“Glory to God in the Highest,” Day 24: Those with Whom God Is Pleased

I recently created a 31-day Advent/Christmas devotional booklet for my church called “Glory to God in the Highest.” I will be posting a devotional from it each day between now and the end of the year. Enjoy!

Scripture: Luke 2:13-14

glory_cover_finalWhen we hear the Christmas story in the Bible, it often sounds better in the classic King James translation:

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

The shepherds weren’t “terrified” (NIV) or “filled with great fear,” they were  “sore afraid.” Outside of this scripture, I’ve never used “sore” as an adverb. But in the Christmas story it just sounds right.

Of course, our preference for one translation over another often comes down to style or nostalgia. But the classic King James rendering of the second half of verse 14 is misleading, if not wrong: “on earth peace, good will toward men.”

This translation makes it seem as if the angels are pronouncing God’s favor toward everyone without condition. Granted, in a culture that values “inclusion” above all other values, this idea fits nicely. Bible scholars now believe that this isn’t what the angels meant.

Modern translations, they say, have it right: “on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased” (ESV).

Among those with whom he is pleased? If that’s the case, we better find out who these people are with whom God is pleased—and why!

Theologian Joseph Ratzinger, better known as the former Pope Benedict XVI, provides this helpful answer:

Now, with regard to this question the New Testament itself provides an aid to understanding. In the account of Jesus’ baptism, Luke tells us that as Jesus was praying, the heavens opened and a voice came from heaven, saying: “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased…” (3:22). The man “with whom he is pleased” is Jesus. And the reason for this is that Jesus lives completely oriented toward the Father, focused upon him and in communion of will with him. So men “with whom he is pleased” are those who share the attitude of the Son—those who are conformed to Christ.[†]

Here’s the good news: If we have accepted Christ as Savior and Lord, God is “well pleased” with us, not because of who we are and what we’ve done, but who Christ is and what he’s done for us. As Paul says of himself in Philippians 3:9, he no longer has a “righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith.”

Do you agree with the following statement: “God is well-pleased with me, not because of who I am or what I’ve done, but who Christ is and what he’s done for me”? Why or why not? Do you believe that any part of salvation depends on your “earning” it?

Joseph Ratzinger, aka Pope Benedict XVI, Jesus of Nazareth: The Infancy Narratives (New York: Image, 2012), 75.

5 thoughts on ““Glory to God in the Highest,” Day 24: Those with Whom God Is Pleased”

  1. Yep. The only thing we have to do is to be willing to believe. God will do the rest.

    Merry Christmas all!!

  2. Hope you did have a Merry Christmas, Brent and Grant! My family spent Christmas evening at Brianna’s “boyfriend’s” grandparents’ house, feasting and watching Golden State lose and the Steelers win (both in the waning seconds!) and playing games.

    Now to your question. No doubt God is “well pleased” with us because we have placed our faith in Christ, which in turn places his righteousness on us insofar as salvation is concerned. “He was bruised for our transgressions, and by his stripes we are healed.” (Isaiah–KJV! 🙂 )

    But can God be “pleased” with us otherwise than that? Definitely so, in my opinion. Daniel was “greatly beloved” (KJV) or “highly favored” (some other versions). Why? Just because he was a believer? Rather, because of his wholesale devotion to God, as a result of which he was greatly blessed and given angelic visits and visions of the future. As Ezekiel noted, “If even Daniel lived there, he would save only himself.” Not because he was perfect, of course, as none of us is, but I daresay he was “more devoted” than many of us (and certainly more than me!).

    Finally, what about insofar as salvation is concerned? As indicated above, it is by grace through faith we are saved, not anything we could earn on our own–we can’t “brag” that we “earned” our way to heaven based on how good we are. But what about faith itself? What does that consist of? Does it relate to James’ example of Abraham, who was said to be justified when he offered up Isaac on the altar? Or Rahab, when she lied to save the spies (James’ other example)? Why did Jesus sometimes say, “Your faith has saved you”? I don’t purport to fully know the answer to this, but I believe that faith is a “something” that we “bring to the table,” as a result of which we are granted salvation through our inclusion in Christ, with whom God will also richly give us all things. Can’t earn it, don’t deserve it, but doesn’t mean I have nothing to do with it.

    (I recognize Paul says, “and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God,” but I don’ take that to mean that the faith is not of ourselves, but instead it is the fact that salvation is by faith rather than works that is the gift of God, by his grace. I conclude this from the many other passages dealing with faith, such as Jesus’ “YOUR faith.”)

    1. Merry Christmas, Tom! Brianna’s boyfriend’s grandparents? Sounds serious! 😉 I agree with your interpretation of Paul in Ephesians. (Not everyone does!) I would be a liar if I said I thought faith was “nothing.” But I would just say it’s NEARLY nothing compared to what God has done. I think God delights in our good works, but that’s separate from our status before God. I don’t know… but I praise God that he has given me so much grace!

      1. I think we have to have faith, but that it’s a mighty small thing until God gets ahold of it, Then it becomes a faith that can move mountains!

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