A Christmas Question

Sermon 291 by C. H. Spurgeon, delivered on Sunday, December 25th, 1859 at Exeter Hall, Strand.

“For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given.”—Isaiah 9:6.

Upon other occasions I have explained the main part of this verse—”the government shall be upon his shoulders, his name shall be called Wonderful, Counsellor, the Mighty God.” If God shall spare me, on some future occasion I hope to take the other titles, “The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” But now this morning the portion which will engage our attention is this, “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” The sentence is a double one, but it has in it no tautology. The careful reader will soon discover a distinction; and it is not a distinction without a difference. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” As Jesus Christ is a child in his human nature, he is born, begotten of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary. He is as truly-born, as certainly a child, as any other man that ever lived upon the face of the earth. He is thus in his humanity a child born. But as Jesus Christ is God’s Son, he is not born; but given, begotten of his Father from before all worlds, begotten—not made, being of the same substance with the Father. The doctrine of the eternal affiliation of Christ is to be received as an undoubted truth of our holy religion. But as to any explanation of it, no man should venture thereon, for it remaineth among the deep things of God—one of those solemn mysteries indeed, into which the angels dare not look, nor do they desire to pry into it—a mystery which we must not attempt to fathom, for it is utterly beyond the grasp of any finite being. As well might a gnat seek to drink in the ocean, as a finite creature to comprehend the Eternal God. A God whom we could understand would be no God. If we could grasp him he could not be infinite: if we could understand him, then were he not divine. Jesus Christ then, I say, as a Son, is not born to us, but given. He is a boon bestowed on us, “For God so loved the world, that he sent his only begotten Son into the world.” He was not born in this world as God’s Son, but he was sent, or was given, so that you clearly perceive that the distinction is a suggestive one, and conveys much good truth to us. “Unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given.” Read more about A Christmas Question

Theology Thursday - Arius, Apostasy and Heretical Vomit

Athanasius says, "Beware of heretical vomit!"

On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful (and drab) characters and institutions. We hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

Bishop Alexander Warns the Flock

(From the Epistle of Alexander, Bishop of Alexandria, c. A.D. 318)

Many heresies have arisen before these, which exceeding all bounds in daring, have lapsed into complete infatuation: but these persons, by attempting in all their discourses to subvert the Divinity of THE WORD, as having made a nearer approach to Antichrist, have comparatively lessened the odium of former ones. Wherefore they have been publicly repudiated by the Church, and anathematized. We are indeed grieved on account of the perdition of these persons, and especially so because, after having been previously instructed in the doctrines of the Church, they have now apostatized from them. Read more about Theology Thursday - Arius, Apostasy and Heretical Vomit

From the Archives: Christmas from a Shepherd's Perspective

Adoration of the Shepherds. Gerard van Honthorst, 1622

A little more than 2,000 years ago, “When the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law” (Gal. 4:4, NKJV). It was exactly the right time, as predicted by Daniel (cf. 9:25) and confirmed by Jesus (cf. Luke 19:41-44).

It was also the right place—Bethlehem, six miles south of Jerusalem. Seven hundred years earlier, Micah wrote:

But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah,
Though you are little among the thousands of Judah,
Yet out of you shall come forth to Me
The One to be Ruler in Israel,
Whose goings forth are from of old,
From everlasting. (Mic. 5:2)

The time was right, the place was right, and the circumstances were right. It was not to the high and mighty in Israel that the first coming—the incarnation—of Messiah/Christ was celebrated by “a multitude of the heavenly host” (Luke 2:13) in heaven and on earth. It was to a group of lowly “shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8). Read more about From the Archives: Christmas from a Shepherd's Perspective

How to Determine the Impact of Technology on Our Daily Lives

Many brilliant and creative people have worked over the last few decades to develop digital technology. As with many inventions, the conception and the consequences were years apart, and what was imagined as the possible uses of technology was probably very different from the reality.

So, now we have this amazing variety of tools at our disposal. Nearly every house has a computer, and there seems to be a smartphone in every hand. I have more technology in my purse than NASA had to get men on the moon.

As with anything, there are extremes of attitude about technology. Some take it for granted and don’t think it is important to consider whether or not tech has a positive or negative impact; it’s part of our lives, no big deal. Others are suspicious and fearful, prophesying The End of Civilization As We Know It with every iteration. Read more about How to Determine the Impact of Technology on Our Daily Lives

“Bone of My Bones”: a Theology of Marriage in One Sentence

(From Theologically Driven. Used with permission.)

And Adam said, This is now bone of my bones, and flesh of my flesh: she shall be called Woman, because she was taken out of Man. (KJV, Genesis 2:23) 

The very first recorded words of Adam have sometimes been the stuff of jokes—the words of a lovestruck fellow who has seen a beautiful woman for the first time: “Look what became of my bone!” he seems to say: “Whoa, Man!” But on closer look, Adam’s words communicate something far more significant than first meets the eye.

When Adam describes Eve as “bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh,” Adam is not making a simple statement of fact, but drawing attention to the theological import of the means God used to create her: she was of Adam, and as such she vaults immediately to the place of greatest responsibility in his vast realm. Read more about “Bone of My Bones”: a Theology of Marriage in One Sentence

Isaiah 9:6-7, the Hebrew Text & the Ancient Versions

Reprinted with permission from As I See It, which is available free by writing to the editor at dkutilek@juno.com.

Of Old Testament prophecies of the birth of the Messiah, among the most famous and well-known (in part because Handel included its words in his magnum opus, ”The Messiah”) is Isaiah 9:6, 7 (numbered 9:5, 6 in the Masoretic Hebrew text, the Septuagint Greek version and in German and some other translations). The KJV’s translation of vv. 6, 7 reads:

For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given. And the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called, Wonderful, Counselor, the mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David & upon his kingdom, to order it and to establish it with judgment and with justice, from henceforth and forever; the zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this.

Read more about Isaiah 9:6-7, the Hebrew Text & the Ancient Versions

Theology Thursday - Trouble in Alexandria

Athanasius is not amused

On “Theology Thursday,” we feature short excerpts on various areas of systematic theology, from a wide variety of colorful (and drab) characters and institutions. We hope these short readings are a stimulus for personal reflection, a challenge to theological complacency, and an impetus for apologetic zeal “to encourage you to contend earnestly for the faith that was once for all entrusted to the saints” (Jude 3).

The following are excerpts from a 5th century church history by Socrates Scholasticus about the beginning of the Arian Controversy.

The Arian Controversy Begins

After Peter, bishop of Alexandria, had suffered martyrdom under Diocletian, Achillas was installed in the episcopal office, whom Alexander succeeded, during the period of peace above referred to. He, in the fearless exercise of his functions for the instruction and government of the Church, attempted one day in the presence of the presbytery and the rest of his clergy, to explain, with perhaps too philosophical minuteness, that great theological mystery—the UNITY of the Holy Trinity. Read more about Theology Thursday - Trouble in Alexandria

Making a Covenant with Abraham (Part 7)

Isaac Blessing Jacob - Govert Flinck, c. 1638

Read the series so far.

Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob (Part 1)

After Abraham

Having arrived at the crux of Abraham’s saga, which is the test of his faith as recorded in the twenty-second chapter, the story of Genesis moves to the death of Sarah and the purchase of a gravesite for her. Abraham bought the burial ground and the cave of Machpelah because although he had wealth, he was never a recipient of the land itself (cf. Gen. 37:1).

When the covenant was being solemnized God had told His servant he would go to his Fathers in peace, and his posterity would only claim the land after spending four hundred years in Egypt (Gen. 15:13-16, 18). This is the reason Abraham “waited for a city … whose builder and maker is God” (Heb. 11:10). He knew that he himself would not own the land of promise. Genesis 25:7-10 records Abraham’s death and burial. Read more about Making a Covenant with Abraham (Part 7)