Christmas is the Christian Holiday which celebrates the fulfillment of Old Testament Prophecy. The Old Testament tells us that God created everything and it was “good.” But we know that the world is not good anymore, at least as it was supposed to be. How did it get this way? One word: Sin. Sin is rebellion against God. According to Genesis 3, hardship, pain, toil, despair, messed up relationships, death, and separation from God are all the results of human sin. However, God desired good for mankind. So as early as Genesis 3:15, God promised to send a Savior to the world to save mankind from the effects and penalties of their sin. Throughout the Old Testament, many prophets continue to prophesy about this Savior. However, the Old Testament ends without this Savior on the scene.
When the New Testament begins, we have four different testimonies of a man named Jesus of Nazareth who fulfills all of the prophesies about the coming Savior. Just a small sample of these prophesies follow: He was born of a virgin in Bethlehem, He was a descendent of Abraham, Judah, and King David. He had to come out of Egypt (after His parents fled there with Him to escape Herod), He would perform miracles like Moses, He would be betrayed by a friend for 30 pieces of silver, He would die on a tree, He would be put to death alongside criminals, his bones would not be broken.
This coming Savior would actually be God in the Flesh. He would be Immanuel, that is, God with us. We call this doctrine, the Incarnation of Jesus Christ. The Incarnation is what Christmas is all about. The the second person of the Holy Trinity, God the Son, came down from His throne and became a man for us to save us from our sin. How would He do this? Well, that’s what Good Friday and Easter are all about: He lived a perfect life without any rebellion against God the Father, then He died in our place, and rose from the grave so that all who trust Him will be saved from their sin and its effects.
But, this time of year, we celebrate that God became Man so He could restore us to Himself again.
But why was it necessary for God to become a man to save us? Why is it necessary for our Savior to be both God and man?
Our Savior must be God because our sin is committed against an eternal being: God. Since our sin is committed against an eternal being, the punishment is likewise, eternal. If Jesus isn’t God, He could not save us because His death, even if He never sinned, could not pay an everlasting penalty. But because He is God, as an eternal being, His death can pay the eternal debt that our sin acquired.
Our Savior must be man because only a man can permanently stand in the place of mankind. In the Old Testament, animals without blemish were sacrificed to make God’s people temporarily restored to Him. However, when Jesus died as a man, he was the perfect representative for mankind. This task could not have been fulfilled by an animal nor even an angel. It had to be the God-man.
Below, I have included a very brief doctrinal essay that I wrote on Christology, or the study of the Christ, while in Seminary. If you would like a little more detail about why we celebrate Christmas, I would encourage you to read on. If you want to study this in depth, purchase a copy of Saint Athanasius’ On the Incarnation.
May God bless you with a very Merry Christmas as you celebrate the Incarnation of Jesus Christ.
Doctrinal Statement: The Person and Work of Christ
by Eric G. Fannin
The question of who Jesus is, is the most important question that a person will ever ask. The doctrine of Christology is the most important teaching of the Christian faith, for faith in Jesus Christ is the distinction of a genuine Christian. This essay will briefly discuss those doctrines of Christology concerning: Jesus the Promised One, Jesus the God, Jesus the man, the virgin birth, the sinless savior, and the resurrected Lord.
Jesus is the one who is promised throughout the Old Testament and he is the fulfillment of the Law. The promises for a Messiah or savoir for Israel are given as early as Genesis 3:15. This text is often referred to as the Protoevangelium. It speaks of the “offspring” of the woman crushing the serpents head. Further, in Genesis 12, God promises Abram that God will make him a great nation and he will bless the nations. This blessing came through the Messiah, Jesus. In Genesis 15, God promises Abram an heir, of which the Messiah would be brought.
God also makes a covenant with David to give him, through his decedents a forever house, a forever throne, and a forever kingdom (2 Samuel 7). This reached it’s fulfillment in Jesus. Also, Isaiah’s suffering servant figure represents the Messiah which is Jesus, whose life, death, and resurrection fit the figure of the suffering servant flawlessly. Furthermore, Luke records Jesus’ words claiming to be the one the scriptures spoke of.
The Bible also makes clear that Jesus is not only man but that he is God himself, the Son of the Trinity. Paul states in Philippians 2 that Jesus is in the very form of God. The writer of Hebrews says that Jesus is greater than the angels and Moses and all of the other prophets of the Old Testament. Paul reiterates in Colossians 1 that Jesus is the very image of the invisible God and the firstborn over all creation. He also states that all things were created for Christ and by Christ. The only one worthy to have everything created for him and the only one that is powerful enough to create the world is God himself. Jesus is God, the Son.
Jesus was not only fully God but he was also fully man. The Scriptures tell us that Jesus was not a spirit of some sort without a body but that he was a man and experienced life as we experience it. He had hunger and thirst (Mt. 4:2, Jn. 19:28). He felt pain and sorrow (Mt. 27:33-35, Jn. 11:35). He even experienced temptation (Mt. 4:26). Paul informs us in Philippians 2 that though Jesus was in the form of God that he made himself a servant, being born in human likeness. Jesus had full humanity in his person.
Jesus was also born of a virgin as the scriptures foretold that he would be. In Isaiah 7, God gives a sign to the House of David that the Messiah would be born of a virgin or a young maiden. Matthew records in 1:18-25 that Mary, Jesus’ mother, while betrothed to Joseph, yet before they were brought together, she became pregnant by the Holy Spirit. Luke also records the conversation between Mary and Gabriel, the angel came to tell Mary what was about to take place. He informs that she will conceive to bear the Son of God. Upon this news she asks how this could happen since she is a virgin and he tells her that the Holy Spirit will come upon her and God Most High will overshadow her and she will conceive.
Not only is Jesus the Promised one of Israel, the God, the man, born of a virgin but Jesus was perfectly sinless and holy throughout his entire life. He never once sinned. The writer of Hebrews, while encouraging and informing that believers have a great high priest in Jesus, wrote that Jesus is able to sympathize with mankind because he was tempted in every way that man is tempted, yet he was without sin through all of that temptation (Heb. 4:15). The apostle Peter also informs that Jesus committed no sin, but died for the sins of the world (2 Peter 2:22).
Lastly, Jesus not only died for the sins of the world, but he was also resurrected from the grave. Paul tells his readers in 1 Corinthians 15:3 that Christ was raised from the dead on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures. Furthermore, Paul adds that the resurrection is so important that one’s faith in Christ is in vain if Christ did not rise from the dead. For if Christ did not raise from the dead than his power to defeat death, the sting of which is sin (1 Cor. 15:56) would be nullified. If Christ did not raise than he did not defeat sin or death. But Paul contends vigorously that Christ was raised from the dead as is proclaimed in the gospel. Paul also informs that because Christ was raised from the dead, that same power will rise from the dead and transform those who have been born again, to live forever with Christ.
This essay has briefly put forth many important doctrines entwined in Christology: the central and distinguishing doctrine in the Christian faith. The author has shown biblical support for Jesus as the promised one, the God, the man, being born of a virgin, a sinless savior, and the resurrected Lord.