If I were to say, “You are so condescending” or “You’ve got a condescending manner,” I don’t think you would take it as a compliment. The way that we normally use the word condescending is similar to the way we normally use the term patronizing: it’s a pejorative term. The Collins English dictionary speaks of being condescending as “showing your disapproval of the fact that they talk or behave in a way which shows that they think they are superior to other people.”

However, I want us to think for a moment of our “condescending God” because when we use the term “condescension” of God, we are coming very near to the wonder and glory of who God is and the beauty of the gospel. And this will inevitably lead us to worship Him.

God is, according to the Westminster Shorter Catechism, infinite, eternal, and unchangeable in His being, wisdom, power, holiness, justice, goodness, and truth. He made heaven and earth, and He works all things according to the power of His will. He is holy, holy, holy. The God who sits enthroned in heaven and to whom the nations of this earth are like a drop in a bucket—this God condescends. God who is superior to us, in whom we live and move and have our being, is a condescending God.

It is not patronizing to describe God in this way, and it is not pejorative. It is, in fact, the heart of the gospel and the story of the Bible.

The greatest and most wonderful example of God’s condescension is in the incarnation of the Lord Jesus: God became man and took on flesh. The Creator became a creature; the One who hung the stars lay helpless in a manger. The One who we teach our children is so big, so strong, and so mighty became so tiny, so weak, and so powerless. The King of the angels was made a little lower than the angels. The Creator of time entered time. The One whose everlasting arms are underneath His people lay vulnerable in His mother’s arms.

There is no greater condescension. It’s beyond illustration, beyond comparison. That God condescends is our only hope in life and death. Without God’s condescension, there would be no salvation for you and me. There would be no good news. It is the glory of our God that He condescends.

“For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though he was rich, yet for your sake he became poor, so that you by his poverty might become rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).

The God who sits enthroned in heaven and to whom the nations of this earth are like a drop in a bucket—this God condescends.

Why does He condescend? What is His purpose? It is for you and me—that we might be brought to God, that we might be redeemed, that we might be made rich. Christ Jesus came into this world to save sinners.

As we meditate on this, it cannot but move us: Behold your God, your holy, holy, holy God as a baby in His mother’s arms, coming to rescue.

The Puritan preacher Thomas Watson puts it movingly in his book A Body of Divinity:

He was poor, that he might make us rich.

He was born of a virgin that we might be born of God.

He took our flesh, that he might give us His Spirit.

He lay in the manger, that we may lie in paradise.

He came down from heaven, that he might bring us to heaven. . . .

That the ancient of Days should be born.

that he who thunders in the heavens should cry in the cradle. . . .

that he who rules the stars should suck the breast;

that a virgin should conceive;

that Christ should be made of a woman, and of that woman which himself made,

that the branch should bear the vine,

that the mother should be younger than the child she bare,

and the child in the womb bigger than the mother;

that the human nature should not be God, yet one with God.

Come and worship!

The nineteenth-century Baptist pastor William Gadsby takes up this theme in his hymn “O What Matchless Condescension”:

O what matchless condescension

the eternal God displays,

claiming our supreme attention

to His boundless works and ways;

His own glory

He reveals in gospel days.

In the Person of the Savior

all His majesty is seen,

love and justice shine for ever;

and without a veil between,

we approach Him,

and rejoice in His dear Name.

Would we view His highest glory,

here it shines in Jesus’ face;

sing and tell the pleasing story,

O you sinners saved by grace;

and with pleasure,

bid the guilty Him embrace.

In His highest work, redemption,

see His glory in a blaze;

nor can angels ever mention

aught that more of God displays.

Grace and justice

here unite to endless days.

True, ’tis sweet and solemn pleasure,

God to view in Christ the Lord;

here He smiles, and smiles for ever;

may my soul His Name record,

praise and bless Him,

and His wonders spread abroad.


Editor’s Note: This post was originally published on EalingLevy

Have You Heard of R.C. Sproul?

Martin Luther on Preparing to Die