Rev. T. J. de Ruiter, The Netherlands
It is no myth
As I read Luke 1:37, "No word with God shall be without power," in the 'Amplified Version' of the Bible, one of the most intimate, miraculous and important passages of the whole Bible is opened before me: The announcement of the birth of Jesus Christ.
The annunciation to Mary of the coming of Jesus Christ is only found in the Gospel of Luke. Luke was a physician and got converted through the preaching of the apostle Paul. Luke was several times a companion of the apostle on his missionary journeys. When we read the book of the Acts of the Apostles you will notice in the travelling stories of Paul that 'we' and 'they' are used intermittently.
Mary must have told him that great and very personal story, how she as a young woman received Jesus in her womb.When she told this to physician Luke Mary had possibly reached the age around the sixties. With Luke she could speak confidentially about that very unique experience as a young woman. She knew that it was important for the faith in Jesus, her son, that people would know from a professional physician that Jesus had a supernatural, divine identity.
We should listen to this sacred story with great respect. The story is put in clear, plain wording and does not give an artificial impression. There is really no reason to doubt the integrity of the writer in writing it or to regard it as made up or as a myth, circulating in the early Church, as also some theologians do now believe. Of course, we know that there were pagan stories of virgin births of sons of gods in those days, but we do not need to conclude that this story in Luke is of the same category. Many historical researches of the Gospels are convinced that they are trustworthy in the facts and data of the life of Christ. Under the guidance of the Holy Spirit each writer gave a personal report of the life and ministry of Jesus. Some had been actual witnesses of His ministry; they had even accompanied Him. Luke wrote years later, basing his Gospel on a thorough investigation; read Luke 1:1-4. I do not hesitate to say that in the final and conclusive analysis only stubborn unbelief shall regard the miraculous birth of Jesus as a myth, possibly created - as is suggested - in the second or third century as a product of an extreme glorification of the person of Christ.
The word became flesh
Mary was willing to receive the miracle of the fruit of the Spirit in her womb. She must have realised that she put her reputation as a decent and morally pure woman at stake in opening herself for this mysterious and unique happening. There must have been a lot of gossip about her in Nazareth and only Joseph, her fiancée knew what had really happened, having been informed by an angel about it. However, she was honoured for her obedience and nobody would have ever heard of this woman in Nazareth if she had not been receptive. But now her name is remembered and honoured.
The testimony of the Gospel has stood firm throughout the ages: Jesus was begotten of the Holy Spirit of God, the invisible person and power of the Almighty God. Mary had the thrill of feeling the Word of God coming alive and growing in her body. The word of God became flesh, wrote the apostle John in chapter 1, verse 1 of his Gospel and how true this was in the experience of Mary during the ninth months she carried the child.
Every Word of God has power
Please notice what the angel Gabriel exactly said. According to the Greek he made the statement, "no word with God shall be without power." He did not say that only the word he spoke to Mary would have power, but every word of God that proceeds out off His mouth. Isaiah, the great prophet under the Old Covenant knew this already. He declared that no word of God would return to Him void without its purposed effect, (Isaiah 55:11).
Many people testify that they received direct words from God. Sometimes it came as an audible voice, sometimes in a dream or vision. And sometimes a word in the Bible was impressed with great force upon their heart and they perceived that the Spirit of God was speaking to them through the written word.
The apostle Paul had experienced the power of the word of God. The word of Jesus Christ and His message had changed his life dramatically and permanent. I quote from Romans 1:16: "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes. For the Jew first and also for the Greek." Paul knew personally the truth of what he wrote.
The soul-cleansing power of the Word of God
The writer of the letter to the Hebrews confirms in chapter 4:12,13 that the word of God has great power to discern in the heart of man that which is good and that which is bad. Not only that, that word of God has also the power to separate the good from the bad and to uncover the inner forces, thoughts and motivations. This is what he wrote: "For the word of God is living and powerful, and sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing even to the division of soul and spirit, and of joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart." I could compare the word of God with the sharp scalpel, with which the surgeon cuts away a malignant growth. It usually is painful to the patient, but it is necessary if he wants to live.
Who will not agree with me that this power of the word of God is very necessary in these days? Believers need to be cleansed from the deep-rooted evil. Sin abounds in the church as the evil and unclean spirits of the world invade it continually.
I do also observe that in some Christian movements the message of the healing power of the word of God for the physical body is receiving more emphasis than its power to heal from the evil in the heart and mind. It tells me that many believers are more focussed on physical than on spiritual issues and, of course, from a natural human standpoint that is quite understandable. Please do not misunderstand me, I know that there is divine healing power for the physical body and God wants to demonstrate His power in our bodies. But we should remember that a physical healing is a sign of the more essential healing, that of the spirit and the soul. The Gospel of John reveals the deeper issues of the message of Christ and therefore he wrote about the healing miracles as signs. And signs always point to more important issues. The healings of Christ pointed as signs first to His unique function as the promised Messiah, the Son of God, and secondly to the necessity of the salvation of the human soul.
It is high time that the power of the word of God of which Hebrews 4:12,13 and other scriptures are speaking, will get its freedom to be operative and that its power will be used in anointed, authoritative preaching. Genuine Christian revivals have always started with preaching on the evils in the lives of believers and society; uncovering sin, naming and condemning it clearly and then presenting Christ as the saving, healing, heavenly surgeon through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Let us pray that in this Advent and Christmas season, God's word will be allowed to do a deep, cleansing, sanctifying and healing work in the deep regions of the human soul and of the church, the spiritual body of Christ. Jesus Christ, our heavenly surgeon is always ready, but are we?
The Netherlands, 15 December 2003, edited December 2011
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