A Gospel writer and his portrait of Christ
Why then did Luke alone paint this picture, and illustrate it with such breathtaking detail in his gospel? The answer lay in knowing why there were four gospels at all. Each account of the ministry of Christ presented a portrait that answered to one of the four faces of the cherubim. And each of those faces in turn depicted a special aspect of Christ, as the manifestation of the Father. Only when that aspect was known would the inner secrets of each gospel be seen.
Each face was remarkably different, yet they all revealed such strong and unmistakeable characteristics, that all who looked upon them had no doubt what they had seen, and what it told them of the Son of God.
Of course, in the life of Christ was the sum of all the cherubic figures, the complete revelation of his Father's glory. But through the power of the Spirit, each gospel writer provided those subtle touches and special details which brought one face into prominence in their portrait of the Lord.
Each gospel was enriched because of this focus, as the overshadowing of inspiration fashioned a fourfold picture of the one in whom the fulness of God would be seen. Whatever might be discovered by combining the gospel records, their singularity was to be preserved, that each face might be more clearly seen.
Matthew's Gospel depicted the face of the lion, who with its fierce and gleaming eyes, its expression of maned majesty, and its terrifying roar revealed the face of kingship.
The lion was known in scripture for its strength of leadership, 78 its spirit of courage. 79 and its voice of power. 80 Matthew's account would highlight the majesty of Christ's royal leadership, the power of his public discourse, and the greatness of his tender mercy. In his gospel, he would reveal Christ as the perfect king, in whom would be seen that mercy which rules.
Mark's Gospel depicted the face of the ox, who with its soft and bovine eyes, its expression of placid docility, and its gentle lowing revealed the face of service. The ox was known in scripture for its strength to labour, 81 its willingness to serve, 82 . and its spirit of sacrifice. 83
Mark's account would highlight the humility of Christ's loyal service, the exhaustion of his faithful work, and the dedication of his complete sacrifice. In his gospel, he would reveal Christ as the perfect servant, in whom would be seen that humility which serves.
John's Gospel depicted the face of the eagle, who with its intense and piercing eyes, its expression of powerful severity, and its harsh cry revealed the face of judgment.
The eagle was known in scripture for its power of flight, 84 its extraordinary vision, 85 and its speed of attack. 86
John's account would highlight the spirit of Christ's unerring discernment, the clarity of his divine judgment, and the excellence of his personal integrity. In his gospel, he would reveal Christ as the perfect judge, in whom would be seen that spirit which discerns.
Luke's Gospel depicted the face of the man, who with his bright and understanding eyes, his expression of intelligent sympathy, and his spiritual speech revealed the face of priesthood.
The man was known in scripture for his spirit of wisdom, 87 his warmth of friendship, 88 and his sympathy of care. 89 Luke's account would highlight the power of Christ's universal compassion, his blessing of personal fellowship, and the example of his constant prayer. In his gospel, he would reveal Christ as the perfect priest, 90 in whom would be seen that compassion which saves.
78 Proverbs 30:3; Judges 14:18.
79 2 Samuel 17:10; Proverbs 28:1.
80 Proverbs 19:2; Amos 3:8.
81 Psalm 144:14; Proverbs 14:4.
82 Deuteronomy 25:4; Isaiah 32:20.
83 Leviticus 1:5; Jeremiah 11:19.
84 Proverbs 23:5; 30:19.
85 Job 39:29; Habakkuk 1:8.
86 Job 9:26; Lamentations 4:19.
87 Ecclesiastes 8:1; Acts 6:15.
88 Exodus 33:11; Proverbs 27:9.
89 Philippians 2:20; Hebrews 5:1,2.
90 Each cherubic figure was a symbol of divine manifestation. In Luke, the face of the man signified the perfect priest. The relationship of the humanity of Christ and his priesthood is considered at length by the writer to the Hebrews, where it is evident that a priest taken from among men, was a man endowed with necessary sympathy for his ministrations (Hebrews 2:17,18; 4:15; 5:1-5). It is this man who is declared in the gospel of Luke, whose priestly work was to seek and to save those who were lost (Luke 19:10).
Bro Roger Lewis - Hannah Handmaid of the Highest Ch 8
5 There was in the days of Herod, the king of Judaea, a certain priest named Zacharias, of the course of Abia: and his wife was of the daughters of Aaron, and her name was Elisabeth.
It was a suitable and happy arrangement that the forerunner of Christ should be provided from a related family. When men are allied both "in the flesh and in the Lord," the union has double power and sweetness.
Zacharias was a priest, of the course of Abijah, the eighth of the twenty-four courses into which the Aaronic families were divided by David for purposes of service by rotation (1 Chron. xxiv). His wife Elizabeth was also "of the daughters of Aaron." We may realise in this circumstance the unity and harmony of God's plan in working out His purpose upon earth.
Aaron's family were chosen at the beginning to act the part of God's representatives in the midst of Israel. For many generations they had sustained this position; and now, as a new shoot in the heart of the old growth, leading to a new flowering of the divine work in the earth, a branch of that same family (just before the Aaronic priesthood is set aside) is chosen to furnish a man to go before the face of the Lord in the new manifestation, to prepare his way before him.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
8 And it came to pass, that while he executed the priest's office before God in the order of his course,
Luke ... says "it came to pass" [around 40 times cp Matt 6x, Mark 4x and John not at all] ... a form of speech admitting of their occurring at any time.
Luke was not an eye-witness, but a reporter of the testimony of eye-witnesses; and though, in this, he was used and guided by the Spirit of God as much as the eye-witnesses were, his narrative is that of a collector of information, and not that of a spectator.
When the action of inspiration is understood, there is no difficulty in this. Inspiration uses and limits (or as we may say "revises") the natural when it employs it, but does not obliterate it.
It keeps it in such form and in such channels as are suitable to its own purpose, but it does not interfere with the nature of the agent it employs. It does not change a reporter of what other men saw and heard into an eye-witness, though subscribing every jot and tittle of his report.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 18
9 According to the custom of the priest's office, his lot was to burn incense when he went into the temple of the Lord.
But Luke wrote also to present Christ as a priest according to a different order to that of Aaron, since it was evident that our Lord sprang out of Judah. This was why the Spirit overshadowed the writing of his gospel page, and imbedded into his account the story of Hannah, and the promise of Samuel who arose as a faithful priest to supersede the Aaronic order of the day, rejected by God because of their spiritual wickedness.
Samuel acted as a priest of God's own appointing to replace Hophni and Phinehas, but his priesthood was based upon his Nazarite status, a different and yet higher priesthood than the Aaronic order. And in this role, Samuel prefigured the Lord whose priesthood would also be of a different order.
This was why Hannah and those around her were gathered into Luke's Gospel. Could there be a better foreshadowing of an impending change of priesthood than the story of this remarkable woman and her beloved son? And could there be a better story with which to commence the gospel of the perfect priest than that of Hannah, who sought to provide such a priest for her people?
Where then was Peninnah in this cast of characters? What part did she fulfil in this gospel assemblage of those involved in Mary's day? In truth, she was not to be found. She was never the real source of Hannah's adversity, nor was she the centre of Hannah's controversy.
Hannah's work would unfold in Shiloh, where her son had been sent, and where every year, she would add her part. And her controversy would reach its climax when Samuel, grown to maturity, would confront the spirit of the age, and the priesthood who had defiled it.
It was fitting therefore, that whilst every other person crucial to that controversy was to be seen in Luke's account, no parallel would be found for Peninnah. The absence, from the Lord's nativity, of one who might be her counterpart, was evidence that Peninnah was not the focus of Hannah's grief, or the key to Hannah's purpose.
How telling that Luke's Gospel began with a priest after the order of Aaron, who could neither lift up hands to petition for others, nor utter for them the words of benediction. 91 It was as if from the outset, his gospel would reveal the inadequacy of the Aaronic order as the prelude to the introduction of a new priest who stood related to a better covenant.
And how wonderful that his gospel ended with a priest after the order of Melchizedek, close by the king's dale, 92 who could both raise his hands in priestly intercession for others, and offer for them the words of priestly blessing. 93
The faithful priest that Hannah yearned for had appeared. This was his moment. This was his gospel. When the fulness of time was come, God sent forth his Son, born of a woman, and in that birth the story of Hannah came to its conclusion. She would be seen in Mary who shared her spirit and revered her example.
Luke revealed the life and times of that new and better priest begun in the birth of another firstborn son. Mary's first, and Hannah's [seventh [???]]. Mary's son and Hannah's Lord. We read the record and rest content. For in seeing the woman of Ramah in the face of the woman of Nazareth, we know of a certainty that Hannah also was blessed indeed among women.
91 The inability of Zacharias to fulfil his priestly responsibility in blessing the people, marks the opening scene of the gospel (Luke 1:5,8-10,21,22)!
92 Genesis 14:17.
93 In leading his disciples to Bethany, the Lord probably led them past the king's dale (on the valley road), the very place where Melchizedek had blessed Abraham of old. And the ability of Christ to bestow that blessing on his disciples, marks the closing scene of the gospel (Luke 24:50-53)!
Bro Roger Lewis - Handmaid of the Highest Ch 8
11 And there appeared unto him an angel of the Lord standing on the right side of the altar of incense.
12 And when Zacharias saw him, he was troubled, and fear fell upon him.
After a silence of 400 years, God once again openly manifested Himself to His people, and the wonderful events which fill the Gospels begin.
The last previous Word of God had come through Malachi, who closed his prophecy, and the Old Testament, with the promise of the coming of Elijah to turn the nation back to God.
At the national hour of prayer, as an aged priest stood offering incense for the nation in the Temple, in the Holy Place, on the altar of prayer, before the veil -- the angel Gabriel appeared. He had, 600 years before, appeared to Daniel, and he was to appear again soon after to Mary.
There could have been no more fitting place or time to indicate that all things are through the power of prayer. And his first words were... *
13 But the angel said unto him, Fear not, Zacharias: for thy prayer is heard; and thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son, and thou shalt call his name John.
Elizabeth's barrenness had been a deep disappointment to both, and had been the subject of frequent petition on the part of Zacharias. The prayer was now to be answered, and the barrenness end in the birth of the greatest among the prophets; on which it has to be observed as a frequent -- we might almost say, a constant -- feature in the work of God, that He makes the accomplishment even of His declared purposes wait upon the prayers of His people; and makes use of human incompetences for the execution of His greatest works.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
14 And thou shalt have joy and gladness; and many shall rejoice at his birth.
We do not fill our minds enough with the contemplation of eternal joys but far too much with petty, passing, depressing present things.
Rejoicing MUST be the basic tone of our lives. We must continuously rejoice in these things.
Regardless of, and in spite of, present problems and disappointments, deep rejoicing will always be our principal characteristic, IF our faith is real, and if we truly believe what God has said. Any other frame of mind is a reproach against God's love and goodness. We are denying by our actions our professed faith in God's glorious assurance that (Rom. 8:28):
"ALL things work together for good to them that love God."
Bro Growcott - He Must Increase: I Must Decrease
15 For he shall be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink; and he shall be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb.
...filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb," as Gabriel declared (Luke i. 15), which is the key to John's life and characteristics
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
17 And he shall go before him in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord.
Christ was in the privacy of Nazareth -- unknown and without access to the public eye or ear. To have obtained this access by his own personal effort would have involved an amount and kind of labour unsuited to the part he had to perform.
Israel had to be roused from a state of spiritual dormancy. The right men to be his apostles and disciples had to be collected and prepared. They were scattered here and there in the hills and valleys of Galilee -- mostly unknown to one another. A public magnet had to draw them together.
...Such a forerunner was provided in John the Baptist; and his part was effectually performed. His teaching for over three years not only predisposed the community to submit to the requirements of righteousness, but drew public attention to the fact that the Messiah was in their midst and about to be manifested. It brought all eyes to bear expectantly on the moment and mode of his manifestation. That mode was connected with John himself.
He was sent to baptise in order that that manifestation might take place. The unknown One was to come to his baptism. Upon his emergence from the water, the Holy Spirit would visibly identify him. This was revealed to John and proclaimed by him beforehand (Jno. i. 33). Such an identification was not only necessary for Israel, but for John himself; for John did not know him, as he declared (Jno. i. 31).*
Nazareth Revisited Ch 5
*And I knew him not: but that he should be made manifest to Israel, therefore am I come baptizing with water.
Zacharias, not quite realising at the moment the guarantee contained in an angel's word, asks
18 And Zacharias said unto the angel, Whereby shall I know this? for I am an old man, and my wife well stricken in years.
This was casting a slight on God's messenger, and therefore on God -- an excusable error, perhaps, but still an error, and in a certain relation of things, the greatest offence a man can commit against God -- to doubt His word.
As faith is so pleasing to God as to be "counted for righteousness?" so distrust of His pledged word, when we know He has pledged it, is the most displeasing sin against Him a man can commit. It was visited in the case of Moses (Num. xx. 12), and it was now visited in the case of Zacharias (and these things were "written for our learning").
The mode of the visitation was gentle, adroit, and effectual:
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
19 And the angel answering said unto him, I am Gabriel, that stand in the presence of God; and am sent to speak unto thee, and to shew thee these glad tidings.
There are myriads of angels, but here is one whose words suggest a special status in the Father's presence -- a special intimacy with the Eternal Creator. There is something fitting in such an exalted representative of the Divine Majesty being employed in the initiation of the work about to be done -- the laying of the foundation of God's house of everlasting glory upon earth.
It was not Gabriel's first appearance in the mighty transaction. Between five and six hundred years earlier, he was sent to Daniel to inform him of this very matter, viz., the appearance of the sacrificial Messiah to make an end of sins, and to bring in everlasting righteousness (Dan. ix. 24). Daniel says
"While I was speaking in prayer, the man Gabriel whom I had seen in the vision at the beginning, being caused to fly swiftly, touched me about the time of the evening oblation, and informed me, and talked with me, and said, O Daniel:'I am now come forth to give thee skill and understanding. At the beginning of thy supplication, the commandment came forth and I am come to shew thee," &c. (verses 21, 23).
It is very interesting to think of this angelic personage coming to Daniel by divine command to enlighten him with reference to the purpose of God in Christ; and then re-appearing on the scene, after a lapse of over five centuries, to perform acts in execution of that purpose.
The acts performed were simple but essential. Two visits had to be made; two announcements delivered; and power exerted in the accomplishment of the work in hand. This double form of Gabriel's errand arose from the double nature of the work. Not only was the long-promised Saviour to be born, but a forerunner was to be provided also, the necessity for whom may appear in the sequel.
Not only was the name of the Father to be manifested in the seed of Abraham, but as became the dignity and the moral necessities of such an event, a man was to be raised up who should fitly herald such a manifestation in going
"before his face and preparing his way before him."
The two phases of the work were six months apart; and as was fit, the business of the forerunner had the first attention.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
24 And after those days his wife Elisabeth conceived, and hid herself five months, saying,
It was no natural occurrence: that is, it was not the result of nature left to itself. It was a case parallel with Sarah's
"who received strength to conceive seed and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised" (Heb. xi. 11).
20 And, behold, thou shalt be dumb, and not able to speak, until the day that these things shall be performed, because thou believest not my words, which shall be fulfilled in their season.
Thus was Zacharias rebuked and the verity of the communication authenticated in a very tangible manner, at the same time: for when the angel had withdrawn, Zacharias found himself unable to speak in a situation which made the fact very noticeable.
The dumbness of Zacharias was a blessing in the form of a punishment, and so beautifully illustrates the wisdom and goodness of God's ways.
He would not believe without a sign, so he was given a sign that rebuked his unbelief, yet at the same time strengthened his faith. It both humbled and comforted him, and also taught him wisdom.
He was a righteous man, well pleasing to God (v. 6). But at the moment of visitation -- the great moment of his life -- the moment for which Israel had been waiting 400 years -- he was not quite ready. He was caught off guard.
And yet he was in the very act in which his mind should have been most attuned for a divine communication. He stood before the altar -- before the veil -- offering the incense of prayer for the whole nation.
Six months later the same Gabriel appeared with similar abruptness to a poor, obscure young girl of Israel, as she went about her own private way, but how much more maturely does the young woman react to the sudden angelic visitation and much stranger message, than the old priest!
The lesson is to live more deeply in the world of faith, and constant consciousness of spiritual things. *
21 And the people waited for Zacharias, and marvelled that he tarried so long in the temple.
He was "executing the priest's office before God in the order of his course:" and it was his business (having gone into the temple "to burn incense") to go forth now to the people who were waiting in the court outside, to pronounce the customary blessing before their dispersal.
They were waiting for this: they had to wait longer than usual; for the appearance of the angel to Zacharias had detained him; and the people who knew nothing of it, "marvelled that he tarried so long."
22 And when he came out, he could not speak unto them: and they perceived that he had seen a vision in the temple: for he beckoned unto them, and remained speechless.
When he went out to them, he could not speak to them, though his natural impulse in such a position would incline him to overcome any obstacle, if it were possible. "He beckoned unto them, and remained speechless." They understood, from his gestures, that he had seen something in the temple which had deprived him of his power of utterance.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
32 He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David:
33 And he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end.
Answers to Correspondents
AN INSIGNIFICANT PERIOD OF ENJOYMENT
"If the kingdom to which men are called, is only to extend over a period of a thousand years, what an insignificant period of enjoyment and bliss it is, compared with the everlasting felicity offered in the orthodox view-a mere drop in the bucket to the ocean illimitable!"-W.O.
If the kingdom were to last only a thousand years, the remark of our correspondent would be deserved; but it will last for ever in the absolute sense. "Of his kingdom, there shall be no end."-(Luke i. 33.) The "thousand years" only measures the process or period by which the world will be raised from its present state of evil to a state in which there will be no death.
This transition requires and is effected by the machinery of the thousand years. Jesus as the supreme pontiff, reigning in the joint capacity of king and priest on the throne of David, assisted by the hierarchy of his glorified people, who shall be his representatives and the channels of his power in all the earth, will effectually develop for universal man, those conditions of temporal well-being and social harmony, that will admit the full play of the spiritual forces that will then be set in motion.
Enlightenment and obedience will quickly become the order of the day, and by the close of the thousand years, millions will have become the prepared and accepted candidates for eternal life. This is the great work of the kingdom of the thousand years; and it is to this that men and women are now invited by the gospel-to become the reformers of the world, under Christ, in the age to come.
Fitness for this work has now to be developed by obedience and trial. When the work is finished, and the earth populated with a glorified race, the kingdom will enter upon a higher and eternal phase. "Then shall the Son also himself be subject, unto Him that put all under him, that God may be all in all."-(1 Cor. xv. 16.)
There then lies before the blessed of the Lord an "everlasting felicity," quite equal to anything that was ever imagined by the most fervid orthodox heaven-painter, even an "ocean illimitable" of life, love, power, faculty, knowledge, peace and joy; but subject to law and organisation, doubtless, for God is a God of order in all He does.
The first-fruits of the human race, who reign with Christ during the thousand years, will probably have a rank and a function above the millions that will be gathered in at the great harvest, at the close of the thousand years.
It is not given to us to know the details beyond the first stage of the kingdom. All we know is-and it is sufficient for all purposes in this dispensation to know this much-that beyond that, there is endless life and perfection. God does all things well, and we may depend upon it that the state of things after the labour of the thousand years, will be the very best that can be.
The Ambassador of the Coming Age, April 1868
34 Then said Mary unto the angel, How shall this be, seeing I know not a man?
35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The holy spirit shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.
Made sin for us
Human nature is a bundle of faculties, each of which is good and legitimate in its own place. There is nothing unclean in itself; uncleanness is a relative idea. A faculty, impulse, or propensity going beyond the bounds prescribed by law, becomes the cause of disobedience, and disobedience is sin, and sin has brought death; that is, has evoked from divine power the purpose of dissolution in relation to the nature we bear.
For purposes of description, sin is the cause, but literal definition would give God as the actual cause, because God causes the results of disobedience. Disobedience is the result of over-activity of desires which, in their own place, are good. This over-activity may be the result either of want of balance in the mental organization, or want of enlightenment in a good organization.
The latter was Adam's case; the latter and former combine in our case. We labour under the double disadvantage of ignorance and malformation of brain, that is, speaking generally of our inheritance by nature. Our cranial malformation is the result of the evil moral and physical conditions to which the race has been subject in a long line of sin-stricken generations.
Doubtless, all the operations of our common nature have become deranged, the forces put out of balance, and the spirit or vital energy, generated by the blood, chemically vitiated. All this has resulted from Adam's disobedience, since that was the cause of the evil circumstances that have existed in the world for six thousand years.
This deranged condition of nature is, in us, the cause of sin, and, therefore, metonymically, may be expressed as sin, but, literally, and in itself, it is not sin: this derangement did not exist in Christ. The intervention of divine paternity rectified the disturbed conditions, else he, like us, would have been a sinner.
Just as a cultivated European brain is capable of higher development than the Hottentot, though generically identical in nature, so the brain through which divine power and wisdom were manifested among men, was made capable of higher things than "mere man," though generically the same.
The "substance that came from Mary," therefore, constituted the basis of "the mind that was in Christ," holding to that mind the same relation that an undeveloped kernel does to the tree that is to result from its development. The kernel truly, requires air, sun and rain, to grow into a tree; but, nevertheless, it contains within itself the type and hidden invisible power of the tree that is to grow.
So the 'holy thing' born of Mary, received the parental impress of Deity, by the Spirit, and therefore under the circumstances by which he was surrounded, he developed into a 'man separate from sinners.' I should therefore take exception to your proposition that nothing but uncleanness was inherent in the babe of Bethlehem.
Legally, he was unclean; that is, he was under the condemnation of the law-God having laid upon him the iniquities of us all; but in his actual nature, he was the flesh and blood of Adam, 'prepared' by the Spirit for a Son-manifestation of the Eternal Father, that justification (by death and resurrection) might be developed for the sons of men.
He was the condemned nature of man, in the hand of Almighty power, for the opening of a way of deliverance. That nature was historically a sinner, and under the dominion of sin, as regarded both moral condition and everlasting destiny. Therefore, it could be said that Jesus, though without sin, was 'made sin.' On the other hand, because the mortal nature he bore was a nature inheriting condemnation, that condemnation could come upon him (though himself sinless), without any violation of God's methods in the case. -
The Christadelphian, Aug 1869
Begotten of God, Yet Son of Adam
Consequently, it required God's interposition in the way recorded by the apostles.
"The Holy Spirit shall come upon thee (Mary); the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee. Therefore also that holy thing that shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God" (Luke 1:35).
Thus God "sent forth His Son made of a woman made under the law" (Gal. 4:4).
Being made of a woman, he was of our nature -- our condemned and weak and mortal nature: but being begotten of God and not of man, he was in character spotless "holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners". Sin had hold of him in his nature, which inherited the sentence of death from Adam: but it had no hold of him in his character: for he always did those things that were pleasing to his Father. When he died, "he died unto sin once". But God raised him because of his obedience, and "being raised from the dead, he dieth no more: death hath no more dominion over him" (Rom. 6:9,10).
"Wherefore he is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them" (Heb. 7:25).
.....The plan required that the sufferer while himself in the channel of death so far as nature was concerned, should himself not be a sinner, that he should be the Lamb of God, without spot, undefiled. Such an one could only be provided by what God did. God went out of His way to provide such a man. The man produced through Mary, by the Spirit of God, combined the two essential qualifications for a sacrifice; he was the very nature condemned in Eden,and therefore wrong was not done when he was impaled upon the cross. "It pleased the Lord to bruise him."
Would it please the Lord to do iniquity? Nay. Therefore, it was right. But how could it be right unless he were the very condemned stock?
THE BLOOD OF CHRIST - ATONEMENT
Answers to Correspondents
B. A. N.-Jesus was the Son of God from the moment of his birth (Luke i. 35). The man who holds that he became the Son of God only at his baptism holds what John calls "a lie" (1 Jno. ii. 21). Jesus was manifested to Israel by baptism (Jno. i. 31); but as the personage to be manifested, he existed from the moment the angels outside Bethlehem announced to the shepherd the "glad tidings of great joy": "Unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord."
As for believers, they are children of God by adoption through Him. As Paul says, "Ye are all the children of God through faith in Christ Jesus" (Gal. iii. 26). This is a relationship sustained now. We cannot imagine a brother denying this. The only sense in which we could imagine a professed believer alleging that "it would require the power of the Holy Spirit to let us know whether we are sons of God," would be the sense of knowing whether we are approved sons of God
If men are not sons of God now, they never will be. They may be sons causing shame, for whom rejection waits, and they may imagine themselves "walking worthy of the vocation wherewith they are called" when they are walking otherwise: but that they are in that vocation is the constant teaching of the Apostles.
The man who denies this, denies the truth. As for the man who "says Jesus did not say" the things attributed to him in Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, he is a man who, knowing nothing of the matter himself, sets himself against the testimony of witnesses who heard Jesus say these things, and proved their veracity by suffering for that testimony. The best mode of treating such men is the way recommended by Paul in 2 Tim. iii. 5: You have done well to separate.
The Christadelphian, Nov 1896.
26 For such a high priest became us , holy, guileless, undefiled, separated from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; [RV]
36 And, behold, thy cousin Elisabeth, she hath also conceived a son in her old age: and this is the sixth month with her, who was called barren.
(The term translated "cousin" in verse 36 is a term of indefinite relationship and usually translated "kinsman," as in Luke 2:44). *
42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.
Now, if Jesus in his infantile stage was purely and merely human, how comes it he never fell into sin? Good organisation does not explain it, because organisation of itself is neutral; good
organisation is as ready to sin as bad organisation, in the absence of knowledge and experience.
There is only one explanation to it, and that is also furnished by Luke (ii. 40), The grace of God was upon him," which is equivalent to being filled with the Holy Spirit.
Someone may say "Then there was no difference between him and John, who was also "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb." If the begettal of Jesus is left out of account, this would follow; but with that in view, the great difference is visible: for while John was merely a natural man, acted upon from without by the Holy Spirit, Jesus was that Holy Spirit veiled in flesh, as it were, placed among men for the accomplishment of the mighty work which his Father had given him to do.
Here someone else may say, "If that be so, how can he be to us an example?"
Now, what is that question based upon? I think we shall see it is based upon a great fallacy. To manifest the fallacy of this assumption, we have only to ask, was he-even with the view of him taken by those who use such an argument-in all respects as weak as we? Had he not, even on their theory, a higher moral and intellectual energy? Do they not admit that in his conception of the Holy Spirit, he received a start that we never receive; and that, during his public career, in which his example alone is manifest, he had a power we never have, even the power of the Holy Spirit without measure?
These things are without dispute, and, therefore, the fallacy of the objection is demonstrated. Jesus was our example, in the sense of being a character for us to copy, but for the production of such a character, the Father himself had to interfere by the Spirit. He saw there was no man: therefore, Hisown arm brought salvation.
This is the great aspect in which Jesus is to be contemplated-the doing for us, by Almighty power, that which we could not do for ourselves, that the excellency might be of God, and not of man-that salvation might not be by works which we have done, but by the grace or favour of Eternal Wisdom, that no flesh should glory in His sight. On this principle, the man Christ
Jesus is "counted worthy of more glory than Moses, inasmuch as he who hath builded the house hath more honour than the house: for every house is builded by some man, but he that built all things is God. (Hebrews 3:3.")
The relation between the Father in heaven and the Spirit Universal is inscrutable, and, for that
reason, there is in Jesus, who was inhabited by the Spirit, an element that is inscrutable. We
perceive the evidence of it in the fact that those who heard him speak, strove about the meaning of what he said. He said "I came from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me."
It cannot be said of any of us that we came down from heaven. And because those who heard
the statement were ignorant of the nature of Jesus, they did not see how it could be said of him: "He that cometh from above," "Ye are from beneath," he said at another time: "I am from above;" which is the contrast that Paul draws in saying "The first man is of the earth; earthy; the second man is the Lord from heaven."
THE OPERATIONS OF THE DEITY
The Christadelphian, May 1870. p143-151
(The 139th Psalm read).
43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.
Upon seeing Mary, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Spirit to prophesy and glorify God, and Mary was likewise, and the babe John leaped in the womb for joy. This is an important aspect of the whole picture concerning John and his work -- joy, and the power of the Spirit. It comes out again and again.
All was of the Spirit of God for the joy of mankind. The greatest event in human history was just beginning to unfold -- spoken of by the angels as "Tidings of Great Joy" -- the event for which all the ages had waited -- the event around which all revolved -- and all the participants are deeply moved with the joy of the Spirit. *
46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,
Mary's prayer to v55 saturated with scripture, a mind filled with spiritual thoughts witnesses her disposition as the blessed handmaid of Yahweh
A holy handmaid and her spiritual mind
Time rolled onward to an age which lay far beyond Hannah's own, yet stood so closely related to hers in the crisis of the moment. When the sun went down over the prophets, when the word of the Lord again was precious, when the priests polluted the sanctuary, another woman arose for the deliverance of her people.
Gabriel spoke with Mary, and promised not only a child, but a son born by divine intervention. His words, that "with God nothing shall be impossible", called to mind the miraculous conception and birth of Isaac, 16 who was the firstborn of his barren mother. Yet Mary, in a response both brief yet profound said -
"Behold the handmaid of the Lord".
Her answer did not recall Sarah, but rather, with a single word, evoked the memory of Hannah, as she bowed in submission to the divine will. 17 Her choice of word was quite intentional, since it would be repeated in her prayer.
"For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden"
she would cry, and the voice of Hannah was thereby heard again 18 from the mouth of Mary. In all the New Testament, only Mary would refer to herself as the Handmaid of the Lord, and the special place held by Hannah in the Old, would be claimed by Mary in the New.
The spirit of Mary was so wonderfully alike to Hannah, for when Mary prayed, it was immediately evident that she prayed with equal fervency and eloquence. But her prayer, from the beginning was more than just a counterpart of Hannah's. It was Hannah's prayer, as she referred repeatedly to the words of the one who had gone before her. She did so, because she was inspired by Hannah's example.
She already knew that her circumstances were strangely similar. And she shared Hannah's sense of privilege in being selected by God to outwork His purpose. She felt exactly like her, as the angel affirmed that the power of the Highest would overshadow her for the bearing of the anointed one of whom Hannah had spoken.
Filled with trembling hope and wonder, her mind sought solace in the comforting words of the one who had trodden this path before her, and knew what it felt like. Never were two women more strongly linked than these two, on the day when Mary gave voice to the feelings of her heart. And there was little surprise therefore that when she opened her mouth, the words of Hannah were heard. 19 What then was the source of Mary's spiritual mind?
It came from the same place as Hannah's, for Mary also from the earliest age had begun to fill her own treasury of spiritual thoughts, to be stored safely in her heart. 20 Although the birth of her son quickened her interest even further in a myriad of matters she sought so eagerly to understand, her storehouse was already full of scriptural passages and godly ideas, as her prayer so amply proved.
Matters of the divine plan which she knew and loved, stories which excited her curiosity and wonder, events and people which inspired and delighted her; all these were kept, pondered and weighed in the meditations of her heart. Nor was her devotion to collecting and considering such things a passing phase, but her settled way of life. 21
Mary's treasury was a witness to her spiritual mind, a woman of deep understanding, and a pure heart. Not without reason had she been selected by God to be His Handmaid in bringing forth a special son. And neither without reason had Hannah been chosen, to bring forth another son in whom God's work would be seen. How remarkably did these two women of holy faith and spiritual mind resemble each other.
16 The phrase echoed the words of the angel to Abraham - "Is any thing too hard for the LORD?" (Genesis 18:14).
17 Gabriel, in speaking with Mary had described her as "much graced" (Luke 1:28, margin). This was of course the meaning of Hannah's name, whose circumstance so matched Mary's at this moment. But such was the quickness of Mary's mind that she framed her reply to the angel, "Behold the handmaid of the Lord; be it unto me according to thy word" (Luke 1:38), in the beautiful words of Hannah's own response to Eli, "Let thine handmaid find grace in thy sight" (1 Samuel 1:18).
Mary was another Hannah!
18 Mary's phrase (Luke 1:48) is a direct quotation from Hannah's prayer _ "if thou wilt look on the humiliation of thine handmaid" (1 Samuel 1:11, LXX).
19 See Appendix 4 - "What was the import of Hannah's special song?" on page 221 for a comparison of the Song of Hannah and the Prayer of Mary.
20 Luke's Gospel carefully records that - "Mary kept all these things and pondered them in her heart" (Luke 2:19). The statement completed a parallel, for Hannah is the first woman of whom the term "in her heart" is used, and Mary will be the last.
Bro Roger Lewis - Hannah Handmaid of the Highest Ch 8
53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.
The judgments of the Seventh Vial are all in the future. They are the voices uttered by the Seven Thunders, which succeed the lion-roar of the Rainbowed Angel (ch. 10:3,4), and which issue from the throne (ch. 4:5).
Apocalyptically, thunders are significant of wars. Hence, seven thunders are seven wars, which collectively make up
"the war of that great day of the omnipotent Deity".
The details of the seven thunders are not given; but the general results are specified in the prophecy of the seventh vial.
The ecclesiastical and secular constitution of Anti-christendom is the obnoxious subject of Divine vengeance. The Powers that be having answered the purpose of their permitted existence, the time has arrived under this vial for their abolition.
This can only be accomplished by Divine power; hence the war of the Deity, by which Babylon the Great, or the ecclesiastical constitution of the world; and "the Cities of the Nations," "the islands", and "the mountains," or kingdoms, empires, and states of all sorts, are transferred to the Saints; so that the wicked who now sit in the heavenlies, are hurled from their thrones, and sent empty away (Luke 1:51-53).
56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
It was natural she should stay with her a considerable time. The occasion was not one of ordinary visitation. Mary and Elizabeth were relatives; but it was not the interest or the claims of relationship that brought them together as we have seen. They had been apprised of the stirring and stupendous fact that the hour had arrived for the incipient commencement of that manifestation of the glory of God to Israel, and the whole earth, which had been for so long a time the expectation of the nation; and that they two were to be used in the work.
It was this that brought Mary "in haste" from Nazareth to the hill country in the neighbourhood of Hebron; and it was this that led her to stay a much longer time than ordinary circumstances would have suggested.
It would naturally be the theme of much interested communication between the two; and as they busily plied the needle together in the preparations inseparable from the prospect before them, the time would go swiftly by.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 8.
69 And hath raised up an horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David;
not "instead of us," but on our account. The notion that it was "instead of us" is the old orthodox superstition being foisted again upon the brethren. He was born for us. "He hath raised up for us, in the house of David, a horn of salvation." He hath not raised instead of us a horn, but for us; but of course the babe born was born for Himself as well surely.
"He hath gone to appear in the presence of God for us;"
not instead of us. Begotten of God in the channel of Adamic and Mosaic condemnation, he died on our account, that we might escape, but on his own account as the first-born of the family as well; for, in all things, it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren.
What is the result then? This: that God is pleased, the sin-and-death law of our race being carried out upon His hereditarily-mortal, but righteous though law-cursed Son, to raise him for his righteousness sake; and then asks us to look to him to whom He has given the power of dealing with the rest of mankind. If we bow down to Him and recognise our position, He is pleased, for Christ's sake, to forgive us. He is not obliged to forgive us.
Christ has given Him no satisfaction; paid no debt in the commercial sense. Christ's birth and death is the arrangement of His own mercy. We cannot claim it: it is all of grace: not of works lest any man should boast. The scheme of salvation is never comprehended by those who embrace this "free life" heresy.
And as for hearing of this one and that one accepting it, of whom better things were to be expected, I have only to read the response that Paul made under similar circumstances:
"Those who seemed to be somewhat, it maketh no matter to me. God accepteth no man's person. They who seemed to be somewhat, in conference added nothing to me."
"False brethren brought in who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage, to whom we gave place by subjection; no, not for an hour: that the truth of the gospel might continue with you."
Therefore, if I am left alone on the top of a mountain; if all the brethren and sisters forsake me, I will stand alone, waiting for the coming of the Lord from heaven. But there are to be some ready for him.
There are to be five wise virgins, if there are to be five foolish: and, for that reason, I have taken upon myself a great deal of labour, and have brought upon myself the infirmity of the flesh. But, for this I care not, if the truth be saved. I will die, if necessary, in the attempt to stem this tide of corruption which is streaming in and sweeping away the brethren.
The Christadelphian, Oct 1873
70 As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world [aion] began:
In Luke 1:70, world is also used in the common version, as a translation for aion. Zacharias is there made to say that God spoke certain things by His holy prophets, concerning Israel, when "the world began." If this be interpreted theologically, it is not correct; for nothing was said about Israel's redemption at the creation of the heavens and the earth. But, if we understand it of the days of Abraham, and Moses, and afterwards, it is then intelligible enough.
The phrase used by Luke is απ̓ αιωνος, which, the Concordance remarks, signifies "literally from ever, i. e. from eternity. It signifies no such thing. It refers to the beginning of the Abrahamo-Mosaic aion. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were the prophets of God (Ps. 105:11-15) Moses also, who were contemporary with the beginning of the aion. In Jno. 9:32; Acts 3:21, 15:18; Eph. 3:9. plur. it should read "beginning of the aion," in the "last days" of which the apostles flourished.
A BIBLE DICTIONARY - Bro THOMAS
The Christadelphian, Aug 1872
76 And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shalt go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways;
John's mission was to arouse the nation to repentance, and to introduce the Messiah to them.*
77 To give knowledge of salvation unto his people by the remission of their sins,
From the beginning, this aspect was emphasized -- that the salvation men need is from themselves -- from their own natural, death-tending characteristics and desires. *
78 Through the tender mercy of our God; whereby the dayspring from on high hath visited us,
Dayspring" means arising or dawning. A new day was dawning for Israel. The Sun of Righteousness was to be manifested. This is a clear reference again to the last chapter of Malachi, the promise of the "Sun of Righteousness" to "arise with healing in his wings."
This reference to light is very frequent in relation to the coming of Christ, as in Isaiah 9:2:
"The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light, they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined."
Light from darkness was the first act of creation.
The natural state of men is darkness, and all his natural thoughts and actions are foolishness. Only spiritual thoughts and actions are light. Paul presents this vividly (2 Cor. 4:6):
"God, who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts."
"To give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ."
The apostle John says of the same event (Jn. 1:6-9):
"There was a man sent from God whose name was John. The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light."
"He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light."
"That was the true Light which lighteth every man who cometh into the world."
It can be our privilege and joy, if we choose, to come out from walking in natural death-tending darkness, into that lifegiving Light.
Just accepting the Truth is not in itself coming in the Light. We are only in the Light when we are consciously choosing to repudiate all the thoughts of the flesh and to walk according to the principles of the mind of Christ.
John said, at the beginning of his first epistle (1:5):
"'This, then, is the message which we have heard of him."
-- this is the basic message, this is the key point, the heart of the matter:
"God is Light, and in Him is no darkness."
"If we say we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie, and do not the Truth."
And walking in light, as John goes on to show, means walking in love toward everyone. He says (1 Jn. 2:10-11) --
"He that loveth his brother abideth in the Light."
"He that hateth his brother is in darkness."
An act that is not done in love -- through enlightened godly love -- is an act of darkness -- an act of disfellowship from God -- no matter how self-righteous it may be. Everything we do must be tested by this test. Our "zeal for the Lord," like Jehu, is often really the flesh, when we pride ourselves it is the Spirit.
When we act, or speak, or think, in anger, or annoyance, or impatience, or selfishness, or resentment, or for any motive except kindness and love, even if it be -- as we suppose -- in defense of the Truth, we are in darkness, and are disfellowshipping ourselves from God Who is Light and Love and Goodness. *
80 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the deserts till the day of his shewing unto Israel.
This covers the whole interval from his birth till his appearance as a preacher on the banks of the Jordan. It tells us as much as we need to know. It does not mean that he lived no part of the time in his mother's house, but that he remained in seclusion instead of beginning at twelve years of age, like other boys, to attend the feasts at Jerusalem regularly.
He was unseen and unknown outside his own domestic circle till the hour for his public work arrived. His mother lived "in the hill country," where desert abounded, and here he would doubtless spend much of his time in the open air, indulging in contemplation and prayer, and acquiring those habits of hardihood for which he became known to the crowds who afterwards listened to his preaching.
Nazareth Revisited Ch 4
What does it mean, to "wax (or grow) strong in spirit?"
It means, by study, and meditation, and prayer, and practice, to be strong in spirituality and control of the flesh -- to be strong In the mind of the Spirit.
We cannot actually weaken the flesh, but we can continually strengthen and build up the Spirit. This is the whole purpose of our lives, and every moment not consciously engaged in this is wasted. Every time we subdue and control the natural thoughts and reactions of the flesh, we strengthen the Spirit -- we "wax stronger in Spirit."
This was how John spent thirty years of preparation in the desert for his so brief, but so important, ministry --
"The child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, and was in the desert until the day of his showing unto Israel."
Thirty years' lonely preparation in seclusion -- then a brief ministry of a year or so -- then imprisonment and death at the whim of a wicked woman. This was the life story of him of whom Christ said there had never been a greater born of woman.
Bro Growcott - He Must Increase: I Must Decrease