Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Great Christmas Miracles P1: Inspiration of the Scriptures

Matthew 1:1 The record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David, the son of Abraham:

As you read the infancy narratives of the first Christmas in Matthew and Luke, you are struck by how often the Holy Spirit is mentioned.  As I read the birth accounts of the Lord Jesus Christ as they pertain to His humanity, I find five miracles done by the Holy Spirit that provide the foundation for our Lord's coming into this world that first Christmas:

1. Inspiration of the Scriptures.
2. Incarnation of Jesus' humanity
3. Virgin (Conception) birth
4. Hypostatic Union
5. Infinite Providence of the Holy Spirit

Today's blog will look more in detail at that first miracle behind the first Christmas: the inspiration of the scriptures.

The Inspiration of the Scriptures by the Holy Spirit: The great miracle leading up to Christmas
In Matthew and Luke's accounts, we see evidence of the product of the scriptures as the work of the Holy Spirit in preparing for the first advent of Jesus Christ.  1 Peter 1:10-11 "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, 11seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow."  As much as these past few blogs have been about the Holy Spirit's work in Christmas, I must hasten that the whole ministry and purpose of the Holy Spirit is to point to God the Son.  His chief method is through the production of inspired scripture. 

What then is the nature of Divinely inspired scripture?  In the opening of the Christmas account in Matthew 1:1-17, we can note six qualities of Divine Inspiration that the Holy Spirit used in getting His people and the world ready for the Savior's arrival:

1. Inspiration of the Scriptures. Inspiration is the work of the Holy Spirit "breathing out" the words of God through and into the prophets and Apostles writing of the Bible books.  Passages such as 2 Timothy 3:16-17 and 2 Peter 1:21 testify to this unique act of the Spirit of God.  The remaining five terms below define further why Divinely Inspired Scripture was the required tool produced and used by the Holy Spirit to prepare His people for Jesus' first coming in the first Christmas (Advent).   

2. Inerrancy of Scripture Matthew 1:1-17 covers over 2,000 years of time, mentioning 52 generations of people from Abraham down to Joseph.  Inerrancy has to do with the Holy Spirit producing scripture without error.  In their original production they were without error, with the subsequent copies and translations carrying the authority of inerrancy.  Think of how accurate the scriptures had to be throughout the Old and New Testaments.  The Holy Spirit gave the Prophets the words to write in their own writing style to record perfect history, scientific facts, geographical information, family bloodlines and theological truth. Information from history contained between the close of Malachi to the beginning of Matthew (some 400 years!) is included in Matthew's opening geneaology.  It was perfectly edited through Matthew to represent the chief men in the royal blood of Christ's humanity.  

3. Infallibility of Scripture By reading the Christmas accounts of Matthew and Luke, can I trust that they will lead me accurately and not lead me to error?  Absolutely!  If inerrancy has to do with the fact that the scriptures have no errors, then infallibility deals with the fact that the scriptures cannot err in how the lead God's people into all truth.  The Holy Spirit had to produce an inerrant and infallible book so that God's people would know and recognize the true Messiah and His arrival as the baby boy in Bethlehem.  But notice the third trait of divinely inspired scripture: its unity.

4. The Unity of Scripture
Matthew 1:1-17 is a summary of the major people and events stretching through the 39 books of the Old Testament.  Think of how the Holy Spirit brought together information from each of the three major sections of the Old Testament.  The Law (first five books) are appealed to as seen in the mention of Abraham and the patriarchs.  The Psalms or the Writings, authored by men such as David, are alluded to in the songs that dot the infant narratives of Luke.  Then the Prophetic writings, such as Isaiah and Micah, find their place in Matthew and Luke's narratives, especially concerning the virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14) and Christ's birthplace. (Micah 5)

5. The Clarity of Scripture
Is the scripture clear, or obscure?  Did the Holy Spirit clearly communicate and connect the dots for God's people to see the Messiah by faith?  Consider the response of the Magi in Matthew 2.  They affirm the identity of the then two year old boy as God in human flesh by their appeal to Micah 5 and Genesis 49:10.  Or how about the songs of Elizabeth, Zechariah and Mary?  They use several Old Testament texts to declare the clarity by which they see this baby boy as none other than the Messiah.  Only through scripture could the Holy Spirit make an otherwise difficult to grasp truth so clear to believers. 

6. The Sufficiency of Scripture
As we read the birth accounts of Jesus' humanity in Matthew and Luke, as well as the prophecies and pictures of the Old Testament pointing to His first coming - we ask the question: are these scriptures sufficient?  In the time following the completion of the New Testament, several documents claiming to be divinely inspired were produced by a heretical group called the Gnostics.  They speculated about Jesus making mud birds and making them come alive, uttering full speeches from the manger and playing pranks on his childhood friends.1  When people begin to stray from the scriptures, false doctrine and speculation will soon follow.  In 1871 at the Vatican I Council,  the Catholic Church invented the doctrine of the perpetual virginity of Mary, claiming that she was born without sin.2  To add to or deny the sufficiency of scripture leads to an adding to or diminishing of Jesus Christ.  We will either add untrue details, compromising the Savior's sinless character (i.e the gnostic gospels) or detract from the Savior's glory, making Christmas to be more about Mary than Jesus. 

More to follow tomorrow....

1 The Gnostic Gospels were a group of writings produced from 150-250 A.D, some 50 to 100 or more years after the death of the Apostles.  A document called "The Infancy Gospel of Thomas" reports of Jesus making the clay birds as a child and playing pranks, while the "Infancy Gospel of James", written before 200 A.D, reports the baby Jesus speaking from the cradle.  In both these works, the doctrine of Jesus Christ is way different from the Biblical portrayal.  The Infancy Gospel of Thomas gives the sense that Jesus as a child had a propensity to sin and be mischievious, something of which is alien to scripture, which affirms His sinless nature in passages such as 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:22 and Hebrews 4:15 and 7:24-25.  The other forged gospel, the "Infancy Gospel of James", diminishes the true humanity of Jesus, since as an infant, he would had developed normally as any other child in his mind, motor skills and emotional life (yet without sin of course). (compare Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:12-15)  These false gospels were immediately rejected by the early Christians due to their not being written by an Apostle, their erroneous theology and Gnostic source.   

2. The Roman Catholic Church affirmed the Immaculate Conception of Mary in the 1 Vatican Council of 1871.  This move represented a theological shift towards elevating Mary in status that had been occuring for more than a millennium.  In 1950 the Pope affirmed the doctrine of her assumption, wherein she ascended into Heaven much like Jesus did in the Biblical Book of Acts.  Neither of these doctrines (Mary's Immaculate Conception nor her bodily Assumption) are found anywhere in scripture.  Rather they are church tradition that Rome has used to bolster her belief in Mary's function as a co-redeemer with Jesus and the cult of the saints. 

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