Let Us Go To Bethlehem

“And there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

“And Joseph also went up. . . .unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem. . . .to be taxed with Mary his espoused wife being great with child.

“. . . .but he that came down from heaven.

“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior which is Christ the Lord.

“And lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them. . . .and suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host. 

“The shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem.

“Now when Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judaea. . . .behold, there came wise men from the east to Jerusalem, saying, Where is he that is born King of the Jews?

“And they (scribes) said unto him (Herod), In Bethlehem. . . .

“And lo, the star. . . .stood over where the young child was.

“Then Herod. . . .sent forth and slew all the children that were in Bethlehem.”

Matthew 2; Luke 2; John 3:13


In the fullness of time, when Jesus Christ our Savior was born, Bethlehem was the focal point of the universe. All things wend their way to the city of David.

First, there is that decree of Caesar Augustus! Yes, I have placed an exclamation point behind that sentence, and well I might. Wonder what the poor man is thinking about all through the ages of his hellish suffering. It was even through his imperial decree that Joseph and Mary and the child to be born took their journey to David’s city.

An exclamation point, for it shows us that the world must help to bring the kingdom of God to its completion. All through the ages, all things work together to bring the children in the bosom of the Father. All things are united in that one purpose.

But Caesar Augustus, seated on the mighty throne of the Roman empire, did not in the least suspect that he was bringing the Christ child to the place where he must be born according to the scriptures.

And, therefore, the Roman mandate, in some way or other, came in the fullness of time to Bethlehem, and the people told one another in the streets of that famous village: Did you hear the news? There went out a decree of the emperor! We must be taxed.

Oh yes, in spite of himself, not even knowing, perhaps, that there was such a place on the earth which was named Bethlehem: the mighty Caesar comes to Bethlehem!

The focal point in the universe of God!

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The Hebrew word for doctrine means "to take, receive, seize"; then it means that which is received mentally: instruction. The Greek has a whole family of words relating to our topic: one means that which is taught; another refers to the one doing the teaching, the doctor or master; the verb form simply means to instruct or indoctrinate. The word doctrine appears fifty-two times in scripture, good evidence of its importance. Strikingly, when we read of doctrines in the plural the reference is always to strange doctrines, the doctrines of men, or the doctrines of devils. False doctrines are legion and contradictory, but true doctrine is one, for it has its unity in Jesus Christ. 

The doctrine of God drops from heaven as rain (Deut. 32:2), it is pure and good (Job 11:4). The people were amazed at the teaching of Jesus, saying, "What thing is this? What new doctrine is this? For with authority commandeth he . . ." (Mark 1:27). But Jesus did not teach new doctrine; it was not his but the Father's, and it agreed with the teaching of Moses (John 7:16–19). The children of God obey from the heart that form of doctrine which was delivered unto them (Rom. 6:17). Since all scripture is given by inspiration of God, it has the primary profit of giving us doctrine (2 Tim. 3:16). Adding to the peril of the times in which we live is the fact that men "will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers; having itching ears" (2 Tim. 4:3). The purpose of God in giving ministers to the church is "that henceforth we be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine . . ." (Eph. 4:14). Of such central importance is the truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is come in the flesh that the denial of this is antichrist, and "if there come any unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed" (2 John 10). 

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The Importance of Doctrine

Doctrine is not highly regarded anymore. In many evangelical churches there is such ignorance of doctrine that even the fundamentals of Christianity are not well understood. Even in churches that remain faithful in their teaching and preaching, there is often little interest in learning and understanding doctrine. The youth are, for the most part, bored by it, and their elders are content with a superficial knowledge of the doctrines of the Reformed faith.

Very often the symptom of this lack of doctrine is a constant agitation for more “practical” preaching and teaching along with a greater emphasis on liturgy and on the other parts of the worship service until the sermon is all but squeezed out. On the part of the preachers themselves, one finds less and less biblical exposition and more and more illustration, storytelling, and entertainment.

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Is the gospel part of the law?

“What shall we say then? That the Gentiles, which followed not after righteousness, have attained to righteousness, even the righteousness which is of faith. But Israel, which followed after the law of righteousness, hath not attained to the law of righteousness. Wherefore? Because they sought it not by faith, but as it were by the works of the law. For they stumbled at that stumblingstone” (Romans 9:30-32).

In this text the issue is righteousness. The Israelites who sought righteousness by obedience to the law never achieved it. But the Gentiles who sought it by faith in Christ did, for Christ alone attained to the law’s requirement of righteousness, imputing that righteousness to his children by faith.

—Read more in the article 'Is the gospel part of the law?' by Rev. Cory Griess in the upcoming June 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.


Is the law part of the gospel?

I remember being quite confused for a long time by the question that titles this article. I remember being further confused by statements made by Protestant Reformed authors, such as the following: “In fact, Scripture makes clear that the law is gospel, for it has the power to convert the soul, to make wise the simple, and to enlighten the eyes.” And, “The law is gospel. If anyone doubts it, let him read Psalm 19 and Psalm 119.” And, “For Calvin and Calvinism, with regard to the elect believer law is an aspect of gospel.” How can this be? The law requires perfect obedience for us to be justified, an obedience of which we are not capable. That is not good news! On the other hand, the gospel proclaims that Christ’s perfect obedience (not our own obedience to the law) justifies us. That is good news! So how can an orthodox theologian say the law is the gospel? They are opposites!

—Read more in the upcoming article ‘Is the law part of the gospel?’ by Rev. Cory Griess in the upcoming May 15, 2018 issue of the Standard Bearer.


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