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Lesson 8: Born of a Woman - Atonement and the Incarnation *

Introduction: We learned the last two weeks that Christianity is the "thinking person's religion." What we did not discuss was how hard we have to think! In one sense it is easy and logical to line up the Old Testament system for removing sin with the life, death, resurrection and heavenly ministry of Jesus. They just logically fit. On the other hand, it is not so easy to understand how the Creator God could demean Himself to become a human. Even the mechanics of the "God born of a woman" to create a God/human are very difficult to grasp. Let's give it a try by plunging into our Bible study!

  1. Virgin Mary

    1. Read Luke 1:26-28. Do you remember when you were engaged to be married? How did you feel? (It was exciting. Not only is romantic life a great feeling, but the opportunities of life lay before you.)

      1. How would you like this greeting from God given to you by Gabriel?

    2. Read Luke 1:29. How did Mary react to this greeting? Why should she react as she did? (This was an astonishing greeting for a young woman. Why should she deserve this?)

      1. Do you think Mary might have thought this was undue flattery and the angel wanted something from her?

        1. Was it flattery? (No! As we will see God the Father is trusting Jesus to a human - and Mary is the one He picked. This is no flattery.)

    3. Read Luke 1:30-34. Of all of the amazing things that Gabriel says, which one catches the attention of Mary? (She never got beyond his first point -the one about her having a son even though she is not yet married.)

    4. Read Luke 1:35-37. Would this answer your question if you were Mary?

      1. Do you understand the angel's explanation?

      2. What is the most important point made by Gabriel which helps you to understand this? (Gabriel knows he is saying something that is completely inconsistent with human experience. He points out another miracle (the pregnancy of Elizabeth) and says "Nothing is impossible with God." You think this is unusual for God? Imagine speaking the world into existence.)

    5. Let's go back and look more closely at the part of the announcement that did not elicit questions from Mary because she was still working on the first point. Re-read Luke 1:31-33. What is being said about Jesus? Does it clearly say that Jesus is God?

      1. Why does the text say "called the Son of God" instead of "is the Son of God?" (Jesus' status will not simply be declared by Gabriel, it will by acknowledged by humans.)

      2. Read Romans 1:1-4. Why should humans call Jesus "the Son of God?" (Not simply because of Old Testament prophecies, not simply because of His usual conception, His resurrection from the dead shows His power. There are lots of reasons to call Jesus the "Son of God.")

    6. Read Luke 1:38. How does Mary react to this astonishing and unprecedented news? Bring yourself back to the memory place where we started - how did you look at life when you were engaged? How would this change your hopes, dreams and plans? (Mary submits to God's will for her life. Any wonder why God said such great things about her?)

  2. The God Man

    1. Based on this introduction, what would you call Jesus? Half man, half God? (Read Colossians 2:9. The Bible tells us that all of God lived in a human form. Jesus was fully God.)

    2. Compare Hebrews 1:1-3 with Hebrews 5:7-10. Can you reconcile these two descriptions of Jesus? One says Jesus is the "radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being" and the other says "He learned obedience from what He suffered [and became] perfect [and the source of our salvation]." (One sounds completely like God and the other sounds completely like humans. I think that is the right answer - Jesus was fully God and fully human.)

    3. Read 1 Corinthians 15:45-47. Is there a logical link between Adam and Jesus? (Read 1 Corinthians 15:48-49. The Christian life demonstrates the link. We start out as sinful humans (Adam)and we are resurrected to eternal life though Jesus.)

  3. The Baptized Man

    1. Read Matthew 3:13-14. Who has the better argument here, Jesus or John? (The obvious answer is "John." Why does sinless Jesus need to be born again? How could you top His first birth?)

    2. Read Matthew 3:15. Wait a minute. What argument is Jesus making? It convinced John, does it convince you? (Do you recall the "incorporation" concept we considered two weeks ago? When Jesus died, we died in Him. Thus, we died for our sins through Jesus. Jesus is talking about the "front end" of this same idea. When Jesus was baptized, we were baptized corporately. In that way this "fulfilled all righteousness.")

      1. Isn't there a flaw in this incorporation argument? Following Jesus' instructions ( Matthew 28:19-20), His disciples were later baptizing everyone they could get their hands on. Why would new converts need to be baptized if they were "corporately" baptized with Jesus? (Instead of creating a logical hole, I think this fills one. If everyone died for His sins through Jesus, then all would be saved. That is not consistent with the rest of the Bible. Jesus' command to baptize shows that the corporate model has an "opt-in" feature. You died with Jesus when you affirmatively accept Him as your Lord. You are corporately baptized with Jesus when you accept baptism.)

    3. Read Matthew 3:16-17. Who is involved in Jesus' baptism (and, corporately, ours)? (God the Father and God the Holy Spirit.)

      1. Do you now understand why Jesus gave the instructions He did for our baptism? (See Matthew 28:19. His baptism and ours match perfectly.)

  4. The Tested Man

    1. Read Matthew 4:1-2. This immediately follows Jesus' baptism. Why would the Holy Spirit lead Jesus into temptation?

      1. When you think of "spiritual highs" in your life, where would you place the day of your baptism?

      2. What is the point of the fasting? (Read Esther 4:15-16. Esther agreed to be the champion of her people to try to defeat Haman, who wanted to kill the Jews. To prepare for this pivotal meeting with the King, she fasts.)

      3. If you were a battle commander, would you choose the place of battle or would you let your opponent choose it? (I think these questions lead us to the explanation for the odd statement that the Spirit led Jesus into temptation. Braced by baptism and fasting, Jesus is led by the Spirit into combat with Satan. The Spirit picks the time, place and circumstances for the battle.)

      4. Is there a lesson in this for us? (We need to prepare against sin by guarding our thoughts. We need to prepare against sin by knowing God's word. We need to be led by the Holy Spirit. If we know a battle is coming, we should prepare by fasting.)

    2. Read Matthew 4:3-4. Assume you are Satan and you want to cause Jesus to sin. How much time and thought would you put into crafting your opening temptation?

      1. Do you think that Satan is caught unprepared for this battle? (Yes. They are now on Jesus' ground. Satan uses what is there - hunger - to test Jesus on pride and trust in God. It is hard to believe turning stones into bread would be Satan's best approach.)

      2. How does this compare to the temptation of Eve and Adam? (It was pride (be like God knowing good and evil) and it was trusting God (God has kept something good from you).)

      3. What does this teach us about our weaknesses? (It tells us to beware of our pride and failing to trust God. These are prime weapons used by Satan. If Satan would use them against Jesus, he would certainly use them against you.)

    3. Read Matthew 4:5-6. Jesus' answer to the bread temptation is to refer to the Bible. Satan's next temptation relies on the Bible. Has this temptation any parallel to temptations in your life? Has it any parallel to the temptation of Adam and Eve? (This is the opposite problem - presumption. We go from not trusting God to presuming that God will intervene to save us no matter what we do. Adam and Eve presumed God would not do what He said.)

    4. Read Matthew 4:8-10. How serious a temptation do you think this was for Jesus?

      1. What parallel is there to temptations in your life? (Satan is offering Jesus a short-cut. He can avoid all sorts of trouble and pain if He will just take Satan's route. Our lessons are about righteousness through Jesus, but we must never forget Jesus' instruction in Matthew 5:48 that we must strive for holiness - to be perfect as our heavenly Father is perfect. The "short-cut" to holiness is Satan's third temptation to Jesus.)

    5. Friend, you are incorporated into Jesus' baptism and His death and resurrection when you opt into faith in Him. Will you determine today to opt into Jesus' life - to accept the power of the Holy Spirit to live a life pleasing to God?

  5. Next week: Metaphors of Salvation.
* Copr. 2008, Bruce N. Cameron, J.D. All scripture references are to the New International Version (NIV), copr. 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society, unless otherwise noted. Quotations from the NIV are used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. Suggested answers are found within parentheses. The lesson assumes the teacher uses a blackboard or some other visual aid.

© 2021 Bruce N. Cameron, J.D.
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