Posts Tagged 'Incarnation'

Panic Podcast: The Story of the New Testament, Part 1

Today we begin a short series on The Story of the New Testament.  It’s intended as a follow-up to the last series of study, The Story of the Old Testament.  In the weeks to come, I’ll be starting a brand new series that I’m tentatively calling The Everything Bible Study, because by the time we’re finished you’ll know everything you need to know about all 66 books of the Bible – who wrote what, when, from where, and to whom.  You’ll also know the major theme(s) of each book and which book(s) contains which Bible doctrine.  But, that’s not today.  For now, let’s begin our survey of the New Testament.

 

Panic Podcast: Bible Doctrines, Part 4

Are you ready for today? Are you ready for Christmas? Today’s podcast concerns the doctrine of the Incarnation, you know, Christmas!

 

Immanuel

BeFunky_baby-jesus-christmas-nativity-wallpapers-1024x768.jpg

To Christ, all the prophets bore witness; but none so clearly, forcefully, fully, and evangelically as Isaiah. This singular prophet spent a lot of time on the person, the offices, the work and suffering of our Lord, but also on His glorious conquests – spiritually during His first coming and materially in His Second. When reading the prophecies of Isaiah concerning Jesus Christ, we have an outline of His ministry and of this world’s redemption.

Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel. (Isaiah 7:14 NKJV)

And this verse, more than any other, encapsulates a view of Christ and His mission; our Lord’s history in a single verse.

Christ is God

First of all, this verse tells us in no uncertain terms that Jesus Christ is God. This, of course, shouldn’t surprise Christians, but it was a baffling thing for Isaiah’s listeners to hear. For 2,000 years, Christians have had verses like these that serve to back up what Isaiah spoke:

Before anything else existed, there was Christ, with God. He has always been alive and is himself God. He created everything there is—nothing exists that he didn’t make. Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness—and the darkness can never extinguish it. (John 1:1 – 5 TLB)

For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ, and you are filled with God through your union with Christ. He is the highest Ruler, with authority over every other power. (Colossians 2:9, 10 TLB)

[Jesus Christ] was God, [He] did not demand and cling to his rights as God, but laid aside his mighty power and glory, taking the disguise of a slave and becoming like men. And he humbled himself even further, going so far as actually to die a criminal’s death on a cross. Yet it was because of this that God raised him up to the heights of heaven and gave him a name which is above every other name… (Colossians 2:6 – 9 TLB)

Jesus Christ, admired by many people of many different faiths, was not a prophet. He was not a “good man.” He was higher and loftier than any angel or seraph. Jesus Christ was and is God. He is the Son of God, but essentially God Himself. That’s what Isaiah said and that’s what dozens of New Testament verses say. It’s the supreme truth above all others. Jesus Christ is God.

For the people of Isaiah’s day, the idea of “Immanuel,”  “God with us,” was nothing new. God had been in the midst of them before. Historically, God was with the Israelites as both a fiery pillar and a fluffy cloud. He dwelled in their midst over the mercy-seat. His presence came and went and came again for generations. But this was something new. For the first time, God would come in all His fullness, in all His glory, and in all His power in the Person of Jesus.

Why not? God can do whatever He wants to! Is it so hard to believe that the God who created the universe can visit us as a man? To dispute the possibility of the doctrine of the Incarnation is to limit God’s power.

Our Lord Himself said this:

He told his disciples, “I have been given all authority in heaven and earth.” (Matthew 28:18 TLB)

Jesus Christ was given unlimited authority, or if you will, “all power.” Power to bless. Power to heal. Power to save. Power to pardon and regenerate the vilest of sinners. Power to give eternal life to all who believe.  As God, Jesus also has the power to judge all people. Consider –

For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: “As I live, says the Lord, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.” So then each of us shall give account of himself to God. (Romans 14:10 – 12 NKJV)

Yes, Jesus Christ is God. The prophets foretold it. Jesus Himself spoke of it. His attributes prove it. Jesus Christ is God. But there is more to “Immanuel.”

Christ is near

Remember, “Immanuel” means “God with us.” In His own essence, God the Father is above us, under us, all around us. He is beyond us. He is behind us. As the governor of the universe God is everywhere, all the time.

But as “Immanuel,” this awesome God is “with us.” He is right where we are.

He is with us in our humanity. Again, the prophet Isaiah said it best:

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given… (Isaiah 9:6a NKJV)

God’s Son has been given. A child was born to Mary. Divinity wrapped up in flesh. It’s a stunning verse that our minds are unable to fully comprehend. The Creator and creature in one Person. Jesus Christ. The eternal and the finite joined together. He assumed out nature – He was clothed in our flesh. Born of a woman, fully man yet fully God. God was “with us.” Not as fire or as a cloud or as the glory of the Shakina, but as one of us.

Yes, Jesus was a “with us,” but He had a purpose. He came to us as one of us to save us. God didn’t come to earth just to “get away from it all.” He didn’t come to earth just see how things were going down here. God came to earth to save mankind. Can you imagine?

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Colossians 1:19, 20 NIV)

The word “fullness” is what drives home the truth of Christ’s deity. For some, Christ is great man or supreme spiritual being but not quite God. But the apostle understood the Incarnation in absolute terms: all of God fills, completes and pervades the Person of Jesus Christ. But Paul understood something else: there is a sense of permanence in the Incarnation. That’s what the word “dwell” implies. Some people think that “Jesus became God” or that Jesus was merely a role that God assumed for a few years. Yet “God with us” is not a temporary arrangement any more than the Incarnation is temporary. The permanent, eternal fullness of Deity in Christ and the permanent fullness of man in a single Person is the only basis for reconciliation. The great transaction that occurred at the Cross was not a play or a drama. It was a real event with eternal consequences. The consequences for sinful man are obvious. The work of Jesus makes peace possible between sinful, rebellious man and his Holy God. But rarely do we ever speak of the consequences for Jesus Christ. When the “Immanuel” event took place, our Lord took on aspects of mankind for all eternity.

He is “with us,” in all the stages of life. In the helplessness of infancy, God is with us. In the exuberance of childhood, God is with us. In the maturity of adulthood, God is with us. Through all the joys, the pain and the temptation of life, God is with us. He is with us as our Savior, our Friend, our constant Companion, our Deliverer, our dependable Advisor. He is with us in life, and He will be with us in death.

For I am convinced that nothing can ever separate us from his love. Death can’t, and life can’t. The angels won’t, and all the powers of hell itself cannot keep God’s love away. Our fears for today, our worries about tomorrow, or where we are—high above the sky, or in the deepest ocean—nothing will ever be able to separate us from the love of God demonstrated by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died for us. (Romans 8:38, 39 TLB)

That’s the real implication of “Immanuel.” There is no escaping Him.

Am I a God who is only in one place and cannot see what they are doing? Can anyone hide from me? Am I not everywhere in all of heaven and earth? (Jeremiah 23:23, 24 TLB)

It’s not an exaggeration to say that God hates sin – He hates our sin. But how He loves us! Paul wrote that it “pleased” God to have His fullness in His Son. The Incarnation “pleased” God.  Why did God find it so pleasing? What aspect of “Immanuel” pleased God? Maybe it has something to do with this:

For in Christ there is all of God in a human body; so you have everything when you have Christ… (Colossians 2:9, 10a TLB)

As sinful creatures, we have so many needs. We need health. We need wisdom. We need guidance. We need so much, but when we have Christ, we have everything we need. No wonder God the Father is so pleased with His “Immanuel.”

With US

“Immanuel,” “God with US.” He is with us. What do we do with such great knowledge? Do we ignore Him? The sad fact is, most Christians have become experts at ignoring and avoiding the God who went to such extremes to be with them. We are good at paying lip service. But we are terrible at being obedient. We are good at saying we love Him, but rarely do we show Him. Because He is with us, He demands our love, our confidence and our obedience. “Immanuel” is the greatest wonder in the universe, yet it means so little to so many.

This Christmas season, let’s take time to consider “Immanuel.” “God with us” is so profound we can scarcely realize its ramifications. So let’s start with worship. “Immanuel” demands our sincerest worship – not just on Sundays but every day of the week. We are to be obedient. We are to seek His will and fulfill it. We are to be devoted to Him. “Immanuel” ought to be last thing we think about at night and the first thing we think about in the morning.

We are not our own bosses to live or die as we ourselves might choose. Living or dying we follow the Lord. Either way we are his. (Romans 14:7, 8 TLB)

Don’t you know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and who was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourselves but to God; he bought you for a price. So use your bodies for God’s glory. (1 Corinthians 7:19, 20 GNB)

There is no doubt about it: God is with us. And we owe Him more than just our gratitude.

 

Jesus: The Son of God

The-Son-of-God-became-man-to-enable-men-to-become-sons-of-God

John:  Part Two

America is study of oddities.  For example, in 2004, 84% of Americans identified themselves as “Christians.”  What’s odd is that just 82% of that number believed Jesus to be the Son of God and only 79% believed in the Virgin Birth!  How odd indeed.  There is a definite disconnect between one’s claim to be a Christian and one’s belief in the most basic of Bible doctrines:  the divinity of Christ.

Part of the problem is a lack of teaching.  Far too many church-goers in America attend churches with little or no solid teaching.  Churches light on teaching may make good clubs or places for good fellowship, but they produce dismal Christians.  Another problem is that a lot of self-identified American Christians are self-taught; they attend no formal church.  There is a belief that anybody can grasp Bible doctrines; that theological education and training aren’t necessary.   Who needs a church or a pastor?  Of course, since these folk are self-taught, they obviously didn’t get to the verses teaching the necessity of regular church attendance or the fact the God gave the church pastors/teachers…

At any rate, what a Christian thinks of Jesus Christ is of the utmost importance.  Is He divine?  Is He human?  Or is He both?

1.  A great confession, John 1:45-51

The Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke) all wait until the end of Jesus’ earthly ministry to bring out the truth of His divine nature.  John, however, places this truth at the very beginning in the form of a confession from one of the disciples.

(a)     Nathanael, the doubter, verses 45-48

At this juncture in John’s Gospel, Jesus decided it was time to move on, so He crossed over the Jordan and headed to Galilee.  During the journey, He found Philip, who would become the His latest apostle.  To Philip, Jesus simply said, “Follow me,” and he did just that.

Philip was one the Twelve that was consciously looking for the Messiah to come.  And he seemed to know Jesus was He.  Excitedly, the new apostle found Nathaniel, who was from Cana, to share the good news.  Looking at the order of the words spoken by Philip to Nathaniel, it becomes obvious that Nathaniel was going to be a hard sell.  Philip begins with a declaration that he has found the Messiah, and ends with the word “Nazareth,” which is the first word Nathaniel hears!

Nazareth! Can anything good come from there? Nathanael asked.Come and see, said Philip.  (John 1:46 NIV84)

 The two ideas – Messiah and Nazareth –  were to Nathaniel contradictory ideas.  “Nathaniel” means “gift from God” is and comparable to the Greek name “Theodore.”  Nathaniel was probably the “Bartholomew” of the Synoptics.  He was obviously well-versed in the Old Testament and believed that “nothing good ever came out of Nazareth.”  Fortunately for him, Philip was very insistent and didn’t give up.

(b)  Nathanael’s revelation, verses 49-51

Then Nathanael declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.  (John 1:49 NIV84)

 Philip’s invitation to Nathanael, “Come and see,” is really an invitation from Jesus Himself.  The exchange between Nathanael and Jesus is at first glance quite humorous:

When Jesus saw Nathanael approaching, he said of him, Here is a true Israelite, in whom there is nothing false. How do you know me? Nathanael asked.  Jesus answered, I saw you while you were still under the fig tree before Philip called you.”  (John 1:47-48 NIV84)

Just what did that whole exchange mean?  Apparently, Nathanael had been sitting under a fig tree doing something.  But what?  Was he taking a nap?  The clue comes from what Jesus said in verse 51:

He then added, I tell you the truth, you shall see heaven open, and the angels of God ascending and descending on the Son of Man.  (John 1:51 NIV84)

That is clearly a reference to Jacob’s experience  at Bethel (Genesis 28:10-17).  Maybe Nathanael had been sitting beneath the shade of the tree reading that very story; about Jacob, an Israelite who was truly filled with deceit.  To Jacob God granted great visions.  To Nathanael, who was not deceitful, would be granted even more:  a Divine revelation of who Jesus Christ really was:

Then Nathanael declared, Rabbi, you are the Son of God; you are the King of Israel.  (John 1:49 NIV84)

Where did Nathanael get that idea?  It must have come from the mind of God Himself.  This points to an important lesson.  Many people have no problem acknowledging the existence of God.  A lot of people without hesitation would answer the question, “Do you believe in God” in the affirmative.  But the real issue is not belief in God; even the Devil believes in God!  No, the question of the ages is:  “Who do you think Jesus is?”  The human mind rebels at the thought of God and Man existing in One Perfect Person.  It takes a work of grace for the human mind to acknowledge the divinity of Jesus Christ.

2.   God sent His Son, John 3:16-18; 27-36

 John 3 is a most remarkable chapter for two reasons.  First, it is a prime example of why, sometimes, chapter breaks are not put in the proper place.  The last verse of chapter 2 is really a set-up for the conversations of chapter 3:

He did not need mans testimony about man, for he knew what was in a man.(  John 2:25 NIV84)

There should be no break between that thought and the introduction of Nicodemus, a  man who he had never met Jesus, yet Jesus knew all about him.

The second reason John 3 is so remarkable is because of verse 16, a declaration that God sent Jesus, His Son.

(a)     A word for Nicodemus, verses 16-18

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 NIV84)

This is probably the most famous verse in the whole Bible, but it is really just part of a lengthy conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus.  It is also the very first mention of God’s love in John’s Gospel.  It’s a dominant theme, so it’s surprising it took three chapters to get to it!  The word to this noble Pharisee was that God was reaching out to the whole world; that God’s love is universal.  God’s love isn’t just for some, but for all people, everywhere.  This is the WHY God did what He did in sending His Son:  He loved.  The Greek word used for “love” here is egapesen, a love that does things for others with no thought for self.  It’s describes a love that would risk all for another; a love that counts no price too great if somebody else could benefit.  It really describes an absolute love.

That was the first word to Nicodemus:  the nature of God’s love.  The second word to this Pharisee is the requirement to believe.

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of Gods one and only Son.  (John 3:18 NIV84)

We see the absolute necessity of making a conscious decision to believe in Jesus Christ.  Belief in God only gets a person so far.  Belief in Jesus Christ, with all that that entails, is what makes the difference in one’s life and one’s eternal destination.  Judgment and condemnation await all those who do not believe, but for those who do believe, those things irrelevant.

As succinctly noted by Joseph Mayfield, there is an “open door to life,” and it has three characteristics, all of which were explained to Nicodemus:  (1)  It is God’s great gift from above; (2) It comes only to the one who has faith; and (3) The alternative to life is God’s judgment.

(b)  The herald of God’s sending, verses 27-36

After the encounter with Nicodemus and after celebrating Passover, Jesus, along with some of His disciples, left Jerusalem and ventured into the countryside of Judea.  This period of ministry is unique to John – it’s not in the Synoptics – and it portrays the relationship that existed between Jesus and the man who heralded His coming, John the Baptist.  The thing about John the Baptist was that he knew who he was.

You yourselves can testify that I said, I am not the Christ but am sent ahead of him.  The bride belongs to the bridegroom. The friend who attends the bridegroom waits and listens for him, and is full of joy when he hears the bridegrooms voice. That joy is mine, and it is now complete.  He must become greater; I must become less.  (John 3:28-30 NIV84)

John the Baptist was resolutely convinced of Jesus’s divine nature because of where Jesus came from.  In fact, the Baptist understood a very profound thing:

For the one whom God has sent speaks the words of God, for God gives the Spirit without limit.   (John 3:34 (NIV84)

The ministry – the very words and teachings – of Jesus did not originate in Him, but rather God poured out His wisdom and power into Jesus by the Holy Spirit.

Furthermore, John knew that his role role in the ministry of salvation is limited, but he had the wisdom (from God) to see that Jesus’ role was limitless because to Him alone has been given power over all things.

3.  The Son gives life, John 5:19-30

 (a)  Jesus defends His actions, verses 9-23

The big problem with Jesus in the eyes of the religious elite was not that He went around healing people, but that He did it on the Sabbath.  He seemed to do this deliberately, because each time He faced such an angry accusation, He used it as a “teachable moment,” usually to discuss His unique relationship with God.

Jesus gave them this answer: I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.   (John 5:19 NIV84)

In a sense, the accusing Jews were partly right and partly wrong:

For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.  (John 5:18 NIV84)

Jesus was, in fact, making Himself equal with God!  But they were wrong in suggesting He was breaking the Sabbath.  The very fact that Jesus is the Son of God made violating the Sabbath an impossibility!

Jesus gives life because God gives life!

For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.   (John 5:21 NIV84)

Jesus raised the dead, but that power came from God by way of the Holy Spirit.  The religious elite couldn’t debate the fact that Jesus raised the dead, but the fact that He did it on the wrong day really bent them out of shape!

The second part of this verse is the subject of Jesus’ preaching:  the Son gives life to whom he is pleased to give it.  What that really means is explained in the verses that follow.

(b)  Jesus preaches the Gospel, verses  24-30

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life.”   (John 5:24 NIV84)

This simple statement explains what Jesus meant when He said that He gives life to whom He is pleased to give it.  Jesus was referring to spiritual life, not raising the dead.  And He was not saying that He was pleased to give life to some but not to others.  Whoever hears the Gospel and believes, to him Jesus is pleased to give life!  This was something Paul readily grasped:

I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes: first for the Jew, then for the Gentile.   (Romans 1:16 (NIV84)

The Gospel is life-giving.  When a sinner hears it, it begins a work in his heart, whether he knows it or not.  That work can be resisted.  A depraved nature can stifle the work of the Word; it can be ignored.  But it doesn’t have to be!  The Word – the Gospel – is the power of God for salvation!  Depraved man has the capacity to believe in what he is hearing; he cannot save Himself, but he can incline his ear toward the Gospel.  The hearing and the believing go together. They are always correlatives of the Word, that is, the Word is intended for the very purpose of being heard and believed.

He that hears and believes receives eternal, and this life literally flows from God, it is grounded in God, it joins the redeemed soul to God, and it leads to God (10:28). The very second a sinner receives this life he is made alive, literally born again. And the really exciting thing is this:  the physical death we will all one day experience only leads us into a fuller measure of this life.

 


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