Our incarnate faith.
Dane Ortlund on why Jesus’s incarnation is so integral to our evangelical faith.
I have been immensely benefited by the writing of Dane Ortlund. His books Gentle and Lowly and Deeper have already situated themselves as not only choice material to which I will frequently resort, but also cherished works that will be exhausted none too soon. In his recent work, Surprised by Jesus: Subversive Grace in the Four Gospels, Dane probes the biblical Gospels to introduce us to the “real Jesus,” the Jesus who doesn’t always do what we’d expect him to do. Though the Gospels share much of the same stories, Dane adeptly unravels their similarities only to re-weave them again into an immaculate tapestry which depicts the One True Son of the Highest, the Messiah, the Lord’s Christ.
During his examination of St. John’s Gospel, Dane offers one of his most trenchant paragraphs in which he highlights the reason why the incarnation of the Son of God isn’t only a doctrine that reverberates during the month of December. Rather, as he attests, it’s foundational to our entire evangelical faith:
The incarnation is not only worthy of our wonder, but foundational to our theology. It is the great prerequisite to every other facet of Christian salvation. There is no crucifixion without incarnation first. There is no resurrection without incarnation first. There is no Second Coming of Christ if there is not a first coming. There is no imputation without the incarnation, for Jesus came as the second Adam, undoing what Adam had done (disobedience) and doing what Adam failed to do (obedience). In becoming man the Son of God let from the safety of heaven and plunged into the world to save his drowning people (Phil. 2:6-11). The incarnation therefore has human sin as its instigation, divine love as its motivation, the Holy Spirit as its cause (in the virgin birth), revelation as its content, redemption as its goal, and worship as its result. (164)
The Word of the Father taking on flesh and dwelling among us (John 1:14) is usually a concept that’s garnished with holly and ivy, relegated to a particular period of a few weeks when it’s impressed upon our minds that Jesus came to be born of a virgin (Isa. 7:14). But we ought not to be so quick to put our incarnational preaching back in the same bin with all our Christmas decor. Indeed, to exposit the Bible is to explore the depths of the incarnation. As Dane says and, more importantly, as is revealed in Scripture, the incarnation is no isolated truth. It’s indelible to the “faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude 1:3). It’s inherent to all that we believe.
Grace and peace to you, my friends.
Dane Ortlund, Surprised by Jesus: Subversive Grace in the Four Gospels (Leyland, England: Evangelical Press, 2021).