Who is Jesus Christ?
Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. He had no human father, but was conceived when the power of God, called the Holy Spirit, worked a miracle on his mother, who was a virgin. (See Luke 1:32, 35; Matthew 1:20-25; Matthew 3:17; John 1:49; John 10:36).
What was the work of Jesus, the Son of God?
- To reveal his Father, Almighty God, to the world in a way that men could understand. (See John 1:1, 8; John 12:45; John 14:9; John 17:6, 26).
- To show the glorious qualities of his Father â holiness, righteousness and love. (See John 1:14-41; Romans 3:24-26).
- To show to men the full meaning of Christian service and obedience. (See Luke 22:42; John 5:30; 8:29).
- To preach the gospel. (See Luke 4:18; 9:6; and 20:1).
- To die for us. (See John 10:11, 15; Acts 2:23).
- To bring us back to God. (See Ephesians 2:16; Romans 5:10; John 14:6).
Why is the Bible a Special Book?
How can we best understand the Bible’s message?
The Bible itself is its best interpreter. Some parts of the Bible help us to understand other parts. (See Luke 24:25-27; 1 Corinthians 2:13).
The shops are again full of decorations, gift suggestions and piped Christmas music. Our colleagues and neighbours are making their annual plans for over-indulgence. And churches are once more beginning arrangements for carol services to mark the birth of Christ, because for most Christians Christmas is a highlight, if not the highlight, of the religious calendar.
It may be surprising to us, but in His wisdom God has given us little information about Christ’s birth and His word places little emphasis on it. It is bypassed completely by Mark and John. Luke gives us the fullest account. Matthew mentions it in passing while dealing with the events before and after it. This is very different from other events in Christ’s life which are described in detail in all four Gospels, such as the feeding of the five thousand. It is insignificant compared with the events leading up to and relating to Christ’s death and resurrection which occupy large parts of each Gospel.
“No Such Commandment”
Nowhere in the scriptures do we find commands to mark Christ’s birth, nor do we read of such celebrations being kept. Indeed, only two birthday celebrations are mentioned in the scriptures at all – those of Pharaoh and Herod. This is in complete contrast to remembering the death of Christ, which God’s word commands us to do and which records the early believers as doing.
Not kept by the early churches
We know that the death of Christ was celebrated from the beginning and that this evolved into the three days of Easter. But there is no mention of celebrating Christ’s birth in the many post-Apostolic writings which have survived. In AD 245 the theologian Origen described the Roman practice of celebrating birthdays as pagan, which strongly suggests that Christ’s birthday was not being marked at that time.
When was Christ born?
This idea that Christmas was probably not celebrated until the fourth century seems to coincide with the fact that for centuries there was considerable debate about the actual date of Christ’s birth. It is difficult to celebrate someone’s birthday without knowing when they were born!
The first contribution in early church writings to this discussion is found in a work by Clement of Alexandria in about AD 200. He mentioned several possibilities: March, April, and May – but not December.
“Be not conformed to this world”
The keeping of non-religious Christmas customs should be a matter of conscience: “Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind” (Romans 14:5). But as for celebrating Christ’s birth:
- God does not want us to mark the birth of His Son once a year.
- If He had wanted this, He would have given us the date and told us how to do it.
- By doing so, we are copying a man-made festival from a false Church (the coming of which the apostles warned about), instigated for the wrong reason and at the wrong time.
Rod Hale (edited)
Now it shall come to pass in the latter days that the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be established on the top of the mountains, and shall be exalted above the hills; and all nations shall flow to it. Many people shall come and say, “Come, and let us go up to the mountain of the Lord, to the house of the God of Jacob; He will teach us His ways, and we shall walk in His paths. For out of Zion shall go forth the law, and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. He shall judge between the nations, and rebuke many people; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war anymore. O house of Jacob, come and let us walk In the light of the LORD.” (Isaiah 2:2–5).
God uses suffering to help people grow. Incredibly, as we suffer, He does good––and the fact that we suffer is a testament to His love for us. He longs so deeply for His people to grow that He is willing to suffer with us. Suffering comes from God. Suffering is God’s tool. Suffering draws us closer to Him.
But where does Satan fit into all this? Didn’t God give Satan the power to torment Job? Wasn’t it Satan who was bringing adverse circumstances into the lives of the Israelites when they attempted to follow Him (Zechariah 3:1-2)? Didn’t Satan take the Lord Jesus into the wilderness to tempt him?
Indeed––Satan was involved in all of those things.
Because Satan simply means “adversary” (the word is actually translated as “adversary” 7 times in the King James Version). It’s a Hebrew word that came into Greek (and thus found its way into the New Testament), and subsequently into English––but its actual meaning is adversary. Thus, if we hold the traditional view of Satan, some of the uses of the word may surprise us:
- Numbers 22:22 - Balaam, a prophet who attempted to prophesy against the Israelites found himself confronted by “the angel of the LORD.” For Balaam, this angel was an adversary to his goal––prophesying against Israel. Thus, the angel is called Balaam’s adversary, or Satan (the word is שָׂטָן, Satan, in the Hebrew).
- 2 Samuel 19:22 - David, when speaking about his nephews, the sons of Zeruiah, stated that they were “adversaries” to him––or Satans in the Hebrew.
- 1 Kings 11:14 - Hadad the Edomite, one of the descendents of the king of Edom, was a Satan, or adversary, to Solomon.
- 1 Kings 11:23 - the same was said of Rezon the son of Eliadah––another adversary, or Satan, to Solomon.
In fact, consider one of the most surprising uses of this word:
“Then Satan stood against Israel and incited David to number Israel” (1 Chronicles 21:1).
David was moved by Satan to take a census of his people. While this might not at first seem surprising, the shock comes when the parallel record in Samuel is compared. Both records are about the same event––David’s numbering of Israel––yet note who provoked David to number the people in Chronicles versus who provoked him in Samuel:
“Again the anger of the LORD was kindled against Israel, and he incited David against them, saying, ‘Go, number Israel and Judah’” (2 Samuel 24:1).
Did you see what just happened there?
One record says that Satan prompted David to number the people, and another said that God prompted David to number them!
The Biblical record isn’t blasphemous––rather, Satan doesn’t mean what it is so often said to mean. It’s simply an adversary, and in fact, in the examples above, can actually be an adversary against us doing something wrong. The angel of the Lord was an adversary against Balaam when he was going to prophesy against the Israelites! Hadad and Rezon were satans against Solomon whom God raised up to bring him back to Him!
So what is Satan’s role? Well first of all, Satan isn’t a proper noun––it’s general and it means “adversary.” And, often these adversaries can be used by God to bring us to Him. Thus, much like suffering, Satan, or more properly, satans can actually help us grow.
Instead of being against God or undermining God (would God really even allow something like that?), a satan is often something that God uses to help His people grow! Thus, it was a satan to whom God gave the power to torment Job (Job 1:12). And it was the spirit of God that led Christ to be tempted of Satan (Mark 1:12-13).
And thus the apostle Paul could write the following: “You are to deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord” (1 Corinthians 5:5). Giving this believer over to satan would actually work for his salvation. Because Satan isn’t some supernatural being who is out to fight against the work of God. A satan is simply one who stands against someone else––and at times, as in the Chronicles and Samuel passages, can even be God Himself.
- Jason Hensley