“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14a)….”
1. to behave as if one is conscious of descending from a superior position, rank, or dignity.
2. to stoop or deign to do something: He would not condescend to misrepresent the facts.
3. to put aside one’s dignity or superiority voluntarily and assume equality with one regarded as inferior: He condescended to their intellectual level in order to be understood.
It is this third definition that we have in mind here. This meaning of “condescend” has been lost by and large in our day–I’m guessing because we live in such an egalitarian time. (At least in theory; e.g., Even though the rich and famous get away with things ordinary people could not, it is generally agreed that this should not be the case, as all people are created equal.) This egalitarian mindset that rules the day unfortunately spills over into our common practical theologies: Yes, God is loving; I’m generally pretty loving too. Yes, God is holy; I’m generally a pretty good guy too. People are born generally good; “sin” is just an “error in judgment,” etc. I think far too often we forget the massive chasm that exists between God’s nature and ours. Flat out, He is not like you and I are; in fact, that’s what the word “holy” means. He is altogether different; completely set apart; in all aspects, superior to us. The common altruism of man does not approach the Mercy of God; the general kindness of man comes nowhere close to the Compassion of God; the virtue of man is nothing like the Immutable (unchanging), Eternal (unending), Perfect (unlimited) Holiness of God.
With this in mind, let’s come back to the Condescension of Christ, the Word becoming flesh: The Son Who has known the perfect fellowship with the Father God from eternity past, Who has dwelt in the perfect heavenly house of God, Whose praises the angels have sung ceaselessly throughout the ages (Luke 2:14, etc.) comes to earth to live as one of us. He does not come in the guise of a conquering king, but in the form of a slave (Philippians 2:7); He does not come as a full-grown, fully-developed adult man, but as a helpless infant who cannot feed Himself (the Mind of God encased in the still-forming brain of a baby!); His parents are of no earthly significance; His hometown is a remote, rural place of no importance; He will never own a house, marry a woman, raise children, or write a book. He has emptied Himself and come with one purpose: “Behold, I have come to do Your will (Hebrews 10:9),” which means He does not “come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many (Matthew 20:28).” Sweet Condescension, most blessed thought!
For God to have anything to do with us at all necessitates condescension. We are sinful, He is perfect; we are finite, He is infinite; we are fallen, He is forever exalted; we are spatial, He is transcendent. But He is not far from us:
But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, ‘WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), 7 or ‘WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).” 8 But what does it say? “THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART….”
– Romans 10:6-8a
O Immanuel, the miracle of Christmas. The Infinite One becomes finite; the Transcendent One steps into space and time; the Exalted One humbles Himself. He came to lay Himself down for you and me. There is no longer a place for boasting in view of the mercy of Jesus.
He left His Father’s throne above,
So free, so infinite His grace;
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race;
‘Tis mercy all, immense and free;
O praise my God, it reaches me.
No condemnation now I dread;
Jesus, and all in Him is mine!
Alive in Him, my living Head,
And clothed in righteousness divine,
Bold I approach the eternal throne,
And claim the crown, through Christ my own.
Amazing love! How can it be
That Thou, my God, should die for me!
The Word became flesh and dwelt us among us, “so that, as sin reigned in death, even so grace would reign through righteousness to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord (Romans 5:21).”