UNTO US A SON IS GIVEN

by Roger Severino

AsonisGivenThe Bible tells us that “when the time came to completion, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.”[1] The implication, among other things, is that Jesus was not born in a random time and place. His arrival was the climax of a story that stretched all the way back to creation, through Abraham, through David, and a host of other characters. In Jesus’ genealogy, Matthew is careful to point out that Jesus is the son of Abraham and the son of David (see Matthew 1:1).

  1. Son of Abraham. When the Lord calls Abraham to a new land, He promises in Genesis 12 to make from him a great nation and that through his lineage “all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” How are all the nations blessed through Abraham and his lineage? Paul helps to clarify this in Galatians 3: “Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, ‘In you shall all the nations be blessed.’ So then, those who are of faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.” [2] And a bit later: “so that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promised Spirit through faith.”[3] Jesus was the son of Abraham who brought the promised blessings to all people. If you belong to Jesus, then you too are a son of Abraham, because you share in Abraham’s faith in God and His Messiah, the ultimate son of Abraham.
  2. Son of David. In 2 Samuel 7 we find God making a covenant with David, telling him that David’s Kingdom will endure forever. Though some of the things God speaks of are fulfilled in David’s immediate son, Solomon, it is clear in this passage and the remainder of the Old Testament that the people are looking for someone greater than Solomon who would be the Messiah. That is why after Solomon’s death you see prophets, such as Isaiah, who say that someone will reign on David’s throne who is called “Mighty God” and “Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6-7). That is why the New Testament is clear to point out that Jesus is THE Son of David who was to come.
  3. Son of God. Mark begins his Gospel thus: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”[4] In Luke’s birth narrative, the angel tells Mary that the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God (Luke 1:35). Towards the end of his Gospel, John tells us: “Jesus performed many other signs in the presence of His disciples that are not written in this book. But these are written so that you may believe Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and by believing you may have life in His name.”[5] Yes, Jesus is the son of Abraham and the son of David. This Christmas, however, we celebrate and worship Him as the incarnate Son of God.

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Ga 4:4–5.
[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ga 3:7–9.
[3] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton: Standard Bible Society, 2001), Ga 3:14.
[4] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Mk 1:1.
[5] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Jn 20:30–31.

POWER LESSONS FROM THE MOVIE SELMA

by Roger Severino

I recently had the privilege of being invited to watch a pre-release of the movie Selma set to be released in theaters this month. As I watched this powerful movie about events in our nation’s history, certain thoughts came to mind and, personally, I walked away stirred by some lessons that are found in Scripture.

  1. The Power of Courage and Convictions. I was amazed at the bravery of those marching for civil rights and their commitment to non-retaliation in the face of strong opposition. I sat in my seat wondering about my own convictions and level of courage to sacrifice for what I believe God may be calling me to do. 1 Corinthians 16:13-14 says “Be alert, stand firm in the faith, act like a man, be strong. Your every action must be done with love.”[1] The Christian life includes the virtues of courage, standing firm in the face of evil, and being strong in the Lord. I want these characteristics in greater measure in my life.
  2. The Power of Loving Our Enemies. Jesus commands us to love our enemies (Matthew 6:43-48) and Paul instructs us to not return evil for evil, but to repay evil with good (Romans 12:17-21). Faith has triumphed, nations have secured their independence by this principle, and laws have been changed. Early Christians were known for feeding the poor, caring for their pagan neighbors’ suffering from the plague, and helping to bury their dead. No wonder that the faith kept spreading in spite of Roman persecution. Mahatma Gandhi, though not a Christian, took Jesus’ words seriously and changed the future of a nation. Martin Luther King, Jr. advanced the cause of civil rights and equality through his commitment to non-violence and following the teachings of Jesus. How would our community be different if we took time to listen to the pain and hurt of others who are different than we are? How might the world respond if Christians inexplicably loved others who differed from us, and especially if that love came at a cost to us?
  3. The Power of Truth and Justice. The characters in the movie insinuate that the civil rights movement had success because they knew they could prick the conscience of enough people to change things. The prophet Micah asks “What does the Lord require of you?” The answer: do justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God (Micah 6:8). Isaiah told those in his day that their religious observance of prayer and fasting was no good, because they were not living out their lives in justice. The Lord calls them to loose the bonds of wickedness, to release the oppressed, to take care of the hungry and homeless, and to come to the aid of the afflicted (see Isaiah 58). I had a pastor who used to say, “Do right! If the stars fall, do right!” Do we stand for truth even when it is unpopular with friends and family? Do we love mercy and strive for justice even if the benefits do not directly apply to us? In what ways is our community better because Christians are impacting the culture with mercy, truth, and justice across Middle Tennessee? What opportunities exist for greater improvement?

God, grant us the ability to be a people who live courageously, love daringly, and act justly.

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), 1 Co 16:13–14.

FIVE REASONS WE OBSERVE THE LORD’S SUPPER

by Roger Severino    
Communion7
  1. We remember Christ and what He has done for us. Jesus instructed His disciples: “Do this in remembrance of me” (Luke 22:19 and 1 Corinthians 11:24). The bread, Jesus tells us, represents His body. The fruit of the vine represents His blood. When we take the elements of communion we remember and thoughtfully reflect on Christ’s great sacrifice on our behalf. “But God proves His own love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us!”[1]
  2. We celebrate the New Covenant that Christ came to initiate. Both Luke 22:20 and 1 Corinthians 11:25 refer to the cup as the “new covenant in my blood.” Jesus was celebrating the Passover meal with His disciples. That feast commemorated God’s deliverance of His people from Egyptian slavery by the exodus event. The blood on their doorposts was a means of protecting the Hebrew’s firstborn. The exodus was the key deliverance (salvation) event in the Old Testament. Jesus takes this important tradition and inaugurates a new covenant, established not by the blood of a Passover lamb, but through His own blood, shed on the cross for our salvation and deliverance from the slavery of sin. This is the foundation of the new covenant.
  3. We receive spiritual nourishment. I have sometimes wondered why God cares about rituals and why Jesus commanded us to observe the Lord’s Supper. I have come to realize that it is not really for God’s benefit, but for ours. We need tangible expressions of our faith. When I take in the nutrients and nourishment of the bread and cup (however meager), this becomes a means of taking into my person the benefits of Christ’s death applied to me. Jesus didn’t simply die for an abstract ideal. He died for me. When the bread and drink enter into my body, I remember that He died on my behalf, and this provides me spiritual nourishment. I am taking the benefits of Christ’s death to myself.
  4. We affirm our faith in Christ. As we take the bread and the cup, we are affirming that we need Jesus and all that His death secures for us. We need His forgiveness, His love, His salvation, His indwelling Spirit, etc. We pledge ourselves to Christ. It is a time of covenant renewal. We commit once again to trust Jesus and pledge our lives to Him. We declare that we wish to honor and obey Him.
  5. We proclaim His death until He comes and await the final supper. The community of faith observes the Lord’s Supper, proclaiming Jesus’ death, until He returns (1 Corinthians 11:26). When Jesus finished with the bread and cup, He told His disciples: But I tell you, from this moment I will not drink of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it in a new way in My Father’s kingdom with you.”[2] Revelation tells us of a day when heaven proclaims that the marriage supper of the Lamb has come and His Bride has made herself ready (Revelation 19:7). We live between the cups, the first cup representing the death of Christ on our behalf, and the second cup of the gathered saints who will celebrate with Christ and His final victory at the marriage supper of the Lamb. When we observe the Lord’s Supper, we anticipate that final Day by faith.

[1] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Ro 5:8.
[2] The Holy Bible: Holman Christian Standard Version. (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2009), Mt 26:29.