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A Tale of Three Kings

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
December 23, 2023 12:01 am

A Tale of Three Kings

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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December 23, 2023 12:01 am

A Roman census led Joseph and Mary to Bethlehem in time for the birth of Mary's baby. But Caesar wasn't the only king whose decree caused this to happen. Today, R.C. Sproul considers three kings involved in the story of Jesus' birth.

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No president, no premier, no senator, no congressman can lift a finger apart from the sovereign authority that God has given His only begotten Son.

That's why we're here. We're here to celebrate the birth of a King, the birth of our King, and the greatest Christmas carol that can come from your lips is the song, God Save the King. It seems that less people are offended if you mention only the baby in a manger at Christmas. Even many unbelievers sing Christmas hymns, unaware of the truths that they're singing. But things get more uncomfortable when you mention that this baby is actually the King of Kings and Lord of Lords, why He came, and that He'll return again.

I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and you're listening to the Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Don't forget that you can learn more about the arrival of this King of Kings when you request R.C. Sproul's new Christmas devotional, The Advent of Glory, at Reading the familiar Christmas story of Luke chapter 2, today R.C. Sproul will skip over the usual characters, angels, shepherds Mary and Joseph, and instead deliver a Christmas message focused on the three kings of the story.

Here's Dr. Sproul. This morning I'm going to preach on the subject, A Tale of Three Kings, and the text for that is from the Christmas story in the second chapter of the Gospel According to St. Luke. I will be reading from verse 1 through verse 14. And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria. So all went to be registered, every one to his own city. Joseph also went up from Galilee out of the city of Nazareth into Judea to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be registered with Mary, his betrothed wife, who was with child. So it was that while they were there, the days were completed for her to be delivered.

And she brought forth her firstborn son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths and laid him in a manger because there was no room for them in the inn. Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. And behold, an angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone round them, and they were greatly afraid. Then the angel said to them, Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

And this will be the sign to you. You will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths, lying in a manger. And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace. Good will toward men.

The Word of God for the people of God. The baby was born not to Mary and Joseph at this point, but to a patrician family in Rome. The year was 63 B.C., and the child was named Gaius Octavius, and his great uncle was the ruler the ruler over the whole world. His name was Julius Caesar.

In 44 B.C., when the child who had been born had reached the age of 19, his great uncle was murdered, assassinated on the floor of the chambers of the senate in the city. And his death provoked a crisis in Rome, and his power was made manifest in a new triumvirate that included his great nephew Octavian, as well as the one who gave his funeral address, at least according to Shakespeare, Mark Antony. And the third member of the triumvirate's name was Lepidus.

And these three men consolidated their power to lead the people of Rome. But conflict developed among them. In the year 36 B.C., Lepidus fell from power, leaving only Octavius and Mark Antony. And then in 31 B.C., great conflict arose between Mark Antony and Octavius because Mark Antony, who had been married to Octavius' sister, became disloyal to her and carried on with an Egyptian woman by the name of Cleopatra. And so Mark Antony and Cleopatra consolidated their power and made war against Octavian, which culminated in a naval battle at Octium in the year 31 B.C. On that occasion, the forces of Octavius conquered the forces of Antony and Cleopatra.

And Antony and Cleopatra were so devastated by their defeat that they joined each other in the act of suicide. In the year 27 B.C., the Senate conferred upon the lone survivor of this triumvirate, Octavius, the title Augustus Caesar. He took for himself the name Gaius Julius Caesar in honor of his late great uncle. And so Octavius becomes the emperor Caesar Augustus. The name Augustus in the Greek is the term sabatos, which means one who is filled with majesty, who is sublime, and is to be revered. Caesar Augustus was the one who presided for the longest period over what became known as the Pax Romana, the peace of Rome. And so Augustus, who was an able administrator, was heralded in Rome and by later historians as the great emperor of peace. He stood in stark contrast to one of his lesser vassal kings that ruled over the Jewish people, whose name was Herod the Great.

Herod the Great was known for his malevolence, whereas Caesar Augustus was known for his benevolence, though we have to remember that both of these rulers were pagans, to be sure. Well, Luke tells us that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus, this Octavius. And the decree was for the purpose of taxation that he could further administrate the whole sphere of the Roman Empire. And this imperial decree, which was sanctioned by the full senate of Rome as well as the emperor, required that all people under Roman authority had to be registered for the purposes of taxation.

And in this case, in the Jewish nation, Herod was complicit in imposing the traditional principle of the Jews that for purposes of registration, each family had to return to their hometown, the place of birth, in order to sign up on the tax rolls for the purposes of taxation. And so Luke tells us that this took place by the decree of the emperor, who's the first king that we are concerned with this morning. I know that we don't usually think of emperors of Rome as kings, and yet they were regarded in that manner by the Jews of the first century. We remember if we fast forward through the life of Jesus and come to His trial and to the time where He was interrogated by Pontius Pilate, and the question was put to Jesus, are you a king? And He said, my kingdom is not of this world. And then Pilate introduced Jesus as the King of the Jews.

But the people protested, and what did they say? We have no king but Caesar. And so in that incident, we see that the Jewish people regarded Augustus Caesar as their king. And so it is fitting for kings to issue edicts that must be obeyed. And we're told by Luke that this decree went out from Caesar Augustus. The word that is found in the Greek New Testament for decree is the word dogma. At this occasion, the emperor was being dogmatic. If we read it in the Latin, the word is edictum, that is that he issued an edict issued an edict that had to be obeyed by penalty of Roman punishment.

I like the English translation the best of the three words however, the word that is rendered here decree. A decree went out from Caesar Augustus. A decree was issued by the one who was the sovereign authority over the whole Roman Empire.

A decree went out from the most powerful man on the face of the earth. He was the King of the Jews. He was the King of the Romans. He was the King of all of those countries that had been conquered by the Romans who marched under the banner SPQR. History has known very few men who were as powerful as monarchs as Caesar Augustus.

But let's look at the second king for a moment, the king who ruled over Caesar Augustus in whose hand Octavius was merely a vassal. I'm speaking of the one who rules heaven and earth, the Lord God omnipotent who reigns. And if you want to understand history in terms of decrees, we have to consider the decrees of God.

For before the foundation of the world, before 63 B.C. when Octavius was born into this patrician household in Rome, the Lord God omnipotent had decreed that the moment would come in space and time that this human king would give an edict requiring all the people of the Jews to return to their hometown. And the eternal God of glory issued His decree to make certain that that obscure prophecy found in the minor prophet of the Old Testament, Micah, would come to pass just as God had promised. That thou, Bethlehem, for out of thou thou be small among the princes of Judah, yet out of thee will come my King.

And because God had decreed it completely to the lack of knowledge of Caesar Augustus, Augustus' thinking that he was exercising his own sovereignty over all of his subjects was merely fulfilling the sovereign decree of Almighty God that in the fullness of time at this place, in this country, in this village, in this manner, His only begotten Son would be born. I want you to think about it these days. There is a cloud on the horizon, dear friends, that becomes more and more ominous every day. Disputes about happy holidays, seasons, greetings, or Merry Christmas in the grand scope of things in and of themselves are trivial. They're insignificant.

The only thing that makes them at all significant is that they're a harbinger of things to come. We're living in a country that becomes every day more and more blatantly hostile to Christ and to His people. This has been the pattern of culture throughout history because the pagan world hates the birth of Christ, and they will be tolerant only when they have to be tolerant. But we're seeing this increasing boldness by judges, by rulers, by the media against the Prince of Peace.

So beware, dear friends, guard yourselves and your children of what's coming. But remember that whatever comes is under the rule of the One of the One who raises up kings and who pulls kings down from their throne, the Lord God omnipotent who reigneth. But really the central character in the Christmas story is not Augustus.

It isn't even God the Father. It's the Babe in the manger, the third King of this narrative, who was born this day as a prince, as the Prince of Peace, whose birth was foretold centuries, indeed millennia before it took place, not only from the lips of the prophet Micah, as I've already mentioned, but all the way back in the pages of Genesis with the first promise of the patriarchal blessing that was given by Jacob to his sons. And when he went through the sons, he went to Issachar, to Levi, to Reuben, to Gad, and gave each of them a portion of the promise of their inheritance. But when he came to Judah, he described Judah as a lion's whelp. And he said to Judah that the kingdom, the scepter which symbolizes the monarchy, the scepter will not depart from Judah until Shiloh comes. And centuries later from the loins of Judah and from his son David comes this Babe who was born in Bethlehem, born to be a king, promised by God, anointed by the Holy Ghost, destined for human rejection and mockery so that at the time of his trial those who were accusing him dressed him in the garments of a king.

But it was a mockery. They plaited thorns together and made a crown and placed it upon his head, piercing his forehead, drawing blood. They gave him a scepter. They bowed down before him, before they spit upon him and scorned him. And they said, Hail, King of the Jews. And they let him out, and they crucified him. But not before they published his crime above his head on the cross in three languages that said, The King of the Jews.

The king came to his own people, and they received him not. But a decree went out from God the Father before the foundation of the world that this one who would be subjected to humiliation, who would be crucified, who would be buried, could not possibly be held in the arms of death. God decreed that it was impossible for death to hold him. So on the third day, he rose again. Christ was raised for our justification. But then in a short period of time, God the Father removed him from this planet so that he ascended into heaven.

Why? For his coronation. The king that was born under the decree of Caesar Augustus ascended into heaven where the Lord God omnipotent crowned him the King, not just the King of the Jews, not just the King of Christians, not just the King of those who believe in Him, but He was made the King of the kings and the Lord of the Lord. Every federal judge in the United States of America, every senator in the United States of America is subject to this King because God never, ever separates His church from every other aspect of this world. Christ is given dominion over the church, over the state, over economics, over science, over every dimension of human experience because He's the King of the kings. He's the Lord of the lords. In His ascension, we see the most dramatic political event in the history of the world where this little baby by divine decree is made the cosmic King, the cosmic Christ. That's why we know that no president, no premier, no senator, no congressman in this nation or any other nation can lift a finger apart from the sovereign authority that God has given His only begotten Son.

That's why we're here, folks. We're here to celebrate the birth of a King, the birth of our King, and the greatest Christmas carol that can come from your lips is the song, God Save the King. That's what makes our Christmas so merry because He's our King. And He reigns forever, and ever, and ever, and then how long?

Forever, and ever, and ever, and ever. Hallelujah. The birth of a King, the King of kings is what we celebrate at Christmas. You're listening to Renewing Your Mind, and that was a Christmas message from R.C.

Sproul. The Advent season really is my favorite time of the year, and a new book to help keep our focus on what is most important at Christmas is called The Advent of Glory. It's 24 devotional readings based on Dr. Sproul's teaching, along with prayers written by Christian leaders, including Sinclair Ferguson, Tim Challies, Johnny Erickson-Tada, and others. Give your year-end gift at in support of proclaiming the truth of Christ, not just in December, but all year round. We'll send you the Advent of Glory as our way of thanking you for your generosity. This offer ends at midnight, so give your gift at while there's still time. Although we don't know much about Jesus' childhood, we do have the account of Jesus' visit to the temple as a young boy, and that's what R.C. Sproul will teach on next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-23 03:05:01 / 2023-12-23 03:12:25 / 7

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