Thursday, 23 December 2010

Paul and the Nativity: Part Two

Our first look at Paul and the Nativity took us on a round trip from heaven's throne to Calvary's Hill and back again. This second glimpse into the 'why' of the incarnation comes in the midst of an appeal that Paul makes for contributions to his 'poor saints fund'. He reminds the saints in Corinth of the 'unspeakable gift' that God in Christ has already made.
For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. 2 Cor 8:9 NKJV
It a brief sentence that holds wonderful revelation. When Paul speaks of Christ 'becoming poor' he is not thinking of Bethlehem and the manger, although that is included. In his birth the Son of God 'became poor' but that poverty was relative. He was born into a working family where Joseph presumably had his small family business. That was comparative poverty but the Greek language would have a word for that; the man for whom it was necessary to do a day's work so that he had the resources to buy bread to give him the strength to the same thing all over the next day.

But New Testament Greek has another word which means abject poverty, the poverty of the beggar who has no resources whatever. Perhaps we could make the point like this; by his birth in Bethlehem the Son of God was impoverished but at Calvary he was 'beggared'.

"He was rich" goes farther back that we can imagine. In the eternity before time began the godhead coexisted in perfect union and delighted in each others' company. Before a single star was made the one that we now know as the Son of God was 'rich'; not 'rich' in possessions but in relationship. God is the only self-sufficient being in the universe; all else is daily dependent upon him.

If 'rich' then means fellowship and harmony within the godhead what can 'beggared' mean? Surely it can only mean the loss of his 'riches'. Was there such a time when the Son of God was bereft of such 'riches'? Yes, there was and we hear it the the testimony of his dereliction; "My God, My God why have you forsaken me?" This was the culmination of a staggering journey. The Gospels tell the story of the journey's beginnings in incarnation, birth and life but it was at Calvary that the journey reached its furthest extremity. Stuart Townend captures the truth in his contemporary hymn;
How deep the Father's love for us,
How vast beyond all measure
That He should give His only Son
To make a wretch His treasure

How great the pain of searing loss,
The Father turns His face away
As wounds which mar the chosen One,
Bring many sons to glory
The cry 'forsaken' was not a misapprehension but the heart-broken testimony of one who was never deceived and only ever spoke the truth.

But if 'rich' means harmony and fellowship with God and 'made poor' means the loss of harmony and fellowship how are we to understand the rest of this brief sentence? In mathematical terms we have 'established a value for 'rich' and another for 'made poor' but Paul is not retelling the record he is answering the unasked question 'why?' What was the purpose of this event that Stuart Townend describes as a 'searing loss'? The answer could not be more plain... it was so that others might become 'rich'.

Now we have already established a value for the word 'rich' so we can declare categorically that the 'searing loss' was 'in order that through his poverty others might become 'rich'; that others might gain access into that 'harmony and fellowship' with God that the Son of God relinquished at Calvary.

I pray for all who read this at this Christmas-time, that the promise of Isaiah's prophecy may be further fulfilled in each one, that...
He shall see the labor of His soul, and be satisfied. Is 53:11 NKJV

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