This time of year is when we celebrate the season of Christmas. It really is a season, not just a single day on our calendars, as it consumes the entire month of December and in some cases appears before the Thanksgiving turkey has been served. One would think that because “Christmas Season” begins so early it would not be difficult to remember exactly why we have this time set aside to celebrate.
The point of today, and the two Friday’s following, are to help us do just that: remember why we celebrate Christmas. More than that we are going to take a look at the Significance of Christmas, and in particular, the significance of three parts of the Christmas story that are very important, but sometimes overlooked.
In today’s post at 11 AM EST, we are going to take a look at the Significance of the Time (Luke 2:1-3). Next Friday we will understand the Significance of Bethlehem (vv. 4-5), and in the following Friday we will do our best, with our limited human minds, to understand the Significance of the Child (vv. 6-7). Through these three posts I hope to convey to you the sovereign hand of God working in the midst of the world he created to accomplish his will and help you see the real reason we celebrate Christmas.
I invite you to head out to a coffee shop today and read this post. Taking time to slow down over a hot beverage will go well with taking a closer look at the Significance of Christmas.
No Theological Paper Tomorrow BUT a Detailed Look Ahead (and an updated ‘About’ page)
Esteemed Readers (also, if you are reading this, comment below. Say “hi,” “yo,” or anything. I know there are a lot of readers here, but only a few of you like to speak up),
Due to a few personal items that came up this week and required my immediate and direct attention, there will not be an academic paper published tomorrow. The beauty of this is that you should have no doubt that I am human and real. There are times when I simply cannot do everything I would like. While I do not like to get off track, it has to happens sometimes.
So, no paper tomorrow, but I invite you to browse the papers published in the past and take a look at this week’s memory verse.
Here is what you can expect schedule-wise through the end of the year:
- November 25 – What are We Thankful For?
- December 2 – Satan: His Origin, Limited Power, and Eternal Position
- December 9 – Death: What Happens to Unbelievers?
- December 16 – The Christmas Story Part 1 – The Significance of the Manger in the City of Bethlehem
- December 23 – The Christmas Story Part 2 – The Significance of the Shepherds and the Angels
- December 30 – The Christmas Story Part 3 – The Significance of the Birth of Jesus
I hope that giving you a look ahead will make up for the lack of a paper tomorrow. Please accept my apologies on this matter.
I am excited about the rest of the year here and what we will learn together. Be sure to sign up via email at the bottom of this page so that you don’t miss the scheduled topics (and a few bonus posts I have up my sleeve). Also, use the links below to share this post and website with friends on Facebook, Twitter, or using old-fashioned-but-very-powerful email.
I hope that you have a great weekend.
p.s. I have updated the ‘About‘ page. It not so much about me, but more about what you can expect here and some pointers on what you can do here. Read and enjoy!
Why is the Hypostatic Union of Christ Necessary?
The nature of Christ is a difficult nature to understand. He is two in one. Completely God while at the same time completely man. While this may be hard to understand, this dual nature of Christ was required so that he could accomplish His redemptive work on the cross.
While there are numerous instances in Scripture where it is evident that Jesus was fully human, this author believes that there are two instances that stand out from the rest. These are His birth (Luke 2:1-7) and His death (John 19:31-35). Like the rest of humanity, He was born from a woman. And, like the rest of humanity, He died a physical death.
While Jesus was fully human He was also fully God. John 1:1 and 1:14 state this fact explicitly. Verse one states that “the Word was God” (ESV). Then, in verse fourteen, it states that, “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” In addition to this passage, Jesus claimed to be one with the Father (John 10:30).
These facts are referred to as the Hypostatic Union. Stated simply, if such a doctrine can be, through the birth of Jesus His human nature was forever added to His divine nature. This addition of the human nature did not mix with the divine nature, but instead, “[remained] distinct, whole, and unchanged…so that the one person, Jesus Christ, was truly God and truly man.”
With Jesus being both God and man carries enormous weight for the history of God’s
relationship with man. Man was fallen before God, full of sin and unworthy of being in the presence of God (Romans 3:23). God promised a redeemer to save the world from eternal separation from Him (Genesis 12:1-3). This redeemer was Jesus (Romans 5:9-11). Because Jesus was God and man, He was able to become the one and only human being to live a blameless life before God (Hebrews 7:26) and offer His life as a sacrifice for the entire world (v. 27).
This sacrifice for all could not have been accomplished in any other way. Through His becoming human, He was able to identify with humanity (Hebrews 2:9), remain without sin (4:15), and give His life as a sacrifice for all (9:12), so that all those who would believe in Him can enter into a new relationship with God that is eternal in nature (Romans 5:2).
It is important to realize that in order for the redemptive nature of Christ to be adequate, both natures must remain at one hundred percent each. To make Him more human than God would eradicate His being able to remain blameless. And to make Him more God than human would eradicate His ability to completely self-identify with those He came to save.
Although Scripture is very clear that Jesus is God (John 1:1, 14) there are objections to this view of Christ. The first is Ebionitism, which states that Christ was a man born naturally on whom the Spirit came at his baptism. A fairly simple objection to this view is to restate the verses above. These verses are clear that God became man. Therefore, Christ could not be just man, He is also God.
Another view, Sabellianism, said that Jesus was a second God next to God. A simple objection to this is John 10:30, where Jesus states, “I and the Father are one.” Jesus was one with the Father, not in addition to Him or separate from Him. A third major view was Arianism, which believed Jesus was a subordinate entity to God. While He was subordinate in duty (Matthew 26:39, 42), He was not subordinate in nature (John 17:11).
Christ in His humanity is an example to all humans for how to live our lives. Personally, this author views Christ as an example of what our relationship to our heavenly Father should be like. Jesus was very clear that we are to love God with all of our heart, with all of our soul, and with all of our mind (Matthew 22:37). Alongside of this love, Jesus is a perfect example of doing the will of God because of our love for Him, which requires putting our wishes to the side (Matthew 26:39, 42). With these two examples in mind a life which is glorifying to God is the natural (though not always easy) result.
As can be seen, the nature of Christ is not easy to grasp. But it is the beauty of His dual nature, the Hypostatic Union, and the work that He accomplished because of this union, that offers us eternal life, with Him, if we believe in Him.
The Significance of the Bread of Life
In the Gospel according to John there are a total of eight “I AM” statements. Around each of them there are events that help speak to the meaning of the statement. The statements also relate directly to God in the Old Testament, and point to the deity of Christ. In this paper, this author has chosen to examine the first “I AM” statement found in John 6:35, “I AM the bread of life.”
The first I AM statement occurs after a fascinating miracle. So fascinating that Matthew, Mark, and Luke also record the same event in their Gospel’s. This miracle is the feeding of the 5,000, which takes place at the beginning of Jesus’ third year of ministry, before he and his disciples make their way to Jerusalem for the Passover (John 6:4).
At this point in Jesus’ ministry he has become quite popular because of “the signs that he
was doing on the sick” (v. 2, ESV). Because of his popularity there is a large crowd that follows Jesus and his disciples up a mountain off the coast of the Sea of Galilee.
When Jesus sees the large crowd he asks Philip, “Where are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?” (v. 5). John adds his commentary when he says that Jesus asked this to test him, because Jesus already knew what he was going to do (v. 6). Philip answers the Lord, “two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to eat a little” (v. 7). One denarius was a day’s wage, meaning that 200 denarii would equate to 8 months of income. “But the crowd was so large (v. 10) that even such a large sum of money would not buy enough bread for each one to have a bite”.
In response to this problem, Andrew brings to Jesus a boy who has “five barley loaves and two fish” (v. 9). It is with this small amount of food that Jesus feeds the 5,000 so that they all “had eaten their fill” (v. 12).
Added context to the first “I AM” statement is after this miracle has taken place. The next day, Jesus and his disciples arrive in the city of Capernaum (v. 21, 24) and the crowd finds him there. In response to a question from the crowd, Jesus says, “Truly, Truly, I say to you, you are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labor for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you” (vv. 26-27). They then ask what they need to do, “to be doing the works of God” (v. 28), to which Jesus responds, “believe” (v. 29).
An amazing part of this passage is the next verse. Keep in mind that the context of all of this is the feeding of the 5,000, as discussed above. In response to Jesus telling them to believe, they essentially say, prove it: “What sign do you do, that we may see and believe you?” (v. 30). This is the context of the first I AM statement. Just a few verses after this request for Jesus to prove that he is the Son of God Jesus proclaims to the crowd, “I AM the bread of life; whoever comes to me shall not hunger, and whoever believes in me shall never thirst” (v. 35).
As stated in the opening paragraph, all of the “I AM” statements point back to God in the Old Testament. In the verses before the “I AM” statement from Jesus, the crowd tells him that Moses gave their fathers manna to eat from heaven while they were in the wilderness (v. 31). Jesus corrects them and says that it was God who provided the bread (v. 32).
While the Israelites were wandering in the wilderness, God provided to them manna every single day. This manna served as their nourishment while they were in the wilderness and provided life for them. Just as Jesus states that he is the Bread of Life, so to was God to the Israelites before they arrived to the promised land.
While the connection with God in the Old Testament to the Bread of Life “I AM” statement is obvious in light of the context, the deity of Christ is even more obvious. The manna that the crowd is speaking about was a temporary solution to a temporary problem that the Israelites had. They needed food to live on a daily basis and God provided this to them as they needed it. Although this is extremely miraculous, the crowd here in John 6 is still only looking after their physical needs in referencing the manna from heaven. Not just the physical need of hunger, but even that of their desire for “a messianic revolt…Manna was thought to be characteristic of the kingdom of God.”
Jesus is not speaking of a physical condition, but a spiritual.
He says to them, “the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven” (v. 33). Immediately Jesus draws a parallel to the manna that came from heaven. Just as it came from heaven, was of God, so to is “he” who comes from heaven. They are both provisions from God. While using the parallel of the manna, Jesus takes a turn in the minds of the crowd and says that this bread, the new bread, “gives life to the world” (v. 33).
He continues the turn, so to speak, in verse 35, “whoever comes to me shall not hunger.” This is different than what the manna did in the wilderness. While the manna was from God, and from heaven, it only provided temporary relief from hunger. The bread that Jesus gives, his life, gives eternal life to the world, “whoever comes to [him]…whoever believes in [him]” (v. 35).
This thought is continued a few moments later in verse 49: “Your fathers at the manna in the wilderness and they died. This is the bread that comes down from heaven, so that one may eat of it and not die.” And in an effort to speak to the eternal life that is given to those that believe in Him, he tells them that he is the bread that came down from heaven (v. 51).
The deity of Christ is again spoken of a few verses prior to 51. In verse 46, Jesus says, “not that anyone has seen the Father except he who is from God; he has seen the Father.” Jesus later promises that any who “feed on [his] flesh, [the bread of life], and drinks [his] blood has eternal life, and [he] will raise him up on the last day” (v. 54, also v. 39, 44). Not only is Jesus from God (vv. 38, 44, 46, 50, 51), but he can do something that only God can do: provide eternal life (Rom. 6:23).
“I AM the bread of life” (v. 35). Such a simple statement yet full of profound meaning for all of those who heard these words spoken from the mouth of our Lord, and those who have the ability to read them in their Bible today. When John wrote his Gospel he almost always has a discourse go along with a miracle, and with this first “I AM” statement, his readers are able to sit on that mountain with the multitude and partake in the temporary solution to a temporary problem. John’s readers are also able to stand in the crowd as Jesus is peppered with questions and are given opportunity to see how it was God who provided the manna, not Moses. The readers of John’s Gospel are able to witness “Jesus…making clear his heavenly origin and the fact that he alone supplies the spiritual need of his hearers”. Finally, as a part of the audience of John, his readers are given an incredible truth: if they believe in Christ, if they eat of the bread he gives, he “has eternal life, and [Jesus] will raise him up on the last day” (v. 54).
-  Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989), 300.
-  Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 269.
-  Ibid.
-  Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. DChattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002), 63.
-  Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995), 111.
Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991.
Morris, Leon. Jesus is the Christ: Studies in the Theology of John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1989.
Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1995.
Towns, Elmer. The Gospel of John: Believe and Live. Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2002.
Article header photo credit: The Feeding of the Five Thousand by Hendrik de Clerck (no date). http://www.catholictradition.org/Eucharist/hidden-treasure5d.htm
Bibliography Photo Credit: http://www.maicar.com/GML/Bibliography.html
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Love Never Ends
This morning I had something happen to me that I have heard other people talk and write about. As I was praying this morning God opened my eyes to understand something more than I ever have in the past. This was not during meditation on a verse, or during the study of a verse or passage. This was through prayer. God opened my eyes to just how crazy in love he is with us.
If you don’t mind I am just going to write what I wrote in my prayer (I tend to write my prayers instead of speak them verbally):
Lord, you are a God who helps in times of need. You help those that you have called to yourself eternally and you also help us as we need it on this earth.
(even now, I need your help in this early hour to free my mind from all of its distractions).
You even help us when our love for you is not where is should be.
Your love compels you.
You love compels you so that even when we fight your call, you continue to pull us toward you.
If you were not compelled by your love, then whatever else compelled you would not be as great, as eternal.
“Love never ends.” – 1 Corinthians 13:8
Your love sent your Son.
Your love sustained Him.
Your love nailed Him to the Cross.
Your love allows us to participate.
Your love gives us the hope of nailing our sins to that cross.
Your love allows us to beat death with your Son.
Your love promises a future resurrection because of His.
Your love promises eternity with you, through your Son.
Words alone cannot adequately express the thankfulness in my heart.
“But be doers of the word.” – James 1:22a
Lord, I am beginning to understand.
Thank you for helping me to understand why you require and desire action from us. Thank you for sticking around while it took me a wile to see this truth.
God, please forgive me for a lifetime of not demonstrating love towards you!
“But God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” – Romans 5:8
God, help me to walk this way for you. Help me to not only demonstrate love for you through my thoughts and words, but also through my actions. Help me to be bold.