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The Genealogy of Jesus

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 5, 2021 12:01 am

The Genealogy of Jesus

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 5, 2021 12:01 am

We mustn't skip over the genealogies in Scripture, for they are filled with often-untapped theological riches. Today, R.C. Sproul continues his series in the gospel of Luke, examining how Luke's detailed genealogy of Jesus reveals Him to be the Redeemer of Jews and gentiles alike.

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Today on Renewing Your Mind, Luke's gospel contains a detailed genealogy of Jesus, and there's a good reason for it. The one thing about which Luke is so, so concerned is the historical reality of the person and work of Christ. That genealogy goes all the way back to Adam, more than seventy generations, more detailed than we find in Matthew's gospel.

Today on Renewing Your Mind, Dr. R.C. Sproul explores this rich history and explains why Luke would consider it necessary to include such a comprehensive record. We find it in Luke chapter 3. I recall several years ago teaching a doctor of ministry program in the seminary, where I had to teach a course in communication, and one of the aspects of that particular course was in the science of oral interpretation, and it was my task to teach the clergy how to read the text of Scripture. But I would give each of the students an assignment where they had to prepare for the next day a dramatic reading of a particular text. But there was one student in the class who was particularly loud, noisy, somewhat abrasive, but also dramatic and expressive, and so I assigned him the reading of the genealogies. It was like giving him the assignment of reading from the telephone directory. And so he started in by saying, by saying, Jesus was the Son of Joseph, the Son of Heli, the Son of Matlab, and He had us on the edge of our chairs as He took us through the entire genealogy.

And I stood there and applauded him for successfully completing the assignment. But what do you do with a genealogy? From Matthew, the genealogy of Jesus is traced to Abraham, and it's clear that what Matthew is trying to communicate to all who read his gospel, that Jesus is the Son of Abraham, which would be of extreme importance for any Jewish audience. And yet at the same time, Luke is not satisfied to trace the genealogy of Jesus simply to Abraham, but he goes before Abraham all the way back to Adam and even beyond where he shows that this one who is a descendant of Adam was also the Son of God.

Now at that point we have to scratch our heads and say, why? Well, let me take a few moments this morning, and I hope this doesn't bore you to death, but this is the text that we have to look at. Let me suggest that there are some important considerations here in these genealogies. In the first instance, any time we have a book of the Bible in front of us and we're trying to interpret it, and what we want more than anything else is to be accurate in our interpretation. As you know, the world is filled with distortions and inaccurate conclusions drawn from Scripture. We have to be careful of what it is that we infer from the pages of Scripture, and in the difficult task of getting an accurate understanding and interpretation of Scripture, there are certain things that help us.

Obviously, the words that are written are very, very important. If we're going to interpret the Bible accurately, we want to know what the words that were used in the original text actually meant. And you start, if you're a New Testament student and you're interested in the meaning of the Greek words of the text, you look at a simple Greek-English dictionary and you look up the Greek word, and it might give you two or three English words by which that Greek word is properly rendered. But in our last generation, New Testament scholarship has received one of the greatest benefits of tools that we've ever known, and that is the tool called Kittel's Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. And that is something that is nothing short of amazing, because Kittel might take the word, for example, pistau or pistos that means faith, and you look at a normal Greek-English dictionary and they'll give you two or three words like to believe or to trust or to have faith. And then you go and you open up Kittel and the pages are that big and the print is that small and it's filled with footnotes, and it'll give you thirty-five pages defining the meaning of the Greek word pistos or pistau, meaning to believe.

Now how do they spend so much time doing that? Well, what they do is that they examine every time that word occurs in the gospels, every time that word occurs in the epistles, every time that word occurs in the early church and the church fathers, every time that word occurs in the Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, and then beyond that every time the word occurs in classical Greek literature such as in Greek poetry of Euripides and so on. So that by the time you read that thirty-five pages of explanation, the meaning of that Greek word, you have a pretty solid understanding of what it means. But still, even if you know the words exactly, like you may notice in your text of what we've just read that in the genealogy of Luke it says so and so is the son of Joseph, the son of Joseph, the son of Mattathiah, the son of Amos. You notice in your Bible, if it's anything like mine, that the word son or son of is italicized.

Why is that? It's because the Greek doesn't say son of. It just simply says of. So and so was of so and so, who was of so and so, who was of so and so. Could have been the grandson, the great-grandson, or the adopted son. The word son doesn't occur in the original language there. So even if you know the words, you still have a lot more work to do.

However, here's where I'm going with this. One of the most important things that we study to get a better, more accurate understanding of the Bible is the original setting in which the book of the Bible was written, and that includes questions like this. Who wrote it? To whom was it written?

And what was the occasion of its having been written? Because if I know who wrote it, and I know to whom it was written, and I know why it was written, those three factors will go a long way in helping us to glean the exact meaning of the text. I don't know if you've noticed that in my preaching and teaching or in Burke's preaching and teaching that whenever we get a citation from the book of Hebrews, characteristically you'll hear us say, the author of Hebrews says, or the book of Hebrews says.

Why don't we just say the name of the author? Because we don't know who wrote Hebrews. Well, most of us don't know who wrote Hebrews.

I think I do, but that's another story for another day. But in any case, if we knew for sure who wrote Hebrews, it would help us to unpack some of the controversial and difficult texts such as Hebrews 6. And again, to whom was it written? Was it written to simply the Palestinian Jews? Was it written to Alexandrian Jews? But most importantly, why was it written? What occasioned the writing of the book of Hebrews? What is that discussion in Hebrews 6 about, about those who were… had tasted the heavenly Word, and it's impossible to restore them again to repentance and so on, which seems to suggest that Christians can fall away and lose their salvation, which was an issue the early church debated with a vengeance and was an issue that made the inclusion of the book of Hebrews in the New Testament canon problematic at the beginning of that very text. What was the issue? We don't know.

There are three or four options. And so, what I'm saying simply is if we know who wrote Hebrews, to whom it was written, on why it was written, so much of the theological dispute about the sixth chapter and the tenth chapter, for example, would go away. So, what does that have to do with the genealogy?

Well, I have to say something about this, or I could just say the benediction and we can all go home. But one of the things that New Testament scholars in their investigation seek to do is to reconstruct as reasonably as possible the order and the manner in which the gospels were written. We always make the distinction between the synoptic gospels and the gospel of John.

Why? Because the synoptic gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke focus their attention almost totally on the life and ministry of Jesus, whereas in John's gospel, two-thirds of his gospel cover the last week of Jesus' life, and so the focus on John's gospel is much more theological than it is biographical. And we see the distinction in the New Testament. The gospels give us principally narrative, not exclusively, but mostly narrative, and then the epistles give us what we call didactic literature. That is, the epistles interpret the narrative. The gospels tell us what happened, and the epistles tell us the meaning or the significance of what happened. So, trying to reconstruct the way in which the gospels were written is an important matter.

And there's debate as to which one was first. The vast majority say that Mark was written first and John's gospel was written last. There was a movement in the middle of the 20th century by some scholars arguing that John was written first rather than last, but again, that's another story. But looking at Matthew, Mark, and Luke, if you examine those three gospels, you will see that almost everything that is found in that short little gospel of Mark is also found in Matthew and Luke. And so the scholars have scholars speculate, and they say, in all probability, when Matthew wrote his gospel and when Luke wrote his gospel, they had Mark's gospel in front of them. And they used Mark's gospel as one of their sources for composing their own gospel. Then if you look carefully at Matthew's gospel and at Luke's gospel, you will see that there is material in Matthew's gospel – am I going too fast? – and in Luke's gospel – this is early. You lost an hour of sleep last night, but you've got to stay awake now – that there is material in Matthew's gospel and in Luke's gospel common to both Matthew and Luke that's not in Mark. So the conjecture then is, well, in addition to Mark, Matthew and Luke probably had another resource in front of them that Mark didn't use, maybe another series of sayings or a document or an oral tradition, whether it was written or oral, we don't know, but the abbreviation for that theory is that they call it the cue source. Cue from the German word kwelle, which means source or fountain. It simply means Matthew and Luke used a source that Mark didn't have.

So far so good. And why go through all of this? Well, the most important reason is for this. After you go through all the stuff that's common with Mark and all the stuff that's common with Q, then what's left is the material in Matthew that's only in Matthew and the material in Luke that's only in Luke. And when you look at that isolated portion of Luke's gospel and Matthew's gospel, something jumps out at you.

You can't miss it. And that is in the material that is unique to Matthew, almost all of it exclusively deals with the application of Old Testament prophecy to Jesus' claims as being the Messiah. And when you see that, it's clear of the nose on your face that Matthew was obviously writing for a Jewish audience. And so when you pick up his book, you have to realize, oh, this book was written for Jews.

Even though I'm not a Jew, I can still learn from it. It's still the Word of God, but its primary audience in the first century was to the Jewish community. Then you pick up Luke's gospel, and you isolate all the stuff that's in Luke's gospel that's not in Matthew or Mark or in the Q but is unique to Luke jumps out at you. What is it that Luke is clearly writing to Gentiles and for Gentiles because his great stress here is on the universality of the lordship of Jesus Christ, that Jesus is not simply the Savior of the Jews but that He is the Savior of the Gentiles and that the kingdom of God is not limited to the geographical borders of Palestine, but the kingdom of God is as far as the east is from the west for every tongue and tribe and nation. And so we have this keen interest in the gospel to the Gentiles.

Now, here's a little quiz. In the New Testament, who was the Apostle to the Gentiles? Whom did Christ call out and specifically task to be the Apostle to the Gentiles?

He was a Jew, an educated Jew, in fact the most educated Jew in Palestine, Saul of Tarsus. And the Apostle Paul was given the mission to go to the ends of the earth, to take the gospel beyond Judea and Samaria and Galilee into Asia Minor, to Rome, to Greece, to all these different places. And one of his companions on his missionary journeys just happened to be the author of the gospel according to Saint Luke. And so we say, why does Luke in his genealogy not stop with Abraham? Why does he go to Adam, who is the representative of the whole human race? And what Luke is doing right here in the third chapter before he begins the account of Jesus' public ministry is he's introducing Jesus, whose infancy he has recorded with all this great information that He has given us as the Savior of the world of Jew and Gentile.

Now here's another little pedantic point, but I don't think it's so insignificant. We ask, why does Luke take the genealogy all the way to Adam? Well, obviously it's for what I already just said, to show that the gospel is not just for the Jews, but for Gentiles as well. But I'm going to suggest there's another reason, and here this would get me a lot of debate in the theological world, because nowhere in Luke's gospel does Luke ever mention the role of Jesus as the new Adam, as the second Adam, which is so important to the teaching of the Apostle Paul. But here Luke mentions Jesus' descent from the first Adam, and it's inconceivable to me that when Paul and Luke were carrying on their missionary journeys, journeys that Paul wouldn't have had discussions with Luke about the significance of Jesus as the new Adam to redeem us from the failure of the first Adam. And so by looking at the genealogies, we get a hint.

We get a little glimpse of Luke's concern. And I like to think that his version is from Mary's side of the family, but I can't prove that beyond the shadow of a doubt. But, you know, one of the chief objections to that is that genealogies were not kept for women, because among the Jews it was always concerned with the males. And yet it's been said that the gospel of Luke is the ladies' home journal of the Bible. One of the things that's peculiar to Luke's gospel is that he has more references to Jesus dealing with women than any of the other gospels, so that Jesus is not just the Savior of the Jews. He's not just the Savior of the Gentiles. He's not just the Savior of men.

He's also the Savior of women. All of this implied but not explained in the genealogy of our Lord Jesus Christ. Finally, the one thing about which Luke is so, so concerned is the historical reality of the person and work of Christ. The presence of this extended genealogy that Luke provides going beyond the limits of what Matthew gives us underscores in red Luke's concern that the history and the account that he is given is not of a mythological figure who lives up somewhere in the mythological realm of Mount Olympus, but is one who came in space and in time, indeed in the fullness of time, to be our Savior. And when he finishes the genealogy, he moves then quickly to the test test that Jesus faces, even as the first Adam was tempted in the garden, so now the new Adam is tempted by Satan in the wilderness. So, there is a reason why the genealogy that we read in Luke's gospel goes all the way back to Adam.

Dr. R.C. Sproul's message today is from a comprehensive sermon series that he preached at St. Andrew's Chapel, the church he co-pastored for many years. And each Lord's Day, we return to this series here on Renewing Your Mind. We're thankful for Dr. Sproul's careful study, and you can find this same detail in his commentary on Luke's gospel. Contact us today with a donation of any amount, and we'll be happy to provide you a digital download of this nearly 600-page commentary.

Our offices are closed on this Lord's Day, but you can give your gift and make your request online at And by the way, you can listen to this and other recent Renewing Your Mind programs on our app. It's free for you to download and is loaded with great features. You'll find daily videos, articles, and other helpful study resources. Plus, you can use the built-in digital Bible and choose from many reading plans for your personal study.

Just search for Ligonier in your app store. Next Sunday, we turn to chapter 4 in Luke's gospel, where we will learn about Jesus' encounter with Satan in the wilderness. Join us for the message titled, The Temptation of Jesus, here on Renewing Your Mind. .
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-07-13 22:09:49 / 2023-07-13 22:17:39 / 8

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