Faith in Romans – Part 2

Aren’t you grateful that you are not depending upon someone’s imagination as a believer?  Stories did not capture the attention of the first generation of Christians.  Captivating, inventive perceptions about the origins of human life didn’t spread through the ancient Roman Empire when Christianity flourished.  The faith of God’s people captivated the world.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen (see Hebrews 11.1).  Imagination or Faith

“Obedience to the faith” in Romans 1.4-5 is a faith that obeys.  Part 1 explored the first-mention of faith in Romans.  It emphasized that all people without exception have faith, but the object of any person’s faith is crucial.  Once anyone’s faith is placed in the name of Jesus Christ (His person and work), God assuredly saves that person (John 5.23; 6.47).  However a Christian must continue to believe in order to be assured of what he most certainly possesses (John 20.31; 1 John 5.13).  Next, Paul writes:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world (Romans 1.8).

Paul had never visited Rome.  Yet he thanks God for these believers through the one and only Mediator, Jesus Christ.  There were Romans present at Pentecost when Peter preached and the Holy Spirit indwelt the body of Christ.  These Roman Gentiles placed their faith in Jesus Christ.  Note the text states that it was clearly their faith.  They possessed it.  It belonged to them.

Such vibrant faith is so radiant that it gains a reputation in the world.  But it cannot be vibrant and radiant if it is not placed in Jesus Christ.  All other faith is dead according James 2.14-17.  Even the demons have faith, and they are supernatural beings.  Paul will later contrast the law of works with the law of faith (Romans 3.27-31).  This passage clearly teaches that faith cannot be a work.  Again, it is reliance upon the work of God.  God’s grace is at work in a through the Roman believers as they continue to believe.  They believed at a point-in-time to gain their position (Romans 1-4); they continue to believe throughout the remainder of their lives so that they may gain a reputation (Romans 6-8).

Many are ambivalent when it comes to what others think of them.  They are not too concerned about their reputation.  Although, admittedly, some are way too concerned about it.  Often Christians make sanctimonious and pretentious statements to cover up spiritual immaturity and bolster a pseudo-spirituality which will not stand.  The fact of the matter is that a Christian’s testimony or reputation is very important.  But it must be genuine.  We produce holy lives for the glory of God by faith.  This should be spoken of throughout the whole world.

Faith in Romans – Part 1

Faith - Part 1Through Him we have received grace and apostleship for obedience to the faith among all nations for His name (Romans 1.5).

Jesus is declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.  Through Him believers have received grace for obedience to the faith (Romans 1.4-5).  Obedience in all forms should be an expression of the grace of God; however, obedience must also be an expression of an individual’s faith.  God’s expression is grace; man’s expression is faith.  The former initiates and the latter responds.  Therefore, Romans presents the concept of faith as a relational term in its very first mention.

The first mention of faith in Romans teaches that Paul’s apostleship was grace-enabled for obedience to the faith among all nations.  The Greek literally reads obedience of faith instead of obedience to the faith as in the New King James Version.  There is no definite article preceding faith in the Greek text.  Paul does not have in mind “the faith” as in the body of Christian doctrine.

The Scripture often ties obedience to faith.  I think that the reason for this connection is found in the fact that faith submits to its object.  Every person, redeemed or not, has faith in something or someone.  But a Christian’s obedience is produced by his faith in Christ (genitive of apposition or definition similar to what we see in Romans 4.11 in the phrase “sign of circumcision”; Cranfield, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to Romans, Volume 1, 66) .

The atheist lives a life of submission to the concept no God.  The object of the atheist’s faith is the illusory concept that no God exists and no God will hold him accountable.  This concept produces counterfeit life and a perceived freedom in him.  So the atheist has abundant faith.  He would have to have a great measure of faith to believe no God because he ignores all the evidence around him, but sees evidence that is actually not present.  This is why God’s Word declares that anyone who declares, “No God!” is fool.

Faith in Jesus Christ gives up on the notions that there is another way or that there is no Way.  Faith is the realization that God alone gives us (graces us with) righteous and godly lives.

Thus, faith’s first mention in Romans is submission to the righteousness of God available through His resurrected Son.  Indeed, faith obeys and faith works (James 2.14-17).  Faith is dead or alive based upon its object.  Labeling faith as a work or a gift confuses the issue.  Instead, faith is a response to the work of the Son and the reception of the gift extended by the Father.  Therefore, contemplating faith as a gift or a a work confuses us.  To do so is to ask the wrong questions.  The right question is what does the Scripture say about faith’s definition (see Hebrews 11.1)?

This first instance of faith in Romans is among all nations.  The Gospel includes Israel and every other nation on earth (Jew and Gentile; see Romans 1.16-17).  Faith is available to anyone and everyone without exception.  I believe that when we deny this, we obfuscate the clear meaning of Scripture.  As aforementioned, everyone already exercises faith.  I know of no Scripture that contradicts this fact.  But some faith is indeed misplaced.  This is certainly eternally lethal faith.

It is for Jesus’ name that we submit in faith as Christians.  The name of Jesus defines His perfect character and work.  The name of Jesus Christ is the object of the Christian’s faith.  Our faith may be feeble, remain feeble, and flicker as if it may go out at times.  It may have gone out from our perspective.  But no matter the strength of one’s faith or the endurance of one’s faith, it is the object of one’s faith that matters.  

If we at a point-in-time believed in the Son of God, we are saved.  If we continue to believe in the Son of God, we shall grow in the assurance that we are saved (see John 20.31 and 1 John 5.13).  Indeed, faith is the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen (Hebrews 11.1).  Faith follows objective, factual information from the Scriptures in spite of feelings to the contrary.  My perseverance does not save me.  Making such a claim is tantamount to works-salvation, and God will not share His glory with another.  The promise and perseverance of God are anchored in the matchless name of Jesus Christ.

My heart goes out to many believers who needlessly lack assurance of their position before God as His dear children.  I greatly fear for those who place their faith in any other name than the name of Jesus Christ.  I fear for those who place their faith is their supposed ability to persevere.  I fear because “there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4.12).  It is all of grace, but do you really believe that?

Granville Sharp

Granville Sharp lived from 1735-1813.  He was an early English abolitionist.  He did not just talk about freeing slaves, He formulated a plan to settle blacks in Sierra Leone, and founded St. George’s Bay Company.  He founded the Province of Freedom and is considered one of the founding fathers of Sierra Leone.  He was also a talented musician and a brilliant biblical scholar.  He is one of those rare gems in any generation.

Sharp wrote a letter in 1778.  He observed what has now become known as the Granville Sharp Rule in the study of biblical Greek.  He wrote:

When the copulative kai (translated as and normally in English) connects two nouns of the same case, if the article ho, or any of its cases, precedes the first of the said nouns or participles, and is not repeated before the second noun or participle, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun or participle…

The rule is a grammatical construction consisting of an article with a substantive, the conjunction και, and an anarthrous substantive agreeing in case and number with the previous substantive.  One of the most striking applications of this rule is found in Titus 2.13 which identifies our Savior Jesus Christ as our God.  Theou contains the article tou preceding it; however, Soteros Iesou Christou is anarthrous.  Therefore both titles refer to the same entity, namely God.  Jesus Christ is “our great God.”

2 Peter 1.1. has the same grammatical construction.  Righteousness belongs to “our God AND Savior Jesus Christ.”  Jesus is God.  It occurs again in Jude 4 where ungodly men deny “the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.”  Both titles refer to the same person.  Jesus is the Lord God.

The Bible affirms the deity of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Wayne Grudem provides this helpful diagram to show how these three are yet one:

Trinity diagram - Grudem

Grudem, Wayne A. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; Zondervan Pub. House, 2004. Print, 253.

Dan Story provides a helpful chart indicating how all share divine attributes in the Scriptures:

Trinity Chart

Story, Dan. Defending Your Faith. Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1997. Print, 104.

 

The Wonder of Christ at Christmas – Part 2

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.  Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9.6-7).

The prophecy which unfolds in Isaiah 8.22-9.7 has both a near and far fulfillment.  Yesterday, we looked at this context and compared it with the New Testament (Part 1).  God has revealed Himself in a progressive manner.  Since it is Christmas Day, let’s examine the wonder of Christ in Christmas by unwrapping the gift of His person.

Jesus is a Child Born

John 1.14 states, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.”

Galatians 4.4-5 state, “But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons.”

1 Timothy 3.16 states, “Great is the mystery of godliness:  God was manifested in the flesh.”

All of this New Testament revelation illuminates that which people in Isaiah’s day could not understand.  Unto us a child is born.  He is a child born of a virgin woman under the Law, to redeem those who were under the Law.  The Child born would also become the Son God gave to the world.

Jesus is a Son Given

“God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3.16).  Jesus is the Son given (grace).  He is the gift of God who Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.  “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us” (1 John 3.16a).  Jesus is the Son given.

2 Corinthians 5.21 tells us that the Father made the Son who knew no sin to be sin for us.  He stood in our place and absorbed the wrath of God that we deserve.  He drained the dregs of judgment in the cup of God’s fierce indignation.  Not for Himself but for you and for me.  He died and was buried in a tomb.  The third day He arose!

The Father raised up the Son, Jesus our Lord, from the dead.  Jesus was the Son given because of our offenses and the Son raised because of our justification (Romans 4.25).

Jesus is a King Forever

1. He is the Wonderful Counselor – The Bible exhorts us as believers to be knit together in love, and attain to all riches of the full assurance of understanding, to the knowledge of the mystery of God, both of the Father and of Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge (Colossians 2.6).  Jesus is wisdom personified.  He is the Word become flesh!  His ways and judgements are beyond our comprehension.  We look to Him for wisdom and guidance!  He is the King Forever and the Wonderful Counselor!

2. He is the Mighty God – He is not only God with us; He is God over us.  If Jesus is not God, then He could not be the Son given.  If Jesus is not God, then He could not reign as King.  He shares in all the attributes of the Father.  He is all-powerful, all-knowing, and everywhere present.  The Mighty God is the Lord of glory crucified.  It is His blood that is the purchase-price of our redemption:  matchless blood and flawless blood.  He is King Forever and the Mighty God!

3. He is the Everlasting Father – This text is not saying that Jesus the Son is actually God the Father.  We believe in the triune nature of God:  Father, Son, and Spirit, three persons and yet one God.  So how is Jesus the everlasting Father.  He has begotten us as children by His word and Spirit.  Jesus is the second Adam.  He is the giver and source of everlasting life.  Through His blood, He has opened the new and better way to God.  We are adopted into the family of God through supernatural rebirth.  Jesus made this possible.  He is the Everlasting Father in this sense.  He is the King Forever and he Everlasting Father!

4. He is the Prince of Peace – While Jesus will reign upon David’s throne and bring peace to the entire world for 1,000 years, we as believers experience the benefit of peace today.  He redeemed us and reconciled us to the Father.  We are no longer enemies but children.  Not only that, we have peace garrisoning our hearts to this day.  Nobody is able to take this peace away from us.  He is the King Forever and the Prince of Peace!

Father, all we can do is meditate upon these verses and simply get lost in wonder and in praise for Jesus, the Child born, the Son given, and the King forever.  The more we think about this passage, the more devoted to Christ we become.

We are filled with wonder.  He is the Child born:  God in the flesh.  You have revealed that the angels themselves are lost in wonder and desire to consider this great truth.  Great is this mystery of godliness!  Thanks be to You for Your indescribable gift (2 Corinthians 9.15)!

We are lost in praise.  Our gratitude is heightened when we consider the incarnation of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  That He would be a Child born in order to become a Son given as a sacrifice compels gratitude within us.  You put it there in our souls though the power of your Spirit.  What can we give in return?  We can never repay You for the Child born and the Son given, but we can give You our lives anew this Christmas morning.

Let us be filled with devotion and commitment.  Let Your will be done on earth as it is done in Heaven.  We submit ourselves to the King today and every day.  We accept the gift of His reign over us.

You have bid us come.  We have labored and we have been heavily burdened by our sin.  We receive the rest only You give.  We take Your yoke upon us.  We will learn from You for you are gentle and lowly in heart.  You will give us what we seek this Christmas:  Rest for our souls.  Lord Jesus, Your yoke is indeed easy; Your burden light.  We bless You in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, Amen.

The Wonder of Christ at Christmas – Part 1

For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform this (Isaiah 9.6-7).

Isaiah 8 ends with the words, “Then they will look to the earth, and see trouble and darkness, gloom of anguish; and they will be driven into darkness” (Isaiah 8.22).  Nevertheless the gloom or judgment would not oppress forever.  The Lord lightly esteemed or treated with contempt the land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali.  But later He would bring blessing upon them.  Verse 1 says that afterward He more heavily oppressed her, but the phrase would be better translated, “He will make it glorious” (heavy weight of glory not oppression as in the NASB) by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan or on the eastern shore of the Sea of Galilee.  The area occupied by the half tribe of Manasseh will benefit from this specific blessing.  Galilee of the nations or Gentiles will also be blessed.  The phrase Galilee of the Gentiles only occurs here and in Matthew 4.15, which cites this passage.  Galilee is from a word that can mean “circle”.  It seems best to take it to mean the Gentile nations that encircled Israel.

Isaiah 9.2 says that “the people who walked in darkness have seen a great light (better will see; sometimes the perfect tense communicates future events as already having taken place in order to communicate certainty).”  The OT sense of this prophecy portrays God’s people walking in the darkness of sin and rebellion.  The great light would be God’s judgment shining upon them at the hands of the Assyrian army.  But the NT sense of the fulfillment of this prophecy is the great light of the Lord Jesus coming and releasing His people from their captivity of sin and darkness.  He would absorb the judgment of God for us.  We know this because of Matthew 4.15-16.  Jesus is the light that has shined:  “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles: The people who sat in darkness have seen a great light, and upon those who sat in the region and shadow of death Light has dawned.”

Jesus grew up in Nazareth within the confines of Zebulun in Isaiah’s prophecy.  There was darkness in Nazareth and a great need for spiritual light.  The Lord Jesus is the light that shined in the land of the shadow of death.  Luke tells us how He introduces the light of His fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy:

Luke 4.16 states, “[Jesus] came to Nazareth, where He had been brought up. And as His custom was, He went into the synagogue on the Sabbath day, and stood up to read.”

Isaiah 9.3 states, “You have multiplied the nation and increased its joy.”  Of course, this refers to the Lord Jesus as well.  They rejoice as in the joy of harvest and dividing the spoil of battle.  There are two ways to look at this:  1) The Lord Jesus multiplied the nation and increased its joy by bringing in the Gentiles under grace; 2) He will multiply the nation and increase its joy when He sits upon the royal throne of David during the Millennium.  I have no problem accepting both interpretations because both are true.

Verses 4-5 clearly refer to the day of Midian, a time when Gideon delivered Israel from the Midianite invasion in Judges 6-8.  I believe that it is abundantly clear that this prophecy has not been fulfilled by the Lord Jesus as of yet.  I think it is a reference to the cleansing of the land after the close of the Great Tribulation period.  The Lord Jesus prepares for His rule in verse 5.  John the apostle writes of this specific time in the Revelation of Jesus Christ (Revelation 19.11-21):

Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God. And the armies in heaven, clothed in fine linen, white and clean, followed Him on white horses. Now out of His mouth goes a sharp sword, that with it He should strike the nations. And He Himself will rule them with a rod of iron. He Himself treads the winepress of the fierceness and wrath of Almighty God. And He has on His robe and on His thigh a name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS Then I saw an angel standing in the sun; and he cried with a loud voice, saying to all the birds that fly in the midst of heaven, “Come and gather together for the supper of the great God, that you may eat the flesh of kings, the flesh of captains, the flesh of mighty men, the flesh of horses and of those who sit on them, and the flesh of all people, free and slave, both small and great.” And I saw the beast, the kings of the earth, and their armies, gathered together to make war against Him who sat on the horse and against His army. Then the beast was captured, and with him the false prophet who worked signs in his presence, by which he deceived those who received the mark of the beast and those who worshiped his image. These two were cast alive into the lake of fire burning with brimstone. And the rest were killed with the sword which proceeded from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse. And all the birds were filled with their flesh.

This Child born is the Son of the virgin mentioned in Isaiah 7.14 (although there is a near fulfillment of this prophecy in Isaiah’s time).  The first two phrases tell us that a Child is born (birth of Christ) and a Son is given (crucifixion of Christ).  Everything following in Isaiah’s prophecy points to Christ’s coming Millennial Kingdom.  Then, the government will be upon His shoulder.  He will be the King reigning.

There are four descriptive phrases of the King (wonderful should modify Counselor in my opinion):  1) Wonderful Counselor; 2) Mighty God; 3) Everlasting Father; 4) Prince of Peace.  First, He has wisdom to govern the people of the world perfectly.  Second, He has the power to carry out His rule with an iron scepter.  Third, He is the everlasting Father in the sense that He is the Father of all those who are redeemed.  Adam is the father of all living beings.  Christ is the last Adam and became a life-giving spirit (1 Corinthians 15.45).  Finally, He is the Prince of Peace.  The 1,000 year reign of Christ will be marked by the absence of war and violence.  It will fulfill the Davidic Covenant and satisfy the promises of God.  It will be a time of great blessing.

Of the increase of Christ’s government and peace there will be no end.  The government of Christ does not increase through war but through peace.  His justice and judgment are characteristic of His reign during the Millennium.  His reign and rule is forever after that initial 1,000 year period to fulfill the Scriptures.  This will be a fulfillment of the promise God made to David in 2 Samuel 7.12-17:

“When your days are fulfilled and you rest with your fathers, I will set up your seed after you, who will come from your body, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for My name, and I will establish the throne of his kingdom forever. I will be his Father, and he shall be My son. If he commits iniquity, I will chasten him with the rod of men and with the blows of the sons of men. But My mercy shall not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I removed from before you. And your house and your kingdom shall be established forever before you. Your throne shall be established forever.”

So our text is all about the Lord Jesus Christ.  Jesus Christ is a Child born, a Son given, and the King forever.

Silent Night – Part 2

Part 1 explored the origin of Silent Night, the hymn written by the Catholic priest named Joseph Mohr.  Catholic doctrine is clear regarding Mary, the mother of Jesus the Nazarene.  There are four contradictions to the Word of God regarding Mary in Catholic doctrine:

  1.  She was perpetually a virgin.
  2.  She was sinless.
  3.  She ascended into Heaven and did not die.
  4.  She is deity as the mother of God.

Mary had other children, needed a Savior, died as any sinner ever has, and is merely a handmaid of the Lord.  However, the virgin birth is an important doctrine.  The virgin birth serves as a sign of the uniqueness of the birth of Jesus Christ.  It exalts Christ not Mary.  But why did God send Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh?

Jesus is the revelation of God.  

“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.” (John 1:18)

““If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves.” (John 14:7–11)

You cannot see the Father apart from knowing the Son.  You can only know the Son through the Scripture not tradition.  We have a personal revelation of God that is completely truthful.

Jesus is the example for our lives.

Jesus lived on this earth not only to reveal the Father but also to become a pattern for our own lives.  “For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps:” (1 Peter 2:21)

“He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked.” (1 John 2:6)

As man, Jesus experienced suffering, trials, joys, etc.  As God, He provides the power we need to follow in His steps.

Jesus is the only sacrifice for sin.

Sin requires death for payment.  God doesn’t die.  The Savior of mankind must Himself be human in order to be able to die.  The death of an ordinary man cannot pay for sin eternally, so the Savior must also be God.  Jesus is both God and man.  He is the only effective sacrifice for sin.

“For the law, having a shadow of the good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never with these same sacrifices, which they offer continually year by year, make those who approach perfect. For then would they not have ceased to be offered? For the worshipers, once purified, would have had no more consciousness of sins. But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins. Therefore, when He came into the world, He said: “Sacrifice and offering You did not desire, But a body You have prepared for Me. In burnt offerings and sacrifices for sin You had no pleasure. Then I said, ‘Behold, I have come— In the volume of the book it is written of Me— To do Your will, O God.’ ” Previously saying, “Sacrifice and offering, burnt offerings, and offerings for sin You did not desire, nor had pleasure in them” (which are offered according to the law), then He said, “Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.” He takes away the first that He may establish the second. By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.” (Hebrews 10:1–10)

Jesus is the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.

“And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David. And He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.”” (Luke 1:31–33)

While it is true that God reigns even now, He shall also reign upon David’s throne in the future.  Jesus, the God-man, will become the occupant of David’s throne.  In order for this to happen, the Messiah had to be a man and a descendant of David.  God alone qualifies in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Jesus destroys the works of the devil.

“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” (1 John 3:8)

The devil was destroyed by the incarnation of Christ.  Satan is defeated in the area he dominates, namely the world.  Jesus was sent into the world for the purpose of destroying the works of the devil.

Jesus is a sympathetic high priest.

“Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” (Hebrews 4:14–16)

Jesus felt our weaknesses because He was tempted as we are tempted.  God is not tempted with sin nor can He be.  So God became a man so He could be tempted in order to be our sympathetic high priest.

Jesus is a qualified Judge.

Finally, Jesus will judge.  “For the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son… and has given Him authority to execute judgment also, because He is the Son of Man.” (John 5:22, 27)  Why will Jesus execute all judgement?  It is because He is the Son of Man.  Why must it be necessary for the Judge to be man and to have lived on the earth?  It is so He may put down all excuses men make.  Why must the Judge be God?  So that His judgement is true and just.

Silent night holy night 
All is calm, all is bright 
Round yon virgin mother and child. 
Holy infant so tender and mild, 
Sleep in heavenly peace. 
Sleep in heavenly peace.

All is calm and bright around the virgin mother and child.  This hymn is a part of the fabric of my life.  It represents a time when I did not understand who the virgin mother or the Child was.  It inspires me as I continue to pursue the identity of my one and only Savior and Mediator.

What do I now think when I sing this hymn?  First, I think of my heavenly peace purchased for me and the sweet rest that now belongs to me because of the work of Christ alone.  Second, I think of the radiant glory that lit the skies at the birth of Christ and how the afterglow of His Person and work still light the way for me.  Third, I think of the dawn of redeeming grace then and the dawn of the eternal day still to come.  All is indeed calm and bright.

Silent Night – Part 1

Joseph Mohr, a Catholic priest, wrote the six-stanza poem Stille Nacht! Heilige Nacht! in 1816 when he was assigned to a church in Austria. Two years later, after a transfer to St. Nicholas Church in Oberndorf, Austria, the priest decided he wanted his poem set to music. On December 24, 1818, he asked his friend Franz Gruber to create a melody and guitar accompaniment. The two men sang the carol at Christmas Mass in St. Nicholas Church with Mohr playing his guitar and the choir repeating the last two lines of each verse.

The man who translated Stille Nacht into Silent Night was John Freeman Young. While assigned to New York’s Trinity Church, he translated European hymns into English as a hobby. Later in life he became the second Episcopal Bishop of Florida. Bishop Young is buried in Jacksonville, Florida, forgotten by the city he loved and ignored by the church he served, yet his words are sung by millions of people in English-speaking nations.

Silent night holy night
All is calm, all is bright
Round yon virgin mother and child.
Holy infant so tender and mild,
Sleep in heavenly peace.
Sleep in heavenly peace.

Silent night holy night
Shepherds quake at the sight,
Glories stream from heaven afar,
Heavenly hosts sing alleluia;
Christ the Savior, is born
Christ the Savior, is born.

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.

 

The first verse will elicit curious responses from children if you ask them what “round yon virgin means”! Of course, the text means that all is calm and bright around the virgin Mary and the Holy Child, Jesus. I find no objection to singing this hymn. But still, when Mohr wrote of the virgin mother in the first stanza, he had a conception of Mary which is foreign to Scripture. What do Catholics believe regarding Mary (keeping in mind that their doctrine is in a constant state of flux)?

 

  1. Catholics believe that Mary was a perpetual virgin, a virgin all her life. Contrary to Scripture, they believe that Mary never did have children after she gave birth to Jesus. To them, she is ever a virgin. Yet the Scriptures do not teach this. Mary certainly gave birth to other children.

And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue. And many hearing Him were astonished, saying, “Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands! Is this not the carpenter, the Son of Mary, and brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us?” So they were offended at Him.” (Mark 6:2–3)

 

  1. Catholics believe in the immaculate conception of Jesus. By this, they mean that Mary was sinless. This is why they pray the rosary with the statement: “Hail Mary! Full of Grace!” Catholics think of Mary as the new Eve. Unlike Eve, Mary always obeyed God. She is like Jesus in this way. She is the new Eve and Jesus is the new Adam. Adam and Eve died and turned to dust. The new Adam and Eve were lifted physically to Heaven. Therefore, Mary ascended into Heaven just like Jesus.

 

Mary in Luke 1 admits to God being her Savior. The question follows, “Why did she need a Savior?” Also, Luke 1.35 indicates that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary to overshadow her. If sinless, why did the Holy Spirit have to overshadow her? All of the human race has been tainted by the original sin of Adam and Eve. Mary is included in this. The Holy Spirit made possible the conception of the sinless Jesus. Mary simply was a handmaid of the Lord, a vessel. Certainly, she was privileged and honored by God. However, she was a sinner in need of a Savior.

 

Mary did not always obey. She couldn’t understand why Jesus had to be about His Father’s business in the temple when He was 12. She also hastened the opening of Jesus’ ministry in John 2. When the gathering at Cana ran out of wine, Mary said to Jesus, “They have no wine” (2.3). Jesus said to her, “Woman, what does your concern have to do with Me? My hour has not yet come” (2.4). Mary acknowledged her Son’s gentle but firm rebuke with a command to the servants, “Whatever He says to you, do it” (2.5).

 

Mary lived and died just like all of us. She needed a Savior because she was a sinner. The Holy Spirit made the conception of Jesus immaculate; Mary did not.

 

  1. Catholics believe that Mary was taken body and soul into Heaven. This is termed as the assumption of Mary.

 

There is no biblical evidence to this false doctrine. They must hold to it because sin brings death. From their perspective Mary never sinned; therefore, she could not die. Unbelievably, they cite the lack of relics (parts of her body, clothing remnants, etc) as support that she was taken up into Heaven.

 

  1. Catholics believe that Mary is the Mother of God. Jesus is both human and divine. Jesus is man and God at the same time. Since Mary is Jesus’ mother, then it follows for the Catholic adherent that Mary is mother of God. This puts Mary on par with deity.

 

But again the work of the Holy Spirit overwhelmed the sin nature of Mary so that Jesus was born without sin. Only one sinless human being ever walked the earth. Jesus was that man. He alone is the one Mediator between the Father and creation. “Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.”” (Acts 4:12) The virgin birth is all about Jesus not Mary.

 

The virgin birth served as a sign of the uniqueness of the birth of Jesus Christ. But why did God send Jesus in the likeness of sinful flesh?