Chapter 1 Paragraph 3 Study # 4
Thesis: To be given Grace means to be given a mediatorial identity.
Introduction: As we have followed Luke's example (1:3) and "investigated everything carefully", we have noted that one of his major interests in his record of the comings of both John and Jesus has been to put the issue of 'grace' out in front of Theophilus and, by extension, out in front of us. The major background issue that he has highlighted has been 'fear' and the theology that drives it [God does not intend good for me -- i.e., "God is not gracious"]. Both Zacharias and Mary are deliberately cast in the role of the 'fear-driven'. One of the major conceptual issues involved in Luke's presentation of 'grace', so far, is 'the determined willingness of Yahweh to express His gracious nature', which means the determined willingness to provide for man in his need...God doing for man what He has required of man. Both Zacharias and Mary are told that they are to have sons who are to be named with highly theologically-significant names. "John" is named so that the focus centers on the nature of God as gracious; "Jesus" is named so that the focus centers on the automatic expression of that nature [even God can only act out of Who and What He is]. Of all of the heretical notions that exist in the hearts and minds of men, perhaps the most corrosive one regarding God is the suspicion that He is not gracious. Next to that, perhaps, is the ignorance of what God's grace is really like. So, this morning, we are going to continue in our look into Luke's focus on the grace of God and what it means to men in terms of what it is really like. We are going to look at what Gabriel told Mary was going to happen as a consequence of her identity as an object of grace.
January 11, 2004
- I. The Connection Between Grace and What Was Going to Happen.
- A. In both of the cases of our text, what was going to happen was viewed by those to whom it was going to happen as enormously desirable.
- 1. The coming birth of John was cast in the light of the petition of Zacharias.
- 2. The coming of Jesus is cast, after the fact, as a fulfillment of the longing of Mary's soul and spirit ("my soul doth magnify...my spirit hath rejoiced exceedingly...").
- B. In both of the cases of our text, what was going to happen was viewed by those to whom it was going to happen as extraordinarily unlikely.
- 1. Neither Zacharias, nor Mary, initially embraced the implications of grace for themselves.
- 2. In neither case was the unlikeliness attributable to good theology.
- a. In both cases, there was prophetic promise that established the absolute necessity of the events...and, very likely, both participants subscribed to that necessity.
- b. In both cases, there was a sense in the hearts of the participants that, though it was to come, it wasn't likely to come to me.
- 1) Zacharias was too flawed for it to come to me.
- 2) Mary was too lowly for it to come to me.
- c. This sense that it is highly unlikely to come to me is what was borne of corrupt theology.
- 1) Zacharias' theology was of God as Justice Personified and impossible to please.
- 2) Mary's theology was of God as Exaltation Personified and disinterested in the lowly.
- 3) In neither case was the essential description of God in error; but, in both cases the description was too limited and the conclusions were, therefore, wrong.
- C. In both cases the choices of God were specifically designed to generate a better grasp of the truth about God's nature -- especially in the direction of grace -- so that what was considered unlikely would begin to be considered normal.
- 1. If grace is real, justice isn't the threat it can be.
- 2. If grace is real, transcendence isn't the loss it can be.
- D. In both cases the impact of grace was irresistible as rooted in Promise.
- 1. Because the impact was foretold, it was impossible that it was not to happen.
- 2. Because the impact was highly desired, there was no final resistance.
- II. The Nature of Grace Derived From What Was Going to Happen.
- A. Gabriel's announcement to Mary was that she was "highly favored", that she had "found grace with God" and...
- 1. The "and" means that we can get a better handle on what grace signifies if we let the "and" lead our thinking.
- 2. The "and" tells us what was going to happen because of grace.
- B. Gabriel went on to tell Mary that she was going to be the mother of a Son named Jesus.
- 1. The process was that she was going to conceive, she was going to bear, and she was going to name.
- a. The direct implication of conception is that she was going to provide the "egg".
- 1) The "egg" that she was going to supply was one that carried her genetic identity.
- 2) There is no hint anywhere in Scripture that this "egg" was supernaturally 'cleansed' of any taint involved in her humanity.
- a) There is a biblical necessity that this egg not be linked to Adam's sin.
- b) There are three conceptions that disavow this egg's linkage to Adamic sin.
- i. The immaculate conception -- which is a old heresy that does not address the issue at all in any fundamental way.
- ii. The denial of Mary's contribution of the necessary egg...there was simply a creation of a human embryo by total divine provision -- which seems to be a rather new heresy that effectively denies Jesus' identity as the seed of any man, whether Abraham or David or any other.
- iii. The theory of the transmission of Adamic sin through the male aspect of the contribution that generates conception -- a theory that has no inherent flaws to discredit it and that allows the Scriptures to be taken according to the normal meaning of language.
- b. The direct implication of bearing is that she was going to go through all of the normal processes of carrying the child to term and then enduring the birth pangs that would push Him from the womb into the dark of night.
- 1) There is no indication anywhere that the birthing process was going to be "easy".
- 2) There is no reason to think that Mary was going to be spared anything of the process.
- c. The direct implication of the naming is that the Son was to fulfill His identity as it was conferred upon Him by divine instruction.
- 1) As "John" identified the focal characteristic of God, "Jesus" was to identify the focal activity of God.
- 2) The outworking of the name proved to be a doctrine of the exclusivity of the divine action -- so that salvation is wholly of God as He worked through human instrumentality.
- C. The conclusion we must draw...
- 1. The essential meaning of grace is that God confers a new identity.
- 2. The essence of the new identity is that the recipient of grace has become a mediatorial agent of God.
- a. This is a far cry from the typically understood identity as a recipient of blessedness.
- 1) The typically understood identity is "all about me".
- 2) God never intended that His Kingdom-building process should have ever been turned from its "all about others" focus to an "all about me" focus.
- b. This means that grace has not really been effective unless the objective of grace grasps the fact that he/she has become a mediatorial agent for the communication of blessedness from God to others.