Richard T. Ritenbaugh: Despite the continuing secularization of our society, people remain fascinated and curious about the historical basis for the life of Jesus Christ. ...
When the Son of God was born into the world, one of the greatest events of all history occurred. Richard Ritenbaugh describes the birth of Jesus and the angel's announcement to the 'shepherds abiding in the fields,' perhaps the first preaching of the gospel to mankind.
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.
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.
The world claims Jesus was born December 25. But when was he really born? John Reid explains.
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!
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.
...Now, let us turn to the Scripture where God tells us to celebrate His Son's birth: —. Yes, that is correct. No place in either Testament tells us to honor our Savior by having a birthday bash for Him each year. Strangely enough, Jesus Himself tells us to remember, not His birth, but His death (Luke 21:14-20; I Corinthians 11:23-26)! ...
Ronny H. Graham: Many years ago, while talking to an acquaintance, the subject of Christmas came up. I told him up front, "I don't celebrate Christmas." He replied ...
The winter solstice has just passed, beginning the coldest three months of the year, and this means that Christmas is only days away. ...
As another Christmas season approaches, many in God's church dread having to endure it. Have you ever wondered how our children feel about it? What can we do to help them, not only to get through it, but also to understand why God's way is so much better?
Christmas is a very blatant form of syncretism, the melding of religious ideas and practices into one. Martin Collins explains some of the origins of Christmas and why these facts should cause us to reject this holiday.
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!
Where did we get Christmas—from the Bible, or paganism? Here are the astonishing facts which may shock you! Test yourself. How much do you know of the origin of the Christmas tree—of "Santa Claus"—of the mistletoe—of the holly wreath—of the custom of exchanging gifts?
Mentioned in Matthew 2, the wise men or magi have been mysterious figures since their appearance two thousand years ago. Their visit to Bethlehem was more significant than most realize.
Though the church of God has traditionally emphasized His death over His birth, the prophecies concerning Christ's first advent are vitally important in establishing our faith in His second coming. Richard Ritenbaugh summarizes twelve Old Testament prophecies and their significance to us.
Many think keeping Christmas is fine because it honors Christ, yet God never tells us to celebrate the day of His Son's birth. John Ritenbaugh explains that it is presumptuous on many Christians' parts to believe that such a syncretized holiday could please God.
The Seventy Weeks Prophecy is a bone of contention among prophecy experts. Richard Ritenbaugh shows that simply taking the Bible at face value makes the meaning of this prophecy crystal clear!
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.]
After warning against literary junk food, John Ritenbaugh focuses upon the dominant emphasis of Matthew, an ex-government official, who concentrated upon the kingly qualities of Jesus as a descendant of the royal house of David, representing the Lion of Judah. Matthew highlights Jesus' authority over the deposed king (Satan), the Kingdom of Heaven (appearing 33 times) and righteousness.
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.
Richard Ritenbaugh observes that over two billion people faithfully observe an annual "holy week," consisting of Palm Sunday, Good Friday (the supposed time of the crucifixion), and Easter Sunday. Human tradition and Bible truth do not square. The overwhelming historical chronological evidence clashes with the traditions of billions of people. The sovereign God has been in control of history from the beginning of mankind. God makes things happen when He wants them to happen and in the way they happen. Whether the event happened in 30 AD or 31 AD, the crucifixion occurred on a Wednesday rather than a Friday. Extensive scholarship into the lunar eclipses occurring near the death of Herod, the ascendancy of his son Archaleus, and the reign of Tiberias Caesar corroborates this conclusion. Scripture gives us internal evidence with the accusation that Jesus could tear down a temple constructed by Herod 46 years earlier. Other internal evidence comes from the careful marking of the Holy Days occurring during Christ's three and one half year ministry (prophesied by Daniel's seventy weeks prophecy) in both the synoptic gospels and John's Gospel. The crucifixion took place in the middle of a literal week, with Christ remaining in the grave a full three days and three nights, and resurrected at the end of a Sabbath at sunset. Nowhere in any of the gospels does it say Christ rose on Sunday morning, but that He had already risen. The triumphal entry (labeled by the world as Palm Sunday) actually occurred on Thursday, Nisan 8. Jesus was selected as Passover Lamb on Nisan 10 (John 12:28).
John Ritenbaugh focuses on Luke's message of Christ the man, the son of man, the high priest of man, and the savior of man, having all the feelings, fears, anxieties, compassions, and aspirations of man. In this account, Luke emphasizes the universality of the message (Gentiles as well as Jews), emphasizing the common concerns of humanity, highlighting many lowly circumstances. Luke, demonstrating Jesus' humanity emphasizes His frequency in prayer, reflecting His total dependency upon God the Father. Jesus, as the pattern man, learned by obedience, by the things He suffered, qualifying as our high Priest and savior, providing a model of perfect man for us to emulate.
John Ritenbaugh claims that millions of people who believe they are in contact with God are hopelessly deceived about Him in five essential ways: They do not understand (1) what causes estrangement between God and mankind, (2) that God under no circumstances can ever lie, (3) that no one seeks God, (4) that no one ever chooses God, but God exclusively does the choosing, and (5) that God's gift is not a question of human will. Exercising carnal human nature, an unconverted individual can never bring himself into favor with God. Every human being deserves to die. God selectively grants mercy and punishment to individuals based upon His divine plan. God's pronouncements are inscrutable to most of us, such as His decision to deny Moses, a model servant, entry into the Promised Land. God does not love everybody to the same degree, choosing whom He will favor (Jacob) and reject (Esau). In John 3:16, the world that God loves are His own converted children, all of whom were once children of wrath, with a death sentence hanging over their heads. Even though the way God exercises His sovereignty is to us inscrutable, calling the foolish to confound the wise, hiding the truth from the wise, but revealing it to babes, all He does fits perfectly into His master plan. As God's called-out ones, we must trust that Father knows best.
Richard Ritenbaugh, reflecting on the frenetic activity supposedly honoring the birth of Jesus, contends that it has nothing to do with His actual birth. A preponderance of evidence indicates that Jesus Christ was born after the fall harvest. The reasons for His incarnation are revealed in His names. The names of God reveal His character and attributes, and so also with Jesus. The name Jesus means "Yah will save (or redeem)" His people from their sins; Immanuel means "God with us"; Christ means the "Anointed One"; Logos means "the Word" embodying God's message, reflecting perfectly God's character; Lord denotes our Master, totally owning us through His sacrifice and redemptive work, reigning over us until He turns everything over to the Father; Son of God highlights His divine descent or origin; and Son of Man emphasizes His human descent or origin. He was every bit as human as we are, except that He had God's Spirit without measure.
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