By Ardel B. Caneday
As the darkness of winter deepens, we are amid the season we Christians call Advent. Advent is the celebration of the dawning of the True Light in the arrival of Jesus, the Messiah, conceived by a young virgin whose birth pangs brought into this dark and hostile world God’s Son who would become the Savior of the world. Yet do we give adequate consideration to the wonder and daily significance of Advent?
Celebrations of Advent feature Matthew’s and Luke’s Gospels because both include narratives concerning the holy conception and birth of our Lord to the Virgin Mary. Also, both Matthew and Luke provide genealogical records that respectively reach back to Abraham, the God-appointed father of all believers, and to Adam, our disobedient ancestor whose sin brought the curse of death and darkness to us all.
The Advent’s Origin—In the Beginning
Tending to be overshadowed during Advent are Mark’s and John’s Gospels which present neither a birth narrative nor a genealogy. Nevertheless, they also contend that their accounts concerning Jesus of Nazareth originate from the Old Testament, though with different beginning points. If Mark’s Gospel draws us to Isaiah’s prophecy as “the beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, God’s Son” (1:1), John’s Gospel reaches farther back in the Old Testament, to the absolute beginning.
John situates his account of the Messiah neither genealogically, like Matthew and Luke, nor geographically, like Mark, in the Judean desert to fulfill Isaiah’s prophecy. Rather, John situates the Messiah eternally. John’s opening words, “In the beginning,” deliberately draw us back to the initial words of Genesis: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth” (1:1). Both Moses’s ancient narrative and John’s Gospel begin not with creation but with the absolute beginning, before creation’s beginning.
“In the beginning was the Word” confronts us to ponder the imponderable—that the uncreated Word had no beginning but was already existing when what was created came into existence. This truth beckons us to acknowledge that the historical advent of Jesus has an eternal antecedent that takes us back beyond “the beginning” of primordial history to the time of no beginning when “the Word was with God, and the Word was God, who was with God in the beginning” (John 1:1–2).
The Truth about Salvation By Ken Gentry
A study guide for personal or small group Bible study. Deals with the Christian doctrine of salvation from a Reformed theological perspective. It opens with a study of God as loving Creator, the shows how the first man fell into sin. Shows God’s righteousness requires that sin be dealt with. Presents Jesus as both God and man so that he can be man’s Savior. Includes review questions and questions for further study.Twelve chapters are ideal for one quarter of Sunday School.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
As a title, “the Word” deliberately evokes remembrance of the Genesis creation account spanning six days portraying each phase of God’s creative activity accomplished by God’s speech, “and God said” (1:3, 6, 9, 11, 14, 20, 24, 26). Who but God speaks things into existence? Though Genesis is not a synchronous journal with God’s speaking all things into existence, it is the Creator’s authorized account.
Divine Accommodation: God’s Word in Human Words
The chasm between the Creator and us, his creatures, is vast. So vast, that if God were to speak to us in his divine language, none of us would understand him. At most, we might say, “It thundered” (John 12:29; Job 40:9). When the Creator spoke to Adam, the first man, God did not communicate in a divine language. He condescended to the human level, speaking Adam and Eve’s language and appearing to them in their likeness in form and qualities. God accommodated himself to their human language with human words.
As creatures, it is essential that we acknowledge that God invariably reveals himself to us this way, whether embedded in creation, written in his Word (i.e., the Holy Scriptures from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21), or incarnate in his Son. Yet, we must affirm that when God condescends to accommodate human likeness, he does so without any sinful tarnishing of thought, word, or deed. Thus, we would be grievously wrong to reason as some do: “God anticipates the future in a way analogous to our own experience.” The fallacy is to forget that we are made after God’s likeness. The error is to project back upon God our creaturely restrictions of qualities we received from him who made us in his image. To regard ourselves as the fundamental reference point for ascribing qualities to God is idolatry which is what the Prophet Isaiah condemns:
You turn things upside down,
as if the potter were thought to be like the clay!
Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it,
“You did not make me”? (Isaiah 29:16)
Throughout the Old Testament, the Creator’s willingness to accommodate himself to his creature’s likeness to make himself known to us prepares for the appointed time when God condescends to take on human likeness in the flesh. Thus, God intentionally inspires the psalmist, David, to compare God to earthly caring fathers.
As a father shows compassion to his children,
so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.
For he knows our frame;
he remembers that we are dust (Psalm 103:13–14).
Because God made humans analogous to himself, he delights to be analogized in these appropriate ways by his people—he would not have inspired it if he did not delight in it. He does this because he as the Creator imbued the material and nonmaterial creation with his imprint, reflecting his self-revelatory divine perfections. Made after the Creator’s likeness, we are God’s earthly analogs. Accordingly, God is pleased that we should call him by names obtained from the created realm, names with which the Creator richly endowed and loaned to his creation for this purpose, that his whole creation might resound with his praise.
Lord of the Saved
(by Ken Gentry)
A critique of easy believism and affirmation of Lordship salvation. Shows the necessity of true, repentant faith to salvation.
See more study materials at: www.KennethGentry.com
For example, David’s analogy of Psalm 103 above is fitting because God is pleased to be compared to compassionate earthly fathers because he is the Father “from whom every fatherhood [patrilineage] in heaven and on earth is named” (Ephesians 3:15; cf. Matthew 23:9). The entire created order analogically correlates to God, the uncreated, self-existing, eternal one whose invisible traits, including his eternal power and divine nature, have been readily apparent in everything that the Creator brought into existence (cf. Romans 1:19–20).
Like each Stradivarius violin indelibly bears the signature of its craftsman, so God infused his individual works with his glory. True, no one sees God as he is in himself because he is beyond comprehension and his majestic glory exceeds all human perception. Nevertheless, God reveals himself daily in the symphonic beauty of the vast universe, making it impossible for humans to open their eyes without being constrained to . . . .
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