Sunday, December 25, 2022

The Story of Christ in Four Parts

The scripture presents the story of Christ in at least four parts:

The first one is the birth of the Lord Jesus. God was making himself known to people in a human body. God the Son was going to come into this world and become man, though he existed eternally with the Father.

Secondly, there are the teachings of the Lord Jesus. He went through every city and village preaching the glad tidings of the kingdom of God. The teachings of Christ are tremendously important. We need to pay attention to those.

Then there is the death of Jesus outside the walls of Jerusalem in a place called Calvary.

The fourth part is the resurrection and ascension of Jesus back to the throne of God.

So we need to think of the story of Christ in at least these four ways — in his birth, ministry, death and resurrection — to have a complete view of the person and work of the Lord Jesus.

1/ The Birth of Christ

Let’s think about his birth, for it precedes these other activities. What is remarkable about the birth of Jesus?

Well, he entered this world in a different way than Adam. Adam was created out of the dust of the ground, never having had an existence before, a miraculous thing, a direct creation of God. When Jesus came into the world, that’s not what it was. Here was one coming into the world who existed before, and he assumed a human body and came into the world. He came into the world in a different way than Adam did.

Of course, he came into the world in a different way than you did. You came into this world as a result of the union of a man and a woman, a father and a mother. The Lord Jesus had both in one sense: Joseph was his foster-father and Mary’s womb was the vehicle through which he entered into this world from eternity.

So he entered the world in a different way from Adam, and he entered the world in a different way than yourself.

2/ The Life of Christ

The life of the Lord Jesus and his ministry revealed nothing that the sons of Adam could supply. God required a man who could come and be a sacrifice for sin. He needed a sinless man. He couldn’t find one among the children of Adam. “I sought for a man among them,” says Ezekiel, “who should build up the wall and stand in the breach before me for the land, that I should not destroy it, but I found none.” The Lord was looking among the sons of Adam, and he could find no one who could stand in the gap and supply the need of the land. Isaiah 63 says God looked, but there was “no one to help” and “no one to uphold”. Therefore his own arm brought salvation.

3/ The Death of Christ

The death of the Lord Jesus was something the Old Testament prophecies demanded. It was essential that there would be a sacrifice that was pure and holy and sinless. We sometimes sing while breaking bread, “O spotless lamb of God, in thee the Father’s holiness we see / and with delight thy children trace in thee his wondrous love and grace.” What God was looking for down through the ages, so to speak, using human terms — God “looking” for something. He was expressing himself that way so that we would understand what the world’s need was, and he found it in the person of the Lord Jesus.

4/ The Resurrection of Christ

The resurrection of Christ is the crowning feature of the good news. It’s the climax of everything else. In the book of Acts, it brings conviction: “This Jesus God raised up.” He’s exalted to the right hand of God. God has made this same Jesus both Lord and Christ. And when they heard this, they cried out, “What shall we do?” They were convicted because God had reversed the decision they had made. Their decision was to crucify him, get rid of him, get rid of the problem he presented to their religious world and their religious thinking. But God raised him from the dead, and that was what convicted them.

In the book of Romans, the resurrection is the very climax of the gospel:

“Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, concerning his Son, who was descended from David according to the flesh and was declared to be the Son of God in power according to the Spirit of holiness by his resurrection from the dead.”

Then in Romans 4, it’s the very heart of the gospel message:

“It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was delivered up because of our trespasses and raised because of our justification.”

The Importance of the Resurrection

This is telling us what the gospel is all about. He came into this world to be handed over, to be delivered up because of our offenses, and he was raised because of our justification. Notice that. He was delivered up in order to meet the need man had. But suppose he had stayed in the grave. Suppose Jesus never rose. There would be no assurance at all that our sins were atoned for, and that our sins were forgiven. He was raised again because of our justification; that’s the force of the word there. Because our sins had been thoroughly dealt with, because our need had been met, God raised his Son from the dead. God now raises him from the dead, the one who had become associated with us in our need, because our sheet was cleared, the debt was paid. In raising him from the dead, he raises us up as well, so that Christ and those who believe on him are united. In the resurrection of Christ, we have the assurance that God has counted us righteous; we’ve been accepted by him.

So it’s important to believe in the birth of Jesus Christ. It’s important to believe in his ministry. It’s important to believe in his death. But most of all, it’s important to believe in his resurrection. It’s only then that we gain assurance that the work is complete, our sins forgiven, we have been justified by God and counted righteous in the court of heaven.

— Colin Anderson, excerpted from “Christmas and Easter”, 2010

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