The Preeminent Reason for the Season!December 23, 2023
Romans 15:8-9, “For I tell you that Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy. As it is written, ‘Therefore I will praise you among the Gentiles, and sing to your name.’”
Perhaps one of the most common sayings regarding Christmas is “Jesus is the Reason for the Season.” While it is true that Christmas is Jesus’ birthday celebration, usually the most emphasized reason for His coming to earth was to save His people from their sins (Mt. 1:21). Although this is one of the main reasons for His coming, it isn’t the preeminent one. The reason above all reasons is to recover the glory and honor of God.
All Bible students are familiar with Paul’s missionary journeys, but his wasn’t the decisive one. Jesus had the first and fullest missionary assignment – one that only He could undertake. And according to our text in Romans 15:8-9, He came for three reasons. He came to show God’s truthfulness, he came to confirm God’s promises, and he came that God might be glorified among the nations.
The first Christmas mission was driven by Jesus’s zeal for the glory of God. John Piper suggested that Jesus was saying something like this: “I want the truth of my Father to be known in the world. I want the truth of his promises to be believed in the world. I want the nations to give glory to him for his mercy. I love my Father’s glory, and I will manifest it in the world, and I will assemble around me a band of people who love my Father’s glory and who will lay their lives down in the mission in order to make my Father’s glory known. I don’t want people to stop, to ignore my Father. I don’t want them to bow down and worship wood and stone when my Father deserves their worship. I love my Father’s glory.”
Jesus was the “Sent One”. Frequently he referred to himself by this title. And the ultimate reason and driving force behind His First Advent was a zeal for the glory of God.
The penultimate (the one behind the ultimate) reason for King Jesus’ first coming was driven by a servant spirit and mercy. “Jesus, when he saw the crowds, had mercy, compassion on them, and said, “They’re like sheep without a shepherd. . .. therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Matthew 9:36, 38). Notice that this prayer for missions was driven by mercy.
Father God, who is driven by his love for his glory, is also driven by mercy towards lost sinners. And here is the most awe-inspiring, worship-prompting truth in the universe - God’s motive to be driven by his love for his glory - for the spread of the fame of His name - and His motive to be driven by mercy and the exhortation of his mercy - are one truth. When we are saved by the grace and mercy of the gospel of God, we’re satisfied, and God is glorified!
God’s passion to be glorified among the nations is not to be glorified merely for his power, wisdom, or holiness. The apex of his glory is his mercy. He wants to be glorified primarily for his mercy.
Dudley Hall said, “All gods have power but only our God has mercy.”
Christ Coming Fulfilled the Covenant Promises God had Made to Israel
“Christ became a servant to the circumcised to show God's truthfulness, in order to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy…” (Romans 15:8-9a). All the promises that God ever made are true, first because God is true, and second because Christ came and confirmed them as true. He bought them. Another clear affirmation of this is 2 Corinthians 1:20, "For all the promises of God find their Yes in [Christ]. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory."
The heart of the gospel is that the wealth of God’s glory is, at its apex, the wealth of his mercy. This is something the world takes very lightly: “the riches of [God’s] kindness and forbearance and patience” (Romans 2:4). God created and redeemed the world so that he might “make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory” (Romans 9:23). Or, to put it another way, he creates and saves his people “so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). The universe exists primarily to display the wealth of the glory of the mercy of God for the enjoyment of his redeemed people from every tribe and tongue and people and nation.
Justice is essential among the perfections of God’s glory. Therefore, if justice can be preserved, it is the apex of glory to show mercy.
For this reason, Jesus Christ came into the world as the mercy of God incarnate and visible. He is also the justice of God incarnate; but justice was subordinate: “God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him” (John 3:17). God the Father offered up his Son in death “so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). The substitutionary death of Jesus Christ created the backdrop of justice where justifying mercy would shine with unparalleled glory. Therefore, the glory of God’s mercy is the aim of Christ’s coming. This is explicit in Romans 15:8-9: Christ came into the world “to confirm the promises given to the patriarchs, and in order that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy.” The aim of the incarnation was to magnify the mercy of God for the enjoyment of the nations.
In the Virgin Mary’s Magnificat, and in Zechariah’s prophetic song at the birth of John the Baptist, the reason given for the coming of Jesus was “in remembrance of [God’s] mercy” (Luke 1:54), and “because of the tender mercy of our God” (Luke 1:78). Or as the apostle Paul put it, the work of Christ is due to God’s being “rich in mercy” (Ephesians 2:4).
The same is true of Jesus today. In this regard “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever” (Hebrews 13:8). This is why God, who is called “the Father of mercies” (2 Corinthians 1:3), beckons us to come boldly to his throne through Jesus Christ who can “sympathize with our weaknesses” (Hebrews 4:15). Jesus is our sinless, all-sufficient High Priest. He has offered himself as our substitute in perfect obedience and perfect sacrifice. All the Father’s mercies belong to those who come to God through faith in Jesus. “Let us with confidence draw near to the throne of grace, that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:16).
The place where mercies are kept is at the throne of God. Here is infinite wealth and infinite power and infinite wisdom. And all this stands ready in the service of mercy, because of Jesus Christ, the mercy of God incarnate. Whether you learn this through pleasure, or learn it through pain, like Job, whatever you do, learn it: “The Lord is compassionate and merciful” (James 5:11). (much of this article is taken from a John Piper sermon)
Glory to God in the Highest!