Christmas Is for Children
Imagine how much poorer any celebration of Christmas would be without any children. It’s not just children opening gifts, but sometimes children are more awestruck at what God has done in sending his Son into the world than adults are. When God brings about the reality promised to Adam and Eve in the Garden, he uses children. And, as you read Romans 8:12–17, in a real sense, he expects all who trust in Jesus to be children.
You are God’s sons and daughters. You have received the Spirit of adoption. You belong to God’ family. You have the right to come to God, verse 15. You have the right to come to him, even when you have grieved him with your sin. The Father is specifically the one who adopts you. He does this by Spirit (of adoption), who gives you hope. And you are adopted in Christ and on the basis of his redemptive work. Though you were an alien, dead in sin, you have been adopted into God’s family. In the Old Testament the focus is not on formal adoption, but on your status as God’s children. When Eve give birth to her fist son, she names him Cain, saying, “With the Lord’s help I have brought forth a man.” Adam is son of God (Genesis 5, Luke 3) as is Israel Exodus 4:22, Moses is to command Pharaoh, “Israel is my firstborn son, and I say to you, ‘Let my son go that he may serve me.’” After the plagues, God led his firstborn son through the desert by the pillar of cloud and fire (and that forms the background for Paul’s emphasis that you, as God’s adopted son or daughter, are led by his Spirit. Isaiah 7 and 9 focus on the coming of a promised child. The theme of God’s children being restored surfaces in Hosea 1 and again in Hosea 11, looking forward to the Messiah. Notice the emphasis on leading in Hosea 11. The focus on children carries into the New Testament. Luke’s Gospel opens with the news of the birth of a promised baby, John the Baptist, followed by the birth of the Child, the one who is Christ the Lord. He is born of the virgin Mary.
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The angel announces to the shepherds that in the city of David a baby has been born who is “Christ the Lord.” (Luke 2:11) A few verses later (Luke 2:26) as Mary and Joseph bring Jesus to the temple as they bring the required offering for purification, we are told that elderly Simeon had been told that he would not die before he had seen “the Lord’s Christ.”What does the title “Christ” mean? What does it mean to you, and how do you respond? Look at Luke 4:16–21.
Listen to what Jesus says about himself. Jesus proclaimed the presence of the kingdom. Jesus spoke at the synagogue service in Nazareth. This incident is not the beginning of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, see verses 14,15,23; Matthew 13:53–58. Luke does record this significant reaction to Christ, one that was tied with the familiarity that the people of Nazareth had with Jesus, who had grown up in their town. It was not unusual for a visiting rabbi to be asked to address the congregation. The service included: the thanksgiving and Shema, prayer and Amen, reading of a passage from the Pentateuch, reading from the prophets, a sermonic exhortation, benediction by a priest or closing prayer. Jesus stood to read, and sat to speak. Picture the stillness in the congregation as the local boy spoke, verse 20. Jesus used the Scripture to announce the presence of the kingdom. The reading was Isaiah 61:1, 2 (also see Isaiah 58:6). A crucial element in the prophecy is that the speaker is anointed by the Spirit. Luke places this sermon shortly after the baptism of Jesus, in which the Spirit, in the form of a dove, descends to equip him for his messianic work. The passage is full of the promise of the kingdom in its majesty and glory. Jesus announces this kingdom as a present reality, verse 21, see also 4:43.
Continue reading “What Does the Name “Christ” Mean—and Mean to You?”
Parents-to-be may struggle to find a name to fit their child. Mary and Joseph did not do that, because an angel of the Lord had told Joseph what to name the baby that Mary was carrying. The English name, Jesus, and the Greek on which it is based, look back to the Hebrew name, Joshua, meaning “Jahweh saves.” And that is the reason the angel adds to the instruction about the choice of the name for the baby. How did that name work out in the life of Jesus as he went about his public ministry? In particular, for whom did the Lord Jesus Christ die? What did his death actually accomplish? Those questions have occasioned debate. There are Scriptures which indicate that Christ died for his own people: Matthew 1:21; John 10:15. But other passages at least seem to indicate that Christ died for all men: John 3:16; 1 John 2:2, and our text, 1 Timothy 2:5. Lets look at it closely!
For whom did Christ die? Focus the question properly. The question is not: whether there are any benefits, short of salvation, from Christ’s death, benefits which flow to all men; whether the atonement is sufficient for all. (Christ suffered infinite punishment when he died for me. His suffering would not be greater if one more sinner were to be saved); whether this atonement is applicable to all. (No sin is too great for Christ to cover); or whether the gospel is offered to all—it is! The question is: for whom did Christ die, whose sins did he expiate, whom did he reconcile and redeem? Arminius and the Remonstrants in the 17th century (and their followers today) answer with a universal atonement. They believe that Christ paid the penalty for any and every person who ever lived in the world. Some commentators point to our text as evidence of a universal atonement (Meyer’s Commentary states that salvation was purchased “for the benefit not of some, but of all,” p. 99).
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Why? Why does it have to happen this way? Why does my family member have to face death right now and suffer so much? Why is my job so shaky? Why has my retirement package shrunk? Why does a church go through struggles? The knowledge of God’s providence, something that Job eventually came to understand, doesn’t provide a simple answer, but it does enable you to be patient, thankful, and even confident. And God’s good providence provides reasons for deep thanksgiving.
Recognize that it is the Lord who gives and takes away. Even the upright suffer. Good things happen, by Gods common grace, even to bad people. God sends sunshine and rain on the just and unjust alike. Bad things do happen to good people. Some today respond to this by denying the sovereignty of God (as an alternative to denying his goodness–see the openness of God theology). The ancient world, at least in believing circles, could deny neither God’s sovereignty, nor his goodness and justice. That left them still wrestling with the problem of evil! We don’t know just when the Book of Job was written. It is wisdom literature, parallel to Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, and the Song of Songs. It may have been written around Solomon’s time. The setting of the book itself is more distant, both geographically and temporally. It seems to recount an earlier time (sometime between Abraham and Solomon). The land of Uz was east of Israel, perhaps Edom. Job knows the Lord. He uses the covenant name of God. Yet he seems to stand outside the line of the descendants of Abraham. He serves as priest to his family. There is no reference to the ceremonial laws of Israel. Like Melchizedek, he seems to have retained knowledge of the true God. Noteworthy about Job is that he is blameless and upright, verse 1. Job’s wealth (10 children, thousands of sheep and camels, hundreds of donkeys and oxen) was not an accident, but was part of the blessings that flow from fearing the Lord. Yet, as godly as Job was, all these were taken from him in one day. Put yourself in his sandals! That may not be difficult if you have just gotten a pink slip or if long-made plans are falling apart.
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You pray, “Our Father who art in heaven.” When you receite the Apostles or the Nicene Creed, you confess that you believe in God the Father, Almighty the Creator. What do you mean when you call God your Father? Psalm 104:31 tells you of the weight of God’s glory while it calls you to join in God’s own rejoicing at his work. Lord’s Day 9 of the Heildeberg Catechism points you to his creative and sustaining work.
Let the Lord’s glory endure. The Father is glorified in his creative work, verses 1–9. He formed the heavens, verses 1–4. He is majestic. He clothes himself with light–marking the event of the first day of creation. He made the clouds and wind. Instead of the storm being divine, it is merely the chariot of the Lord. The Psalm may intentionally contrast with elements of Egyptian and Canaanite idolatry. Even the elements serve as his messenger, verse 4, see Hebrews 1:7. Both the Spirit and the Son were involved in the work of creation, but that activity is primarily that of the Father. He made the universe through the Son, Hebrews 1:2.
“The creation proceeds from the Father through the Son and in the Spirit so that, in the Spirit and through the Son it may return to the Father…. The purpose and goal of creation is to be found solely in God’s will and glory…. A doctrine of creation is one of the foundational building blocks of a biblical and Christian worldview. Creation is neither to be deified nor despoiled, but as the ‘theater of God’s glory’ it is to be delighted in and used a stewardly manner. It is God’s good creation.”
Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Vol. 2, p. 406
He laid the foundations of the earth, verses 5–9. The earth was covered with water, Genesis 1:6, 7, from which God separated dry land. His rainbow is his sign that he will never again allow the waters to cover the earth. If this is how wonderful creation is, how much greater is the Creator! And this is not just a remote deity. He is your Father in Christ Jesus. Take comfort in that when circumstances overwhelm you.
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