Theme: Why the God-Man?
In this week’s Christmas lessons, we reflect on the wonder of the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ, and of God’s great love for lost and helpless sinners.
Scripture: Luke 1:26-38
The great medieval theologian, Anselm of Canterbury, wrestled with this idea of the necessity of God becoming man. In fact, it is the title of his well-known book, Cur Deus Homo (Latin for “Why the God-Man?”).
Suppose the question had been raised to Anselm, “Isn’t it absurd that the God of the universe should become man?” In his book, he in a sense answers that question. He investigates the matter and concludes that the reason for the God-man is actually the wisdom of almighty God. God created and loved man, and made man to have fellowship with him. Yet man fell. Anselm said that God did not wish that man, having fallen into sin and being lost by virtue of his sin, should be left to perish.
Thus, it was necessary that when God had created him in the first place, knowing that he would fall, should intervene for his salvation. This led Anselm to ask, “How is that to be done?” The sin that man has committed is against God. Man is the one who must make the restitution, and yet as a sinner is unable. As Anselm explained it, the debt is so great that no mere man can make it right. The only person in the universe who can possibly make it right is God.
What a dilemma! Man must pay the debt, but only God can pay it. How can that be resolved? Anselm answered that it is resolved in the incarnation, as the Bible itself teaches. It is an infinite payment that is required, which only God can make. Man, being finite, is incapable of making what is owed to God. But because God is infinite, he cannot die. The only way man’s sin can be dealt with is if the infinite God becomes man, and as man satisfies the debt that sinful man owes to the infinite and holy God.
So when you talk about what happened, you are explaining it theologically in accordance with what the Bible teaches. The content of the message is not absurd at all.
There is a second way in which the question “Isn’t it absurd?” can be asked, which deals not with the actual message or reality of the incarnation, but rather with how the incarnation occurred. In this area of explanation we are in the realm of the supernatural. There have been tendencies in the history of the church to try to explain away the miracles, concluding that if we only understood more, whether of biology, physics, chemistry, history, or something else, we would be able to understand how these things happened. I do not think that’s the way it is to be approached. When we talk about miracles we are not just talking about matter. We are talking about God, who created matter, and who therefore by definition is different from matter, and greater than matter.
We live in an age where people think materialistically, as if what we see and can measure and touch is all that is. But that is not what the Bible states. Rather, the most rational thing to believe is that there is a Creator, who made what we see. It follows then that there is an immaterial spiritual and supernatural realm. If that is true, and if that realm is ruled by a supernatural and omnipotent God, then although it may be impossible for us to say how things happened, it is nevertheless not irrational to believe that they have. God clearly can do anything. We should be led to think of that, even from what we can see and what we can know.
How does Anselm answer why it was necessary that Christ be both God and man?
What are the first and second ways the question “Isn’t it absurd?” can be asked?
Application: Because God is omnipotent, nothing is impossible for him. Is there something you are struggling with right now that you need to bring before the Lord and trust him more?