“And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. 2 (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) 3 And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. 4 And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judæa, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) 5 To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. 6 And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. 7 And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.
Turning to the gospel of Matthew, we read that the child that was born that night came into the world with a purpose. Joseph was told to call His name Jesus, “for He shall save his people from their sins” (Matt. 1:21).
The year was 1809. The international scene was tumultuous. Napoleon was sweeping through Austria; blood was flowing freely. Nobody then cared very much about babies, but the world was overlooking some very significant births.
For example, William Gladstone was born that year. He was destined to become one of England’s finest statesmen.
That same year in England, an obscure minister and his wife saw the birth of their son, Alfred Lloyd Tennyson. He would one day write, “The Charge of the Light Brigade” (1855, age: 46).
On the American continent, Oliver Wendell Holmes was born in Cambridge, Massachusetts. As an associate Justice of the Supreme Court, his eloquence and opinions on civil liberties would become legendary. His succent quotes were widely circulated.
“My right to swing my fist ends where your nose begins.”
“The mark of a civilized man is his willingness to re-examine his most cherished beliefs.”
It was also in the year of 1809 that a baby was born and named Charles. His mother was Susannah. His father was Robert Darwin, a physician in England. Charles would one day go on a five-year voyage (1831-1836) aboard a ship called, the Beagle, and return to Europe to promote the godless theory of evolution.
The year of 1809 also brought forth the cries of a newborn infant in a rugged log cabin in Hardin County, Kentucky. The baby’s name? Abraham Lincoln.
If there had been televised news at that time, these words might have been heard: “The destiny of the world is being shaped on an Austrian battlefield today. The Battle of Wa-gram has ended. Napoleon and his French army have forced Austria to sign an armistice (July 5-6, 1809).”
And yet, the truth was that history was being shaped in the cradles of England and America.
In like manner, more than two thousand years ago, during the days of the Roman Emperor, Caesar Augustus, everyone thought taxation was the big news of the moment. But a young Jewish woman cradled the biggest news of all in her arms: the birth of the Messiah – the Saviour of the world. History was being made, not in Rome with a royal decree, but in a stable, in a place called Bethlehem. “In the ‘House of Bread’ the “Bread of Life” was being created, and what a creation it was. The narrative of the incarnation of Christ is part of the greatest story ever told.
Today, the gospel has captured the hearts of more than two billion people on planet earth who profess to be Christian in some form. As individuals consider the person and work of Jesus Christ, a fundamental question arises, “Jesus, why did you come?” The Bible records the answer.
First, the Bible teaches that Jesus Christ came to fulfill the promise God the Father made in the Covenant of Redemption. When Adam, acting as the Federal Representative of mankind, fell in the Garden of Eden, he condemned not only himself, but all of his posterity to a godless state of existence.
The Bible says, “Wherefore, as by one man sin entered into the world, And death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, For that all have sinned” (Romans 5:12). Every person is born into the world with the plague of all plagues clinging to the soul, and permeating every fiber of their existence.
That plague is a sin nature. What does sin nature do?
Sin darkens the understanding.
Sin perverts the emotions.
Sin dominates the will.
Sin moves men to love darkness rather than light.
Sin creates chaos and confusion.
Sin destroys the moral compass of the will, while exalting pride, selfishness, and greed.
Sin causes the body to be consumed with illicit desires, and anger, while trying to silence the conscience warning of a certain judgment to come. Sin defies God.
Sin destroys relationships. Sin demands complete surrender and servitude, and gives only death as wages in return.
Despite all the internal conflicts in the soul that have been waged, all the tears that have been shed, all the promises that have been made to be better, and all the self-loathing that has been expressed, the power of sin is still present. Despite all the self-help programs on the market, despite all the professional counseling in the country, despite all the prisons that have been erected, despite all the personal shame that tormented souls carry in secret, Sin is still alive and well in our lives.
If any person is ever to know redemption, forgiveness, and freedom from the power and pollution of sin the sin nature, than the question of guilt must be dealt with. It cannot be ignored. In infinite grace, in the same spot that transgressions were first conceived, God instituted a Covenant of Redemption. In the Garden of Eden, God promised Someone would come to reverse the works of unrighteousness, thereby allowing souls to be reconciled to God, and fellowship with the Sovereign restored, based on the righteousness of justice being satisfied. “Where sin abounded, grace did much more abound” (Rom. 5:20).
The wait for the fulfillment of the Covenant of Redemption began, with great hope, and a high level of expectation. When Adam was 130 years olds he begat a son in his own image named Seth (Gen. 5:3). “Perhaps Seth is the Promised One,” thought Eve, “For God,” said she, “has appointed me another seed instead of Abel, whom Cain killed” (Gen. 4:25). But Seth was not the Promised One. Eventually, the immediate high expectations gave way to a patient waiting.
During the waiting period, the Law came, with all its rules, rituals, and ceremonies. The Law served a purpose, which was to remind individuals that, by the works of the Law, no flesh can ever be justified in the sight of God (Rom. 3:20). The shedding of the blood of animals could not take away sin, for the animals were not perfect either, having been touched by the same plague that afflicts humanity.
Realizing this, religious men, like the Pharisees, grew desperate. They had hoped that somehow the righteousness of God could be appeased by the blood of bulls and goats, in association with their many good works, based on religious zeal. And yet, Every smoking altar, every bleeding victim, every ascetic privation, every priestly intervention was a testimony to the abiding guilt of men, and the need for a more perfect way, for the remission of sin. ~David Clark
Lest humanity utterly despair, the prophets appeared to remind God’s people of the Prince who was to come. He would make a Covenant with His people, said the prophet (Dan. 9:24-27). Then, “in the fullness of time,” at the appointed hour, the Messiah did appear suddenly in His holy temple, and prophesy was fulfilled (Gal. 4:4; Malachi 3:1).
In His maturity, the Messiah went and stood on the edge of the Jordan River to be baptized in order to be presented as, “the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).
Upon learning the Messiah had come, many people in Palestine rushed to receive Jesus as the Christ, though other people drew back. There were those who could not believe that Jesus was the Anointed One. “But to as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become the sons of God, even to as many as believed on His name” (John 1:12).
Later, Roman historians would record that the world had actually been waiting for Someone as special as Jesus.
Suetonius noted, “There had spread over all the Orient an old and established belief, that it was fated at that time for men coming from Judaea to rule the world” (Suetonius: Life of Vespasian, 4:5; b. 69 BC).
Tacitus tells of the same expectation declaring, “there was a firm persuasion … that at this very time the East was to grow powerful, and rulers coming from Judaea were to acquire universal empire” (Tacitus: Histories, 5:13, b. AD 56).
The Jews had hope, “about that time, one from their country should become governor of the habitable earth” (Josephus: Wars of the Jews, 6:5, 4).
In the fullness of time, God brought forth His Son (Gal. 4:4). What a Son, Jesus proved to be. The totality of His life was a constant demonstration of His deity. By His life, Jesus became, “The Man Who Changed the World.” Dr. Herbert Lockyer explains.
More than 2000 years ago there was a Man born, contrary to the laws of life. This Man lived in poverty, and was reared in obscurity.
Only once did He cross the boundary of the country in which He lived: that was during His exile in childhood. In infancy, He startled a king.
As a youth, He puzzled the doctors.
In manhood He ruled the course of Nature, walked upon the billows as if pavement, and hushed the sea to sleep.
He never wrote a book, and yet all the libraries of all the countries in the world cannot hold the books that could be written about Him.
He never wrote a song, and yet He has furnished the theme for more songs than all the songwriters combined.
He never founded a college, but all the schools put together cannot boast of having as many students.
The names of the past proven statesmen of Greece and Rome have come and gone,
The names of past scientists, philosophers and theologians have come and gone; but the name of this Man abounds more and more.
Though time has passed between the people of our generation, and the scene of His crucifixion, yet He still lives. Herod could not destroy Him, and the grave could not hold Him.
Jesus stands forth upon the highest pinnacle of Heavenly glory, proclaimed of God, acknowledged by angels, adored by saints, and feared by devils, as the living, personal Christ, our Lord, our Saviour, and our God.”
“Jesus, why did you come?”
“I came as the Son of the Living God, to offer myself as the Perfect Sacrifice, to honor the Covenant of Redemption, first stated in the Garden of Eden.”
“Jesus, is that the only reason why you came?” “No, I also came to destroy the works of the Devil” (1 John 3:8).
Lying is a work of the Devil. Satan lied in the Garden of Eden. “Now the serpent…said unto the woman, … Ye shall not surely die: For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof, then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5). Lying, as a work of the Devil, is listed as one of the most deadly sins in Proverbs 6:16-19.
Murder is a work of the Devil. We read of how Cain, motivated by Satan, rose, and murdered his righteous brother Abel. “And wherefore slew [Gk. sphazo, to butcher] he him?” Cain slaughtered his brother. Why? “Because his own works were evil, And his brother’s righteous” (1 John 3:12).
Abortion is a work of the Devil when it is used as a selfish means of birth control. Each year in America, the lives of more than a half million precious babies are terminated (Pew Research Center). The Hippocratic Oath is the oldest and most widely known treatise on medical ethics (c. 470 – 360 BC). The original oath stated in part, “I will give no sort of medicine to any pregnant woman, with a view to destroying the child.”
When the Oath was rewritten in 1964 by Dr. Louis Lasagna, it is my understanding, this pledge was left out, though the concession was made, “Above all, I must not play at God.” It is God who gives life. It is God who determines if we are male or female (Gen. 5:2). We do not have to make that choice, and should not alter it. Our Creator-God has made that choice for us. And no amount of pronoun changing can undo what God has created, male and female. What we must do, in truth and righteousness, is to affirm the wisdom and way of our Creator. Jesus came to destroy the practice of the mutilation of the innocent, and to leave all of us without any doubt as to who and what we are in the sight of God.
Inordinate pride is a work of the Devil, manifested in the Biblical narrative of how the Evil One moved David to number the children of Israel. “And Satan stood up against Israel, and provoked David to number Israel…And God was displeased with this thing; therefore, he smote Israel…. ” (1 Chron. 21:1, 7, 9-14). The nation of Israel paid a terrible price for the pride of one man. It can be said that we are never more like Satan himself than when we are filled with inordinate pride. The Bible declares that God will always resist the proud, but He will give grace to the humble.
Unnatural sexual deviancy is a work of the Devil. This is a particularly serious transgress in the sight of God, according to Romans 1:23-32. Historically, unnatural sexual deviancy is a behavior which no great civilization has survived, once it became widespread and socially acceptable. Paul addressed this general topic when writing to the Church in Corinth. “It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that even pagans do not tolerate: A man is sleeping with his father’s wife” (1 Cor. 5:1, NIV).
Because people are militant in a lifestyle that goes against creation itself, we as Christians must be very careful how we identify with this behavior, especially on holy ground. God is a jealous God, and He will share His glory with no one. It is His banner of love and holiness that must fly over us, and no other.
During the days of the Judges of Israel, when honor and social acceptance was given to an idol named Dagon, in righteous strength, blinded Samson collapsed Dagon’s temple upon himself, and the Philistines (Judges 16:23). Time passed. Another generation arose in Israel and embraced idolatry, and flew the flag of the ungodly. In holy wrath, God Himself cut the false fish god, into pieces when His people unwisely tried to appease the world, and put Dagon’s symbol, his image, by the Ark of the Covenant (1 Sam. 5:1-7).
Christ commands the church to stand in judgment on deviant societal behavior, beginning without ourselves. The Bible says, “Judge, not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment” (John 7:24). Because Jesus does want His people to sit in judgment upon all things, with love, to be sure, but in righteousness, He has “made us kings and priests unto God, and his Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen.” (Rev. 1:6).
Kings sit in judgment on the unrighteous, and priests stand to intercede for those who have gone astray. Let us not neglect our moral duty, and let the church tell the truth, There is a type of sensual behavior that is a work of the Devil. But then, let the word go forth. “There may be some sins of which a man cannot speak, but there is no sin which the blood of Christ cannot wash away” (Charles Spurgeon).
Despite the aberrant sexual behavior found in the Church of Corinth, Paul could write to those who came to themselves and repented saying, “And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). Betrayal is a work of the Devil, reflected in the fact that, for 30 pieces of silver, Judas betrayed the Son of God, after the Devil had entered him” (John 13:23-30).
Jesus had a Wilderness, a Gethsemane, and a Judas. In our journey in grace, we too will have a Wilderness Experience, a Gethsemane, and a Judas. The servant is not above the Master. Paul spoke of Demas who forsook him, after laboring together in the work of ministry.
There are many forms of betrayal such as, a marriage vow broken, a child abandoned, a contract not honored, or the use of cruel words in the name of candor. Christ has come to destroy all these works of the Devil. And where Christ puts forth His strength, He overthrows the Evil One, as well as sin.
“Jesus, why did you come?”
“I came to destroy the works of the Devil.”
“Lord, is that all?”
“No, I also came to seek and to save that which is lost, and to give eternal life to all who will believe” (Luke 19:10).
Because eternal life is a relationship with the Living Lord, based upon faith in all that Jesus claimed to be, the content of belief is important.
The great evangelist, George Whitefield was preaching to coal miners in England. He asked one man,
“What do you believe?”
“Well, I believe the same as the church.”
“And what does the church believe?”
“Well, they believe the same as me.”
Seeing he was getting nowhere, Whitefield said,
“And what is it that you both believe?”
“Well, I suppose the same thing,” came the reply.
The coal miner lacked real content for his faith.
The content of faith is the gospel, the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus (1 Cor. 15:1-3). The object of saving faith is Christ.
But faith in Christ must not be in the abstract. It must be personal and real. “The life of a Christianity consists of possessive pronouns,” said Martin Luther. “It is one thing to say, ‘Christ is a Saviour.’ It is quite another thing to say, ‘Jesus is my Saviour, and my Lord.’ The devil can say the first, but only the true Christian can say the second.”
“Jesus, why did you come?”
“I came to honor the Covenant of Redemption.”
“I came to destroy the works of the Devil.”
“I came to seek and to save the lost.”
“I came to give eternal life to all who believe.”
“I came so that individuals might say, ‘Jesus is my Lord, and my Saviour.’”