The Incarnation

What Was the Incarnation of Jesus Christ?

The Incarnation of Jesus Christ
Actor James Burke-Dunsmore plays Jesus in 'The Passion of Jesus' in Trafalgar Square on April 3, 2015 in London, England. Dan Kitwood / Staff / Getty Images

The incarnation was the uniting of the Son of God's divinity with a human body to become the God-man, Jesus Christ.

Incarnation comes from a Latin term meaning "being made human flesh." While this doctrine appears throughout the Bible in various forms, it's in the gospel of John that it is fully developed:

The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth. John 1:14 (NIV)

The Necessity of the Incarnation

The incarnation was necessary for two reasons:

  1. Only a human being could be an acceptable sacrifice for other human beings' sins, but that human had to be a perfect, sinless offering, which ruled out all other humans except Christ;
  2. God demands blood from a sacrifice, which required a human body.

In the Old Testament, God frequently appeared to people in theophanies, manifestations of himself in nature or as angels or in human form. Examples include the three men who met with Abraham and the angel who wrestled with Jacob. Bible scholars have many theories on whether those occurrences were God the Father, Jesus, or angels with special authority. The difference between those theophanies and the incarnation is that they were limited, temporary, and for specific occasions.

When the Word (Jesus) was born to the virgin Mary, he did not begin to exist at that point. As eternal God, he had always existed but was united with a human body at conception, through the Holy Spirit.

Evidence of Jesus' humanity can be seen throughout the gospels. Just like any other person, he got tired, hungry, and thirsty. He also showed human emotions, such as joy, anger, compassion, and love. Jesus lived a human life and died on the cross for the salvation of humankind.

The Full Meaning of the Incarnation

The Church was split on the meaning of the incarnation and for centuries the subject was hotly debated. Early theologians argued that Christ's divine mind and will replaced his human mind, or that he had both a human mind and will as well as a divine mind and will. The matter was finally settled at the Council of Chalcedon, in Asia Minor, in 451 A.D. The Council said Christ is "truly God and truly man," two distinct natures united in one Person.

The Unique Mystery of the Incarnation

The incarnation is unique in history, a mystery that must be taken on faith, crucial to God's plan of salvation. Christians believe that in his incarnation, Jesus Christ met God the Father's requirement for a spotless sacrifice, accomplishing at Calvary forgiveness for sins for all time.     

Bible References:


in kar NAY shun


The incarnation of Jesus Christ provided an acceptable sacrifice for humanity's sins.

(Sources: The New Compact Bible Dictionary, T. Alton Bryant, editor; The Moody Handbook of Theology, Paul Enns; The New Unger's Bible Dictionary, R.K. Harrison, editor; International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, James Orr, general editor;

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