The Child of Mary and the Son of God
December 22nd, 1963 @ 10:50 AM
THE CHILD OF MARY AND THE SON OF GOD
Dr. W.A. Criswell
12-22-63 10:50 a.m.
On the radio you are sharing the services of the First Baptist Church in Dallas. Now the sermon this morning meant a great deal to me as I prepared it, and I could pray that its truth, its spectacular truth, its amazing and infinite truth might come in new blessing to your heart as you listen at this holy hour. In the ninth chapter of the prophet Isaiah, in the ninth chapter of Isaiah, the prophecy begins with a passage that is quoted by the Gospel of Matthew [Matthew 4:15-16]:
Land of Zebulun, land of Naphtali, by the way of the sea, beyond Jordan, in Galilee of the Gentiles;
The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light: and they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
That was Matthew’s application of the prophecy of Isaiah representing the
incomparable and glorious ministry of Jesus when He began preaching the gospel of the Son of God in Galilee [Matthew 4:15-16]. Now to the sixth verse:
For, said the prophet Isaiah, For unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace.
Of the increase of His government and peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon His kingdom, to order it, and to establish it with judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of the Lord of hosts will perform it.
[Isaiah 9: 6-7]
Ah, just to read the prophecy is to feel the glory of the presence of God when He came down into this sordid and sinful earth. Now, the message is entitled The Wondrous Child, or The Child of Mary, the Son of God, and the text from the prophecy of Isaiah: “For unto us a Child is born, and unto us a Son is given” [Isaiah 9:6]. Ordinarily, and in any one—in the page of any other literature or poetry, we would look upon that as being a beautiful and poetic way of saying the same thing, “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given.” But it is not just poetry in the prophecy of Isaiah. This is one of the profoundest revelations that God hath made to human souls. “Unto us Child is born”: that is the humanity of our Savior [Matthew 21-2:1]. “Unto us a Son is given”: that is the deity of the Son of God [Philippians 2:6], for He was a Son before He was born; the Son of eternity, co-existent and co-equal with the great God who made this universe [John 1:1-3]. So the prophet begins with the humanity of our Lord [Philippians 2:7], and He rises to His incomparable deity [Philippians 2:6]: “Unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son, the Son of God, is given” [Isaiah 9:6].
We speak first of the Child that is born. Throughout the pages of this prophecy, and referring to it again and again as a great composition of music will repeat a theme, so Isaiah will return again and again to the human ministry of the Suffering Servant saving us from our transgressions [Isaiah 52:13; 53:11]. The Child is born. He conducts us in that prophecy to Bethlehem, its stable and its manger [Luke 2:1-16]. This is the greatest birthday in the history of the world. There were no trumpets that sounded in any court or in any palace, but more significant than the birthdays of all of the Caesars is this birthday! The Child is born; born so poor, so lowly, born in a stable and laid by His mother in a manger. The prophet conducts us first to Bethlehem, with its stable and its manger [Luke 2:4-7].
The prophet conducts us in the humanity of our Lord to the carpenter’s shop and the daily toil [Mark 6:3], to the wilderness with His trial and hunger [Matthew 4:1-11], to the well and His thirst [John 4:4-7], to the midnight storm when Jesus spoke to the roaring winds and the waves [Matthew 8:23-27]. The prophet conducts us in his prophecy of the humanity of our Lord to the suffering in Gethsemane and its bloody sweat [Luke 22:44], to the cross on Calvary and the death, ignominious, of the Son of God [Matthew 27:32-50], “For unto us a Child is born” [Isaiah 9:6] And repeating it as a theme through his prophecies, he speaks of the human suffering and sacrifice of God’s Son, our Savior from the manger to the grave [Isaiah 9:6-7, 42:1-9, 49:1-13, 50:4-11, 52:13-53:12], “For unto us a Child is born” [Isaiah 9:6], the human birthday of the human Jesus.
But these same Scriptures that present to us the birth of our Lord, the incarnation of our Lord, those same Scriptures also inevitably delineate the pre-existence and the eternal being of the Son of God. Not only “unto us a Child is born,” but “unto us a Son is given” [Isaiah 9:6]. The life of Jesus did not begin in any Bethlehem, or in any stable, or in any manger [Luke 2:7-16]. The life of the Son of God was as eternal as the life of God Himself [Hebrews 10:5-14; John 8:58]. He came from the Father; He returned to the Father [John 16:28], and between those great mountain peaks of truth and fact and revelation, the life of the flesh of our Lord was lived in a valley in between. It is our often tendency to linger in the valley and to forget the great mountain peaks that enclose it on either side, but not so the apostles in the Word of God. They looked up to the hills from which cometh their strength [Psalm 121:1-2], and they unfailingly present our Lord as pre-existent, as co-eternal with the great God [John 1:1-3].
There is in literature, and you know of this, there is in literature a poetic fancy that all of us were so born into this world—that we lived in God, that we had a previous life, and when we were born into this world, we just take up another existence here in the flesh. All of you, I am sure, I know, all of you are acquainted with William Wordsworth’s poetic fancy as he delineated, as he writes it in one of the great poems of English literature. In the “Intimations of Immortality,” do you remember how that famous poem begins? Could I read it for you? Listen to it as William Wordsworth delves in a poetic fancy: “Our birth,” he says,
Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting:
The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star,
Hath had elsewhere its setting,
And cometh from afar:
Not in entire forgetfulness,
And not in utter nakedness,
But trailing clouds of glory do we come
From God, who is our home:
[from “Ode: Intimations of Immortality From Recollections of
Early Childhood,” William Wordsworth]
That is some of the most beautiful poetry that you could ever read, and has in it one of the most unusual poetic fancies. “Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home.” The poet fancies that we had another life and that when we come into this world, and then you remember the structure of the poem and how it proceeds, the little child still remembers, he thinks, the life of glory before and the voice of what remembers, but in manhood the world makes us forget until finally it is nothing to us, blotted out. That is the poem.
What I am saying is, what is poetic fancy in the great English poet William Wordsworth, is fact and reality in the revelation to us of the Son of God! I do not think we have a pre-existence. I know we do not have, according to the Holy Scriptures. But according to those same Holy Scriptures, it is revealed to us that the life of Jesus did not begin as our life does at His birth, but He lived with God; He was God; He was co-eternal, co-existent with God [John 1:1-3], and came down into this earth incarnate in the form and in the flesh and in the body of a little babe [Hebrews 10:5-7].
Now, there is no exception to that presentation of Jesus in the Holy Scriptures; never, never, ever, ever. Never do the apostles present our Lord as though His life began at Bethlehem, never, never, never! Without exception, when they speak of the Lord and write to the Lord, they always refer to the pre-existent God who came down in human flesh. For example, this is John, and very typical of the apostle John: “In the beginning,” whenever that was, known but to God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.
And the Word—
the eternal Word, God—
And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten Son of God).
[John 1:1-3, 14]
Isn’t that typical? Isn’t that typical? John speaks of our Lord as being in eternity, God Himself who became flesh in Bethlehem [John 1:1-2]. They all are alike in that. Paul, for example, will speak in the first chapter of Colossians, “Our Lord, the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation: For by Him were all things created, things in heaven, things of earth, things visible, things invisible,” then he recounts a host of glory and says all were created by Him and for Him: and He is before all things, and in Him all things consist, hold together [Colossians 1:15-17].
The author of the Book of Hebrews, “God,” he begins his marvelous epistle with that same glorious reference:
God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past to us by the prophets, Hath in these last days spoken unto us by His Son, whom He hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds; Who being the brightness of His glory, and the express image of His person.
What is God like? “The brightness of God’s glory and the express image of His person, Jesus, upholding all things by the Word of His power” [Hebrews 1:3]. We could just go on and on and on. There is no exception to that. Never, ever is there ever any intimation on the part of the apostles in the Holy Scriptures that the life of our Lord began in Bethlehem. He was God eternal, made flesh, came down in the form of a human soul and a human life.
And our Lord so speaks of Himself. For example, the Lord will never say, “When I was born,” or “I was born.” He never does. The Lord will say again and again, “I was sent” [Matthew 15:24], or “I am come” [Matthew 5:17], or “For before Abraham was, I AM” [John 8:58], or in the high priestly prayer of John 17, “Father, glorify Me with the glory which I had with Thee before the world was” [John 17:5]. All of the Scriptures are that, all of them.
Now, in the little time that remains, may I speak of the meaning of that for us? There is no greater significant revelation made to us from the heart of God than the meaning to us that this Babe, born of a woman, of a peasant girl in Bethlehem, that this Babe is the eternal Son of God come down among men.
First, its first meaning, its first meaning: it reveals to us that at the heart of this universe, at the heart of creation, at the heart of existence, and at the heart and core of human story and human history is the redemptive love and purpose of God [1 John 4:14-16]. Now, may I speak of that? You ask nature, “Is God love?” And let nature reply; let nature respond. “Is God love?” And nature, and nature turns to a fury in the lightning that destroys, in the thunder that shakes, in the earthquake that tears down, in the sea that roars, in the tidal waves that come, in a thousand angry and vicious ways does nature answer. “Is God love?” The terrors of nature are indescribable; the hurricane, the tornado, the fire, the wind, the waves.
Ask human history, “Is God love?” And pore over the pages of human history; it is incarnadined with the blood and the violence of man’s inhumanity to man. History is a record of the conflicts and wars that have scourged and incrimsoned this earth, ask history, “Is God love?”
Ask human life, “Is God love?” And look and see the answer. There is AIDS, and senility, and disease, and misery, and heartache, and finally death, buried in the dust of the ground. Ask the human life of Jesus, “Is God love?” Spit upon Him, plucked out His beard, scourged Him, pressed on His brow a crown of thorns, finally, nailed Him to a tree, and He died like any other malefactor [Matthew 27:26-50, Isaiah 50:6].
Where did you ever be persuaded that God is love? You read it by revelation. You memorized it when you were a little child. “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son” [John 3:16]. “For unto us a Son is given” [Isaiah 9:6]: it reveals, and only there, it reveals the great truth of God that at the heart of creation and at the heart of history is redemptive love. As Paul would say, “God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself” [2 Corinthians 5:19]. Before the worlds were cast into this vast space of vacuity, and before God created this earth on which we stand, before this sphere was flung in its orbit around the sun, God made provision for the sins of men [John 3:168]. Before Satan had won a victory, God spelled his ultimate and final defeat. The Lord’s Son, the Prince of Peace, the King of Glory came down, born of this virgin, that He might be touched with the healing of our infirmities [Hebrews 4:14-16]; the Son of God that He might bring hope and heaven to the despairing souls of men. Our hope lies in that incarnation.
This is an old and a familiar poem. Nobody knows who wrote it, but this is one of the most beautiful religious sentiments I have ever read. May I repeat it? May I speak of it again? Listen:
That night, that night when in Judean skies
The mystic star dispensed its light,
A blind man moved in his sleep
And dreamed that he had sight.
That night, that night when shepherds heard the song
Of hosts angelic choiring near,
A deaf man stirred in slumber’s spell
And dreamed that he could hear.
That night, that night when in the cattle stall
Slept Child and mother cheek by jowl,
A cripple turned his twisted limbs
And dreamed that he was whole.
That night, that night when o’er the newborn Babe
The tender Mary rose to lean,
A loathsome leper smiled in sleep
And dreamed that he was clean.
That night, that night when to the mother’s breast,
The little King was held secure,
A harlot slept a happy sleep
And dreamed that she was pure.
That night, that night when in the manger lay
The Son of God who came to save,
A man moved in the sleep of death
And dreamed there was no grave.
[“The Miracle Dreams,” author unknown]
This is the heart of God opened, revealed; it is redemptive love for us. That is the first meaning, that is the first meaning of the incarnation of the Prince of Glory [Isaiah 9:6].
Second: in this incarnation, in the condescension and coming down of our Lord, you have the portrayal of the true grace and goodness and glory of the Lord Jesus [John 1:1-3, 14]. The grace of our Lord is not that He was poor. The grace of the Lord Jesus is this, 2 Corinthians 8:9: “For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that ye through His poverty might be made rich.” This is the grace of the Lord Jesus, being the King of Glory and the Prince of heaven; He became poor that we might be rich in Him.
The grace of our Lord Jesus is not particularly seen in the fact that He was a servant? How many servants are there? How many poor are there? Not that He was a servant, but the grace and the glory of the Lord Jesus is seen in this, and that is why I had you read the incomparable passage in the second chapter of Philippians:
Though being in the form of God—
whatever morphos, whatever form God is—
being in the form of God, He thought it not a thing to be grasped—
to be held onto, to be equal with God—
but poured Himself out, made Himself of no reputation,
He emptied Himself, and was made in the likeness of men, and being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself.
Who is that? Who is that, girt with a towel, washing feet, washing feet, washing feet? The grace and glory of Jesus is seen, that He is the Son of God, washing feet, washing feet, washing feet [John 13:3-10].
If His life began at Bethlehem, He is just one more of a long list of heroes who lived their lives in a narrow lot. But the amazing wonder of the grace of Jesus is seen in this: that though being God, He humbled Himself and became a servant, washing feet, washing feet, dying, ministering, loving; that is the grace of Jesus.
I have a third avowal of the meaning, of the meaning of the pre-existent Son of God incarnate for us, “For unto us a Son is given” [Isaiah 9:6]. The third meaning: it signifies, as nothing else can or could, it signifies the infinite value and merit and worth of the human soul and of this little planet upon which our lives are cast. What do you say? What do you say to the astronomer and the scientist who says this earth is but an atom on the outskirts of creation, one of the most insignificant and one of the smallest of all of the spheres to be found in the universe, in our universe, one of the smallest to be found in the great galaxies of glory? What do you say? And what do you answer when the psalmist raises the question, “What is man, that Thou art mindful of him?” [Psalm 8:4]. What is he? He is an autumnal leaf falling down to the ground. He is a mist. He is a vapor. He is a moth. He lives for a moment and his life is snuffed out and he is gone forever. What do you say in answer to the argument of our nothingness, and the insignificance, inconsequential nature of our world and this planet on which we live? What do you say?
There is no answer in this earth except this. It was to this little atom of a world that the Son of God came down, and it was in our human form that He was born, breathing our air, living our humanity, walking our earth. It is the revelation of the existence of the Son of God who became incarnate [Matthew 1:23-2:1], that makes this earth precious in the sight of God and makes our lives of worth; both to ourselves and to Him.
I have often thought, out of all of the countless spheres and orbits that swing through this whole created universe, it is this one, it is this one that God watches over, tends with shepherdly care, because it was in this earth that His Son was born [Matthew 2:1], that He died [Matthew 27:32-50], that He was raised from the dead [Matthew 28:5-7], and the dust of the ground is made precious with the saints who have been buried in this little earth [Psalm 116:15]. That is what makes this life and this world precious before God.
So the incomparable prophecy, “Unto us a Child is born” [Isaiah 9:6]: that is Christmas, hallowing the home, sanctifying the child, bringing a radiance of light and glory into the eyes of every true mother. “Unto us a Child is born”; the cry of the little Infant in the manger [Luke 2:7-16] has seized, has captured the imagination of the whole world. This is Christmas, “Unto us a Child is born” [Isaiah 9:6].
But this is our redemption, “Unto us a Son is given” [Isaiah 9:6]. This is God manifest in the flesh [1 Timothy 3:16], and His name—who is He?—and His name is “Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace” [Isaiah 9:6]. Oh, no wonder, the wonder, wherever God’s people gather, they sing the praises of the love and grace and glory of the Lord in heaven, seen in the face of Jesus Christ. “For God who commanded the light to shine out of darkness, hath shined in our hearts, to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ” [2 Corinthians 4:6]. And we all, and we all, beholding as in a mirror the glory of God, are changed into the same image by the grace of our Lord from glory to glory [2 Corinthians 3:18], and ultimately face to face [Revelation 22:3-4], like Him, immortalized, resurrected, glorified [Philippians 3:20-21]. O Lord, what a gospel for a man to preach!
While we sing our song, somebody give his heart to Jesus today; come and stand by me. A family to put their life in the church: “Pastor, this is my wife; these are our children. All of us are coming.” While we sing our song of appeal, if God bids you come, bids you here, make it this morning. Make it now. Make it now. What a great day to come to the Lord, to bow in His presence, to accept Him as Savior. What a great day to put your life in the circle and the circumference of the fellowship of the people of the Lord. Make it now, come now, while we stand and while we sing.