CHRIST'S BIRTH: WHAT REALLY HAPPENED?
What really happened when Jesus was born in Bethlehem? 2 Corinthians 8:9 answers that question, "For you know the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sake He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” The subject of this message is the remarkable statement that although Christ was rich, He voluntarily gave up all His great wealth and became a poor man that the human race might become rich. What a remarkable statement! The meaning is not apparent on the surface. It always helps to understand a difficult statement by noting the context in which the statement was made, that which was said before and after the statement under study. It may surprise you that what is said before and after is about Christian giving and Christian liberality in the support of the the cause of Christ in this world. Paul mentions the generosity and liberality of Christians in the northern province of Greece, and He used their generosity as an example to Christians in the southern province of Greece, Corinth in particular.
The Christians in Corinth wanted to know how much they were supposed to contribute to the church to help poor Christians in Jersualem. It is not unusual to hear someone say, “I would like to know exactly what I ought to give?” The Jews were obligated to give a tenth of their income to support the priests and Temple worship, but Christians do no live under the law of Moses. Under the Christian religion God does not say exactly how much Christians are to give. When Pau l said, “I do not speak by commandment, he meant there is no command to tell Christians exactly what to give. Christians are to give willingly as they have been prospered, not grudgingly or of necessity for God loves a cheerful giver. 2 Corinthians 8:9 gives the Christian law on how we u are to determine what we give to the Lord. It says, “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.” He refers us to the giving of Christ and exhorts us to follow His example. Did you know that Christ was a very wealthy person before He came to the earth as an incarnate Deity? We know how much Jesus loves us by what He voluntarily laid aside and gave up that He might save us. Love for what He gave us will determine what we give to Him. Paul commends this rule to all Christians–give as you love, and measure your love by your gift. How could Christ be wealthy, yet become poverty-stricken and thereby make all rich who will return His love?
Let us first examine the words, “Though He was rich.” They tell us Jesus was extremely wealthy, and in human terminology says He was a multi-billionaire.. That wouldn't explain how rich He was, but that is as clear as human understanding could express it. This is a difficult truth to understand, for Jesus was the poorest person who ever during His stay on earth. In fact, this is the most difficult truth in the entire Bible to understand. His riches do not refer to any possessions He had during His 33 year sojourn on earth, for the text informs that this was a time of extreme poverty in His life. The great wealth of the Savior is a figurative description of the exalted glory, honor, position and power He possessed in heaven before He came to the earth. He had fabulous wealth in heaven before coming to earth. It is a clear teaching of the word of God in the Christian religion that Jesus pre-existed in heaven and was sent from heaven to be the Savior of the world. One of the most oft-quoted and most memorized scriptures in the Bible is, “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life”(John 3:16). The next verse says, “For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved.” Jesus said to all who heard Him teach, “I am from above; you are from beneath.” The pre-existence of Christ in heaven is an indisputable doctrine of the faith once delivered to the saints. All who deny this truth are under the influence of antiChrist
The difficulty in understanding the fabulous wealth He possessed in heaven before coming to earth is our lack of understanding of the state of existence He had in heaven. In view of this fact, the wise course is to let scripture explain scripture and accept what scripture says about Christ's pre-earthly existence. Of the riches of Christ's pre-existence who adequately speak? Who can tell the wealth of Divine power, dignity and love for the Person in heaven then called, the "Word,” who was with the Father and like the Father. All the angels of God were His servants, and all the works of God were full of His praise. Consider a few scriptures that tell how rich Christ was in heaven before He ever came to earth. John 1:1-3 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God; and the word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him and without Him nothing was made that was made.” John 1:14 says, “And the Word became flesh and dwelled among us.” The greatest thinkers in the Christian religion have concluded from these revealed facts that this person who was with God the Father at the beginning of the universe was the second person of the Godhead, another Divine Being with the same form as the Father. Moreover, God the Father used this Divine Being to create the universe and everything in it. This other Being who was with God and in the same form as the Father became flesh and dwelled among us in a human fom. We call this the incarnation. The Bible says, “Though He was rich.” John gives us some idea of Christ's pre-existent richness, glory and power
The Bible further tells us how rich Christ was before He became a man in Philippians 2:5-9, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who being in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bond servant, and coming in the likeness of men. And being found in the appearance as a man, He humbled himself and became obedient to the point of death, even the death of the cross. Therefore God has highly exalted Him and given Him the name that is above every name that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those in heaven and of those on earth and of those under the earth and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.” This passage reveals that Christ existed in heaven at the beginning of the universe in the form of God, that is, in the form of the second person of the Godhead, and He was equal with God. But in all humility, He was willing to lay aside this equality with God and this Divine form of God and inhabit the body of a man so that He could die as a sacrificial sin offering to God for the human race. This is the most exalted thought ever to enter the mind of man. Though He was rich! What did that mean? It means He once existed in the form of God and was equal with God, but he voluntarily laid all this glory and honor aside that He might become the Savior of mankind. It could be said Jesus existed in the form of God at the beginning because in coming to earth as the second person of Godhead was united together with Jesus Chris of Nazareth as one person, one personality, being both God and man, Divine and human
We cannot think of the second person of the Godhead apart from Jesus, and we cannot think of Jesus apart from the second person of the Godhead. God the Father joined them together, and they are now one and the same person. It is beyond all imagination that a Divine Being with all the honor and glory He had in heaven would be willing to give all this up to become a man. But the infallible word of God says He did it. That is the glory of Christ. Is it possible that the second person of the Godhead and Jesus Christ will be united as one personality forever? No one knows the answer to that question. Be that as it may, it is a great honor to the human race that God could create a human being who was both God and man, human and divine. We can believe it because the Bible says, “With God nothing is impossible;” and the Bible says God the Father did it. This is he greatest test of all tests for the human race. Dear reader, I hope you have passed this test. Eternal life is at stake in believing the doctrine of the incarnation.
I will give you one more scripture that suggests how rich Christ was when He existed in heaven as the Divine “Word,” that other Divine Being in eternity. In one of the Lord's prayers to the Father He spoke these words, “I have glorified You on earth. I have finished the work You gave Me to do. And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with you before the world was”(John 17:4,5). Riches and wealth Christ once possessed in heaven is called “the glory” He had with the Father before the world was. This was far more than a simple return to a pre-existent state. It involved the restoration of that complete fellowship He enjoyed with the Father in the eternity which preceded His coming to earth. In coming to our world, He voluntarily assumed a position of inferiority to the Father for His work on earth. But when His work on earth was finished, He was restored to the position of full equality on His return to His heavenly home. Without faith in God it is impossible to please God. Those who do not believe in the incarnation of Christ refuse to believe what God Himself said He did, and they will miss heaven.
We have studied how rich Jesus was in heaven, let us next consider the Savior's impoverishment as expressed in the text: “For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich. From what we have learned about Christ's pre-existent riches, it is not difficult to learn when He fell into poverty, thereby enriching the lives of all Christians. We see the poverty of Christ when He was born in the little town of Bethlehem. The second person of the Godhead in leaving heaven to become a human being was given birth where tourists kept their animals. When the Christ made His entrance into the world they laid Him in manger for a bed, a feeding trough for animals. The angels can comprehend the poverty of Christ in becoming a man far better than we can. They have a better view of the glory of God than we have, and they full y realized what a humiliating thing it was and how poor He became when He became man in Bethlehem. The poverty we see was not so much for Joseph and Mary as for Jesus. What poverty it was for the one who was equal with God to become flesh by way of a physical birth, and how humiliating that there was no room in the Inn for Him to be born. He was born where the animals spent the night. For a person of such dignity and Divinity, it was poverty to be a baby at all. It was poverty on Christ's part just to become a man and be made a little lower than the angels. Words cannot express such poverty.
Then cosider His youth living in the Carpenter's house, eating the bread of the working man with cheerfulness. For thirty years He was known only as the Carpenter's son of Nazareth of which it was said, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth?” He was from a no-good town. In that little carpenter shop there must have been made many a piece of furniture, and on the farms and vineyards around, many a tool that had been
ade by the human hands of the Son of God. He had to listen to His brothers giving Him their advice. We are inclined to wonder what all He did throughout those thirty years; it would have been most interesting to have had an authentic record of those silent years. It is said of Mary that she pondered all those things that happened in His early years when He was one of the sons in the family at Nazareth. What poverty for His Deity, greatness and pre-existence not even to be known for thirty years. We know very little of those first thirty years of being just an ordinary human being in a poor family, but enough is recorded for us to see that He remained in poverty during those years He was preparing for His public work. When He came out into public life to begin His ministry it was to a life of poverty. See Him travelling on foot on the rough roads of Palestine, while others rode past Him on horses and mules. You remember that He said this about Himself, “Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of man has nowhere to lay His head.” He was dependant on the gifts of His followers or the godly women who ministered to Him of their substance. He never made a will, for He had no real property to leave. But He did leave us a will that is better than any will ever left to any person in this world. In praying to the Father He said, “Father I will that they also, whom you have given Me, be with Me where I am that they may behold My glory, for you loved Me before the foundation of the world”(John 17:24).
The worst period of His poverty- stricken life was at the close of His life. Judas betrayed Him with a kiss in the garden of Gethsemane. The Jewish authorities bound Him like a common criminal and led Him away as their captive. He is taken off to prison and judgment. Who is poorer than a man who has lost his liberty? They take Him away to the Caiaphas the High Priest, and as He stands before the High Priest He is insutled and mocked. Then He appears before Pilate the Roman Judge who sentences Him to death when he was convinced of His innocence. We see the deepest poverty of all when He is crucified like a common criminal. I close with the final words of the text: “Though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor that you through His poverty might become rich.” In this short statement the whole work of substitution and redemption is implied. We have been enriched through His poverty; we have been blessed because of His suffering; redeemed and reconciled through His death on the cross. The riches we have secured as Christians are not earthly treasures of the world such as money or property. The riches He has given us is akin to the glorious things He had in heaven, which He laid aside for a season to come to this world. Through Him we have become sons and daughters of God, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ. Our names have been written in the Lamb's book of life is heaven's official registry.
. The Son of God became man, and a poor man, that we, being poor men and women, might be owned as sons and daughters of God. The riches we have received through His poverty include redemption, holiness, righteousness, forgiveness, justification adoption, sanctification, comfort, patience, and the hope of eternal life itself at His coming. And all this because He became poor for our sakes. We get glory out of His shame, and life through His death. Unto the Son belongs gloy, power, strength, and honor now and forevermore, world without end. And this is what really happened at Christ's birth.