“Things Which Are Surely Believed Among Us” --Part 5

“Things Which Are Surely Believed Among Us”
Part 5

E. W. Rogers

The phrase, “Things which are most surely believed among us” is to be interpreted in no sectarian sense. “Food for the Flock” does not foster sectarianism. The phrase has been extracted from Luke 1:1, and, in using it as a caption for a series of articles touching our Faith, we wish to imply that those responsible for the production of the magazine unreservedly believe all that is contained in “the Scriptures of Truth,” and they write for that large body of Christians who share their like faith. All over the world, and at all times, God has those who like Paul say, “I believe God.”

Seeing that our beliefs are based on Holy Scripture, it follows that we should first consider the nature of those Scriptures, in order to satisfy ourselves that our faith is well-founded. Our fifth paper, therefore, will relate to…

The Incarnation

We have before emphasized in this series that we are dealing with things which we believe. We admit freely that we cannot explain all things which we believe, for we are not rationalists. Someone has written of the irrationalism of infidelity: he was right, for there are a limitless number of things which all men everywhere believe though they can explain but a very small fraction of them.

So in the matter of the incarnation. We believe that God made the first man without his having any human parents. In the nature of the case it could not have been otherwise. Then we believe that the first woman was made from the male, but without the female parent. Normally, the human race is produced from male and female conjointly, but why should it be thought a thing incredible if God departed from His normal method and caused our Lord Jesus to become incarnate without human father but with human mother?

The accounts are recorded in decorum and becoming brevity, but are full and adequate for all honest people. The re-actions in the mind of Joseph who was espoused to Mary are recorded by Matthew. The reactions in the heart of Mary are recorded by Luke. So that there are given the two sides of the matter.

The Lord Jesus was real man: conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary, born as all others of the human race are born, and grew in mind and stature as all others. His human nature was real, but was begotten of God. He had human spirit, human soul and human body. He did not appear to be a man, as some heretics held. He was real man!

No reasonable doubt can be entertained by the honest mind that the father of the Lord Jesus was not Joseph. Not merely does his intention of ‘putting her away’ tell against it, but it is plainly affirmed that the conception occurred “before they came together” and that he “knew her not” till the child was born.

Mary was a virgin at the time of conception. Much endeavour has been expended in order to try to show that the word employed by Isaiah means a young married woman, but if a young married woman had a son, it would have been only natural and would not, and could not have been, a supernatural sign. The translators into Greek of the Old Testament (their work being known as LXX) had no doubt of the meaning, and their word - parthenos - is used and quoted by Matthew.

We may be quite sure that Joseph, who first doubted the faithfulness of Mary, would not have been easily satisfied, but seeing that he was contented to go on with the betrothal contract and to marry her thus ensuring the child being born in wedlock, it is evident that he had had divine assurance that God was moving in the affairs of men to implement His long-standing promises. The one to be born was “The Child born, and the Son given.”

If anyone doubts the innocence of Joseph in the matter, he must satisfy himself as to why Matthew and Luke are each prepared to commit themselves to writing on the subject. Is it to be supposed (apart altogether from the divine inspiration of Scripture) that these two men would willingly subscribe to what was known to be an immoral conception? What motive could each of them have had to have whitewashed Joseph and Mary?

Luke records the birth of two at about the same time, that of John Baptist and that of the Lord Jesus. In the one case the conception took place naturally but much later than is normal. In the other case the conception took place too early as men consider, and that unnaturally. Zechariah, the father of John, sings after the child is born: but Mary sings her Magnificat before the child is born. In the case of John it is said, “Thy wife Elisabeth shall bear thee a son,” but no such statement is made to Mary, or to Joseph.

It is appropriate that Luke, a doctor, records Mary’s side of the story. He informs us that “he has gone over the whole course of these events in detail” (Luke 1:3, NEB) having satisfied himself of the accuracy of what he recounts.

This sheds an enormous amount of light upon the Old Testament Scriptures. The promise of Genesis 3:15 takes on a new aspect. ‘The seed of the woman’ shows that God Himself intended to depart from the normal procedure as set out in Genesis 2:24, and would bring into the race through the faulty vessel (ibid 3:1) Him who would undo the damage of sin. It illumines Psalm 69:8, “I am become a stranger unto my brethren, and an alien unto my mother’s children.” Even when the Lord Jesus was here, His brethren did not believe on Him, but observe also the precise accuracy of the inspired Psalm. The Psalmist speaks of “my mother’s children:” not “my parents’ children.” When the Lord spake of “My Father,” His reference was to God and not to Joseph. He never so spake of Joseph, though he was regarded by the people as his legal father.

An endeavour has been made to discredit the account of the Virgin Birth of the Lord Jesus because, it is said, no other of the New Testament writers speaks of it. But this is reaching a wrong conclusion, it being based on a wrong premise. Others do speak of it, though they do not name the parties involved.

It is not to be expected that any allusion would be found in Mark’s Gospel. Who is interested in the parentage of a servant? All one wants to be assured of is competency in the person who is to serve. But is it not remarkable that Mark 3:31-35, speaks of “His mother,” “Thy mother,” “My mother,” but not a word about “My father?”

And what shall we say of John’s Gospel? He tells us “the Word became flesh” (John 1:14). He was not made it but voluntarily became it. He does not go into details, but there must have been a time when this change took place, when the eternal Son of God became what He was not before. It may be that the taunt of the people, recorded by John, “We be not born of fornication” was a rebuff to Him, implying that He was. One, however, wonders whether at such a long time after the birth, and having regard to the secrecy of the thirty years spent at Nazareth, the facts were known. Man quickly forgets, and it is not to be supposed that Mary would blazon the matter abroad. But apart from this, one must explain how John could write of One who gave so many evidences of being a real man — who hungered, thirsted, was weary, wept, and so on. His humanity must be accounted for somehow.

Nor did Paul ignore the matter,. He writes that “God sent forth His Son, made of a woman, made under law.” The verb he uses is not the same as the Lord used of John Baptist: John was the greatest “born” of women: but Paul says the Lord Jesus “became” of a woman. His verb denotes a voluntary alteration of position and condition. It is not to be expected that the other New Testament writers would go into the details which the Spirit of God had caused Matthew and Luke to recount. There would be no need for such duplication. But there is abundant evidence that they believed and taught the true, full and real humanity of Jesus, the Son of God.

For example, Paul writes “God sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh.” His was not sinful flesh, but He came in the likeness of it. He did not come in the likeness of unfallen man, whatever that may have been, but He came into conditions similar to those of fallen man. Paul, moreover, speaks of the Lord Jesus as “of the seed of David according to the flesh,” and again, “Of whom, as concerning the flesh, Christ came.” Whatever else the phrase means, it is an acknowledgment of His true humanity.

He “became in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man He humbled Himself.” All that pertained to unfallen humanity (for sin is not a necessary part of human nature; it is an intruder into it) He was. “In all things it behoved Him to be made like unto His brethren.” “He was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” He did not come into angelic state, but was “made a little lower thah angels.” He could experience what they could not: he hungered, thirsted, and such like. He came into our sphere and took humanity without taking sin. In common with all others of the human race, we share blood and flesh, but He of His own volition, and pursuant to the undertaking He had given the Father, willingly took part in the same. The word “likewise” in Hebrews 2:14 (See Greek) implies that there was a radical difference between Him and all others of the human race: theirs was fallen humanity: His was sinless humanity. But He did not take it in the condition which Adam had it prior to the fall: He took it in the condition — sin apart — in which He found it after the fall.

If sinners were to be delivered from the consequences of the fall, God Himself must come into the human race. This He did in the Person of His Son, Christ Jesus. He was the “last Adam”: the “second man.” His body was specially prepared by God, and was therefore sinless and incorruptible. In death He saw no corruption. But since “without shedding of blood there is no remission,” and since it is “impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins,” it follows that if sins are to be removed at all God Himself must come into the human race, take blood and flesh, and deal with the problem from outside of fallen man. This, blessed be His name, he has done. Sin and death relate to humanity and if they are to be abolished it can only be done in that sphere.

He did not share man’s sin though He took human nature,. He did no sin: in Him was no sin: He knew no sin. He was holy, harmless, undefiled and though He mingled with sinners and attracted them in love to Himself, there was an unbridgable gulf between them in their sins and Himself in His holiness. Notwithstanding the fact that Mary was a sinner, that which was born of her was “holy.” In a manner that is beyond human explanation the Lord Jesus took human nature from His mother, but He did not take human sin: there was no taint of it in Him. Do not let us pry into the manner in which this could be. God is angered when anyone looks into the ark. The secret things belong unto the Lord, and we should be content with those that are revealed.

By His incarnation He took a place of subordination to the Father. “My Father is greater than I” by which He did not imply essential inequality but administrative subjection. Much as a partnership business in which all the partners are equal, but some take subordinate places to the others, but each and all work together for the common good and achievements of common purposes.

“Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in flesh is of God.” This is the acid test. In a former paper we said, “A Saviour who is not verily God is, as another has said, a bridge broken at one end.” So we would say here: “A Saviour who is not verily man is, as another has said, a bridge broken at the other end.” But in the Person of Jesus, the Son of God, Job has his longing answered, and we too. He is the great “Daysman” who can by reason of His Deity touch the throne of God, and by reason of His humanity touch the poor sinner.