“Seen by Angels”

In this series of posts we’re examining the six great truths about Jesus that Paul proclaims in First Timothy 3:16, “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: / He who was revealed in the flesh, / Was vindicated in the Spirit, / Seen by angels, / Proclaimed among the nations, / Believed on in the world, / Taken up to glory.”

Today the focus is on Jesus’ being “seen by angels.” Please see the post “Angels: Who Are They?” (December 1, 2017) and the original post in this series (December 12, 2017).

Above/Below/Above

The angels saw Jesus in two dramatically different settings. First, they had worshiped and served Him before He left heaven to become human. Then they served Him during His earthly pilgrimage. And they see Him now, enthroned in glory!

For the angels who had seen Him only in His resplendent heavenly glory, how strange it must have seemed to see their Lord in a lowly human body!

Peter describes the salvation Jesus came to bring us as “things into which angels long to look” (1 Peter 1:12).

Angels announced His birth to the shepherds (Luke 2:8-15).

After His victory over Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, “. . . angels came and began to minister to Him” (Matthew 4:11).

At His tomb “an angel of the Lord descended from heaven and came and rolled away the stone and sat upon it.” Then to the women who had come to anoint Jesus’ body, the angel announced His resurrection (Matthew 28:2-7).

What peals of praise!

Throughout Jesus’ earthly experience no doubt the angels were constantly keeping watch over Him with ever-attentive concern and care, prepared at any moment to go on any mission the Father might send them to serve the Son.

Imagine their thunderous praise after Jesus returned to heaven, having completed His redemptive work!

“Then I looked,” John wrote, “and I heard the voice of many angels around the throne and the living creatures and the elders, and the number of them was myriads of myriads, and thousands of thousands, saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb that was slain to receive power and riches and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing’” (Revelation 5:11-12).

Amen and Amen!

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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“Vindicated in the Spirit”

Tall claims!

Jesus made some outstanding (or as His detractors would have said, “outrageous”) claims for Himself during His ministry.

He claimed to be divine, to fulfill Old Testament prophecy, to be the only way to God, to have the authority to forgive sins, to be without sin, to raise the dead someday, and to judge the world.

Either these claims are true or they are false.

He was crucified for making such claims as these.

The Vindicator

How could He be vindicated of the slanders His enemies made against Him—that He was a deceiver, a blasphemer, in league with Satan, a mere man, a glutton and a drunkard?

Who would vindicate the one who was so unjustly arrested, mocked, slapped, spat upon, reviled, and executed as a criminal?

Jesus, Paul said, was “vindicated in the Spirit” (1 Timothy 3:16). How?

The Spirit enabled the prophets to predict Jesus’ death and glorification (1 Peter 1:10-12).

The Spirit descended on Him at His baptism (John 1:31-34; Matthew 12:18).

The Spirit empowered Him to preach and work miracles (Luke 4:14-21; Matthew 12:28). These miracles proved His claims (Luke 5:24; John 3:1-2; 5:36; 10:25, 38).

The Spirit powerfully endowed the apostles on the Day of Pentecost, as Jesus had predicted—thus proving the message Peter proclaimed, that Jesus is indeed “both Lord and Christ” (Acts 1:4-5, 8; 2:1-4, 33, 36).

Jesus now sits enthroned beside the Father—supremely victorious, fully vindicated.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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“Revealed in the Flesh”

God in the flesh

Although the word “Incarnation” is not in Scripture, the concept is certainly biblical. Incarnation means “taking on flesh” and is commonly used of Jesus leaving heaven to become human.

Of the six great truths Paul cites about Jesus in First Timothy 3:16, the first is that He “was revealed in the flesh.”

Martin Luther wrote, “The mystery of the humanity of Christ, that He sank Himself into our flesh, is beyond all human understanding” (Table Talk).

J. I. Packer said, “The Almighty appeared on earth as a helpless human baby, needing to be fed and changed and taught like any other child. The more you think about it, the more staggering it gets. Nothing in fiction is so fantastic as the truth of the Incarnation” (Christian Reader, Vol. 33, no. 6).

God made visible

Before the Incarnation He was invisible to the world. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1).

But then He made Himself visible. “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory . . .” (John 1:14).

Through His Incarnation Jesus: 1) identified with us, 2) made it possible for us to have a clearer picture of God (John 14:8-9), 3) connected Himself to a human line of ancestors stretching all the way back to Adam (Luke 3:23-38), and 4) took on a body capable of dying, by which He could defeat Satan’s hold on us (Hebrews 2:14-15).

Wesley’s hymn “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” includes these lines: “Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; / Hail th’incarnate Deity; / Pleased as man with men to dwell, /Jesus, our Immanuel!”

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Six Great Truths About Jesus Christ

Distilled truth

“By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: / He who was revealed in the flesh, / Was vindicated in the Spirit, / Seen by angels, / Proclaimed among the nations, / Believed on in the world, / Taken up to glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).

This concise, one-verse summary of the greatness of Jesus Christ is obviously not the complete picture revealed in more detail in the New Testament, but what it does say should be enough to fill us with wonder.

A life-changing message

Consider who wrote this. At one time he did not believe a word of it. More than that, he violently opposed those who did believe it.

But all that changed suddenly and dramatically when the glorified Christ appeared to His arch-enemy Saul as he was on his way to arrest more Christians.

Three days later he was baptized, and soon the gospel’s greatest adversary became its greatest advocate.

We know him today as the apostle Paul. For the next thirty or so years he “Proclaimed [Him] among the nations” so that He could be “Believed on in the world.”

Like no other

From Jesus’ birth (“revealed in the flesh”) to His ascension (“Taken up to glory”)—in those 33 years Jesus made far more impact on our world than anyone else who ever lived before or since. This impact continues to our day.

That’s because of who He is and what He did.

If you doubt that, I challenge you to read the Gospel of Luke and then its sequel, the Book of Acts.

Then decide.

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Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

Separating Fact from Fiction

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Tales vs. Truth

According to ancient apocryphal sources (certainly not biblical), Jesus could do miracles even as a boy. He could form birds from clay, then order them to fly away.

If Joseph the carpenter had miscalculated the length of a board he had cut, Jesus could stretch it to the desired length.

Etc.

What ludicrous tales these are—the product of overly fertile imaginations! According to John 2:11, Jesus’ first miracle was turning the water into wine at a wedding feast, after He began His ministry.

Biographers often provide detailed information about the childhood of the person being discussed—far more than we know about Jesus’ early years. We know almost nothing about Him between infancy and adulthood.

What we do know

The emphasis of Scripture is on who Jesus is and what He came to do.

From the four inspired Gospel records of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John we learn that Jesus fulfills many Old Testament prophecies, that He is the long-awaited Messiah, that He is the Son of God.

He could do genuine miracles: walking on water, stilling the storm, healing afflictions of all kinds, even raising the dead. He did these primarily to offer convincing proof of His claims (John 5:36; 10:25, 37-38; 11:41-45; 14:11; 20:30-31).

We learn that He was rejected by His own people, then executed in Jerusalem, that He rose from the dead, then appeared to His disciples on numerous occasions before ascending back to His Father.

All this and more that God has chosen to reveal is not to satisfy our curiosity but to give us what we need to know.

And it is enough.

 

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Too Many, Too Much?

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Two studies

An excellent recent online article reports on a study done at the University of Toledo where one group of children were observed playing with only four toys, while another group had 16. Researchers observed that the children with fewer toys were more involved in their play than the other group.

The author also observed that children can be quite content playing with cardboard boxes and simple household items.

Conclusion: Parents would do well not only to limit the number of toys they give their kids, but also choose toys that stimulate creativity.

https://offspring.lifehacker.com/why-you-should-stop-giving-your-kids-so-many-toys-1821051616

In a similar vein, it may well be true that for adults, less is more. A speaker I heard on the radio this morning cited a study indicating that a higher percentage of people in materialistic societies were mentally distressed. Should that surprise us?

Biblical values vs. the cultural expectations

Jesus, better than anyone, understood how people think. He said, “. . . not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions” (Luke 12:15).

Paul said, “For we have brought nothing into the world, so we cannot take anything out of it either. If we have food and covering, with these we shall be content” (1 Timothy 6:7-8).

Current culture does not encourage contentment, but the very opposite. Advertisers know how to bait the hook, especially around this time of year.

The person who takes to heart what Jesus and Paul taught about possessions not only can distinguish needs from wants, but may also learn how to want less anyway.

The contented person does not say, “I wish I had . . . .”

But instead, “I’m thankful I have . . . .”

It’s all a matter of perspective.

 

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/

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Our Maker in the Manger

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It may come as a surprise to some that Jesus was actually God’s agent of creation.

“All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made . . . . and the world was made by him . . .” (John 1:3, 10).

“For by him were all things created, that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible . . . all things were created by him, and for him” (Colossians 1:16).

God has “in these last days spoken unto us by his Son . . . by whom also he made the worlds” (Hebrews 1:2).

Our Designer

Science continues to discover the spectacular evidences of Jesus’ creative handiwork—planets and caverns and plant and animal species unknown until recently. As research continues, we can expect many more marvels to come to light.

But even more astonishing is this: Jesus, the Creator of all, entered the womb of the virgin Mary, developed as babies do for the duration of the pregnancy, then was delivered into the world He Himself had made!

And yet even more astounding: “He was in the world, and the world was made through Him, and the world did not know Him” (John 1:10).

Our decision

John goes on to explain, “He came to His own, and those who were His own did not receive Him” (John 1:11). Even His hometown Nazareth rejected Him. “And He wondered at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6).

“But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, who were born . . . of God” (John 1:12-13).

Two millennia later many still reject Him, while others receive Him.

Our Maker won’t make us serve Him.

But His offer still stands . . . .

 

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Scripture quotations from Mark 6:6 and John 1:10-13 taken from the NASB: http://www.lockman.org/