I’m sure that all of us have experienced using a microscope, whether it was middle school, high school, or college. You lean down onto the eye piece and look through the ocular lense. Without zooming in, you see a blurry picture of perhaps the entire specimen. Once you zoom in, things become more clear, and also your astonishment at God’s creation increases.
I’ve found it helpful to view the account of Christ’s first advent, as found in the Gospel accounts, as if I were looking through a telescope. Broadly, there certainly are beautiful things to see. However, if we narrow our focus, we can see particular aspects of the work of Christ, just as we would be able to see cellular structures under a microscope. The particular aspect I want to look at is the atonement as it corresponds to the covenant of redemption, or the pactum salutis for all you theology nerds. I want to do this by looking at three passages, where I’ll highlight a truth from each to renew our delight in his advent.
In Matthew 1:21 we’re told three things: Mary will bear a son, his name will be Jesus, and he will save his people from their sins. Let’s focus on the last one. Jesus has a people.Jesus came with a purpose. Whoever you say that these people are you have to admit that it narrows our focus to a particular aspect of his Advent.
Matthew focus was on a Hebrew audience. He opened with Jesus’s genealogy to show that He was indeed the promised Seed, all the way from the Abrahamic Covenant, and, obviously, the gospel promise in Genesis 3:15. Any Hebrew reading this text would have had their souls set aflame. “His people” are the covenant people of God, the nation of Israel at this point.
That is why Matthew could so narrowly say that Jesus came to save his people from their sins. This is not to say that only national Israel would be saved, but that one must be a member of the covenant people of God in order to be saved from their sins. There is no salvation outside of the covenant community of Yahweh.
John 6:39 is an oft-overlooked verse. Here the Savior proclaims the Father gave Him something. This something that He has been given is something that He will lose nothing of and will raise the entirety of this something up on the last day.
Whatever you want to say that this “something” is, you have to recognize that it has direct bearing on how we understand the work of Christ and the atonement. Did he come into the world for the world? Yes. Did he come into the world for this “something”? Yes.
This passage shows us the planning of the Father and the Son for the Son’s coming into the world wasn’t a last minute plan. This isn’t some random event that we celebrate because we’ve benefited from it somehow. This is a particular, planned, providential event that has direct references to eternity past, activity that took place on this earth, and on into eternity future.
The last passage I want us to think about is John 10:27-29:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give them eternal life, and they will never perish, and no one will snatch them out of my hand. My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of the Father’s hand.
I believe this passage gives us great insight into who the Messiah’s people are and also who/what the “something” that the Father had given him prior to his advent are. This something given is a definite covenant people.
My point in bringing up these passages is to try to get you to think differently about this season, as we celebrate His advent. I think sometimes we get so focused on the fact that Christ came into the world that we forget to ponder why he came into the world.
We very often take the broad view, but how often do we zoom in?
Christ was given a people.
Christ came to save his people from their sins.
His people will hear his voice and come to him.
He will cast out no one that comes to him.
No one can snatch his people out of the Father’s hand.
Whatever your circumstances this holiday season, this is a reason to rejoice.
Trent Still studies at Greenville Presbyterian Theological Seminary. He married out of his league to Roxanne and is beyond blessed as father to Jude. He loves to read and to have his mind captivated by a good book. He desires to be a godly husband and father and aspires to preach the word of God faithfully all of his days and then slip into eternity. You can reach out to him on Facebook and Twitter.