“Fine Woven Linen, and Blue, Purple, and Scarlet Thread”

“…ten curtains of fine woven linen and blue, purple, and scarlet thread,” Exodus 26:1.

“blue, purple, scarlet thread, and fine woven linen, Exodus 36:37 NKJV.

Though we’ve mentioned these items in other posts, we want to look at just them in this post.  The linen was the main item out of which the tabernacle was constructed, but it was embroidered with thread of these three colors.

Now, what do, or could, these four items suggest when it comes to the study of the Lord Jesus Christ, of whom the tabernacle speaks in type and shadow?

Linen, blue, purple, scarlet?

With just a couple of exceptions in Paul’s writings, where do we find information about the Lord and His life in Scripture?

Is it not in the four gospels:  Matthew, Mark, Luke and John?

Why four?  Why not five, or ten or fifteen?

Because that’s what God wanted.

What is especially interesting about these four men is that each and every one of them was absolutely unqualified to write about the life of Christ.

God used them anyway….

Matthew, though Jewish himself, was a tax-collector for the hated Romans.  Jews would have considered him a traitor.  Yet God used him to write of their Messiah-King, who would deliver them from a far worse bondage than Rome.

Mark, that one who left Paul and Barnabas and their endeavors to go back home, was used by God to write of the Servant-Son, who finished what He started.

Luke, educated, polished, likely the “best” of the lot, humanly speaking, but, still, a Gentile:  with no part in the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world, Ephesians 2:12.  Nevertheless, God used him to know and to write about the Ideal, the Perfect Man, sent not only to Israel, but to gather His sheep out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation, Revelation 5:9.

John, a rough-and-tumble fisherman, using simple grammar to tell his story.  Beginning students in Greek use his Gospel in their first attempts at translation.  Simple words, uncomplicated grammar, expressing truths which 2000 years of study have not yet begun to fathom.

If we adapt Pilate’s exclamation about the Lord Jesus to that hostile crowd prior to our Lord’s crucifixion (John 19:5), we might come up with the following:

Matthew:  “Behold the Sovereign!”  He wrote to the Jews of their Messiah, their King.

Mark:   “Behold the Servant!”  To the Roman mind, which looked down on servants and serving, he wrote of Jesus, “the Servant of Jehovah.”

Luke:  “Behold the Sympathetic!”  He addressed the Greek viewpoint, present Jesus as Ideal Man.  As such, his is the “human interest” Gospel.

John:  “Behold the Son!”  John wrote to Christians, to declare and defend “God manifest in the flesh.”  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and, [literally] God was the Word, emphasizing the deity of our Lord.

Boiling the distinctives of each Gospel down to one word:

Matthew is the Gospel of Christ’s Authority.  Cf. 7:24-29, especially v. 29; 28:18.

Mark is the Gospel of Christ’s Activity.  He records only one instance of teaching and four parables, but eighteen miracles.

Luke is the Gospel of Christ’s Availability.  Though there were times when Jesus withdrew from the crowds, yet, through Luke, He brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people,” 2:10.

John is the Gospel of Christ’s Antiquity.  The prologue, 1:1-18, isn’t the only place where John states the eternal dignity and existence of the Word.  He quotes Jesus Himself as doing so.  In 8:58, Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”
Unbelievers today may deny that Jesus ever claimed to be God, but those Jews who heard Him make that statement knew exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him on the spot – and that fact that He was telling the truth was why they couldn’t.
Ultimately, that’s why Jesus was crucified.  In the so-called “trials” of Him, all four of the Gospels record that the scribes and Pharisees, the leaders of the people, recognized what Jesus claimed:  Matthew 26:63-65; Mark 14:60-62; Luke 22:66-71; John 19:7.   And, apparently, one of the few at that gruesome and bloody scene who recognized the truth about Jesus was the Roman centurion, a pagan, who exclaimed, “Truly, this Man was the Son of God!” Mark 15:39.  The other notable witness was the thief who was converted at pretty much the last minute, Luke 23:42.

_______________

Four men.

Unlikely men.

God used them.

God can use us.

Linen.  Blue.  Purple.  Scarlet.

Four colors.

Four Gospels.

One message.

One Savior.

“Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved,” Acts 16:31.

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Revelation 4, There Is A God In Heaven

Revelation 4:1-11, After these things I looked, and behold, a door standing open in heaven.  And the first voice which I heard was like a trumpet speaking with me, saying “Come up here, and I will show you things which must take place after this.”
Immediately I was in the Spirit; and behold, a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne.  And He who sat there was like a jasper and a sardius stone in appearance; and there was a rainbow around the throne in appearance like an emerald.  Around the throne were twenty-four thrones, and on the thrones I saw twenty-four elders sitting, clothed in white robes; and they had crowns of gold on their heads.  And from the throne proceeded lightnings, thunderings, and voices.  Seven lamps of fire were burning before the throne, which are the seven Spirits of God.
Before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal.  And in the midst of the throne, and around the throne, were four living creatures full of eyes in front and in back.  The first living creature was like a lion, the second living creature like a calf, the third living creature had a face like a man, and the fourth living creature was like a flying eagle.  The four living creatures, each having six wings, were full of eyes around and within.  And they do not rest day or night, saying:

“Holy, holy, holy,
Lord God Almighty,
Who was and is and is to come!”

Whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to Him who sits on the throne, who lives forever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.” (NKJV)

John has given us a view of seven churches of his time.  Perhaps, perhaps not, they also foreshadow the history of the church in general.  Regardless, in the ebb and flow of church or national history, the rise and fall of cities, nations, kingdoms, or empires, he now points us to one throne that is eternal.  We look back on far more history than Daniel did, and see the rise and fall of many nations, kingdoms and empires yet future to his time, yet he, too, saw the rise and fall of nations under Nebuchadnezzar, and he points out the one central fact of existence.  In the words of Daniel 2:28, “There is a God in heaven.”  And, further, Daniel 5:26, “His kingdom is the one which shall not be destroyed.”

As we get into the chapter, note what the “voice” said to John, “I will show you things which must take place after this,” v. 1.  “Things,” not “principles,” not “processes.”  Not even just “generalities.”  Things.  Events.  True, there is a lot of discussion about this, but it’s my view that Revelation is the disclosure of history before it happens.  Actual, verifiable history.  Events future to our time which people will be able to point to in the book and say, “See.  This is what is happening.”  We’ll get into this later, Lord willing.

The first thing John saw was a throne set in heaven, and One sat on the throne, v. 2.

This is where every worldview, every way of thinking about life, without exception, begins.  What do you think of this One who sits on the throne?  Even those who flatly reject Him, or don’t know of Him at all, or worship other gods, live their lives in view of an answer to this question, though they may never actually come into contact with the question.

There are several such incidents in Scripture, beginning with Genesis where Adam and Eve enjoy fellowship with God in the cool of the day, though this soon came to an end when they concluded they could decide for themselves what was “good” and what was “evil”.  In Exodus 24:9,10, after the giving of the Law and Israel’s agreeing to keep it, though they had no idea what they were getting into, we read that Moses, Aaron and his two sons, Nadab and Abihu, along with seventy elders of the people, climbed Mt. Sinai and they saw the God of Israel.  This, too, never happened again because Israel very quickly broke her promise.

There are other such incidents, but perhaps my favorite is found in Ezekiel 1:25-30, where Ezekiel describes his vision of the likeness of a throne and goes on to describe a little of what he saw, ending with this:  like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud in a rainy day, so was the appearance of the brightness all around it.  This was the appearance of the likeness of the glory of the Lord.

“Like the appearance of a rainbow in a cloud in a rainy day.”

Have you ever seen a rainbow?

Really seen one?

I used to drive for a living and one of my vehicles was a well-used 1982 Dodge van.  One day, it rained.  As the storm passed and the sun began to break through the clouds, there was a rainbow.  Not like the ones you see on the horizon, this one looked like it came out the hood of that old beater.  It was right there, two feet in front of me.  I can’t even begin to describe it.  It was the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen.

That’s how Ezekiel saw the glory of God.

That’s how John saw the glory of God, with a rainbow around the throne, in appearance like an emerald.  This is different from the 7-color rainbows we see.  It had just one color, a glorious color “like an emerald.”

As I look out the window, I see the drabness of winter, with just a leaf or two here and there clinging to a branch, defying the pull of gravity.  Soon, though, we’ll begin to see green, just a tinge at first, but it tells us that spring is coming, that life will triumph.

Perhaps John is telling us that here he is seeing life at its most triumphant, in the presence and glory of God.

But he sees something else, as well.  Leaving aside much of the description of what John saw, and the description of the “living creatures,” John tells us of “twenty-four elders” who sit on thrones around the central throne.

Who are these “elders”?  There’s a lot of discussion about this.  My own view is that they represent the redeemed of Israel and the church.  I believe this is borne out by the description of the New Jerusalem in Revelation 21, which has twelve gates, named after the tribes of Israel, and twelve foundations, named after the twelve apostles.  This tells me that, no matter how they may be united in the future, Israel and the church will never lose their distinct and separate identities.

What are these elders doing?  Vs, 10, 11 tell us:

…the twenty-four elders fall down before Him who sits on the throne and worship Him who lives forever and ever, and cast their crowns before the throne, saying,  

“You are worthy, O Lord,
To receive glory and honor and power;
For You created all things,
And by Your will they exist and were created.”

This is probably as good a place to end this year as chapter 5 is to start the new year.  It takes us back to the beginning and tells us that we’re not here just as the result of some mindless, random, meaningless cosmic explosion.  Strange, isn’t it, that “science” is willing to believe that that’s how it all started, in spite of the fact that no one has ever been able to create anything by blowing nothing up and making something out of it.  They do tell us that there was this tiny amount of matter, and that’s what blew up, but they never really deal with where that came from.  They never really deal with “origins.”   It seems to me that it takes a great deal more “faith,” though of a different kind, to believe as they do than it does to believe –

In the beginning God created…. 

So, as we ring out the old year in a few days and bring in the new, let this be the confidence in which we rest, the hope that we cling to.  Regardless of what the new year brings, let this be our firm foundation:

There is a God in heaven.

The Baby at Bethlehem.

I belong to a facebook group where there’s been a rather spirited and lengthy discussion going on about celebrating Christmas.  There are earnest people on both sides of the question. Though I personally don’t like all the trappings that obscure the true meaning of Christmas, I have no problem with celebrating His birth.  Apparently, some do.

I thought the best post of them all was by a person who included a cartoon.  The cartoon showed the nativity scene with Mary, Joseph and the Baby, but also showed Santa, a chair, an elf and lights and a camera.  Santa has his arms outstretched, but Mary is holding Jesus away from him, and the caption, which I have altered slightly, has her saying to Santa, “Why in the world would we want a picture of Him with you?”  I’d have included it here, but my low-tech mind hasn’t figured out such high-tech thingys.

Anyway, that’s not what this post is about.  Perhaps some of you who have been with me for a while will find the rest of the post familiar.  Though not completely copied, it is taken from a post published last year at Christmas.

In all the celebration of Christmas, even with the nativity sets included, have you ever thought about the fact that the Lord Jesus is the only historical figure who apparently never grows up.  Nelson Mandela died the day before my birthday, which is how I can remember it.  This year, there was a news item about his being remembered.  It was very short, yet it was from the standpoint of his life, not about his birth.  And yes, I know there are those who deny the Lord’s historicity.  Not interested in that here.

Someone commented to me that we do celebrate Jesus’ death at Easter.  That is true, for without Christmas there would have been no Easter.  Still, we don’t normally associate those two events, His death at Christmas or His birth at Easter.  When we observe the birthday of any other figure, George Washington, Martin Luther King, Jr., etc., we talk about what they did, not so much about their births.  Only Jesus stays in the manger on Christmas day.

Why do you suppose that is?

Could it be that nobody’s threatened by a baby?

True, Herod was, but his was a unique case.

I don’t know what the situation was back in the Lord’s day, but folks today will come up to the parents of a little one and “ooh” and “aah” over how cute he or she is.  They’ll smile at the little one, want to know his or her name, and then go their way.  They have no real interest in the youngster, no responsibility toward him or her.  He certainly poses no threat to them.

What about the Baby in Bethlehem?

He grew up.

The Lord Jesus began His ministry by commanding people to repent.  He talked about sin and death and judgment and hell, where “the worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” Mark 9:43-48.  Now there weren’t ignorant pagans in some out-of-the-way place somewhere.  They were people who for centuries had prided themselves on being God’s people.  After all, they were the chosen nation.  No other nation had ever enjoyed that privilege.  And no doubt many of them did know the Lord.  But the idea to some of them that they had to repent just like Gentiles who converted was just too much.

Jesus told them that unless “their righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,” they would “by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:20.  You have to understand that the Pharisees especially were looked up to as the height of virtue and righteousness.  And there were good Pharisees, who lamented the “street-corner Pharisees,” as much as our Lord, who scolded them more than once for their hypocrisy.  Still, the idea that something more than what they had was unthinkable.  After all, they were the guardians of Israel and her heritage.  No wonder they perceived Him as a threat to them and to their way of life, cf. John, 11:48.

Even though Jesus was mostly against the leaders of the nation, it  doesn’t seem to have taken long for them to incite the crowds later to cry out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” Luke 23:20; John 19:15.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby poses no threat for folks.  They can ignore Him and go their way.

But as the incarnate God and Judge of all mankind – well, then He’s a threat.  People don’t want to think about things like death and the judgment to follow.  They don’t want to be told they’re sinners and that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned in the sight of God.  They want to hear about “love”, not righteousness, about a “better place”, not that other place.  They want “health”, not holiness.  Riches, not redemption.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby is safe.

But He grew up.

Thank you, Lord.

Happy Birthday.

 

 

Voices of Christmas: The Babe in the Manger.

At last we come to the central figure in the nativity story.  The series hasn’t worked out quite like I thought it would when I started it at the beginning of the month.  There are “voices” not heard, and so much more that could have been heard from the ones that were.  Nevertheless, here we are:  someplace near a feeding trough for animals – a makeshift bed for the Creator and Sustainer of the Universe and of each and every one of us, because there was no room for Him elsewhere.  We understand the situation.  It wasn’t because of the hardheartedness of people.  There was just simply no room.

We could get sidetracked here about the evil government that had created the situation, but that’s not our purpose.  Our purpose is to focus on an unknown infant in an obscure village in a small, troublesome nation, an infant generally ignored in the hustle and bustle of the happenings of the day.  Pretty much like today.

Even among Christians.

And nativity scenes.

And the hustle and bustle of Christmas.

The celebration of the birth of our Lord brings about a curious situation.  Have you ever noticed that the Lord Jesus is the only historical character never allowed to grow up? (And, yes, I know that some think He never existed.)  I made a comment somewhere on a blog about this and someone replied, “Easter.”  That’s not what I meant.

What do I mean?

Nelson Mandela died a few weeks ago.  In the future, when his birthday comes around, the focus will not remain on his birth among the Tempu tribe in Transkei, South Africa, on July 18, 1918.  That will no doubt be included, but the focus will be on what he accomplished in his life.

By way of contrast, the Lord Jesus remains forever a Babe on Christmas Day.

Why do you suppose that is?

Nobody’s afraid of a baby.

I don’t know what the situation was back in the Lord’s day, but folks today will come up to the parents of a little one and “ooh” and “aah” over how cute he or she is.  They’ll smile at the little one, want to know his or her name, and then go their way because he or she isn’t theirs.  They have no real interest in that little one beyond today’s cuteness. But the baby certainly poses no threat to them or their well-being.

What about the Baby in the manger?

He grew up.

The Lord Jesus began His ministry by commanding people to repent.  He talked about sin and death and judgment and hell, where the “worm does not die and the fire is not quenched,” Mark 9:43-48.  Now these were not ignorant heathen in some out-of-the-way place somewhere.  These were people who for centuries had prided themselves on being God’s people.  They were the chosen nation.  And no doubt many of them did know the Lord.  But the idea to some of them that they should repent just like Gentiles who converted was just too much.

He told them that unless their “righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees,” they would “by no means enter the kingdom of heaven,” Matthew 5:20.  You have to understand that the scribes and Pharisees were looked upon as the paragons of virtue and righteousness.  The idea that something more than what they had was required – why, that was unthinkable!  More than once, the Lord publicly scolded them for their hypocrisy.  No wonder, they perceived Him as a threat to them and their way of life, cf. John 11:48.  Granted, this was the leaders of the nation, but it apparently didn’t take much to incite the crowds later to cry out, “Crucify Him!  Crucify Him!” Luke 23:20: John 19:15.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby poses no threat to folks.  They can ignore Him and go their way. But as the incarnate God and Judge of all mankind – well, He’s a threat.  They don’t want to think about things like death and the judgment to follow.  They don’t want to be told that they’re sinners, and that, apart from faith in the Lord Jesus, they stand condemned in the sight of God.  They want to hear about “love,” not righteousness, about “a better place,” not that other place.  They want “health,” not holiness.  Riches, not redemption.

The Lord Jesus as a Baby is safe.

But He grew up.

Thank you, Lord.

Happy Birthday.

If Jesus is God,….

The phrase, “If Jesus is God,” is always followed by questions like, “How can the Father be greater than He is?”  “Does Jesus pray to Himself?”  “Doesn’t that make Him His own Father?”  “How can He call God, ‘My God’?”  “Why were there things He didn’t know?”

All of these questions, and all similar questions, are answered by Paul in a few verses of Scripture in Philippians 2:5-11 (NKJV):

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.  And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross.  Therefore God also has highly exalted Him and given Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven, and those on earth, and those under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

This incredible Scripture has three parts:

Jesus as God, vs. 6, 7.

1.  His being, being in the form of God.

In our post on “The Third Genealogy,” we noted that nowhere does the Bible speak of Jesus “becoming” or being “created” God, or a God.  John said that as the Word, “Jesus” being His human name, He was God.

To us, the word form carries the idea of “shape.”  However, to the Greek, the word carried the idea of nature or character.  In agreement with John, Paul was saying that the Word was Deity, was God.

2.  His thinking, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God.

Though there is discussion among scholars as the meaning of the words translated “consider it robbery,” it seems to me that the best meaning is that He didn’t think equality with the Father was something to be selfishly clung to.  We’ll return to this thought in a moment.

3.  His action, but made Himself of no reputation.

Scripture teaches that there was a group of people who would otherwise have been lost who were chosen by the Father and given to the Son.  Jesus called them “His sheep”.  However, since these people are by nature the children of wrath, it was necessary that something be done about their sin and their sinfulness.

Jesus agreed to come into this world as the Representative and Redeemer of His people, His “sheep,” Matthew 1:21.  He was their “Shepherd”.  However, He didn’t come with glory and honor, such as He had in heaven with the Father, and which He rightfully could have claimed.  He didn’t “cling” to the honor He had as God.  He didn’t come as a “personality” with a huge following, like some in the Church today.  He was born into a family of ordinary people who lived in an obscure village in a part of Israel that was looked down upon.  He spent 90% of His life unknown and even when He began His ministry, it was to crowds of ordinary people, the rulers and leaders wanting nothing to do with Him.  Indeed, it was they who ultimately demanded His death.

The phrase could be translated, “He emptied Himself,” and there is discussion about what this means.  Some teach that it means that He divested Himself of His deity, that as Man He ceased to be God.  That isn’t what the term means at all.  We’ll come back here in a minute.

Jesus as Man, vs. 7, 8.

When Paul wrote that Jesus took on Himself the form of a bondservant and the likeness of men, he wasn’t saying that Jesus just looked like a man.  Paul is asserting that Jesus was fully and really human.  His birth was like any other.  His conception is actually what was miraculous, though we speak of “the virgin birth.”  Once conceived, though, He developed like any other baby and was born into this world, where He grew and developed as a baby, a toddler, a child, a teenager (though that is a fairly recent concept) and then as an adult.  Indeed, once He reached adolescence, He would pretty much have been considered “adult.”

It’s difficult to think of the Creator and Upholder of the universe as having to learn how to walk.

This is where all the questions come in about the so-called limitations of Jesus.  As a human being, He did not have the infinite capabilities that He had as God.  It is this He divested Himself of, His divine glory and the independent exercise of His divine power, though there are glimpses of it.  He turned water into wine, walked on water, stilled storms, healed the sick, raised the dead.  These aren’t ordinarily human activities.  Though Man, He didn’t cease to be God.

As for those who say that He never claimed to be God, those who heard His statement in John 8:58, “Before Abraham was, I AM,” clearly and certainly understood that that was exactly what He was claimed, to be Jehovah.  See also John 5:18; 10:33.

Even though Jesus was, and is, God,  He had a human mind and mere human abilities.  It is because of this that there were things He didn’t “know,” even though, as God, He is omniscient.  It wasn’t because He wasn’t God, but because He was truly human, as well.  As God, He was omnipotent.  As a man, He got tired and hungry.  As God, He was omnipresent, being here and there.  As man, He had to walk from here to there.

In addition, Paul wrote that Jesus was born under the Law, Galatians 4:4, and as such was responsible to live by its demands.  This would include acknowledging the Father as His God just like any other human being, but especially the Jews.  This was why, when talking to Mary Magdalene about His ascension, He could say that He was going to “My God and your God,” John 20:17.  Notice, however, He didn’t say that He was going to “our” God.  There was still a distinction.

As a Jewish man under the Law, He would have been subject to the Father.  It is because of this that He could say that the Father was greater than He was.  It wasn’t because of some “inferiority” on His part, but simply the relationship He bore to the Father at that time.  It has nothing to do with His not being “God,” but with His being human.  In addition, He had come to do the Father’s will, John 5:26 with many others.  He had come to save His people from their sins, an activity begun by the Father in election and brought to pass by the Spirit in regeneration.  He had come as “the Servant of Jehovah,” Isaiah 42:1-4.  As such, He was obedient….

As the ultimate evidence of His humanity, Jesus died.  God cannot die.  This is why the Word had to take to Himself humanity, so that, as Jesus, He could die.  But He didn’t die easily, in honor and glory, with a morphine drip to ease His agony, like terminal patients have today.  He even refused what relief there was available at the time, Matthew 27:34. He died the most cruel death imaginable, a death even the Romans considered despicable, in the words of Paul, even the death of the cross.

But His story doesn’t end there…

Jesus as Lord, vs. 9-11.

As far as the world is concerned, Jesus has little, if any, relevance and significance.  He may as well still be dead.  Indeed, many believe that He still is.  Certainly, there is no government which honors Him and seeks to live by His words.  Even “Christendom” has largely relegated Him to a secondary, or less, role.  Many churches still have Him on the Cross.

To many unbelievers, Jesus is little more than a cuss word.  Or a name to be mocked and ridiculed.  Many even doubt that He really existed.  Sadly, even many professing Christians don’t give Him the honor He deserves, seeing Him as little more than a buddy, or “a Jewish carpenter.”  Views about Him are more likely to be from sentiment than they are from Scripture.

Scripture says that God raised Him from the dead and seated Him at His own right hand.  There is considerable discussion about what this means, and about the current place of the Lord Jesus in the scheme of things.  Arguments abound about the interpretation of Old Testament Scriptures which foretell a “kingdom” over which Messiah will reign.  It’s not the purpose of this post to enter into all this.

It’s enough to say that there is coming a time when every single created being will bow before the Lord Jesus Christ and confess that He is Who He said He is.  Every knee will bow, before Him, and every tongue will confess that He is Lord.  There are those who believe that this means that every single person will be saved. The Scripture teaches otherwise.  The atheist, the skeptic, the false religionist, the demon, all will be forced to bow before Him and acknowledge Him.  This idea bothers a lot of people who are concerned about “free will,” but in this there will be no freedom, any more than a criminal has “freedom” to disregard sentencing for his crimes.  God will be glorified in this, His Son, this One despised and rejected of men.

Though one day all, even the lost, will have to confess Him to be Lord, right now He is Lord, and He has willing subjects.  Are you one of them?

There’s really only one thing left to consider…

What do you think about Christ? (Matthew 22:42,)

The Four Gospels

This is a general overview of the Gospels.

As we read through the Old Testament, we see abundant evidence of the rebellion of men in general and Israel in particular, along with many promises and foreshadowings of a coming Redeemer, like bright stars against a midnight sky.

The New Testament is the story of that Redeemer.

Two questions might be asked: “Why do we have the Gospels?” and, “Why are there four Gospels?”

We have the Gospels because without them we would have virtually no record of the life and ministry of the Lord Jesus.  It is necessary that we have some such account in order to validate His teaching.  The Gospels provide the DEMONSTRATION of Who He was, in order that we might better pay attention to the DECLARATION of what He said, both during His life and in the later NT writings, including Paul’s, for all those are much His words as what He spoke while in Israel.  We include Paul, because some charge him with taking the Jewish Jesus and turning Him into something that was never meant to be.

A second reason we have the Gospels is to impress upon our minds the truth that Christianity revolves around, is founded and rests upon, and proclaims Jesus Christ Himself, and not just certain historical facts, doctrinal viewpoints or important “leaders” in the church.

There are several reasons why we have four Gospels.  Mainly, we have them because it is God’s will, but there are secondary reasons.

1. To give a more complete and satisfying portrait of the Lord Jesus.  Each Gospel has its own distinctive presentation of the life and work of Christ.

2. Each Gospel was written with a specific audience and purpose in mind.  No matter where a son or daughter of Adam finds themselves, they will never come to God on God’s terms to find that God cannot or will not help them.

We want to spend just a moment considering the men who wrote the Gospels and the unlikeliness of  any of them ever writing words from God.

Matthew, the publican, the tax-gatherer, the traitor to his own people, in league with their oppressors the Romans, yet was used to write to those same Jews of their great Messiah-King,Who would ultimately deliver them, not from the hated Roman, but from a far greater oppression and bondage – sin.

Mark, that one who deserted his fellowlaborers Paul and Barnabas, going back from service to God to the easier life at home, yet was destined to write the Gospel of the Servant-Son, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Luke, probably the “best” of the lot, humanly speaking, educated, polished, but, for all that, a Gentile, hence a stranger “from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world,” Ephesians 2:12, yet brought to know and write about that God, in the person of the Lord Jesus, presented by Luke as ideal, perfect Man, sent not merely to the house of Israel, but to gather His sheep out of every kindred, nation, tongue and tribe.

John, an uneducated, rough fisherman, his Gospel in the original language is by far the simplest grammatically, insomuch that beginning Greek students translate its verses in their first translation attempts; simple words, uncomplicated grammar, expressing thoughts that 2000 years of church study and wisdom have not begun to fathom.

As we noted above, each Gospel presents a different view of the Lord.  Adapting Pilate’s exclamation to the crowd prior to the Crucifixion (John 19:5), we might summarize each Gospel like this:

Matthew:  Behold the Sovereign!  Matthew wrote to Jewish readers of their Messiah, their King.

Mark:  Behold the Servant!  Mark wrote for the Roman mind, picturing Jesus as “the Servant of Jehovah”.

Luke:  Behold the Sympathetic!  Luke addressed the Greek mind, portraying Jesus as the Ideal Man.  As such, Luke is the “human interest” Gospel.

John:  Behold the Son!  John wrote to Christians, to declare and to defend the truth of Jesus as “God manifest in the flesh”.

The distinctives of each Gospel:

Matthew is the Gospel of Christ’s AUTHORITY.  Cf. 7:24-29, especially v. 29; 28:18

Mark is the Gospel of Christ’s ACTIVITY.  Mark records only one discourse and four parables, but eighteen miracles.

Luke is the Gospel of Christ’s AVAILABILITY.  Though there times of withdrawal in the Lord’s life, yet through Luke, He brings “good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people,” 2:10.

John is the Gospel of Christ’s ANTIQUITY.  Not only in the prologue does John refer to the eternal dignity and existence of Jesus as The Word, but Jesus Himself does so: John 8:58, “Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly,  I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM’.”  Skeptics today may deny that Jesus ever claimed to be God, but the Jews who heard Him make this statement knew that that was exactly what He was claiming.  That’s why they tried to kill Him on the spot.

The Third Genealogy

Most people are familiar with the genealogies found in Matthew and Luke. Or, at least, they know they are there.  Matthew’s genealogy is condensed and intended to connect Jesus with the great covenants of the Old Testament:  Abrahamic and Davidic.  His is the genealogy of Christ’s royalty.  Matthew’s is the genealogy of Joseph.  Luke’s genealogy is longer and goes through a different son of David, goes all the way back to Adam, some 75 or so generations. His is the genealogy of Christ’s humanity.  It’s the genealogy of Mary.  I’ll do a post one of these days on Matthew’s genealogy.  There’s a lot of good stuff in there.

Well, that’s two of them.  Where’s the third one?  I hadn’t really thought about it quite like this until recently, like earlier today.  I suppose in the strictest sense it isn’t a genealogy at all, and yet in a real sense it is.  It’s contained in two verses, though a few other verses add some explanation.  Here it is – you’ll recognize it immediately:

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,  ….And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…,” John 1:1, 14.

This is the genealogy, if you will, of Christ’s deity.  In a few words, simple words in the Greek original, John expresses truths that 2000 years haven’t completely plumbed.

“Now, wait a minute!”  I can hear someone say.  “That’s not what John meant at all.  There’s no article before ‘God,’ so Jesus was only ‘a god’.”  People will knock on your door and tell you that.  They also say that the “beginning” John wrote about was the beginning when God created Jesus, that He was “the beginning,” and then Jesus created all the rest. They might take you over to Proverbs, where the writer personifies wisdom and describes its role in creation.  “That,” they say, “is Jesus.”  They might even tell you that He is really Michael, the archangel, brother of Lucifer.

Is that all John meant in these verses?  That Jesus was simply the first thing created by God, and then He created everything else?  That He isn’t “God” at all, just “a god?”

It’s true that John didn’t write, “the Word was the God.”  There is no article, no “the”, in front of God.  There’s no indefinite article – “a”, “an” – in the Greek language, either.  However, Martin Luther pointed out centuries ago, and someone probably pointed it out centuries before he did, that John couldn’t have written “the God,” because then he would have been saying that the Word and the Father are the same, and the Oneness folks would be right.  If John says one thing, it’s that the Father and the Word are distinct from each other.  The One is not just manifesting Himself differently.

There’s another difficulty with the idea that Jesus is only “a god.”  What kind of god is He?  How many of these “gods” are there, or is He the only one?  “Well, in the Old Testament, angels are called ‘sons of God,’ cf. Job 1:6.  As an angel, Jesus is rightly called ‘son of God’.”  So we might be told.  And it’s true that angels are called “sons of God.”  Does this then put them and Jesus in the same class?

The writer to the Hebrews anticipated this idea.  In 1:5 (NKJV), he asks the question, “…to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are my Son, Today I have begotten you’?”  The expected answer to that question is, “There are no angels to whom that has ever been said.”  Not as a Jehovah’s Witness kindly emailed me once and said, “Jesus is that angel” and then quoted this verse to me.  Sorry, that’s not what the writer meant.  In fact, after discussing what the Father did not say to the Son, Hebrews goes on in v. 8 with what He did say: “But to the Son He says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.”  Some translate that verse: “God is your throne forever and ever,”(New World Translation).  This doesn’t make sense.  Not to be irreverent or anything, but is Jesus sitting on God?  The Greek text reads, “The throne of you, the God, into the ages of the ages.”  Notice the presence here of the article before “God”: “the God.”  The contrast between Jesus and angels could not be clearer.  In fact, in v. 6, the writer to the Hebrews says of angels, “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”  Even older editions of the NWT say that – I have a copy.  Granted, the newer editions say that angels are to do “obeisance” to Him, but even the NWT translates the Gk. word as “worship” when it doesn’t refer to Jesus.

How can two beings both be “God,” in view of all the Scriptures which tell us there is only one God?  There are a lot of illustrations of the Trinity, which is what this is really all about. The best one I know is a cube.  A cube has length, height and width, all at the same time, but it’s not three cubes, just one.  The length isn’t the height or width, the height isn’t the length or width, and the width isn’t the height or length.  And the measurements of the cube don’t manifest themselves as length one day, then width another day, then height yet another day, as some try to teach that it’s one God manifesting Himself in different ways at different times.  The cube has three measurements, but they all coexist at one time in one cube.  Like His creation, God is three-dimensional: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  The Father isn’t the Son or the Spirit, the Son isn’t the Father or the Spirit and the Spirit isn’t the Father or the Son.  Three different Persons, for lack of a better word, all different, but all coexisting at the time as one God.  “…the Word was God.”

One final thought on this.  Some say that Jesus never claimed to be God.  Funny, the people who heard Him tried to kill Him because they understood that was exactly what He was claiming in John 8:58, when He said, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” 

“And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…, John 1:14.  Here is the reason for the other two genealogies.  The story of Jesus doesn’t start, “Once upon a time”; it’s rooted firmly in and grounded on the history of Israel as revealed in the Old Testament.  I know there are those who deny that such a man as Jesus ever even existed, but after all the attempts over 2000 years to get rid of Him and He’s still here – must be something “real” about Him.

Notice John’s comparison: “the Word was God”the Word became flesh.”  Nowhere does John or the Bible say that the Word “became,” that is, that it came into existence, or that it became God.  In other words, there has never been a time, if we can speak of eternity like that, when the Word did not exist, or that it did not exist as God.  There was a time, however, when “the Word became flesh.”  Matthew and Luke give us some details of that “becoming.”

“The Word became flesh.”  Four words.

“The Word became flesh.”  Four words, describing an event which has no parallel in history.  Psalm 113:5, 6 says, Who is like the LORD our God, Who dwells on high, Who humbles Himself to behold the things that are in the heavens and in the earth?”  The Lord God “humbles” Himself to look at this speck of dirt off to one side of His creation.  What must it have been like for the Lord Jesus, not just to “look” at this planet, but to live on it?  We think we know so much, with our “Doctors of Theology,” our “books,” our “mega-churches,” etc. [and I’m not opposed to education or “books,” or church] it’s just that I don’t think we know even as much about our Lord’s “humiliation” [to use the theological term] as a babe knows about it’s mother’s agony in birthing it.  How can we?  The Word became flesh…. 

It’s not for nothing that Paul refers to the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ in 2 Corinthians 8:9, where he continues, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor…. The Lord didn’t come down to this world to be feted in Rome, or to live in a place like the White House or Buckingham Palace or to be listed among the elite of this world.  He came to live in a relatively minor province of Rome, a troublesome province, in a village as the son of a carpenter.  He was totally unknown for 18 years of His life, and in the last three three, “fame” was fleeting, and hostility and opposition were lasting and increasing.  Even though He rose from the dead, as far as the world is concerned, He may as well still be dead.  Even if people class Him with the religious figures of this world, they’re more likely to live by their teachings than His.

So, you see, the third genealogy gives us a more complete idea of Who Jesus of Nazareth really was, and is.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God,…and the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us….