(The World English version of the Bible is used throughout unless otherwise stated, with the holy name supplied in appropriate places. Tags are linked to the American Standard Version)
Luke 2:20 – The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising Jehovah for all that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken to them. — Restoration Light Improved Version
The story of Jesus’ birth is often repeated during the days approaching the holiday known as Christmas, due to the traditional celebration of birth of Jesus on December 25. We believe very few, however, ever fully comprehend the meaning of the words spoken. Although we do not agree that Jesus was born on December 25, and although Jesus never told us to celebrate his birthday, the attention that traditional Christianity gives to that event at this time of year certainly provokes thought concerning that wonderful event, and affords opportunity to tell others of the meanings behind the powerful words spoken on the day of his birth.
The angels announced to shepherds in the field that the news of Jesus’ birth is gospel, “good news”, “glad tidings” of great joy to all people. In this connection, they said: “there is born to you, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is Jehovah’s Anointed One.” (Luke 1:8) The shepherds, being of part of the Jewish people, would have understood the greatness of this announcement. They probably knew of the prophecies that speak of this one who as to come, who was be anointed by Jehovah (Psalm 2:2; 45:7; Isaiah 6:1), and probably were greatly overwhelmed by such announcement. They must have been humble shepherds who loved Jehovah their God in order to have been chosen out of all the people in and around Bethlehem to receive this grand announcement by the angel of Jehovah.
The angel said that this baby was to be a savior. The shepherds probably did not know the fullness of the word “savior” as applied to Jesus. As we learn from the rest of the New Testament, Jesus was the savior, not just of Israel, but the whole world. In order to be such a savior, the birth of Jesus had to be very special. Why? The Scriptures are most careful to point out to us that he was not begotten after the usual manner — that he had no earthly father, but was begotten by the holy spirit. (Matthew 1:20 — the Greek word for “begotten” is often rendered as “conceived” in many translations in this verse.) The necessity for this is manifest. The father is the life-giver, the mother is the nourisher of the offspring. If Jesus had received His life from a human father it would have been tainted, impaired, under condemnation of death, as is that of all others. This would have frustrated any work on his part as the world’s Redeemer, because no man born under the condemnation in Adam could have redeemed another, much less the whole human race, as the Psalmist declares. — Psalm 49:7.
God’s wisdom and love, however, is displayed in the method of redemption that He chose. He condemned all in one, so that only one sinless person would be need to redeem mankind. (Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22) In order for Jesus to be able to give his life as a redemption price for Adam’s life (and for the life of his race, forfeited by disobedience), it was necessary that Jesus be incorrupt, sinless; as we read, He was “holy, guiltless, undefiled, separated from sinners.” (Hebrews 7:26) And again, we find that his body was prepared by Jehovah, so that when he became flesh (John 1:14), Jesus was not tainted by the sinful flesh as all mankind has received through Adam’s disobedience. — Hebrews 10:5.
It is not enough, then, that we only recognize Jesus as good, well-intentioned in mind. We must see in him human perfection, sufficient as a sacrifice to offset the forfeited life of the first perfect man, Adam. And we must see also that he was begotten from above — that his life as the babe was a transferred life-principle from a pre-human condition, mentioned by our Lord when He prayed to the only true God, “Glorify me with your own self with the glory which I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:1,3,5) The apostle Paul explains to us that “though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that you through his poverty might become rich.” — 2 Corinthians 8:9.
FOR OUR SAKES HE BECAME POOR
Few babes in all Judea or in all the world were born in a more humble place than Jesus. Joseph and Mary had gone to their native city, Bethlehem, for tax registration, under the imperial edict. The little city was crowded with others on similar errand. And so it came that Jesus was born in a cattle stall, where Joseph and Mary had been compelled to lodge for the night. Ah! we cannot wonder that it is difficult for many to understand why our Heavenly Father sent forth His son for our redemption under such ignominious conditions! Those who have the spirit of God will certain seek to understand the deeper things of God as related to the Jesus’ purposes for coming into this world. — Psalm 92:5,6; 1 Corinthians 2:10
FEAR NOT!–GOOD TIDINGS–GREAT JOY–ALL PEOPLE
The Message of the angels was surely an inspired one, fully in harmony with God’s promise to Abraham (Genesis 12:3; 28:14; Acts 3:25) — only an enlarged statement of the same — the same “all people” to be blessed — and it was still good tidings and it still meant great joy; but then, two thousand years later, the message of the angels pointed out the very individual through whom the good tidings would have fulfillment — the babe of Bethlehem.
The angelic announcement, “Don’t be afraid,” is interesting. All humanity realize that they are sinners and naturally have forebodings. They find it difficult to believe that the true God is really gracious and loving. The gods of the heathen nations are ferocious, unloving and unlovable. But the “God of all grace” (1 Peter 5:10), “the Father of mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3), is a “God of love” (2 Corinthians 13:11), who delights to use His divine power for the blessing and uplifting of His erring creation. (Romans 8:20,21) Therefore He was peculiar in sending the message of “good news of great joy which will be to all the people,” as well as in sending His only begotten son at great cost to be man’s redeemer — that He might be just and still be the justifier of those who believe. — Romans 3:26.
The message declared that a Savior had been born — the Anointed One of Jehovah. He was to be the antitypical Moses (Deuteronomy 18:15-22; Acts 3:17-26), the antitypical Aaron (Exodus 31:10; Hebrews 3:1), the antitypical Melchizedek (Hebrews 6:20; 7:15), the antitypical David who sits on the throne of David (Isaiah 9:6,7; Luke 1:32; Acts 13:34). In addition to the qualities pictured in these various typical characters, he was, also, the Son of the Most High. (Isaiah 9:6,7; Luke 1:32,35) He was to be the promised Savior — the Deliverer — the mediator of the New Covenant, so long looked for, hoped for, prayed for. — Jeremiah 31:31; Malachi 3:1; Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; Luke 22:20; 1 Corinthians 11:25; Hebrews 8:13; 9:15.
There is a special force or meaning in this word Savior as applied to the Jesus as the savior of the world; it signifies more than just saving one from one’s sins, but it also includes the thought of once having been delivered, such a person has been given new life, a life apart from the condemnation that mankind has been under through Adam — a new creation. (2 Corinthians 5:17) As such, Jesus becomes the “last Adam” as the father of a regenerated, born-anew, human race, “the life-giving spirit.” (Matthew 19:28; John 3:3; 1 Corinthians 15:45) What had man lost and what would he wish to have back? The Scriptures answer that Adam lost life and came under the penalty, “dying you shall die.” (Genesis 2:17, J. P. Green’s Literal Translation) He did not lose heaven, for he never possessed it. He lost life on earth, an Eden home, life as a sinless human. He also lost the prospect of attaining incorruption so as that even the threat of death would no longer be a possibility. (1 Corinthians 15:54) Thus, Peter and Paul show that Jesus came to restore mankind back to what was lost by means of Adam’s disobedience. — Acts 3:21; Romans 5:12-19; 1 Corinthians 15:21,22; 1 Peter 3:18.
Hence, as we have seen, Jesus was provided with a sinless human life, crowned with a glory a little lower than the angels, that he, by the grace of God, might taste death for every man (Hebrews 2:9), and that by thus suffering, the just for the unjust (1 Peter 3:18), paying the wages of sin (Romans 6:32; 1 Corinthians 15:3), he might become the redemption (Greek, apolutrosis, payment by ransom, Strong’s #629) of Adam and all his race, with a full right to restore to perfect life and to all that was lost as many as would receive it at his hand — thankfully. (Romans 3:24; Ephesians 1:7; Colossians 1:14) Throughout his entire messianic reign of a thousand years Jesus will be the world’s Life-Giver, opening the books of truth to them and raising the willing and obedient up out of sin and death conditions to perfection and everlasting life and terrestrial, human blessings. — Isaiah 2:2-4; 25:6-8; 29:18,24; 35:8; Revelation 20:3,12.
But Jesus also does a work for the church, the “elect,” a part of which becomes his bride and joint-heirs in the Kingdom, and this blessing to the church begins before the setting up of His Kingdom in all the earth. (Daniel 2:44) The church “are by nature children of wrath even as others,” (Ephesians 2:2,3) and they are indeed reckonedly restored to what was lost in Adam, being reckoned alive as was Adam before Adam sinned. This is the reckoning that is accounted to them by the blood of the new covenant. (Matthew 26:28; Mark 14:24; 1 Corinthians 11:15; Ephesians 2:1; Hebrews 10:29; 13:21) Their being made alive as new creatures gives them the reckoned standing as though they were living on earth on the age to come, “sons of the day,” (1 Thessalonians 5:4,5), the day — the age to come — when old things will have passed away, and all things will have been made new. (2 Corinthians 5:17; Hebrews 6:5; Revelation 21:1-5) As such, those sanctified by the blood of the new covenant are reckoned as sons of God, equal to the sonship that Adam had before Adam sinned. (Luke 3:38; Romans 8:14; Galatians 3:26) Being sons, they are heirs of God (Romans 8:17), heirs according to the hope of eternal life (Titus 3:7), as Adam was an heir of God, with such a hope of eternal life, before he lost that heirship through disobedience. (Genesis 2:16,17; 3:17-19; Romans 8:17) Because the church is reckoned alive in this age, before the general blessings of the world take place in the age to come, they are thus spoken of as the church of the firstborn, the first fruits to God, having recieved the first fruits of the spirit. — Romans 8:23; Hebrews 12:23; James 1:18.
Nevertheless, the purpose of applying the restoration of the age to come in this present age, thus calling a few out of the world, is that they might join themselves with Jesus as joint-sacrificers, that they might be joint-heirs. (Romans 8:17) Thus, their calling is referred to as “high calling”, a calling of sacrifice in the present evil age (Galatians 1:4), a calling to become partakers of the divine nature (so as to perfect the god-like qualities of the fruit of the spirit — Galatians 5:22,23) while still in the midst of a world made corrupt though lust. (Philippians 3:14; 2 Peter 1:4-10) The offer to them is that they shall become copies of the Redeemer, if they complete their sacrifice by laying down their lives, walking in Christ’s footsteps, fully relying with perfection of faith in God and Jesus, by means of the holy spirit. The promise to them is that if they joint-suffer (as Christ suffered a sacrificial death), they will be joint-heirs, jointly-glorified and will jointly-reign with Jesus. (Romans 8:17; 2 Timothy 2:11,12) This agrees with Revelation 3:21, where Jesus says: “He who overcomes, I will give to him to sit down with me on my throne, as I also overcame, and sat down with my Father on his throne.”
THE HALLELUJAH CHORUS
In verse 14 we have a kind of “Hallelujah” (Praise Jehovah) chorus or angelic response to the message of the angel already given. A heavenly host sang, “Glory to Jehovah in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men.” How grand! How inspiring! But we have not yet seen this glorious condition achieved. The glory of Jehovah has not yet been seen by all flesh. (Isaiah 40:5) God’s will has not yet been fully accomplished on earth as it is heaven. (Matthew 6:10) Nor does peace yet wave her banner, even over so-called Christendom.
What is the matter? The apostle gives the answer that it is a secret, a mystery, hidden from past ages! (Ephesians 3:9) The mystery is that God not only intends to have Jesus for His Anointed One, to rule and bless the world, but He has foreordained also a company of footstep followers to be with Him and share His work, and this entire Gospel Age has been devoted to the work of selecting from amongst His church, all whom are espoused to Christ, an even smaller class, which eventually, at the Second Coming of Jesus, is to become “the Bride, the Lamb’s Wife” and joint-heirs, jointly ruling with Jesus. In the final end, although many will have been called, many will have been begotten as sons of God, only a few will have made their calling and election sure so as actually become joint-heirs with Christ. Very few are “sealed out” of the spiritual tribes of Israel so as stand jointly with Jesus on Mount Zion in heaven. (Matthew 20:16; 2 Peter 1:10; Revelation 7:4-8; 14:1) Thus, the vast majority of Christians who now expect to find themselves in heaven in the last day will be disappointed when they find themselves on earth, since they failed to make their calling and election sure! But they should soon find cause for rejoicing, since they will appreciate that they still had been brought from death in the resurrection of life, so that their “spirit may be saved [delivered] in the day of the Lord Jesus.” — 1 Corinthians 5:5.
It is regarding that coming age that the apostle Paul declares that the whole creation groans and travails in pain until now — waiting for the manifestation, the revealing, of the sons of God (Romans 8:19-22) — the coming revelation of Jesus (1 Corinthians 1:7; 1 Peter 1:7) and all the seed of Abraham for the blessing of natural Israel and all the families of the earth with knowledge and assistance (Genesis 12:3; 22:18; 28:14; Isaiah 2:2-4; Galatians 3:18,26,29), that the willing and obedient may be recovered to the image and likeness of God and to everlasting life. What a wonderful reason for glorifying and praising God! “Therefore glorify Jehovah in the east, even the name of Jehovah, the God of Israel, in the isles of the sea!” (Isaiah 24:15) “Praise Jehovah, my soul! All that is within me, praise his holy name!” — Psalm 103:1.
Much of this lesson has been adapted from the following:
Luke 1:1-20 (World English translation, with holy name supplied)
1 Now it happened in those days, that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. 2 This was the first enrollment made when Quirinius was governor of Syria. 3 All went to enroll themselves, everyone to his own city. 4 Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David; 5 to enroll himself with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him as wife, being great with child. 6 It happened, while they were there, that the day had come that she should give birth. 7 She brought forth her firstborn son, and she wrapped him in bands of cloth, and laid him in a feeding trough, because there was no room for them in the inn.
8 There were shepherds in the same country staying in the field, and keeping watch by night over their flock. 9 Behold, an angel of [Jehovah] stood by them, and the glory of [Jehovah] shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 The angel said to them, “Don’t be afraid, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be to all the people. 11 For there is born to you, this day, in the city of David, a Savior, who is [Jehovah’s Anointed One](y4). 12 This is the sign to you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth, lying in a feeding trough.” 13 Suddenly, there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising [Jehovah](y1), and saying, 14 “Glory to [Jehovah](y2) in the highest, On earth peace, good will toward men.” 15 It happened, when the angels went away from them into the sky, that the shepherds said one to another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem, now, and see this thing that has happened, which [Jehovah] has made known to us.” 16 They came with haste, and found both Mary and Joseph, and the baby lying in the feeding trough. 17 When they saw it, they publicized widely the saying which was spoken to them about this child. 18 All who heard it wondered at the things which were spoken to them by the shepherds. 19 But Mary kept all these sayings, pondering them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising [Jehovah](y3) for all the things that they had heard and seen, even as it was spoken to them.
(y1) = Greek, Theos, God; Jehovah is based on Psalm 103:21.
(y2) = Greek, Theos, God; Jehovah is based on Psalm 11:4; 103:19; Isaiah 42:12; Amos 9:6.
(y3) = Greek, Theos, God: Jehovah is based on Isaiah 42:12.
(y4) = Greek transliteration: “christos kurios” (both christos and kurios are anarthrous). In Luke 2:26 christon is definite, while Kuriou is anarthrous. In Romans 5:21; 7:25, we have “ieesou christou tou kuriou.” where “christou” is anarthrous and “kuriou” is definite. Luke 2:26 is rendered “the Lord’s Christ” in the World English, an obvious reference to Jehovah’s Anointed One; likewise, Luke 2:10 is also speaking of the anointed one of Jehovah, not of the Anointed One as being “lord”. — Psalm 2:2; 45:7; Isaiah 61:1.
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