Expositional commentary on Scripture using an inductive exegetical methodology intent upon confronting the lives of Christians with the dogmatic Truths of God's inspired Words opposing Calvinism and Arminianism, Biblical commentary, doctrine of grace enablement, understanding holiness and wisdom and selfishness, in-depth Bible studies, adult Bible Study books and Sunday School materials Dr. Lance T. Ketchum Line Upon Line: The Gifts of God in Christ Jesus

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Gifts of God in Christ Jesus

1 Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea in the days of Herod the king, behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, 2 Saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him. 3 When Herod the king had heard these things, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him. 4 And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he demanded of them where Christ should be born. 5 And they said unto him, In Bethlehem of Judaea: for thus it is written by the prophet, 6 And thou Bethlehem, in the land of Juda, art not the least among the princes of Juda: for out of thee shall come a Governor, that shall rule my people Israel. 7 Then Herod, when he had privily called the wise men, enquired of them diligently what time the star appeared. 8 And he sent them to Bethlehem, and said, Go and search diligently for the young child; and when ye have found him, bring me word again, that I may come and worship him also. 9 When they had heard the king, they departed; and, lo, the star, which they saw in the east, went before them, till it came and stood over where the young child was. 10 When they saw the star, they rejoiced with exceeding great joy. 11 And when they were come into the house, they saw the young child with Mary his mother, and fell down, and worshipped him: and when they had opened their treasures, they presented unto him gifts; gold, and frankincense, and myrrh. 12 And being warned of God in a dream that they should not return to Herod, they departed into their own country another way (Matthew 2:1-12).

The baby Jesus was born into a hostile and wicked world. The historical backdrop for the birth of the Saviour was a particularly wicked time in Israel’s history. The King of Judea was Herod the Great (47-4 BC). He was a Gentile (Edomite or Idumaien) appointed to power by Rome. He began his political career as the governor of Galilee at the age of 25. He was appointed King of Judea because of his success in collecting taxes for Rome.

At the time of the birth of Christ, Herod the Great was in the declining years of his reign (about 14 to 4 BC). He had his two favorite sons (Alexander and Aristobulus) put into prison because he believed they were involved in plots to overthrow him. They were put to death by strangling after a trial (300 people considered to be their friends were executed as well). The last years of Herod’s life were lived in constant turmoil with his own sons in their attempts to overthrow him. It was into that historical turmoil of Herod’s life that Jesus was born.

Shortly before Herod’s death (4 BC), the Magi came to Judea searching for the new born King of the Jews. These “wise men from the east” carry further historical significance to Herod’s slaughter of the innocents (Matthew 2:16). The Magi were originally a hereditary priesthood who offered animal sacrifices to an un-named god. Although occultist in their practices of divination and such, they were essentially monotheistic and many of their beliefs and their religious practices paralleled those of the Jews. By the time these men appear on the pages of sacred history, the Magi had evolved into a powerful group. They held leading positions in a constitutional council known as the Megistanes whose duties included the election (or deposition) of a monarch. Therefore, they were considered to be divinely appointed king-makers.

Their coming in search of this new born King of the Jews must have struck fear into the heart of the corrupt, wicked and vile King Herod the Great who lived in constant fear of being overthrown. They would have come with all the pomp of their position, traveling with a large armed force to protect them. Had Herod tried to take them on, he would have risked war with Parthia. Instead he took his usual avenue. He just decided to eradicate the opposition by having all the children under two years old who had been born in Bethlehem slaughtered.

Apparently two years has gone by since Herod’s initial contact with the Magi (Matthew 2:16). That is why he had all the children 2 years old and under, according to the time” he had talked with the Magi. In Herod’s corrupt, arrogant heart lay the pride of power. He would do anything to protect that position of power, even to the extent of having his own sons killed. From Matthew 2:1-12 we see two extreme examples.

* We see Herod the Taker.

* We see God the Giver.

We are all Takers by nature. It is part of our fallen natures. From the degree of our corruption in this area of our character will flow the degree of our selfish demands. The idea that it is “more blessed to give then receive” (Acts 20:35) is foolishness to the corrupted mind of a Taker. The spirit of Christmas is giving, but that seems to degenerate more each year into a season of getting and taking.

Let’s focus on God’s example, the example of giving. Christmas is the time of the year we celebrate the birth of the Saviour. We cannot separate the word Saviour from the love of God and the giving of God out of that love.

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

We cannot separate the word Saviour from the love of God and the provision of the free gift of salvation to “whosoever will.”

8 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: 9 Not of works, lest any man should boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9).

The spirit of Christmas is the spirit of extreme self sacrifice (love and giving). The spirit of Christmas is the desire to be a blessing to someone and is about being others-minded. The Magi brought their “treasures” to baby Jesus and gave Him “gifts” (Matthew 2:11). Before they gave, these powerful men (who caused kings to tremble) humbled themselves (“fell down”) and “worshipped Him.” They gave gifts as expression of their worship. They understood this little baby, lying in the animal’s feeding trough was God’s gift to the world, a Saviour.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11).

The shepherds were told they would find their Christmas gift all wrapped up in “swaddling clothes” and lying in a manger.

“And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger” (Luke 2:12).

What a remarkable place to find the greatest gift ever given to anyone. The eternal Son of God was not only born into a hostile world intent on His death. He was born in humility and poverty. The God Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and gave of the abundance of His love was born in humility and died in humility to give us salvation and to teach us a new way of life; giving of ourselves. Once we understand this, every believer should sing at the top of our lungs from the roof tops with the chorus of “heavenly host” to the glory of God.

13 And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, 14 Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men” (Luke 2:13-14).

If we really understood the magnificence of the gift of God in Christ Jesus our song services would be filled with joy and rejoicing. We would shout out “glory to God in the highest” from the bottom of our hearts overflowing with gratitude. The songs of praise would burst forth from our hearts through our mouths directed to the glory of God.

Often we sing words put to music with little praise from our hearts and even less comprehension of the wonders of God’s grace in Christ Jesus. If we really understood our dilemma without God’s gift of a Saviour, we would better understand the wonders of that gift.

6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 For scarcely for a righteous man will one die: yet peradventure for a good man some would even dare to die. 8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6-8).

“While we were yet sinners,” prideful, hostile, God hating, takers of whatever we wanted without any consideration of the consequences, “Christ died for us.” The little baby boy, born in a manger, was born to die for us, to be our Saviour and to be God’s gift of salvation. In that gift are many gifts.

& In God’s gift of salvation, the sin penalty (death) is fully paid.

& In God’s gift of salvation, the believer is restored to a position of righteousness before God.

& In God’s gift of salvation, the believer is “born again” of the Spirit of God, removed from the condemned family of Adam and becomes a child of God.

& In God’s gift of salvation, He promises resurrection and glorification to all believers.

The key words here are gift and believe. Salvation is free to anyone willing to put their faith in what Jesus Christ accomplished in His death and resurrection and acknowledge His Lordship (Romans 10:9-10).

24 Martha saith unto him, I know that he shall rise again in the resurrection at the last day. 25 Jesus said unto her, I am the resurrection, and the life: he that believeth in me, though he were dead, yet shall he live: 26 And whosoever liveth and believeth in me shall never die. Believest thou this” (John 11:24-26)?

“Believest thou this?” God gave from His heart the most precious of gifts. He gave His only begotten Son. He gave because He loved us. He gave His best. He gave Himself. You can be saved if you will trust in the finished, substitutionary sacrifice of Jesus Christ. “Believest thou this?”

Anonymous comments will not be allowed.Numerous studies and series are available free of charge for local churches at:http://www.disciplemakerministries.org/Dr. Lance Ketchum serves the Lord as a Church Planter, Evangelist/Revivalist.He has served the Lord for over 40 years.

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