Christianity 201

December 23, 2017

Joy in the Christmas Narrative

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:33 pm
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All week long our friends Stephen & Brooksyne Weber at Daily Encouragement (dailyencouragement.net) have been looking at the theme of joy in the Advent narrative. Here are highlights from the series with a link to each day’s full article.

Day One – Mary & Elizabeth

…In a loud voice she [Elizabeth] exclaimed: ‘Blessed are you [Mary] among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me? As soon as the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the baby in my womb leaped for joy. Blessed is she who has believed that the Lord would fulfill His promises to her!’” (Luke 1:39-45).

…John was just six months along but made his presence felt by his mother when leaping in her womb. He had also heard Mary’s greeting and apparently had some Spirit-given knowledge of the significance of that greeting. The experience resulted in Elizabeth being filled with the Holy Spirit.

The Scripture highlights her excitement with the phrase, “In a loud voice she exclaimed.”

What follows is a powerful Scriptural assertion of the sanctity of life. Christ had been supernaturally conceived only a short time before this. He was at most only weeks old.

Yet Elizabeth said to Mary, “Blessed are you among women, and blessed is the child you will bear! But why am I so favored, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?” Notice that she identifies Mary as “the mother of my Lord”. Even at this early stage in prenatal development Mary is a mother! …

Day Two – John the Baptist

“He will be a joy and delight to you, and many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord” (Luke 1:14).

…[T]he verse actually isn’t referring to Jesus but to John! (Check the context in Luke 1:5-25). Zechariah and Elizabeth had not had their own children. The Bible informs us that, “Both of them were righteous in the sight of God, observing all the Lord’s commands and decrees blamelessly. But they were childless because Elizabeth was not able to conceive, and they were both very old” (Luke 1:6,7).

But God had other plans for them and, like Abraham and Sarah, they became parents long after Elizabeth’s barren child bearing age had passed. Today’s text was an angelic assurance to Zechariah from Gabriel.

“He will be a joy and delight to you.” After John’s birth, recorded in Luke 1:57-66, the focus of the gospel turns to Jesus and we have no record of John’s infancy or childhood. Surely Elizabeth had some help from a younger relative or house maiden during John’s terrible two’s stage. However Zechariah had received a promise that John would be a joy and delight and we are sure he was!

“And many will rejoice because of his birth, for he will be great in the sight of the Lord.” Indeed at the time of John’s birth he created quite a stir. Luke 1:65,66 tells us “All the neighbors were filled with awe, and throughout the hill country of Judea people were talking about all these things. Everyone who heard this wondered about it, asking, ‘What then is this child going to be?’ For the Lord’s hand was with him.”

The final childhood reference to John states, “And the child grew and became strong in spirit; and he lived in the wilderness until he appeared publicly to Israel” (Luke 1:80).

Day Three – The Announcement

“In the same region there were some shepherds staying out in the fields and keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord suddenly stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them; and they were terribly frightened. But the angel said to them, ‘Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord'” (Luke 2:8-10).

Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord. That can and should be our experience.

The very heart of the gospel is the message the angel proclaimed to the shepherds as expressed in Luke 2:10, “I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people”. Just consider the aspect of “great joy” these lowly shepherds received in the message of the Gospel. It was certainly a night unlike typical night watches where shepherds move about in the dark, gathering stragglers and keeping watch for predators and other dangers.

This event had none of the normal trappings we associate with joy today. It wasn’t available to just the Hollywood elite, the intellectual, the wealthy, or the big name politicians. The joy the angel spoke of wasn’t related to flashy consumer goods; there was no big sweepstakes giveaway, no great buy at the mall.

Instead the angel spoke of joy that originates from an entirely different source. This great joy is the result of the birth of Jesus who came to save all people who ask forgiveness for their sins. The angel’s message went on to proclaim, “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”

The joy we have in Christ is:
1. A great joy.
2. A lasting joy.
3. A pure and holy joy.

Day Four – Those Filled With Re-Joy-Cing*

“Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we saw His star in the east and have come to worship Him” (Matthew 2:2). “When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy” (Matthew 2:10).

Careful consideration of Scripture actually reveals that the wise men who followed the star arrived some time after Christ’s birth. They had first seen the star while in the east and had traveled to Jerusalem to inquire regarding the exact place of Christ’s birth. In the verse following today’s text we read that the Magi came “into the house” (Matthew 2:11).

Just who these wise men (or Magi) were remains a mystery. Possibly they were among those from the Jewish line who stayed in the East (present day Iran) following the Exile or perhaps they were proselytes who were very familiar with the Messianic promise.  After receiving the information that Christ was to be born in Bethlehem they went there with a specific purpose – to worship the Christ Child.

For some reason, after initially seeing the star in the east, it was no longer seen for a period until after they had been to Jerusalem and were on their way to Bethlehem. (Compare 2:2 with 2:9,10.)

These men were earnest seekers. The journey from the east to Jerusalem was likely long and hard, but they were persistent. It was the reappearance of the star on the way to Bethlehem that prompted the response described in the KJV when they “rejoiced with exceeding great joy”. The apparent redundancy in the English is an attempt to convey the richness of emotion that Matthew uses four Greek words to express. The Amplified says, “thrilled with ecstatic joy.”

Why were they filled with such great joy? After all, at this point they had not yet seen Jesus (read the text carefully). Clearly, it was the reappearance of the star that prompted their joy. It reassured them that this was the real thing and also gave them the ability to continue their journey to find the Christ child.

I believe we have here an example of how God reveals Himself to the earnest seeker. They had seen the star while in the East and then went to Jerusalem by faith. The reappearance of the star on their way to Bethlehem gave them an assurance that their seeking was not in vain!

At times the light of God’s guidance is remarkably clear like the star seen by the wise men while in the east. At other times God’s leading is less clear, such as when the guiding star was no longer visible. But like these wise men, as earnest seekers, we walk by faith and obedience to God’s Word.


*my title, not Stephen & Brooksyne’s!  I encourage you to click that particular link and read this one in full.

 

 

 

December 21, 2016

In the Fullness of Time

Filed under: Christianity - Devotions — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:32 pm
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Today we pay a return visit to Nancy Ruegg who has been blogging faithfully for four years at From the Inside Out | Impressions Becoming Expressions. She uses a variety of writing styles to cover various themes from scripture. To read today’s at source — with Nancy’s generous inclusion of graphic images — click the title below and then click the ‘Home’ tag to view other articles.

The Appropriate Time

“But when the appropriate time had come,
God sent his Son.”
–Galatians 4:4, ISV

Let’s see…Jesus arrived on Planet Earth during the height of the Roman Empire, some 2000+ years ago – long before television or radio, even before the telegraph.

Why didn’t God wait, at least until the 1800s, so news of Jesus’ birth could be transmitted quickly?

Then there’s the argument from the other end of the spectrum. Why did God wait so long to send Jesus? Century upon dark and gloomy century had passed since Adam and Eve first sinned and a Savior was promised (Genesis 3).

There must have been something just right about that era when the Romans ruled the world. In fact, Bible scholars have identified a number of factors to explain the appropriateness of this time for God to send his Son.  Such information contributes proof of God’s wisdom and his ability to engineer circumstances perfectly:

  • The Romans had built roads all across southern Europe and into the Middle East, making travel much easier. During the first century after Jesus’ birth, early Christians were able to spread the good news about Jesus from one end of the empire to the other.
  • Pax Romana, a period of relative peace and stability that lasted approximately 200 years, began with the reign of Caesar Augustus. You’ll remember his name. He was in power when Jesus was born (Luke 2:1). Travel during this era was much safer.
  • Years before the Romans rose to supremacy, Alexander the Great of Greece had instituted common culture and a common language (Koine Greek). More people were being educated than ever before, and learning Greek or Latin in school. Language was not a barrier in proclaiming the news that the Savior had been born.
  • However, in spite of these positive effects of the Roman Empire, few people appreciated their cruel tactics to maintain control and outward peace. The Jews certainly chafed under their domination. But that increased the desire of God’s people for their Messiah to come.
  • Other nationalities had to face the fact their false gods had failed to save them from Roman conquest. Many people were ready to abandon the worship of idols and discover the different kind of peace Jesus offered (John 14:27).
  • By this time, many of those who had embraced Greek philosophy were realizing the spiritual emptiness of such thinking and were also ready to consider Jesus. The success of Paul’s ministry in such cities as Corinth, Ephesus, Antioch of Pisidia, and Colossae are in part due to this readiness.
  • The Roman army recruited men from every province they conquered, then dispersed them as needed throughout the region. Imagine Christian soldiers stationed among those of other beliefs, living Jesus’ way and sharing their faith—all across the empire . Historians credit this kind of interaction among Roman soldiers as the means for the people of Britain learning about Christianity.

Perhaps it’s just coincidence, but it is significant that I found seven reasons why the Roman era, particularly under Caesar Augustus, was the appropriate time for the birth of Jesus.  The number seven is mentioned over 700 times in scripture. Often it expresses completeness and perfection, beginning with the seven days of creation—six to complete the universe in absolute perfection and one day of rest.

The bulleted list above provides evidence of complete preparation for the coming of the Messiah: politically, culturally, and spiritually. But none of these factors would have mattered if Jesus’ message hadn’t been perfect truth:

“For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son,
that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.”
— John 3:16

“I have come that they may have life,
and have it to the full.”
— John 10:10

“I am the way, and the truth, and the life.
No one comes to the Father except through me.”
— John 14:6

Today, well over two billion people embrace the complete and perfect truth of Christianity.

I am so very thankful to be among them.  Aren’t you?

December 25, 2013

With The Dawn of Redeeming Grace

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:25 pm
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I wasn’t planning to “borrow” again from Daily Encouragement so soon, but I was planning to include this classic Christian music song about Simeon (by the band of the same name). But when Stephen and Brooksyne Weber’s devotional blog included the reference, I figured we’d “borrow” one more time; it’s easier to ask for forgiveness than permission! Click here to read at Daily Encouragement.

Merry Christmas from Christianity 201.


“The Dawn Of Redeeming Grace”

“The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God” (Mark 1:1). “He (Simeon) was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was upon him” (Luke 2:25). “But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law” (Galatians 4:4,5a).

Silent night, Holy night
Son of God, Love’s pure light
Radiant beams from Thy holy face
With the dawn of redeeming grace,
Jesus, Lord at Thy birth. Jesus, Lord at Thy birth.

God had first promised the Messiah after Adam and Eve’s transgression in the garden. Over the next several millenniums there was a growing body of Messianic promises that the Jewish people were given. The faithful lived out their lives waiting for this promise to be fulfilled, that which Mark in his gospel simply calls “The beginning of the gospel about Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

At the time of Christ’s birth two elderly Jewish people are mentioned in Luke who had longed for the Messiah’s coming. They represent the scores of devout people who had been awaiting our Lord’s birth for centuries. Simeon had been “waiting for the consolation of Israel”, and Anna “spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.”

In the third daily text the Apostle Paul is reflecting on the events of Christ’s incarnation. He uses an intriguing phrase, “when the fullness of the time had come” to describe that wonderful moment in space and time when God acted on our behalf in sending His Son for our redemption. The long wait was over. The faith of devout people like Simeon and Anna and others like them had become reality. God kept His promise, “God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law..”.

God’s purpose in sending forth His Son was “to redeem those who were under the law”. It would seem that this is one of the Scripture verses that guided Joseph Mohr’s thoughts as he penned these words, “With the dawn of redeeming grace”.

Another more recently written song titled “Redeeming Love” states:

From God’s heaven to a manger,
From great riches to the poor,
Came the Holy Son of God,
To seek and save*

God kept His greatest promise and He continues to keep all His promises. He always will. On Christmas we have the faith-building perspective of looking back and seeing the fulfillment of the greatest of God’s promises. This occurred after a long wait and in “the fullness of the time.”

I come to an understanding of this verse better when I recognize that it’s the fullness of God’s time, not ours. Many of us are waiting for God’s promises to be fulfilled in our lives. The wait is very trying. Many are living with an ongoing burden for spiritually wayward family members. Some have a long-standing physical ailment in their lives or in someone they love. Others are having a very hard time financially or are trusting God for reconciliation with a loved one. And there are those of you who have an ongoing struggle with laying down a besetting sin. Also on my heart this morning are so many of our dear brothers and sisters living in very oppressive conditions.

We consider the long wait for the Promised One who would come to earth and redeem His people. It finally happened, the dawn of redeeming grace! And now we all wait for that next great cosmic event when Jesus again keeps His last word to us as He declared, “Yes, I am coming soon.”

God has fulfilled the biggest promise. Let us wait with faith and assurance that “in His time” He will also take care of the scores of other matters we all deal with, for He is faithful!

~Stephen & Brooksyne Weber

* Various versions of this song have different wordings of line, “To seek and save”.

December 10, 2013

Mary’s Prayer: The Magnificat

This article by K.W. Leslie is probably the best treatment of Mary’s prayer that I’ve seen, insomuch as it addresses several popular misconceptions.  I encourage you to read it as his blog, More Christ, but also to send your friends and family to the article as it appeared.

The prophecy Mary gave to Elizabeth during her visit is called the Magnificat [män•YĒ•fē•kät] from the first word in its Latin translation, Magnificat anima mea Dominum…. It’s a Hebrew poem in that it repeats concepts. Some have wondered whether it’s a hymn which Mary composed on the spot. Or maybe she composed it beforehand, and came out with it now.

Those who don’t understand how prophecy and inspiration work, tend to think of the Magnificat as something the Holy Spirit said through Mary, rather than something Mary said, empowered by the Spirit. They see her as some illiterate, uneducated peasant girl. In reality, the Spirit takes our innate abilities—the ones we have all the time, not just when we’re inspired—and points them at God. The Magnificat isn’t just a one-time freak of nature. Turns out Mary was a poet. Perhaps even a musician. Maybe untrained, with strong natural talents God put in her long before she said this. But maybe someone had trained her; we don’t know. All we have is her poem.

Mary said,

“My soul knows how great the Lord is.
My spirit rejoices over the God who saves me,
because he looked at the lowness of his slave.
Look: From now on, every woman will call me awesome,
because the Almighty did a great thing to me.
His name is holy.
His mercy, to those who fear him, lasts for generations.
His arm performed powerful things.
He scattered those who were overconfident in their thinking.
He pulled dynasties from their thrones and lifted up the lowly.
He filled the hungry with good things.
He sent the wealthy away empty.
He supported his child Israel,
remembering mercy as he spoke to our ancestors,
to Abraham and his perpetual descendants.”

Mary stayed with Elizabeth three months, and returned to her house.

Luke 1.46-56 KWL

Mary’s education.

Most of the Magnificat comes from Old Testament concepts. Sometimes direct and indirect quotes. Those who think Mary was an ignorant peasant clearly don’t understand her culture: Mary went to synagogue.

In the first century, synagogue wasn’t simply a Jewish church, like it often is today. Synagogue was school. The Pharisees had invented the synagogue system to teach the Law, the bible, to the general public. They wanted to encourage men to become bible scholars, grammatís, “scribes.” But if they didn’t go so far, they wanted the men to have a functional understanding of the scriptures.

Synagogues had a women’s section. That’s right: The Pharisees permitted women’s education. They didn’t expect (nor did they want) women to become scholars. But they did expect them to know the Law, same as the men: “A man is required to teach the Law to his daughter.” (Mishna, Sota 3.4e) You can’t obey it, or pass it down to your kids, if you don’t yourself know it. And throughout the Magnificat, Mary demonstrated she did know it. ’Cause, you know, all the quotes.

For I’m your god, the LORD.
I’m El-Qanná/‘Possessive God.’
I have children suffer consequences for their parents’ evil
—and the grandchildren, and great-grandchildren—
when they hate me.
But I show love to a thousand generations
when they love me and observe my commands.

—The LORD,

My heart is happy in the LORD. […]
The experts’ bows are cracked.
The stumblers are belted with courage.
The well-fed have hired themselves out for bread.
The hungry have stopped being hungry. […]
The LORD makes people either destitute or rich.
Some he lays low; some he exalts.
He lifts the poor from the dirt.
He exalts the needy from the landfill.
He puts them in the seat of rich patrons.
He assigns them positions of honor.
For the things which hold up the earth are the LORD’s.
He set them up.

—Hannah, 1 Samuel 2.1, 4-5, 7-8 KWL

My life exults in the LORD.
His salvation thrills it.

—David, Psalm 35.9 KWL

The prowling life is satisfied.
He’s filled the starving life with goodness.

Psalm 107.9 KWL

He sent the ransom for his people:
He instructed his child in his holy covenant.
His name is respected.

Psalm 111.9 KWL

You’ll give Jacob the truth.
You’ll show love to Abraham.
You swore these things to our ancestors long ago.

—Micah, Micah 7.20 KWL

Of course there are other verses. But even if you’re taking your imagery from the bible, you still have to put it all together, as Mary did.

The structure of the poem.

People tend to divide the Magnificat into two parts. First, Mary spoke on how God blessed her personally. Lk 1.46-50 Second, Mary spoke on how God turns the world upside down in order to make it right. Lk 1.51-55 The key to Mary’s thinking is in her statement, “He scattered those who were overconfident in their thinking.” If you think you know how the world works, but your thinking is entirely based on your own comfortable position, are you in for a shocker. (Fellow Americans: Pay attention.)

Mary began by pointing out how her soul and spirit—the immaterial parts of her, which moderns refer to as our “consciousness”—recognize God’s greatness. Partly in comparison with her position, “the lowness of his slave,” because it’s how she thought of herself. Lk 1.38 Partly because she realized she’s now part of salvation history: She referred to “the God who saves me,” for she of course believed, as Jews did, the whole point of Messiah is salvation. Her son’s name Jesus Lk 1.31 means “the LORD saves.” She didn’t yet know how he’d save them; only that the first step was to get born and raised. And she got to raise him.

Much too much emphasis is made on how Mary birthed Jesus, and not enough on how she raised Jesus. Probably that’s because a lot of Christians unconsciously think since Jesus is God, he needed no one to raise him: He already knew everything, and knew better. They point to how he taught the scribes in Jerusalem when he was only 12, Lk 2.41-51 or how the folks in his homeland wondered where he got all his wisdom. Mk 6.2 Or they even borrow some stories out of the ridiculous apocryphal gospels. They don’t understand how, when Jesus gave up his divine privileges, Pp 2.7 this includes his all-knowingness. The only knowledge he took with him was that of the Father. Jn 7.29 The rest he had to learn—from his parents.

Mary appreciated all God had done for her, and the honor he’d given her, and said “His mercy, to those who fear him, lasts for generations,” loosely quoting Exodus. Ex 20.6

Her lowliness led her to recall God likes to use the lowly to accomplish his goals. They recognize their achievements are only done through God’s power, not their own. They appreciate him more. So Mary proclaimed a few of the things God does to put the world topsy-turvy to establish his Kingdom. He scatters the overconfident, knocks down dynasties, fills the hungry and empties the wealthy, and looks out for Israel—an occupied vassal state of the mighty Roman Empire—because it was founded on God’s relationship with their trusting ancestor Abraham.

Yep, Mary understood how God worked. It’s why she was well-equipped to raise him.

December 14, 2012

Why The Incarnation

While I know a large number of readers here probably use BibleGateway.com for their online searches of Bible passages, I often recommend BlueLetterBible.org when your knowledge of particular Bible phrase is close, but not close enough. This particular search tool will tell you of cases where, for example, you’ve got five out of the six words you typed located in selected verses.

Blue Letter Bible also has a daily Bible study blog and yesterday kicked off a Christmas series with part one of Why Did God Become a Man? And yes, I know it’s rather strange to be giving them the green letter treatment we give scripture verses here, so I saved you leaving that comment!

by Dave Jenkins

The doctrine of the Incarnation is important to Christianity. It reminds us that Jesus is both God and man. And this is important because it’s impossible to talk meaningfully about who Jesus is without talking about who He was and what He did. Around the turn of the century, James Denney, a professor at the United Free Church College in Glasgow, Scotland, discussed this matter:

Christ is the only person who can do this work for us. This is the deepest and most decisive thing we can know about him, and in answering the questions which it prompts we are starting from a basis in experience. There is a sense in which Christ confronts us as the reconciler. He is doing the will of God on our behalf, and we can only look on. We see him in judgment and the mercy of God in relation to our sins. His presence and work on earth are a divine gift, a divine visitation. He is the gift of God to men, not the offering of men to God, and God gives himself to us in and with him. We owe to him all that we call divine life. On the other hand, this divine visitation si made, and this divine life is imparted, through a life and work which are truly human. The presence and work of Jesus in the world, even the work of bearing sin, does not prompt us to define human and divine by contrast with each other: there is no suggestion of incongruity between them. Nevertheless, they are both there, ad the fact that they are both there justifies us in raising the question as to Jesus’ relation to god on the one hand, and to men on the other. 1

The Reason for the Incarnation
What is the function of the Incarnation in Christianity? A classic statement on why Jesus became man and its answer is found in Anslem of Canterbury (died 1109). Anslem’s theological masterpiece, Cur Deus Homo? (Why Did God Become Man?”) deals with the question of the Incarnation. Anslem answered this question that God became man in Christ because only one who was both God and man could achieve our salvation. The Incarnation—coming in the midst of a history of human sin—indicates that God has not abandoned us but rather loves and values us even in our fallen state.
Why Did God Put on Flesh?
The atonement is the reason God came as man. Consider these verses:

“For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins. Consequently, when Christ came into the world, he said, ‘Sacrifices and offerings you have not desired, but a body have you prepared for me; in burnt offerings and sin offerings you have taken no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come to do your will, O God, as it is written of me in the scroll of the book..”
(Hebrews 10:4-7)

“And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.”
(Hebrews 10:10)

“She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
(Matthew 1:21)

Jesus spoke of his coming suffering.

“And he began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and the chief priests and the scribes and be killed, and after three days rise again.
(Mark 8:31)

“for he was teaching his disciples, saying to them, “The Son of Man is going to be delivered into the hands of men, and they will kill him. And when he is killed, after three days he will rise.”
(Mark 9:31)

He linked the success of his mission to the crucifixion:

“And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.
(John 12:32)

Also, at several places in John’s Gospel the crucifixion is spoken of as that vital “hour” for which Christ came (John 2:4; 7:30; 8:20; 12:23, 27; 13:1; 17:1).

The death of Jesus is also a major theme throughout the Old Testament: first, in regard to the meaning of the sacrifices (the meaning at the heart of the law); then in regard to the prophecies, which focused increasingly on the promise of a Coming Redeemer.

Isaiah 53 and other Old Testament texts speak of the suffering of the deliverer to come. Isaiah 53 and other Old Testament passages speak of the suffering of the deliver to come. In Galatians the apostle Paul teaches that even Abraham, who lived before both the law and prophets was saved by faith in Jesus (Gal. 3:8, 16). Furthermore, Jesus told the downcast disciples on the Emmaus Road that the Old Testament foretold His death and resurrection. Luke 24:25-27, “And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” In light of these texts and many others we can say that the atonement of Christ is a primary reason for the Incarnation. It is the explanation of the twofold nature and the focal point of the world and biblical history.

(In the next post, we will look further into the Incarnation-Atonement connection. Stay tuned!)

——-

Footnotes:

1 Denney, James, The Death of Christ, ed. R.V.G. Tasker (Chicago: Intervarsity Press, 1964).

November 19, 2012

The First Recorded Words of Jesus

One of the books in my possession is an early copy of what would later become The Message of Luke in “The Bible Speaks Today” series from IVP. My copy has a larger title, Savior of the World.

In the section dealing with chapter two — appropriate to the season of the year we are approaching — author Michael Wilcock notes that there are three stories presented revolving around three key characters:

  • the angel
  • the prophet
  • the child himself

and also three sayings from each of them:

  • “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”
  • 29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss your servant in peace.
    30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
    31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
    32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.” …
    34 …“This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”
  • 49 “Why were you searching for me? … Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?”

On the latter, Wilcock writes:

…So the first recorded words of Jesus are a statement about himself, and a claim to a relationship between himself and God different from, and deeper than, anything that has been known before. Furthermore, it is a relationship into which he is going to bring all others who are prepared to put their faith in God through him. He will teach them to address their prayers regularly to their ‘Father’ (11:2), and they will learn to use the affection, intimate name of ‘Abba’ (‘Daddy’) which he himself uses. Thus early in his Gospel, Luke introduces the great object of the divine plan of salvation, just as John does, in his own way, at the beginning of his story of Jesus: “To all who received him, who believed in his name, he gave power to become the children of God.”

Both these truths, that he is the son of God, and that he has come into the world so that others might become sons of God are implied in his words in 2:49. For to be “in my Father’s house” really amounts to the same thing as to be “about my Father’s business”: where  my father is, where he centers his activity, there I am always to be found as well. (Again, this is Luke’s equivalent of some of the great sayings in John: “I and the Father are one…” “The Son can do nothing of his own accord but only what he sees the Father doing; for whatever he does that the son does likewise… I always do what is pleasing to him.”) But the Father’s work, as we have seen, is the work of salvation; so this is the work in which the Son also “must” be engaged. Thus, early in his career, does Jesus express the compulsion that is upon him to be at one with his Father in the saving of men.

So we have Luke essentially including this passage as to offer a parallel to what we normally refer to as John’s prologue.


Yesterday at Thinking Out Loud, I reviewed a Bible study resource that I believe will be especially useful for people engaged in student ministry, Christian education or who just want to be focused when leading small groups through some of the narrative OT and NT stories. You can read that review here.

 

December 19, 2010

The Servant King by Graham Kendrick

This morning while we were singing “Joy to the World,” I was reminded again that only the first verse is, strictly speaking, Christmas-oriented.  The other three commonly sung verses would fit better at Easter.

Which brings us to a similar situation with “The Servant King.”   Although I just posted another Graham Kendrick song a few weeks ago,  I always associate this associate this song with Christmas, even though it speaks more of Christ’s death and resurrection.     (Another song, which also begins incarnationally is “Here I Am To Worship,” which works well at this time of year.)

This song originates in the UK, and is well-known to Canadians, but probably many of my American readers are not familiar with it.     The lyrics appear onscreen.

Phil 2:5 (NIV)In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus:

6 Who, being in very nature God,
did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage;
7 rather, he made himself nothing
by taking the very nature of a servant,
being made in human likeness.
8 And being found in appearance as a man,
he humbled himself
by becoming obedient to death—
even death on a cross!

(Some similar writing to “The Servant King”  can be found in Kendrick’s Meekness and Majesty, another song known well in England and Canada, but not so much in the U.S.  We’ll post that one here in a few days.)

December 9, 2010

Christmas Card Theology

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:06 pm
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If it is true that the DNA of the gospel is found even in the books of the Old Testament, there ought to be no end to the number of verses that can be used on Christmas cards to announce the incarnation; to proclaim that God has come to dwell with man.

I was truly struck by this many years ago when Tom, a graphic artist I got to know briefly, decided to screen print his own Christmas cards.   The passage he chose was the beginning of Hebrews 1, though some (like me) maintain that the reason we can’t 100% verify the authorship of Hebrews is because we’ve got a letter where the first page is missing.   So chapter 1 may not be its first words.   Nonetheless…

1God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets,

2Hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds…

Okay, I know I just lost a few people, but I like the unique KJV wording.   Where else do you find “sundry times” and “divers manners” which is exactly the text Tom chose for his Christmas cards.

Here’s the (new) NIV with an extra verse:

1 In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. 3 The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

And of course, The Message:

1-3Going through a long line of prophets, God has been addressing our ancestors in different ways for centuries. Recently he spoke to us directly through his Son. By his Son, God created the world in the beginning, and it will all belong to the Son at the end. This Son perfectly mirrors God, and is stamped with God’s nature. He holds everything together by what he says—powerful words! After he finished the sacrifice for sins, the Son took his honored place high in the heavens right alongside God…

I like The Message’s in-context use of the word “recently.”   “This just in!”  It’s a new day.  A new opportunity.   A new beginning.

Are there verse that lie outside the typical (i.e. Luke 2) Christmas narrative that hit home for you as they contain the message of Christmas?

December 1, 2010

Incarnation in a Single Sentence

Filed under: Uncategorized — paulthinkingoutloud @ 5:38 pm
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The Son of God
became a son of man
in order that the sons of men
might become the sons of God.