Summary: Paul never tells us of the story of Christmas. He leaves that to the writers of the gospels. But in this tremendous passage, he tells us of the glory of Christmas. He tells us why the night on which Jesus was born was such a Holy Night and how to respond to it.
All of us probably know the beautiful Christmas hymn "O Holy Night." In the first stanza the writer invites us to close our eyes and imagine the world before the birth of Jesus. He says it is a world that lay "in sin and error pining." The word pining refers to the wasting away of the human spirit as it grieves and endures pain. In other words, he paints a picture of a world of darkness without light, and a world of despair without hope. But then come the next three words "till he appeared." when he appeared everything changed.
The president of one of our theological seminaries was at a meeting with the chairman of an accreditation committee, who asked him to state the purpose of his institution. Without a moment's hesitation, the seminary president said, "The purpose of this institution is to change the world." Taken aback by that response, the committee members said, "You don't understand. I know that influencing the world is the general purpose of all education. But I'm asking you specifically, "what is the purpose of this school?" that seminary president reiterated, "The purpose of our school is to change the world."
That is exactly why Jesus came; to change the world. At no time of the year are we more reminded of just how much He has changed it than Christmas. Paul never tells us of the story of Christmas. He leaves that to the writers of the gospels. But in this tremendous passage, he tells us of the glory of Christmas. He tells us why the night on which Jesus was born was such a Holy Night and how to respond to it.
Did you know that there is no recorded birth in scripture after the birth of the lord Jesus? Did you know that the last genealogy or family tree listed in the New Testament is that of the Lord Jesus? That is because the entire Bible, from Genesis to Malachi, pointed to the birth and the name of Jesus Christ.
Paul doesn't give us any details about Jesus’s birth. He leaves that to Matthew and Luke. Matthew and Luke looked at the birth of Jesus historically. Paul looks at it theologically. In Matthew and Luke you see the historical event, but Paul gives the theological truth.
I. JESUS WAS, AND IS, GOD (v. 6)
“Who, existing in the form of God, did not consider equality with God as something to be used for His own advantage.”
Paul declares that Jesus is God. In the Gospel of Matthew, an angel appeared to Joseph. Joseph had found that his fiancée was pregnant, and Joseph had planned to divorce her secretly, but the angel told him that this child was to be named Jesus, for he would save His people from their sins. The angel also said that Jesus would be called Emmanuel, which is “translated God with us.”
The Gospel of John begins with the statement, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”
Jesus was, and Jesus still is, God. Jesus was not in danger of losing a position in the Godhead. He did not have to worry about losing anything of His divinity. He was God. Jesus had existed as God for all of eternity. He will continue to exist as God for all of the rest of eternity. He was God.
Why is this important?
I had a conversation with a man recently who refused to believe that Jesus had risen from the dead. This man told me his story. This man’s father had died when he was a young child. He later began to go to church. He understood and believed everything he was told, until it came to the point where Jesus died and rose from the grave. The man told me that he knew his father had died, and was not coming back. It is impossible for a man to die and return to life. At this point, he rejected all of Christianity, and he now lives as a proclaimed atheist.
What this man did not realize is that the man of Jesus that died and rose again was not an ordinary man. This man Jesus was fully God. He did not understand that it was not just that a man rose from the dead, but it was the One Who had the power of God, since He was God, to have power over death, and rise from the dead on the third day.
The fact that Jesus was God also meant that He could not sin. As Jesus was not born from the union of a man and a woman, He did not inherit the sin nature of Adam. Instead, Jesus inherited the divine nature of His Father in heaven. Although He was tempted, He was perfect and never sinned. He was able to be the “Lamb without blemish” needed to save humanity from their sins.