Normal Expectations (Luke 2:40)

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The conception of the Lord Jesus Christ was abnormal. He was conceived in the womb of a virgin by the power of the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:35). But His birth came about in the normal way and, despite apocryphal accounts, His boyhood was also normal.

In the third-century apocryphal book, The First Gospel of the Infancy of Jesus Christ, several accounts are recorded about Jesus as He grew up. For instance, this work claims that, even in the cradle, Jesus could talk and that He proclaimed to Mary that He was the Son of God.

This Gospel also claims that, soon after the holy family arrived in Egypt following Herod’s decree, some of Jesus’ swaddling cloths fell on a demonised boy. At that moment, the demons flew out of the boy’s mouth and he was healed.

This document tells of a man having been turned into a mule by a sorcerer. The man’s sisters told Mary, who put the baby Jesus on the mule’s back. Instantly, the mule turned back into a man.

The Gospel tells of a leprous woman who was healed by washing in the boy Jesus’ bathwater. A leprous princess was healed by the same method. Seven-year-old Jesus, playing with other boys, made clay animals. Jesus caused the animals to walk, fly, and eat.

It is told that Joseph spent two years making a throne for the king of Jerusalem. It was too small, so Jesus miraculously enlarged it. A serpent bit Simon the Canaanite as a boy. Jesus caused the serpent to suck back the poison, so that it burst open. Simon was cured.

These accounts are obviously mythical, for in fact the first miracle that Jesus performed was when He was thirty, at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (John 2:11). Jesus had a very normal childhood in Nazareth. He did not use any powers of deity to win games or to cure pets of sickness! Rather, “the intellectual, moral and spiritual development of the child Jesus was as real as His physical growth. He was completely subject to the ordinary laws of bodily and mental development, except that in His case there was no question of sin and weakness exerting an evil influence on Him.” Nevertheless, His growth was normal.

Normal Encouragement

Jesus’ normal growth as a person serves as an encouragement to every Christian: We too can grow in the same way towards the same perfection.

The Christian life is a supernatural life. And therefore the Bible reveals great expectations for everyone who is truly born again. Not the least of these great expectations is that of Christ being formed in us and us therefore becoming conformed to Christ (Galatians 4:19; cf. Romans 8:28–30).

This great expectation is the biblically normal expectation for every Christian. This is the Christian’s purpose and is therefore to be the Christian’s passionate-pursuit (1 Timothy 6:11–12). This is a worthy goal. It is a goal that I want us to focus on in this study, and I trust it will be our theme for the year ahead. We will do so by studying Luke 2:40: “And the Child grew and became strong in spirit, filled with wisdom; and the grace [favour] of God was upon Him.”

This is the normal expectation for every Christian. Specifically, like Jesus, we are to grow noticeably, vigorously, spiritually and relationally. May what was normal at Nazareth be the norm for us at all.

Like Jesus, We Are to Grow Noticeably

The first thing we see in our text is that Jesus grew noticeably—and we are to grow likewise. The operative word here, in v. 40, is “grew.” Jesus “grew.” That is mind-blowing. The God-man developed. The perfect and sinless Son of God became the Son of Man and grew physically and in every other way that humans develop. As Calvin pointed out, “The child grew and was invigorated in spirit” and “the endowments of His mind grew with His age.”

This development was observable in Jesus. So it is with us: Others notice our growth.

It is common to hear comments about children’s visible growth. The same should be said when it comes to our development in Christlikeness.

Consider these words of Paul to his young friend Timothy:

Let no one despise your youth, but be an example to the believers in word, in conduct, in love, in spirit, in faith, in purity. Till I come, give attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. Do not neglect the gift that is in you, which was given to you by prophecy with the laying on of the hands of the eldership. Meditate on these things; give yourself entirely to them, that your progress may be evident to all. Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine. Continue in them, for in doing this you will save both yourself and those who hear you.

(1 Timothy 4:12–15)

When Barnabas came to Antioch, he saw their growth—evidence of God’s grace—and was glad about it (Acts 11:23). I was recently invited to preach at another church, where some friends are members. I was impressed with the young man who led the service. When I commented to my friend afterwards, he said to me, “It’s been great to see his growth.” Christian growth is visible.

Development implies learning from, and therefore leaning on, others. This was true of Jesus of Nazareth, the one whom we know as Jesus Christ our Lord. If He grew by leaning and by learning, then we should expect to do the same.

The growth of Jesus was full growth. He grew in accordance with God’s definition, which is holiness. He grew to perfection (see Hebrews 5:7–9). This gives us great encouragement, because it means that Jesus can relate to what we experience (Hebrews 2:14–18). It helps us to see that development is part and parcel of the Christian life.

The Direction of Our Growth

Christian, you are to grow. You are to grow up to be like Christ. This is to be both our personal and corporate goal (Ephesians 4:13–16).

With children, we become concerned when they do not physically grow up. We desire to see upward direction in their height. And when that does not take place, we seek help. Perhaps it is a dietary problem, and so we make the adjustments. Likewise for the Christian. If we are not growing, then we should check what we are taking in as well as what we are not taking in. Consider how your entertainment, reading and thinking are aiding your growth. Are you exposing yourself to the Word—both privately and corporately?

Sometimes hindered physical development (or excessive physical growth) is a matter of a lack of exercise. Christian health is the same way. Are you exercising deep knee bends of prayer? Are you exercising your spiritual gifts, or are you merely sitting, soaking and souring? Are you exercising the members of your body by yielding them to God for righteousness (Romans 6)? Are you exercising your spiritual muscles in communion with others?

The Dimensions of Our Growth

Sometimes people can behave as though they are one-dimensional. That is, they are narrowly characterised by one particular interest. The result is that they become lopsided in their development. Some may be obsessed with education so that they are always studying and talking about studying and education. Or there may be a sport enthusiasts who can do nothing but speak about sports, or a tech guy whose eyes are always riveted to a computer or to some other digital device.

In many cases, to be frank, such a person becomes a bore. But the Christian is to be anything but that! Christians are to be characterised by a multi-dimensional development—just as Jesus was.

We are told that “the Child grew” and that he did so in “in spirit,” “in wisdom” and with the “favour of God.” Verse 52 extrapolates on this where it tells us that Jesus grew “in favour with God and with man.” Let’s look at these with a view to living likewise.

Like Jesus, We Are to Grow Vigorously

Jesus grew “and became strong in spirit.” Some translations (ESV, NASB, HCSB, etc.) simply say that He grew and “became strong,” omitting “in spirit.” Regardless, the emphasis is upon Jesus growing in vigour. The idea, as some say, is that He grew well physically, that He matured bodily. Though I don’t doubt that He did so, surely the older translations bring out the fuller picture as they rely on the manuscripts that contain the words “in spirit.” In other words, Jesus grew with vigour in His character as revealed in His disposition. He was empowered and strengthened in all ways—physically and spiritually. Both in body and in character, Jesus grew vigorously.

As a human being, Jesus grew into perfect personhood—in accordance with God’s original creation purpose.

His Determination

We can say that Jesus grew strong in character and therefore He was strong in His commitment. He grew strong in His focus. As He grew up, so His determination to do right grew as well. We too are to grow in this way.

The word “spirit” (pneuma) can refer to the vital life principle of a person—their soul or the dynamic of their life. It can also refer to the disposition that governs the activities of a person. For example, someone might be said to have “a spirit of gentleness.”

Again, regardless of your translation, the emphasis clearly is that Jesus’ disposition to do what is right grew strong. He was vigorous in His godliness. He was vigorous for what was right. There were no half measures with Him. His strength of character was there for all to see. And though we read of the Holy Spirit lighting upon Jesus at His baptism, nevertheless He was never bereft of the Spirit. He grew strong precisely because He grew by the Spirit.

This is required of Christians. Jesus said in Matthew 11:12 that “the kingdom of heaven suffers violence, and the violent take it by force.” By that, He meant that kingdom living is not easy; it requires great vigour to “take” the kingdom of heaven.

His Disposition

Christ grew dispositionally, and as He is formed in us, it will be manifested in this violent-vigorous disposition. For example, we will serve the Lord, “fervent in spirit” (Romans 12:11). We will be characterised by love, power and a sound mind (2 Timothy 1:7). We will strive towards a disposition of faithfulness (2 Corinthians 4:13).

His Discipline

As Jesus grew up, He learned self-control (Hebrews 5:7–9), and so must we. As Christ is formed in us, it will be manifested in our discipline—in our self-control. We will become increasingly Christlike in our habits—the things we eat and drink, the things that entertain us, the way we handle our finances, the responsibility with which we exercise our bodies.

But we will also grow in spiritual disciplines. Are you as vigorous for holiness as you for health? Are you as vigorous for spiritual health as you for material wealth? As you grow spiritually, you will grow in your commitment to important spiritual disciplines.

His Duties

Jesus grew in commitment to His duties. For example, He knew His duties in Jerusalem, where He would be crucified. And though He was not excited about facing death, “He steadfastly set His face to go to Jerusalem” (Luke 9:51).

Apollos was a wonderful example of this. We are told that “he was fervent in spirit, serving the Lord” (Acts 18:25), as was Paul, who served God “with [his] spirit in the gospel of God’s Son” (Romans 1:9).

Are you committed to your Christian duties? You have duties as a church member, a Christian friend, a husband or wife, a parent or child. Are you committed to steadfastly setting your face to fulfil those duties?

His Devotion

As Christ grew in His devotion, so we will grow in our devotion as Christ is formed in us. Truly, Romans 8:16—“The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God”—was never truer than in the moment-by-moment experience of Jesus—until those desolate three hours on the cross.

As we grow in Christ, we will learn to obey our God, who tells us to worship Him in spirit and in truth. We will do so, not only within the four walls of the church, but in every location in every moment of every week.

Like Jesus, We Are to Grow Spiritually

Jesus, Luke tells us, was “filled with wisdom.” He did not merely glean some wisdom, but was filled to the brim with wisdom. He grew in His accumulation of wisdom to such a degree that His life was characterised, because controlled, by wisdom.

The word here translated “filled” is used in the New Testament to speak of the “filling” being manifested on the outside. For example, when Jesus spoke of going back to His Father, he said to His disciples, “Sorrow has filled your heart” (John 16:6). He could see on their faces and in their demeanour that sorrow had “filled” their hearts. Peter said to Ananias and Sapphira, “Satan has filled your heart to lie to the Holy Spirit” (Acts 5:3). What was in their hearts poured out of their lips. Paul urged the Ephesians, “Be filled with the Spirit,” and immediately spoke of the outward results that would attend that inward filling.

Since the Bible tells us that “the fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom” (Proverbs 1:7), we can say that Jesus grew “spiritually.” That is, His life was, in the words of William Lane Craig, “dominated by or oriented toward the Spirit.”

This is a worthy goal for every Christian. In fact, passages such as Ephesians 5:15–17 command us to pursue this quality of wisdom. This speaks to a couple of areas in which Jesus would have experienced growth. And each of these are relevant areas in which God expects us to grow as well.

Intellectual and Mental Growth

It is a truism that wisdom is the practical application of knowledge. As someone has observed, it is the right use of the best means. For example, the knowledge that the printed word can be highly influential. This can be used foolishly to print godless and therefore harmful messages or it can be used wisely to publish the truth of God, which is helpful.

Take another example: One can acquire knowledge about the power of dynamite, but wisdom will dictate whether such know-how is used for good or for ill. The Nobel Peace Prize is given “to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind.” Alfred B. Nobel invented dynamite, but not for harmful purposes. He is credited, instead, with creating a controllable combustible that made blasting rock and the construction of canals and tunnels a relatively safe process. He acquired the knowledge, and wisdom allowed him to put it to good use.

Since Jesus was wise, it stands to reason that He grew in knowledge, particularly in the knowledge of God’s truth. He learned what was right and what was wrong, what was true and what was false. Along with this, He learned the right application of this knowledge. And just as Jesus grew in wisdom (cf. Luke 2:46–47), so are we to grow.

In the year ahead, if Christ will be formed in us, and therefore if we will grow in wisdom, then knowledge will be required. We should be like Isaac Watts, of whom it was said that “he was intelligent enough to grow.”

You cannot grow spiritually without growing informationally. But be careful. As Eric Schmidt, one-time chairman of Google, observed, “I worry that the level of interrupt, the sort of overwhelming rapidity of information—and especially of stressful information—is in fact affecting cognition. It is in fact affecting deeper thinking. I still believe that sitting down and reading a book is the best way to really learn something.”

So, read! Pursue a course of study of truth—and, regardless of the discipline, do so God-centredly. Be intentional as you gather with believers. Initiate meaningful gathering with believers.

Then, be committed to applying what you learn. Engage with others. Minister to others. Work with and for others. Exercise what you have acquired. Just do something!

If we will grow in such a way that we will know what is right and then do what is right, we must be exposed to what is right. God said of Israel, “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge” (Hosea 4:6). Many still are. But as we are exposed to truth, we are able to be set free from foolishness as we step onto the path of wisdom.

Teaching and Learning

Where do you suppose Jesus acquired this knowledge? Remember that He was a human being. He needed to acquire this knowledge the old fashioned way: He would need to learn, which means that He needed to be taught. This teaching, no doubt, came from several different sources.

In the first place, I have no doubt that his parents took seriously Deuteronomy 6:1–9, and instructed Him daily in the things of God. Liefeld sums up well, “What is significant is that Jesus’ parents were faithful to the Jewish law and that the child grew normally, the object of God’s grace.”

Children, listen well to your parents. Parents, instruct your children well in the things of God. Guard them from the foolishness that abounds. This may mean banning popular literature and TV shows from your home. So many of these are little more than poison to the soul and ruinous to the spirit. South Africa is in desperate need of a generation of wise people, and the responsibility lies squarely on the shoulders of parents. So be equipped so that you can equip your children.

But, second, Jesus, no doubt, was instructed at the synagogue. The synagogue was a place to which God’s people gathered in order to be corporately instructed in truth (cf. Nehemiah 8:1­–3). Luke 2 records Jesus’ parents taking Him to the temple in Jerusalem during the required feasts, and we can be sure that they did the same at weekly synagogue.

Parents, take advantage of the ministry of the local church. Do not neglect the assembling of the church. See the benefit that the church can provide in helping you raise your family for Christ, and take full advantage of those opportunities.

Third, Jesus would no doubt have learned as He worked alongside His step-father as a carpenter’s apprentice. This would have afforded Him opportunity to meditate upon the truths that He had been exposed to.

Like Jesus, We Are to Grow Relationally

Finally, Luke tells us that “the grace of God was upon Him.” This is a wonderful phrase, a wonderful description revealing that Jesus “knew the blessing and power of God in His life” (Michael Bentley). This in turn made Him a blessing to be around. Verse 52 tells us that Jesus “increased in favour with God and man.” Jesus so lived under God’s favour that He was well respected.

What does this mean? We have already noted that the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom (Psalm 11:10; Proverbs 1:7; 9:10; 15:33). We have also see that wisdom is not merely a matter of mental acquisition but includes the proper application of that knowledge. But we can go further.

Moses prayed, “Teach me to number my days, that I may gain a heart of wisdom” (Psalm 90:12). Moses wanted to live a life in right relationship with God. This is wisdom. Everything about Psalm 90 points to this conclusion. And indeed, to live wisely is to experience real life, for “the fear of the LORD is a fountain of life” (Proverbs 14:27).

Living Favourably with God

The word “grace” (or “favour”) translates the Greek word charis. It refers to God’s kindness. We read earlier in Luke, “Rejoice, highly favoured one, the Lord is with you” (1:28). The angel reassured Mary in v. 30 with these words: “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favour with God.” Paul uses the same terminology to describe the reality of believers being “accepted in the beloved” (Ephesians 1:6).

Jesus lived under the favour of God. For Him, every moment was a charis moment. So it is for every Christian. May we realise more of this in 2017.

If Christians were persuaded of the love of God for them, their faith would be stronger. As Ed Welch has pointed out, we can’t love what we fear. John said it as well: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casts our fear, because fear involves torment” (1 John 4:18). We need to grasp that we are accepted by God in His favoured Son, and this requires a deeper appreciation of the gospel. So, let’s grow deeper.

To the degree we do so, we will be empowered to overcome envy, selfish ambition, petty squabbling and one-upmanship. The lure of the world will lose its power (see 1 John 2:15–17). The love of the Father is too great a love to be traded for the cheap counterfeit of worldly lusts.

But we must note that, while Jesus was under the favour of God (v. 40), this produced more favour from God (v. 52). God’s favour to Jesus was reciprocated by devoted living for God. God then showed Him more favour! In other words, as Jesus grew up, He increasingly pleased God. His relationship was one of dynamic delight. This is what God wants of us. Just as Jesus pleased the Father, so we should seek to please the same Father.

Minimising and Maximising

A caution is in order here: Don’t minimise this opportunity by maximising your depravity. To the contrary, as Paul urged the Philippians, “work out your own salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who works in you both to will and to do for His good pleasure” (Philippians 2:12–13).

I am aware that, on our best day as well as on our worst day, we are accepted in the same way that Mary was—because of God’s grace (cf. Luke 1:28–30 with Ephesians 1:6). Yet I am at the same time aware of the biblical teaching that this saving grace is also sanctifying grace; we are both called and equipped to live lives that please the Lord. We, of course, do not do this on our own. However, relying on God’s grace, we are empowered to live in such a way that God is pleased with us. In fact, we should be encouraged that similar words to those of Luke 2:52 are said of Samuel: “And the child Samuel grew I stature, and in favour both with the Lord and men” (2 Samuel 2:26). If he could, surely we who have God’s Spirit can. As Kevin DeYoung says, “To err is human, to make progress is divine.” It is not impossible for God’s people to commit righteous acts that please God.

Context, Context, Context!

We should be careful of misapplying passages such as Isaiah 64:6: “But we are all like an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses are like filthy rags.” In his book, The Hole in Our Holiness, Kevin DeYoung quotes John Piper, who writes,

Sometimes people are careless and speak disparagingly of all human righteousness, as if there were no such thing that pleased God. They often cite Isaiah 64:6 which says our righteousness is as filthy rags. It is true–gloriously true–that none of God’s people, before or after the cross, would be accepted by an immaculately holy God if the perfect righteousness of Christ were not imputed to us (Romans 5:19; 1 Corinthians 1:30; 2 Corinthians 5:21). But that does not mean that God does not produce in those “justified” people (before and after the cross) an experiential righteousness that is not “filthy rags.” In fact, he does; and this righteousness is precious to God and is required, not as the ground of our justification (which is the righteousness of Christ only), but as an evidence of our being truly justified children of God.

DeYoung the writes,

As born-again believers, it is possible to please God by his grace. Those who bear fruit in every good work and increase in the knowledge of God are fully pleasing to God (Col. 1:10). Presenting your body as a living sacrifice pleases God (Rom. 12:1). Looking out for your weaker brother pleases God (14:18). Obeying your parents pleases God (Col. 3:20). Teaching the Word in truth pleases God (1 Thess. 2:4). Praying for the governing authorities pleases God (1 Tim. 2:1–3). Supporting your family members in need pleases God (5:4). Sharing with others pleases God (Heb. 13:16). Keeping his commandments pleases God (1 John 3:22). Basically, whenever you trust and obey, God is pleased.

He quotes A. W. Tozer, who wrote, “God is … abounding in steadfast love (Ex 34:6). He is not hard to please, though He may be hard to satisfy,” and the helpfully concludes:

You don’t have to feel conviction for every sermon…. The Bible clearly teaches that holiness is possible. This is good news, not bad news…. You cannot do anything to earn God’s love. But as a redeemed, regenerate child of God you don’t have to be a spiritual failure. By the mercies of God you can “present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship” (Rom. 12:1).

Living Favourably with Others

As Jesus grew in favour with God, He likewise grew in favour with man (v. 52). Geldenhuys writes,

Because He lived among the people of Nazareth and other parts of Palestine as an absolutely perfect human being both spiritually and physically, it was impossible to them (at least, for all such as were not completely degenerate) not to feel drawn towards Him. His body had never been marred by sin and was, in the best sense of the word, beautiful and attractive. His gaze was pure and lofty, the mirror of the untainted nobility of His soul. Because His whole being was without spot or blemish or weakness of any kind, He…could not but be in favour with every right-thinking individual…. In proportion as His mind and body developed into full adult maturity, He was more and more loved and respected by all.

If we grow by grace, then we will grow in grace—and it will be evident to all (see 1 Timothy 4:15; Acts 11:23).

The Christmas Spirit

In his classic, Knowing God, J. I. Packer writes,

It is our shame and disgrace today that so many Christians–I will be more specific: so many of the soundest and most orthodox Christians—go through this world … [without] … the Christmas spirit…. The Christmas spirit does not shine out in the Christian snob. For the Christmas spirit is the spirit of those who, like their Master, live their whole lives on the principle of making themselves poor—spending and being spent—to enrich their fellow humans, giving time, trouble, care and concern, to do good to others—and not just their own friends—in whatever way there seems need.

In other words, Packer is lamenting that, unlike Jesus, whom Christians claim to follow, we are rarely winning favour in the eyes of people. In fact, our peevishness is earning the opposite.

As we begin a new year, let us, as perhaps never before, determine that, by the grace of God, we will work on being gracious to others. Let us be people of kindness (Provers 19:22), characterised by Philippians 2:1–5:

Therefore if there is any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and mercy, fulfil my joy by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.

(Philippians 2:1–5)

Imagine if each of us determined to think the best of one another this year. Imagine if each of us responded graciously to one another when wronged. Imagine if each of us put the needs and concerns of others before our own. Imagine if each of us were determined and committed to actually place ourselves in the shoes of one another. That is, imagine a church filled with empathetic members; a church filled with those guided by the incarnation.

Imagine if each of us determined to think the best of one another this year. Imagine if each of us responded graciously to one another when wronged. Imagine if each of us put the needs and concerns of others before our own. Imagine if each of us were determined and committed to actually place ourselves in the shoes of one another. That is, imagine a church filled with empathetic members; a church filled with those guided by the incarnation.

This is the kind of child that Jesus was and the man that He grew to be. This was probably abnormal in Nazareth, but it was normal for Jesus. And it is to be the norm for BBC. After all, in accordance with Scripture, this is the normal Christian life. This is the kind of person that is produced when Christ is formed in them—when Christ is formed in us.

Recently, a visitor to our church said to one of our members, “It is obvious that this is more than a church. People are greeting one another, talking with one another.” I think that they were confirming the promise of Jesus, that people will know we are Christ’s disciples by our love for one another (John 13:35).

When I heard this testimony, I thought how said it was that that visitor considered that to be “more than a church.” Actually, that is precisely what a church is supposed to be! Only those bodies of individuals who love one another are entitled to the label “church.”

May the spirit of Christmas characterise us every day in the year ahead. May God help us to so live, that what was normal at Nazareth will be the norm where we live too.

Conclusion

As I bring this to a close, I would be amiss to assume that all who are reading this share the same interest in having Christ formed in us. I would be amiss to assume that every reader is a Christian. So please, let me address those of your who are not.

Luke 2:40 is in fact the description of what every person is expected to be; it is the picture of how God created mankind to be. When God created Adam and Eve, His desire was for them to grow strong, to grow in wisdom and to grow in favour with God. They were not created with complete knowledge; they would need to learn. In fact, they were not even created with immortality; this would depend on their eating of the tree of life (2:9).

They were created by the favour of God and they lived under the favour of God. They walked with Him in the Garden and enjoyed unbroken fellowship with God. But sadly, they broke the rules; they transgressed God’s law as they ate of the forbidden fruit from the forbidden tree (Genesis 2:15–17; 3:1–7). According to Scripture, they fell from God’s favour by choosing foolishness over God’s wisdom. Yes, they assumed that they would be very wise if they disobeyed God, yet as history has subsequently proven, foolishness was the bitter fruit.

We all shared in this foolishness. We live as though there is no God; at least no holy and just God of the Bible. Even those who profess belief in God are often characterised by a practical atheism as they seek to live life according to their own rules. The Bible calls this sin—missing of the mark of God’s glory (Romans 3:23).

The result of this is death—both spiritual and physical: separation from God in relationship and eventually separation from our bodies and our environment when the heart stops beating. And worse still, if this separation is not reversed, we will be die under God’s just condemnation and only hell awaits. Such a life is truly how Paul explained it: alienated, without hope, and without God (Ephesians 2:12).

Is there any way for this to be reversed? Is there any way of escape? Absolutely! It is the way of grace; the way of favour. And in fact, it has everything to do with the verse which we have contemplated in this study.

Though Adam and Eve fell out of favour with God, though their relationship with God was broken, nevertheless God did not forget, nor did He forsake them—though He most justly could. Rather, God chose to show them favour. He came looking for them (Genesis 3:8–9). He came to show them grace. We see this as He confronted them with their sin. He did so to convict them so as to convert and to correct them.

We see this in Genesis 3:21 as God clothed them with the skins of an animal (perhaps a lamb?). By the death of a sacrifice in their place, they were restored to fellowship with God—even though they were cut off from the garden and the tree of life. (By the way, what grace! Imagine living forever in sin-cursed flesh in a sin-cursed world!)

This all foreshadowed the Lamb of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, who one day would be born as a human being, live a perfect life never once being out of favour with God. Jesus Christ lived wisely every moment of every day. He always kept God’s rules. He never sinned. And it is because of this that He was able to die in my place, and to die for everyone who will repent and believe on Him.

As Geldenhuys writes,

Adam and Eve had been created perfect at creation, but their spiritual perfection before the fall was the perfection of innocence. In order to attain to adult spiritual perfection, they should have voluntarily and deliberately chosen good and rejected evil. Alas, this they failed to do. But Jesus did not fail. Without external coercion, he chose to serve the Father voluntarily and absolutely and to resist the wiles of the evil one. That is why God could explicitly show him favor and indicated that with him he was well-pleased.

Jesus Christ lived wisely every moment of every day. He always kept God’s rules. He never sinned. And it is because of this that Jesus was able to die in my place, and to die for everyone who will repent and believe on Him.

Those who trust in Christ, and Christ alone, experience God’s forgiving favour, His Fatherly favour. And because of this, we will never be forsaken. We will live forgiven and reconciled to God—both in this life and beyond the grave.

But there is even greater grace, for God in His favour has chosen to make all His children like His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. He will form Christ in you—if you believe the gospel. Though to so live seems abnormal to the world, it is, in fact, the normal way to live, for this is how God has designed us to live.

So, quit being abnormal. Rather, become normal by believing, and following, and becoming more and more like the Lord Jesus Christ.