Richard Ritenbaugh, acknowledging that our culture has been oversaturated with Christmas paraphernalia, honoring Christ's supposed birth on December 25th, reminds us that God has never commanded us to commemorate the time of His birth, but instead to annually observe the time of his death. Many 'Christian' leaders embrace a celebration that has undeniably pagan roots, stemming from the winter solstice festivals, observing the rebirth of the sun. John Chrysostom, by miscalculating the course of Abijah, thought he had made a case for a December 25th birth of Christ. Baptist scholar, author, and pastor John Piper proclaims that he sympathizes with those rigorous Christians who are alarmed about the origin of Christmas having pagan roots, but suggests that the roots are so far gone that it does not matter. Piper contends that even if these roots connect Christmas to pagan worship, it is worth "the risk," to enshrine Christmas as a Christian holiday because we moderns have placed a more "sanctified" meaning on it. The difficulty with Piper's position is that neither he nor any other human can sanctify anything; only God has that prerogative.
Ted Bowling, reflecting that parents serve as better role models than do entertainers and professional athletes, focuses on the hero characteristics of the stepfather of Jesus and the husband of Mary. Joseph exemplified the qualities of fairness, kindness, and humility, giving Jesus a solid moral and ethical foundation, coupled with an exemplary work ethic. Joseph endured the stigma, humiliation, and scorn of the Jews who believed the gossip that Jesus was conceived out of wedlock. Joseph was a provider, skilled craftsman, and a competent teacher of his trade, providing Jesus with the many construction and building metaphors He used later in His ministry. Joseph's willingness to work hard, sacrificing everything for the family while demonstrating godly kindness and love, makes him a matchless hero.
Among God's many names and titles is one that proclaims His supremacy over all others: "Most High God" or "God Most High." This name is first used when Melchizedek meets Abram after his victory over the kings who had taken Lot and his family captive. David Grabbe traces the usage of this divine name through the Bible, illustrating how it should give us confidence in God's governance over our lives.
Within the pages of the Bible, relatively few dates are mentioned. Because of this, and because God works in similar patterns and many of the prophecies have a dual fulfillment, when prophetic dates are mentioned, they take on a special significance. ...
We rarely think about the birth of Jesus except during the Christmas season, when it is abused by traditional notions found nowhere in Scripture. To remedy this, Richard Ritenbaugh delves into the Gospel accounts of the annunciation of His coming to Mary and Joseph.
Despite the greatness of the Old Testament prophets, Jesus declares that none was greater than His cousin, John, known as "the Baptist." John Ritenbaugh explains that Jesus clearly says that John fulfilled Malachi 4:5-6 as the prophesied Elijah to come.
The Catholic Church places great importance on Mary—to the point that many Catholics, both lay and clergy, are pushing for Mary to be recognized as "Co-Redemptrix"! David Grabbe points out that the Bible makes no such claims for her. She may be "blessed among women," but she is in no way to be deified!
To some, the virgin birth is a major teaching. However, Richard Ritenbaugh shows that it is only one of several signs that prove Jesus is the promised Messiah. Moreover, its major purpose is not to glorify Mary but her divine Son!
Richard Ritenbaugh asserts that the world with all its Christmas celebration, has depleted all the precious meaning from the actual event, depriving us of the glory of what really happened in the announcement of Christ's birth. Luke, having incredible literary skills, gives us the journalistic "who," "what," "when," "where," and "why" of Christ's birth in a concise and palatable form. A fresh reading of Luke's account reveals the rich prophetic significance of this event, unraveling some doctrinal heresies of the world's religions (Mary worship, nature of Holy Spirit, and time of Christ's birth) and the comfort of the overshadowing presence of God. Mary's and Joseph's thoughtful, reflective, humble, obedient, and submissive examples provide a sterling pattern for us to emulate.
As Christians, we are followers of Jesus Christ, but many subtle arguments are advanced to prove we really do not have to walk in His footsteps—that He did it all for us. Earl Henn explains that such teachings are ridiculous!
John Ritenbaugh reiterates that Jesus was placed on trial not for what He did, but for what He claimed about Himself. John has provided at least eight separate forms of witness, establishing the veracity of Jesus Christ's identity as God in the flesh. Fulfilled prophecy from the Old Testament (over 300 separate prophecies) concerning Christ's identity and the events of His life is overwhelming, compelling, and mathematically irrefutable (The chance of fulfilling only eight of those prophecies would be 1 in 10 to the 17th power or 100 quadrillion). John makes a compelling proposal for belief and faith. The last part of the first chapter of John focuses upon the work of John the Baptist, a physical cousin of Jesus, the forerunner of Christ, who witnessed the Holy Spirit descending upon Christ at His baptism, again establishing Christ's identity as the Lamb of God.
John Ritenbaugh explains that Matthew is part of the synoptic ("seeing together") gospels, largely an embellishment of the more terse outline of basic events found in Mark. Both Matthew and Luke were evidently intended for different audiences, intended to expound or enlarge on specific tenets of doctrine. Matthew, a meticulous, well-educated, well-organized publican, appeared to be largely responsible for gathering and systematizing the specific sayings of Jesus. Matthew wrote his account with the Jewish people in mind, repeatedly saying, "This was done to fulfill the prophets," emphasizing the law and the Kingdom of God, as well as a detailed genealogy demonstrating his lineage from King David and Abraham, including Gentiles and women ancestors, legitimatizing the kingship of Jesus and His virgin birth, conceived of the Holy Spirit—the creative power of God. Jesus had at least seven siblings, half-brothers and -sisters. Luke, a Gentile, never included these details. [NB: This series of Bible Studies from 1981-82 is incomplete.]