Question and Answer
Did God become man so that He could better understand the temptations and struggles we go through?
The "so that" and "better understand" are crucial here. God did not need to become man to know and understand (let alone "better understand") our human struggles, as the testimony of pre-incarnation Scripture makes clear: 1 Samuel 2:3, 16:7, 1 Kings 8:39, 1 Chronicles 28:9, Psalm 1:6, 11:4f, 14:2, 33:13ff, 34:15f, 102:19f, 139:1-16, Prov.15:3, 16:2, 24:12, Isaiah 40:12-17 (passages I could find rather quickly, I'm sure there are many more of this sort). It is man who lacks understanding (Psalm 14:4); the Lord's understanding of us and our hearts is perfect and complete. As the Apostle Paul says, "Oh the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways!" (Rom.11:33) - He who "will judge the secrets of men through Jesus Christ" (2:16).
The stated purpose of our Lord's coming from heaven and taking our human nature was "to save His people from their sins" (Matthew 1:21), to "give His life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45), "to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10), to reveal the Father (John 1:19, 14:8,9), to "do the will of Him who sent Me ... that of all that He has given Me I lose nothing, but raise it up on the last day" (John 6:38f), to bear the sins of many, to destroy the works of the devil, etc., etc. I am not aware of any passage that says that the Son became man in order to understand better His creature.
Having said all of that, however, Hebrews does point us to one of the great encouragements that belongs to believers in Christ because of His incarnation. We now may know that our great High Priest in heaven does have a perfect understanding of our weakness and temptations (4:15, cf. 5:7-10). We should never say that there was something lacking in God's perfect wisdom and understanding. However, when God the Son took our flesh and blood, His understanding became like ours in addition to what it was before; that is, He now understood from experience, from "inside" our human nature. This is not presented as a purpose of His coming in our nature, but as a blessing to us in consequence of His coming in our nature.
Of course, as nothing that happens lies outside of the eternal and sovereign plan of God, even this was planned and could therefore be said to have been a purpose of the incarnation. But the point of it is not that God sought out a way of improving His understanding of His creature man, but rather that God condescended to grant to us this wonderful assurance - namely, that we can know that when we have sinned or are struggling with a temptation too great for our strength, at the Father's right hand His Son is interceding for us with a knowledge and sympathy (fellow-feeling) of our experience that is like our own - except without sin - praise Him!
"Questions and Answers" is a weekly feature of the OPC website. At least one new question is posted each week, so there should always be something new here for you to read. (For those who would like to look at previous questions and answers, they will continue to be available as well.)
The questions come from individuals like yourself. If you have questions about biblical and theological matters, you are invited to send them by e-mail by using the "Pose a Question" link on the OPC home page or by clicking here.
The purpose of the OPC website's "Questions and Answers" is to respond to biblical and theological questions. Matters of church discipline, disputes, or debates go beyond the scope of our work. We recommend that you present your concerns in these areas to the appropriate judicatory. In most cases this will be to a local pastor, elder, or session. We do not want the website to replace personal involvement in, or commitment to, the local, visible church.
While we will respond to every serious questioner, we are not bound to give a substantive answer to every question, should we deem the question to be beyond the scope of our purpose or our own ability to answer.
You will receive an answer by email. Please be patient as many of our respondents are busy pastors. The response to your question may take up to two weeks. Some of the questions submitted will be chosen to be posted here, along with the corresponding answers.
The answers come from individual ministers in the Orthodox Presbyterian Church expressing their own convictions and do not necessarily represent an "official" position of the Church, especially in areas where the Standards of the Church (the Scriptures and the Westminster Confession of Faith and Catechisms) are silent.
Note that the "Questions and Answers" posted on the site have been editedall personal references are removed, Scripture references may be added, and sometimes portions are expandedto make the questions and answers more useful to a larger audience.