Tuesday, 15 December 2009

Will you go with this man?

Luke's account of the nativity has some very instructive elements. Is regeneration the sovereign and uninvited act of God or does he require human cooperation in his work? This is controversial territory, but perhaps the story of Mary can help us.

The account contains a well loved phrase "For with God nothing will be impossible." Luke 1:37 but we need to go back to the American Standard Version to find a more literal translation of the words. "For no word from God shall be void of power." It is the answer to Mary's gentle enquiry; "Then Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I do not know a man?" Luke 1:34. She has heard that she is to conceive while still a virgin and she is naturally perplexed at the prospect.

Gabriel explains, if we dare call it that, the process that will take place. "And the angel answered and said to her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God." Luke 1:35. I hesitate to 'explain' these words further. The coming miracle would be the sole work of the God. As with the miracle of regeneration the conception would be...
not of bloods, the word is plural. This birth would not be the result of the mixture of bloods.

nor of the will/desire of the flesh. This birth would not be the result of human passion.

nor of the will of man. This birth would not be the result of any human decision. (see John 1:13)

Perhaps we should attempt to go no further. Surely that answers the question; it is 'all' of God, and God alone? Amen, but that is not the whole answer.

Back to Luke's account and Gabriel's answer to Mary's question... The Greek construction implies that 'no word from God' is 'without power'. Or to put it into the positive expression, 'every word from God has inherent power'. It was this statement from Gabriel which drew a specific answer from Mary; "let it be to me according to your word". Mary has received the revelation and believed it. The impossible can be, but only because God's every word has 'dunamis' inherent power. But this is more that a recognition of truth, this is the point at which Mary embraces the 'word of God' for herself. Without her consent this event would have been a hideous violation of her body. With her consent it becomes the point of meeting of God's sovereign work and human cooperation. Without Mary's assent there would have been no incarnation and without human assent there can be no regeneration.

Way back in Israel's history there is an account of Abraham's servant who is searching for a bride for Abraham's son. He was led by the sovereign will of God to God's perfect choice. Rebekah would be part of God's sovereign plan. She did not create it. It was not of her design, or passion or will; it was God and God alone. Surely that answers the question. It would seem so until we hear a question put to her by her brother; "will you go with this man?" Gen 24:58. That question was put to a human being and required a human answer. It always does. God forces his will on no one but waits patiently for human consent 'that he may be gracious'. Isaiah 30:18.

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