Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Merry Christmas 1

A few quick things for today:

First, here is a helpful post from Craig Blomberg, a New Testament scholar, responding to the recent Newsweek article on gay marriage. It isn't the most carefully prepared response in dealing with the particulars of the article but it is very good on emphasizing the positive side of the biblical case against homosexual marriage.

Second, here is an article from USA Today with an interview with Michael Horton on where Christ is in Christmas.

Third, this is a brief essay I wrote related to Christmas. I'll post something on Ecclesiastes and the Christmas story tomorrow.

The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.
(Mat. 1:1)

I think it safe to assume that if most of us set out to write the greatest story ever told we would not chose to begin it with a genealogy. If you were to write your story about what you’ve seen and heard that Jesus Christ has done and said then you would not begin it by tracing the generations of Jesus. Yet under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the entire New Testament begins with a genealogy of the birth of our Lord. As Christmas approaches we should take time to examine this passage to understand who Jesus is. Matthew did not write this passage as a mere family history. Instead like all genealogies in Scripture there is a theological purpose.

Matthew is writing a covenantal introduction to his description of the person and work of Jesus Christ. In his gospel, Jesus is specifically the promise of the covenant and so in his birth and appearance he comes as the child of covenant promise. In the whole of Matthew Jesus is presented as the reality that the Old Testament foreshadowed. We see this in the constant refrain in the gospel, “This was to fulfill what was spoken by the prophet.”

So when Matthew shows us that Jesus Christ is the Son of David and the Son of Abraham he has a theological and covenantal purpose. I think we can see this purpose in a few key passages.

When you days are fulfilled to walk with your fathers, I will raise up your offspring after you, one of your own sons, and I will establish his kingdom. He shall build a house for me, and I will establish his throne forever. I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. I will not take my steadfast love away from him, as I took it from him who was before you, but I will confirm him in my house and in my kingdom forever, and his throne shall be established forever. (1 Chr. 17:11-14)

God’s promise here is that the eternal king of the covenant will be the true son of David. While it was a blessed and glorious kingdom for many years, Solomon’s kingdom was not eternal. Jesus is the truer and greater Solomon. All of the promises of the kingdom given in covenant with David are fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

And behold, the word of Yahweh came to [Abram]: “This man shall not be your heir; your very own son shall be your heir.” And he brought him outside and said, “Look toward heaven, and number the stars, if you are able to number them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” (Gen. 15:4-5)

God promises Abraham that the covenant promises will come to be fulfilled in his son. Isaac never truly received all the things promised to his father. Instead Jesus is the truer and greater Isaac. The promises of the covenant are completely and perfectly fulfilled in him to and for his people.

So how should we apply Matthew’s genealogy of Jesus Christ? First we need to respond like David and Abraham. David’s response was a confident prayer on the basis of the covenant promises he received (1 Chr. 17:25). The Bible tells us that Abraham believed God and it was counted to him as righteousness. Matthew issues a call to receive Jesus just as he is presented to us, as the promise of the covenant. John Calvin wrote, “This, then, is the true knowledge of Christ, if we receive him as he is offered by the Father: namely: clothed with his gospel.”[1] Calvin reminds us that to know Jesus we must know him as he is revealed in Holy Scripture. Do not receive a Jesus of your own making. Receive Jesus this Christmas season as the covenant promise foretold by the prophets and announced by the apostles through the perfect testifying work of the Holy Spirit.

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[1] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion, ed. by John T. McNeil and trans. by Ford Lewis Battles (Louisville: Westminster Press, 1960), 3.2.6, 1:548

1 comment:

richard said...

Thoughtful piece, Matt. Thanks.