12 Quotes of Christmas and God Incarnate

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So then He united man with God, and established a community of union between God and man; since we could not in any other way participate in incorruption, save by His coming among us…So the Word was made flesh, that, through that very flesh which sin had ruled and dominated, it should lose its force and be no longer in us. And therefore our Lord took that same original formation as (His) entry into flesh, so that He might draw near and contend on behalf of the fathers, and conquer by Adam that which by Adam had stricken us down. – St. Irenaeus of Lyons

[God’s] temporal plan ennobled each sex, both male and female. By possessing a male nature and being born of a woman He further showed by this plan that God has concern not only for the sex He represented but also for the one through which he took upon himself our nature. – Augustine

It was his to swallow up death: who but Life could do so? It was his to conquer sin: who could do so save Righteousness itself? It was his to put to flight the powers of the air and the world: who could do so but the mighty power superior to both? But who possesses life and righteousness, and the dominion and government of heaven, but God alone? Therefore, God, in his infinite mercy, having determined to redeem us, became himself our Redeemer in the person of his only begotten Son. – John Calvin

No human mind can ever grasp the significance of the occurrence and consequence of the incarnation. That a Person of the Godhead should become one of the human family–the sphere of His own creation–with a view to remaining in that form, though glorified, and throughout eternity must continue an insoluble mystery to the creatures of this world. – Lewis Sperry Chafer

We see Him among the thousands of Galilee, anointed of God with the Holy Ghost and power, going about doing good: with no pride of birth, though He was a king; with no pride of intellect, though omniscience dwelt within Him; with no pride of power, though all power in heaven and earth was in His hands; or of station, though the fulness of the Godhead dwelt in Him bodily; or of superior goodness or holiness: but in lowliness of mind esteeming every one better than Himself, healing the sick, casting out devils, feeding the hungry, and everywhere breaking to men the bread of life. We see Him everywhere offering to men His life for the salvation of their souls: and when, at last, the forces of evil gathered thick around Him, walking, alike without display and without dismay, the path of suffering appointed for Him, and giving His life at Calvary that through His death the world might live. – B.B. Warfield

So that is the outline of the official story Рthe tale of the time when God was the underdog and got beaten, when he submitted to the conditions he had laid down and became a man like the men he had made, and the men he had made broke him and killed him. This is the dogma we find so dull Рthis terrifying drama of which God is the victim and hero… now may call that doctrine exhilarating, or we may call it devastating; we may call it revelation, or we may call it rubbish; but if we call it dull, then words have no meaning at all. That God should play the tyrant over man is the usual dreary record of human futility; but that man should play the tyrant over God and find Him a better man than himself is an astonishing drama indeed. Any journalist, hearing of it for the first time, would recognize it as news; those who did it for the first time actually called it news, and good news at that; though we are likely to forget that the word Gospel ever meant anything so sensational. РDorothy Sayers

The great exhibition of the enduring covenant love of God in the OT took place at Sinai, the same setting where the Tabernacle became the dwelling for God’s glory.  So now the supreme exhibition of God’s love is the incarnate Word, Jesus Christ, the new Tabernacle of divine glory. – Raymond Brown

Therefore even when we begin with his incarnation, and with his birth at Bethlehem, we are beginning right away with the atonement, for his birth, as the beginning of his incarnate person, is one end of the atoning work, with the resurrection and ascension as the other end. – T.F. Torrance

The all-glorious Creator-Covenant Lord assumed a full and sinless human nature, such that the eternal Son became a man in order to restore humanity to its vice-regent glory and to inaugurate the new creation, over which the new humanity will rule in righteousness in the age to come.  In this way and by these glorious means, our Lord Jesus Christ becomes our great prophet, priest, and king, the head of the new creation, the Lord of glory, who is worthy of all our worship, adoration, and praise. – Stephen Wellum

The worship of Jesus by the Maji [in Matt. 2] and the quotation from Micah 5:2 (Matt. 2:5-6) reinforce the view that here is a king who transcends the merely human.  Jesus is fully human but not merely human.  – Graham Cole

The Messiah came, not to a purified and enlightened world spiritually prepared for his arrival, but rather to a humanity no nearer to its original goodness than on the day Cain murdered his brother Abel.  Indeed, the barbarity of crucifixion reveals precisely that diagnosis.  From beginning to end, the Holy Scriptures testify that the predicament of fallen humanity is so serious, so grave, so irremediable from within, that nothing short of divine intervention can rectify it. – Fleming Rutledge

The meaning of Christmas is that God is invading the territory held by the Prince of Darkness.  The definitive closure of this cosmic invasion, the V-Day to its D-Day, will be the final Day of God. – Fleming Rutledge

 

 

 

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6 Books that Will Change the Way You Read the Bible (for the better)

I used to read the Bible like God was tweeting @ me.  A random verse here, a verse there. I had a couple favorite passages (usually pulled out of context) I would go to over and over when I was feeling down as if I was reading a therapeutic book written by some psychologist.  If I ever did read a chunk of text like the story of Abraham or Joseph or one of Jesus’ miracles I would immediately jump to some individualistic-applicational interpretation of the text that had nothing to do with the actual story I was reading.  I’m not sure where you are on the spectrum of reading the Bible.  Maybe you’re still on twitter with God, maybe you’re reading large portions of the Bible but lost as to how it all fits together?  I’m here to tell you that it fits together.  From Genesis to Revelation the Biblical story, God’s story, fits.  These books will help you see the Biblical narrative for what it is: One Story, not thousands of random verses.  Read and enjoy God’s Word afresh!

6. The Servant King by T. Desmond Alexander

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This is a tremendously helpful book by a distinguished biblical scholar.  The Servant King is only 168 pages, but Alexander covers the whole Bible, scanning for the “Portrait of the Messiah” (the book’s subtitle).  It is a quick and easy read, full of helpful information.  You will grow in your understanding of Christ and and grow in your love for Christ as you see Him throughout the Biblical Story.  Alexander provides his own bird’s eye view of the book, “The purpose of this study has been to trace the development of the portrait of the Messiah through the Bible. While the specific designation Messiah is not used at the start, we noted how Genesis focuses attention on the coming of a divinely promised monarch. Beginning with the Lord God’s promise to Eve concerning the defeat of the ‘seed of the serpent’, the Genesis narrative highlights a unique line of ‘seed’ which is traced firstly through Seth to Noah and then from Noah to Abraham. Against the background of humanity’s existence under God’s judgment, Abraham receives the promise that through this ‘seed’ all the nations of the earth will be blessed.”1  And we’re off!  Following this “seed” through the rest of the Biblical Story.  I highly recommend this short, but fantastic overview of the Anointed One.

5. How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels by N.T. Wright

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The four Gospels are about Jesus.  Often times though, we read our own modern problems into the narrative.  We select what parts of the Gospels we read haphazardly, choosing this story or that story because it seems to communicate advice to our present life circumstance while ignoring the bulk of the other stuff.  I’m not saying that we can’t glean practical advice from the Gospels, what I am saying is that they are not self-help books.  This is not why they were written, therefore, that’s not how we should read them.  All of the Gospels are stories, so we need to read them as stories.  Prolific author and renowned biblical scholar, N.T. Wright, helps us mightily in this regard.  To properly read and understand the four Gospels, Wright makes use of a handy analogy.  He says to imagine buying a new quadrophonic surround sound speaker system.  There are four speakers, one in each corner of the room, but the sound is uneven and distorted, so now you have to adjust the volume of each speaker to make sure the sound comes through beautifully clear and organized.  Likewise, Wright argues that there are four strands or “speakers” that must all be simultaneously turned up and tuned together to be able to hear the beautifully clear and organized story of the Gospels.  The four “speakers” he discusses are: (1) The Story of Israel, (2) The Story of Jesus as the Story of Israel’s God, (3) The Launching of God’s Renewed People, and (4) The Clash of the Kingdoms.  Unfortunately, many of us read with only one speaker blaring and the rest are completely turned off (or maybe all of them are completely turned off).  By turning all of the speakers on and adjusting the volume to bring them into unison, Wright believes the four Gospels sing this major tune: “The story of how God became king–in and through Jesus both in his public career and in his death.”2  We can always be nit-picky here, but I think he’s generally right (HA!).  I highly recommend this book to anybody interested in the Gospels and what they say about Jesus.  Christians, non-Christians, and skeptics alike will better understand the story of the Gospels and hopefully enjoy the music they produce.

4. From Paradise to the Promise Land by T. Desmond Alexander

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T. Desmond Alexander (a favorite scholar/writer of mine if you can’t tell) has written a superb introduction to the Pentateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy).  Do you struggle reading through parts of Genesis (maybe), or Exodus (maybe), or Leviticus (definitely), or Numbers (yes & insert Christian pick-up line), or Deuteronomy (Idk even know how to spell that, let alone read it)?  Then this book is for you (so basically it’s for everyone).  Part 1 of the book deals exclusively with textual criticism of the Pentateuch, especially form and source criticism.  Don’t be turned off by the first part of the book if you have no interest in textual criticism (most don’t), it’s only ~100 pages so simply skip over it and move onto the bulk of the book: Part 2 “The Main Themes of the Pentateuch”.  Although I should mention, the last chapter of Part 1 is worth reading for anybody, whether interested in textual criticism or not.  Part 2 is exactly like it sounds.  Alexander makes his way though the main themes of the Pentateuch.  These themes include: Royal lineage in Genesis, the blessing of the nations, paradise lost, who is the Lord?, covenant,  passover, tabernacle, clean and unclean foods, holiness, and much more.  Alexander overviews the Pentateuch in the first chapter of Part 2, concluding the chapter with this statement, “Although the Pentateuch is a very distinctive history of the world from its creation to the arrival of the Israelites on the borders of Canaan, it is much more than a history of what has taken place. The divine promises of blessing and nationhood, which are so important to the development of the plot, remain unfulfilled by the end of Deuteronomy.  As a result, the Pentateuch is oriented towards the future.  What will become of these promises?  To answer this we must look beyond the concluding chapters of Deuteronomy.  As it stands, the Pentateuch is an unfinished story.”3  The Pentateuch is the story that begins THE STORY, and reading this book will help you see both.  Delight in finally coming to enjoy the Pentateuch and not cringing over hearing the word “Leviticus” or knowing more about Numbers than that cheesy (but funny) pick-up line.  Read this book!

3.  God the Peacemaker: How Atonement Brings Shalom by Graham Cole

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What a title, right?  Graham Cole says this of the title, “[The title] attempts to capture this important biblical perspective on what God intends for His broken creation.”4  Cole, a respected theologian, sets out to write a Biblical theology on atonement (quite the task), and he hits a biblical-theological-doxological home run.  The first three chapters tell the story of the world’s problem, while the next three chapters tell the story of God’s solution.  These six chapters are an outstanding and edifying overview of the Biblical storyline.  Chapter 7 “explores how the peace/shalom that comes through the cross works itself out at the personal, corporate and cosmic levels.”5  Chapter 8 deals with how we are to live in light of what God’s done in Christ and chapter 9 discusses the purpose for it all: God’s glory.  Cole concludes with this grand statement, “The triune God’s reconciling project will see God’s people in God’s place under God’s rule living God’s way enjoying shalom in God’s holy and loving presence to God’s glory.”6  This is one of my favorite books because I came away having learned A LOT (about the Biblical narrative and about atonement), but also having worshiped God A LOT.  Cole communicates deep biblical-theological truths in ways that produce doxological(worshipful) hearts.  I pray that reading this book will help you understand what God has done in Christ, but also that this understanding will lead to worship.

2. Dominion and Dynasty by Stephen Dempster

41awPvFXR6L._AC_US218_.jpgRarely do I find a book that I know I will reread and continue to reread for the rest of my life, Dominion and Dynasty is one of those books.  The subtitle of the book describes the book well, “A theology of the Hebrew Bible.”  Dempster sees the Old Testament, specifically the Tanak (the Hebrew Bible is called the ‘Tanak’ because it is made up of three parts: Torah, Nevi’im, and Ketuvim) as one unified Story.  The Tanak is structured differently than our Old Testament.  They both contain the same books, but they are in a different order.  Dempster argues that following the order of the Tanak: Torah, Nevi’im (Prophets), and Ketuvim (Writings) shows purposeful structure, composition, and narrative plot.  By the way, Jesus seems to affirm the Tanak order as the Scripture He used in Luke 11:51-52 and Luke 24:44-47.  Dempster begins the book with a short discussion on hermeneutics (fancy word for interpreting a text) and argues for what he calls a “literary” approach to reading the Tanak (the introductory chapters 1 and 2 should not be overlooked).  Then, Dempster works through the Story from Genesis to Chronicles (the last book in the Hebrew Bible) and shows how the unified themes of “Dominion and Dynasty” develop throughout the Narrative.  The following quote will give you a taste of the entire book: “This represents the story of the Tanakh, a story that leaves Israel still in a type of exile, waiting for someone from David’s house to come and build a house to bring about the restoration of all things. To be sure, it consists of many texts, but these find their part in a larger Text. The many stories together constitute a single Story.  And this Story is about the reclamation of a lost human dominion over the world through a Davidic Dynasty. In short, it is about the coming of the kingdom of God, and it is unfinished.”7 Overall, this book is fantastic and will revolutionize how you read the Old Testament.  I highly recommend this book to anyone, but especially Pastors and Teachers of the Word.  This will inform and transform your reading of the Hebrew Bible.  Read and see the Story about Dominion and Dynasty, Geography and Genealogy, God’s Kingdom and God’s King.

1. From Eden to the New Jerusalem by T. Desmond Alexander

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If you purchase one book on Biblical Theology, this is the one.  If you purchase one book on this list, this is the one.  I’ll go so far as to say that the next book you purchase that has anything do with the Bible should be this one.  It’s that good.  T. Desmond Alexander is a great scholar and an excellent author, and his book From Eden to the New Jerusalem will absolutely transform how you see and read the Bible.  Essentially, Alexander traces several themes throughout the Biblical Narrative, drawing these themes from Revelation 21-22.  These themes include: God’s dwelling place (tracing the “temple” from Eden to the New Jerusalem), God’s throne (dealing with the reign of God and the reign of Satan), evil and its (his) destruction, the slaughter of the Lamb (following redemption through the Biblical Story), the tree of life, and living as the people of God.  A quote from the conclusion of the book previews its material, “The coming of Jesus Christ is vital for the ultimate restoration of the earth as God’s abode. Bringing to fulfillment a series of interlocking expectations that link to the royal line of David, Jesus Christ, as the perfect man, overcomes Satan through his death, resurrection and ascension. As a result of his sacrificial death upon the cross, Christ brings about a new exodus that delivers people from Satan’s control, and bestows on them a holy and royal status. By repenting of their sin and acknowledging Christ’s kingship, human beings are enabled by the Holy Spirit to become citizens of the kingdom of God.”8  All I can say is that you need to find this book, buy this book, read this book, and grow in your love for The Book.