21 December 2010

On the Incarnation and the Submission of Christ

1st Peter 2:21-24 may not seem like the kind of passage we would read around Christmas time. But we’re going to see that when Christ took on human flesh, and was conceived in the womb of Mary, and was born and walked this earth, He gave us a pattern to follow in fulfilling the will of God in our own lives.

Now, to answer the question that comes up every year at this time—on what day of the year was Jesus born? Well, we don’t know. But it probably wasn’t December 25th. It was more likely in the spring or even more likely in the fall. Listen to what Luke says in Luke 2:8-118 And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. 9 And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid. 10 And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. 11 For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Now, notice what he says in verse 8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. In December, in the land that was called Palestine, what is now modern-day Israel, in December it got downright cold. And shepherds would not be dwelling outside at night. Adam Clarke has this to say about shepherds “watching their flocks by night”—
It was a custom among the Jews to send out their sheep to the deserts, about the Passover (spring), and bring them home at the (time of year that we call) October and November, we find that the sheep were kept out in the open country during the whole of the summer. And as these shepherds had not yet brought home their flocks, it is (can be assumed) that October had not yet started, and that, consequently, our Lord was not born on the 25th of December, when no flocks were out in the fields; nor could he have been born later than September, as the flocks were still in the fields by night. On this very ground the (idea that Christ was born in) December should be given up.
But here’s an even more important question: does it matter what time of year He was born? All that matters is that the Son of God came to earth, lived a perfectly sinless life, died on the cross so that all who believe in Him could be reconciled to God.

That said, let’s read our text in 1st Peter and see just what the apostle is telling us. 1st Peter 2:21-2421 For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth”; 23 who, when He was reviled, did not revile in return; when He suffered, He did not threaten, but committed Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 who Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness—by whose stripes you were healed. The key phrase in this whole passage I want to focus on is verse 21For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps. This idea ties in real well with our study of the OT Law, because many of the commandments deal with the fact that we are to subject ourselves to each other and to not trample on the rights of others. We know also that Christ fulfilled the Law for us, and if we are in Christ—that is, if we trust Christ and Christ alone to save us from our sins and, consequently, from the wrath of God; if we turn away from our sins and obey the commands of Christ to love God and to love one another—then He has fulfilled the requirements of the Law for us. Romans 8:3-43 For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, 4 that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. So let’s see now just how far Jesus submitted Himself for our sakes.

First, He submitted to the will of the Father. This is where all submission must start. If Christ did not submit to the will of the Father He would not have been our Savior. John 5:30“I can of Myself do nothing. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is righteous, because I do not seek My own will but the will of the Father who sent Me. Luke 22:41-4241 He knelt down and prayed, 42 saying, "Father, if it is Your will, take this cup away from Me; nevertheless not My will, but Yours, be done." This is by no means an exhaustive study of the Trinity, but here goes. God the Father is the head of all things. Everything in creation is subject to God the Father. And not only is creation subject to the Father, but so is God the Son. Jesus Christ has existed from all eternity past as God. He will be, for all eternity in the future, God. BUT God the Son, at a point in time, left His throne, at the command of God the Father. He did not just have some bright idea one day and came up with this brilliant plan to save mankind from their sins--that is what the Mormons teach. Truth is, before creation God the Father, knowing all things, knew that we wretched human beings would fall into sin. And God the Father, still before the foundation of the world, counted His Son—the Son that He loved—as being slain for our sins. There are many verses that talk about this idea. John 17:24“Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.” Ephesians 1:4He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him. Hebrews 4:3For we who have believed do enter that rest, as He has said: “So I swore in My wrath, 'They shall not enter My rest'” although the works were finished from the foundation of the world. 1st Peter 1:18-20You were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold…19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. 20 He indeed was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest [i.e., 'has appeared'] in these last times for you. Revelation 13:8All who dwell on the earth will worship [the Antichrist], whose names have not been written in the Book of Life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world. So even before creation, God the Son submitted Himself to God the Father on behalf of us worms.

And our main verse today tells us that we should do the same. If we are going to call ourselves a Christian, we must also submit to the will of the Father. After all, what does Jesus tell us should be the one of the first things we pray for? Matthew 6:9-10“Our Father in heaven, hallowed be Your name. 10 Your kingdom come. Your will be done.” Not our will. You may have heard some of these prosperity preachers on TV--the likes of Benny Hinn and Kenneth Copeland and Paul Crouch and Morris Cerullo. They will say something like this: “Don’t pray according to God’s will! Pray according to your faith!” That is blasphemy! They are basically calling Jesus a liar. Christ is our example, that we are to submit to the will of the Father.

Next we see that Jesus submitted Himself to His own Law. Galatians 4:4-54 But when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, 5 to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. How many times do we hear about police officers, judges, lawmakers basically getting away with committing crimes that you or I would have gone to prison for? Ted Kennedy left a woman to drown in Chappaquiddick Bay in Massachusetts and he got to keep his job in the US Senate for another 48 years. And we hear that and we are outraged—as well we should be. And this is why Jesus subjected Himself to His own Law—so that when we share the good news of Christ we can point to Him as the spotless Lamb of God. If He did not subject Himself to His one Law, He could have—literally—gotten away with murder. And He would have been no different than you or me.

BUT—listen to our main verse for today, 1st Peter 2:21-22For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: 22 “Who committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.” I like what John Gill said about this:
“‘Who did no sin’ He was in the likeness of sinful flesh; he looked like a sinful man, being born of a sinful woman, and keeping company with sinful men, being himself a man of sorrows, greatly afflicted, and at last put to death. He was (accused of being) a sinner by his enemies, and had all the sins of his people on him, which he bore, and made satisfaction for, and were the reason of his sufferings; but he had no sin in his nature, nor did he commit any in his life: ‘neither was deceit found in his mouth;’ though it was diligently sought for, by the Scribes and Pharisees; there was no deceit in his lips, no falsehood in his doctrine, any more than there was immorality in his (conduct).”
He submitted Himself to the Law of God, leaving us an example. Not that we should try to keep the Law perfectly because we never will. Romans 3:10 and Romans 3:23As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one” and for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. And anyone who tries to do so will fail. James 2:10For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. And when a person tries to make themselves righteous by keeping the Law, they have no part in Christ. Galatians 5:3-43 And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law.4 You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law. But if we are in Christ, as I read from Romans 8:3-4 earlier, He is our righteousness, we are justified in Him, and we will love His law and turn away from sin and obey the “royal Law” in James 2:8If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well. And as Jesus Himself said in John 13:34“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another.”

Next we see that Jesus submitted to His own creation. When He took on flesh, He did not become some kind of “Superman” who could leap tall buildings in a single bound and catch bullets in His hands. When people saw Christ, they saw a man who looked just like any other man. Philippians 2:6-7 (Weymouth New Testament)6 Although from the beginning He had the nature of God He did not reckon His equality with God a treasure to be tightly grasped. 7 Nay, He stripped Himself of His glory, and took on Him the nature of a bondservant by becoming a man like other men. That is as close as you will ever get to what the original actually means. As God He could have snapped His fingers and all creation would have vanished. BUT He did not exercise that right of ownership, and instead He became subject to the very limitations placed upon us by our being human. Again, John Gill—
“Though he took that which he had not before, he lost nothing of what he had; the glory of his divine nature was covered, and out of sight; and though some rays and beams of it broke out through his works and miracles, yet his glory, as the only begotten of the Father, was beheld only by a few.”
Listen to some of these passages. Matthew 4:1-2Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. 2 And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry. Matthew 8:24And suddenly a great tempest arose on the sea, so that the boat was covered with the waves. But He was asleep. And one of the last things that Jesus ever spoke before He gave up His life as He hung on the cross, John 19:28After this, Jesus, knowing that all things were now accomplished, that the Scripture might be fulfilled, said, "I thirst!"

He was also tempted. Now, let me qualify that statement. He was tempted with sin, but He was not tempted by sin. Satan offered Him temptations, but Jesus was not tempted by them. (For a more in-depth discussion of Jesus and temptation, see here) Hebrews 4:14-1514 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. And since Jesus is our example, as our text from 1st Peter says, we too should follow that example. We know that God is not the originator of temptations. James 1:13Let no one say when he is tempted, "I am tempted by God"; for God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does He Himself tempt anyone. But when temptations do come, and they will, we must always remember that there is always a way out. We don’t have to give in to that temptation. 1st Corinthians 10:13No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it. When Satan tempted Jesus, how did Jesus respond? Three times, “It is written…it is written…it is written…” If we diligently study this word, and we use it when Satan comes knocking on our door—as Jesus did—then as James 4:7 says, resist the devil and he will flee. Christ fulfilled all righteousness by becoming like us. He was subject to the will of God, He was subject to His own Law, He was subject to all the frailties we humans suffer because of sin. And yet he committed no sin, nor was deceit found in His mouth.

And as we read the last words in that passage from Peter, we see that Christ submitted Himself to death. 1st Peter 2:24He Himself bore our sins in His own body on the tree, that we, having died to sins, might live for righteousness. The fact that Christ submitted Himself to death because of our sins gives us a pattern to follow—that we too should die to our sins. We will die because of our sins; but while our bodies live, we must die to our sins, and not let sin reign in our mortal body. But because Jesus died for our sins, to pay for our sins, if we believe in Him and allow ourselves to die to sin, then as that passage concludes with Peter echoing the words of the prophet Isaiah, by whose stripes you were healed. This of course is a repeat of Isaiah 53:5But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed. Because He died, we can have life.

Jesus Christ is Lord.
Amen.

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