Thoughts on Advent (4): Why did Jesus appear?
Christmas Day celebrates the birth and appearing of Christ. We think of his incarnation, Immanuel (God with us), the Word made flesh, the Son of God made son of Mary. But why did baby Jesus appear? John tells us:
“The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil” (1 John 3:8).
The purpose of Jesus’ appearing was “to destroy the works of the devil”. What are these works when spoken of here? The first part of verse 8 gives us a clue: “The one who practices sin is of the devil; for the devil has sinned from the beginning.” And in verse 5 he speaks of Christ appearing “ in order to take away sins” (1 John 3:5). This is in line with John’s earlier declaration, “I write these things to you so that you may not sin” (1 John 2:1).
So destroying our sin is the issue. John is speaking of sanctification. The works of the devil are what we do when we act like the devil – we sin. Jesus came in the flesh so that human beings would not continue in the habit of sinning like the devil. Our behaviour is in view here.
Also, our nature is in view. The works are “of the devil” and the one who practices sin is “of the devil” (1 John 3:8). The habitual sinner shows that their father is not God but the devil. The one who is born of God has God’s seed in him and there will be a family likeness evidenced (1 John 3:9). John goes on to say, “By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God” (1 John 3:10).
Two fathers are in view, God and the devil. You are a child of one or the other. The Son of God appeared destroy the works of the devil (i.e. our sin) by making us children of God. Nature change comes before behaviour change. And this change looks like believing Jesus and loving others, “And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as he has commanded us” (1 John 3:23).
Finally, God’s love is in view. The Son of God appeared because he was sent by the Father in order to display God’s love. John tells us, “In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins” (1 John 4: 10).
So this Christmas remember that Jesus came to destroy the works of the devil, that is our sin, by dying as the wrath-bearing substitute for our sin.