10 Dec Why We Believe What We Believe: Doctrine of Christology, Pt 1 (Ep 7)
How do you talk about Jesus Christ in a few moments and do any justice to the Doctrine of Christology? I won’t, but we will begin a beginning.
This is Episode 7 of “Why We Believe What We Believe”.
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E: Well welcome to the broadcast. This is Michael Easley in Context. It doesn’t happen too often but once in a while we find ourselves in a conversation with someone and they want to know about this Jesus. Now certainly it can happen in a casual conversation, it might happen in a workplace environment, although that can be ticklish today. But hopefully it happens with your friends from time to time. A new friend, an old friend, you bring up the topic, they bring up the topic and you talk about Christ, you talk about what Christ means to you. The world has a lot of fun at our expense. Some of it is fun; some of it is a little bit difficult to choke down. You’ll recognize this voice. Let’s hear Bill Maher as he talks about Christ, about the Son of God.
Bill Maher: I mean come on. God had a Son! I mean.. Timeout! God has a Son. He’s powerful beyond all imagination? He exists in a realm above time and space, but He has kids? What is this? Bonanza. He has a Son.God had a Son and He said, “Jesus, I’m sending you down to earth on a suicide mission. But don’t worry! They can’t kill you because you’re really me.” It is one of the silliest stories I’ve ever heard, but I don’t’ mean to offend.
E: Was it Oscar Wilde who said, “Sarcasm is the lowest form of wit.” We have to acknowledge Maher’s funny and we also have to acknowledge it hurts some of us. Between the lines we laugh at some of the things he says but he also is denigrating to the Person and work of Christ. On the one hand, the world is always going to mock God; the world’s going to mock Christ; the worlds shaking it’s fist at God in all sorts of metaphorical and literal ways and so we need to ask why. First of all individuals develop some picture of God from childhood, don’t we? Now, maybe it’s good or bad parenting; maybe it’s good or bad teachers, maybe you went to a religious school that crammed some things down your throat; or maybe you went to a public school that you couldn’t talk about anything “religious.” So one of the challenges of living in the Western culture we have today is if we believe in Christ, knowing what we believe about Christ, is how do we talk about Him? What do we know the Scriptures says for sure? What do we believe? What have we cemented in our mind and trusted not only what the Word says, but if you’re trusting Him for eternal life, do you understand who He is? You know the Person and work of Jesus Christ is truly a fathomless subject. We can’t finish it. We can spend the rest of our lives reading the New Testament alone and we will plumb new depths; we will see new insights about this man, about His work, about the God-man, born to die that we might live. So when we study Theology; when we study the Doctrine of Christology; the study of Christ, it’s a great beginning, and it’s really a life long journey. Talking about Theology, let’s acknowledge it. It can be difficult. It can be dry sometimes. But that doesn’t mean it’s not important. Now I’m going to work as hard as I can to make it easier for us to understand, but if you’ve got a question or a comment why don’t you send me an e-mail? You can connect at [email protected]. Send me an e-mail. We’d love to interact with you and see if there’s anyway we can help you specifically about questions you might have about this broadcast or others. Let’s join a message that I originally presented at the Moody Bible Institute, faculty, staff, and student body as we were going through the doctrinal statement of the institute. In this session, we’re talking about Christology.
EASLEY: Time was if you were a Judaeo Christian culture, you were welcomed; you were embraced; you were at least sort of tolerated. In recent decades that toleration has shifted. I’m sure there’s always been fanatical groups that have sort of lobbed criticism at Christianity. But at least in our country that we call America, there has been a certain freedom, a certain ability to be a Jewish person, a Christian person, this so called Judeo-Christian concept and you were ok. Some of the criticism Christianity has taken in the recent decades, some of it frankly is self deserved, right? I mean sometimes Christians are kind of foolish in the way we represent ourselves and Christ and sometimes I don’t want to be associated with certain people that call themselves Christians. I don’t know about you, but you just sort of want to say, “Hey, I’m not one of them kind, I’m a different kind,” and there’s so many kinds when you look at it from the world’s perspective. But the vitriol from the press, from the entertainment industry, from the political realm, in our country and the persecuted believer across the globe, I’m not a Historian; there are better men and women to address that subject, but it seems to me in my small experience as a follower of Christ the stakes are getting higher and hotter. To follow Christ in this culture is going to be more and more challenging. Now what happens to all of us when persecution begins, some people can step up to the plate and they can be bold and courageous and talk about Christ and for those who are thankful and we call them our heroes and we push them ahead and we say, “Go for it,” and the rest of us may be shy or be skittish or move to the corners. Perhaps that’s why when persecution or criticism comes, external pressures weigh in, we sort of back off the message. I think one of the issues we face in the evangelical fundamental believing church of Jesus Christ is that when we’re pushed so hard by so many voices, we become more concerned about tolerance than the truth of Christ. More attention becomes paid to success in ministry rather than significance in substance as a follower of Christ. We spend more energy on the media, the wrapping, the presentation, than we do the message of the Person of Christ. Watch it when you go into circles, and I’m all for the arts; I’m all for music; I’m all for efforts to bring the message in but you watch carefully when the media overwhelms the message; when there’s an interest in marketing; in strategic thinking, and production, rather than maturity in Jesus Christ; when there’s more importance laid on crowds than on being Christ like. All these things perhaps, are the pulse. They’re indicators of how Jesus is doing through us.
Now when we talk about this little series Why We Believe What We Believe; when I sketch these out and thought about a systematic Biblical Theology from a very high fly over level, the subject of Christology at first seems so exciting until I got into it the last few weeks. I thought how do you talk about Jesus Christ in a few moments and do any justice to the Doctrine of Christology, so I won’t, but we will begin a beginning. Why We Believe What We Believe about Christology, is not important; it is crucial. To know the Person, the work of Jesus Christ through your pores begins doctrinally and it moves emotionally and it becomes part of who you are as a follower of Jesus Christ. William Gladstone wrote, “All that I think, all that I hope, and all that I write, and all that I live for is based upon the divinity of Jesus Christ, the central joy of my poor and wayward life.” Up onto that point, I thought he was glossing. “The central joy of my poor and wayward life.” I hope you never recover from your sinfulness. Not that you dwell there and perpetual guilt and agony and regret and disappointment and depression, but that you are in tune enough with your own sinfulness to begin to understand the symbol of His grace and mercy to call you to Himself. When I’m prone to disappointment and discouragement and guilt and conviction of things I did decades ago, I just cling to the base of calvary because I have no where else to go. You’ve been forgiven much. It’s a good thing to be be humble. It’s a good thing to be broken quickly by your sin and guilt. Not to dwell, not to stay there, not to become a depressed person, not to become an eeyore theologically, but nobody likes Tigger. (laughter) He’s just totally annoying theologically, right?
How would you explain Jesus Christ if you were asked an unassuming question from a person that didn’t know Christ? Where would you begin? Would you talk of your experience? Would you talk theologically? Would you speak a moment of how Jesus has changed your life? Would you talk about before, during and after you knew Christ? Would you begin to explain some key verses? How would you begin to talk about the Christ? Would you think theologically? Would you use a little booklet, a pamphlet? Four Spiritual Laws? Bad News Good News? The Roman Road verses marked up in your Bible so well? How would you begin if someone threw you a softball and said, “Tell me about this Jesus.” We could think of His preexistence, eternality, divinity, incarnation, intercession, humanity, virgin birth, crucifixion, death, burial, resurrection, ascension, his substitutionary atonement for our sin, His kingdom, His return, His reign and that doesn’t begin to describe the list. Maybe we can talk about prophecy. We could begin at the beginning in Genesis and we could look at the first few verses in Genesis 3:15 and walk through the Covenant, and walk through Abraham believing God, and we could see Christ, the scarlet thread through the whole Bible. Perhaps we would look at His parables, a great place to learn of Jesus. We love the narrative today. Everyone is running that direction. Let’s look at the parables; look at the stories; or perhaps we would look at the I AMs. Years ago, I did a series on the seven I Am’s of Jesus Christ. Powerful just to look at what Jesus says about Himself as a self identifier. You could look at it geographically: Galilee, Bethlehem, Bethany, Samaria, Caesarea Philippi, Jerusalem. You could look at Christ life in many ways. How do you develop a Christology?
The comprehensive Christ deserves careful study. No matter where we are in our spiritual life, we can still study and we can begin today. The Moody Bible Institute Doctrinal statement article III reads, Jesus Christ is the image of the invisible God which is to say He Himself is very God. He took upon Himself being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary, He died upon the cross as a substitutionary sacrifice for the sin of the world. He arose from the dead in the body in which He was crucified. He ascended into heaven in that glorified body, or in that body glorified, where He is now our interceding High Priest. He will come again personally and visibly to set up His Kingdom and to judge the quick and the dead. Then there’s a host of passages, by the way “the quick” is a king’s word for living: the living and the dead.
There are three or four footnotes that I won’t take time to look at here, but let me just draw it back. Because Christology is so far reaching we should be lifelong students of the Person, the Work, the Theology of Jesus Christ. The good news is you can start now. There’s no worry about what you do, or don’t know. You have all of your life to learn about Christ. So we have lots of ways to begin thinking about Jesus Christ.
I have selected, not perhaps the best way, a few names of Jesus Christ. I thought about Prophet, Priest, and King. I thought about past, present, future work, all kinds of ways. I want to suggest five names. The first one is the Son of Man. If we look at the words that the Bible uses to explain Jesus, it seems of interest to say, what were the titles? What were the names? What did He call Himself? The Son of Man as you well know is the single most common referent that Jesus used to talk about Himself. So that peaks my curiosity. Why would Jesus refer to Himself as the Son of Man? Obviously, it represents His humanity. Some of our old doctrinal statements say, “fully God and fully Man.” The “Fully God” part I’m fine with, but the “fully Man” has got a little bit of hair on it. He’s not fully Man in the sense that He has all of man’s problems. He is comprehensively man. He is Man! But it is a reference to His humanity. He represents mankind. Not only is He born, just like you and I were born; not only does He grow from an infant into an adult just as we grow from infancy to adulthood; He is a man who identifies as a son of that birth canal process of growing and health, and stature, and wisdom till He becomes His so called public ministry. As a man, He suffered. The Son of Man; this is hard for us to grapple. Some of our sanctified imagination put Jesus into a very unfortunate light. He suffered every feeling you suffered, I believe. He was weary; He was hungry; He slept on a boat. I mean we have no indication He was ever sick, but I don’t see why He’d be exempt; after all He suffered and died. He hungered; He got angry; He was troubled in His Spirit, John tells us. He tossed tables. There were times I think when He was grieved and saddened; He wept at the death of His friend. I think He was saddened when He said, “Oh yea of little faith.” I think He is fully Man in that sense, comprehensively man. He identifies with our weaknesses. When you see your suffering Saviour know that He must suffer to go to glory. That is the the theology of the Gospel of John, right? The Son of Man must suffer many things. And who will know the agony of Gethsemane until we see glory. This suffering path to glory is talked about in Mark 8:31, 9:12 many times.
The Son of Man refers also to a unique authority that God the Father granted Him. Perhaps one of the most unusual I would say the unique use of the Son of Man is from Stephen’s lips in Acts 7:56 if you want to turn over there real briefly. Acts 7,vs 56, the great sermon that is still being written upon from Stephen’s mouth. I think I heard a scholar say one time, “There’s no more written on any homiletic piece in the abstract journals than on Stephen’s sermon.” Don’t know if that’s verifiable, or anecdotal but it would sort of make sense. Verse 56, “Behold,” Stephen says, “I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God.” Now obviously, it was the culmination of all that he said, but that’s an interesting stack of terms. The Son of Man standing at the right hand of God; the place of inheritance; the place of the Sonship; the Ruler; the reign; the One who will take everything from the Father and at the right hand of God and exercise judgement, compassion, mercy, rule, reign, it’s all there. He’s standing there. He’s not dead and He’s in heaven in proximity right beside God. No one is at the right hand of God but God! That’s when they drove him out of the city and pelted him to death with stones. Looking up, he sees it right, while the position of Son, Heir, Ruler, He is the Son of Man.
A second term: Messiah. We use this quite casually in our Christian ease. We talk about Messiah Jesus Christ. One of the interesting observations is how the synoptics stack up talking about Jesus. In Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22, we have the exact same scenario told a tiny different way, but when the high priest presses Jesus and asks Him, “Are you the Christ, the Son of the blessed? Are you the Christ? Are you the Messiah? Are you the one that’s come to do certain things?” In the synoptics recorded a tiny bit differently, but Jesus basically says, “Yes, I am. I am. I am the Messiah.” What this would mean for the Jewish ears is far different for you and me. This is of the Davidic royal line; this is the Messianic lineage; this was the one who would be king who would reinstate the fortunes of Israel; who would control the boundaries of the land, never quite inhabited, never quite taken; always marauding enemies encroaching against the land. Their sin and their inability to dispossess the land that God gave them through the Abrahamic Covenant has always been in contest and in battle.
I remember years ago hearing Dr.W.A.Criswell, a remarkable pastor of the First Baptist Church in Dallas,Texas speak one time in chapel when I was in graduate school. He made this eloquent speech about all the ites, the Ninevites, the Perizzites, the Amalekites, on and on he went. He said, “Where are they today?” There is this group called the Israelites and however you define them and there is this little sliver of land pushed up against the Mediterranean Sea, so small and insignificant but it hangs on by it’s fingernails. I don’t know your view of Israel and the land and those are fun issues to discuss but there is a theological precedence that the Davidic King through the Davidic line will come and be a royal regal heir Messiah. The way I understand Scripture, He will dispossess; He will be a ruler; He will be the One; the Jews thought would restore fortunes, build boundaries, take care of enemies, and be the King. That was what they hoped for. This is what John the Baptist scratches his head. Are you the King of the Jews? Are you the One? Jesus belongs to the Davidic family and this proclamation would be frightening to a Jew who is not ready to accept Jesus as Messiah. Perhaps the most telling event occurs in Caesarea Philippi. Turn over in your Bible for a moment: Matthew 16. Matthew 16 beginning at verse 13. When you go to Israel, you will go to Caesarea Philippi. It will be one of the highlights of your trip there. You will walk into this state park configuration and up a road you will go and you will find yourself in a beautiful garden picnic type setting and you will go up to Banias Paneas, the god Pan, the Greek god Pan was worshipped in these Naves. You can still see where they were hewed beautifully into the stone. It’s this huge rock in the middle of lots of rocks and the water still pumps from the springs of Caesarea Philippi, sheet of beautiful clear glass water and you will walk around there and you will go up and see this is the very spot Jesus has His experiences. Interesting He takes His disciples there when He says these words, Now when Jesus came, vs 13 of Matthew 16, Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” John the Baptist, others say Elijah, but so others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Let me stop for just a moment. You all know the passage too well but who do you say Jesus is? When the softball’s thrown your way, who do you say that He is?
When we think about a Jewish person who’s not willing to accept the Messiah, we need to go back a little bit in time. Let’s think about the first century. Jesus Christ is born of a Jewish lineage; He is a Jew; He came to His own first; He came to the nation of Israel; His chosen people. He presents His Words, His works, the miracles He performs in Jewish synagogues and so for the three years of Christ’s life when He’s going around, what we call the public ministry, He’s primarily dealing with Jewish people. The message of a Jew came to a Jewish group. Now of course Scripture records not all of them, not many of them received Him; many in fact denied Him; the religious group, the Scribes and Pharisees wanted nothing to do with Him; they hated Him. He was a threat to all they were. At the same time there were Jews looking for hope. They wanted someone to help with the persecution of the government, some of the pious Jews who lived a good quiet pious life did not like what had happened to Judaism. In the over region abuse of the synagogue officials and the Scribes and Pharisees who were a force to be reckoned with. Remember religion and law were one body in the first century. For the first century Jew their hope was in the Davidic king and they expected a literal person to come and literally take over and resume a kingdom. So they expected Jesus, we’ll put it in our language, he’s going to be elected president and he’s going to run the country. But it’s not just the president, he’s the monarch, he’s the king. He will sit on the throne; the throne of David. So even the Scribes and Pharisees look to that picture of the Messiah and that’s why they had such disdain for this Jesus. He wasn’t the kind of Saviour they were looking for. They wanted politics and power and grandeur and armies and a force to be reckoned with. Christ comes to die in their place, in our place, in your place, in my place. The king that was born to die that we can live. Sure Bill Maher can call it a suicide mission, but it wasn’t a suicide mission. It was a sacrificial mission because no one can ever be good enough to get to God, but God was good enough to come to us in the Person and work of Jesus Christ. So Bill Maher can use sarcasm and hubris and undermine and be foul at times about this Jesus, but at the end of the day it doesn’t matter what Bill Maher thinks about Jesus Christ. It matters what you think about Jesus Christ and if you placed your trust in Him. This is Michael Easley inContext.