Chapter # 2 Paragraph # 3 Study # 19
Thesis: The Law and Nazareth were both made necessary by the magnitude of the problem of Sin.
Introduction: On this fourth anniversary of 9/11, it is instructive to those who have eyes to see and ears to hear that this United States has been subjected to both the hostility of men and the wrath of God in the past four years in a way that is increasingly hard to simply ignore so that we may go about our business as usual. When the World Trade Center was destroyed by the wrath of men, there were some who said that God was judging America for its permissiveness in particular respect to its kinky sexuality. Those who dared to say that were immediately shouted down and vilified by permissive Americans who did not want to hear that God was not an American. In the last two weeks, America was hit with a body blow of such magnitude that many thought it necessary to have a Katrina Relief Concert that would be broadcast on all of the major TV networks simultaneously. The first spokesperson of that Concert was Ellen Degeneres, an openly lesbian woman who has her own weekly TV show in an in-your-face kind of statement about what America is supposed to embrace. I find it ironic that an event that is clearly a manifestation of the wrath of God (of a sufficient magnitude that no one can simply ignore it) is addressed by the public media with a deliberate statement that "when faced with a great disaster, we need to put aside our differences and work together to undo the damage that has been done". God was not impressed on Friday night with the arrogance of America, and another of the instruments of His destruction spins off the east coast at this very moment.
And, as is always the case, the very text before us in the Word of God this morning speaks to our setting with a remarkable correspondence. The text before us this morning is, in a way, an explanation of the reason that God has made it a policy to, as Paul said it in Romans 1:18, reveal His wrath from heaven. So, if we have any stomach for the Word of God in the face of His obvious displeasure, let us look into Luke's record in Luke 2:39 to see if there is something there for us.
September 11, 2005
- I. Luke's Dual Declaration.
- A. On the one hand, there is a deliberate return to the former thesis of 2:22-24.
- B. On the other hand, there is a deliberate return to the former thesis of 1:26.
- II. Luke's Theological Conundrums.
- A. The first thesis of law-abiding people is almost completely undercut by Luke's focus upon "grace" and the absolute necessity for the input of the Spirit of God when the will of God is to be accomplished "positively" (as opposed to God using the wickedness of man to accomplish His plans).
- 1. One of the most puzzling issues for most casual readers of the Bible is the apparent acknowledgement of "good" actions by men while it is specifically stated, and illustrated, that men are incapable of "good" actions on their own.
- a. Almost everywhere we turn in the Bible, there are Old Testament examples of men who did the "right" thing.
- 1) In Luke's text, he specifically says...
- a) ...in 1:6, that Zacharias and Elizabeth were both "walking in all the commandments and ordinances of the Lord, blameless"...
- b) ...in 2:22-24, that Joseph and Mary were acting in accordance with the dictates of the Law of the Lord...
- c) ...in this morning's text, that Joseph and Mary "had performed all things according to the Law of the Lord".
- 2) From these texts, as well as the general impression of the Old Testament's use of men as examples of the kind of behavior that we should emulate, there is a definite impression of the ability of man to do the will of God.
- b. But the major thesis of the Bible in the New Testament is the claim that men are incapable of doing the "right" thing unless they are indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit of God.
- 1) In Luke's record (1:15) the claim is made that the one who is to set the stage for Messiah's arrival upon the scene is to be "filled with the Holy Spirit from his mother's womb."
- 2) In Luke's continuing record (Acts 1:4-5, 8) the Jesus-discipled-over-a-six year-span men are forbidden to attempt to take up the task to which they were assigned until they received the "power" to accomplish it.
- 3) In the words of Luke's mentor (Paul), in our flesh dwells no good thing (Romans 7:18), and walking by the Spirit is absolutely essential if we are to do the will of God (Ephesians 5:18).
- c. The entire New Testament thesis that a very large and progressive step in the plan of God has been taken in the form of the indwelling of the Spirit of God in men flies in the face of the "impression" that men can acceptably fulfill the Law of the Lord without that indwelling presence.
- 1) Luke's major thesis of the need for a re-orientation in men from Law to Grace insists that the "impression" is wrong...men really cannot fulfill the Law in an acceptable way unless they are empowered by the Spirit of God.
- 2) The apostle Paul, who claimed in Philippians 3:6 that, as an unbeliever, he had fulfilled the righteousness of the Law, himself declared in that same context that if a person wished to be found in Christ, he had to count his "fulfillment of the Law" as "dung"...meaning it had to be considered as absolutely ineffective in terms of the real accomplishment of the will of God.
- 2. The theological conundrum is not real, but it is "apparent".
- a. It does "appear" that men can perform acceptably without the Spirit.
- b. But it is not an "appearance" that creates a perception of Truth.
- B. The second thesis of a totally unimpressive "setting" for the accomplishment of the will of God is, likewise, almost invariably undercut by the illustrations of the Bible that are designed to "impress".
- 1. Most of the "stories" of the Bible depend upon their "impressiveness" to make the desired impact upon us as readers.
- a. Who of us is impressed by stories of nobodies who accomplish nothing?
- b. Who of us is not like the disciples in Mark 13:1?
- 2. Yet, there are direct declarations in the Scriptures that what impresses men is despised by God (Luke 16:15) and what men despise is chosen by God (1 Corinthians 1:28).
- III. The Point of the Conundrums.
- A. The comments on Joseph and Mary fulfilling the Law are not comments on the godliness of Joseph and Mary: they are comments on the qualifications of Jesus to be the Redeemer of Israel.
- 1. In order to be the Redeemer of Israel, Jesus had to be spotlessly unblemished in the face of the Law.
- 2. When He was a baby and incapable of doing what was required by the Law, those who would determine whether He was within the boundaries of the Law or not would have to be motivated by God to make sure He was in accord with the Law.
- 3. Thus, the issue is not whether Joseph and Mary could perform the requirements of the Law acceptably as to their own hearts, but whether the Law was fulfilled as to the requirements upon Jesus.
- B. The comments on the "setting" are not comments upon the insignificance of Jesus, but, rather, are comments upon the necessity for a "sudden" and "brilliant" light of short duration so that the attention of men can be focused, however briefly, upon the Truth of God so that decisions can be made.
- 1. John and Jesus both are raised in obscurity.
- 2. Both have meteoric rises to extreme visibility.
- 3. Both are put to death within short periods of time.
- 4. Both create a powerful focus upon Truth that will not last among men, but that must be generated for the sake of the Elect.
- IV. Conclusion.
- A. The wrath of God has always been a suitable setting for the ministries of Grace.
- B. To deny the events are wrath is to dilute the impact of Grace.
- C. New Orleans was destroyed by God because the message of Luke 2:39 is increasingly despised by Americans: there is a qualified Redeemer, but there will be no redemption without repentance from the arrogance that is so typically American.