The Necessity of the Incarnation
Without the incarnation—that is, without the Son of God truly assuming our flesh-and-blood humanity—the death and resurrection of Jesus would be unreal and merely hypothetical; salvation would remain in the abstract. After all, it is human beings—flesh-and-blood, corrupted human beings—who need salvation. If the Son of God had not joined himself to us in our humanity, what could it possibly mean to say that Jesus is Savior? Unless he bore in himself our true human flesh and blood as he lived faithfully before the Father; as he experienced wrath and alienation from his Father in crucifixion, forsakenness, and death; and as he was raised in victory over death to newness of life—unless he bore our humanity in all that he did—why should we believe that Christ is our Savior?
If the Son of God had not joined himself to us in our humanity, what could it possibly mean to say that Jesus is Savior?
Joined to Flesh and Blood
But incarnation is precisely what we find: “And the Word,” John writes, “became flesh and dwelt among us . . .” (John 1:14). Amazingly, John tells us just a few verses earlier that the Word who became flesh is God himself, who created everything that is: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:1–3). The Word who “became flesh” is God himself, the eternal Son of God who has eternally existed in perfect oneness with the Father as God. This same Word created and sustains the whole universe: “By him all things were created . . . and in him all things hold together” (Colossians 1:16–17; cf. Hebrews 1:2). The eternally existing, universe-creating Son of God and self-same God joined himself to our humanity, flesh and blood.
The Foundation of Our Salvation
The incarnation of the Word of God, by which he became fully human without ceasing to be fully God, explains what it means for us to be saved. We can participate in the eternal-life-giving relationship between the Father and the Son because the Son has assumed our humanity into his person. We may be joined to God because he has already joined himself to us. In Richard Hooker’s exquisite wording: There can be “no union of God with man, without that mean between both which is both.”
This article is adapted from One with Christ: An Evangelical Theology of Salvation by Marcus Peter Johnson.