Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 1 Study # 3
Thesis: It is fundamental to the servant mindset that "I must do as God says".
Introduction: The beginning of a new year is always a time when folks are confronted with the question of whether they are going to continue to live as they have lived. It is pretty much impossible to live in the U.S. and not be aware of the phenomenon of "New Year's resolutions". It is no accident that many people allow certain temporal markers to be, for them, a point of a new beginning. It is a rare person who never wishes that he/she could, at least, "begin again". In fact, the notion of a "new birth", which is at the heart of the Gospel, is nothing if it is not a new beginning. There is a great warning, and a great promise, in the fact that God requires men to address the question of whether they are going to continue to live as they have lived. The warning is that God simply will not accept those who refuse to acknowledge their need to, at the very least, make some adjustments to their thinking and living. The promise is that God does not leave the power of change up to the individual who sees a need to change. These are the familiar concepts built into the biblical idea of "repentance".
So, this morning we are going to address this question: Am I going to continue to live as I have lived? We are going to look at it from the perspective of Luke's words to Theophilus in Luke 2:3.
January 2, 2005
- I. The Bigger Picture.
- A. Clearly, Luke sought to apprise Theophilus of the fact that Jesus was born in Bethlehem because of the decree of Caesar Augustus.
- B. Just as clearly, Luke sought to distance the birth of Jesus from the highly popular notion of "rebellion" that had been introduced by Judas of Galilee at the time of the enrollment initiated by Quirinius of Syria.
- C. And, equally clear is the fact that Luke's overall theology of God as gracious and Jesus as God's Servant has an indisputable role as governor over his choice of words as he writes to Theophilus.
- 1. Overall theology is irrepressible as the root of all expression.
- a. This is one of the reasons for the initial command to "have no other gods before Yahweh" with its corollary commands to refrain from "making any images" or "applying the name of Yahweh to vanity" [Exodus 20].
- b. This is also one of the reasons for the constant demand of inspired biblical revelation to immerse oneself in the knowledge of God by means of giving attention to what He has said in work and word.
- 2. The overall theology of the inescapable reality of the servant nature of the God Who is hovers over all of His words to give us insight into the mysteries of joy.
- D. So we consider the inspired words of Luke within the context of these clear issues.
- II. The Specific Picture.
- A. Is somewhat garbled by copyists and translators.
- 1. At the translation level, we have three options...
- a. That of the AV: "...to be taxed...".
- b. That of the 1901 ASV: "...to enrol themselves...".
- c. That of the NASB: "...to register for the census...".
- 2. At the copyist level, we have two options...
- a. That of the Textus Receptus: "...unto his own city...", which uses the word for "his own" that means "mine in the sense of a proprietary interest". [This is my money.]
- b. That of the Nestle/Aland 26: "...unto his own city...", which uses the word for "his own" that means "mine in the sense of an identity connection". [This is my father.]
- B. Can be clarified if we keep the "theology" in mind.
- 1. The issue of "submission to enormously corrupt human government".
- a. The translators would have us believe something along the continuum between abject victimization [there is never a reason for disobedience] and total freedom [I will ignore the law(s) as I please].
- 1) The NASB translators decided to simply ignore the verbal "voice" issues that exist in every copyist's text and impose their own.
- a) "To register" implies an "active voice" -- signifying the freedom of man to initiate action.
- b) The verb is not in the "active voice" form.
- 2) The AV translators decided to opt for the "passive" voice as the most probable based upon the "form" and its options.
- a) The options are "passive" or "middle" (victim or 'self-submissive').
- b) The problem with the "passive" is that it creates a shade of meaning which falls neatly into the fallen human's natural tendency to feel victimized.
- 3) The 1901 translators decided to opt for the "middle" voice as the most probable.
- a) They clearly saw that a decree had gone out -- taking the initiative away from the "all".
- b) They also apparently realized that "reaction" is a matter of overall theology and that no one with a godly mindset would have any problem with voluntarily submitting to the governmental decree.
- c) They also paid a bit more attention to the implication of 2:5, where Luke made it explicit that the "voice" was "middle".
- b. There was absolutely nothing in the word of God to elicit rebellion against the decree -- so it was of no consequence that it arose from a corrupt government.
- c. This is the issue all believers must face in situations where governments make decrees: does this decree force a violation of godliness upon me?
- d. The overall theology of the servant kingdom prohibits both the "I am a victim" mentality as well as the "I am the god here" approach...validating the translators of the 1901 ASV.
- 2. The issue of "proprietary interest".
- a. The copyists force us to choose between two distinct concepts.
- b. The options are...
- 1) To see oneself as "in control" and having a right to "self-interest-preservation"...the copyist of the Textus Receptus tradition.
- 2) To see oneself as "a recipient of a heritage with no control over it whatsoever" ...the copyist of the Nestle/Aland 26 tradition.
- c. The problem: man's deeply entrenched commitment to turn everything into a way to exalt himself over others.
- 1) The idea of proprietary interest is, at root, the idea of being the "god".
- 2) The idea of a recipient of a heritage can, however, also be twisted into the same idea...a matter for ungodly boasting.
- III. The Point.
- A. At every turn in the road (whether the beginning of a New Year, or the beginning of a new day, or the beginning of a new course within a new day), we are faced with a very fundamental question: If God is a Servant, how should I act?
- B. At the end of every road, looking back will cause us to reflect on the turns we took, and, if we have a modicum of honesty, we will realize that we need to make some changes in the way we make our choices.
- C. Thus, we cannot continue to live as we have lived...we have a great need for changes to take place in the way we think about God and how that relates to us.
- D. And, if God is gracious, we can seek His provision so that our thinking improves and our choices become more of a reflection of His character.