The ‘Begats’, Jesus, and John Mayer

What if I told you that even most of those who read their bible daily are probably skipping the most important part of the word?  What if I told you that it was important enough to begin both the Old and New Testaments? What if I told you it was a crucial element in keeping your youth group kid from becoming the college student/atheist that I spoke with today?

Why aren’t we reading it? Honestly? It’s “boring”.  I’ve heard pastors joke about it, and unashamedly skip it. I’ve heard people actually tell students to “skip over” that section. I can almost hear the groans as I hit you with one word…….

begat

I believe with all my heart that the two MOST important phrases in all of scripture are “begat” and “for you”.

Why begat?

First of all, God felt it important enough to include it in the canon of scripture. Not only include it, but place it in prominent places, in great depth. It is, along with all scripture, theopneustos (literally, God-breathed).

Secondly, because it sets the events of the bible in history! I can’t stress that enough. This isn’t allegory. It isn’t mythology.  It actually happened.

It not only reveals to us that God entered into His creation, but did so in time and history!  Unbelievable!

Thirdly, because it provides a proper presentation (and ready defense) of the gospel we are commanded to proclaim.

And finally, it shows God’s great love in covenant as He chose a people for Himself, based upon His grace alone.

Am I stretching here? Let’s take a look:

1. We have substantial genealogies from the very first book of the bible (Gen 5; Adam to Noah)

2. Throughout the Old Testament, God’s people are defined by the genealogies of real, historical people. (i.e. When God sends Moses to speak to  His people, He is told to speak of ‘The God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob’.  It is noteworthy that this is not the same name which Moses was to use of God to Pharaoh.)

3. Genealogies are used even in very routine interactions in scripture, to show God’s sovereign choices of real people (who really lived, in real points in history). An example would be God enabling and choosing the craftsmen for the tabernacle in Exodus 31.  In the midst of some of the greatest foreshadow and symbolism in all of scripture (the tabernacle), we have God enabling and selecting (by name) real, living, known men.

1The LORD said to Moses, 2“See, I have called by name Bezalel the son of Uri, son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah, 3and I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with ability and intelligence, with knowledge and all craftsmanship, 4to devise artistic designs, to work in gold, silver, and bronze, 5in cutting stones for setting, and in carving wood, to work in every craft. 6And behold, I have appointed with him Oholiab, the son of Ahisamach, of the tribe of Dan. And I have given to all able men ability, that they may make all that I have commanded you: – Exodus 31:1-6

4. Apart from genealogy, scripture also lists specific, historical people groups and historical figures to explicitly show these events as historical and not allegorical or symbolic:

a. The land promised to Israel was filled with real, historical people: Amorites, the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, the Hivites, and the Jebusites.

b. The most significant events in the Bible (Entering the promised land, destruction of the temple, etc) and in the New Testament (The birth of Christ, the death of John the Baptist, The crucifixion, The journeys and trials of Paul, the early church, etc.) are all set in historical context by listing the names of historical kings and rulers.

So, how do the begats help keep my kid from becoming the college atheist I spoke to today?  In two very significant ways:

1. It presents the gospel as a historic event.  It forces me to present the actual good news  of the gospel.  The reason it is called the evangel (from which pastors are called evangelists) is that the biblical greek is εὐαγγέλιον (euangelion) or good news.  This thing happened. It really, actually happened. In history.  So it guards me from allegorizing the gospel, or making it something I do. I can’t “live the gospel” or “be the gospel” or “do the gospel” anymore than I can live, or be, or do the Emancipation Proclamation, freeing the slaves during the civil war.  My only option, and the only mission given to us by God, is to proclaim this news!

2. It guards us from subjective experiences.  Your testimony is not the gospel. How you feel about Jesus isn’t the gospel.  If you share your testimony or feelings with the college atheist I just met, the response?  His testimony and feeling.  Jesus gives you purpose? Cool, Habitat for Humanity gives him purpose.  Jesus makes you feel joy?  Sweet. Playing music connects him to the universe and brings him joy. Congratulations, you’ve just put the God of the universe on the same subjective plane as John Mayer.  Ugh.   By presenting the gospel in it’s proper context, an objective event, which took place in history, we present good news which is outside of what we “feel” or our “experiences”.  So you get a warm fuzzy (entirely subjective) when you pray. You feel like the Holy Spirit is giving you a subjective, personal confirmation/revelation that you “feel in your heart.”  Interesting, so did this guy:

Yes, Joseph Smith, prophet of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints (The “Mormons”).  As a matter of fact, I once had a chance to watch LDS missionaries witnessing of their faith to a friend of mine. They asked him to read the Book of Mormon, and then pray that he would feel a “burning in the bosom”, and a peace, which would confirm that the Book of Mormon was true and that Joseph Smith was a prophet.

The problem here is that once you get out of the objective word of God into your subjective “feelings” or “experiences” you are in treacherous waters:

“He who trusts in his own heart is a fool, but whoever walks wisely will be delivered.” -Proverbs 28:26

So where do we go? Scripture:

Do you know what the book of Luke is about?  Luke (who was not an Apostle, but a disciple of Paul) wrote the book of Luke to “Theophilus” (who most scholars believe was an influential Roman official) after speaking with various eyewitnesses and reported the events which had taken place when Jesus was alive.  Luke was a highly educated man and his finished work is a tremendous work of historical research.  Luke talked to real people, who knew a real Jesus.  This isn’t subjective “feeling”, this is eyewitness testimony:

[Dedication to Theophilus]
[1:1] Inasmuch as many have undertaken to compile a narrative of the things that have been accomplished among us, [2] just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word have delivered them to us, [3] it seemed good to me also, having followed all things closely for some time past, to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, [4] that you may have certainty concerning the things you have been taught.
(Luke 1:1-4 ESV)

We are exhorted to look to the scriptures, not our subjective feelings, to hear from God:

[Paul and Silas in Berea]
[10] The brothers immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea, and when they arrived they went into the Jewish synagogue. [11] Now these Jews were more noble than those in Thessalonica; they received the word with all eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.

(Acts 17:10-11 ESV)

And we are most definitely presented the gospel as an objective, historical event to be proclaimed as FIRST importance.

[The Resurrection of Christ]
[15:1] Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, [2] and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
[3] For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, [4] that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, [5] and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. [6] Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. [7] Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. [8] Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

(1 Corinthians 15:1-8 ESV)

So, as you see The Holy Spirit’s primary method of inwardly confirming and testifying to truth is the illumination of public revelation that God has provided. A Christian would encourage a person to investigate the various things that point to the trustworthiness of Christ, and to pray that the Holy Spirit would illuminate such (Psalm 119:18 “Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law.”), while a subjective witness (used in a non-scriptural witnessing method, by the college atheist, or by a Mormon would be based upon feelings or personal revelation).  While Mormons emphasize subjective truth (truth discerned by mere feelings), it is important for Christians to help explain the nature of objective truth (something that often challenges our feelings).  The gospel isn’t “God has a wonderful plan for your life”. The bible never uses this language, and the apostles never preached it.  God has a wonderful plan for your life? Great, so does the Peace Corps. Are you seeing it yet?

As we close out on the value of the ‘begats”, it’s important to point out that time and space on a blog doesn’t allow the deep dive into the full beauty of the genealogy of Christ in Matthew 1, but it is in itself a hidden treasure of the grace of God. Truly beautiful.

I’ll close with the Apostle’s Creed.  After reading this blog, see if you can spot the historical marker:

(Note: “catholic” in the creed means “universal” and not Catholic as in Roman Catholic)

Did you see it?  It’s not subjective. It happened, in history. He was crucified under Pontius Pilate, a real man, who existed in real, objective history (He was the fifth prefect of the Roman province of Judea from AD 26-36, serving under the Emperor Tiberius).

So, next time you’re reading the ‘begats’ let them remind you that when you are witnessing, you are called to “keep it real”.. literally. Present the historical, objective gospel (which is the only gospel we’ve been authorized to share)!

Marc

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