And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 19, Number
In this issue:
Fact: The birth of Jesus is not called Christmas in the Bible. We believe in and thank God for the birth of Jesus (Isa. 7;14; 9:6; Matt. 1:21-23; Lk. 2:1-20). However, “Christmas” is derived from late Old English, “Cristes Maesse” (“Mass of Christ”), and the first recorded mention of Cristes Maesse was in 1038 (“Christmas”, Catholic Encyclopedia).
Fact: The New Testament says nothing about celebrating the birth of Jesus as a religious festival and day of worship. It is silent. This is significant, since the Scriptures say, “But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed” (Gal. 1:8). We must speak as God’s word speaks, and we must not add to it (1 Pet. 4:11). the apostles of Christ did not preach a gospel that included a Christmas celebration.
Fact: The New Testament church did not arrange an annual religious festival around the birth of Jesus. Concerning the early celebration of the birth of Jesus, the Catholic Encyclopedia notes, “Christmas was not among the earliest festivals of the Church. Irenaeus and Tertullian omit it from their lists of feasts; Origen, glancing perhaps at the discreditable imperial Natalitia, asserts (in Lev. Hom. viii in Migne, P.G., XII, 495) that in the Scriptures sinners alone, not saints, celebrate their birthday; Arnobius (VII, 32 in P.L., V, 1264) can still ridicule the "birthdays" of the gods.” Additionally, “There is no evidence of the existence of a Feast of the Nativity before the 4th century” (Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, III:601).
Fact: Liberius, Bishop of Rome, declared December 25 be celebrated as Christ’s birthday in 354 AD. “There can be little doubt that the Church was anxious to distract the attention of Christians from the old heathen feast days by celebrating Christian festivals on the same days (op. cit. 607). The pagan festivals of the Roman Saturnalia (Dec. 17-24) and the Roman feast of Mithrand (Dec. 25) were co-opted by the Catholic Church to lure them away from celebrating pagan events. And secure adherents’ loyalty to Christianity.
If you celebrate Christmas as the birth of Jesus, please understand you are doing so because the Catholic Church arranged it and Protestantism perpetuated it; Not because the New Testament of Christ ordains it, commands it and approves it. Such a celebration derives its authority from men and not heaven (cf. Matt. 21:23-25).
Abram was wealthy in livestock, silver and gold. His nephew Lot was also rich. So great were their possessions they eventually separated in order to sustain their flocks and avoid strife. Years later their lives intersected in a dramatic hostage rescue mission. Invading forces from the north plundered the southern region of Canaan, capturing Lot. Abram’s heroic pursuit and defeat of the enemy liberated Lot. Recorded in Genesis 13-14, these events culminate with Abram giving a tithe to Melchizedek (king of Salem and priest of God), who had blessed him.
From Abram, Lot and Melchizedek we learn powerful lessons about unwavering faith, foolish selfishness, and the grace of God.
Abram: This World is NOT my Home
Abram was a man of faith. He is the prototype for those today that live by faith (Rom. 4:11-12, 16; Gal. 3:7-9). Abram’s faith in Genesis 13-14 sets a worthy example for Christians, teaching us this world is not our home.
1. Abram the pilgrim. Although the text says that Abram “dwelt” in Canaan, it is clear that he was a sojourner in that land (Gen. 13:12). Three times in Genesis 13 it is said that Abram “went” (13:1, 3 and 18). He was a traveler. God commanded him, and he willingly obeyed: “Arise, walk in the land through its length and its width, for I give it to you” (Gen. 13:17). Christians are “sojourners and pilgrims” who are expected to live by faith, not by sight (1 Pet. 2:11; 2 Cor. 5:7). Abram kept his eyes on the promises of God, obeyed God, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness (Gen. 13:14-18; 15:1-6). Our faith must be like his.
2. Abram the humble. When strife broke out between their herdsmen, Abram’s brotherly affection prompted him to defer to Lot (Gen. 13:5-9). This was not unity at the expense of truth; it was unity at the expense of personal ego and pride. It takes humility to be united in Christ (Eph. 4:2-3; Rom. 15:3-7).
3. Abram the soldier. Living by faith includes fighting against the forces of evil (1 Tim. 6:12; Eph. 6:10-13). It is worth noting that when Abram learned that Lot was in danger, he rallied and armed his men, pursued and defeated the enemy (Gen. 14:12-17). Abram did not say, “Let someone else go to battle,” or, “Lot is now getting what he deserves.” Instead, he was “valiant in battle” and “turned to flight the armies of the aliens” (Heb. 11:34). Christians are soldiers of Jesus Christ, and victory is assured against sin and death through faith (2 Tim. 1:3; 4:7-8; 2 Cor. 10:3-6; 1 Jno. 5:4).
4. Abram the worshiper. Abram worshiped God when he traveled (Gen. 13:3-4, 18; 14:18-20). Ironically, many Christians view travel as a good reason not to worship God. Abram was a giver, not a taker (Gen. 14:20-24). Likewise, Christians are to be ready to give with purpose of heart, cheerfully, as God has prospered us (1 Tim. 6:18; 2 Cor. 9:6-7; 1 Cor. 16:2).
Lot: This World IS my Home
When we are introduced to Lot in Genesis 13, his eyes are set on himself instead of the promises of God. “And Lot lifted his eyes and saw all the plain of Jordan, that it was well watered everywhere…then Lot chose for himself all the plain of Jordan…and Lot dwelt in the cities of the plain…” (Gen. 13:10-12) The course of Lot’s life well demonstrates that “one’s life does not consist in the abundance of the things he possesses” (Lk. 12:15).
Lot’s choice placed him squarely in the midst of wicked men. It is true that we live in this world, but we must not be of this world (Jno. 17:14-17).
Lot was “oppressed” and his righteous soul “tormented” daily as he witnessed the filthy and vile conduct of the men of Sodom (2 Pet. 2:7-8). His shortsighted choice to “pitch his tent even as far as Sodom” weakened his godly influence and no doubt contributed to the spiritual demise of his family (Gen. 19:4-9, 14, 26, 30-38). Because he lived in Sodom he was captured by enemy kings and led away (Gen. 14:12). We cannot fail to learn this lesson: Where we choose to live, how we choose to make our living and those with whom we choose to associate will have a temporal and an eternal impact upon us (1 Cor. 15:33-34; Matt. 6:24, 33).
Melchizedek: KING of Peace, PRIEST of God
Melchizedek, king of Salem and priest of God Most High, appears on the patriarchal landscape of Genesis 14 and just as abruptly recedes into its shadows. Yet, he is a shadow or figure of the Son of God, Jesus Christ, our King and the High Priest of our confession (Psa. 110:4; Heb. 3:1; 5:6, 10; 6:20; 7:3, 11-28).
Jesus Christ is a priest “in the likeness of Melchizedek” (Heb. 7:15, 3). That is to say, Christ’s priesthood is like that of Melchizedek, whose priesthood, according to Hebrews 7:3,
1) Did not depend on his parentage (“without father, without mother, without genealogy”);
2) Had no predecessor or successor (“having neither beginning of days or end of life”);
3) Was unchangeable (remains a priest continually”).
Melchizedek’s greatness is seen as he blesses Abram and receives tithes from him (Heb. 7:6-7). From this event it is necessarily inferred that the priesthood of Christ is “better” than the Levitical priesthood (Heb. 7:4-19).
Like Melchizedek, Christ is simultaneously King and Priest (Heb. 7:1-2; Psa. 110:1-4; Zech. 6:12-13). Jesus, the Prince of Peace, is “able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him” (Heb. 7:25; 4:14-16).
What Will YOUR Answer Be?
Abram “dwelt in the land of Canaan,” but this world was not his home. Lot “dwelt in the cities of the plain” and by so doing, this world became his home (Gen. 13:12). Melchizedek, foreshadowing our great King and High Priest, dwelt in “righteousness” and “peace,” thus signaling a king and a kingdom that is not of this world (Heb. 7:2; Jno. 18:36).
Where is your home? Where do you pitch your tent? Are you serving God, or yourself? Walk by faith, not by sight, and seek a heavenly home (2 Cor. 5:7; Heb. 11:13-16).
-Reprint: The Spirit’s Sword, X:12, Dec. 31, 2006
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Scripture Reading: Luke 17:1-5
1. Meeting the
moral requirements of being a Christian requires great faith, 1 Jno. 5:3-5;
I. TRUST THE POWER OF FAITH, 17:6 (1 Jno. 5:4-5).
the Power of God in Whom You Put Your Faith. cf. Matt. 14:27-32; 17;14-20
II. RENDER THE SERVICE OF FAITH, Lk. 17:7-9 (Rom. 6:16, 19).
Watchful Obedience, Lk. 12:35-40.
III. OBEY THE DUTY OF FAITH, Lk. 17:10.
Humble Dependence of Faith in God:
Created by Chuck Sibbing, last updated. 12/26/2016
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
weekly publication of the Mt. Baker church of Christ, Bellingham, WA