Theology: Christology

Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word

Athanasius, On the Incarnation“For this purpose, then, the incorporeal and incorruptible and immaterial Word of God entered our world. In one sense, indeed, He was not far from it before, for no part of creation had ever been without Him Who, while ever abiding in union with the Father, yet fills all things that are. But now He entered the world in a new way, stooping to our level in His love and Self-revealing to us. He saw the reasonable race, the race of men that, like Himself, expressed the Father’s Mind, wasting out of existence, and death reigning over all in corruption.

He saw that corruption held us all the closer, because it was the penalty for the Transgression; He saw, too, how unthinkable it would be for the law to be repealed before it was fulfilled. He saw how unseemly it was that the very things of which He Himself was the Artificer should be disappearing. He saw how the surpassing wickedness of men was mounting up against them; He saw also their universal liability to death. All this He saw and, pitying our race, moved with compassion for our limitation, unable to endure that death should have the mastery, rather than that His creatures should perish and the work of His Father for us men come to nought,

He took to Himself a body, a human body even as our own…. This He did out of sheer love for us, so that in His death all might die, and the law of death thereby be abolished because, having fulfilled in His body that for which it was appointed, it was thereafter voided of its power for men. This He did that He might turn again to incorruption men who had turned back to corruption, and make them alive through death by the appropriation of His body and by the grace of His resurrection. Thus He would make death to disappear from them as utterly as straw from fire.”

— Athanasius, On the Incarnation of the Word

 

Originally posted on my blogspot site

The Theology Of Christmas – The Promise

The fact is, Jesus Christ being born on this earth was certainly not an event that randomly happened or was unplanned or unhoped for. Indeed, as we will see, there is a lots of  Old Testament passages which very specifically prophecy about the coming Christ. Many of them. Although most of them were not always explicitly understood by the original audience, especially in terms of timing, we with the benefit of hindsight can clearly get a picture of what God meant when He foretold certain things, or declared that this mysterious person who was coming would do this or that. If what I’ve just written is a little unclear, let us look at some of the passages which predict Christ’s incarnation in Bethlehem two thousand years ago.

The very first glimpse we have of the Messiah to come is in the book of Genesis

I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” Genesis 3:15

This is the third chapter of the bible and its already had quite a lot going on. God had created the universe ex nihilo; ordered it; created a planet which He filled with plants, animals and two people. We’ve also had a rebellion in heaven and Satan fall to earth. Finally we’ve had this crafty serpent  Satan, successfully temp Adam and Eve to break the one command God had given them, “Don’t eat from this tree…”

OTscrollIn Genesis 3:15 we pick up the story where God is cursing Satan, that serpent. Part of his curse is that a person would come, offspring of the woman, who would be at war with the serpent. During the course of their engagement he (Satan) would bruise that person’s heal, but He (Jesus) would crush the serpent’s head.

From this point Satan knew His days were numbered. One day this person would come and when He did, it would spell disaster for the Serpent. Neither the Serpent, nor Eve knew when this person would come and neither had any more details than this. For all they knew, it could be Cain, her firstborn son who was to be ‘the enmity’ although that was proved not to be the case. (Genesis 4:8).

That by way of introduction, let us look at several other passages:

Therefore the Lord himself will give you a sign. Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.
He shall eat curds and honey when he knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good.
For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land whose two kings you dread will be deserted. Isaiah 7:14-16

IsaiahThis is a fascinating passage. It is the sign given to King Ahaz of Judah by God during the time of great national peril. Two kings had invaded the land and was attempting to lay siege on Jerusalem, Rezin the king of Syria and Pekah the son of Remaliah the king of Israel (Isaiah 7:1). And frankly poor King Ahaz and his people were afraid. Now God offers Ahaz a sign. He says that “Behold a virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Immanuel as we all know means “God with us” and Matthew 1:23 quotes this exact passage in specific reference to Jesus Christ.

Now we as Christians rightly get very excited about this particular passage, but lets not forget its point to King Ahaz, which is made in verse 16. For before the boy knows how to refuse the evil and choose the good, the land… will be deserted. This phrase is a euphemism for an infant, a child who is as yet unable to discern right from wrong. We can debate what specific age that is (I am not a parent, so I haven’t had a chance to observe this firsthand), but lets say a ballpark figure of 3 years. So God is promising that they would be delivered in the same time as it would take for this child to grow a little.

My purpose in laboring the point is to show you that the passage had a very direct and near meaning for the people at that time, and a distant meaning for a future event, and the future events did not in the least made sense to the people at that time.

So far we have a promise of an “enmity” and a promise a child called “God with us” who would be virgin born. Lets look at another passage.

But you, O Bethlehem Ephrathah, who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.
Therefore he shall give them up until the time when she who is in labor has given birth; then the rest of his brothers shall return to the people of Israel.
And he shall stand and shepherd his flock in the strength of the LORD, in the majesty of the name of the LORD his God. And they shall dwell secure, for now he shall be great to the ends of the earth. Micah 5:2-4

Micah was a contemporary of Isaiah and he gives us one very clear and specific prophecy about the Messiah to come. Firstly, that the Messiah would be from Bethlehem, a town too small to muster enough troops to be sent to the army for the defense of Jerusalem, out of this small dorpie would come a ruler. But not only that, but from a particular clan, Ephrathah one of the clans who lived in that town. If nothing else, this limits the number of people to could possibly be the Messiah. But the passage goes on, it describes this ruler who is to come. Firstly it calls Him, “from ancient days” in other word, a preexisting being, a person who existed long before the events described in the passage. Also the phrase ‘ancient days’ is a term that refers specifically to God (Daniel 7). So this person who comes from God. Also the passage says whose coming forth is from old, Implying that this event was planned beforehand, it wasn’t a random or improvised event, but a preplanned one.

Some other characteristics of this ruler is that He will be a shepherd of the people and He will protect His people. One final passage, back to Isaiah:

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

This prophecy is thrown in among a number of different prophecies about various things. But it is a shocking statement. There is a child (think Isaiah 7), now listen to some of his names: Wonderful counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Say what!! This passage just said that a son would be born on earth, He would take over the government (something yet to happen) and His called God, four times. The second time, in such a way to leave us with no doubt. The Hebrew word for God here is el. One of the most common words used when referring to the Lord in Hebrew. This child would be el, He is God.

 

Lets put it all together:

On-The-Way-To-BethlehemThe New Testament claims that Jesus Christ is the Messiah, the long promised, long awaited one who fulfills every condition and prediction of Messiahship. He is the enmity with the serpent, His heal was bruised at the cross, but He crushed Satan’s head at the same time (Genesis 3:15). He was born of a virgin (Luke 1:34) and was called Immanuel (Matthew 1:23). He was born in Bethlehem, just as Micah predicted (Matthew 2:6) and finally He claimed to be God explicitly (John 8:58), something that all of the Gospels demonstrate, and proved by, among other things, doing miracles beyond any seen before.

These four prophecies are by no means exhaustive. For example we have the two predictions about the Messiah found in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22, both of which deal with numerous aspects of Christ’s crucifixion and His work therein, not to mantion many other smaller references throughout the Old Testament.

In conclusion, let me encourage you Christian. You serve a sovereign God, who preplanned the entire work of salvation long before you existed. But not only did He fulfill this plan, but before the events took place, He told His people How He would do it. We can rejoice in the knowledge that ‘he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.’ (Philipians 1:6) and ‘he has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you.”‘ (Hebrews 13:5)

To the unbeliever, Repent of your sins to day, and put your faith in Jesus Christ, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2). Understand that Christ’s atoning death wasn’t just a random event, but one preplanned to gather people together as children of the Most High God. The beginning of the fulfillment of these prophesies is what we celebrate at Christmas, won’t you join us?

Merry Christmas everyone

 

A nice list of Old Testament prophecies fulfilled in Christ can be read here

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

The Theology Of Christmas – An Introduction

Christmas, the most wonderful time of the year it is said. And I like many really enjoy this time. There’s also a lot of talk about the reason for the season and so on, and in a very real sense this is correct. Presents and fat men in suits climbing down chimneys is really nothing to with what Christmas is all about biblically speaking. In this series I would like to look at the theology behind the Christmas story, and the incarnation of our Christ into the world as a baby.

You may have seen that I have categorized this post as Christology. This is because Christmas above anything is about Christ, its even in the name. Everything in history up until that point was in preparation for this event and everything that followed was a direct consequence of it.

The first thing we will look at is the Promise. Jesus Christ’s incarnation into the world wasn’t just a sudden thing. It didn’t happen unplanned or unknown about. We will look at a large number of verses from the Old Testament which demonstrate just that.

Next we will look at the Doctrine of the Incarnation. This very important doctrine is one of the first in a line of doctrines that leads to the cross and ultimately to heaven.

Finally we will look at the Gospel and Christmas, how the gospel message relates to this season, and how we can use it, as a means of preaching the gospel.

I trust this series will be helpful to you, I will enjoyed writing it.

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

He loves to see His poor, helpless, suffering patients come

One of the websites that has helped me very much is gracegems.org. They send out a free daily email with a quote, usually of a Puritan. Each quote is an excellent little gem of truth and well worth signing up for. I have collected a large number of these emails and thought I would promote them by posting one each week. Again sign up today at gracegems.org.

“The whole head is sick, and the whole heart is faint. From the sole of the foot even to the head, there is no soundness in it–but wounds and bruises and putrefying sores!” Isaiah 1:5-6

Sin not only brings us under condemnation–but it assumes the character of a disease! It has infected the whole soul, and spoiled every faculty. We need healing–as well as pardon. Jesus, in the greatness of his love, provides for both. He becomes not only our Redeemer–but our Physician. He employs His Spirit, His Word, and His Providence–to bring us to a healthy state.
He lays open the wound to our view–and then applies His own most precious blood to heal it! He makes us to feel our sickness–and then bestows His grace to restore us to health. All healing is by His skill–and through His Spirit, grace, blood, and Word. He is the maker of the Balm of Gilead–and He is the Physician there.

He undertakes the healing of all who apply to Him! He never yet failed in any case! He heals all gratuitously. His wisdom shines in the management of every case–and also His skill in healing the most desperate and alarming cases. He acts so kindly and tenderly to all His patients, and heals so judiciously–that He wins the heart of every patient–and all are delighted with His skill.

Thousands throng Him–but not one is overlooked or neglected by Him. He is always at His office, and ready to heal. He loves to see His poor, helpless, suffering patients come–and always greets them with a hearty welcome.
The plague of the heart,
the plague of the head,
weakness in the hands,
feebleness in the knees,
blindness,
deafness,
leprosy,
disease in every form–
are easily removed by Him.

Before Him . . .
the lame man leaps like an deer,
the tongue of the dumb sings,
broken hearts rejoice, and
the blind see out of darkness and out of obscurity.

This process of healing is on-going–none are completely healed at present. And when they are healthy enough–they are sent from the hospital below–to paradise above! Every patient who is healed–is provided with a mansion above, and has a title to the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God. There the inhabitants shall no more say, “I am sick,” and the people who dwell there are forgiven their iniquities!

All His patients feel and manifest the symptoms of returning health–which are love, joy, peace, patience, gentleness, meekness, goodness, faith, etc. But none of them rest satisfied with any symptoms; they all visit His office frequently, asking Him to complete the cure. And such is His love, kindness, and grace–that He assures all those who have a good work begun in them–that He will complete it in the day of His glorious appearing!

James Smith, “The Love of Christ! The Fullness, Freeness, and Immutability of the Savior’s Grace Displayed!”

Is Jesus Christ Eternal

In the last two posts I’ve looked at the subject of forgiveness, and  how it applies to the future sins of a Christian as well as those from the past. You can read part one and part two here. 

This post is a bit different from the previous two. I haven’t attempted to write out the theology of this doctrine in full at this time. I have simply collected and collated every relevant verse I could find on the subject. Bearing in mind that this was originally for an audience of Jehovah Witnesses, who believe that Jesus is the arch-angel Michael, I have kept the commentary to a minimum, letting the text do the talking. All of my commentary is in italics. 

This is obviously not an exhaustive list, and if you can think of any other relevant verses, feel free to drop them into the comments section. Also as a practical theological exercise, feel free to articulate this aspect of Christ’s nature in biblical theological terms, and share your results with us on the comments page.

Open Bible Holy Bible

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
He was in the beginning with God.
All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
In him was life, and the life was the light of men.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:1-4, 14

God said to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM.” And he said, “Say this to the people of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you.'” Exodus 3:14

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.”
So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?”
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple. John 8:56-59

Note Jesus is claiming that He was older than Abraham, indeed using the same term as in Exodus 3, He describes Himself as ‘I am.’ Realizing that Jesus is claiming to be the eternal God, they pick up stones to kill Him for blasphemy, but Jesus hides Himself and leaves.

Open Bible PaperJesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Hebrews 13:8

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Isaiah 9:6

Note that one of Christ’s names prophecied in this verse is Everlasting Father, key word everlasting.

Open BibleAnd now, Father, glorify me in your own presence with the glory that I had with you before the world existed.   John 17:5

Note that in this prayer, Jesus describes how He and the Father had glory before the world existed.

Then God said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness. And let them have dominion over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the heavens and over the livestock and over all the earth and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.” Genesis 1:26

In Genesis 1 God uses the plural “let us” implying the presence of at least one more person. Other verses teach us the concept of the Trinity, but when you couple this verse with John 1:3, which says that nothing was made except that was made through Jesus.

 

Two Truths About The Person And Work Of Jesus Christ

For Jehovah’s Witnesses

Part 1: Forgiveness Of Sin Is For Sin Past, Present And Future Part 01

Part 2: Forgiveness Of Sin Is For Sin Past, Present And Future Part 02

Part 3: Is Jesus Christ Eternal?

 

Ascension Day

Today is ascension day. Did you know that? It is not a day much celebrated in the modern evangelical church. Yet on that day an important event happened and we would be wise to examine it.

So when they had come together, they asked him, “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?”
He said to them, “It is not for you to know times or seasons that the Father has fixed by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you, and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.”
And when he had said these things, as they were looking on, he was lifted up, and a cloud took him out of their sight.
And while they were gazing into heaven as he went, behold, two men stood by them in white robes,
and said, “Men of Galilee, why do you stand looking into heaven? This Jesus, who was taken up from you into heaven, will come in the same way as you saw him go into heaven.”
Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away. Acts 1:6-12

Christ's Ascension

The first things to know is that this day, the last remnant of Israel’s original idea of Messiah passed away. A fair number of prophecies are about how God will restore Israel, and also that His Messiah will come from the line of David and rule forever. Now bearing in mind the context of their bondage to the Roman invaders, the Jews of the time believed that when the Messiah comes he would overthrow the Romans, blast them out of Israel, then restore the Kingdom.

But that was not Jesus’ purpose at that time. His purpose was to live perfectly, die a substitutionary death on the cross, rise again, and then leave, sending the Holy Spirit. From heaven He will then build His church which He established. This was why for a while He told people He had healed to tell no one. Also, when after feeding the 5000 (plus women and children) He get on a boat. He knows that the people will try and make Him king because He gave them food. And they rush around trying to find Him.

However at the culmination of all the events, after 40 days of showing Himself and teaching post His resurrection, Christ is now returning to Heaven. His disciples, who are all Jews, still assume that He will be restoring the Kingdom of Israel then, in their lifetimes.

And so they ask Him “Lord, will you at this time restore the kingdom to Israel?” (vs 6). He gently rebukes them, squashing all of their hopes, saying that it is not for them to know when the Father has ordered by His own authority. He then gives them comfort by promising the the Holy Spirit and commissioning them to be witnesses starting in Jerusalem and stretching to the ends of the world.

The next thing we see is the promise of the Holy Spirit. This is not the first time Jesus promises the Spirit, but it would be one of the most comforting. They would receive power (specifically to be witnesses), when (not if) the Holy Spirit comes. In this passage we also see the commission reaffirmed one last time. The apostles, and every disciple after them, began preaching Christ. Starting in Jerusalem, they scattered to their neighbours, Samaria, and till today, there is not a continent in the world where the Gospel is not heard somewhere. As disciples of Christ ourselves, we also take upon us this commission.

And then the event happens. Christ lifts up and goes up to heaven, in a cloud. The apostles, in obvious awe at what just happened, and probably still a little bemused at having their understanding of the Kingdom completely altered, stand around staring at the sky, two angels appear and tell them that Christ will return in the same way. They then return to Jerusalem to wait for the promised Holy Spirit, which will eventually come at Pentecost.

Disciples looking up to heavenAnd that is the story of the ascension. And we still wait for His return. That is maybe the most important lesson from this event. Christians have always, and should always be anticipating and be ready for the return of Christ, something that could happen at any time.

All the Lord’s best to you