Pre-Existence and Incarnation


The Doctrine of Christ - Lesson # 1


by Joel Stephen Williams


    I. Pre-existence of Christ

       A. Key scriptures

            1.  John 1:1-3; 6:42, 62; 8:58; 16:27-28; 17:5, 24; 1 Cor. 8:6; 10:4; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-8; Col. 1:15-17; Heb. 1:2; Rev. 22:13

       B. The eternity of Christ

            1.  Jn. 1:1; Col. 1:17;

            2.  Pre-existence does not necessarily imply eternity, but eternity would necessarily imply pre-existence. How and why is eternity also a necessary corollary to the deity of Jesus Christ?

       C. Objection to the doctrine

            1.  It is a myth, an idea adopted from other religions and applied to Christology, the doctrine of Christ.

            2.  But the doctrine appears very early in the history of Christianity and was understood quite literally, not mythologically.

            3.  The doctrine of the pre-existence of Christ is intertwined with many other teachings about Christ (e.g. his deity, virgin birth, and authority). To reject the pre-existence of Christ is not a matter of rejecting a single, isolated proposition. The whole garment will be ripped and torn if an essential thread like Christ's pre-existence is pulled out.

       D. Importance and significance of the doctrine

            1.  Christ is more than simply a great man. He is divine/deity.

            2.  Christ is more than simply a great religious figure. He is the author and source of truth.

            3.  Christ is not bound by the same limitations by which we are bound. He is above such limitations (Heb. 13:8).

  II. The incarnation of Christ

       A. Define "incarnation"

       B. Key scriptures - Jn. 1:1, 14; 2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6-8; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Heb. 2:14; 5:7

       C. Define "docetism" and study how the writings of John respond to this very early Christian heresy - 1 Jn. 4:1-3; 5:6-8; 2 Jn. 7.

       D. Kenosis

            1.  Define "kenosis" which comes from the Greek word κεvόω ("to empty").

            2.  Discuss how this word is used in Phil. 2:6-8. What did Christ give up, turn loose of, or empty himself of when he became a human being?

            3.  We should not say that the incarnation caused Christ to give up his divine attributes or that it caused him to give up some of them. Likewise, we should not say that he possessed them fully but acted as if he did not. The best alternative to "kenosis" seems to be the following: "Jesus gave up the independent exercise of his divine attributes....He could exercise them only in dependence upon the Father and in connection with the possession of a fully human nature" (Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 771).

            4.  In the incarnation of Christ we have an intersection between God and human nature, between the infinite and the finite, between the Creator and the creature, between the eternal and the temporal, and between the All Powerful divine nature and the weakness of human nature. If we are not able to fully comprehend all of the implications of the incarnation, that is to be expected.

       E. Name a hymn or two which speaks of Christ's incarnation.

       F. Memory verse - Jn. 1:14