God, taking upon Himself complete, sinless human nature, coming to earth in flesh, sanctified material things forever. Jesus’ incarnation is an important linkage between creation and eternity. Here is “the last Adam” (1 Co 15:45) who not only represents God’s intention for humanity (1 Co 15:49) but provides for humanities’ escape from the effects of sin (1 Co 15:54-56). While He was “tempted in every way as we are yet without sin” (Heb 4:15) Jesus left a pattern to follow for overcoming temptation (Matt 4:1-11; Luke 4:1-11; cf. 1 Co 10:13). By triumphing over the principalities and powers at the cross (Col 2:15) Jesus reclaimed the physicality of earth (Ps 110:1; Heb 1:8, 13) in a joyful reign for His people (Matt 25:21). The incarnation was necessary to secure salvation for eternity (cf. Rom 5:18-19) and resurrection for immortality (1 Co 15:50-54).
Christians physically anticipate the new heavens and new earth (Is 65-66; Rev 21-22). The earth itself “waits with eager longing” (Rom 8:19-21) for freedom from the effects of bondage due to sin. The cosmos will be changed (Heb 1:11-12; 12:26-27) regenerated according to the template of perfect creation (Gen 1:31). Humans will have new bodies like Jesus’ resurrection body (John 20-21). People will eat (Rev 19:9; 22:2), walk on streets in the city of God (Rev 22:1), enjoy the presence of animals (Is 65:25), and commune with God Himself (Rev 21:3).
So in this life, on this earth believers are to enjoy the all-encompassing life God has given (cf. Ecc 3:12-13; 5:18-20; 2 Tim 6:17). While denial of physical pleasures may be encouraged for a time (i.e. food—Matt 6:16-18—or sex—1 Co 7:5) Jesus set the example of enjoying parties (Matt 9:10-11; John 2:1-11), food, wine (Matt 11:18-19), and gifts (John 7:37-38). Asceticism and monasticism have their place in the history of The Church, fostering self-discipline and others’-centered care (cf. Matt 6:5-6; Jas 2:14-17). However, cloistered, self-serving focus was never the intent of the Christian life as demonstrated through Jesus’ coming to the sinful earth (cf. Phil 2:1-11). So Scripture is clearly anti-Gnostic and anti-legalistic (Col 2:16-24; 1 John 4:1-6). There is never a duality of body and spirit from God’s point of view but rather of whole people dedicated to Heaven while devoted to God on earth. And there is never a separation of God’s law from grace but a fulfillment of the first through living the second.
Jesus coming in physical body re-secured the delight in the totality of life The Father intended from the beginning. Incarnation produces the following guidelines for service in the Christian community:
(1) a renewed application of Christ’s lordship to the totality of life
(2) a reinstated teaching about the importance of training for physical devotion to God in health
(3) a reinterpreted mindset of affection for heaven in light of how things should be on earth (cf. Col 3:1-4)
(4) a regenerated delight in earthly joys without guilt
(5) a reinvigorated anticipation of the new earth without separation from this time and place
(6) a recommitted dedication to destroying the contamination Gnosticism and legalism foster through both individuals and institutions.
Dr. Mark Eckel is Professor of Leadership, Education & Discipleship at Capital Bible Seminary, Washington, D.C. This statement was originally written for “School Wide Biblical Integration,” an ACSI enabler in 2002, having been used in various venues since.