The Incarnation of the Word of God
Sometimes events happen which appear merely coincidental, and yet to believers they show the complex work of God’s Spirit.
Last night, in cleaning my desk of some files I had brought from my office when I retired, I started reading some handwritten notes of mine in a folder. They were seminary notes, from perhaps forty years ago. I think I had only looked at them once or twice in the intervening years. In these notes I was copying large selections from a book I loved--The Incarnation of the Word of God, written by St. Athanasius. (I had also copied a sentence from CS Lewis who had written the introduction to the translation I was reading.) Athanasius lived and ministered in the first 3/4th of the fourth century (300’s). He was the bishop of Alexandria in North Africa.
Then earlier today (as I write this), at a small first birthday party for my youngest grandchild, I was sitting with friends of our family, a couple in their thirties who attend a Baptist church. The woman began for some reason to talk about how–yesterday--she had been reading the Incarnation of the Word of God by Athanasius, and about how there was a brief introduction by CS Lewis. (It was a book she said her husband had read some years back.)
By that point the Holy Spirit had gotten my attention, and I decided whom I would be quoting in my column this week: Athanasius.
But first, here is a quote from the introduction by CS Lewis. Lewis says this about the Eternal Son (or Word) of God who became incarnate (flesh and blood) in Jesus of Nazareth. He “was so full of life that when he wished to die, he had to ‘borrow death from others.’ ”
Now, here are some of the quotes from Athanasius which I copied down forty years ago. (The first quote reflects on the gospel of John’s message that Jesus is the eternal Word of God who is one with God, and that all things were made through him—read John 1:1-5 and John 1:14-18.)
“He has been manifested in a human body for this reason only, out of the love and goodness of His Father, for the salvation of us men. We will begin, then, with the creation of the world and with God its Maker, for the first fact that you must grasp is this: the renewal of creation has been wrought by the Self-same Word Who made it in the beginning. There is thus no inconsistency between creation and salvation; for the One Father has employed the same Agent for both works, effecting the salvation of the world through the same Word Who made it in the beginning.”
“Naturally also, through this union of the immortal Son of God with our human nature, all men were clothed with incorruption in the promise of the resurrection. For the solidarity of mankind is such that, by virtue of the Word's indwelling in a single human body, the corruption which goes with death has lost its power over all. You know how it is when some great king enters a large city and dwells in one of its houses; because of his dwelling in that single house, the whole city is honoured, and enemies and robbers cease to molest it. Even so is it with the King of all; He has come into our country and dwelt in one body amidst the many, and in consequence the designs of the enemy against mankind have been foiled, and the corruption of death, which formerly held them in its power, has simply ceased to be. For the human race would have perished utterly had not the Lord and Saviour of all, the Son of God, come among us to put an end to death.”
The Becoming Flesh of the Eternal Word of God. That is the good message of this season and of all seasons. Trust Him for salvation and true life.
Winfield Casey Jones is a retired pastor and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. This column was first run in the Pearland and Friendswood Reporter News.