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4. Infancy of Jesus (References: Matt. 2:1-23; Lk. 2:21-39)

Let us first piece together the narrative from these two Gospels. Luke tells of the circumcision of Jesus when He was eight days old, and of the prophesying of Simeon along with the words of Anna on that occasion. After vs. 38 we must turn back to Matthew where we learn of the visit of the Magi, which occurred somewhat later, and then of Herod’s plot to kill the infant Jesus, of God’s warning to Joseph to flee into Egypt with the child, and of their stay there until Herod’s death. Luke takes up the story again at this point and simply states that they returned to Galilee to their own city of Nazareth. However, Matthew fills in details, how they feared to return to Judea when they heard that Herod’s son had become king, so they turned aside into Galilee and settled down in Nazareth.

A. The Circumcision of Jesus. It is evident that Jesus was born and lived under the dispensation of the Law. On the eighth day His parents brought Him from Bethlehem to Jerusalem for His circumcision and for offering the sacrifice demanded by the law. Paul states this truth in Gal. 4:4: “In the fulness of time God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law.” It is most important to remember that we today live in an entirely different divine dispensation from that under which Jesus lived and ministered.

B. The Prophecy of Simeon. The important dispensational part of Simeon’s prophecy is, “Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel: and for a sign which shall be spoken against; (yea, and a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also), that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.” The A.V. translation is faulty, as it predicates the failing and rising of the same persons: the fall and rising again of many. The American Revisers give it correctly: the falling and the rising.” The many of that generation fell; the many of a future generation of Israel will rise again.

Paul is the Apostle who announces the fall of Israel and the future rising or fulness of Israel in Rom. 11:11-32. It is of utmost importance to know when the fall of Israel took place and its effect. Many dispensationalists, as well as most non-dispensationalists, suppose that the fall of Israel occurred at the Cross. They therefore begin the new Christian dispensation on the day of Pentecost. But what are the scriptural facts?

Christ prayed for the forgiveness of those who crucified Him; Peter stated that they had done this in ignorance and that God would restore the Kingdom to them if they would repent; and it is plainly stated in Acts 3:26 that it was to Israel first after God had raised up His Son that God had sent Him to bless them. The fall of Israel came after Pentecost and after the Apostolic testimony of the resurrection of Christ. It was because of Israel’s fall that God raised up a new apostle to announce that fall and the beginning of a new dispensation. Paul’s statement is very clear: “through their (Israel’s) fall, salvation is come unto the Gentiles” (Rom. 11:11). The first Gentile to be saved was in Acts 10 and the door of faith for the Gentiles was not opened until Acts 13 (cf. 14:27). Pentecostalism is the logical outcome of beginning the new dispensation at Pentecost. Scripture plainly indicates it began with Paul at the fall of Israel.

But Christ was also set for the rising of many in Israel. And Paul tells of this also. “Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles, how much more their fulness? For if the casting away of them be the reconciling of the world what shall the receiving of them be but life from the dead?” (Rom. 11:12,15). And he goes on to show that the whole nation of Israel is going to be saved after this gentile dispensation is ended.

C. The Visit of the Magi. It is commonly supposed that the Magi came to Jesus on the night He was born in the manger. The shepherds did come on that glad night. However, it appears that the Magi arrived somewhat later. Jesus was not in a manger when they arrived, but in the house (Matt. 2:11). When Herod plotted to take the life of the infant Jesus, he inquired diligently of the Magi when the star first appeared to them, and then he issued his decree that all children under two years of age in that region should be killed (Matt. 2:16). Why “under two years” if Jesus was but a few days old? Jesus might have been over a year old when Herod acted.

D. Dreams. God dealt with Israel through dreams, visions, and signs. Note that it was in a dream that God told Joseph that Mary was with child by the Holy Spirit; it was by a dream that he warned Joseph to flee into Egypt; it was by a dream that he informed Joseph to return to Israel now that Herod was dead (cf. Hos. 11:1); and it was in a dream that he warned Joseph not to go into Judea but return to Galilee. Note God’s promise to Israel: “your young men shall see visions, and your old men shall dream dreams” (Acts. 2:17).

It is important to note that God does not give people extra-biblical revelation through dreams and visions. Christians who are ignorant of this fact try to interpret their dreams as additional messages from God and end up in confusion and fanaticism. He can speak through dreams, if he chooses, but we must keep in mind that the Bible is complete, having revealed everything we need to know from now to eternity. This is not to say, that God does not work miracles or even speak through dreams today, but anything God says, whether through a dream, vision, impression, or “still voice,” will agree completely with what He has already revealed in His Word. Dreams cannot usurp the authority of Scripture.

E. The King of the Jews. It is significant that the Magi spoke of Jesus as King of the Jews. And, of course, it is significant that these astrologers from an eastern country, perhaps Persia, should have known about the Jewish Messiah. It must be remembered that the Jews were taken captive by the Babylonians and that prophets like Daniel became high government officials in Babylon and Persia. The Jews who returned under Ezra and Nehemiah must have left behind a great deal of knowledge of these prophetic events and apparently the wise men of that area were more diligent than the Jews in studying the prophecies.

Much speculation has been made about the star they saw: was it a nova, a conjunction of two or more planets, or something miraculous. We believe it was not a natural phenomenon, for it is difficult to understand how such a heavenly body which rises and sets every night, tracing the same course across the heavens, could have been a means of guiding the Magi, and especially of pinpointing the very house in which the child lay. It seems more likely that it was a manifestation of the Shekinah glory of God which appeared as a point of light similar to that of a very bright star but which must have been at a much lower elevation, so that it would stand over the very house where Jesus was. The miraculous Light had appeared before, as the glory cloud to give light to Israel when they came out of Egypt, in the most holy place of the tabernacle and temple, from which it departed in the days of Ezekiel (Ezek. 10:4-19). Now the One had come who was the embodiment of the Shekinah glory (cf. 2 Cor. 4:4-6).

5. The Childhood of Jesus (References: Matt. 2:23; Lk. 2:40-52)

This period covers approximately ten to twelve years in the life of Jesus which is passed over in silence except for one event when Jesus was twelve years of age. It is recorded by Luke that Joseph and Mary journeyed from Nazareth to Jerusalem every year to attend the feast of Passover, but there is no record that Jesus went with them except on the occasion when He was twelve years old. After the feast when the family started their journey home, they didn’t notice that Jesus was not in the company until the end of the first day. Discovering His absence, they retraced their steps and searched everywhere in Jerusalem without success, everywhere except in the Temple. They surely wouldn’t expect to find a twelve year old boy in the Temple. It was the last place they looked after three days of frantic searching, and to their amazement there He was answering and questioning the great theologians of the day. Even the doctors of the Law were astonished at His knowledge. His mother remonstrated with Him, “Son, why hast thou dealt thus with us? Behold thy father and I have sought thee sorrowing.” But He answered them: “Why were you looking for me? Didn’t you know that I must be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what He meant. After that Jesus submitted Himself to His earthly parents, went home with them, and was subject to them until the time that He should be revealed to Israel.

A. The Humanity of Jesus Christ. Luke’s gospel emphasizes the humanity of Christ. Christians are sometimes afraid to speak of the humanity of Christ, for fear they will be accused of denying His Deity. But He was the God-man and we must give equal emphasis to His humanity and His Deity. The fact of the Incarnation is stated in Scripture, but the how of it is not. How the eternal Son of God could become a human body, helpless in His mother’s arms, how the One who existed in the form of God from all eternity could grow, and wax strong in spirit (vs. 40), how He could increase in wisdom and stature is a mystery we can never fathom. His conception by the Holy Spirit was miraculous, but from there on as far as His humanity was concerned, everything was natural. The nine-month period of gestation was normal, as with any pregnancy. His birth was normal and natural. There was no halo about His head as He lay in the manger. He looked like any other Jewish child of His day. He no doubt had to learn to walk and to talk like any other child. His body grew and became larger and stronger. His human mind increased in wisdom and knowledge. But, we ask, how could this be if He was the eternal Son of God? We cannot explain the how, but we can understand from the Word the necessity of His taking upon Himself a true human nature and a body of flesh and blood, so that as a Man He might die for our sins and shed His human blood, and so that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest who can be touched with the feelings of our infirmities, and become the One Mediator between God and man.

Very early in the Christian era heresies arose over the Person of Christ. There were those who taught that Jesus was just a man but that the Christ spirit came upon Him at His baptism and then left Him at His death. Others taught that Jesus was not a true human being, but that He was a sort of apparition, appearing as a man but without an actual human body. Still others thought that Jesus was a kind of mixture of human and divine, half God and half man. Yet others held that the Divine Spirit took the place of the human spirit in Jesus. These controversies raged for four hundred years until finally in 451 A.D. at the Church Council of Chalcedon the orthodox statement was formulated from Scripture, holding that in the one Person of Jesus Christ there are two natures, a human nature and a divine nature, each in its completeness and integrity, and that these two natures are organically and indissolubly united, yet so that no third nature is formed thereby. We must not divide His Person or confound His Natures. Jesus Christ is unique. There is no other person with whom to compare Him. We must simply believe what God has told us about Him in His infallible Word. To rationalize and try to explain Him is futile. We might as well try to put the whole ocean in a bucket. If we could explain Jesus Christ, He would be but a finite being unworthy of our adoration and worship.

B. Jesus Called a Nazarene. Matthew simply tells us that Jesus came and dwelt in a city called Nazareth: that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the prophets, He shall be called a Nazarene. Strangely enough, there is no recorded statement in the prophets that the Messiah was to be called a Nazarene. Matthew does not say it was written in the prophets, but spoken by the prophets, so it may be that the prophets had announced this orally but had never written it. Others take it to mean that Nazareth was despised by most Jews, on the basis of John 1:46, “Can anything good come out of Nazareth?,” and therefore a Nazarene means a despised one, and the prophets predicted Messiah would be despised and rejected of men.

6. The Eighteen Silent Years at Nazareth Until the Age of 30 (Reference: Lk. 2:51; 3:23)

The Gospels are completely silent concerning this period in the life of Jesus from the age of 12 to 30 years. We know that Joseph was a carpenter by trade, for the people asked: “Is not this the carpenter’s son?” (Matt. 13:55). And it is evident that Jesus Himself worked in the carpenter’s shop, for in Mk. 6:3 the question is asked: “Is not this the carpenter?” referring to Jesus. If the Gospels were mere human productions they would no doubt contain much about the youthful life of Jesus. God’s design, however, was not to tell of the work His earthly (legal) father gave Him to do, but the work His heavenly Father sent Him to do. Hence His years up to the age of 30 are passed over in silence, except for the visit to the temple at the age of twelve.
(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)


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1.     Annunciation and Birth of John the Baptist

(Reference: Lk. 1:5-25; 57-80)

Luke alone gives an account of the birth of John the Baptist. His father, Zacharias, belonged to the priestly tribe of Levi, as did his mother, Elizabeth. (This is not the same Zachariah as the prophet in the Old Testament.) They were advanced in years and Elizabeth had never been able to have children. Back in the days of King David the priesthood had been divided into twenty-four courses, each course serving in the temple for one week, twice a year (1 Chron. 24:10). While in the holy place an angel appeared unto him and announced that Elizabeth would bear a son who would have the spirit and power of Elijah and was to be named John. Zacharias just could not believe such a thing could happen, and for that reason he was stricken dumb until the prophecy should be fulfilled.

Zacharias went home to his wife after his service in the temple, and she conceived and in due time the child was born. On the eighth day the relatives and neighbors gathered for the circumcision ceremony and they all called his name Zacharias after his father, but Elizabeth said, “Not so, but he shall be called John.” They remonstrated with her that none of her kinfolk bore that name, and then asked Zacharias what name he wanted the child to have. He called for a writing pad and wrote, “His name is John,” and immediately his speech was restored. The people marvelled and fear came upon them and all wondered what manner of child this would be, as the story spread throughout the hill country of Judea.

Then Zacharias was filled with the Holy Spirit and he began to prophesy. His prophecy concerned the Messiah who was not yet born and his own son John. Even though Jesus would not be born for another six months, Zacharias praised God for rising up a Horn of salvation for Israel in the house of His servant David. It is most important to note that Zacharias, filled with the Holy Spirit, brings the same message as did the O.T. prophets concerning God’s promise to the nation of Israel for a physical, earthly kingdom. Theologians of the Post-millennial and Amillennial schools claim that the Jews were greatly mistaken in supposing that God intended to establish them in a literal, material kingdom. They claim that all of these promises which the Jews took literally must be spiritualized. Thus, they teach that Jesus came only to establish a spiritual kingdom in the hearts of men. But what did the Spirit-filled Zacharias in the N.T. say?

“As he spake by the mouth of his holy prophets, which have been since the world began, that we should be saved from our enemies, and from the hand of all that hate us; to perform the mercy promised to our fathers, and to remember his holy covenant; the oath which he sware to our father Abraham, that he would grant unto us, that we being delivered out of the hand of our enemies might serve him without fear, in holiness and righteousness before him, all the days of our life” (Lk. 1:70-75).

Although the actual word “kingdom” does not occur in this passage, it is plainly intimated by the reference to this Deliverer who is raised up in the house of David, and by the twice repeated reference to salvation, not only from sin, but from Israel’s enemies. But it is argued that these could not be physical enemies, such as the Romans, because the Jews were never delivered from them. What proponents of this objection fail to understand is that this deliverance was conditioned upon Israel’s repentance and acceptance of the Messiah. These conditions become evident later on in the preaching of Jesus and of the apostles, (cf. Lk. 19:41-44; Acts 3:18-26). The fact that the generation of Israel rejected the Messiah does not mean that these national promises of the kingdom will never be fulfilled. God swore with an oath to Abraham and He promised David that even though Israel failed He would finally restore His kingdom, (2 Sam, 7:5-17). Therefore, this Davidic covenant must yet be fulfilled.

Zacharias also prophesied that John would be called the prophet of the Highest, to prepare the way for the coming of the Lord, and to give the knowledge of salvation unto Israel by the remission of their sins. All what we are told of his childhood is that he grew and became strong in spirit and lived in the wilderness till the day of his manifestation to Israel.

2.     Annunciation and Birth of Jesus

(References: Matt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:26-56; 2:1-20; John 1:14)

Luke also tells of the annunciation to Mary by the angel Gabriel. It took place six months after Elizabeth had conceived John. This is the first “hail Mary.” Roman Catholics have repeated it millions of times since then.

Truly, Mary was highly honored to be chosen to be the mother of the humanity of God’s Son, but the high honor bestowed upon her, exalting her as immaculately conceived and higher than Christ himself, substituting her as the intercessor between God and man, when Scripture states there is only one Mediator between God and man, the Man Christ Jesus (1 Tim. 2:5), is an invention of the Roman Church.

When the angels said, “Thou hast found favor with God,” he used the word which is almost always translated “grace.” This is the first time grace is mentioned in the N.T. and one of the eight times it is used in Luke, which may indicate the influence of the Apostle of Grace upon Luke. Mary needed the grace of God just like any other human. If Mary had been sinlessly conceived as Romanists aver, she would not have needed a Savior; but in the Magnificat she exclaims: “My spirit hath rejoiced in God my Savior” (vs. 47).

Matthew says nothing about the annunciation to Mary but he does tell us that Mary was espoused to Joseph and that she was found to be with child before they had come together. According to the law Joseph could have called for her death (Deut. 22:20-24), but because he was a just man he decided to follow Deut. 24:1 and put her away quietly. But an angel appeared unto him in a dream and told him not to fear to take Mary to himself, because the conception had been by the power of the Holy Spirit and the child should be named Jesus for He shall save His people from their sins. Upon awaking, Joseph took Mary as his wife, but had no sex relations with her until she had brought forth her firstborn. Catholic doctrine refuses to accept this plain statement of Matt. 1:25. Mary had other children after Jesus was born. Ch. 13:55,56 names four brothers of Jesus as well as sisters.

Matt. 1:22 is the first of the many “that it might be fulfilled” statements in Matthew. Here the fulfillment is the Virgin Birth as predicted in Isa. 7:14.

Returning to Luke’s account in ch. 1:32,33 God makes it abundantly clear that the N.T. and the O.T. are in perfect agreement on the subject of Israel’s promised kingdom. God is going to give to Jesus the throne of His father David, and He shall reign over the house of Jacob forever and of His kingdom there shall be no end. Some theologians claim we today are spiritual Israelites but we have never heard any claim to be spiritual Jacobites. Jacob was his natural name: Israel his divinely given name. Christ is going to reign over the house of Jacob. Notice too that the Kingdom will have no end. The Millennial form of the Kingdom will have an end, but the Kingdom will continue after that in the new earth without end. After the last enemy is subjugated under the feet of Jesus, there will be no further need of Jesus to reign with a rod of iron, as in the Millennial Kingdom (Rev. 2:27; 12:5; 19:15, cf. 1 Cor. 15:26-28).

Luke gives a very detailed account of the actual birth of Jesus, which might be expected from a medical doctor. His mention of the taxation which was made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria helps to tie in the birth of Christ with secular history and it provides another example of the Providence of God: how He works through seemingly unrelated events to bring about His ends. It was because of the taxation that Joseph and Mary had to take the journey down to Bethlehem to enroll and while there Mary’s time to be delivered came. Thus, Jesus was born in Bethlehem instead of Nazareth and a prophecy uttered 700 years earlier was fulfilled (Mic. 5:2). One would have thought that God would see to it that His Son was born in the most pleasant and commodious surroundings, perhaps in the palace of the king, but this was the first step in His humiliation. There was no room in the inn, so He was born in a stable (cf. Phil. 2:5-8).

Luke also is the one who has given us the beautiful store of the shepherds. It was a joyous announcement: “Peace on earth, good will toward men.” But before the ministry of Christ had ended He was being rejected by Israel, so that He had to change all of that joyous message and instead ask: “Suppose ye that I am come to give peace on earth? I tell you, Nay; but rather division” (Lk. 12:51). It has been said that there can be no lasting peace on earth until Israel is established in her land, until Christ is in His rightful place on the throne of David, and until Satan is in his appointed place, the lake of fire.

There has been much controversy over the date of Christ’s birth. There are several logical arguments against the traditional date of Dec. 25 for the birth of Christ. It is argued that the shepherds would not be abiding in the open fields with their flocks in the dead of winter, not only because of the cold nights (it does snow in Jerusalem), but because there would be no pasturage at that season. It is also argued that the Roman government would not choose a time for the enrollment when it would be most difficult for the people to travel back to their own cities. And then the improbability of Mary in her condition taking this trip on donkey-back of some seventy miles in the winter is pointed out. From May through October there is no rain in Israel, but in December the almost continuous winter rains set in which continue through February. The hill country through which they travelled had an average elevation of 3000 feet. Such a journey through cold rains and even snow would surely have been a most difficult trip for a woman ready to give birth to a child.

It may at first seem strange that Mary who belonged to the tribe of Judah had a cousin, Elizabeth, who belonged to the priestly tribe of Levi. Edersheim, an authority on Jewish matters, states:

There can be no question, that both Joseph and Mary were of the royal lineage of David. Most probably the two were nearly related, while Mary could also claim kinship with the Priesthood, being, no doubt, on her mother’s side, a blood relative of Elizabeth, the Priest-wife of Zacharias. Even this seems to imply that Mary’s family must shortly before have held higher rank, for only with such did custom sanction any alliance on the part of Priests.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)


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What we have called the Preparatory Period includes the Introductions to the Gospel accounts, the Genealogies of Jesus, the Annunciation and Birth of both John the Baptist and of Jesus, the Infancy of Jesus, His childhood until the age of twelve when He visited Jerusalem with His parents, and the silent years at Nazareth until the age of thirty.


  1. Introductory Statements References: Matt. 1:1-17; Mk. 1:1; 1:1-4; 3:23-38; John 1:1-13

Each of the Gospels presents certain introductory materials.

Matthew begins by tracing the genealogy of Jesus from Abraham through David down to Joseph, the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born. The genealogy is given in three sections of fourteen generations each: from Abraham to David, from David to Josiah, and from Josiah to Jesus. Actually, there are more than fourteen generations in each, according to the O.T., but for purposes of design, some of the generations were dropped by Matthew. It should be noted that in every case from Abraham to Joseph the expression “begat” is used, but it is not said’ that Joseph begat Jesus, for Jesus was begotten by the Holy Spirit before Joseph and Mary came together. Joseph is said to have been the husband of Mary, of whom was born Jesus.

Mark begins very bluntly without any introduction: “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” The Servant is the Son of God.

Luke begins by informing us of the source of his information about Jesus. He addresses his Gospel to Theophilus. The name may refer to an individual, or the address may be to any lover of God, for that is the meaning of the name. We learn from Luke that many men had attempted to set in order a narrative of Christ’s life. He was not speaking of either Matthew’s or Mark’s Gospel, but of uninspired, pseudo-gospels. Luke was a man of science and he collected his information in a scientific manner. He interviewed those who were eyewitnesses from the beginning of the life of Jesus. He claims to have had perfect understanding of all things from the very first. The expression “from the very first” is the Greek word anothen, which is translated elsewhere “from above,” five times, and “the top,” three times. If this more usual meaning is applied to this passage, it makes Luke say that he had received perfect knowledge of these things from above, that is, by Divine revelation. This view is adopted in the Scofield Reference Bible.

Luke also gives a genealogy, but it is placed later at the very beginning of the ministry of Jesus, (3:23-38). It begins with Jesus and traces His line all the way back to Adam, the first man. It is instructive to note that Paul goes back to Adam when teaching the subject of reconciliation. Paul comprehends the whole human race under the headship of one or the other of just two men: the first man Adam, and the second man, the Lord Jesus Christ, (1 Cor. 15:22,45-47; Rom. 5:12-19). Matthew traces Christ’s genealogy through David’s son, Solomon; whereas Luke carries it through another son of David, Nathan. Matthew states that Jacob begat Joseph, the husband of Mary; whereas Luke states that Joseph was the son of Heli. Heli was apparently the father of Mary and Joseph was the son-in-law of Heli. Thus, the genealogy is Mary’s line of descent. Thus both Joseph and Mary were descendants of King David. It should be noted that in Joseph’s genealogy there is a king by the name of Jeconiah, or Coniah, as he is called in Jer. 22:28- 30, who was the last of the Davidic line to reign over Judah. In the Jeremiah passage it is stated: “Thus saith the Lord, Write ye this man childless, a man that shall not prosper in his days: for no man of his seed shall prosper, sitting upon the throne of David, and ruling anymore in Judah.” Had Joseph been the actual father of Jesus (he was His legal father), this curse would have fallen upon Jesus. But the mother of Jesus was also descended from David through a line ‘that is free from this curse. Thus, it was not an arbitrary choice which God made for the human mother of His Son. She was the only one, married to Joseph, who would have overcome this curse.

John introduces Jesus as the Word or Logos, as having eternally existed with God. The term “Logos” was used by the philosophers of the day to signify impersonal Reason which operated between God and the material creation as the mediating principle. But John shows the true Logos to be personal, the eternal Son of God who communicates God to man. Just as words are the means of communicating one’s thoughts to another, so Christ as the Word is the Revealer of God to man.

When John says that the Word “was” in the beginning, the verb used means “existed,” without any thought of coming into being. This is in contrast to the word used in 1:14,’where the Word “was made” or “became” flesh. The Word as a Person always existed, but as a Man He became or came into being. That the Word is co-existent with God is also seen in the fact that He made everything that has ever been made, which must exclude the Maker from having been made, and in the further fact “that in him was life.” He was not merely alive: He is life, the originator and giver of life. Translate vs. 9: “That was the true Light coming into the world, which enlightens every man …”

It should be noted that John begins where the other Evangelists leave off, for in the very first chapter he announces Israel’s rejection: “He came unto his own and his own received him not, but as many as received him, to them he gave the authority to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name.” John wrote his Gospel near the end of the first century, well into the present Church Age. For that reason, it seems to be a sort of bridge from the earthly, life of Christ to the present Divine order. John places special emphasis upon the death of Christ and upon belief or faith as the basis of salvation, truths which are especially emphasized by Paul in the gospel of the grace of God.

Thus, we can see that John’s Gospel has a much closer relationship and application to believers in this present Pauline dispensation of the grace of God than do the Synoptics. John wrote to people who were living almost thirty years after the death of the Apostle Paul, which was many years after the new revelation was given through. It is our belief that John was guided by John does not reveal Body of truth, as such, but, as stated earlier, he begins where the Synoptics end, and places special emphasis upon believing, upon the Deity of Jesus Christ, upon the ministry of the Holy Spirit, upon the oneness of believers in Christ, upon the universality of the Gospel. It is for these and similar reasons that the Gospel of John has been distributed so widely as a separate Scripture portion in evangelistic efforts. And it is for this reason we have expressed the belief that John’s Gospel provides a bridge between the former and the present dispensations.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)


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BACKGROUND (Continues)

The Design of the Gospels

Why do we have four separate records of the life of Christ instead of just one? Would it not have been better to have one complete record instead of four incomplete ones? The Old Testament sets forth the character of the promised Messiah in a four-fold fashion.

  • Matthew – One of the Old Testament titles for the Messiah is “the Branch,” meaning that which sprouts or springs forth. In Jer. 23:5 the Messiah is called, “the Branch of David.” David was the King of Israel with whom God had made a covenant concerning an everlasting King and Kingdom. Matthew introduces Jesus as the Son of David in his opening sentence, and emphasizes the truth concerning the Messianic Kingdom.
  • Mark – The Messiah is called “Jehovah’s Servant the Branch,” in Zech. 3:8Mark presents Jesus especially in this character. Unlike Matthew; who traces the genealogy of Jesus in the kingly line back to David and Abraham, Mark says nothing about His line of descent, which is of little importance for a servant. He does introduce Jesus in the first verse as the Son of God, but nothing is said about the origin of His humanity. The activity of Jesus is swift and moving in Mark. Over and over Mark used the word translated, “immediately,” “straightway,” giving the impression that Jesus was constantly serving God. Jesus was the ideal Servant of God, always doing the Father’s will, and is thus an example for all servants of God in all ages, as far as devotion and dedication are concerned. Since He was living under the Mosaic Law dispensation and was introducing the Messianic Kingdom, the type of His ministry varies in many respects from that which God has ordained for today.
  • Luke – The Messiah is also set forth as “the Man whose name is the Branch,” (Zech. 6: 12). The emphasis in Luke’s Gospel is on Jesus as the Son of man. Luke traces the genealogy of Jesus all the way back to Adam, the first man. He gives many details about the birth and childhood of Jesus which are omitted by the other writers. The favorite title of Jesus for Himself was “the Son of man.” It is not recorded that anyone else called Him by this name.
  • John – Finally, Isa. 4:2 speaks of the Messiah as “the Branch of Jehovah.” John was written to exalt Jesus especially as the Son of God. He states the purpose of his Gospel to be “that ye might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing ye might have life through his name,” (John 20:31). He establishes the Deity of Jesus Christ in the very first verse of his

John makes it evident that the Gospels contain only a partial record of all that Jesus said and did, for he states: “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world could not contain the books that should be written,” (John 21:25). Each of the Gospel writers chose only those words and events which contributed to the design of his Gospel. It is as though four men were stationed on four sides of a building and each asked to write a description of the building. They would all be writing about the same building, but each would see features not apparent to the others, and in places their descriptions might vary to the extent that they were describing entirely different buildings. Thus there are differences between the four Gospels, but the differences are not contradictions or errors on the part of the writers, but rather are evidences of design.

The Synoptic Problem

The word “synoptic” means “seen together.” It is applied to Matthew, Mark, and Luke, because these three Gospels are very similar in content and order. The problem is, that we have three separate records of the life of Jesus which are so similar and yet have distinct differences.

Part of the Synoptic problem stems from defective views of inspiration. All Scripture is God-breathed and therefore inerrant. If this claim of Scripture for itself is denied or compromised, then some questions about the differences are valid. Inspiration does not exclude the use of human sources; in fact, Luke tells us that he received his information from those who were from the beginning eyewitnesses. Inspiration would not rule out the theory commonly held that one writer used an earlier written Gospel as a model. Inspiration demands that the Holy Spirit superintended what these men wrote. They were led to sources and selected such materials which would fulfill God’s purpose in having each of the four Gospels written. Not only so, but there must have been a certain amount of direct revelation of facts to them of things they could not have known otherwise. How could they have known what words were spoken between Christ and Satan in the temptation when no one else was present; or how could they have known what Christ prayed in the garden while they were asleep? Actually, Matthew and John were apostles and were personal witnesses of practically all that Jesus said and did, so that they would have had little need for outside sources of information.

There are differences in wording and in the chronological arrangement of parallel passages in the Synoptics which need to be explained. E.W. Bullinger argues that each of the Synoptics give exactly the same chronological order and that what appears to be parallel passages in the three Gospels are only similar and not identical events. He claims, for example, that instead of there having been three temptations of the Lord as commonly believed, there were six: Matthew mentions three and Luke the other three. Instead of there having been two others crucified with Jesus, there were four: two thieves and two malefactors. While it is evident that there are cases of similar sayings and events which are not identical in the Synoptics, it appears unreasonable to explain every difference on this basis.

None of the Gospel writers made mistakes, and any differences in their accounts could be reconciled if all of the facts were known. A great deal of textual criticism has proceeded on the basis that the differences are due to erroneous information the writers received from their various sources, but this approach is purely naturalistic and is opposed to Divine inspiration. Others hold the inconsistent view that the important spiritual truths are inspired but the less important historical parts are not inspired and therefore open to mistakes.

There are numerous factors which may explain the differences between the Gospels. Christ no doubt spoke to His people in Hebrew or Aramaic. We know that Paul spoke to the Jews in Hebrew (Acts 22:2), so it is reasonable to suppose that Christ did likewise. The Gospels were written in Greek. Translating from Hebrew into Greek could explain the difference in words or order of words. Pilate wrote the inscription over the Cross in three languages: Hebrew, the national language, Latin, the official language, and Greek, the common language (John 19:20). It is possible that the differences in the wording of this inscription in the four Gospels is due to translation from the Hebrew or the Latin. It is evident also that Jesus often repeated parables and other sayings, so that what may appear to be a part of the Sermon on the Mount misplaced in Mark or Luke, may in fact have been part of another discourse. An evident example of this may be seen in the parable of the candle. In Lk. 8:16 we read: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, covereth it with a vessel, or putteth it under a bed; but setteth it on a candlestick, that they that enter in may see the light.” Then in the same Gospel of Luke (11:33), we read: “No man, when he hath lighted a candle, putteth it in a secret place, neither under a bushel, but on a candlestick, that they which come in may see the light.” Here in the same Gospel we find a parable repeated in slightly different words and on an entirely different occasion, with a different application. Had one of these parables been found in Matthew and the other in Luke we might have been tempted to conclude that one or the other of the writers was mistaken in his chronological arrangement of the parable, and that there was a mix-up on whether the Lord spoke of putting the candle under a vessel or a bushel, or in a secret place or under a bed. No doubt if we knew all of the circumstances surrounding the writing of these Gospel accounts, we would have no need for harmonizing them; rather we would discover that are in perfect harmony in the way God has given them to us.

The author is inclined to agree with the following statement of William Kelly:

“It is to me certain that Matthew and Luke were led to follow an exact order, one dispensational, the other moral; that they are more profoundly instructive than if one or the other, or both, had adhered to the very elementary manner of an annalist; and that it is a mere blunder therefore to characterize any resulting difference of arrangement (such as Matt. 8:28, etc., compared with Mk. 5:1, etc., and Luke 8:26, etc.) as a real discrepancy.”

The Relation of the Gospels to the Church

To set forth the relation of the Gospels to the Church we must first define what is meant by the Church. The Greek word translated church occurs 116 times in the N.T., and some 70 times in the Greek translation of the O.T. Some theologians believe God has had but one church from the beginning of time, which is composed of all of the redeemed of all ages – past, present, and future. Under this view the Gospels would be completely related to the Church. Other theologians do not recognize the existence of a church in the O.T., believing that John the Baptist and Jesus founded the Church, and therefore accordingly this view relates the Gospels completely to the Church. Another group of theologians teach that there was no church until the Day of Pentecost after the close of the Gospel records. This view makes at least part of the Gospels apply to Israel’s Kingdom teaching, and other parts to anticipate the formation of the Church.

There seems to have been some sort of an O.T. Israelitish “Church” (Acts 7:38), the existence of a “church” of believers on the day of Pentecost, and the prediction of a “Church” in the Millennial Kingdom (Heb. 2:12 cf. Ps. 22:22). God suspended His dealings with this Kingdom Church when the nation of Israel rejected the Kingdom Gospel which was preached in the early chapters of the Acts, and God began a new Church with the out calling of the Apostle Paul, which is designated “the Church which is His (Christ’s) Body” (Eph. 1:22,23). This Church and its administration is said to have been a secret never before made known to the sons of men in other ages and generations until it was revealed to Paul (Eph. 3:1-9; Col. 1:24-26).

According to this view the primary interpretation of the Gospels relates entirely to the nation of Israel and its Messianic Kingdom expectations. However, this does not mean that there is nothing in the Gospels for members of the Body of Christ, for there are many moral and spiritual truths which apply equally to Israel and the Body of Christ. Paul states that the Gentiles in this present Church age have been made partakers of Israel’s spiritual things (Rom. 15:27). Therefore, as we study the Gospels, we must carefully distinguish those truths which apply only to the people of Israel and the teaching which may apply equally to us today. It is necessary to recognize the fact that the Lord Jesus was born under and lived under the O.T. (Rom. 15:8; Gal. 4:4), and that the N.T., which was made with the house of Israel (Heb. 8:8), did not actually begin until the death of Christ at the very end of the Gospels (Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:15-17).

The historic truth contained in the Gospels is foundational to the whole scheme of redemption as found in the Pauline epistles. Apart from this truth there could be no basis for the existence of the Body of Christ and of the present dispensation of the grace of God.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)


0 Dispensationalism


The Old Testament and the Gospels

It is sadly true that many Christians never read or study the Old Testament, with the exception, perhaps, of the Book of Proverbs and Psalms. They believe that the Old Testament is simply a book of Jewish folklore which has little, if any, relationship to the New Testament.

There is also a large group of Christians, who applies allegorical interpretation to the Old Testament and spiritualize the content. They read things into Scripture that God never intended when the Holy Spirit inspired the Scriptures. They therefore never come to a proper understanding of the golden thread that starts in Genesis and ends in Revelation.

To start reading or studying the Bible with the first book of the New Testament is like starting to read a novel in the middle of the book. It is commonly supposed that Jesus came to introduce a new religion, but nothing could be further from the truth. The New Testament states that “Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision (the Jewish nation) for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers” (in the Old Testament), (Rom. 15:8). In reading the Gospels one is struck by the number of times it is recorded that Jesus did this or said that, “that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by this or that Old Testament prophet.” Jesus Himself said: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets (i.e., the Old Testament): I am not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Therefore, an understanding of the Old Testament is essential for an understanding of what Jesus was saying and doing in the four Gospels.

Peter sums up the teaching of the Old Testament Scriptures under a two-fold theme: “the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow” (1 Pet. 1:11). The first was accomplished at His first coming; the second will be accomplished at His second coming. The glory that should follow refers to the Messianic, millennial Kingdom, which both John the Baptist and Jesus announced as being near at hand. The theme of the Gospels is the King and His Kingdom. These two words appear some 178 times in the Gospels.

The Kingdom is usually designated as the Kingdom of the Heavens in Matthew, and in the parallel passages in Mark and Luke as the Kingdom of God.

This Kingdom is not to be understood simply as a spiritual condition of the hearts, or as the general sovereignty of God over the universe. God’s Kingdom in this sense has always existed, but the Kingdom referred to in the Gospels had not yet come into existence. It was near at hand when the King came to earth, and the King taught His disciples to pray, “Thy Kingdom come; thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This Kingdom is the Davidic, Messianic Kingdom, which is the subject of Old Testament prophecy and which is to be established upon the earth with the renewed nation of Israel, over which Jesus Christ will reign as King of kings and Lord of lords.

But before that Kingdom could be established an important prophecy had to be fulfilled. Jesus must first suffer and die for the sins of the world, even as Peter had said, before the glory of the Kingdom could be realized. Therefore, it was not until after His death that the Kingdom could be offered to Israel in the sense that now nothing stood in the way of its establishment but the condition that the nation of Israel repent and be converted (Acts 3:17-26).

Thus, we do not believe, as some teach, that Israel was cast aside at Pentecost and the new and ”unprophesied” dispensation began in the formation of the Church which is Christ’s Body. In speaking to the leaders of Israel in Acts 3:26 Peter states: “Unto you first, God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you.” The message in Acts was still to Israel only. Israel rejected this offer of the Kingdom with the result that God temporarily suspended His purpose to establish Israel’s Kingdom on earth, and instead revealed an entirely new purpose which He had ordained before the beginning of time.

This purpose concerned the out calling of the Body of Christ, a truth never before made known to mankind and therefore designated as the Mystery or secret. This truth was revealed to the new Apostle Paul and is recorded in his epistles. While Israel and the Body of Christ are separate and distinct groups of the redeemed, both share equally in the redemptive work of Christ.

The Writers of the Gospels

The Author of the Gospels is the Holy Spirit: the human writers were Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. While each of the writers wrote in his own style, from his own point of view, selecting certain incidents and omitting others, the Holy Spirit so superintended their writing that the end product was exactly what God  wanted, and was thus inerrant as the Word of God.

Only two of the writers were apostles, Matthew and John. Matthew had been a publican, or tax collector for the Roman government. He is referred to as Matthew in Matt. 9:9, 10:3; Mk. 3:18; Lk. 6:15; Acts 1:13; and as Levi, the son of Alphaeus in Mk. 2:14; Lk. 5:27,29.

John was not only the writer of the fourth Gospel, but of three epistles and the book of Revelation. John and his brother James were sons of Zebedee, and were called by Jesus as they were in a boat mending their nets (Matt. 4:21,22; Mk. 1:19), although there seems to have been an earlier call as recorded in John 1:35. Peter, James, and John formed an inner circle of the disciples. James and John were named Boanerges by Christ, which means “sons of thunder,” a name which no doubt reveals much about their character. They wanted to call down fire from heaven to destroy a Samaritan village which had refused them hospitality (Lk. 9:54). This violent characteristic seems to be in sharp contrast to the other picture of John as the apostle of love. It was no doubt the regenerating work of the Spirit of God which transformed this son of thunder into a son of love.

John refers to himself in his Gospel as “that other disciple” and “the disciple that Jesus loved,” (John 18:16; 19:26; 20:2,3,4,8; 21:7,20,23,24). John is mentioned by Paul in Gal. 2:9 as one of the pillars of the church in Jerusalem. Tradition has it that John became a pastor at Ephesus and that he was later exiled to the Isle of Patmos off the West coast of Asia Minor, where he wrote the book of Revelation (Rev. 1:9). It is believed that his Gospel was written at a very late date, possibly around 90 A.D. He thus lived well into the new dispensation which was introduced by Paul, and this fact no doubt explains, in part at least, why John’s Gospel differs so widely from the other three.

Mark’s mother owned a home in Jerusalem where the disciples often met for prayer (Acts 12:12). He was a nephew of Barnabas and accompanied Paul and Barnabas on their first missionary journey (Acts 13:5,13). When the going got rough Mark deserted and went back home to Jerusalem. Paul’s refusal to take him on their next trip caused a rupture in the fellowship of Paul and Barnabas (Acts 15:36-41). However, Paul later writes that Mark had proved himself faithful and that he had become profitable to Paul’s ministry (Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11). Mark also had very close ties with Peter, who refers to him as “my son” (1 Pet. 5:13). It is believed by some that Peter related the facts to Mark, which he wrote down and which became the Gospel according to Mark. Many believe this was the first of the Gospels to be written.

Luke was not an apostle; in fact, as far as is known he had no connection with the Christian movement until he met the Apostle Paul. Many expositors believe he was a Gentile, and if so, he was the only Gentile writer of the Scripture. Others think he was a Jew of the dispersion, perhaps from Antioch, where Paul and Barnabas ministered. His name appears only four times in the N.T., (2 Cor., subscript; Col. 4:14; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. 24). Luke first appears on the scene in the book of Acts where the narrative changes from the third person to the first person plural, when Luke apparently joined Paul’s party (Acts 16:10). From this point on Luke was one of Paul’s most faithful companions. Paul calls him “the beloved physician.” He was a medical doctor, as attested by the fact that his writings contain many medical terms. He tells us that he got his information about the life and ministry of Jesus Christ from those who from the beginning had been eyewitnesses and ministers of the Word.

The Apostle Paul seems to have had a marked influence upon Luke’s account. The Gospel of Luke itself sets forth that conception of Christ’s life and work which was the basis of Paul’s teaching. He represents the views of Paul, as Mark does of Peter… Some two hundred expressions or phrases may be found which are common to Luke and Paul, and more or less foreign to other New Testament writers.

An example of this influence may be seen in the use of the word translated grace. This is one of the predominant words in Paul’s vocabulary, occurring 100 times in his epistles (not counting Hebrews, where it occurs eight times). The word does not occur even once in Matthew or Mark, but Luke uses it eight times in his Gospel and sixteen times in Acts.

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)


0 Dispensationalism


There is a great need for a commentary on the four Gospels which would have as its primary objective to show the relationship between the earthly teachings of our Lord Jesus Christ and those of the Old Testament prophets, the Book of Acts, the Pauline epistles, and the future development of the Kingdom of God. It is of great importance to grasp the primary meaning of these teachings as they were intended to be understood by those who were actually addressed.

Most of the available commentaries on the Gospels deal with each of the books separately. Since there is so much in common between the four Gospels, especially between the first three, it is best suited to deal with the four collectively, instead of individually, thus following the form of a harmony.

The King James Version will be used as the basic text in this study.

It is not possible to arrange the events in the life of our Lord in an exact chronological order, and that for several reasons. The Gospel writers do not relate events in the same chronological order. Many events are recorded in only one of the Gospels, often making it difficult to place them in the correct order. Many events as recorded by each of the writers might appear to be identical, but may be only similar, having taken place on different occasions. But in a work of this kind some order must be decided upon, and the decision has been made to follow very closely the order as found in the gospel of Mark.

We adopt a literal type of interpretation of the Scriptures, as opposed to a spiritualizing principle. He accepts the principle enunciated by the Apostle Paul that the present divine economy was not made known to the sons of men in other ages and generations. He advocates the Pre-millennial view of the Second Coming of Christ and the Pre-tribulation view of the Rapture of the Church. In keeping with the views of most Pre-millennialists, he is committed to the dispensational principle of interpretation of Scripture. The dispensational principle is the recognition of the fact that God has from time to time, made certain administrational changes in His dealings with His people, an example of which is stated in Heb. 7:12: “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.” Dispensational hermeneutics seeks to discover such changes and to interpret the Scriptures accordingly.

Dispensationalists teach that the blood of Christ is the basis for man’s salvation in every dispensation (Rom. 3:25), and that faith in God and in His Word has been the human requirement for salvation in every dispensation (Heb. 11:6). However, the content of God’s revelation to man has varied from one dispensation to another. It was not possible that the Old Testament saints could have had as the conscious object of their faith the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ, as we have today. Their faith in God was manifested in other  ways, as is clearly taught in the catalog of men of faith in Hebrews 11, beginning with Abel down to the last of the prophets. Faith always believes God; whether He says to bring a sacrifice or believe in the sacrifice of Christ.

While it is very important to understand to whom God is speaking in the various parts of the Bible, and thus keep the dispensations distinct, it is equally important to understand the purpose of the Bible, whatever dispensation is involved. The purpose of the Bible is stated very succinctly in 2 Tim. 3:16,17: “All scripture is God-breathed, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Jesus came to save us from sin: not simply from the penalty of sin and to get us to heaven at last, important as that is; but to save us from sin itself. Unless our study of the Bible has a sanctifying influence upon our manner of life, unless it cleanses our lives from sinful acts and habits, unless it promotes the fear of God, unless it increases our love for Jesus Christ, unless it produces fruitful service for God, it is all in vain. We must know the Word of God in order for it to produce these results, as it is possible to know the facts of the Word without having our lives changed and conformed to the image of God’s Son (Rom 8:29).

(Main Source: Understanding The Gospels – A Different Approach – Charles F. Baker)