AT GOD'S APPOINTED TIME
Article 17 confesses how God came to seek out fallen man, came with the Gospel of the promise of the seed of the woman who would bruise the head of Satan (Genesis 3:15). Article 18 continues this confession by stating that the seed of the woman was sent by God at a very specific point in time. Says our article, "... at the time appointed by Him, (God) sent His one and only eternal Son into the world." God, at the time of His choosing, sovereignly acted to fulfil the promise of Genesis 3:15. This is based on what Scripture says in Galatians 4:3-5, namely, "... we, when we were children, were in bondage under the elements of the world. But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law..." Here 'bondage' is a reference to man being on Satan's side after the fall into sin. It was when God determined the time to be right, that He sent His only Son for our redemption.
GOD GAVE UP HIS SON FOR US / CHRIST GAVE UP HIS GLORY FOR US
Christ is God's only Son. At Christ's baptism God said concerning His Son, "You are my beloved Son; in you I am well pleased" (Luke 3:22). Not only was the Son of God dearly loved by His Father; He was also with the Father in glory from all eternity. Said Jesus in His prayer to the Father, "And now, O Father, glorify me together with yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was" (John 17:5). When God, "at the appointed time", set about to fulfil the promise of the protevangel, God sent His only beloved Son out of His glorious presence, sent His dear Son to earth. Scripture speaks both of God giving and God sending His Son. In John 3:16 we read, "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten Son..." and in John 5:24 we read Jesus saying, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears my word and believes in him who sent me has everlasting life ..."
We get so accustomed to Christmas. Yet we do well to stop and consider why Christmas was necessary, consider too what self-sacrifice was involved on the part of the Father and the Son. God, who loved His only Son so much, instructed Him to go and the Son willingly went. Yes, we get so used to Christmas, but there is no marvel greater than that day. For take note of the self-emptying love on the part of the Father Who gave up and sent His only beloved Son, and take note too of the self-emptying love on the part of the Son Who gave up His glory in Heaven to come to earth.
In itself, there was nothing dishonourable about the Son becoming man, for man was created in the image of God. Consider though the humility of becoming one of us: fallen man. Paul called this humiliation. Said he in Philippians 2:5-8, "...Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made himself of no reputation, taking the form of a servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross." One could find no better example of self denial than for the Son to leave His heavenly glory to join fallen man and die on the cross for their sake. God gave everything, even His own Son; and the Son willingly went. This is a gospel that cannot leave one cold. That in the crib of Bethlehem should lie the Son of God.... Words cannot capture the depth of that marvel! (See here further Packer, Knowing God, Chapter 5, entitled "God Incarnate".)
Why did the Son come to earth? He came for the benefit of lost sinners. "And (Mary) will bring forth a son, and you shall call his name JESUS, for he will save his people from their sins," said the angel to Joseph (Matthew 1:21). "For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost," said Jesus to Zacchaeus (Luke 19:10). The Nicene Creed, after having described Who the Lord Jesus Christ is, goes on to state why it was that He came down to earth:"Who, for us men and our salvation, came down from heaven, and was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the virgin Mary, and was made man" (Book of Praise, p. 437). I had deserted God, joined Satan, broken the covenant with God. Yet God did not leave me in my predicament, but sent His only Son to earth to save me. God, who does not change, did in Bethlehem what He had promised to do so many years prior in Genesis 3. To me, in my particular circumstances and with my particular strengths and weaknesses, He has given Christ so that I might be brought back from Satan's side to God's side. It is this knowledge which makes Christmas so rich for me. This Gospel I may carry with me in all the highs and lows of life. If that is how much God loves me, then all is well.
ANABAPTIST HERESY CONCERNING CHRIST'S INCARNATION
DeBres had to defend the incarnation of Christ over against the
heresy of the Anabaptists. The Anabaptists did not deny that
Christ was born of Mary, but they compared Mary to a funnel, in
that Christ merely passed through her and hence did not take on
human nature. According to the Anabaptists Christ was not true
man but only true God. Yet deBres argued in agreement with Scripture
that it was imperative for Christ to be true man in order to be
able to save man. The curse had fallen upon man, and therefore
the curse had to be paid by man. Christ, true God and true man,
was the only man able to pay for sin (Lord's Day 6).