“Christ manifested in the flesh” is the doctrine about Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who came down to earth and put on flesh and blood like us. He was tempted like us, but overcame all sin, by presenting Himself as a sacrifice to God in the power of the eternal Spirit. He was justified in His human spirit, and received up in glory. (Hebrews 4:15; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Timothy 3:16)
Jesus let Himself be born into the world as a human being—the Man Christ Jesus. “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” Hebrews 2:17.
“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus.” 1 Timothy 2:5.
As Christians, we are called not only to receive the forgiveness of sins, but to overcome all sin, to follow Him who committed no sin. (1 Peter 2:20-24) Thus it is this very thing, Christ manifested in the flesh—the condition of the Son of Man, His temptations, difficulties, battles and victories— that is of such living interest and significance for us.
God’s work with people
“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds.” Hebrews 1:1-2.
Ever since the time of Adam and Eve, God has spoken to mankind about His will, by means of His laws and precepts, both directly and by His prophets. He gave the law to Israel by Moses, as a help for them to keep the covenant into which He had entered with Abraham and his descendants. This was a blessing for them, and it had the effect of separating them from the Gentiles. These were laws and regulations about how people should live, but without giving them the power to live according to them.
The upright and God-fearing among the people of Israel struggled in their own strength to keep the many commandments and regulations of the law. One of the law’s requirements was that they should not covet. This was a requirement that was impossible for them to keep in their human strength. Covetousness was in their inner man, and the law could only judge them when sin because of covetousness became a deed. Sacrifices gave them forgiveness for their sins, but could never take away covetousness and sin. They could appear fine outwardly, but within the lusts and covetousness waged war in their members. Some of them managed to advance far in doing God’s will, because of their godly fear, but they never attained to the rest and peace, which was what God wanted them to have.
What the law could not do
After God had worked with mankind for several thousand years, “at various times and in various ways,” without them obtaining the promise, He decided to do something completely new. He sent His own Son to earth to open a new and living way, to finally crush the serpent’s head, and destroy him who had the power of death, that is the devil.
“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Hebrews 2:14-18.
In the letter to the Romans, Paul describes the great work that God did in Jesus, and the great possibilities this opened up for us.
“For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.” Romans 8:3-4
The lusts and passions of the flesh were stronger than the requirements of the law; therefore, the law was powerless concerning sin. For example, the law was powerless concerning jealousy. It works within a person, where the law cannot judge or do anything about it. Here we see what was impossible for the law—namely to get people to fulfil the requirement of the law, “you shall not covet.” In other words, the law could not touch the root of sin, or sin in the flesh, which all people inherited after the Fall. For this indwelling sin to be destroyed, a work had to take place in a real person with flesh and blood like the children, in whom lust for sin—the result of the Fall—was indwelling. God Himself had to condemn the sin in that person’s flesh.
Christ manifested in the flesh
Therefore, God had to do something entirely new. There was no other solution than to send His own Son to earth with a flesh like the children, in which covetousness dwelt.
The Son put Himself at God’s disposal for this task. He let Himself be born into the world as a man. As the son of Mary, He came from the seed of David according to the flesh, which means that He inherited the same human nature and flesh that David had. (Romans 1:2-3) God condemned sin in this human flesh every time Jesus was tempted. Jesus always agreed with God in this judgment over sin and covetousness. Every time He was tempted, He obeyed God and offered Himself in the power of the eternal Spirit, who was with Him, so that He overcame sin, and He never committed sin. (Hebrews 9:14) He denied his self-will, suffered in His flesh, and He did that until sin was brought into death, and thus He ceased from sin.
“Therefore, since Christ suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same mind, for he who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin.” 1 Peter 4:1.
Christ manifested in our mortal flesh
By living this life, Jesus opened up a new and living way, so that we can follow Him. This is the glory of the new covenant. Those who believe that Jesus took upon Himself a flesh like us also understand that He had a self-will that He had to deny, and that He was tempted just like we are, without ever giving in to sin.
The entirety of God’s fullness was revealed in the Man Jesus Christ. This was something completely new. Jesus is not just an atonement for our sins, and an example we never can follow, but He is our brother and our forerunner.
This biblical faith and understanding is therefore an essential key for ever coming to a victorious life, so that the life of Christ can also be revealed in your and my body!
“… always carrying about in the body the dying of the Lord Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. For we who live are always delivered to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” 2 Corinthians 4:10-11.