To My Friends Who Are In Spiritual Exile

Over the past few weeks, we have introduced Matthew’s Gospel and walked through his genealogy. We will finish the genealogy in this session. In the previous sessions we discovered:

    1. Matthew’s purpose was to prove that Jesus was indeed the Jewish Messiah.
    2. Jesus’ adoption into David’s line is a significant point and fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies.
    3. Jesus is the one in whom all creation is completed and the King of kings.

The final section of Matthew’s genealogy (the exile) is located in verses 12-16 in chapter 1 of Matthew’s Gospel. As we read, think about these questions- Why the exile, and do we experience exiles of our own?

Matthew 1:12-16

Then after the exile to Babylon

Jechoniah fathered Shealtiel,

Shealtiel fathered Zerubbabel,

Zerubbabel fathered Abiud,

Abiud fathered Eliakim,

Eliakim fathered Azor,

Azor fathered Zadok,

Zadok fathered Achim,

Achim fathered Eliud,

Eliud fathered Eleazar,

Eleazar fathered Matthan,

Matthan fathered Jacob,

and Jacob fathered Joseph the husband of Mary,

who gave birth to Jesus who is called the Messiah.

People less known

As we read from Abraham to David, we recognized most of the names, as did the Jews. From David to the Exile, we still recognized the names even though the people listed were less well known in the history of the Jews. They might have known the names, but perhaps not the details of each one’s life. In fact, those listed from David to the exile had less space devoted to their stories in the Bible than did those listed from Abraham to David.

Now we read a list of names that we don’t even really recognize and that are barely listed in the records of the Old Testament text. In fact, the only names from this portion of the genealogy that are listed at all in the Old Testament text are Jechoniah, Shealtiel, and Zerubbabel. The other names are not listed at all and we do not currently have, available to us, any ancient literature including this part of Matthew’s genealogy. I do want to observe Haggai 2:21-23 together:

“Speak to Zerubbabel, governor of Judah: I am going to shake the heavens and the earth. I will overturn royal thrones and destroy the power of the Gentile kingdoms. I will overturn chariots and their riders. Horses and their riders will fall, each by his brother’s sword. On that day” — this is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts — “I will take you, Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, My servant” — this is the Lord’s declaration — “and make you like My signet ring, for I have chosen you.” This is the declaration of the Lord of Hosts.”

We already know that David’s dynasty, or the Davidic monarchy, is never reestablished after Jechoniah is deported. Here, we see that in Shealtiel and his son, Zerubbabel, the tradition is preserved (even as Zerubbabel serves in the office of governor under Persian rule, Haggai 1:1, 2:2, 21) and God declares His favor upon the now quasi-royal line. It is likely, according to France, that there was a record available to Matthew because the tradition was already being preserved after the exile. In Matthew’s time, the genealogy would have been confirmable even though those particular documents have been lost to history in our time. That will be a wonderful discovery if and when archaeologists are able to uncover them. It would be a miracle since Herod had a nasty habit of destroying all genealogical documents related to David’s line (particularly the lineage of Ruth) because he did not want his throne to be threatened by a true descendant or by a challenge to his own ancestry. Matthew, though, was using external sources and Joseph certainly knew his own ancestry (Luke 2:4). In Matthew’s Gospel, we see the lineage preserved even though there was an effort by a paranoid king to have it extinguished. The Gospel writer has done a great service to Jewish heritage on this earth.

As we read Matthew’s genealogy, we make our way from the most well-known people to, people who are not even named in the Scriptures. The exile meant something more serious than simply being displaced. It was a condition of darkness, of misunderstanding, of not knowing, and it was a revelation of the depravity of the human condition. God’s plan could not be accomplished by human means, biology, or strategy. In fact, human means, biology, and strategy would always trap people in darkness.

Joseph and Mary

Here, we see facts that we have already established in previous sessions. Joseph was Mary’s husband. Mary gave birth to Jesus even though she was a virgin. Joseph adopted Jesus, making Jesus the legal heir to David’s throne (established by God through this specific line of descendants). For a reminder on those things, please refer to the previous sessions. Jesus was adopted by people in order that He might adopt His people as His own- to abide in His righteousness alone and the glory of the Father alone.

In verse 16, after the depravity described following the exile, the very depravity that was always present and revealed through the depressing history, Matthew refers to Jesus as the Messiah, which literally means deliverer. That is no accident. Matthew’s genealogy frames his Gospel.

A Theology of Deliverance

This is the primary thing that separates protestant faith from Roman Catholicism. In fact, it is the single truth that divides true, biblical Christianity from the impersonators. It is the profession that we must be delivered and the realization of the implications stemming from that profession in this world.

We have nothing to offer and are unable to, by our will, come to faith or enlightenment. We are a people of spiritual exile. We are totally and essentially depraved. God handed us over to sin (Romans 11:32) so that we would recognized how entirely unrighteous we are by nature and so that He might have mercy on us. We need a deliverer to come and retrieve us wholly from the darkness that we love (John 3:19). We need someone who will bear our iniquities even though we all went astray; He was our guilt offering; He justifies the many whose iniquities He bore (Isaiah 53). Jesus grants understanding of the Kingdom and without being delivered, we cannot understand (Matthew 13:10-12).

We are so lost in our unrighteousness that we cannot see or understand or come into the kingdom. We are literally in exile and we need a righteous deliverer who, despite our slavery to our own wills, yanks us from the darkness and into the light. That is the basic truth of Biblical Christianity. Jesus is our only deliverer.

It is very easy for our religion to become so human-centered that we develop Messiah complexes and fool ourselves into making people central in the plan of God- like means of human biology or strategy can accomplish the things of God. We have established over the course of the previous few sessions that this is impossible. So, we get this idea that sin is passed down genetically and we have a problem. We have to figure out how Jesus avoided inheriting original sin!

So, the Roman Catholic Church (RCC) developed the doctrines of the Immaculate Conception and the Assumption of Mary. Mary, though born of regular, natural means, was saved and fully sanctified at the moment of conception so that she would not sin and so that Jesus could be born without inheriting original sin. Because Mary didn’t sin, she was taken up to heaven without experiencing bodily death. These doctrines assume a couple of things:

    1. Sin is our greatest problem to overcome.
      1. Biblically, sin was given by God so that we would recognize our unrighteousness and our depravity. Sin is God’s means of bringing His people to Himself. Without sin, there is no chance of experiencing God’s mercy in salvation.
    2. People can become righteous or be made righteous.
      1. Biblically, our essential nature is unrighteous (Romans 3:10-11), we are not justified by works of the Law or merit of any kind (Romans 3:20), apart from merit God’s righteousness is manifest after being attested to by the Law and Prophets (Romans 3:21), so that those who have faith in Jesus are clothed in His righteousness alone.
      2. We are always and have always been essentially unrighteous so Mary could not have been immaculately conceived or assumed into heaven on the basis of her not having committed any sin. God would deny Himself by doing such a work.
      3. A theology of merit required this rabbit hole of bad exegesis and interpretation and people were all too willing because they love the darkness (John 3:19, again). It is ironic that the church canonized Augustine, who wrote and taught explicitly:

“For we walk by faith, not by sight (2 Cor. 5:7); but faith will start tottering if the authority of scripture is undermined; then with faith tottering, charity itself also begins to sicken. Because if you fall from faith, you are bound also to fall from charity; it is impossible, after all, to love what you do not believe exists” (Teaching Christianity, 124).

As Augustine would address the Pelagians, insisting on Biblical doctrine alone and on sound exegesis, so he would address what the RCC has become in recent history and in the modern day, and also what the evangelical church has become. There is always a natural move toward Pelagianism and always a need, in this sinful world, for reformation.

Without exile, there is no deliverance, no mercy, and no salvation. RCC doctrine, as with most human-centered religious doctrine, reveals the total and essential depravity of humankind. This is just one example of how a religious faith can impersonate biblical Christianity in the world today and lead so many away from knowing who Jesus really is. Without sin, a spiritual exile, no one receives the mercy of God to salvation for His glory alone. This gives me great hope for those people who seem hopelessly lost in their sin and especially for my own generation. Though we have been handed into exile, we know it is so that God’s people will be brought from their own unrighteousness- effectively and permanently delivered by the only one who can deliver.

Questions:

    1. What does it mean for someone to have a messiah complex and why might that attitude be detrimental to our lives and ministries?
    2. How do some beliefs in popular Christianity or in other religions reveal the Messiah Complex of people and our total depravity?

_________________________

Remember to download your free copy of Neat: my letter to the church and to my generation.

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