Calvary Road Baptist Church

“EXTREME MEASURES” Part 1

 

We are twenty days from western Christendom’s annual celebration of the birth of the eternal Son of the living God in Bethlehem more than two thousand years ago. Eastern Christendom celebrates the birth of Christ on either January 7th or January 18th, depending on the country and the branch of Christianity. Though there is dispute concerning the precise date of Christ’s birth in that small and dusty village about thirteen miles south of Jerusalem, there is no disputing what the Bible claims about the birth of Christ. Liberals, cultists and pagans deny that the Bible offers a credible account of what happened, but there is little disagreement concerning what the scriptures declare to have taken place.

In the Bible, God reveals Himself to mankind as the only true and living God, who exists in the form of three Persons who are co-equal in every respect and co-eternal. Both the Old and New Testaments insist that there is only one God.[1] One Person of the godhead is revealed the Father. One Person of the godhead is revealed the eternal Son of God. One Person of the godhead is revealed the Holy Spirit of God. These three divine Persons are one God, the Trinity. It is no surprise to one who embraces the Bible as true that the eternal God who has made provision for the eternal life, eternal redemption and eternal salvation of the saved, and also eternal damnation, eternal judgment and eternal fire for those who are not saved, that there would be a corresponding eternal purpose of the eternal God.[2] That God is a God of purpose is very clear from Isaiah 14.24-27:

 

24     The LORD of hosts hath sworn, saying, Surely as I have thought, so shall it come to pass; and as I have purposed, so shall it stand:

 

26     This is the purpose that is purposed upon the whole earth: and this is the hand that is stretched out upon all the nations.

27     For the LORD of hosts hath purposed, and who shall disannul it? and his hand is stretched out, and who shall turn it back?

 

Add to that Proverbs 20.18, which begins, “Every purpose is established by counsel,” and you can easily surmise that what God does is what He planned to do, in order to fulfill His grand purpose, as that purpose and the steps taken to fulfill it were deliberated in eternity past by the three Persons of the godhead in the council chambers of the Most High. Are you with me so far?

These things fixed firmly in your mind about God, that He is deliberate, that He is orderly, that He has plans to achieve His intent and to accomplish His grand overarching purpose; I would like you to turn in your Bible at this time to John 12.37-41, where the Apostle John refers to the prophet Isaiah:

 

37     But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on him:

38     That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

39     Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,

40     He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

41     These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.

 

Here it is explained why, despite the many miracles they had seen Him perform, people still did not believe on Jesus. It has to do with a prediction made by the prophet Isaiah that was fulfilled in their unbelief. Most important to us this morning, however, is verse 41, which declares, “These things said Esaias, when he saw his glory, and spake of him.”

The question, of course, is when did the prophet Isaiah, who lived some seven centuries before the birth of Christ, see Christ’s glory? The answer to that question is found in Isaiah 6.1-5:

 

1      In the year that king Uzziah died I saw also the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up, and his train filled the temple.

2      Above it stood the seraphims: each one had six wings; with twain he covered his face, and with twain he covered his feet, and with twain he did fly.

3      And one cried unto another, and said, Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory.

4      And the posts of the door moved at the voice of him that cried, and the house was filled with smoke.

5      Then said I, Woe is me! for I am undone; because I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips: for mine eyes have seen the King, the LORD of hosts.

 

Considering what the Apostle John reveals to us, this portion of Isaiah is the record of an encounter the prophet Isaiah had with the Lord Jesus Christ more than seven centuries before He was born of the Virgin Mary in Bethlehem.

From this passage alone we see that Jesus in heaven was “high and lifted up,” with a train that filled the temple, attended by seraphims (flaming angels) who cried to one another “Holy, holy, holy, is the LORD of hosts: the whole earth is full of his glory,” and was identified by Isaiah as “the King, the LORD of hosts.” Elsewhere in scripture, the LORD is described as mighty and terrible, and in one place we read, “with God is terrible majesty.”[3] In Psalm 33.8, we read, “Let all the earth fear the LORD: let all the inhabitants of the world stand in awe of him.” Thus, we see that in His exalted glory the Lord Jesus Christ enthroned in heaven was most awesome and astonishing. He evoked worship and adoration by His creatures, and His regal majesty and the holiness of Him inspired terror in the heart of the prophet, who saw himself as defiled by comparison. His attending holy angels paid the greatest possible reverence to Him.

With these considerations in mind, I would like to challenge you, as Christmas approaches and we plan to celebrate the birth of the Savior, to consider a question. Why would the Lord Jesus Christ leave heaven’s glory to come here? Why did He make Himself of no reputation? For what reason did He take the form of a servant? Ponder His decision to be made in the likeness of men.[4] I submit to you that could God have dispatched angels to attend to the task Jesus attended to He would have done so. I also submit to you that could God have assigned to any man the task Jesus attended to He would have done so. In short, the reason Jesus was born in Bethlehem was because extreme measures were necessary, and His virgin birth in Bethlehem was the initial of the extreme measures taken by God. When reflected upon with care and wisdom, it becomes obvious that whenever extreme measures are used by anyone who is thoughtful and responsible the problem that is addressed is most severe. Therefore, we already know by reason of Him being sent from glory to this wicked world that the matter to which Jesus attended was most grave.

As an aside, the Greek word aposoloV is found in eighty verses in the New Testament, with seventy-eight of those verses transliterating the word by our borrow word apostle. In Hebrews 3.1, the word is used as a title for our Lord Jesus Christ: “Wherefore, holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling, consider the Apostle and High Priest of our profession, Christ Jesus.” The word is twice translated in our Bible by its English equivalent of one who is sent or one who is a messenger. In John 13.16, our Lord uses the word to describe Himself: “Verily, verily, I say unto you, The servant is not greater than his lord; neither he that is sent greater than he that sent him.” Therefore, as the Lord Jesus Christ sent men forth as His personal representatives (known to us as the Apostles of Jesus Christ), and as congregations send forth men for specific tasks, Second Corinthians 8.23 and Philippians 2.25 (known to us as messengers of the churches, or in these modern times as missionaries), so God originally sent forth His only begotten Son.

Allow me to argue from lesser to greater to show the significance of God sending Jesus in this world. Most of you have heard the old bromide, “You don’t send a boy to do a man’s job.” It sounds corny, but it reflects profound wisdom. To attend to a serious task you send your best, not your worst. This is why the Philippian church dispatched Epaphroditus as their messenger, as their apostle, to minister to Paul, according to Philippians 2.25. As well, the Lord Jesus Christ invested His life in twelve men, His apostles, equipping them to be the most qualified of His personal representatives. Then, to the Gentiles, He called and especially trained Saul of Tarsus, known to us as the Apostle Paul. Such men as these were called, consecrated, and then commissioned for the task closest to the Savior’s heart, missions. Thus, the pattern that surfaces here is one in which the importance of the task is seen by the individual sent to perform the task. What kind of matter it must be, then, for God to send His Own Son to this earth. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ can only be rightly understood when it is recognized that this was an extreme measure taken by God.

This morning we will ask, and then begin to answer, the question of why God resorted to such extreme measures, the first of which being the incarnation of His Son by means of the virgin birth? It is referred to as the Fall, and we read about it in the book of Genesis. When God created the universe and all that herein is in six literal days, His final act of creation was the creation of Adam and Eve. Looking to Genesis 2.15-17, we come to understand the single prohibition of God for the newly created man and the woman in the Garden of Eden:

 

15     And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it.

16     And the LORD God commanded the man, saying, Of every tree of the garden thou mayest freely eat:

17     But of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, thou shalt not eat of it: for in the day that thou eatest thereof thou shalt surely die.

 

God’s requirement seems reasonable enough. Adam and Eve were permitted to do anything they wanted, with a single exception. Of all the options that could be devised in the fertile imagination of God’s intelligent creatures, only a single option was denied by God, under penalty of death.

Four considerations that shed light on the reasons why God resorted to extreme measures:

 

First, CONSIDER THEIR PRISTINE ENVIRONMENT

 

When God formed Adam of the dust of the earth and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life the physical universe in which we live was not yet six full days old. It was brand new! Nothing was worn out. Nothing was used. Nothing was soiled. Nothing was contaminated. All was perfect, and healthy, and young, and vital. When God formed Eve to be Adam’s wife and helper, the earth was only hours older than when Adam was created.

Who could have asked for anything more? Are you hungry? There is fruit in abundance hanging from the trees, and it was all theirs for the taking. Only the one kind of fruit from a single tree was out of bounds. Are you thirsty? There was plenty of clean, clear water from the river than meandered through the garden where they lived. Were they bored? Boredom was not possible. Adam had been charged with naming every animal God had created, as well as tending the garden, and Eve was created to help him. Therefore, there were meaningful and intellectually challenging tasks for both of them to perform.

Imagine the beauty. Consider the utter delight of Adam to exercise his stewardship over God’s creation, to explore and seek understanding of all God had created and sustained. Then there was Adam’s wife, Eve. However, more on this in a moment. Adam and Eve lived in the most exquisite environment that has ever existed in nature. It simply could not have been better for them.

 

Next, CONSIDER THE PRESENCE OF GOD

 

It has always been God’s desire to dwell with His creatures. The primary reason for the construction of the tabernacle in the wilderness following the Exodus of the children of Israel from Egypt is found in Exodus 25.8: “And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.” The Temple built by Solomon is properly seen as a more permanent means of God dwelling in the midst of His people. And when Jesus was born, He dwelt among His people in a way and to a degree not seen since the Garden of Eden. In Genesis 3.8, we read of “the LORD God walking in the garden in the cool of the day” as He called out to Adam. This suggests that God’s plan was to commune with Adam and Eve at the end of the day, when it was cool and most comfortable. Thus, Adam and Eve had access to God in a most personal and intimate fashion. They could speak to Him and hear His audible voice. As well, it is likely that God provided some visible manifestation of His presence for their benefit.

If God is good and greatly to be praised, then consider the bliss that was theirs to experience. To be loved by God, to commune with God, to be provided for in every way by God, was the only thing they had ever known.

 

Third, CONSIDER THE PERFECTION OF THEIR NATURE

 

We know both they and the world they lived in were perfect because God had passed judgment on His work and pronounced that it was “very good,” Genesis 1.31. Thus, Adam and Eve were very good. The question is, very good in what way? When God created Adam and Eve, He created them in His image and after His likeness.[5] Not that they bore any physical resemblance to Him, though they were undoubtedly perfect physical specimens. Since God is a spirit, there was no possibility of physical likeness.[6] How they were like their Creator was in their capacity for morality. As God is holy, Adam and Eve were innocent, with no conception or perception of sin.

Evidence of this is found in their nakedness. Genesis 2.25 reads, “And they were both naked, the man and his wife, and were not ashamed.” The reasons they were not ashamed are two: First, being ashamed is the result of doing something that is shameful, unless your heart is hard and your conscience is seared. However, that was not the case with Adam and Eve. They were shameless because they were sinless. They had no experience whatsoever with wrongdoing or disobedience. As well, they were not ashamed because they were not self conscious. The essence of sinfulness is the consciousness of self, selfishness, and concern for one’s self. Since Adam was not sinful, he was not concerned so much with how he looked to Eve as he was with how he might bless her. The same was initially true with Eve. Quite different from the preoccupation people have these days with their appearance, with their hair, with their attire, with how others perceive them, and with what others think of them.

Evidence is also found in their knowledge. The fruit they were forbidden to eat was from “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.” Thus, in their innocence Adam and Eve enjoyed the spiritual advantage of being ignorant of good and evil. There were things they simply did not know, and that innocence was profoundly beneficial for them.

 

Finally, CONSIDER THE POSITION ADAM OCCUPIED

 

By virtue of him being the first of the race of man, Adam was the federal head of the human race. In some respects, he was the forerunner, the spiritual leader of every man born of woman who would follow him. Where Adam led the entirety of mankind would follow. To get some idea of Adam’s place in the human race, consider the place of a father in his family. In a very real sense, where the father goes the family follows. What happens to the father profoundly affects the family. This is why it is so important for a dad to strive to enter in at the strait gate and by all means necessary come to Christ. Regardless of feelings or frustrations, setting aside all slights and offenses, a dad must do right by Jesus Christ. If he does not, the price paid by the rest of his family, his wife and his kids, will be very, very high.

Though some complain about the unfairness of this concept of federal headship, it is a most gracious relationship that has been provided by God. But for this notion of headship, you and I would not enjoy the benefits accrued to this nation as a result of the actions of such men as Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. But for this notion of headship, there would have been no social fabric existing in the American colonies as a result of the ministries of Jonathan Edwards, John Wesley and George Whitefield with which to form such a nation in the first place. Whether or not these pale illustrations persuade anyone concerning the benefit of God establishing such a thing as Adam’s federal headship of the human race, the fact is found in God’s Word that such a relationship does in fact exist and is in fact used by God in His dealings with mankind. The result is that what Adam does as the head of our race affects us all. What Adam did as the head of our race has affected us all.

 

I conclude this morning by pointing out something obvious to all of us. Despite the pristine environment in which he lived with his wife, despite the presence of God and the great privilege such communion would provide for him, despite the perfection of his innocent and undefiled nature, and even though he occupied the position as the head of our race, Adam still sinned. Regardless of the provocation he was subjected to, Adam ate the forbidden fruit, and nothing has been the same since then. If you consider Adam’s perfect situation to have been a test, he failed miserably. The rest is history.

Where there had been life, there was now death. Where there had been inclusion, there was now expulsion. Where there had been privilege, there was now poverty. Where there had been ease, there was now toil. Where there had been satisfaction, there was now pain. Where there had been delight, there was now guilt. Where there had been proximity to God, there was now separation from God. Where the universe had been a blessed place, it is now a cursed place, with the whole creation now groaning and travailing in pain as a result of what Adam did. With every possible environmental, physical, moral, societal and marital advantage, Adam still failed. Mankind in the person of that one man did not measure up to the challenge, and the result was the Fall. If the greatest evil is that which deprives you of the greatest good, and the greatest good is God, then a single bite from the fruit of one tree by one man was the greatest evil.

My friend, one should never seek to evaluate the seriousness of a sin, the tragedy of a deed, by how bad it may seem at the time. Surely, taking a bite out of a forbidden fruit could not have seemed particularly wrong to Adam at the time. However, when we consider the consequence of the sin, the price that Adam and all who have descended from Adam have paid for his disobedience, we reach a different conclusion. Was the Fall of Adam into sin a significant matter, and important manner, a particularly terrible tragedy? Evaluate the answer to that question by pondering the extreme measures God has taken to remedy the problem, to provide salvation for sinners.

The first of the extreme measures God took was to send His Own glorious and divine Son to do what no one else could possibly have done. He left heaven’s glory to come here, He set aside His glorious attributes and the immediate attention and worship of His angels to suffer the indignities of life amongst sinners. Therefore, to set Christmas in context, keep in mind how extreme a measure it was. The Pearl of Great Price was removed from its majestic throne in glory and set in a foul place, unappreciated by the casual passersby, a place called earth. The Lord of glory set aside His glory to first take the extreme measure of becoming a man and living among men. He next took the extreme measure of become sin for us who knew no sin. He then took the extreme measure of suffering and dying on the cruel cross of Calvary before being buried. He then took the extreme measure of rising from the dead after three days and three nights and ascending to the Father’s right hand in glory. Those extreme measures, the first being His incarnation, which we celebrate at Christmastime, were steps taken to resolve a horrendous problem. Adam’s Fall in the Garden of Eden instigated that horrendous problem.

Think about Christmas in this light and I promise it will be more meaningful to you.



[1] Deuteronomy 4.39; 6.4; Isaiah 44.8; Malachi 2.10; Mark 12.29; First Corinthians 8.4, 6; Ephesians 4.6; Second Timothy 2.5

[2] Deuteronomy 33.27; Mark 3.29; Ephesians 3.11; Hebrews 5.9; 6.2; 9.12; Jude 7

[3] Deuteronomy 7.21; 10.17; Nehemiah 1.5; 4.14; 9.32; Job 37.22

[4] Philippians 2.7

[5] Genesis 1.26-27

[6] John 4.24



Would you like to contact Dr. Waldrip about this sermon? Please contact him by clicking on the link below. Please do not change the subject within your email message. Thank you.

pastor@calvaryroadbaptist.org