ON THE INCARNATION (Athanasius)
The Word of the Father is Himself divine. This was established in my earlier writings. We must now go 1 step further. The Word has been made flesh. This truth makes the blood of the unbelieving Jew boil (even though the birth, death, and resurrection of the Messiah was prophesied in their own Scriptures). It causes the unbelieving Gentiles to roll their eyes and laugh (even though incarnation is a reasonable rescue plan). But the incarnation is the heart and soul of Christianity.
The Word became flesh out of love to save us. Humanity was in desperate need of saving. Our world was not a chance creation (as the Epicureans suggest). Nor had matter always existed (as Plato suggests). Furthermore, there was no ‘other’ or lesser god who mistakenly created the world (as Gnostics suggest). God created a good world. We were made in the Likeness of God, but became corrupt through sin. This corruption provoked and necessitated the incarnation.
God’s Word, in order to rescue humanity from corruption while simultaneously taking the curse of death seriously, entered the world created through Him. He was born to die (death was otherwise impossible for Him). But through His union with us, re-union with God became possible. Because of His identity as God-man, the law of death was broken and resurrection became reality.
We were made for union with God. We were made like God (in God’s image) so that we could love God. But the image was stained by our sin. What was God to do? The only hope was the coming of the Image Himself! Only the perfect Image of the Father (Jesus) could renew the Image in humanity. Jesus got down on our level to raise us up to His level. In doing so, though, He did not cease to be divine. His body was not a limitation, but an instrument used to save us.
The events surrounding Jesus’ death speak to its importance. The sun went dark. The earth shook. The people were in awe. He publicly died at the hands of His enemies (human and demonic) so that the message of His resurrection would be unmistakable.
What’s more, the continuance of His life is unmistakable. Jesus is alive and active in the world! Think how large the body of believers has grown, each one responding to a living Lord. Think how small the attendance at pagan temples has become. Jesus is proving victorious more and more each day. In light of this, does it make any sense whatsoever to call Jesus dead? It makes more sense to call death dead.
Jesus put on a body so that in the body He might find death and overpower it. And He did overpower death and more. The world has changed drastically since His victory. The gods have been dethroned. Magic has disappeared. Worldly wisdom is now recognized as foolish. Lives are being changed and enemies are becoming friends. It is clearly Christ who is accomplishing these things. By lowering Himself He has raised the whole world up!