Christianity 201

December 8, 2016

The Fall: The Christmas Story Continues . . .

by Clarke Dixon

Last week we saw how the story of Christmas really has its beginnings way back at Creation. God’s desire from the outset was to be with us, and Christmas is a big part of that happening. As we look to cover the Christmas story from beginning to end, we do not even get out of Genesis chapter 3, or out of the Garden of Eden for that matter, before we see something else critical to the Christmas story. The Fall is part of what Christmas is about. Let us focus in on God’s promise to the serpent:

The Lord God said to the serpent,
“Because you have done this,
cursed are you among all animals
and among all wild creatures;
upon your belly you shall go,
and dust you shall eat
all the days of your life.
I will put enmity between you and the woman,
and between your offspring and hers;
he will strike your head,
and you will strike his heel.” Genesis 3:14-15 emphasis mine

Here we have a promise of struggle. This not really about humans and snakes, this is about humanity’s struggle with evil. Snakes provide a good metaphor for this struggle. A strike to a snake’s head could be fatal. But so too, could a snake’s strike to a human’s heel. We are not sure at the time the promise is given who will be victorious, and who will end up dead.

The odds don’t look to be in our favour, especially given the fact that evil won the first battle when we had our best advantage. We had home field advantage in the Garden of Eden. We had everything, including the amazing presence of God Himself. But we had to have that one fruit. Things do not go our way throughout the pages of the Old Testament either. The history of God’s people, Israel, is a history of trying and failing, getting up and falling, again and again. And consider world history. Though there are bright moments, evil seems all too often to have the upper hand. Given the capacity of humanity to end all life through nuclear warfare, the odds have never been more in the favour of evil winning the war. Who will win in the end, the offspring of Eden, or the offspring of the serpent? It seems like a war humanity has not been winning and cannot win. However, Christmas points us to a clear winner!

Christmas points us to a clear winner when the angel speaks to Joseph.

She will bear a son, and you are to name him Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” Matthew 1:21

Mary will bear a son. Jesus is therefore is a candidate for being the “offspring,” or “seed” of Eve. But how can this one man conquer evil when no other man before has? How can this man do what has been impossible for every person before him right back to Adam and Eve, namely, lead a sinless life? And never mind leading his own sinless life, how will he also deal with the sins of others? Though being born of Mary and therefore the offspring of Eve, Jesus is so much more. The next verses make this clear:

All this took place to fulfill what had been spoken by the Lord through the prophet:
“Look, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
and they shall name him Emmanuel,”
which means, “God is with us.” Matthew 1:22-23

While this seems to be a war humanity cannot win, this particular seed of Eve has an advantage! He is God with us.

Christmas points to a clear winner when the angel speaks to Mary.

The angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. 31 And now, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you will name him Jesus. Luke 1:30-31

Born of Mary, and so the offspring of Eve. But again, so much more:

He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give to him the throne of his ancestor David. . . . The angel said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be holy; he will be called Son of God. Luke 1:32-35

The war will be won with this man, a man of holy divinity, on our side!

While we are thinking of Mary, we should note here how the promise of Genesis 3:15 pertains to the offspring of Eve, and not Adam. Note also, how Jesus is born of Mary, but not to Joseph. Here is a hint, though just a hint, way back in Genesis, of the virgin birth of Jesus.

In addition to Christmas there are two other events that point to a clear winner. 

Christmas leads to Easter. The death and resurrection of Jesus points to victory. Paul confirms this for us in Romans 8 when he speaks of evil not being able to knock God’s person down. Satan is the accuser, the one most likely to condemn, pointing the fingers  and declaring “unworthy sinners! You will never be victorious over evil for you are evil.” Hear what Paul has to say:

What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. Romans 8:31-39

While Satan may be the accuser, God is the judge. God has already demonstrated His love for us through the death and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus, by giving His life for us, has already declared that He is on our side. Paul goes on about the potential of evil to knock us over and down:

Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?
As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. Romans 8:35-37

In the face of much evil, we are more than conquerors, not because we are able of ourselves to get the upper hand over evil, but “though him who loved us.” No expression of evil in the world can gain the victory and separate us from the love of God:

38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:38

Advent is a time of expectant waiting. The second advent of our Lord points us to the clear winner:

Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, holding in his hand the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain. 2 He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years, 3 and threw him into the pit, and locked and sealed it over him, so that he would deceive the nations no more, . . . .  And the devil who had deceived them was thrown into the lake of fire and sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet were, and they will be tormented day and night forever and ever. Revelation 20:1-3, 10

The last book of the Bible, Revelation, recalls the struggle promised in the first book of the Bible, Genesis. The serpent’s head is crushed. Evil is utterly defeated.

Looking out at our world we may wonder if humanity can ever win the struggle against evil. Christmas points us to a clear winner. Easter points his to a war already won. The coming Day of the Lord, the second advent of Christ points to every battle finished.

At Christmas we celebrate the incarnation of God as the answer to the prophetic question asked in Genesis 3:15; “will humans ever win this struggle against evil?” Evil struck the heel of Eve’s offspring when the forces of evil conspired together to put Jesus to death. But in dying and in being raised to life, Jesus has crushed the serpent. We have a clear winner. Christmas points the way to victory. We have the opportunity to become “more than conquerors through him who loved us.”

All Bible references are from the NRSV


Read this post at its source and then look around the rest of Sunday’s Shrunk Sermon

May 12, 2016

Biblical Typology

Today’s scriptures are found in the links of the blockquote, and the key scripture in the image below.

You’re listening to a sermon where the preacher says something like, “…in this, Joshua is a ‘type’ of Christ.” What does that mean? Maybe a ‘type’ is someone that someone else likes, as in, “She’s definitely my type.”

Bible TypologyNo, it’s actually Biblical typology. GotQuestions.org explains:

Typology is a special kind of symbolism. (A symbol is something which represents something else.) We can define a type as a “prophetic symbol” because all types are representations of something yet future. More specifically, a type in scripture is a person or thing in the Old Testament which foreshadows a person or thing in the New Testament. For example, the flood of Noah’s day (Genesis 6-7) is used as a type of baptism in 1 Peter 3:20-21. The word for type that Peter uses is figure.

When we say that someone is a type of Christ, we are saying that a person in the Old Testament behaves in a way that corresponds to Jesus’ character or actions in the New Testament. When we say that something is “typical” of Christ, we are saying that an object or event in the Old Testament can be viewed as representative of some quality of Jesus.

Scripture itself identifies several Old Testament events as types of Christ’s redemption, including the tabernacle, the sacrificial system, and the Passover. The Old Testament tabernacle is identified as a type in Hebrews 9:8-9: “the first tabernacle . . . which was a figure for the time then present.” The high priest’s entrance into the holiest place once a year prefigured the mediation of Christ, our High Priest. Later, the veil of the tabernacle is said to be a type of Christ (Hebrews 10:19-20) in that His flesh was torn, (as the veil was when He was crucified) in order to provide entrance into God’s presence for those who are covered by His sacrifice.

The whole sacrificial system is seen as a type in Hebrews 9:19-26. The articles of the “first testament” were dedicated with the blood of sacrifice; these articles are called “the patterns of things in the heavens” and “figures of the true” (verses 23-24). This passage teaches that the Old Testament sacrifices typify Christ’s final sacrifice for the sins of the world. The Passover is also a type of Christ, according to 1 Corinthians 5:7, “Christ our passover is sacrificed for us.” Discovering exactly what the events of the Passover teach us about Christ is a rich and rewarding study…

For years, I assumed that this was simply a human way of defining aspects of a book with divine characteristics. After all, we say “Trinity” but the word itself isn’t in the Bible. But we know what we mean when we say it, but we recognize the actual word to be a man-made construct. Is it possible that our notion of Biblical typology is simply a human construct to try to make sense of certain parallels and similarities?

Well, it turns out, that the Bible itself makes the case for doing so.

This week as I watched a sermon online, this verse came on the screen:

Zechariah 3 8-9

What does this mean? I believe there are three things here beyond the immediate context.

Key – In a sense the Bible is herewith giving us permission to this type of textual analysis. The verse isn’t prophetic in the sense of having direct application to Joshua himself, but is Messianic in nature; referencing one who would follow after Joshua.  Thus we have a direct indication here to pursue this interpretation (hermeneutic) method.

Promise – The International Bible Commentary says it is “the divine guarantee that God is to do something better through his servant “the branch,” …a future Davidic ruler.” The Eerdman’s Bible Commentary says that Joshua and his associates are “a pledge of the approach of Messiah’s kingdom…” We can therefore look for these various ‘types’ to appear and know they indicate the One who is for them, someone who will come after but for us, someone who has already appeared.

Mystery – On the other hand, scriptures generally don’t fully connect all the dots. The correlation is there in general terms, but nowhere does the text say things with the bluntness that we, living in a bullet-point, cut-to-the-chase world would prefer. We must work these things out ourselves. We are within our rights to look for other examples of these types throughout scripture.


Related:

  • February, 2014 – Biblical Typology (This article gives far more examples than we had room for here today.)
  • April, 2012 – Jesus After the Order of Melchizedek (One of the most challenging ‘types’ we encounter since so little is actually said about him.)
  • Sermon: Prophetic Pointers – If you go to this sermon series by Bruxy Cavey at The Meeting House (also the source of today’s scripture screen shot) and choose Week #4 of the series Jesus BC, you can see the sermon where I heard the verse from Zechariah. Interestingly, Week #5, The Mysterious Stranger, is entirely about Melchizedek. (Warning: Bruxy may not look like the pastor of your church!)