Remaining in the rich first chapter of Matthews Gospel we come to the name Emmanuel – God with us.
We have so far considered the church as the people of God. That God is in control of all world events and history; that God intervenes in our lives to save us, and how he does so. This week we come to God alongside us.
Matthew cites two telling names for Jesus. The name Jesus itself which means Saviour; and Emmanuel, meaning “God with us”.
Before we consider God being with us, let’s just dismiss a couple of false ideas about God.
One error is that God is too pure to associate with sinful human beings. God is so good and we are so bad that never the twain shall meet.
Well that completely ignores Christ, his ministry and his purpose.
Another error says that God started the whole world project, set it in motion then stood back and has just let it carry on since, rather like a wound up clock.
Well that is patently not true from what we have already seen in Matthew. God is in control and God intervenes.
But God actually with us ?
Let’s start with unbelievers.
God is even with unbelievers. But there is a serious condition to that. He is with those who keep his laws and his ways. For example, a married couple who remain married despite all the trials and issues and temptations; they remain faithful and never stray. God is with them.
This is because God is with any human being who obeys his ways. Obedience attracts God’s blessing and protection no matter who you are. The theologians call this “Common Grace”.
And God is not just with individuals, but with whole nations whose laws and ways honour his laws and ways. Such a nation will attract God’s blessing. Conversely nations which disobey God’s ways will attract his opposition, his judgement, his curse.
That is serious.
It is demonstrated time and again in the Old Testament scriptures where a people chose to oppose God’s ways, especially in the case of God’s chosen people, the Israelites.
It is summed up in verse 34 of Proverbs chapter 14:
Righteousness exalteth a nation but sin is a reproach to any people
You may wonder why our formerly Christian western nations have so many problems today. Well, there is the answer… their laws and their ways defy God’s order, and exalt man’s sinful foolishness.
The only answer is for the church to pray and for God to move in the spirit of the nation to cause it to repent. But that is another message, another study.
And God of course must be with those who truly believe, who are truly his people. Those who know what they are; know their need of Jesus Christ; and have surrendered to his lordship, passing through the waters of baptism in obedience to his ordinance.
Now, Jesus was of course with the early disciples. And he came and walked and talked and died and rose again that we might become his people.
But he is no longer physically with us. Yet his people are not alone, but know his presence and power.
How ? Because he is present by the Holy Spirit.
When we reach the very final verse of the Gospel account of Matthew we will read Jesus statement that he would be with his obedient servants, quote:
unto the end of the world
Well this world and this dispensation have not yet ended. So how is Jesus present ?
Answer: by the Holy Spirit.
Jesus taught his disciples about God the Holy Spirit and this vital teaching can be found in John’s Gospel – the Gospel for believers – in chapters 14, 15 and 16.
Let us just note a fundamental truth here about the very nature and manifestation of the Christian God of the Bible. He is one God, yet is manifest and explained in the Bible as Three Persons with Three distinct roles.
God the Father is the Author of all. The great Architect of existence and time.
God the Son – Jesus Christ – is the Saviour, the Deliverer of mankind from his estrangement from God. Jesus at the cross made reconciliation between God and human beings. Jesus executed the great plan of Salvation – saving us from rebellion against God.
God the Holy Spirit is the vital Third person of what theologians term “the Trinity” – the Three in One. God the Holy Spirit is the very presence and power of God himself in our lives. It is the role of the Holy Spirit to apply the work of Christ to our individual lives.
The Holy Spirit is the manifestation of God with us.
Now the teaching about the Holy Spirit has been seriously undermined in recent decades by the winds of false doctrine and practice that have swept the professing church of Christ.
This teaching is characterised by the idea that the Holy Spirit is an emotional, physical experience and that we should pray to the Spirit.
We should not.
The Holy Spirit is never the object of worship in the Bible. NEVER.
The nature and function of the true Holy Spirit is made clear in the three chapters of John’s Gospel cited above. That is what Jesus taught.
The Holy Spirit is HOLY. He is God himself come to us to enable us to focus and direct our lives more and more towards God as the purpose, God as the essence and God as the focus of our lives. Separated and devoted to God.
Jesus is very clear in his teaching in John.
His presence is to strengthen us in obedience to God, to remind us of Jesus teaching, to challenge us to love God, and to renounce self and the evil in this world.
God is with us that we might be with God, that we might serve God in this world, and that we might become more like Jesus Christ in our thoughts, our attitudes, our desires and in our behaviour. Hallelujah !