The Unsurprising Incarnation

I continue to be amazed by the humility of God in the storyline of Scripture. God persistently comes low to engage his creatures. His chosen vehicles of self-disclosure are always understandable and meaningful to humanity. Whether he is walking in the garden with Adam and Eve, wrestling with Jacob in human form, or having a conversation with Moses face to face, God’s revelatory activity is marked by condescension.

This is not surprising as humility is fundamental to the life of the Triune community. It is the warp and woof, the lifeblood, indeed, the cardinal principal that orders the life of God. God the Father, Son, and Spirit are equally humble in their engagement with one another. Every exchange among the three persons is executed with a posture of humility. God’s life is a dance of three persons striving to outdo one another in honor. When the Triune God engages the world we would expect to see the same thing, and we do.

The manner of revelatory activity in the Old Testament prepares the reader for a humble Christ. The larger canonical context leads us to read the incarnation as “normative” divine activity. In many ways, the incarnation is the logical next step in the Triune God’s self-disclosure. Don’t misunderstand me, the incarnation is astonishing and overwhelming. My point is that incarnation should not be considered “abnormal” activity for the humble Creator. It is consistent with who God is and how he has revealed himself throughout redemptive history.

The incarnation serves to reinforce and deepen our understanding of the humility of God. It serves as a link to all past revelation and yet is a clear and drastic move forward in God’s self-disclosure. God the Son permanently takes to himself humanity. The life of God can never be the same! The more God shows us himself the more overwhelmed we become by the depth of his humility.

The humility of the incarnation prepares the way for the humility of the cross. N.T. Wright captures the trajectory of the thought we have been tracing as he talks about the cross. God does not show us something new about himself, He simply continues to show us who He is.

“God became on the cross what God always was. I may have it in me, in ability and desire, to climb Mount Everest; but until I actually go into training and do it it remains latent. You may have it in you to be a brilliant concert pianist; but until you get down to practice and performance, all that brilliance remains latent. God always was the God of love—generous, spontaneous, free and cheerful self-giving love; but until God, if we dare put it like this, gets down to practice and performance, that love at its deepest level remains latent. On the cross God performs the score composed before the foundation of the world. On the cross God at last scales the highest peaks. It isn’t just that the cross reveals God’s love in its most striking way. It reveals it because it enacts it. It becomes part of, indeed the most central part of, the personal history of God…And now, to all eternity, the cross remains at the heart of God, stands as the truest symbol of God, offers the most exact and precise exposition of God.” [1]

[1] N.T. Wright, For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997), 56-57.

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2 comments

  1. 1. Humility
    2. God as man
    3. The cross as the supreme evidence – or outworking – of God’s love

    I was struck by your phrase ‘God’s life is a dance of three persons striving to outdo one another in honor.’ I thought about how marriages, and relationships in general, could be so much better if this was practiced on earth. But I also wonder how the Father acts in humility to the other 2 persons. I get that He honors them, especially Christ, but is that humility? Also, regarding humility, I recently read: humility is the cure because pride is the disease. I am continually amazed at my need to feel important, or to be appreciated. I am an unbelievable addict for approval.

    As I was praying last night, I though of how Christ knows exactly what I was feeling as a man. Then I considered how God knows me better than I know myself – my every thought and the reasons for them. Would He need to become a man in order to understand me? No. Yet there’s that passage about us having a high priest who understands our weaknesses and was tempted as we are.

    I’m tracking with the whole ‘love is latent unless it’s acted upon’ idea. How many times do we say ‘I love you’, or ‘love ya bro’, but don’t actually DO something that shows it? I think we could even argue that there ISN’T love unless there’s action. Are feelings of fondness love? Doubt it. Of course, there are many things God has done besides the cross to show His love. Creation, our lives, the many blessings we receive, etc. But I guess I’d have to agree that the cross would be the pinnacle of it all.

  2. Rob, great thoughts here…thanks for your input. The question on the humility of the Father is inspiring my next post. Hopefully I can answer that question through that post…great question! In terms of the sympathetic high priest, your question is also insightful. What is the difference between God understanding everything we are going through before and after the incarnation? Is there a difference? Is it just our perception? The Hebrews text seems to point us in the direction that things are different post-incarnation. There is something about God taking humanity to himself that should bring us comfort in his understanding of our human suffering and pain. As far as the cross as the pinnacle of God’s love…I am convinced as well.

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