‘Great is the mystery of godliness, God manifest in the flesh.’ I Tim 3: I6.
Q-xxvii: WHEREIN DID CHRIST’S HUMILIATION CONSIST?
A: In his being born, and that in a low condition, made under the law, undergoing the miseries of this life, the wrath of God, and the cursed death of the cross.
Christ’s humiliation consisted in his incarnation, his taking flesh, and being born. It was real flesh that Christ took; not the image of a body (as the Manichees erroneously held), but a true body; therefore he is said to be ‘made of a woman.’ Gal 4: 4. As bread is made of wheat, and wine is made of the grape; so Christ is made of a woman: his body was part of the flesh and substance of the virgin. This is a glorious mystery, ‘God manifest in the flesh.’ In the creation, man was made in God’s image; in the incarnation God was made in man’s image.
How came Christ to be made flesh?
It was by his Father’s special designation. ‘God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.’ Gal 4: 4. God the Father in a special manner appointed Christ to be incarnate; which shows how needful a call is to any business of weight and importance: to act without a call, is to act without a blessing. Christ would not be incarnate, and take upon him the work of a mediator till he had a call. ‘God sent forth his Son, made of a woman.’
But was there no other way for the restoring of fallen man but that God should take flesh?
We must not ask a reason of God’s will; it is dangerous to pry into God’s ark; we are not to dispute but adore. The wise God saw it to be the best way for our redemption, that Christ should be incarnate. It was not fit for any to satisfy God’s justice but man; none could do it but God; therefore, Christ being both God and man, is the fittest to undertake this work of redemption.
Why was Christ born of a woman?
(I.) That God might fulfill that promise in Gen 3: I5, ‘The seed of the woman shall break the serpent’s head.’ (2.) Christ was born of a woman, that he might roll away that reproach from the woman, which she had contracted by being seduced by the serpent. Christ, in taking his flesh from the woman, has honoured her sex; that as, at the first, the woman had made man a sinner; so now, to make him amends, she should bring him a saviour.
Why was Christ born of a virgin?
(1.) For decency. It became not God to have any mother but a maid, and it became not a maid to have any other son but a God.
(2.) For necessity. Christ was to be a high priest, most pure and holy. Had he been born after the ordinary course of nature he had been defiled, since all that spring out of Adam’s loins have a tincture of sin, but, that ‘Christ’s substance might remain pure and immaculate,’ he was born of a virgin.
(3.) To answer the type. Melchisedec was a type of Christ, who is said to be ‘without father and without mother.’ Christ being born of a virgin, answered the type; he was without father and without mother; without mother as he was God, without father as he was man.
How could Christ be made of the flesh and blood of a virgin, and yet be without sin? The purest virgin is stained with original sin.
This knot the Scripture unties. ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and overshadow thee: therefore that holy thing, which shall be born of thee, shall be called the Son of God.’ Luke 1: 35. ‘The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee,’ that is, the Holy Ghost did consecrate and purify that part of the virgin’s flesh whereof Christ was made. As the alchemist extracts and draws away the dross from the gold, so the Holy Ghost refines and clarifies that part of the virgin’s flesh, separating it from sin. Though the Virgin Mary herself had sin, yet that part of her flesh, whereof Christ was made, was without sin; otherwise it must have been an impure conception.
What is meant by the power of the Holy Ghost overshadowing the virgin?
Basil says, ‘It was the Holy Ghost’s blessing that flesh of the virgin whereof Christ was formed.’ But there is a further mystery in it; the Holy Ghost having framed Christ in the virgin’s womb, did, in a wonderful manner, unite Christ’s human nature to his divine, and so of both made one person. This is a mystery, which the angels pry into with adoration.