John Gavazzoni
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The Incarnation: A Precious Truth
By John Gavazzoni

Part One

The incarnation is a precious truth because the incarnation is precious. Many have been the attacks against what ought to be its honored place in the thinking and valuation of God's saints, both in the overt form of renunciation, and in the covert form of distortion down through the history of the professing Christian church. On the contemporary scene---especially within the ranks of many who consider themselves to be leading voices in the uncovering of supposedly lost truth---the attacks continue. The form that this long history of enmity toward the truth of the eternal Word having become flesh defies being neatly categorized as overt renunciation or covert distortion, because the contemporary form blurs the line of distinction by its moronic propositions.

Before addressing the propositions presented as supporting one or more forms of incarnation-denial, you need to know exactly what this writer means to convey by the theological term. First of all, though, we need to appreciate its communicating value. It's a good and useful term. It is scriptural, in this sense: The writers of the canonical scriptures used terms to summarize truths, such as Paul's use of "the cross." By speaking of the cross, Paul encapsulates that in the singular human experience of the One (our Lord Jesus Christ) God had gathered together the condition of alienation from Himself of the many (all mankind) and changed the condition from alienation to glorious communion by the death of His Son. Unthinking literalism could actually interpret Paul as simply referring to two wooden beams joined together in the form of a cross. Such unthinking literalism, as applied to many biblical statements, has been a curse within Western Fundamentalism.

Peter refers to "the precious blood of Christ," thereby conveying by that phrase, of course, not merely, the physical composition of His blood (though in no way do I mean to deny or detract from that factor), but of the value of that blood as inclusive of the life of all flesh---all humanity---that is within the blood. (The life of the flesh is in the blood). THAT blood has such inestimable value in that when it was shed by the violence of man against God, that life in surrendering to such infamy of men without retaliating in kind, effectively reconciled the angry, hostile, alienated heart back to God. We were redeemed by that precious blood. The price which our alienated hearts demanded from God was paid TO US (imagine such divine humility); we were bought back (redeemed) within the sacrificial life-offering within the Christ event as alienated mankind met conciliating love all in the Person and death of Christ.

So in principle, the term "incarnation" has a summarizing succinctness, conveying in one word the great, cardinal truth of the Eternal Word, Jesus Christ, having become flesh = become human. That equation falls within the range of scripture's use of the word "flesh" and it is quite clear that this was the intended meaning by John in his gospel where he proclaimed, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us." So don't be writing to me saying that "incarnation" is not a scriptural word, because it is very scriptural to summarize an accomplishment of God in Christ by means of a condensing term or phrase. Pause to think: nowhere in the Bible are the exact words, "glorification," or "transformation," used specifically, but I would hope that we could all agree that each of them easily brings to mind a work of God as it is presented to us in the Bible. OK; we just had to cover that little matter, and get it behind us lest it cause someone to stumble.

Let it be clear that the above is what I mean when I speak of the incarnation. Very simply: All the fullness of Deity became Human in and by Deity's Son-Personhood. He is "God of very God, and Man of very Man." The entirety of Godness and Humanness dwells, in unique singularity, in Him. In Him, we see the union of Godness and Humanness. By that truth we understand that the essential union of God and man is eternally inviolable, though for a time exposing itself to estrangement by the great divide between eternity and the eons, between heaven and earth, between that which is above, and which is of the earth.

Without the incarnation, Christ could not have died for our sins, as is implied in Paul's grounding of the gospel in the historical Christ event: "...Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day, and was seen of over five hundred brethren." There's no dying without an incarnation that takes to itself human mortality. If one places any spiritual value on the crucifixion of Christ, he must acknowledge that you don't crucify a dis-embodied spirit, which brings us to addressing one of the nonsensical propositions given to support denial or renunciation of the incarnation. It's still abroad today---old, stale, and pathetic in its grandiose claim to mystical insight. What is that, you ask? Old stinky Gnosticism. Old rotten Gnosticism. Poor brain-retarded Gnosticism.

I run across it almost weekly in a range from being, by some definition, quite diluted, all the way to being like 150 proof Cuban Rum: One big swallow, and you know, THAT'S rum! It's being peddled even within the restorationist community. The mantra goes like this: "John, what you need to know is that you're a spirit; you're no longer human. Don't get hung up on your physical person. Get with the true confession of your identity. You weren't originally created as a physical being, you were created as a spirit." In the way of a strange juxtaposition, one brother couldn't wait to lay on me the great revelation he had received from the Lord, i.e., that Adam has not yet awakened from the great sleep that God caused to fall upon him, thus the whole history of Adamic physicality is just a bad dream. I think he was clearly implying that by receiving this "revelation," that he was one of the elect of the elect who had waked up. Lord have mercy! Pressing this nonsense to its unavoidable conclusion, we'd have to say that the crucifixion of Christ was just one awful scene in the bad dream.

There's a wonderfully expressive mannerism among Italians. I saw it used by my grandfathers, my father, uncles, my Sicilian grandmother, and other adult progeny of sunny Italy. They would curl their index finger into a position like it would be in a fist, without making a fist---get the picture---place the knuckle well into their mouths, and bite down pretty fiercely on the part of the finger just below, and to the side of the knuckle, as an intentional body-language thing that expressed extreme frustration. I think the pain inflicted on the finger, helped distract from the mental and emotional pain they were expressing. Without words, it said, "I can't stand it, what you're saying/doing is so maddeningly angering, that if I don't keep biting down on my finger, I'm going to join the rest of the fingers of this same hand into a fist, and smash your face." If you're ever around a BIG Italian doing the above, immediately remove yourself from the vicinity. (Havin' a little fun here folks)

That's almost what I have to resort to (it being legitimate for me as an Italian), when I'm confronted with such balderdash. It obviously does not occur to these purveyors of la la land theology to search their recollection of scripture, to determine if ANYWHERE spirit-creation is taught or mentioned. The whole concept of God creating spirits belongs to the same traditions of men that these ones claim to have come out of, and from which their minds have been freed. In the face of this presumption, we have Jesus making it clear that spirits are BORN: "That which is born of the Spirit, is spirit." Got that. Individual spirits are BORN of THE Spirit of God.

Creation belongs to another dimension of the outworking of the design of God's great purpose and administration. Created form; creaturehood, is grounded in birthed being. We ARE (identity) all the offspring (genos; born-ones; kin of) God. Your primal identity is that of one GENERATED (not created) by God, now in need of RE-GENERATION due to suffering a disconnect from the Being within whom you have your being.

Your creaturehood owes itself to your birthedness. It's as one generated by God that you were given creature-formation. Gnostics hate that. They hate physical humanness. They can't stand the truth that embodiment is intrinsic to spirit. All things physical to them are essentially dirty and disgusting. The Gnosticism that crept into the early church revolted against the teaching that Christ had actually come in the flesh. That was beneath their "gnosis" elitism. The Son of God as a human? Ughh! The Son of God whose body was intrinsic to His Sonship? "Hrmuuph. Let the common people believe such nonsense. It is our destiny to have revealed to us that the true God has nothing to do with things material."

Much of today's confusion has to do with the misunderstanding re: the fact that the use of the word "flesh" in the Bible has a range of meaning. Most fundamentally it is a term used to refer to us as human, and used that way has no negative connotation. After all, the Bible exclaims, "The glory of the Lord shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together." "Flesh" is the designated recipient of the revelation of God's glory. Paul exhorts us to present our members as instruments of righteousness. Our members must possess an intrinsic goodness in order to be presented as instruments of righteousness. Yes, scripture does use the term in a negative sense, in the sense of our physical senses being deprived temporally of the grace that brings us to see Christ as He is, and ourselves in Him, with all that He is accruing to us. In the negative sense it speaks of us in terms of our taking part in, being complicit with this world's evil system religiously and secularly.

For decades a major subject among pioneering-minded brethren has been the subject of our true identity. Everyone has a take on discovering our true identity. The pendulum has swung from having one guy sitting on a throne in the Vatican telling us what we're allowed to believe, all the way to every Tom, Dick and Harry having a web site claiming authority, and of late it's been about identity. Search the scriptures. Where is it to be found that God created this spirit, or that spirit, or a whole bunch of spirits? It can't be found. Listen, God is our Father, and He is "the Father of spirits." God Fathers spirits. He doesn't create them. With some, their notions of true identity is mixed with the error of creation "ex nihilo," that is, creation out of nothing. Well that out-does the evolutionists in degrading humanness. The evolutionist traces our identity back to a blob of protoplasm within a primordial sea. One day it separated itself from the water, and got washed up on a seashore, upon which the sun beating down on it triggered a mechanism of sensitivity to light, and the blob grew an eye, and finding itself on land, grew some legs so it could get further ashore.

But get this: The "ex nihilo" creationist traces our existence back to nothing. You're made from nothing. How's that for worth of identity? My index finger is moving toward my mouth. Can't let frustration get the best of me. Not very saintly behavior.

Part Two

Spirit-embodiment is seen all through nature. Science is clearly moving toward the recognition of an essence, a constituting sub-structure within all things that would easily lead---in reaching for an appropriately descriptive word---to "spirit." There is a spirit-energy-essence beneath every form in the natural world. Scientists have gone so far as to claim that they are closing in on identifying what the media has tagged as the "God-particle." As scientists they, of course, rule out any factor of mystical, intuitive insight (they must proceed according to what is empirically observable). Nevertheless, it is a term of suggestive-value, for one does pick up on the note of wonderment among scientists in this latest probing, as their former paradigms are becoming disturbed at a most fundamental level, and they are being forced to consider a Source of all things that cannot be measured in a test tube, but whose shadow can be seen in the infinity of both the macro and micro dimensions of the cosmos.

There is a life-force in nature. The creation is alive, vital, and dynamic from the inside out. Continuing on in our series on the incarnation, I want to point out something very fundamental to creation's vitality, i.e., the inner drive, the inner impulse to embody itself. In fact---as seen in seeds---all that is organic begins its life-journey embodied, and then moves on to the enlargement: the full development of that embodiment – and in a way so as to become a source of provision to other entities within the community of created things. Even in spite of ourselves, we will sooner or later become a source of provision for other organisms.

As the lyrics of an old song go: "Where will we all be a hundred years from now? Pushin' up the daisies, pushin' up the daisies." Bury a body without the hermetically sealed coffin that is customary in our culture, and soon in its decay it will become food for provision of life in its death. Even in the coffin, our bodies become food for micro-organisms.

Life doesn't begin as an ether-like, formless spirit, or energy, or life-force. The seed is a perfect example of that principle. The theological implication and application is that out from within God, out from within eternal Reality, already having form, already having embodiment, all things begin their eonian, material existence as incarnate. (I'm making the distinction between eternal embodiment, and the eonian embodiment, reserving the word "incarnate" to describe embodiment on this side of the veil.) But both belong to the same fundamental constitution of life. We need to reflect on what comes to us, what picture forms in our mind when we read: "God is Spirit..."

In the Greek of the New Testament, when rightly translated, especially Jesus made statements that revealed the relationship between what is in heaven and what enters into earth(enness). The King James Version translation of Matt. 18:18, for instance, almost completely misses Jesus point. It reads: "Verily I say unto you, Whatsoever ye shall bind on earth, shall be bound in heaven; and whatsoever ye shall loose on earth, shall be loosed in heaven." The literal Greek reveals a much different dynamic at work. Jonathan Mitchell in his translation of the New Testament captures Jesus' thought: ""It is true (or: Truly: or: Make it so: or: Now listen), I now say to you folks, Whatsoever things you can at some point bind or should tie upon the earth will be things HAVING ALREADY BEEN TIED OR BOUND WITHIN HEAVEN (or: in [your] atmosphere). Also, as many things [as] you would loose or untie upon the earth will be things HAVING ALREADY BEEN LOOSED AND UNTIED WITHIN HEAVEN (or: in [your] atmosphere)." (emphasis mine)

Here we see an immutable principle: Things come to earth as they already are within heaven. Though our earthly existence is surrounded by a many-layered atmosphere (many layers imposing upon the earth the quality of existence within that layer, from lower to higher), there is a final, all-encompassing, atmosphere or heaven, of ultimate imposition, the above-all heaven that makes all lower heavens serve its will. This is indicated by Paul's teaching that Jesus has ascended above all the heavens/atmospheres. From there He imposes His nature down though all the heavens, incorporating each into His rule over all things in heaven and earth, until every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord, to the glory of the Father.

When the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, did It/He do so against His nature? Is the incarnation consistent with the nature of the Eternal Word? Or did our Lord agree to incarnate as something repulsive to Him, taking on a form unrelated, and foreign, to who and to what He is? I say that things coming to earth as they already are in heaven, traces to the source of this administration, which is the incarnation of the Son of God. You must be willing to endure the intellectual tension involved in embracing the truth that the Spirit has embodied form, out from heaven into the earth. We're inclined to think that God's omnipresence is more like a divine ether all around us.

It is a very important inclusion in The Apostles Creed: I believe in the resurrection of the body. In resurrection, we return to the Father AS we were when we left, in bodies transformed from mortality to immortality, and we will be the better for the whole process.

Part Three

From the inside out. "What" might you ask, "does that have to do with the incarnation?" Well, I'll tell you (preachers love to be telling folks stuff). What God is all about is from the inside out. In fact, God IS God from the inside out. All that God is is from the inside out, and all that God becomes is from the inside out. So it is re: the Word becoming flesh. The eternal Word "got" the flesh/humanity that It became, from the inside out. Very obviously nothing---the incarnation not excluded---that God is was acquired by Him from outside Himself. God is not some mere potential that required something outside of and beyond Himself to make Him who and what He is. And all that God does, He does out from within Himself. God eternally becomes more and more of all that He is FROM the depths of all that He is. A definition of the glory of God might go like this: The glory of God is the outshining of all that He is, effectively putting His Excellency on display, which in turn calls to Itself praise out from all that His glory has produced, His glory thus returning to Him with deserving, esteemed reputation.

But the real, essential question is not WHAT glory is, but WHO. All the what's of scripture point to the who's. The testimony of the apostle John is that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory. With further explanation, we go to Heb. 1:3a, speaking of the Son of God: "Who being the brightness of his (God's) glory, and the express image of his person...." Checking the same verse in Jonathan Mitchell's Translation of the New Testament, we find something more specific, and that is that an EFFECT of the outshining of God IS the Son of God. That is why the apostle Paul described God as "the Father of glory." God fathers glory. God fathered His Son, and John testified, "we beheld HIS glory, the glory of the only-begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." All other like-effects are effects from that Primal effect.

Now let's bring to bear some church history upon our subject. One the great debates within the leadership-ranks of the early Christian church had to do with defining the nature of Christ, whether He had just one nature, divine, or were two natures combined in Him, the divine and human natures. The position which became recognized as orthodox, was that both the divine nature and human nature dwelt in perfect union in Him. The position had God ADDING human nature to His Son by His human birth. He was, of course, divine---that wasn't being questioned---and they were agreed that He was also a man. The question had to do with how He could be both in one Person. Part of what lead to this wrong conclusion, i.e., that Jesus had humanness ADDED to Him in His earthly birth by Mary, was that they built their conclusion upon a very faulty premise: that God created all things out of nothing---known in formal theology as "creation ex nihilo."

This was an early example of reacting to a popularly held philosophy at the time, called Pantheism (that everything is God). In attempting to keep Pantheism out of Christian orthodoxy, they concluded that they had to make a very sharp distinction between God and His creation, so they came up with God creating everything out of nothing, in order to maintain a distinction between the person of God, and the creation of God. As indebted as we are to much that has been handed down to us from those early church fathers, THAT was a strategic error. They ignored (or managed somehow to explain away) Paul's declaration of God the Father as being "above all, and through all, and in all." They were afraid to embrace what we could call PanENtheism, that is, God IN everything. This was a case of taking a position by reactive thinking rather than proactive. They were afraid of accepting that there was a very fine line between Pantheism and Panentheism, so they created a theological chasm in place of the fine line.

God in creation had nothing to work with except Himself; nothing except the Spirit of, and which is, God. Spirit is unique in that, like love, the more you give it away, the more it increases in yourself. God gave of His own Spirit for the crafting, formation, carving-out of the whole universe, and by so doing, as J. Preston Eby has said: "God projected Himself out of Himself that He might be Himself in another dimension." (end quote). By doing so, He became not only the eternal God, but at the same time the eonian God, out from within Himself. In like way, God drew forth Jesus' Humanity out from within His Deity. There was no other source. Humanity was NOT ADDED to Jesus in His human birth, but rather the action of the Holy Spirit in and upon Mary drew forth the Deity inherent within her humanness, for her humanness traced back to God's formation of Adam from the soil of the earth, which in turn traced back to the very Spirit-substance of God.

Thus Paul tells us that "In Him dwelleth the fullness of the Godhead BODILY." (emphasis mine). I'll paraphrase that in order to help get its full impact: All that God is is at home in the incarnation of Christ. Do you see how important that is. Incarnation is precious. Incarnation is intrinsic to the purpose of God arising out of the nature of God. Embodiment is a holy thing. Incarnation is not something God did contrary to His nature. Embodiment is intrinsic to the Divine Nature. God loves being embodied Himself, and loved reproducing His embodiment in His Son Jesus. PAUSE: reflect soberly and worshipfully. Stand in awe of what God has made us in union with Christ: "... the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all."

Part Four

In this final installment of our series, I've chosen a foundational text upon which to construct, what hopefully will be a fresh paradigm within which we might come to a better understanding of the origin of that great enemy of incarnation: Death. Our text as rendered by the translators of the King James Version of the Bible, also known as the Authorized Version records the words of Paul in Rom. 7: 24 thusly: "O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" Jonathan Mitchell, in his translation of The New Testament (amplified, expanded, with multiple renderings) renders it with expanded amplification as, "I [am] a wretched (miserable, distressed, enduring severe effort and hardship) man (or human)! What will rescue me from out of the body of this death (or: from out of this body of the death; out of this body which pertains to death and which has its origin, character and qualities in death)?"

If the reader has found himself or herself in basic agreement with the series thus far, the question quite understandably arises: How can that which is so holy, so sanctified, so intrinsic to the Being, purpose, and administration of God be described in such a way as does our text? If indeed all the fullness of Godness dwelt bodily in Jesus Christ. If it follows that in him all mankind, in union with Him, shares together, collectively, that full, true bodily out-forming of all fullness, then what are we to make of "the body of this death?" [It must be understood that I proceed from the conviction that when the final, corporate, bodily out-forming of God is complete--nurtured and edified by the DNA of the resurrected and glorified Jesus---that the final corporate, embodied new humanity will consist of the whole body of humanity.]

What we are to make of it is that there is---in spite of the dilemma presented to unenlightened philosophical minds---an enmity against God abroad in the world afflicting all life with malicious contrariety. This is clearly taught in scripture and is so acutely observable that to deny its presence is to be living in the most acute state of denial. Contrary to New Age teaching, Reality does not require of us to deny the dimension of adversarialness, but to look beyond it to the greater, all-encompassing dynamic at work, i.e., that "death is swallowed up in victory." ("Swallowed up" implies both an incorporation and transformation of that which is swallowed!)

Contrary to the ill-conceived notion that God has no enemy, scripture is clear on the subject in the very seminal statement of Paul: "The carnal mind is enmity AGAINST GOD." (emphasis mine). It is enmity that makes one an enemy. An enemy is one who has enmity in his heart. If I were preaching this message in person, rather than putting it into this article, chances are that someone would be tripping over themselves to get to me afterward to insist that "the carnal mind," means that enmity is all in your head. Well, in a sense, that's pretty obvious; enmity is an attitude of the mind at the mind's deepest level, at the level that Paul had in mind when he penned, "Be renewed in the spirit of your mind." But those who try to philosophically deny the existential actuality of enmity against God think of it as being an illusion, an illusion in the sense of having no empirical existence. In doing so they are in a state of religious denial of the most acute sort. They do not understand the difference between Reality and existential actuality.

Reality IS the Being of God in which we all have our being: that Reality that came to us in the Person of our Lord Jesus. ("I am the way, the truth – reality, genuineness – and the life.") That Being has opened Itself up to (even while at the same time encompassing) the attack of the enmity which is anti-being---the state of existing instead of, opposite to, and oppositional to being. There is a contrarian existence within the All-encompassing field of Being, which Itself is the Being of God. Deny that, and you actually, in effect, deny the historical crucifixion of Christ. In that view, the Christ only suffered a bad nightmare, a nightmare filled with the illusion of alienation, sin, death, sorrow and pain. All just an illusion! O, really? As Harry Robert Fox observed of this perversion: "O, then Christ died for nothing."

It is not that God has no enemy; it is that He has no EFFECTIVE enemy. For when enmity has done its best, it finds that it has only served the process of life becoming life more abundant in resurrection. When enmity has exercised itself to the fullest, it finds itself converted to devoted friendship: reconciled from the state of alienation to blessed communion with Him who it so bitterly hated and opposed. The enemy (however one conceives of its form) ends up being the catalyst by which God gains a profit from investing His life in the death which is at the heart of enmity. Of course, the enemy of God is the enemy of man. And, of course, Christ's victory over the last enemy, death, is our victory.

OK, so back to "the body of this death." How did the body become the body of this death? Think of a human body that is immersed completely in water. When it comes out of the water, it comes out with a thin covering of water all over itself. While that body was immersed in the water, it was within an element foreign to its natural living. Fish can live in water naturally; the human body cannot. Air is our natural element, not water. Change pictures now: Imagine a human body plunged into boiling water, then instantly removed, and the result would go beyond coming out with a covering of water, but suffering--- if pulled out quickly enough--- an epidermis-level of damage by that immersion. Imagine that it was done so quickly, that the burn-damaged would not reach the dermis level of the skin. The result, by way of illustration, would be a body-covering of death, but beneath it, a still-remaining body of life.

Application of illustration: When God plunged Himself, and us with Him, into the strange environment of time, by His act of creation---for as J. Preston Eby has said---"God is co-existent with His creation" an outer layer of His Spirit-body suffered death, and became the body of this death, while beneath that layer the essential life of God remained intrinsically whole, healthy and well. Time; the eons; the space-time continuum, the dimension of materiality and space is strange and damaging to that portion of the eternal body of God's Being, and, to repeat, our being within His. When, as it were, the eternal body made contact with eonian existence, the flesh of God became seared, and "the body of this death" was the result.

And here is the wonder of it all. Since the body of God consists of the glory of God drawn forth as Deity's bodily clothing and habitation, it is His very glory that subjects itself to this death. The Lord bodily clothes Himself in His own glory! God will not leave behind, abandon, discard or replace that out-forming of His glory given over to enmity and death. NO, NO, NO! He will raise it in newness of life, transformed from corruption to incorruptibility, from weakness to strength, from humiliation to honor. The bodily resurrection of Jesus is essential to the gospel. In the solidarity of the Last Adam with the first Adam, in the resurrection of the Last Adam, all of the first Adam's corruptibility shall be changed. Every body will be transformed to be members of His glorious body.

John GavazzoniJohn Gavazzoni
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