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Pastor Scott L. Harris
Grace Bible Church, NY
December 20, 2009
Our Lord, Immanuel
We hear the many carols sung and played over the last month and perhaps even sing along. People also wish us a merry Christmas or happy holidays, but few it seems remember the meaning of Christmas or the reason it is a holiday. So thank you to all the Sunday School teachers and the kids who participated this morning in the presentation. We appreciate your hard work and creativity in reminding us of the true meaning of Christmas by using the acronym:
Christ Child—Matthew 1:23
Herald Angels— Luke 2:9-14
S Star that Shown so Bright
T Tell everyone you know about Jesus
A All He Stands for
–Creator – John 1:1,3
S Shepherd’s cane
Christmas is a holiday because of Jesus. Remember that holiday is a compound word from holy and day. Christmas is a holy day because it is a remembrance of what God has done in His love, mercy and grace for us in having His only begotten son become a man. There are two important aspects to this event. The first is the human side of it. Jesus became a man.
Theologians use the term incarnation to describe Jesus becoming a man. It means to “become flesh.” And Jesus, who prior to that time was only spirit as the second member of the triune Godhead, took on human flesh the same as you and I have. As John 1:1 describes it, “The Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” Jesus became embodied in a physical presence made of skin, bone, muscles, organs, blood and tissue. The Creator became a creature with hands, feet, arms, legs, a head and torso. Paul describes this in Galatians 4:4 as God sending forth His Son to be “born of a woman.” That is what the angel Gabriel had told Mary when he told her that she would conceive in her womb and bear a son (Luke 1:31).
The humanity of this strikes us with pleasant feelings. The common Christmas image of Jesus as a baby lying in a manger or being cuddled by Mary strikes a tender spot of joy in the innocence and peace of a newborn baby. It is something we embrace easily with compassion and tenderness. Even non-believers find the birth of Jesus a pleasant story, if not somehow even rustically romantic as found in the typical creche scene with the animals, shepherds and wise men joining Joseph and Mary in adoring the child.
(I found it interesting the other day of a Christian visiting China finding that even in that atheistic nation the people are enamored with the manger scene even though they do not understand what it is about. Of course, that just gave him opportunity to explain. Similar experiences can also happen here in the United States where many people do not understand what the story is all about which gives you opportunity to explain it to them).
The humanity of Jesus as He got older is also well accepted. In Luke 2 we are told the story of Jesus when He was 12 years old and ended up being separated from his parents. They had gone to Jerusalem for Passover. When the feast was over, the family began their journey back to Nazareth. Joseph and Mary thought He was with the other boys in the caravan, but that evening they could not find Him and they had to return to Jerusalem (vs. 44-45). After three days they found Him in the Temple sitting in the midst of the teachers both listening to them and asking them questions (vs. 46). Most people seem to over look the significance of those teachers being amazed by Jesus’ understanding and answers to them and of Jesus’ answer to His parents, “Did you not know that I had to be in My Father’s house?” (vs. 49). But that should not be surprising, for even then they did not understand the significance of this (vs. 50). Our tendency is to see this in the human terms of a 12 year old boy having an adventure.
Most people are also okay with the humanity of Jesus as an adult. Even those that reject Jesus being able to do all the recorded miracles still accept Him as a great teacher of ethics. A human teacher is not a threat to them and could even be an inspiration because the teachings of such a person can be easily rejected without consequences. Worldly philosophers can like Jesus’ sayings about loving others, being kind and forgiving while rejecting His claims of miracles, Messiahship, and being the way, the truth and the life and therefore the only means to God the Father. There is no threat when you can pick and choose what you like which you can do with any human teacher for there is always the opinion of some other human to offset it.
Another aspect of Jesus’ humanity that people like is the fact that it enables Him to relate to our experiences. Jesus can feel what we feel. He knows what it is to have human joy and sorrow, abundance and hunger, acceptance and rejection, pleasure and suffering. People like those who can sympathize and empathize with them. The writers of Hebrews marks this same point of similarity but goes beyond to reveal the real importance of Jesus becoming a man. Hebrews 2:17-18, “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” While we are encouraged with the fact that Jesus can understand our struggle with temptation because He was tempted too, the real point of the incarnation was so that Jesus could become the perfect merciful and faithful High Priest. We need someone who can be our mediator with God who can both understand us and God at the same time. Only Jesus can do that.
But Jesus went beyond being just a mediator and High Priest. He became a man in order “to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” What is propitiation? It is the turning away of wrath by an offering. Whose wrath and why? God’s wrath over man’s sin. God is just in having His wrath set against those who have all ungodliness and unrighteousness for it is contrary to His being and the order of His creation. As Romans 3:23 describes it, “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 6:23 adds that “the wages of sin is death.” What is earned by not living in perfect obedience to God is death and eternal separation from God shut out from His power and glory (2 Thessalonians 1:9). Jesus made propitiation for us by making the appropriate offering. That offering was Himself because only a man could be the full satisfaction of the sin price. The blood of bulls and goat could never take away the sin for they were insufficient (Hebrews 10:4). As a man, Jesus could pay the full sin price and He did so on the Cross of Calvary which turned away God’s wrath from us and upon Himself so that our sin debt could be cancelled through Him.
Without Jesus Christ dying as our substitute, man would have no hope of forgiveness and reconciliation with God the Father. Without His rising from the dead on the third day we would not know if His sacrifice was accepted. But He did and it was. Man now has hope because the man, Jesus Christ, died as our substitute. He now remains as the one mediator between God and man (1 Timothy 2:5).
The incarnation is vital to our salvation because we could not be redeemed from our sin if Jesus was not human. But there is another aspect of Jesus’ birth that is just as vital to us, in fact, even more so.
One of the many prophecies concerning the coming of Messiah is Isaiah 7:14. “Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.” The original prophecy had a near meaning to King Ahaz of Judah about the Lord delivering Judah a pressing military threat from the King of Aram and the King of Israel. Before a certain young woman would have a child old enough to wean the kingdoms of Aram and Israel would be forsaken. The apostle Matthew tells us of this prophecies distant fulfillment in the birth of Jesus. Matthew 1:20-23 tells us about the angel of the Lord appearing to Joseph in a dream and telling him, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for that which has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit. And she will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins.” Now all this took place that what was spoken by the Lord through the prophet might be fulfilled, saying, “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”
A a unique event would take place in Mary. She would be a virgin who would give birth to a son conceived by the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit. The humanly impossible becomes reality. As the angel Gabriel told Mary when she asked about it, “for nothing shall be impossible with God” (Luke 1:30-37). It would because of this miracle that Jesus would be called the Son of the Most High. He would be in the line of David and the rightful heir to David’s throne. He would be the one in whom the Davidic covenant of 2 Samuel 7 would be fulfilled.
In addition to this miracle, the names to be used for the child were extremely significant. The name “Jesus” has a root meaning of “Yahweh is salvation.” This name was significant of the purpose of His life as the one who would bring salvation to His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). Though people like to romanticize the scene in Bethlehem when Jesus was born, the truth is that from the very beginning Jesus was born to be the savior of His people through His own death on their behalf as I have already explained this morning. He was born to die.
The second name, Immanuel, is also extremely important. Matthew tells us directly that Immanuel means “God with us.” This is the part about Jesus that non-believers reject and resent. They don’t mind if Jesus is just another human like themselves, but this claim to deity is very unsettling for it places an immediate obligation to believe and obey the teachings and commandments of Jesus. That is what they do not want to do. Proud people do not want to bow the knee to God. They want to be autonomous and do what they want when they want it without consequences. If Jesus is God, then they know that one day they will stand before Him to be judged. Their method of dealing with that reality is to either deny it or ignore it. Neither is wise.
Is Jesus God? That is the testimony throughout the Scriptures. Let me give you just a few of these. There is a paper in the back that gives more extensive references.
First, He is called God. We have already noted Isaiah 7:14 and
Matthew 1:22f that He is called Immanuel which means, “God with us.” Isaiah 9:6 gives Him several names including Mighty God and everlasting Father. So much for the Jehovah’ Witnesses’ claim that Jesus is not almighty God. In the New Testament the apostle John states in John 1:1 & 14 that the Word was God and that the Word became flesh. He records Thomas exclamation upon seeing the resurrected Jesus, “My Lord and my God.” Jesus accepted that statement without rebuke (John 20:28). The apostle Paul gives many statements that Jesus is God. For example, in Titus 2:13 he says of Him, “Our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus.” The writer of Hebrews states that Jesus is the radiance or God’s glory and exact representation of His nature, then adding in verse 8 a quote from Psalm 45:6-7 stating of the Son, “Thy throne O God, is forever and ever.” The apostle Peter states in 2 Peter 1:1, “Our God and savior, Jesus Christ.”
Jesus also has the attributes of deity. Paul said in Colossians 2:9, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.”As already mentioned, Jesus is eternal having been with God in the beginning (John 1:1,2) and before the world was (John 17:5,24). He is same yesterday, today, forever, (Hebrews 13:8) and the Alpha & Omega (Revelation 1:8; 22:13)
Jesus is also omnipresent promising to be in the midst of where two or three believers are gathered (Matthew 18:20) and to be always with us (Matthew 28:20). He is omniscience knowing the thoughts of men (Luke 6:8; 11:17), the history of people He had never met before such as the Samaritan woman in John 4.He even knew the time and manner of His death (John 12:33; 13:1).
Jesus is omnipotent as His many miracles demonstrated. He had power over nature with ability change water into wine transmuting the elements (John 2:3-11) and calm the wind and sea at His command. (Matthew 8:23-26). He had power over disease healing many people (Luke 4:38-41). He had authority of demons (Mark 5:11-15) and even death by raising people like Lazarus back to life (John 11:38-44). In Matthew 28:18 He said that All authority was given to Him.
Jesus also had the offices of deity. He is cited to be the Creator in many places. John 1:3 states that “All things came into being by Him.” Colossians 1:16 states that “by Him all things were created.” Hebrews 1:2 says that it was through the Son that the world was made. Jesus is also noted as the preserver or upholder of all things (Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3).
Jesus has the prerogatives of deity. This includes the authority to
forgive sins (Matthew 9:2-7; Mark 2:7-10; Luke 5:20-24), raise the dead as I have already mentioned, and render judgement. John 5:22 states judgement is given to the Son. 2 Timothy 4:1 tells us that Jesus will be the judge of the living and the dead.
Another mark of Jesus deity is that He received honor and worship that is due only to God (Exodus 34:14 cf Matthew 4:10) and He did not rebuke those who did this. The disciples did this (Matthew 14:33) as did Mary (Matthew 28:9). Hebrews 1:6 calls all the angels of God to worship Him. Philippians 2:10-11 tells that one day every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus is Lord to the glory of the Father.
Jesus made divine claims such as having authority over the laws and institutions of God (Matthew 12:6), being the object of saving faith (John 17:3), having the ability to meet in Himself all the spiritual & eternal needs of humanity (John 7:37; 14:6) and to be equal with God (John 8:24,58; 10:30 [“one” is neuter]).
We could go on, but I think you get the idea. The Bible clearly claims that Jesus is God in human flesh. He is indeed Immanuel, God with us.
But think about that for a moment and let it sink it. Jesus is God with us. God, the creator of everything becomes a creature. God, the infinite, omnipotent, omniscient, and omnipresent becomes bound in a finite, frail human flesh and has to grow in wisdom, stature and favor with God and man (Luke 2:52). I have a hard time comprehending this fact, yet it is reality.
The apostle Paul sought to describe this to some degree in Philippians 2 when he pointed to Jesus as the supreme example of being of humble mind and spirit. Paul says starting in verse 5, “Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, [and] being made in the likeness of men. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”
Equality with God was nothing that Jesus needed to grasp for because it already belonged to Him, yet He willing set aside certain aspects of His deity to become a man. We can try to come up with all sorts of analogies to explain this, but nothing can come close to it. Jesus then went beyond even that humility by becoming obedient to the plan of the Father to die as the substitute payment for man’s sin by dying on the cross. That is why God the Father will exalt God the Son in the future in both the Millennial reign of Christ on David’s throne, and in eternity when every creature will bow their knee in homage to Jesus Christ and confess that He is Lord.
The miracle of Christmas has little to do with the reasons that most people celebrate this holiday. It is not about Santa Claus, reindeer, elves, or even presents under a tree. It is not about winter fun. It is not even about being with family and friends. It is about a miracle that is beyond our comprehension. God became a man and dwelt among us that He might redeem us from our sins. And just astounding is the reason why. Romans 5:8 states that it was the demonstration of His own love toward us in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Ephesians 1adds that God’s choosing and adoption of believers as sons through Jesus Christ to Himself was according to the kind intention of His will to the praise of the glory of His grace. That is the meaning of Christmas and why our response is to be one of praise and worship of our God.
The Deity of Christ
- Called God:
Isaiah 7:14 – cf Matt. 1:22f (Immanuel).
Isaiah 9:6 (Mighty God).
John 1:1,14,18 (Word was God, Word became flesh; only begotten God).
John 20:28 (“My Lord and my God” – Jesus accepted statement).
Romans 10:9,10 (Confess Jesus is Lord).
Colossians 1:15 (Image of the invisible God).
Titus 2:13 (Our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus).
Hebrews 1:3 (Radiance of/Exact representation of).
Hebrews 1:8 (Thy throne O God…).
2 Peter 1:1 (Our God and savior, Jesus Christ).
1 John 5:20 (This is the true God…).
Jude 24,25 (Only God our Savior…).
- Has Attributes of Deity
General Attributes of God
– Col. 2:9 (For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form)
– John 1:1,2 (In beginning with God). John 17:5,24 (with Thee before the world was). Hebrews 1:11f (Thou remainest…will not come to an end). Hebrews 13:8 (Jesus the same yesterday, today, forever). Revelation 1:8; 22:13 (Alpha & Omega). Isaiah 9:6 (Eternal Father).
– Luke 6:8; 11:17 (Knew the thoughts of men). John 2:24,25 (He knew all men). John 4:29 (Knew history of the Samaritan Woman). John 16:30 (You know all things – Jesus accepted statement). John 21:17 (You know all things – Jesus accepted statement). John 12:33; 13:1 (Knew time and manner of His death). Matthew 24 & 25 (knew character & end of the present age). Colossians 2:3 (all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge). Revelation 2:23 (I search the minds and hearts).
Note: Jesus in His humiliation (Phil 2:6-8) surrendered the independent exercise of this attribute to the Father Who did not permit it usage in all cases: Mark 13:32 – Ignorant of the date of His return. Mark 6:6 – Marveled at the people’s unbelief. Mark 11:13 – went to the fig tree expecting figs.
– Matt 21:19; John 2:3-11 (Power over nature). John 2:3-11 (Water into wine, transmutation of elements). Matt 8:23-26 (Calmed wind and sea). John 1:3 (Created all things). Luke 4:38-41 (Power over disease). Mark 5:11-15 (Power over demons). Matt 9:18-25; Luke 7:12-16; John 11:38-44 (power over death). Hebrews 1:3 (upholds all things by the word of His power). Matthew 28:18 (All authority given to Him). Isaiah 9:6 (Mighty God). Heb. 4:15 (Power overs sin). Phil 3:21 (power He has to subject all things to Himself). Revelation 1:8 (Alpha & Omega – the Almighty). Note: This attribute was also subject to the Father – John 5:19
- Offices of Deity
– John 1:3 (All things came into being by Him…). John 1:10 (World was made through Him). Colossians 1:16 (by Him all things were created). Hebrews 1:2 (through whom also He made the world). Hebrews 1:10 (lay foundation of earth, heavens…). Prov. 16:4 cf Rom 9 (Made all things for Himself).
- Prerogatives of Deity
– Matthew 25:31,32 (Sheep & Goat judgement). John 5:22 (given all judgement to the Son). Acts 10:42; 2 Tim 4:1; (Judge of the living and the dead). Acts 17:31 (He will judge the World). 2 Corinthians 5:10 (Judgement seat of Christ).
– Luke 10:22 (“All things have been handed over to Me…”). John 3:35 (“and has given all things into His hand”). John 17:2 (“Thou gavest Him authority over all mankind..”). Ephesians 1:22 (all things in subjection under His feet). Hebrews 1:2,3 (heir of all things). Matthew 28:18 (All authority given to Him).
Resurrection of the dead
– John 5:25-29 (power/authority to raise dead). John 6:39,40,54 (I Myself will raise him up on the last day). John 11:25 (I am the resurrection and the life). Power for future permanent resurrection seen in three He raised during His earthly ministry: The widow’s son – Luke 7:12-16; Jairus’ daughter – Mark 5:35-43; Lazarus – John 11:38-44).
- Receives honor and worship due only to God (cf Exod 34:14; Matt 4:10).
Acts of Worship received without rebuke
Ex 34:14 cf Mt 4:10 (Worship only the LORD God). Matthew 14:33 (Apostles in boat – “You are certainly God’s Son”). Matthew 28:9 (took hold of His feet and worshiped Him). Luke 5:8 (fell at Jesus’ feet). 1 Cor. 1:2 (all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus…). Hebrews 1:6 (Let all the angels of God worship Him).
Commands/invitations to Worship Him
- Made Divine claims
* To have authority over laws and institutions of God (Matt 12:6).
* To be the object of saving faith (John 17:3).
* To have met in Himself all spiritual & eternal needs of humanity (John 7:37; 14:6).
* To be equal with God (John 8:24,58; 10:30 [“one” is neuter]).
- Identified with Old Testament Jehovah/Yaweh
- Christ’s own consciousness & claims of deity
* At 12 years old He recognized the peculiar claims of God as His Father at age of 12 (Luke 2:49).
* At baptism He was assured of His special sonship (Matthew 3:17).
* Set Himself against the ancients when He taught (Matt 5:21f, 27f, 33f.
* Sent disciples out with power to perform miracles (Matt 10:1,8; Luke 10:9,19).
* Asserted His pre-existence (John 8:58; 17:5).
* He requested that prayer be offered in His name (John 16:23f).
* Claimed to be one with the Father (John 10:30; 14:9; 17:11).
* Claimed to be the Son of God (John 10:36).
The Humanity of Christ
- Proclaimed to be a man
Acts 2:22 (Peter calls Him a man).
Romans 5:15; (Paul calls Him a man).
1 Corinthians 15:21 (Paul calls Him a man).
- True Body of Flesh
Human Lineage – Luke 1:42,43; 2:7; 3:23-38 – (Human lineage through Mary). Romans 1:3 (Born of God of David according to the flesh). Galatians 3:16 (Seed of Abraham). Mark 10:45 etc. (Called Himself the “Son of Man”).
Body of Flesh – John 1:14 (The Word became flesh). 1 John 4:2 (“Jesus Christ as come in the flesh”). 1 Timothy 3:16 (“revealed in the flesh”). Hebrews 2:14 (Flesh & blood). Luke 24:39 (Flesh & blood). John 2:21 (Temple of His body – physical body). Hebrews 10:1-10 (Bodily Sacrifice).
Body had physical limitations – Luke 2:5,7,40,42,52 (Grew from birth through childhood). Matthew 4:2 (Hungry). John 19:28 (Thirsty). John 4:6 (Tired). Matthew 8:24 (Sleeping). Hebrews 2:10,18; 5:8 (Suffered). John 11:35; Hebrews 5:7(Wept). Luke 22:44 (agony in prayer, sweat blood). John 19:30,32-34 (Died).
- * John 12:27; Acts 3:18; Hebrews 2:14; 9:22 Paying penalty for sin involved suffering of body and soul, such as only man is capable of bearing.
* Hebrews 2:17,18 Had to have human nature in order to be our High priest.
* Hebrews 7:24 Continues as High Priest requiring He remains Human.
- Rational / Emotional / Volitional Soul
John 12:27 (“My soul is troubled”).
Matthew 26:38 (soul grieved).
John 11:33 (deeply moved in His spirit, and was troubled).
Matthew 9:36 (felt compassion).
Mark 3:5 (anger, grieved in His heart).
- Finite Human Intelligence
Luke 2:52 (increased in wisdom).
Matthew 24:36 (ignorant of the time of judgment).
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