The First Years of Christianity: That Which Was From the Beginning

 •  11 min. read  •  grade level: 8
From the holy inspired writings of John we see the vast importance of holding fast that which was from the beginning He says, “Let that therefore abide in you, which ye have heard from the beginning If that which ye have heard from the beginning shall remain in you, ye also shall continue in the Son, and in the Father.” These words do not refer to the past eternity, but the beginning of Christianity — to the manifestation of eternal life, the Incarnate Son of God in this world. If we go back to the beginning of all things, of the universe, that blessed Person was ever there. “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.” Distinct in Person, in eternity, yet truly God: with God, and was God. Ever in the beginning: never made or created; for “all things were made by Him; and without Him was not anything made that was made.” Life was not communicated to Him. “In Him was life; and the life was the light of men” (John 1). He then created the universe, “For by Him were all things created, that are in heaven and in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by Him, and for Him. And He is before all things, and by Him all things consist” (Col. 1:16, 1716For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him: 17And he is before all things, and by him all things consist. (Colossians 1:16‑17)). Such is He of whom we now speak, brightness of the glory of God.
He was in His own Person the beginning of Christianity; but Christianity did not truly begin until He died and rose from among the dead. This will be evident if we trace His wondrous history in the four gospels. He was truly man; but oh, how different His holy sinless humanity from our sinful fallen nature. “Therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God (Luke 1:3535And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God. (Luke 1:35)).
According to the prophecies, which holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Spirit, He was announced at His birth as the Messiah, yet as Savior, Emmanuel, God with us. “He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him 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” (Luke 1:3232He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: (Luke 1:32)). We shall find, however, that this forms no part of Christianity, and that His kingdom and earthly glory is yet future. It is, however, important to see Him come in flesh, truly Man, and presented to Israel as the Savior-Messiah — Jesus Christ. Let us be assured that not one jot or tittle of God’s word shall fail. As the Messiah, the wise men from the east came to worship Him, “Saying, Where is he that is born king of the Jews? for we have seen his star in the east, and are come to worship him.” But how contrary to Jewish thoughts: He came in deepest humility. See the Creator of all things laid in a manger. Yes, and we will bow with those divinely guided strangers from the east, and worship Him. Whether laid in the manger, or nailed to the cross, or seated on the throne of glory, worthy, O Lamb of God, art Thou, that every knee to Thee should bow.
And when He was born, the glory could return to this earth. It was not in a palace, but in a stable, for there was no room for Thee, dear Lord, in this world’s inn. This event was not made known by angels to kings or princes; but to those humble shepherds abiding in the, fields, keeping watch over their flock by night. It was to them the angel of the Lord came, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them. Yes, to these poor fearful shepherds did the angel say which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. Heaven bore witness to the birth of the Messiah: “And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host, praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, goodwill toward men.” Born of a woman, under the law, the holy child Jesus, when the appointed day came, was presented to Jehovah in the temple. And the Holy Spirit had prepared a godly remnant to welcome Him, and own Him.
It was revealed unto him [Simeon] by the Holy Spirit that he should not see death before he had seen the Lord’s Christ. Hear the witness of this Israelite brought in by the Spirit at that very moment: “Then took he Him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, ‘Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation, which thou hast prepared before the eyes of all people; a light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel” (Luke 2:26-3226And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ. 27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law, 28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said, 29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: 30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, 31Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people; 32A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel. (Luke 2:26‑32)).
But if heaven rang with praises, and the godly Simeons and the Annas gave this precious witness to the child Jesus, what a contrast in the growl of hatred from the powers of darkness. And the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born (Rev. 12:44And his tail drew the third part of the stars of heaven, and did cast them to the earth: and the dragon stood before the woman which was ready to be delivered, for to devour her child as soon as it was born. (Revelation 12:4)). The court of Herod is troubled at the tidings of the birth of the King, the Messiah. As the agent of Satan, Herod will surely seek to destroy the young child. The angel of the Lord directs the wise men to depart, and Joseph to arise and take the young child and His mother and flee into Egypt. “Then Herod, when he saw that he was mocked of the wise men, was exceeding wroth, and sent forth and slew all the children of Bethlehem,” etc.
Such are a few of the circumstances attending this great wonder, the incarnation of the Son of God.
“And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him. He was the light of men. “That was the true light, which coming into the world lighteth every man. 1
He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.
Behold Him “in the temple, sitting in the midst of the doctors, both hearing them, and asking them questions,” at the age of twelve, “and all that heard Him were astonished at His understanding and answers.” Yet they knew Him not. Even His mother understood Him not, nor knew that He must be about His Father’s business. Nothing more is recorded by the Holy Spirit for many years of His holy life except that He was subject unto His mother and Joseph; and that He increased in wisdom and stature (or age) and in favor with God and man” (Luke 2:51, 5251And he went down with them, and came to Nazareth, and was subject unto them: but his mother kept all these sayings in her heart. 52And Jesus increased in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man. (Luke 2:51‑52)).
And here may we be kept from all the deadly error as to His being the sin-bearer during those years, and obnoxious to the wrath of God. All this is blasphemy against the Holy One of God, whose favor ever rested upon Him. He must be shown to be the perfect One, who knew no sin, before He could be made sin for us on the cross. This was shown whether in the lowly place of retirement as the son of the carpenter, in sinless, perfect subjection, or, as afterward, when presented to Israel.
Well might John the Baptist be surprised when the Son came to him to be baptized. “John forbad Him, saying, I have need to be baptized of Thee, and comest Thou to me?” Yes, it was consistent for Him in deepest humiliation to identify Himself with the godly baptized remnant of Israel. We must notice, that this was John’s and not Christian baptism. “And Jesus answering, said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfill all righteousness Then he suffered Him.”
But had He sins to confess? Was He the sin-bearer then, bowed beneath the wrath of God? Such a thought destroys the true character of His future atonement for sins: no “Jesus when He was baptized, went straightway out of the water: and lo, the heavens were opened unto Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon Him: and, lo, a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.
Such was He to whom John pointed and said, “Behold the Lamb of God, which beareth away the sin of the world.” He was spotless purity itself, the Lamb without blemish. The heavens were not more holy than He: they were open unto Him. The Holy Spirit of God could descend on Him. No spot or stain could the eye of God see in Him. “This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” Blessed Jesus! may we share the delight of the Father in Thee.
The three temptations of the devil could find no response in Him. The Trinity, God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, is for the first time fully revealed at the baptism of Jesus, the Incarnate Son, anointed with the Holy Spirit. He is now led forth to meet the power of the devil. Let us never go forth to meet that fallen one, without the fullest dependence on the same Holy Spirit. It may be observed here, that all error is a denial, or an attack on the truth; yea, on Him who is the truth. To say that the devil is a mere evil principle, or our evil nature, would be to attack Christ, and make Him a fallen being with an evil nature like ourselves. No, the devil is clearly a real person, of great power and subtlety.
How distinctly truth is manifested in the Word of God. We have the heavens opened to a man, and that man the Son, the beloved Son. The Father speaks from heaven to Him. The Spirit descends on Him. Behold the second (last) Adam. The devil overthrew the first Adam in paradise: he has no power to overcome the last Adam in the wilderness — yes, truly man, and in grace entering into human circumstances of fasting and hunger for forty days and nights.
With a doubt the devil attacked the woman, and a presentation of something good to the eye. Very similar the first temptation to our Lord. “If thou be the Son of God command that these stones be made bread.” Is it possible? canst thou be the Son of God, and in such circumstances as these? so faint and hungry? Put forth Thy power, and at my bidding command these stones to be made bread. The devil pretends to seek the good of this hungry sufferer, Alas, we might have suspected no devil, and, no sin behind this plausible temptation. Yes, we might say, That is a good thing, let us use our power to turn stones into bread, and thus relieve our sufferings. Note, this was not a question of the ten commandments. The obedience of Christ consisted in only doing the Father’s bidding; He must have, as the obedient man, a word from God His Father for all He did. The holy scriptures of God have now their place. Jesus answered the devil, “It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” Yes, the devil may tempt Jesus, to meet His need by His own will and power; or to do some great thing to become popular, and to show Himself the Son of God, at the devil’s bidding: or he may present the world to Him; but “It is written” is the answer of the Lord to every temptation. What an amazement would Christendom be in to-day, if even every Christian was to inquire if it be written for everything he is doing. Suppose we try it, beginning on a Lord’s day and look to Him, that we may do nothing for which we cannot find an “It is written.” Now as this stands so prominent in the very opening of His ministry, let us next inquire how the Lord regarded the holy scriptures.
1. The meaning of this text is that the Son, as light, entered the world and thus cast light upon all men, showing the true condition of all men.