So the Word became human and made his home among us. He was full of unfailing love and faithfulness. And we have seen his glory, the glory of the Father’s one and only Son.
Incarnation: the embodiment of deity in an earthly form; specifically, the union of divinity with humanity in Jesus Christ.
John 1:14 is certainly the most concise statement of the Incarnation in the New Testament. In John 1:1 it was made clear that the “Word” was fully God, but 1:14 makes it clear that he was also fully human. Here the apostle is absolutely refuting any early forms of Docetism that may be seeking to corrupt the gospel. The Docetists believed that Jesus may have been in some way divine, but it denied His full humanity. The word Docetism comes from the Greek dokein, which meant “to seem”; according to this heresy, Jesus Christ only seemed to have a human body like ours. Docetism spun off from another corruption which is called Gnosticism. Gnosticism viewed physical matter, and therefore the human body, as inherently evil and spiritual substance as inherently good. To harmonize what they felt about the material world with who Jesus is, Docetists taught that Jesus was only a ghost-like illusion, appearing to be human but having no body at all.
The problem with this false teaching is that it shipwrecks the very validating work of our salvation—the death and resurrection of Jesus! It was Christ’s death on the cross that atoned for our sins and satisfied the righteousness of God. Docetism teaches that His suffering on the cross was mere illusion. The resurrection proves that sin’s penalty, death, was conquered, and that God’s wrath had been fully satisfied. If Jesus did not have a real body, then He did not really die. And, if Jesus had no physical body, He could not have risen bodily from the dead.
There seem to be periods of history where the Divinity of Jesus and the humanity of Jesus take on these “come and go” challenges. At once there are challenges to His Divinity, where people focus on His humanity, and try to make him so common that He becomes whimsical and made in the image of any author that seeks to put pen to paper. At other times, His humanity is challenged to the neglect of any identification with those He came to save. Thankfully, we have the gospels to keep us in line with the truth of what has been revealed in Scripture about our Savior.
“Born in time. Behold Him come. Offspring of a Virgin’s womb.” The humble human circumstances of our Savior combined with the understanding that He was tempted in every way as we are, leaves us comforted that He knows firsthand our lowly estate and vulnerability. “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see. Hail the incarnate Deity.” We see in scripture that before there was time, Christ was already with the Father in a pre-existent personhood. He didn’t become Divine when He was born—He always was. It blows the mind! Heaven came down and God filled a feeding trough in Bethlehem. “Pleased as man with men to dwell. Jesus, our Immanuel.” John 1:14 is indeed the most concise way to explain what it means for God to come and be with us.