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The Announcement of Jesus' Birth, Part 2 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur
The Truth Network Radio
December 24, 2020 3:00 am

The Announcement of Jesus' Birth, Part 2 B

Grace To You / John MacArthur

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The good news is this. The good news is there's a proclamation of salvation. The good news is the pervasiveness of that salvation reaches to everybody and anybody.

The good news is the person of that salvation is none other than the anointed King and Priest and Prophet of God who is none other than God Himself. Thanks for letting John MacArthur and grace to you be part of your Christmas Eve. Today you're going to have an opportunity to understand, maybe for the first time, one of the easier parts of God's Word to misunderstand.

It's that portion of Luke 2 that says, On earth peace, good will toward men. Stay here for John's study titled, The Promise of Christmas. So again, it's Christmas Eve, and it's a day that's filled with so much anticipation for children particularly. But John, talk to the parents and grandparents who are listening, who want to help the younger members of their families in their Christmas celebrations focus on the most important part of Christmas.

This may be something you and Patricia have found helpful with your family over the years. Well I think obviously we've been aided immensely by the life of the Church. As our children grew up and our grandchildren grew up in the Church, they were exposed to Christmas in a very prepared and thoughtful way for weeks leading up to Christmas.

The curriculum, the children's ministries were always driving at the birth of Christ and significance of Christmas. And that's been aided also in our church life because there are special events around Christmas. We have Christmas concerts, and those are always family events, and the Word of God, and the story of Christmas is told again.

And we also find ourselves having a little more free time, so we wind up collecting in various segments of our family. So Christmas is just, it's really a month rather than a day or even a week of focusing on the coming of our Lord. We always get together on Christmas and read the story again so that we make sure that on that very day that we celebrate, we're reminded that this is not about us. This is about expressing our great love and gratitude to the Lord for the gift of His Son. Patricia and I have always focused away from anything artificial.

Santa Claus doesn't play any role in our Christmas. It never really has. You know, I'm not anti that.

I think, you know, it's a fantasy as long as people know it's a fantasy story. But it's always about kind of clearing that away. I would have to say we don't talk about Easter bunnies at Easter either. I mean, you know, we want them to focus on the reality of this day and the honor of our Lord Jesus Christ, and we want to direct their thoughts toward Him.

And we've used a lot of means to do that. Singing Christmas carols always takes us in that direction. In fact, one of my sorrows is that we don't get to sing those any time but around Christmas. But it's a great time to refresh our commitment to the glories of the birth of Christ. That's right, and thank you, John. And, friend, to see the glories of Christ's birth in a fresh and powerful way, stay here for a look at the salvation Christ brought into the world from a perspective you may never have considered.

Here again is John MacArthur continuing his study on the promise of Christmas. The beautiful old Christmas carol asked the question, What child is this who laid to rest on Mary's lap is sleeping? Who is this child who determines the eternal destiny of every human who has ever or will ever be born?

Who is this child? The angel says, a Savior who is Christ the Lord. Let me talk a little further about that. The selection of the word kurios here for Lord, that's a very important selection. There were two words in the Greek language, still are I think, that could be used to refer to Lord or Master. One is kurios and the other is despotes. And if you study the background of those two words, and even how they've sort of come down to us, we have a word in English despot. When we think of the word despot, we think of someone who's in authority and someone who's in power but with a certain level of high-handedness, don't we? Or a certain kind of illegitimacy or abuse or unearned, undeserved power.

To say someone is despotic or a despot is to assume that they have somehow garnered power that they don't really deserve and it doesn't belong to them and has somehow been gained not by the will of the people or those who have the right to give it, but it's been illegitimately usurped. But the word kurios is just the opposite of that. Kurios means supreme power and authority with legitimacy. It is a word that expresses an authority that is valid, lawful and legitimate.

And kurios is used here. Jesus is legitimately, validly Lord. He is Lord lawfully. He is Lord legally. He is Lord by virtue of nature who He is. So the root idea of kurios is legitimate sovereignty, legitimate authority.

And of course the ultimate legitimate authority in the universe is God. That's why in the Old Testament, the Greek translation of the Old Testament, that helps us to understand word usages. In the Greek translation, the original Old Testament is Hebrew, but if you looked at a Greek translation, you would find that where Lord is used in the Old Testament, the Greek Old Testament uses the word kurios 6,156 times. So that...and that to represent Yahweh, to represent God.

So 6,156 times, Greek translators of the Old Testament translated the tetragrammaton, that is to say Yahweh, Lord Kurios. So they would understand that kurios in the Old Testament refers to God. It's a proper name for God, affirming His legitimate sovereign power and authority. You come into the New Testament, the writers of the New Testament use kurios all the time.

It has become in the Greek language, of course, the name for God. So when it says Jesus is Lord, when it says you must confess Jesus as Lord, you are confessing Him as God with all that that implies. That implies authority.

That implies sovereignty. So the good news is this. The good news is there's a proclamation of salvation. The good news is the pervasiveness of that salvation reaches to everybody and anybody. The good news is the person of that salvation is none other than the anointed King and Priest and Prophet of God who is none other than God Himself. That's why when Isaiah the prophet was talking about this and prophesying about it, he said a child is born, Isaiah 9, 6, a son is given, his name is going to be called Wonderful, Counselor, what's the next one? The Mighty God and then the Eternal Father and then the Prince of Peace. There is no question as to who the child is. The child is the anointed one of God, Prophet, Priest and King who is Himself God. That is who was born that day, a Savior, King, Priest, Prophet who is God. Now you understand who Jesus is. Anything less than that is sub-Christianity. Amazing titles given to a one-day-old lying in a feed trough.

And the wealth of those titles and the grandeur of those titles and the majesty of those titles stands in stark contrast to the conditions in a stinking stall. Verse 12 takes us then to the next statement by the angel. The angel doesn't tell them to go look for the child, assumes they will though, which is another indicator that they were probably devout and really believed in the true and living God and were looking for the Messiah. That's why they were selected for this announcement even though they were the humblest of the humble and the lowest people on the socio-economic ladder were shepherds . But the angel says to them, this will be a sign for you, you'll find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger. No king of royal blood and right never had such a birth in Israel.

This is just so much contrasting the glory of who He was. This will be a sign for you. Don't get too mystical about the word sign, it just means a plain old sign, just a physical sign, nothing spiritual, nothing supernatural about the sign.

It's used in very plain way. A know what a sign is for, a sign is to point you somewhere. Sign is to identify something. And that's exactly what He's saying. You're going to have a sign.

Here's what you're going to look for. You're going to have to find a baby wrapped in cloths. Well, any baby born will be wrapped in cloths.

They did that with all of them. In fact, not to wrap a baby in cloth was the worst imaginable treatment. If you go back to Ezekiel 16, there's an interesting analogy there. It's a description that the prophet Ezekiel gives and he pictures a baby coming out of its mother's womb.

It's very graphic, one of the most graphic chapters in the Bible. The baby comes out of the mother's womb and it's all bloody and the cord is still attached and the baby is just thrown out in the field. And God makes that baby analogous to Israel. And He says, when I found you, nobody had cut your umbilical cord, nobody had washed you with water, nobody had rubbed you with salt, which was used in antiseptic in case there were any wounds in the birth of the child.

And it says nobody had wrapped you in cloths. Way back then in Ezekiel's time, hundreds of years before this, it was tradition among the Jews and still at the time of Jesus to wrap babies. And as I told you, they would wrap each limb separately, the little legs and the little arms would be wrapped and then the body would be wrapped tightly as well, providing the child the warmth and security and protection. And also they believed that this helped the limbs to grow straight because they were wrapped so tightly together in that fashion.

That was what any caring parent would do to a child. And so the angel tells the shepherds, you have to look for a baby that's been wrapped in cloths in the traditional way. Well, that would be the case.

And so they found cloths in the traditional way. Well, that would be a sign to some degree, but any baby they found would be wrapped like that and there might have been more than one. So there's a further indicator that will really narrow it down. You'll find this baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.

It's a feed trough for animals. That would limit it to the right baby. So they were going to have to go looking to find the baby who is the Savior of the world, who is the anointed King and Priest and Prophet of God, who is God Himself, Yahweh in human flesh, and they would find Him wrapped like any other baby without any distinguishing marks with the exception that He was lying in a feed trough.

This is a very normal-looking baby, nothing to distinguish this baby from any other baby except the place it's laying. So the person of the good news is introduced to us in starkly contrasting terms. And that leads us to the fourth point, the purpose of the good news, and I'll just wrap up with this. The purpose of the good news. As this good news unfolds, it has a purpose. And frankly, as we come to this in verses 13 and 14, we come to the transcendent pinnacle of all thought and action.

And I mean that. I mean, you can't get any higher than this, folks. You're going to get as high as you can get right here. This is the highest of all truths.

This is the reason for everything. Verse 13 says, And suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He is pleased. You say, what are you talking about? We've come to the pinnacle. We've come to the transcendent high point. We've come to the highest point of thought and action, the highest truth of all truths.

What is it? It's the glory of God. What you see here is the highest thing that can occur in the universe, the created universe. The highest thing that can occur in the created universe is that God is glorified by His creatures.

And that's exactly what you see the angels doing. This is the purpose of the good news. You say, well, wasn't the good news to save sinners? The good news is to save sinners so they can join angels in giving glory to God. The ultimate is always to glorify God.

The highest transcendent pinnacle of all thought and action, the reason for everything is to glorify God. It comes pretty suddenly, this scenario here. I mean, it's shaken them just to have an angel there, just to have an angel from God there and to hear this incredible message.

That alone is a startling and shocking event. But verse 13, suddenly, and God occasionally does things suddenly. Malachi 3, 1 says the Messiah will suddenly come to His temple. And if you read Mark 13, 36, 1 Thessalonians 5, 3, there's suddenness in the return of Jesus Christ. It's going to come in a sudden fashion. There are times when God invades human...the human realm with great suddenness.

This is 1. Suddenly there appeared with the angel a multitude of the heavenly hosts. Now, I don't know how many there were. The heavenly hosts really could be translated an army, a multitude of the heavenly army.

These are angels. How many is a multitude? I don't know how many is a multitude. How many angels are there? I don't know how many angels there are. But according to Revelation, there are 10,000 times 10,000 and thousands of thousands. Now, 10,000 times 10,000, is that an actual mathematical number? You could multiply that and add a few thousands and you've got 100 million plus angels. Well, the word murion, which is 10,000, is the highest number for which there's a word in the Greek language. So there isn't a word for any higher number. It may just be that John in writing murion times murion and thousands of thousands is just using sort of hyperbole and we don't know how many angels there are.

I'm not sure you can just multiply and add there the thousands and thousands and get to the number. Let's just say there are hundreds of millions of angels and leave it at that. This is not all of them. This is a representative group. Obviously it's not all of them in visible form, but a representative group, a large group. Multitude refers to a large group. I'm not even going to speculate as to how many, but it wouldn't be a handful. It wouldn't be a few. It wouldn't be a small group. It would be a large group, a multitude, large group. Whenever you see the word multitude used in the New Testament about Jesus, it says He was surrounded by a multitude.

It's talking about a large crowd, hundreds and maybe in some cases thousands. Now think about it. Those shepherds had never seen an angel and they saw an angel. Now they see who knows how many angels in manifest visible form. Now this just didn't happen.

It just didn't happen. You can find a place in 1 Kings 22 where there was a vision into heaven of the throne of God and angels there. You can go to Revelation 4 and 5 and John had a vision of heaven and he could see in heaven the throne of God and angels there. But angels on earth, not in a vision, but there, really there? Who had seen this many angels?

This is pretty remarkable. There were occasions in the Old Testament when an angel came and an angel went. But to have a huge multitude of angels out in this field with these nondescript shepherds, incredible. I mean they were, according to verse 9, they were panicked.

They were literally in phobic reaction, the Greek word phobeomai used there when it says they were terribly frightened. One angel scared the daylights out of them. You can imagine what this group did to them and the angels appeared and what were they doing? Well they were doing what angels always do, praising God, praising God. That's all they do is praise God, praise God, praise God, praise God. Well what were they praising God about? Well they were saying, glory to God, glory to God, glory to God, glory to God in the highest and on earth peace among men with whom He's pleased. What were they praising God for? Well they were praising God because Jesus was born. They were praising God because the Savior had come.

They were praising God for the Savior who is Christ the Lord. You see, they knew what was going on. They knew Jesus as the second member of the Trinity. They knew Christ before the incarnation.

They had been associated with Christ in heaven before the incarnation. They knew of His glory. They knew of His riches. They knew of His majesty. They were also aware of the fall of man.

They understood the fall of man. They knew about that. They had been informed also that God had provided a way of salvation for man.

They knew about that. They knew that prophecies had been made that a Messiah would come, a Savior would come, a sacrifice would be made. They understood the sacrificial system of the Old Testament to some degree. They understood that all those animals had to be offered and they couldn't take away sin but they would picture one who would come and die and would. They understood that.

They had given the report to Joseph, you shall call His name Jesus for He'll save His people from their sins. They knew what was going on. They knew the work of saving man. They knew that there would come a Savior who while maintaining perfect righteousness and holiness would also bear sin. They knew that God would not spare His own Son but give Him up for sinners. They knew that the Son, though rich, would become poor for the sake of undeserving sinners.

They knew that He would vicariously bear their curse and take their punishment. They knew that the Holy Spirit would condescend to convict sinners and bring them to salvation, regenerate them, and then take up residence in that sinner's heart. They understood the birth of Christ.

They understood that He would enter into a condition of poverty, that He would become poor so that sinners could become rich. They understood this and they were praising God because they were seeing God's grace on display. They were seeing God's mercy. They were seeing the salvation plan come to its glorious fruition. They were thanking God for His indescribable gift. They were looking into the things that Peter says angels desire to look into but cannot fully comprehend because they can't experience grace and mercy and forgiveness because holy angels are sinless. They were doing what angels always do. They were praising God. If you turn to Revelation 4 and Revelation 5, you'll see them doing it there.

That's what they do. They were saying, glory to God in the highest. The highest is heaven. The highest is heaven.

And this is contrastive language. Glory to God in the highest and on earth, that's the lowest. Glory to God in heaven, on earth peace among men with whom He's pleased. On earth, peace. What kind of peace? Salvation peace.

He's not talking about comfort of the mind, rest of the Spirit. He's talking about salvation, peace with God. The war is over.

The battle has ended. No longer is God our enemy and are we His enemy, but reconciliation has come. In the highest is glory to God.

In the lowest on earth is peace among men. And they're praising God for that. They're praising God, giving Him glory in heaven because He's brought salvation to earth. Glory to God in the highest, the adoration of the angels over the good news of the Savior's birth. This is pure, perfect, holy praise given to God alone because He is supremely worthy because He has sent Jesus to save sinners. He has sent Jesus to bring peace among men on earth. In the highest place, glory to God. In the lowest place, salvation to sinners. And then verse 14 ends with an interesting statement, with whom He is pleased.

That can be very misleading, very misleading. If you're not careful, it sounds like He's going to give salvation to those who earn it, to those who earn it. The King James Bible says on earth, peace, good will toward men. That also sounds like God is going to bring peace and good will toward those who earn it, those who deserve it. But the Greek literally says, men of His good pleasure, men of His good pleasure.

It's a genitive. There's an alternative reading here, but the best reading would be peace among men of His good pleasure, or to put it another way, peace among men of His good will. It's not men who've earned it, it's God who's given it because it's His pleasure to give it. Salvation, peace, belongs to those whom God is pleased to give it to.

That's what it's saying. It's the same words in chapter 3, verse 22, where the Father says about the Son at His baptism, you're My beloved Son in whom I'm well pleased. There are some in whom God chooses, in whom He wills salvation. It's not the result of what good men have done. Angels are not rejoicing and glorifying God for what men have done or will do. Angels are not rejoicing that some men will merit salvation. They're glorifying God because though none can merit salvation, God is pleased to give it by His own good pleasure. And there will be salvation peace among men of His good pleasure. If you are a person who has been given the gift of salvation, you are a person of His good pleasure.

It's incredible, incredible truth. Men to whom He extends His good pleasure. He gets all the credit, He gets all the glory. We couldn't devise a plan of salvation. We couldn't earn salvation. So if we're saved, it's because God designed it and God was pleased to give it. Saying it another way, there is salvation peace, peace between man and God among those whom God has chosen to delight in. And so the angels are praising God because He has chosen to delight in bringing salvation peace to sinners. And you know, that's what's going to go on in heaven forever and ever and ever. Both the angels and redeemed souls and glorified bodies of men and women are going to spend forever and ever and ever and ever glorifying God in the highest, which is heaven, because He brought peace to the lowest, which is earth, and granted it to those in whom He chose to delight. He gets all the credit. Revelation 4 and 5, you have the angels starting out to glorify God for salvation, and then you have all of redeemed humanity chiming in.

It might be a good place to end. The four living creatures, 24 elders representing the church, fell down before the Lamb. It says in verse 9, they sang a new song, worthy art thou to take the book and break its seals for you were slain and did purchase for God with your blood, men from every tribe and tongue and people and nation. You made them to be a kingdom and priest to our God.

They will reign over the earth. In other words, that's praising God for salvation, praising the Lamb for salvation. And I looked, verse 11, I heard the voice of many angels around the throne, the living creatures, the elders, everybody, the redeemed saints, the angels, the number was theirs, the murion, times murion, and thousands of thousands, all the angels, they're all saying worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing and every created thing which is in heaven and on the earth and under the earth and on the sea and all things in them. I heard saying to Him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever. And the four living creatures who are angels kept saying, Amen, and the elders fell down in worship and that's heaven, that's what we'll be doing. And what we saw that multitude of heavenly hosts doing there in the field in Bethlehem was just a foretaste of that preoccupation of eternal heaven. The purpose of everything then is that God will be glorified and forever and ever and ever we will glorify Him.

We could sum it up by saying the purpose of salvation was to bring glory to God in heaven from angels and from saints and we will see that and participate when we get there. This is Grace to You with John MacArthur. Thanks for being with us. Today's Christmas Eve message looked at how words spoken thousands of years ago, peace among men with whom he is well pleased, those words can change your worship this holiday season.

It's part of John's current study from the Gospel of Luke titled The Promise of Christmas. And now friend, if I can ask a favor, if you're grateful for today's lesson on the birth of Christ or if you can point to some specific ways you benefited from Grace to You this year, we would love to hear your story. When you have time, jot us a note and send it our way. Send your email to letters at gty dot org.

That's our email address one more time, letters at gty dot org. Or if you prefer regular mail, write to Grace to You, Box 4000, Panorama City, California, 91412. Also, as the busyness of your Christmas celebration winds down after tomorrow, and you perhaps have more time to read God's word and meditate on biblical truth, let me encourage you to download our Study Bible app. It's a free app that gives you the full text of Scripture in multiple translations, and it lets you quickly link to study guides, blog articles, and sermons from John MacArthur, all of them related to whatever particular passage you're studying. And for a nominal price, you can add the notes from the MacArthur Study Bible, about 25,000 detailed explanations that will help you understand and apply the truth of Scripture. To download the Study Bible app, available for your iOS and Android devices, visit Now for John MacArthur and the entire Grace to You staff, I'm Phil Johnson, wishing you and your family a joyous Christmas celebration. And be here tomorrow, when John continues his look at the life-changing miracle of Christ's birth. Don't miss the next 30 minutes of unleashing God's truth, one verse at a time, on Grace to You.
Whisper: medium.en / 2024-01-11 21:53:22 / 2024-01-11 22:04:10 / 11

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