“He humbled Himself to become man” by J.C. Ryle

“The New Testament begins with the life, death, and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ. No part of the Bible is so important as this, and no part is so full and complete.

Four distinct Gospels tell us the story of Christ’s doing and dying. Four times over we read the precious account of His works and words.

How thankful we ought to be for this! To know Christ is life eternal. To believe in Christ is to have peace with God. To follow Christ is to be a true Christian.

To be with Christ will be heaven itself. We can never hear too much about Jesus Christ.

The Gospel of St. Matthew begins with a long list of names. Sixteen verses are taken up with tracing a pedigree from Abraham to David, and from David to the family in which Jesus was born.

Let no one think that these verses are useless. Nothing is useless in creation. The least mosses, and the smallest insects, serve some good end. Nothing is useless in the Bible.

Every word of it is inspired. The chapters and verses which seem at first sight unprofitable, are all given for some good purpose, Look again at these sixteen verses, and you will see in them useful and instructive lessons.

Learn from this list of names, that God always keeps His word. He had promised, that in Abraham’s seed all the nations of the earth should be blessed. He had promised to raise up a Saviour of the family of David. (Gen. 12:3; Isaiah 11:1.)

These sixteen verses prove, that Jesus was the son of David and the son of Abraham, and that God’s promise was fulfilled.—Thoughtless and ungodly people should remember this lesson, and be afraid. Whatever they may think, God will keep His word.

If they repent not, they will surely perish.—True Christians should remember this lesson, and take comfort. Their Father in heaven will be true to all His engagements.

He has said, that He will save all believers in Christ. If He has said it, He will certainly do it. “He is not a man that He should lie.” “He abideth faithful: He can not deny Himself.” (2 Tim. 2:13.)

Learn next from this list of names the sinfulness and corruption of human nature. Observe how many godly parents in this catalogue had wicked and ungodly sons.

The names of Roboam, and Joram, and Amon, and Jechonias, should teach us humbling lessons. They had all pious fathers. But they were all wicked men.

Grace does not run in families. It needs something more than good examples and good advice to make us children of God.

They that are born again are not born of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:13.) Praying parents should pray night and day, that their children may be born of the Spirit.

Learn lastly from this list of names, how great is the mercy and compassion of our Lord Jesus Christ. Think how defiled and unclean our nature is; and then think what a condescension it was in Him to be born of a woman, and “made in the likeness of men.”

Some of the names we read in this catalogue remind us of shameful and sad histories. Some of the names are those of persons never mentioned elsewhere in the Bible. But at the end of all comes the name of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Though He is the eternal God, He humbled Himself to become man, in order to provide salvation for sinners. “Though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor.”

We should always read this catalogue with thankful feelings. We see here that no one who partakes of human nature can be beyond the reach of Christ’s sympathy and compassion.

Our sins may have been as black and great as those of any whom St. Matthew names. But they can not shut us out of heaven, if we repent and believe the gospel.

If Jesus was not ashamed to be born of a woman, whose pedigree contained such names as those we have read today, we need not think that He will be ashamed to call us brethren, and to give us eternal life.”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Matthew (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1856/2012), 2-3. Ryle is commenting on Matthew 1:1-17.

“In faithful wonder” by Herman Bavinck

“The theological task calls for humility. Full comprehension is impossible; wonder and mystery always remain.

This must not be identified with the New Testament notion of mystery, which refers to that which was unknown but has now been revealed in the history of salvation culminating in Christ.

Neither is it a secret gnosis available only to an elite, nor is it unknown because of the great divide between the natural and the supernatural.

The divide is not so much metaphysical as it is spiritual—sin is the barrier.

The wonder of God’s love may not be fully comprehended by believers in this age, but what is known in part and seen in part is known and seen.

In faithful wonder the believer is not conscious of living in the face of mystery that surpasses reason and thus it is not an intellectual burden.

Rather, in the joy of God’s grace there is intellectual liberation.

Faith turns to wonder; knowledge terminates in adoration; and confession becomes a song of praise and thanksgiving.

Faith is the knowledge which is life, ‘eternal life’ (John 17:3).”

–Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics: Prolegomena, vol. 1, Ed. John Bolt, and Trans. John Vriend (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2003), 1: 602.

“This Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing” by Joel Beeke

“One of the great functions of a priest was to pronounce God’s blessing, or benediction, upon his people. Melchizedek, “the priest of the most high God,” blessed Abraham, the covenantal father of all the faithful (Gen. 14:18–20), and did so as a type of Christ (Ps. 110:4; Heb. 7:1, 6–7).

The Lord chose the Aaronic priests to bless Israel in his name (Deut. 10:8; 21:5), saying, “The Lord bless thee, and keep thee: the Lord make his face shine upon thee, and be gracious unto thee: the Lord lift up his countenance upon thee, and give thee peace” (Num. 6:22–26).

The core elements of this priestly blessing, “grace” and “peace,” now flow from the Father and the Son to His people, as the greetings in the New Testament Epistles abundantly affirm.

Some theologians have considered blessing to be a distinct third function of priests after sacrifice and intercession. Aaron blessed the people after making sacrifices and again after going into the tabernacle to intercede (Lev. 9:22–23). Other theologians have seen the priestly blessing to be an aspect of intercession.

The blessing was a prayer that invoked God’s name upon His covenant people so that God would bless them (Num. 6:27). “The priests the Levites arose and blessed the people: and their voice was heard, and their prayer came up to his holy dwelling place, even unto heaven” (2 Chron. 30:27).

What is clear is that Christ blesses his people as their Priest. Just before Christ ascended into heaven, “he lifted up his hands, and blessed” his disciples (Luke 24:50–51), just as formerly “Aaron lifted up his hand toward the people, and blessed them” (Lev. 9:22). Peter, citing God’s promise to bless all nations by Abraham’s seed, says, “God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities” (Acts 3:25–26).

God’s blessing through Christ is covenantal. Sinners are under God’s curse for breaking the commandments of his law (Gal. 3:10). In his redeeming sacrifice, Christ received the curse of God’s law, absorbing its full fury in his sufferings while perfectly obeying the law, so that his believing people are delivered from the curse (Gal. 3:13; 4:4). They receive the blessing promised in the covenant with Abraham “through Jesus Christ” by faith (Gal. 3:14).

God’s curse against lawbreakers hangs over all the good things that they receive in this world (Deut. 28:15–19), mingles sorrow into all good (Gen. 3:17–19), and one day will take all good away from unrepentant sinners (Luke 6:24–25; 16:24–25). However, Christians may pray to their Father for their “daily bread” (Matt. 6:11), “that of God’s free gift we may receive a competent portion of the good things of this life, and enjoy his blessing with them.” The ability of believers to enjoy earthly goods with God’s blessing presupposes that he is pleased with them (Eccl. 9:7–9).

Therefore, the goodness of all God’s providences toward his elect comes to them through Christ’s intercession (Rom. 8:28, 34). Paul says, “My God shall supply all your need according to his riches in glory by [or “in”] Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19).

The core of God’s blessing is justification and the grace of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 3:8, 14). Owen observed that the work of the Spirit is the “purchased grace” that Christ won by his obedience and sufferings. Christ obtains the Spirit for his people by his intercession: “I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16). The fullness of the Spirit’s new-covenant ministry depends on the glorification of the Son (7:39). Christ himself sends us the Spirit from the Father’s side (John 16:7).

By these spiritual graces, the reality and efficacy of Christ’s invisible intercession in heaven is demonstrated on earth, for we have received the Holy Spirit and know the fruit of Christ’s intercession in our lives, as Perkins said. The best evidence that Christ prays for us in heaven is the Spirit’s work to make us pray on earth.

The exaltation of our great High Priest signals the fulfillment of the covenant of grace and the inauguration of the last days (Heb. 1:2–3; 9:26). Murray said, “Jesus as high priest is the surety and mediator of the new and better covenant.… The new covenant brings to its consummation the communion which is at the heart of all covenant disclosure from Abraham onwards: ‘I will be your God, and ye shall be my people.’ … The heavenly high priesthood of Christ, means, therefore, that Christ appears in the presence of God … to plead on the basis of what he has accomplished the fulfilment of all the promises.”

Therefore, Christ’s intercession unlocks all grace and glory for his people. In union with Christ, they are blessed by the Father with “all spiritual blessings” (Eph. 1:3).

The intercession of our Lord Jesus is a boundless field full of flowers from which we may draw sweet nectar for our souls. Let us consider some of the riches of knowing our Intercessor by God’s grace.

First, we must allow this doctrine to form in us constant reliance on the exalted Christ. We must run the race set before us, “looking unto Jesus” (Heb. 12:2; cf. Col. 3:1). Brown said that Christ’s intercession glorifies him, for “in this way believers have an immediate dependence on Christ for ever.” Let us look to him for every grace.

Second, Christians may find here strong consolation and hope. Christ’s entrance into heaven as our forerunner confirms the unbreakable promise of God that he will bless his people (Heb. 6:17–20). If Christ’s death reconciled us to God when we were his enemies, much more will his living ministry deliver us from the wrath of God (Rom. 5:10). We can exult in hope.

Third, believers should look to Christ’s intercession for confidence in our justification. Christ was raised for our justification and intercedes to deliver us from condemnation (Rom. 4:25; 8:33–34). His appearing before the face of God confirms that his blood sacrifice has expiated the guilt of our sins once for all (Heb. 9:24). We should assure our consciences with this doctrine.

Fourth, knowing Christ as the Intercessor can encourage quickness to confess sin to God. Rather than remaining silent when God convicts us of sin (Ps. 32:3–5), let us immediately confess our sins with faith in Christ’s propitiation and intercession, for God “is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9; 2:1–2).

Fifth, the doctrine of Christ’s intercession increases expectation and comfort in prayer. What is more comforting in trials than to go to a friend who knows how we feel and how to help us? Christ sympathizes with us perfectly. “Let us therefore come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:15–16).

Sixth, given that all spiritual blessings come to us through Christ’s intercession, we should learn to exercise trust in Christ for the grace of the Holy Spirit. Let us never separate the Spirit from Jesus Christ, for he is the Spirit of God’s Son (Gal. 4:6). Whether we need the Spirit’s power to mortify sin (Rom. 8:13), his fruit for works of love and self-control (Gal. 5:22–23), or his gifts to serve the church effectively (1 Cor. 12:7, 11), let us drink of his living water by exercising faith in the exalted Christ (John 7:37–39). Believers overcome trials, even unto martyrdom, by “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Phil. 1:19). Owen said, “The great duty of tempted souls, is to cry out unto the Lord Christ for help and relief.”

Seventh, the more God’s children meditate upon Christ’s intercession, the more they will increase in assurance of ultimate salvation and blessedness. We will be purged of legalistic perfectionism and rest in his perfection. We will learn to recognize all our good desires and good works as fruit of his priestly work. Then we will be able to rejoice and exult, for our Intercessor is able to save us completely (Heb. 7:25).

As long as this Intercessor stretches out His hands of blessing, we may be sure that the true Israel will prevail over its enemies (Ex. 17:8–13).”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 1099–1103.

“Be careful to make time for being alone with God” by J.C. Ryle

“Let us mark, secondly, the importance to Christians of occasional privacy and retirement.

We are told, that when the apostles returned from their first ministerial work, our Lord ‘took them and went aside privately into a desert place.’ (Luke 9:10) We cannot doubt that this was done with a deep meaning.

It was meant to teach the great lesson that those who do public work for the souls of others, must be careful to make time for being alone with God.

The lesson is one which many Christians would do well to remember.

Occasional retirement, self-inquiry, meditation, and secret communion with God, are absolutely essential to spiritual health. The man who neglects them is in great danger of a fall.

To be always preaching, teaching, speaking, writing, and working public works, is, unquestionably, a sign of zeal. But it is not always a sign of zeal according to knowledge.

It often leads to untoward consequences. We must make time occasionally for sitting down and calmly looking within, and examining how matters stand between our own selves and Christ.

The omission of the practice is the true account of many a backsliding which shocks the Church, and gives occasion to the world to blaspheme.

Many could say with sorrow, in the words of Canticles, “They made me keeper of the vineyards, but my own vineyard have I not kept.’ (Song of Solomon 1:6)”

–J.C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on Luke (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1858/2012), 1: 226-227. Ryle is commenting on Luke 9:7-11.

“The miracle of miracles” by Joel Beeke

“Every miracle of personal salvation rests upon the person of Christ, who is the miracle of miracles.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 860.

“Evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ” by Joel Beeke

“The Holy Scriptures demonstrate that Christ is God in many ways. We may summarize the lines of evidence for the deity of Jesus Christ as follows.

1. The preexistence of deity: indications that Christ was living and active before his entrance into this world as a human being (John 1:1; Phil. 2:6-7; 1 Tim. 1:15; Heb. 1:1-4; John 11:25; Rev. 22:13).

2. The prophecies of deity: promises of God’s coming to his people fulfilled in Jesus, particularly promises that God would come as the divine Messiah (Isa. 40:3, 5, 9–10; Mal. 3:1–6; Psalm 45:6–7; 110:1; Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:2).

3. The names of deity: the names and titles given to Christ, such as God (John 1:1), the Son of God (Matt. 16:16), Lord (Phil. 2:11), Lord of lords (Rev. 17:14), and God with us (Matt. 1:23).

4. The attributes of deity: traits such as holiness (Acts 3:14), eternity (John 8:58), sovereign power (Matt. 8:26), infinite knowledge (John 16:30), omnipresence (Matt. 28:20), self-existence (John 5:26), and immutability (Heb. 1:10–12). When we examine these divine attributes of Christ, we are led to confess with Paul, “In him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). Wellum comments, “The entire fullness and sum total of deity inhabits the Son, who has added to Himself a human nature.”

5. The relations of deity: Christ is the only begotten Son of the Father (John 3:16), and the Holy Spirit is the Spirit of the Son (Gal. 4:6). In the relations of the Trinity, Christ shares in the fullness of the divine life and activity with the Father and the Spirit.

6. The actions of deity: Christ does what only God does as Creator, Lord, and Redeemer (Col. 1:16; 1 Cor. 8:6; John 5:19; Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3; Mark 2:5-10; John 5:24-25).

7. The honors of deity: Christ hears prayer and receives worship (John 5:23; Matt. 2:1-12; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:9-12).

In summary, since the Bible reveals Christ’s activity long before He became a man; foretells the coming of Christ as the coming of God; calls Him by the names of God; ascribes to Him the attributes, relations, and actions of God; and gives Him the honors of God, then Christ is God.”

–Joel R. Beeke and Paul M. Smalley, Reformed Systematic Theology, Volume 2: Man and Christ (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2020), 2: 762–763.

“This is that which Christ came to reveal: God as a Father” by John Owen

“Communion consists in giving and receiving. Until the love of the Father be received, we have no communion with him therein.

How, then, is this love of the Father to be received, so as to hold fellowship with Him? I answer, By faith.

The receiving of it is the believing of it. God hath so fully, so eminently revealed His love, that it may be received by faith.

“Ye believe in God,” (John 14:1); that is, the Father. And what is to be believed in Him? His love; for He is “love,” (1 John 4:8).

It is true, there is not an immediate acting of faith upon the Father, but by the Son.

“He is the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Him,” (John 14:6).

He is the merciful high priest over the house of God, by whom we have access to the throne of grace: by Him is our introduction unto the Father; by Him we believe in God, (1 Pet. 1:21).

But this is that I say,—When by and through Christ we have an access unto the Father, we then behold His glory also, and see His love that He peculiarly bears unto us, and act faith thereon.

We are then, I say, to eye it, to believe it, to receive it, as in Him; the issues and fruits thereof being made out unto us through Christ alone.

Though there be no light for us but in the beams, yet we may by beams see the sun, which is the fountain of it. Though all our refreshment actually lie in the streams, yet by them we are led up unto the fountain.

Jesus Christ, in respect of the love of the Father, is but the beam, the stream; wherein though actually all our light, our refreshment lies, yet by Him we are led to the fountain, the sun of eternal love itself.

Would believers exercise themselves herein, they would find it a matter of no small spiritual improvement in their walking with God.

This is that which is aimed at. Many dark and disturbing thoughts are apt to arise in this thing.

Few can carry up their hearts and minds to this height by faith, as to rest their souls in the love of the Father; they live below it, in the troublesome region of hopes and fears, storms and clouds.

All here is serene and quiet. But how to attain to this pitch they know not.

This is the will of God, that He may always be eyed as benign, kind, tender, loving, and unchangeable therein; and that peculiarly as the Father, as the great fountain and spring of all gracious communications and fruits of love.

This is that which Christ came to reveal: God as a Father (John 1:18).”

–John Owen, The Works of John Owen, Volume 2: Communion With God (ed. William H. Goold; Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth, 1850-53/1997), 2: 22-23.