Friday, April 8, 2016

Sat 4/9 P1 Why Jesus Christ as "Immanuel - God with us", is important to you: Life's Meaning and Purpose

Matthew 1:21-23 "She will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins.” 22 Now all this took place to fulfill what wasspoken by the Lord through the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall be withchild and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

John 1:14 "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth."

In yesterday's post we considered what kind of Person Jesus Christ is revealed to be by way of His name: "Immanuel". As "Immanuel" or "God with us", Jesus Christ came in what has been termed His "incarnation". We noted yesterday what Christians in general and Southern Baptists in particular had to say about this central Biblical truth. Certainly any doctrine that Christians confess to believe must derive from the scriptures. Yesterday's post attempted to demonstrate and explain what is meant when we say that Jesus Christ is the "Incarnate God", revealed in human flesh. Knowing who Jesus is and what kind of Person He is (eternally God with the Father and Son and historically the man, Jesus of Nazareth, beginning 2,000 years ago) is vital in arriving at an accurate understanding of His Person and work. Henceforth that is what we labored to show in yesterday's post. Today we want to consider the life-practical ramifications of Jesus Christ being "Immanuel, God with us". 

Why it is important to you and me that Jesus Christ be "Immanuel, God with us".   
Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes 1:1-3 
"The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem. 2 “Vanity of vanities,” says the Preacher, “Vanity of vanities! All is vanity.” 3 What advantage does man have in all his work which he does under the sun?" As Solomon writes these words from the vantage point of viewing life as if all of existence proceeded along apart from God, he finds that on such a viewpoint, no basis for meaning can be found. By Divine inspiration Solomon issues forth the authoritative scriptural conclusion at the end of his book in Ecclesiastes 12:13-14 "
 The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments, because this applies to every person. 14 For God will bring every act to judgment, everything which is hidden, whether it is good or evil." In short, apart from God and the prospect of life beyond this life (i.e immortality), there is no basis, outside of Biblical Christianity, for meaning, value, truth nor purpose.

The human predicament is a phrase used by Christian thinkers to describe human life lived in such a way as to assume the non-existence of God and the denial of life after death. Thinkers such as the late Christian theologian Francis Shaeffer called such an approach to life: "The absurdity of life without God". Both God's existence and the concept of immortality (or life after death) constitute what is the necessary foundation for having meaning, value truth and purpose in this life. This entire issue can only make sense when we come to grips with who Jesus is revealed to be by way of His title: "Immanuel" (which again means "God with us"). Notice how the event of Jesus' incarnation as Immanuel provides the basis for understanding life's meaning and value.... 

Why life is meaningless without immortality and without God, and how Jesus came to deliver both. 
Without immortality – there is no ultimate significance. Our brief lives are not long enough to achieve such. Even legacies, at best, last centuries without being reinterpreted and forgotten. We have eternity written on our hearts, as Solomon writes in Ecclesiastes (see Ecclesiastes 3:11). Without God, we have no obligation to live good and do good in this life. Without the moral lawgiver, there is no morality, no meaning and thus – no purpose.

Now when we think of the opening texts in today's blog (Matthew 1:23; John 1:14), we see the keys texts for beginning a discussion about the incarnation. The birth of Jesus is described as none other than the appearance of God in human flesh (1 Timothy 3:16). Moreover, this little baby would grow up to be a man, who would die and then rise from the dead three days following His crucifixion. Jesus of Nazareth was indeed truly man, however He was more than a man, since at the same time He ever remained truly God (John 1:14; Colossians 2:9). 

Hence, Jesus Christ in both His incarnation and resurrection delivered personally the meaning of life by making available God Himself and the hope of life with God after death. Such realities bring the necessary meaning needed to live out meaningful lives in this world.

Why life is valueless without immortality and without God, and how Jesus came to deliver both. 
God and immortality answer the questions: who has the right to tell me how I ought to live? And “why live how I ought to live?” Value cannot be discerned apart from a reference point with which to measure good, evil and meaning.

When we think again about what the incarnation and resurrection of Jesus Christ as Immanuel, God with us, means, we see two implications. First, that He personally delivers the foundation for objective moral values and duties. Them second, not only the moral foundation but spiritual power to live out the moral values and duties embedded within the fabric of the universe. 

We know that our world is not only physical, but moral in nature. To have in the Gospels the paragon of perfection - Jesus Christ - is to have the embodiment of the very base-line of all morality and meaning. Whether believer or unbeliever, objective moral values and duties bear on the human heart that sense of "oughtness". That is to say, there is a God to Whom I'm accountable ("oughtness"). 

The duties deal with those actions that demand accountability to an ultimate authority.  In other words, who has the right to tell me how I ought to live and what I ought to believe and do? Jesus Christ, and His redemption, deliver the power to the person who responds to the quickening work of the Spirit. Hence, Jesus Christ gives us the value of life - since He delivers to us God and the hope of life-after-death. 

Closing thoughts
We've seen today that Jesus Christ as Immanuel is important to you and me, since in His incarnation He delivers to us personal access to God and the reality of life beyond this life by His resurrection from the dead. Such realities delivered to us by Immanuel gives the Christian the basis for which to define life's meaning (i.e significance) and value (i.e. objective moral values and duties). Tomorrow we will consider two other major reasons why Jesus revealed as "Immanuel" is relevant to you. 

What Southern Baptists teach on the incarnation of Jesus Christ

Matthew 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child and shall bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which translated means, “God with us.”

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth.

Introduction - two verses that introduce us to the truth of the incarnation
Today's post aims to consider what Christians in general, and Southern Baptists in particular, teach about the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ with respect to His incarnation. The "incarnation" or what older  theologians call "the enmanning" of the Eternal Son, refers to the event in which the Eternal Son came to take unto Himself a second, truly human nature. The two key verses above give us access into this central truth.

The first passage, Matthew 1:23, records the fact that the Person of the Son is no less than true Deity by way of the title "Immanuel". This title, originating from Isaiah 7:14, is translated by Matthew into the phrase: "God with us". The passage is situated in a conversation that the angel Gabriel is having with Joseph - Jesus' legal earthly father. 

The concern is to communicate to Joseph the conditions of his espoused fiance's pregnancy. How is it that his fiance, Mary, could be pregnant? The angel utilizes the prophecy of Isaiah 7:14 to indicate that no wrong-doing had been done by her, since she remained a virgin. The miracle of the virgin birth/conception was to provide the way in which the Divine Person of the Son could enter from eternity into time. By not having a human father, the humanity of the Son would by-pass the sin nature that travels via the fathers bloodline (see for example 1 Peter 1:18-19). Henceforth, the baby developing in Mary's womb was, with respect to His identity, truly God who came to be also truly man. 

John 1:14, the second verse cited at the beginning of this post, tells us that the Divine Person of the Son "became flesh". In what is the clearest declaration of what theologians call "the incarnation", the Eternal second Person of the Trinity came by means of the virgin conception described in Matthew 1:23 and "became" or "assumed unto His person" a second way of expressing His unparalleled life - namely a true and full humanity. In so far as Matthew 1:23 points to the reality of Jesus Christ as "God incarnate", John 1:14 serves to explain what the reality of the incarnation is - namely "The Word" or "The Son" becoming human flesh. 

How the Baptist Faith and Message unpacks the doctrine of the incarnation of the Son of God
The Baptist Faith & Message 2000 is the official doctrinal statement of the Southern Baptist Convention. It's value lies in explaining and summarizing all the relevant scriptures that speak on various doctrinal subjects. With regard to the truth of Jesus' incarnation, the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 (henceforth BFM 2000) states the following:

"Christ is the eternal Son of God. In His incarnation as Jesus Christ He was conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. Jesus perfectly revealed and did the will of God, taking upon Himself human nature with its demands and necessities and identifying Himself completely with mankind yet without sin."

So then, what does this statement tell us about this miracle of the incarnation of the Son of God? In 2007, key SBC leaders Charles S. Kelley Jr., Richard Land and R. Albert Mohler Jr. produced a teaching manual that served to expound on every article of the BFM 2000. In their explanation of the article on Christ's incarnation (above) they write on page 41:(1) 

"Christ's coming in human form is called the 'incarnation'; He was literally God in human flesh. As John put it, the eternal Word 'became flesh and took up residence among us." (John 1:14). This was an act of infinite humility, as Christ emptied Himself by assuming the form of a slave, taking on the likeness of men (Philippians 2:7). He who made the universe came into His own creation to save His people. This is the distinctive truth of the Christian faith: in Jesus, God came and dwelled among us." 

In another full-length book on the BFM 2000, editors Douglas K. Blount and Joseph D. Wooddell produced a work that attempted to explain how the doctrinal distinctives of the BFM 2000 impact the practical and doctrinal practices of Southern Baptists. Concerning the truth of the incarnation as so described in the BFM 2000, they note on page 21 of their book: (2)

"As Baptists have long affirmed, Jesus of Nazereth is not merely a partake of human nature. He is not merely partly human; He is rather fully human. He did not merely take on the demands and necessities of human nature; rather, He took on that very nature Himself. So says the Baptist Faith and Message 2000; and so say Southern Baptists as a people."

Closing thoughts
Today we aimed to see what Christians in general and Southern Baptists in particular teach from God's Word regarding the incarnation of the Son of God. We first looked briefly at Matthew 1:23 and John 1:14 as leading verses on this central truth. We then focused on our attention on the Baptist Faith and Message 2000 and two commentaries that explained it's article on the event and significance of Christ's incarnation as a central Biblical truth of historic Christian faith. To Jesus be the glory! 

1. Charles S. Kelley Jr., Richard Land and R. ALbert Mohler Jr. The Baptist Faith and Message. Lifeway Press. 2007. 

2. Douglas K. Blount and Joseph D. Wooddell. Baptist Faith and Message 2000 - Critical Issues in America's Largest Protestant Denomination. Rowman and Littlefield Publishers. 2007