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Free Books » Bonar, Horatius » Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles

Chapter 36 - 1 Timothy 3:16 - God's Revelation of Himself in Flesh Light & Truth: The Lesser Epistles by Bonar, Horatius




God's Revelation Of Himself In Flesh.


"God was manifest in the flesh."-1 Timothy 3:16.



     Our subject is twofold. (1.) God's revelation of Himself in flesh. (2.) What it means.

     Of Godhead generally these words are true. 'The Godhead' was manifested when the Word was made flesh; so that Christ could say, 'He that hath seen me, hath seen the Father.' Of the second person of the Godhead (the Son, the Word), these words are no less true. He was manifest in flesh. He was Immanuel, God with us.

     God is a Spirit; and to human senses, as such, He is invisible and impalpable. 'No man hath seen God at any time;' 'whom no man hath seen, nor can see;' 'the King invisible,'-these are some of the expressions used in reference to God. The spiritual cannot be reached by our bodily senses. Spirit may discern flesh, but not flesh spirit.

     It was God's eternal purpose to make Himself visible and audible and palpable; to show Himself; to assume such a form as that all His creation might behold Him. The assumption of the angelic nature would not have accomplished this; for angels are spirits, and, as such, invisible, only becoming visible when invested with something human. Therefore 'He taketh not hold of angels' (Hebrew 2:16).

     It was as man that God purposed to reveal Himself; and to prepare the way for this revelation of Himself He created man, in order to exhibit the form in which He was to reveal Himself. First He created earth, out of whose soil man was to be formed; then He took of that soil anti made man; and then He took of man's very flesh or substance, and brought it by incarnation into oneness with Himself. The second person of the Godhead took hold of the flesh of Adam and the seed of Abraham. 'The Word was made flesh;' and thus 'God was manifest in flesh.' This flesh was the true flesh of man; not something spiritual or aerial, but true and proper humanity; so that man and man's earth are represented by Him now at the Father's right hand. Of the very substance of the Virgin was His body made; susceptible of our infirmities; liable to weariness, and pain, and hunger, and thirst, and death; needing food, and sleep, and rest, and clothing. Altogether human and finite was His soul, like the soul of a true man, though not shapen in iniquity, nor conceived in sin; holy, but human; perfect, but finite; expanding as a human soul expands, and learning as man learns. In flesh it was that God was manifest; God, looking through human eyes, and shedding human tears; God, bearing with human ears, and touching with human hands. It was very God and very man; not a mixture of the two, but the full perfection of both. And all this completeness and verity of human nature, that the sacrifice about to be offered up in that nature might be suitable and perfect; for unless the 'nature' or 'flesh' were thoroughly human, the sacrifice would not have met the ends appointed.

     But, looking at the Word as made flesh, at God manifest in flesh, let us see what we learn.

     I. God loveth man.-To take man's nature on Him is the proof and pledge of love. Only love could do this. To pass by angels, and to take man's flesh into union with Godhead, surely this is love. It is condescension, but it is more than condescension,-it is love. It is delight in man, and in man's nature, and in man's earth. The desire for such close affinity like this, betokens a deep interest in man's welfare, as well as a high value for man's nature. It is man in whom He delights; it is man whom He desires to honour; it is man whom He selects, out of all His creatures, as the being whom He wishes to bring closest to Himself, to make partaker of the divine nature.

     II. God has come down to man.-It is not a distant love; love carried on by correspondence; it is a love which has sought nearness of abode. It is not God taking up man to dwell with Him, but God coming down to dwell with man. It is not God making man in the image of God, but God making Himself in the likeness of man. This coming down of the whole infinite distance is a condescension of the most marvelous kind. Heaven, all heaven, descends to earth. God has come down to man. Man first wanted to ascend and be as God; God, to remedy man's evil case, descends and becomes as man. Then man's desire was to go as far from God as he could.  God's desire was to come as near to man as possible. This coming down of God is in itself a gospel to man.

     III. God converses with man.-It is not merely for nearness, but for friendship that God comes; for converse; for interchange of thought and heart; it is to speak with us, and listen to us speaking to Him, face to face. This converse begins with reconciliation, and this reconciliation begins with blood, at the cross; for there is the first point of contact between God and the sinner. It is not God incarnate that suffices for this; there must be God crucified for us. It is over the broken body of 'God manifest in flesh' that God and we converse; His love flowing out to us, and ours to Him. Man's renewed converse with God begins at his sin. It is to the point of departure and of variance that God brings the sinner back. That is the first thing to be dealt with, and dealt with in a righteous way, through the sin-bearing death of God manifest in flesh. We, accepting God's method of dealing with sin, by the death of a substitute, enter into peace, and the eternal intercourse begins.

     IV. God dispenses His fullness.-'It pleased the Father that in Him should all fullness dwell.' In the 'Word made flesh' God has framed a vessel to contain that fullness; a divine vessel to contain divine fullness.  Out of that vessel God dispenses to us His riches. He has all we need, and He freely distributes His supplies to every applicant. Come and partake, is His invitation to each needy soul. Fullness of pardon, life, health, joy, and holiness, is what He proffers; and all these contained in this wondrous vessel,-'God manifest in flesh.'

     V. God will dwell with us for ever.-He whose name is Immanuel, God with us, will fully unfold the meaning of that name hereafter in the new creation, when that shall come to pass which is written, 'Behold, the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them.' This shall be the final glory and blessedness,-the consummation of all that of which incarnation contained the germ or seed.

     God was manifest in flesh! What a peace bringing truth! How comforting, quickening, gladdening, and hope inspiring! What fullness of present joy and of eternal blessedness is contained in that mighty truth!

     To him who says, like Philip, 'Show us the Father, and it sufficeth,' we need simply to point to the Incarnate Word, God manifest in flesh.