By Pastor Rolf Preus
From Christian News, December 16, 1985
Christmas is probably the most popular holiday in the world. When cults like the Jehovah's Witnesses and Armstrong's Worldwide Church of God refuse to celebrate this holiday, and even attack it as godless and sinful, folks are understandably upset. What? No Christmas? Why, that's terrible! These anti-Christmas cultists are put into the company of Dr. Seuss' famous "Grinch" who "stole" Christmas.
But which is worse: denying the holiday, or denying the reality on which the holiday is based? When it comes to holidays, Scripture clearly makes their observance a matter of Christian freedom. "Therefore let no one judge you ... regarding a festival..." (Col. 2:16). The observance or lack of it of the Christmas holiday is not something Scripture addresses. Christians are free to choose which festivals or holy days (holidays) they want to celebrate. The reality of Christmas, however, is far different. With or without Christmas, this holiday is the observance of an event which every human being must know and consider. God became Man. Beneath all the externals of the holiday season exists this central fact, not only to Christmas, but of Christianity: God became man. I do not reject the religion of the Jehovah's Witness or Armstrongism because they, for whatever reason, reject Christmas. I reject and denounce their damnable religion because they deny that God became man. This is what makes them anti-Christian cults. Their odd pronouncements on things like holiday celebrations, receiving blood transfusions, and the like, are minor details in their overall system. The error which leaves them entirely outside of the Christian fold is their teaching that God did not become man.
We Christians believe, teach and confess that Jesus Christ, the child of Mary, born in Bethlehem, is the eternal God, the second person of the Trinity, begotten of his Father before all time. We believe, teach and confess that when the Virgin Mary conceived a child, that child was God himself. This act, whereby God became man, is called the Incarnation. It may not be possible to understand how this can be, but it is relatively easy to understand that it is. Scripture clearly teaches that God became man. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God ... and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us..." (John 1:1,14).
I have talked with various members of anti-Christian cults which deny that God became man. Without exception, I have found that they don't understand why we Christians are so adamant on this. To them, our insistence that God became man, that Jesus Christ is true God and true man, is rather silly. It makes no sense, and besides, what difference does it make? The difference between life and death!
The religions of those false Christians (Moonies, Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Armonstrongites, etc.) which deny that God became man are all religions which teach salvation by works. They may strenuously deny this (Mormons and Moonies claim to teach salvation by grace, but they don't), but to them, Jesus did only part of what needs to be done for their salvation. He didn't finish the job. Perhaps he took care of the guilt of original sin, or he made possible their working their way to heaven, or he in some other way made salvation a possibility, but he did not save them. Why? Because he could not. He is not God. If God did not become, man, if Jesus is not God, then we are left without an Almighty Savior. God alone is all-powerful. There was no other possibility for our eternal salvation than by the incarnation of the eternal Son of God. God had to become man if men were to be saved. Only a man could take our place, as our substitute, under the law. Only a man who was like us in every way, except without sin, could be a proper substitute. Only a man could actively obey the law, fulfilling it for us. Only a man could suffer the punishment which we deserved by bearing our sin. Only Almighty God could render an obedience which would be great enough for the entire human race. Only God could pay a sufficient price. Only a man could take our place. If Jesus Christ was not true God and true man, our deliverance from our sin and damnation would not be accomplished. We would still be lost in the guilt of our sin. It is no coincidence that the various cults all teach that God did not become man and that we must add to what Jesus did if we are to be saved. The two errors go together. One reason that cultists cannot understand why we will not budge from our confession that God became man is that they don't really believe that we believe in salvation by grace alone. Salvation by works is so ingrained in their thinking, that they believe there must be a catch somewhere when we Christians claim that our good works have nothing at all to do with salvation.
We have our job cut out for us, don't we? In our own community, there are many Jehovah's Witnesses and an increasing number of Mormons. It is very likely that even among some of the Christian denominations there are many who don't believe that God became man. This is far from a theological detail. This is a matter of eternal life or eternal death. For only the God man can save lost sinners. Only the Gospel of Christ, the God who gave man, is the power into salvation. This Christmas, as we ponder the spirit of giving, let us give the Gospel of eternal life. Tell the cultist (or nominal Christian) why God became man. That sincere and earnest Jehovah's Witness standing on your doorstep is on the way to eternal damnation. Only the God who became man can save him. "God is man, man to deliver; his dear Son now is one with our blood forever!