 2:3). Jesus was not such. He was not by nature a child of wrath; but in his nature, in his manhood he was such that his conversation among men, and unto God was ever in that which is incorruptible. And all the desires of his flesh and mind and his fulfilling the same were ever in the sight of God of great price, and well pleasing unto the Father. “I do always those things that please him.” “Thy Holy Child Jesus” never had thought or desire but what was delightful unto God the Father, whom he calls, “Holy Father,” O righteous Father” (John 17:11-25). The bodies of sinners are mortal and corruptible; and the apostle says to the children of God, “If ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live” (Rom. 8:13). There were no deeds in Jesus’ body to mortify, no affections and lusts to be crucified; for Christ in his manhood was not a corruptible man (Rom. 1:23).
Have we liberty to say the soul of Christ was incorruptible and his body, his flesh, corruptible? Never! The bodies of the saints are mortal (Rom. 8:11), corruptible (1 Cor. 15:54), vile (Phil. 3:21). Christ’s body was not such.
If Christ’s body had been corruptible, his flesh subject to decay, to destruction, then (apart from his covenant engagements as the Head and Surety, Redeemer of his people), he must necessarily have died, even as Abraham and David. Sinful, mortal, corruptible, pertain to sinful human beings who are under inevitable subjection to death. If Christ’s body were corruptible then he must of necessity have died, and his death was not voluntary.
The body of Christ was capable of dying, and did die. But the death of Christ was by the power of his own eternal Godhead, and was his own voluntary act; according to the exceeding riches of the grace of God unto the elect he tasted death for them. The good Shepherd giveth his life for the sheep. Jesus saith, “Therefore doth my Father love me, because I lay down my life, that I might take it again. This commandment have I received of my Father” (John 10:17-18). “He through the eternal spirit offered himself without spot to God.” This power no corruptible man has; but he is necessarily subject to decay, to destruction. The man Christ Jesus was not a “corruptible man”. If the manhood of Christ had been corruptible he would have had need, as other human corruptibles of redemption and regeneration.
We read in Rom. 8:3 of “God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” Did God’s own Son in Partaking of flesh and blood in the womb of the virgin partake of her sinfulness? Was the flesh of that Holy Thing that was born of her, “sinful flesh?” David exclaims, “Behold, I was shapen in iniquity; and in sin did my mother conceive me” (Psa. 51:5). “Christ our Lord was made of the seed of David according to the flesh” ( Rom. 1:3). Abraham’s flesh was sinful, David’s flesh was sinful, and the virgin Mary’s flesh was sinful, but of him who was David’s Lord, and David’s son (Matt. 22:45), it would be very blasphemy to say of him, of that Holy Thing that was conceived in the virgin Mary of the Holy Ghost, and born of her, what is recorded in Psalm 51:5. The Son of God was in the likeness of sinful flesh as to “form” and “fashion” as a man (Phil. 2:8); but his flesh was not sinful, but sinless, impeccable. The Holy Ghost came upon the virgin, the power of the highest overshadowed her, and she conceived in her womb that Holy Thing. “A body hast thou prepared (fitted, adjusted thoroughly) me,” saith the Son of God. Thus the manhood of Christ was shapened and conceived, and not as “his father David (Luke 1:32), according to the flesh,” says in Psalm 51:5 that he was.
The scriptures explicitly teach that Jesus Christ in his manhood was holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens (Heb. 7:26). The first man Adam, as he came from the hands of his Creator, was declared to be good and “very good.” But the manhood of Christ, of the Lord from heaven, the last Adam, hath the preeminence of the first man Adam, even when contemplated in his upright, unfallen estate. For the human nature of Christ held in indissolvable union with the Son of God was ever in consequence of this union impeccable (exempt from the possibility of sinning) and so indefectible and incorruptible. The first man Adam was not impeccable. This was manifest in the garden of Eden, “For by one man (the first man) sin entered into the world, and death by sin, and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned” (Rom. 5:12). Christ in all things hath the preeminence; he is fairer than the children of men, grace is poured unto his lips. He is the chiefest among ten thousand and altogether lovely, and made higher than the heavens. And all this because he is “the man that is my fellow, saith the Lord of hosts.” Our Lord Jesus Christ is the blessed and only Potentate, the King of kings, and Lord of lords; who only hath immortality dwelling in the light which no man can approach unto, whom no man hath seen, nor can see; to whom be honor and power everlasting, Amen (I Tim. 6:15-16). And I will again declare that if he, the Lord’s Christ, had not been in his entire manhood, in his soul and in his body, too, all the days of his flesh impeccable, indefectible and incorruptible, but had been as Abraham, David, and the virgin Mary corruptible, he would have been ineligible to have been the offering and sacrifice for the sins of his people. Immanuel in his own person was the High Priest, the altar, the offering and sacrifice for the sins of his church. And as High Priest, he needed not to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins. Consider this also of the apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus, that he was not as Aaron, a mortal man who could not continue by reason of death, but in his very person as God-man he was made the High Priest of the church after the order of Melchisedec, after the power of an endless life.
As the atoning sacrifice, the Lord laid upon Christ, the iniquities of us all. God made him to be sin (by imputation) for us, “who knew no sin.” He bore our sins in his own body on the tree. All the days of his flesh in which he was the antitypical scape-goat of his people, and while in Gethsemane, and on Calvary he was immutably holy, the sinless, spotless sacrifice. “He offered himself without, spot to God.” An offering and a sacrifice for a sweet smelling savor. Our sins that were laid upon him were not of a sweet smelling savor. Ah no! They were an abomination, hated, a stench. But our blessed Saviour put them away by the sacrifice of himself. The sacrifices offered upon Jewish altars could never take away sin. They were only types and shadows of Christ’s offering, yet in them it was taught that the offering must be clean and without blemish. And dreadful was the denunciations of all hypocritical worshipers who presumptuously offered “a corrupt thing” (Mal. 1:11-14). Christ is the “pure offering,” he is not a corruptible. By the will of God we are sanctified by the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:10). This offering was not a corrupt thing. Christ’s body was impeccable, sinless, incorruptible.
The apostle Peter declares, “ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (l Peter 1:18-19). But if Christ’s human nature had been corruptible it had been more corrupt, more vile than corruptible silver and gold, he could not have been the lamb of God without blemish and without spot, and he could not have given himself a ransom for our sins. Had his body once offered for sins been corruptible, the blood of his corruptible body would have been sinful, corruptible blood, and could never have had blessed designation, “the precious blood of Christ,” as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.“There is a fountain filled with blood,
This precious blood in a glorious incomprehensible mystery is declared to be the blood of God. “Feed the churches of God which he hath purchased with his own blood.” The blood of Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God cleanseth us from all sin. And, let it be our contemplation that every breath he breathed, all his thoughts, and words, and acts, yes, all his sighs, and groans and tears; his bloody sweat, the sorrows, the agonies of Christ were not as of a man separate from the eternal Son of God. “The second man is the Lord from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47). This man never had any being separate from the Lord. In the moment that the Holy Ghost came upon the virgin Mary, and the power of the Highest overshadowed her, and she conceived by the Holy Ghost that Holy Thing, that Holy Thing was taken hold of by the Word, the Son of God, and held in unspeakable, indissolvable union unto himself. So all the thoughts, desires and acts, of the flesh and mind of Christ were the thoughts, desires and acts of the Word made flesh, the God-man, our Lord Jesus Christ.
“Almighty God, sighed human breath,
The Lord of life experienced death;
How it was done we can’t discuss,
But this we know, ‘twas done for us.”
The flesh of Jesus slept in the tomb three days and three nights in incorruption. It could never, even at the last moments of those three days be said of Christ’s body, “By this time he stinketh.” Christ saw no corruption (Acts 13:37).
The sacred body and soul of Christ were separated when Jesus died upon the cross. But that Holy Thing, that impeccable, indefectible, incorruptible manhood was not separated from the Word, the Son of God; it was still held by the Word, the Son of God in ineffable, undissolvable union unto himself. There could be no dissolution of that union; not for a moment. It was immutable, eternal. The eternal Son of God held unto himself in eternal wedlock that Holy Thing that he took upon him, unto himself in the womb of the virgin Mary.
Christ shall come the second time without sin unto salvation (Heb. 9:28). “The Lord himself shall descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trump of God; and the dead in Christ shall rise first; then we which are alive and remain shall be caught up together with them in the clouds, to meet the Lord in the air; and so shall we ever be with the Lord, wherefore comfort one another with these words” (l Thess. 4:16, 18). We look for our Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ from heaven, “who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself” (Phil. 3:20-21). Christ’s body was never vile.
“Behold I show you a mystery; we shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trump; for the trumpet shall sound, and the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed. For this corruptible must put on incorruption, and this mortal must put on immortality. So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore my beloved brethren, be ye steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Cor. 15:51, 58).
FREDERICK W. KEENE,
THE LONE PILGRIM,
Volume 6, No. 61,