Students of the Bible are aware that our contemporary manger scenes are not accurate when the three wise men are present.

Matthew’s account shows that they arrived approximately three years after Jesus was born. Matthew records that they visited Herod the Great, hoping he knew where the king of the Jews could be found.

Herod was perplexed, so he summoned the chief priests and scribes, and they shared the prophecy from Micah 5:2.

“ ‘And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,  are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’ ” 1

Herod orders the death of all baby and toddler boys under the age of three in the town of Bethlehem, illustrating that the visit of the wise men was about three years after Jesus’ birth.

Nor were the “wise men” kings like the Christmas song says. The term “magi” means magician. The magi were probably astrologers from Persia (from the East according to the Scriptures.)

The Roman Catholic Church celebrates the visit of the magi on January 6th. That is how the two events became conflated.

Luke 2:8-21 records that simple shepherds were present at the manger, having received the news from an angel.

And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with great fear. And the angel said to them, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord2

Then, the heavenly host arrives, praising God, and the shepherds go to Bethlehem and share what they saw and heard. Mary treasures these things in her heart, and the shepherds return to work—note verse 20.

 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them3

Can you imagine for a moment being one of those shepherds?

First, one angel tells you to fear not because the angel brings good news. After trying to process an excellent news-bearing angel, you are treated to a heavenly host (so many angels that you cannot count them). The heavenly host also have something to say:

“Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”4

God was pleased to reveal to simple shepherds what the heavenly host knew: There would be peace on earth with whom God is pleased.

This is a profound theological truth. It raises the question of who are those with whom God is pleased.

We must realize what it does not mean. Note the entry on Luke 2:14 from the MacArthur Study Bible.

2:14 the highest. I.e., heaven. peace. This is not to be taken as a universal declaration of peace toward all humanity. Rather, peace with God is a corollary of justification (see note on Ro 5:1). among men with whom He is pleased. God’s peace is a gracious gift to those who are the objects of His pleasure.5

Too often, people assume peace means universal peace connected with a sense of universalism that God sent Jesus to save everyone; therefore, everyone has peace. The Bible tells us that is not the case in many places. Consider Romans 5:1-2:

Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.  Through him we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in hope of the glory of God6

Peace is the peace of the gospel and only applies to those who have been justified by faith. But what does that mean?
5:1 having been justified. The Gr. construction—and its Eng. translation—underscores that justification is a one-time legal declaration with continuing results (see note on 3:24), not an ongoing process. peace with God. Not a subjective, internal sense of calm and serenity, but an external, objective reality. God has declared Himself to be at war with every human being because of man’s sinful rebellion against Him and His laws (v.10; cf. 1:18; 8:7; Ex 22:24; Dt 32:21, 22; Ps 7:11; Jn 3:36; Eph 5:6). But the first great result of justification is that the sinner’s war with God is ended forever (Col 1:21, 22). Scripture refers to the end of this conflict as a person’s being reconciled to God (vv. 10, 11; 2Co 5:18–20).7

We are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone. We must be born again (John 3:1-14) to understand this truth.

The religious Pharisee named Nicodemus did not (at that point). As Israel’s teacher, he should have.

And so, it is today. Many assume they are okay with God even if they pay him no mind. They have religion, even though it may be nominal. They believe baptism will save them. They assume their goodness will save them and assume the peace applies to them when it does not.

This saddens me, especially when they will not listen.

God is pleased with those who trust in Christ alone for their salvation and have received him as Lord and Savior.

God was pleased to reveal the truth to simple shepherds. Their response to the extraordinary event was like that of the heavenly host:

 And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them.8

The shepherds returned to their flocks, glorifying and praising God that night, the next day, and in the years to come because God was pleased to reveal the truth to them.

 I do not think it’s a stretch to assume that the shepherds rejoiced and praised God the next day for what they saw and heard throughout their lives.

Too often, we move on from the birth of Jesus. How about you? 

May we all be aware this Christmas and every day just how great a salvation we have received.


  1. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Mt 2:6. ↩︎
  2. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 2:9–11. ↩︎
  3. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 2:20. ↩︎
  4. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 2:14. ↩︎
  5. John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN:
    Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Lk 2:14. ↩︎
  6. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Ro 5:1–2. ↩︎
  7. John F. MacArthur Jr., The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Nashville, TN:
    Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2006), Ro 5:1. ↩︎
  8. The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Lk 2:20. ↩︎

Pastor Bruce Roeder


Biblical Counselor, Training Program Instructor

Bruce is an Elder/Pastor at the Vine Community Church in South Milwaukee, WI. He has an M.A. in Biblical Counseling and is certified with the ACBC (Level 2) and IABC. He is married to his wife Elizabeth of 49 years. They have one son, a wonderful daughter-in-law, and three great grandkids. 

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