"...if anyone makes the assistance of grace depend on the humility or obedience of man and does not agree that it is a gift of grace itself that we are obedient and humble, he contradicts the Apostle who says, "What have you that you did not receive?" (1 Cor. 4:7), and, "But by the grace of God I am what I am" (1 Cor. 15:10). (Council of Orange: Canon 6)


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  • « Repenting of our Good Works | Main | A Lasting Faith for the Last Days by Rev. C. R. Biggs »

    Images of the Savior (3 – His First Attendance at the Passover)

    Luke 2:46-47 And it came to pass, that after three days they found him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions. And all that heard him were astonished at his understanding and answers.

    We are an ignorant and foolish race, always groping for that which is eternally satisfying, and never able to come to the knowledge of what is truly good and pleasing. This blindness is the effect of our sinfulness: well may we be brought under the indictment of those who “[have] the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18). This blindness is also a terrible judgment upon our sinfulness, and a cause of increased sinfulness, as the apostle describes for us the terrible condition of our race, viz, “Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God also gave them up to uncleanness through the lusts of their own hearts, to dishonour their own bodies between themselves: Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever” (Romans 1:22-25). In this way, evil begets evil, and all mankind, blinded to the Glory that alone can satisfy, rushes impetuously after that which can only end in eternal misery and destruction.

    When we reflect on these truths, how comforting to us is the next gospel image of our Savior, who, seated among the teachers of Israel at twelve years of age, gives us our first glimpse of the comfortable truth that, as a man, he possesses in himself all knowledge which pertains to true life and godliness. As we examine this gospel account, we will reflect on the truths (1) that Christ is the sole source of the knowledge which eternally satisfies; (2) that as a man he obtained this knowledge in the manner most suitable to our needs; and (3) that he thus obtained this knowledge in strict obedience to his Father’s plan for our redemption.

    Even as a twelve year old child, Christ gave clear evidence that he had that knowledge of scriptures which issues in eternal life. There is a species of scriptural knowledge which serves to confirm its possessor in his natural hypocrisy and self-sufficiency. This knowledge does not lead to eternal life, but convinces its owner that he possesses life, when he is actually stone dead. This is a deceptive and arrogant knowledge, which puffs up its owner and leaves him ignorant of his ignorance, which casts himself upon himself and fails to apprize him of the truth shouted in every page of scripture – the truth that genuine knowledge directs us away from ourselves and casts us upon the only One who is sufficient in himself to provide for us favor with God. In a word, there is a species of scriptural knowledge that fails to see Christ as the heart of the scriptural message. This was the tragic species of knowledge which most of the teachers of Israel had when Christ was a child. It was this same class of teachers that Christ later denounced with the words, “You search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life” (John 5:39,40). But in the midst of this self-deluded ignorance, how brilliantly did the simple knowledge of our twelve year Savior shine forth!

    Take note of the knowledge that Christ displayed on this occasion: first, it was a knowledge that answered the very essence of man’s deepest need. Christ did not on this occasion take opportunity to discuss the intricate revolutions of the heavenly bodies, the principles of physics and geometry, or the natural cycles of winds and waters and times and seasons on this wonderfully diverse globe; although he might well have done so with remarkable adeptness. No, he opened up the law, and discoursed from the writings of Moses and the prophets. He began his discussion with respect to God’s divine revelation to man. And he did so brilliantly, simply, modestly, and always in a manner true to the very heart of what God had intended to reveal. In a word, he gave us the first glimpse of what he would display so gloriously on later occasions such as his giving of the rightly famous sermon on the Mount of Olives. Here, as a twelve year old boy, we see our Savior already giving evidence to what would later be said about him with such stunning conviction, that, “Never man spake like this man!” (John 7:46).

    And not only did Christ possess a knowledge which put to shame the learned and respected teachers of Israel; but he also possessed a knowledge which far excelled that of a dear servant of God, his own mother Mary. With many miraculous signs and messages had God confirmed to her and Joseph that this child would be the long-awaited Messiah, and yet she failed to recognize in his actions the fulfillment of prophecies and the discharge of Messianic duties. How comforting were the old prophecies of the Messiah, such as his testimony, “I will open my mouth in a parable: I will utter dark sayings of old” (Psalm 78:2); and also the promise of Moses, “The LORD your God will raise up unto you a Prophet from the midst of you, of your brethren, like unto me; unto him you shall hearken” (Deuteronomy 18:15). Mary certainly ought to have known that it was the business which the Father had sacredly devolved upon her son to discharge the office of a prophet, and to teach to Israel things that had been hidden of old. And yet she failed to see the necessity of what Christ was on this occasion involved in. Thus we see that the professors of the law, as well as the dear and faithful servants of the Lord, were still steeped in varying shades of ignorance; and that even at this tender age, our Savior had begun his work of shedding forth light, even the light which leads to salvation.

    The second thing awaiting our attention is the lesson that Christ acquired this wonderful knowledge in the manner most adapted to our needs. How wonderful and comforting is the clear testimony of Luke that Jesus “[was increasing] in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:52). Our Savior grew, developed, and learned as any other man. He did not automatically know all things in his human mind from the days of his infancy. The divine prerogative of omniscience he voluntarily veiled for a time, in pursuit of the grand work of redemption. This is an amazing truth. Christ not only possessed all knowledge pertaining to life and godliness; but more than that, as a human he learned all knowledge pertaining to life and godliness. He placed himself truly and thoroughly in our position, with the necessity to look to God’s revealed word to show him God’s will. So thoroughly did he become like us in this respect of having to rely on God’s revelation for the knowledge of his redemptive purposes, that he was later able to say, “But of that day and that hour [of Christ’s return] knows no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father” Mark 13:32.

    This is truly comforting: Christ knew what it was to labor diligently and assiduously in his studies, to sweat and agonize over memorizing the law, and what is more important, over understanding the great truths which are hidden therein. Furthermore, by this means Christ was able to know the law and to know our humans needs in a completely new way: to know in that good old Hebrew sense of practical, intimate, experiential knowledge. Christ learned the law practically and experientially, and demonstrated once and for all that the law was indeed a sufficient guide to know and do the Father’s will. The failure of all mankind could in no way be blamed on the insufficiency of the law. The wickedness of the human heart alone was irrefutably established as the cause of man’s great failure by this genuinely human learning of the law which Christ so humbly submitted to. Let us reflect deeply upon this fact.

    Moreover, Christ learned the law in the manner most suitable to our needs by virtue of the fact that he learned from the position of being under it. His was not the sort of knowledge that arrogant men display when they set themselves up as authorities over a certain field of learning, arbitrarily judging and evaluating other men from the outside, as if they were altogether superior to the substance of what they brainily discourse upon. Christ learned the law as in subjection to it. He learned it to obey it. He taught his parents the necessities of the Messianic duties, but at the same time rendered a constant and unceasing flow of subservience and obedience to them (Luke 2:51). And it is only fitting that he should have done so, because in being subject to the law, who was by nature above it, he earned its satisfaction for us who are by nature indebted to it but with no way of paying our necessary debt.

    Let us further learn from Christ’s example this lesson: God is often pleased to join the most lofty and noble of things with the basest and most humble. God made his own Son not a respected member of the Sanhedrin but a lowly carpenter, whose inglorious duty for thirty years was to render simple obedience to his parents and to work dutifully with his hands. Thus he saw fit humbly to place his Son, who was in the process of accomplishing the most lofty of tasks in all of history, namely our redemption. Do you feel lowly and insignificant, in a place devoid of all rank, nobility, or influence? Rejoice then, for so was Christ. If he was content to fill the role of a simple and lowly worker with his hands, or even the more demeaning role of a washer of feet, do not consider any position beneath your dignity. Remember that God is often pleased to use the most lowly and despised things of this world to accomplish his high and worthy purposes.

    Finally, let us remember that Christ obtained all true knowledge in subservience to the work of redemption which his Father had laid before him. Even at twelve years of age we see in Christ a Messianic consciousness, the firm conviction that his Father had sent him into the world to accomplish a great and mighty task. Let us thank our God that he never lost sight of this task, no, not even when his own family misunderstood him and his people despised and rejected him. Christ truly searched the scriptures with the understanding that they testified only of the Messiah; and furthermore, that he was the Messiah whose duty it would be throughout life to fulfill every prophecy made. Thus his purpose in learning the law as a true son of man was to be made like his brothers in all respects, so that he would be perfectly suited to accomplish the work of redemption for which his Father had placed him upon earth. He learned the law in subjection to it so that he might fulfill all righteousness, and thus be able to offer freely to all of us the righteousness we need but do not possess. His human acquisition of knowledge was always subordinated to the end of our redemption, in accordance with the Father’s will. Let us rejoice and marvel at this truth!

    Because of this obedience and subjection to his Father’s will, the eternal Son of God, our Savior and Redeemer, was even able to grow in God’s favor (Luke 2:52). Christ already had a perfect and infinite love and favor from the Father with respect to his eternal divinity. And he had a perfect love and favor with the Father with respect to his perfect manhood. And yet, perfection of favor does not exclude the growth of that perfect favor. Because Christ was fulfilling more and more of the imperatives laid upon mankind, and because he was accomplishing more and more of the positive righteousness which is the truest display of the image of God, his perfect favor with God was constantly increasing. The Father’s love for the Son as a human, that is, as an image-bearer of God, was able to increase proportionate to his human modeling of divine perfections. Christ alone lived a life that perfectly and fully imaged the divine essence, as man had been created to do. And so God, being no idolater, loved him as the image of the only One worthy of love and worship. As Christ increasingly displayed the image of God, God increasingly loved him as a man and as an image-bearer. This is vastly joyous to us, because he won this perfect and ever-increasing love of God for us, who would be made into his image. God loves us who are in Christ in the same way that he loves Christ as his flawless image-bearer. Oh, let us give thanks and rejoice!

    Brothers and sisters, let us rejoice on account of our beautiful Savior! He holds all knowledge which leads us to eternal life and joy. He acquired that knowledge in the manner most suited to our needs. He did so in order to pursue his one great work of forever redeeming those who are his. It is on this occasion of his attendance at the passover celebration that we see the first glimmer of the light of salvation which would soon break forth from his glorious person, and bathe all the nations of the world in its healing rays. Let us forsake the darkness of our own ignorance, and come into the light of our blessed Savior. “In the light of the king's countenance is life” (Proverbs 16:15).

    Posted by Nathan on August 2, 2006 03:10 PM

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