Westminster Confession of Faith Ch. 8 Art’s 2,3,7
2. The Son of God, the second person of the Trinity, being truly and eternally God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time had come, take upon Himself man’s nature, with all its essential properties and common frailties, yet without sin. He was conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary and of her substance. In this way, two whole natures, the divine and the human, perfect and distinct, were inseparably joined together in one person without being changed, mixed, or confused. This person is truly God and truly man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.
3. In His human nature, united to the divine nature, the Lord Jesus was set apart and anointed with the Holy Spirit beyond measure, having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. In Him the Father was pleased to have all fullness dwell, so that—being holy, blameless, and undefiled, full of grace and truth—He might be completely equipped to fulfill the office of a mediator and guarantor. He did not take this office to Himself but was called to it by His Father, who put all power and judgment into His hand and commanded Him to execute it.
7. In the work of mediation, Christ acts according to both natures. Each nature does what is proper to itself; yet, by reason of the unity of His person, that which is proper to one nature is in Scripture sometimes attributed to the person designated by the other nature.
Congregation of the Lord Jesus Christ,
If something incredible happened at Middleton Grange Christian School a few days ago, and it was your job to find out what happened and to write down a report about it, you would probably try and speak to the people involved or the people who saw what happened or written reports about the incident so that you could get the facts correct. Right?
Well, this is exactly what Luke the author of the Gospel of Luke did in regards to the life of the Lord Jesus. He tells us at the beginning of his Gospel that he carefully investigated the accounts of those who were eye-witnesses of the events surrounding the life of Jesus. And he used their reports and his interviews to put together his “ORDERLY ACCOUNT.”
So the record of the appearance of the angel Gabriel to Mary, which we read a few moments ago, is a part of Luke’s “orderly account.” And the meeting between Mary and Elizabeth that followed, and the birth of John the Baptist, and the birth of the Lord Jesus, and the appearance of the angels to the shepherds, and then the reactions of a number of people to Jesus’ birth are also all part of Luke’s “orderly account.”
But they are so much more than just an “orderly account,” aren’t they.
For a start, these aren’t just ordinary events! These are the events surrounding the birth of the Saviour! They are words that we should always find awe-inspiring and fascinating and fresh and gripping and soul-uplifting!
And secondly, we know that the Holy Spirit guided the thoughts and the words of Luke as he wrote these words. So they are not just a human account of the events surrounding the birth of Jesus; they are the Word of God!
But, while they are the word of God, they give us a very human perspective of Christ’s birth – a record of the things people saw and heard and did, and their reactions to His birth. What we have in the verses of Hebrews before us today, however, is GOD’S PERSPECTIVE ON THE BIRTH OF CHRIST. There is no baby in a manger or shepherds or wise men in this passage. What there is is a divine perspective on the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ. And while we could spend weeks exploring the great truthes contained in these verses, we will summarize these verses in four parts and then end with one question in four parts.
The purpose of the Book of Hebrews was to show especially Jewish Christians that the Lord Jesus was the fulfilment of all the OT types and ceremonies and promises and prophecies, and that He was superior to everything that came before Him. These words were written to assure believers that they were right to trust in the Lord Jesus. May they have the same affect with each one of us today!
I. So let’s begin, as we consider God’s perspective on the birth of Christ, with the words of v1 where we read about the PREPARATION FOR Christ: “Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets.”
A. The OT is a record of God speaking to His people. Sometimes He spoke to them directly, as He did with Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. Sometimes He spoke through His prophets. Sometimes He spoke through visions and dreams, like at the burning bush. Sometimes He spoke through ceremonies. But through all of these different means, He was progressively revealing more and more about the promised Messiah. If someone ever asks you, What is the OT about? You can tell them, It is about the Lord Jesus Christ. Prophets, priests and kings prepare us for the great Prophet, Priest, and King; sacrifices prepare us for the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world; prophecies point us to Him as the fulfillment of prophecy and promise. So the OT progressively reveals more and more about the Lord Jesus; it prepares us for the Lord Jesus.
II. But it is the task of the NT to present us with the Lord Jesus. And this is what we see in the first part of v2 where we read about the PRESENTATION OF Christ: “But in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son.”
A. Jesus is the full picture; the complete word; the total revelation of God. Holiday time in my house is puzzle time. And we like those wasgij puzzles – you don’t know what the final image will be. Well, the OT is like the pieces of a wasgij puzzle. Each piece is a tiny part of the whole picture. But when you put a few pieces together here and there, you get a better idea of the final image. But it is not until all the pieces are in place that you finally can see the full picture. Well The NT is all the pieces of the OT ‘puzzle’ put together in the coming of the long-promised Lord Jesus. To know God you must read the OT – law, prophets, poetry, psalms, history, all of it. But Jesus said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” We only come to know God as our Father in heaven through Jesus.
B. But notice also what is said here about HOW THE LORD JESUS WAS PRESENTED: We see it in 2:9 where there is reference to Him “who for a little while was made lower than the angels.” And what this means is explained further on in ch. 2 where it talks about Jesus partaking of flesh and blood in v14, because, as we see in v17, “He had to be made like His brothers in every respect.” God presented His Son as a baby, conceived in the womb of the Virgin Mary by the Holy Spirit, and born in Bethlehem. As it says in our Westminster article, “The Son of God … did … take upon Himself man’s nature.” The infant in the manger was fully God and fully man.
III. Thirdly though, these verses speak about the PREEMINENCE OF Christ. And preeminence means superior/more glorious. And we see this in the series of phrases here in ch. 1. Let’s look at each:
A. The first is “Whom He appointed the HEIR of all things.” Boys and girls, when a parent dies, they usually leave all their possessions to their children. Dad’s golf clubs/Mum’s piano! The children then are the heirs of all that the parents have. Well, God has appointed the Lord Jesus as His heir. Psalm 2 talks about the nations being His inheritance and the earth His possession. Now, God will not die, of course. But at the end of time, the one who actually once said that while foxes and birds had a place to sleep, He owned nothing, will inherit the whole universe!
B. The next phrase says, “Through whom also He created the world.” This universe was created by the child in the manger; the infant who had to wait to be fed and who later had to learn how to be a carpenter is the word that brought the heavens and the earth into existence!
C. But He is also “the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of His nature.” All human beings are made in the image of God; we reflect who God is in our being and behaviour, etc. But as creatures and sinful creatures at that we are like a reflective pool of muddy water. The Lord Jesus, though, is like a perfectly clear pool. He is fully God – He shares all the attributes of divinity – He is, as we confessed from the Nicene Creed earlier, “very God of very God.”
D. And He also, as v3 continues, “upholds the universe by the word of His power.” Jesus Christ has ultimate power! There are some extremely clever people in this world who make discoveries or invent things every day. But you know, what they invent or discover is not new to the Lord Jesus. And while you and me struggle to get through one day without forgetting something or making a mistake, He controls and directs every atom and molecule and cell and planet and star in this vast universe!
E. But the next thing we see about His preeminence is that begins with the phrase “after making purification for sins.” Now, if you know the OT, you will know that every priest in Israel made purification for sins. So how do these words reveal the preeminence of the Lord Jesus? Well, as will be stated later in Hebrews, the priests of the OT first had to make purification for their own sins. But not Jesus, because He was sinless. And all those priests eventually died and their bodies remain in the grave. But not Jesus, because He was raised from the dead. And while the priests of the OT never sat down while ministering because their work was never done, the rest of v3 tells us that the Lord Jesus “sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” Jesus finished the work of purification. And He told us this when He said, “It is finished.”
F. And so lastly, in connection with His preeminence, vv4-5 reveal His SUPERIORITY TO THE ANGELS. We read, “Having become as much superior to angels as the name He has inherited is more excellent than theirs. For to which of the angels did God ever say, “You are my Son, today I have begotten you”? Or again, “I will be to Him a father, and He shall be to me a son”?” On the first Christmas, some angels appeared to shepherds and the glory of God shone around about them. Pretty impressive! Meanwhile, nearby, a tiny infant was wrapped in swaddling cloths and placed in a manger, “because there was no place for them in the inn.” Not so impressive. But angels, in the Bible, are called sons of God – little ‘s.’ That infant though was the Son of God – capital ‘S.’ And v6 tells us that as those angels sang they were worshipping the infant child. And right now, they worship the Lord Jesus in heaven as their King!
IV. So in terms of God’s perspective on the birth of Christ, we have noted the PREPARATION for Christ, the PRESENTATION of Christ, and the PREEMINENCE of Christ. And that brings us finally and fourthly to the PROCLAMATION of Christ, from which will flow our one question in four parts.
A. Vv1-4 of ch. 1 are a block of text. But as you come to v5 and then to various other verses throughout ch’s 1-2, they are set out in a different style than 1:1-4. And this is because they are QUOTES from elsewhere in the Bible. Well, ch. 2:6-8 is a quote from elsewhere in the Bible. And if your Bible has notes, you will see that it is a quote from PSALM 8. Now Psalm 8 is about mankind. You will note from v6 that “son of man” begins with a little ‘s.’ So what we have here is a lament, if you like, that the ultimate purpose for mankind has not yet been reached. Way back in Genesis 1, when the very first human being, Adam, was created, God said to Him, “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it and have dominion over [everything.]” That was our creation purpose. But is that what we see now? It’s not is it. And this is because Adam sinned. And God said to Adam, “Cursed is the ground because of you; in pain you shall eat of it all the days of your life; thorns and thistles it shall bring forth for you.” Romans 8 talks about creation as being in “bondage to corruption.” Weeds/rust/cancer/Aleppo. And so, as we see at the end of v8, “At present, we do not yet see everything in subjection to him,” meaning mankind. Our ultimate purpose has not yet been reached.
B. But, as v9 continues, that is not all that we see. For “WE SEE HIM who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honour because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.” Jesus, who became man, who like us was “made lower than the angels,” who endured death as we must, has now been “crowned with glory and honour.” And He reigns now in heaven! There, according to Ephesians 1:21, He is far above all rule and authority,” and all things have been put under His feet.
So tying this all together then we see this: Mankind’s ultimate purpose is to be crowned with glory and honour and to rule in the new heavens and the new earth. But there is only one way this can happen, and that is by believing in the One who has already been crowned with glory and honour and who rules in heaven now – the Lord Jesus Christ. What is being proclaimed to you today is that the child born in Bethlehem’s manger then now lives and reigns in heaven as the only way by which we can be saved. This is God’s perspective on the birth of Christ. So now you have to answer this question: Who is Jesus?
1. Is He just a GOOD man? Teacher? I am afraid Jesus will not allow you that answer. He said, “He who has seen me has seen the Father.” He said that He was eternal God. He said that He came “to give His life as a ransom for many.” So Jesus has not left the option of Him being just a good man open to you.
2. So could it be then that He was a MAD man? After all, plenty of people throughout history have made some pretty big claims about themselves that have proven untrue. Fidel Castro, for example, was supposed to be so strong that he would live to 140. Go to many mental health institutions today and you will find people who claim to be the Messiah. Well, I challenge you to read the Gospels and see if Jesus lived and spoke like a mad man. You will find there a record of a time when some thought He was mad (His own family!). But later they came to see that He was not mad at all! The best evidence of His sanity, however, is seen in what the Jews did to Him. For you either ignore mad men or you lock them up. They killed Him. They understood perfectly well what He claimed to be. But they refused to believe it. Jesus is no mad man.
3. But perhaps then He is a CON man? A deceiver? But think about this for a moment: His central claim was that He was God. Now, make that claim today and you are just one of many. But Jesus did it in the context of Jewish monotheism, where to claim to be God was considered blasphemy and punishable by death. Yet many people, because of what He did and what He said, believed Him!
4. And what He said was “I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” So He is not just a good man. He is not a mad man. And He is not a con man. The child born to Mary is truly man and truly God. He is the only mediator between God and man. Jesus is the Son of God and the Son of Man. Hallelujah! What a Saviour. Amen.