I recently had a very thought provoking class on the destiny of the unevangelized. It was our last class for Soteriology through Reclaiming the Mind Ministries. Have you ever been asked the question, “Is Jesus the only way to God?” “Is it necessary to believe in Christ to be saved”? “What about those who have never heard the Gospel of Christ? Can they make it to heaven?” Now let me ask another question, have you really thought through the implications of your answer? The following will be an overview of what we covered in class. Is Christ necessary ontologically (what he did) and is Christ necessary epistemologically (knowledge of what he did)?
Archive for the ‘Christology’ Category
Tags: frank viola, leonard sweet
Leonard Sweet and Frank Viola have teamed up to write “Jesus Manifesto”. I am reviewing it for the www.BookSneeze.com program. The book sets out to call the church to recommit to the supremacy and centrality of Christ. Beginning reading the book, I had to keep setting aside my preconceived ideas about Viola, since I have strong disagreements with a lot of the work that has brought him into prominence as a writer and speaker.
Of course, a work that seeks to uphold the centrality and preeminence of Christ is one of value. The text focusses a lot on the epistle to the Colossians and calls that text “the high-water mark of divine revelation in all the New Testament” (p.24) which is a great example of one of my main hesitations in recommending “Jesus Manifesto”: Sweet & Viola are guilty of stating their strong convictions as inescapable, all-encompassing fact. It is not their desire of the church to return to Jesus alone that troubles me, but these little asides, along with the sweeping condemnation of the church in America/the West that causes me to balk somewhat. I agree with the authors’ passion, but I don’t agree with their evaluation of the church at large. No doubt, there are many who are focussed on anything but the glorious Son of God, but the tone they take seems more elitist than engaging – I fear that the very people they need to encourage and correct will reject the book for that reason.
One other point of contention I have is the ongoing attitude towards the Law. “The One who nailed to His bloody cross every law, every rule, and every regulation that would condemn the beloved people of God” (p.33) is good sounding, but seems to imply that God is sad about the Law. But God is not sad about the Law, He’s sad about sin. There’s an antagon
istic attitude towards the Law, without a recognition that, as it was given by God, it was good. It’s sin, and man sinning, that is bad! God didn’t send Jesus to save us from the Law, but to save us from our sinfulness.
The current trend seems to be one of distrust of the Old Testament, as though it was God’s mistake, but that certainly does not seem to be Jesus’ attitude, nor the early church’s, and so we have to be careful with our theology of the Cross that we focus on being redeemed from the bonds of sin, not the bonds of the Law. The Law cannot save us, I agree. But it does serve a purpose – through the law comes knowledge of sin (Rom. 3:20).
To the more general aspects, the writing is fast and conversational, not overly technical but not dumbed down. Sweet & Viola are certainly gifted authors, and their hearts scream off the page. I disagree with some of their theology, and I probably won’t be recommending this text to anyone I know, but in their conviction about the centrality of Christ they have served to help me look and evaluate all that I do to be sure that the Lord of All is indeed in the Lord in all I do!
I have recently had the opportunity to discuss spiritual matters while carpooling to work with a co-worker who is Mormon. We do not always carpool but from time to time her normal ride is not available. At some time during our commute, the conversation usually turns to spiritual things. We have discussed matters such as, “where is God in natural disasters?”, “why do some not believe in a God?”, and the seriousness of sin. Our conversations have taken a turn where we now tend to discuss particular aspects of our faith. She has talked to me about how other “Christians” have mistreated her. She has also given me her testimony about how she came to be Mormon and why she believes Mormonism is true. She has even invited me to come to church with her and to watch the 108th General conference which was recently on TV. So, how should I respond? I do know some things about the teachings of the Mormon Church. Do I play dumb? Just tell her I am happy with my own religion and move on? Or, do I have a responsibility? Do I confront her with teachings of her church that go against what the Bible teaches? Where should I start? The following are some things I have found helpful. I hope this will be an ongoing post as our conversations continue.
Tags: church, doug wilson, eschatology, kevin de young, kingdom
Kevin DeYoung has noted before that people talk a lot about the Kingdom of God, but don’t always have a fully biblical view of this issue. Last week, he posted some thoughts on this issue, cautioning people who want to bring the kingdom to earth. DeYoung argues instead that the kingdom is closely identified with the Church:
If the kingdom of God is heaven breaking into earth, Eden being replanted, the New Jerusalem nailing in stakes, then we should expect to see the kingdom almost exclusively in the church. Of course, the church, living in the world, ought to embody the principles of the kingdom. Likewise, we will be pleased when the world around us reflects many of the values of the kingdom–forgiveness, compassion, mercy, and justice. But we will not expect the world, in this life, to become the kingdom.
Here’s the problem: when people talk broadly about bringing heaven down to earth on the culture writ large, they can’t help but be selective about the nature of the kingdom. So some Christians will argue for dismantling of nuclear weapons because in the kingdom swords are beaten into plowshares. True, but in the kingdom everyone also sits under their own vine and fig tree. The vision of the kingdom/garden/city is one of extravagant opulence and prosperity. So should we try to be as rich as possible as a sign of the kingdom’s in-breaking? Well, no because the kingdom is not the full reality yet. As a result we must temper the notion of kingdom-living prosperity with the reality that some people don’t have enough to live. In the same way, we must temper the notion of kingdom-living pacifism with the reality that there are lots of bad guys in the world who don’t want us to live.
In other words, when we think of the kingdom as what we are trying to build in this world we will be severely disappointed, potentially dangerous. But when we see the church as the presence of the kingdom in this world then the theological pieces start falling into place. The oversight in some recent conceptions of building the kingdom is that the kingdom is only thought of in terms of social services. But where Christ reigns, wickedness is expelled too. If you want to build the kingdom in your town, if you want heaven to come down to earth in your city, then you must not allow unrepentant sinners to live there. For Scripture is clear that they share no part in the kingdom. (more…)
Tags: impeccability, james shelton, jesus christ, mighty word deed
Dr. James Shelton was gracious enough to share some thoughts in response to my earlier blogpost.
I am honored that you looked at Mighty in Word and Deed.
We are dealing with a mystery here. A mystery revealed but not a mystery completely explained. Jesus was completely human and completely divine. The hypostatic union of his humanity and divinity means that he did nothing apart from either nature. So in one sense one could say that his union with divinity would preclude his sinning; like we avoid sin only by the presence of his bountiful grace.
Yet, in his humanity he was like us in that he depended on the Holy Spirit to help him overcome evil. In one sense the doctrine of perichoresis says that Jesus as God the Son does nothing without the Holy Spirit and the Father. But he was a real human and therefore empowerd by the Holy Spirit (Acts 10:48; Luke 4:18). Like the hymn, Veni Sancte Spiritus( Come Holy Spirit) we say to the Spirit “Come fill our hearts; for without your grace all turns to ill. Veni Sancte Spiritus.”
Jim Shelton, Ph. D.
Prof. of NT and Early Christian Literature
Oral Roberts University
Tags: charismatic, james shelton, luke-acts, mighty in word and deed, pentecostal
In my reading of James B. Shelton’s volume, “Mighty in Word and Deed: The Role of the Holy Spirit in Luke-Acts”, I offer the following quotes and thoughts.
There is much discussion if the Spirit, for Luke, was primarily an empowering agent for ministry and witness, or also an agent of renewal and transformation. I think that Shelton (1991:57-62), in his chapter, “The Holy Spirit and Jesus’ Temptation”, shows that there is adequate Lukan material to suggest that Jesus’ triumph over temptation is paradigmatic for believers’ today as well. Shelton (1991:60) states:
Luke’s use of “full of the Holy Spirit” and “led by the Spirit” makes it doubly clear that Jesus’ temptations were real and that he was truly human. He relied not on his own power and resources but on God’s.
Shelton (1991:60) elaborates:
While Luke maintains that Jesus experience as God’s Son through the work of the Holy Spirit is unique, he also shows that in his humanity Jesus is dependent upon the Holy Spirit to overcome temptation and carry out his ministry. this is why Luke use the same terms to express Jesus’ relationship with the Holy Spirit and that of believers. This is good news to Luke’s readers. The temptations of Jesus are real, as real as anyone else’s dilemmas. Jesus does not rely on the uniqueness of his Spirit-generated birth (LK 1:35) or his office of Messiah to win over temptation. He overcomes evil as God expects all people to triumph—through the power of the Holy Spirit.
Shelton (1991:61) concludes the chapter by the following summary:
Thus for Luke enduring the temptations is not merely a staged act by a divine being incapable of being tempted, but it is a lifestyle of a human being endowed by and dependent upon the Holy Spirit. Luke’s emphasis on the Spirit in the temptation narrative is simultaneously sobering and encouraging for the followers of Jesus in their struggle with evil.
I hold to the impeccability of Jesus, meaning that He could not have sinned. Even so, I sometimes think the debate on the issue a vain thing as it only speaks to hypotheticals. The fact is that HE DID NOT SIN. That’s what matters in the whole enchilada. Having said that, I don’t think that taking a position of the impeccability of Christ is contradictory towards Shelton’s emphasis on Jesus’ dependence upon the Spirit to overcome very real temptations.
The fact is that God ordains “means” to fulfill His purposes. Jesus dependence upon the Spirit, His prayers, and learning of the Scriptures were all “means” which enabled Him, in a very real way, to live a life fully devoted to the Father, thus fulfilling all righteousness.
While we aren’t Christ, we are encouraged to employ the very same means in our own sanctification. We are to learn the Scriptures, pray, and walk in the power of the Spirit. While our faith is built upon the foundation of Christ’s righteousness as being ours, He does also serve as an example for our sanctification. After first answering “What Has Jesus Done?”, are we then able to answer “What Would Jesus Do?”. In fact, we answer the latter question by first understanding the former.
Scholars have begun to think about the way that Jesus and Paul called the Roman Empire into question. I think that it was this Christian Century article from 2005 that turned me on to the trend. Peter Leithart’s article in First Things also explored the idea of Paul’s assertion of Christ’s triumph over earthly powers:
Paul taught Christians to expect a lot from the gospel, politically as well as personally. He taught that the crucifixion of Jesus had a direct impact on the powers-that-be. He told the Colossians that Jesus went to the cross as the firstborn—the only-begotten of the Father, the new Israel, the heir, the Passover sacrifice—to pacify the powers. The same Son who created the powers (Col. 1:16) has “made peace through the blood of His cross” by reconciling powers in heaven and earth to Himself (Col. 1:20).
Paul borrows from the propaganda of the Roman Empire to make his point. According to Roman imperial ideology, the emperor was a cosmic “peace-maker,” bringing to earth an image of heavenly peace. The apostle says, on the contrary, that God has his own peace-maker, another Lord who reconciles all things. As Paul says later in Colossians, Jesus renovates all things and unites Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, slave and free (Col. 3:10-11), extending his empire even to “barbarians” (Col. 3:10-11).
Scholars have debated inconclusively about whether the powers are angels or demons or social “forces” or human authorities, but in the end it doesn’t matter for Paul. If there are visible powers and authorities, the Son who made them subdues them (Col. 1:16). If there are invisible angelic or demonic powers, or more abstract forces in the human world, their fate is the same. The key thing for Paul is not to identify the powers, but to say that they have all been created and they have all been conquered. It’s a universal truth: Whatever rules over humanity has been tamed by the cross of Jesus.
Paul reiterates the same point in more extreme terms in the following chapter. Jesus, he claims, has “stripped” the rulers and authorities and made a public display of them (Col. 2:15). Paul is making an ironic reference to the actual event of Jesus’ crucifixion. If CNN had captured the crucifixion, the film clip would have shown Jesus Himself stripped, crucified naked and exposed. According to Paul, what actually happening was the opposite: Jesus stripped the powers. Paul again borrows from Roman imperial custom in saying that Jesus makes a “public display” of the powers, having triumphed over him in the cross.” By his death, Jesus leads the powers in a triumphal procession, displaying them as the trophies of his conquest, the plunder of Egypt.
Leithart believes that this has indeed happened, and discusses the Christian Church’s victory over Rome’s tyranny and the polytheistic religions of the ancient world. At the same time, he writes that governments and cultures can be not only defeated, but reconciled to God’s rule, rejecting the Anabaptist idea that Christians must always be opposed to power. Of the times where the Church has sinned in its triumph, he writes,
Paul also means that through the cross the Church is delivered from everything else that dominates and distorts human life. The true man Jesus redeems slaves to tradition, slaves to blood and nation, slaves to fashion, slaves to public opinion, and forms a community of free citizens, of truly human humans. If the Church has often bowed to the idols of nationalism, traditionalism, or trendiness, it is because we have too often forgotten our exodus and returned to Egypt.
Leithart believes (in my understanding) that the Church can bring Christ’s kingdom here on by baptizing nations and bringing the world under God’s rule, fulfilling the Great Commission. I believe in the Great Commission, of course, but I’m not yet convinced of the Christendom model that he embraces. I’m not sure that the Bible teaches that Christians are to set up an earthly kingdom, but I haven’t done a lot of study on the topic. Nevertheless, I found his reflection on Christ’s victory edifying and the historical context in which he places Paul’s writings to be quite helpful.
Leithart also posted a couple of really deep reflections here and here on the meaning of worship within the last month, which I mostly want to link to so I can recall them. I hope that you find them helpful as well. Thanks, Joel, for putting me in touch with Leithart’s writings!
My evening readings were in 1 Pt. 1-2 and there is so much precious truth in it all, however 1 Pt 2:24 sticks out for me today:
“He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.”
I had the chance to visit with a dear brother this morning who is a missionary to the Ukraine and we ended up spending some time talking about the work of Jesus upon the cross. I informed him that the doctrine of penal substitution (Jesus satisfied our penalty for sin on the cross) is under attack today. He was shocked.
“How could they do that? Why did Jesus come to die then?” he asked.
I gave him the reasons and he was appalled that people have a problem with the idea that Jesus actually took our sin, its filth, the Father’s wrath against it, everything with Him into His body on that cross. You are left with an empty cross… a most unfortunate martyrdom that the Father had nothing to do with. How is this glorious?
Anyhow, Peter tells us plainly that Jesus bore our sins in His body. That is glorious in and of itself, however the good news doesn’t end there. Peter adds a purpose clause following that great statement, “…that we might die to sin and live to righteousness.”
Jesus not only satisfies the penalty and wrath for our sin, but purchases on the cross sanctifying power for the believer to die to sin and live for Him. This is great news!!! He not only forgives us, but empowers us to live a life pleasing to Him for His glory. 1 Peter has several important imperatives that help shape exactly how the ‘justified’ believer is to live out ‘sanctification’. Let us praise our Lord that He truly “healed” us on that cross through the wounds He endured.
Thank you for saving me and not appointing me to destruction, but rather unto newness of life. Thank you for choosing to come and carry out the mission that the Father gave you to purchase me. Thank you for enduring every stripe and wound for my sin. As I ponder your wounded body, may I see in it the death of my own flesh and the power to live for You. I live for you Lord…for Your glory. I am not ashamed of the cross…it is a stumbling block for many, but you have made it precious in my sight. I have tasted Your sweet goodness and I long for more. May Your goodness shape me as a vessel to be used for Your glory. Amen.
Ascension Day often gets overlooked, but it is a most glorious truth that we celebrate today…the risen, exalted Christ, reigning from on high, expanding His kingdom and subdoing His enemies.
The following article is from the newly released ESV Study Bible. I highly commend this study Bible to your collection…its study notes are thorough and Evangelical, and its articles cover a suprinsingly vast number of topics from Theology to Ethics, and everything inbetween. Visit esvstudybible.org.
The Person of Christ
Four statements must be understood and affirmed in order to attain a complete biblical picture of the person of Jesus Christ:
- Jesus Christ is fully and completely divine.
- Jesus Christ is fully and completely human.
- The divine and human natures of Christ are distinct.
- The divine and human natures of Christ are completely united in one person.
The Deity of Christ
Many passages of Scripture demonstrate that Jesus is fully and completely God:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth (John 1:1, 14).
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known (John 1:18).
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen (Rom. 9:5).
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not countequality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men (Phil. 2:5–7).
. . . waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ (Titus 2:13).
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power (Heb. 1:3).
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.” . . . And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands” (Heb. 1:8, 10).
Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Pet. 1:1).
Jesus’ Understanding of His Own Deity
Even though the passages cited above clearly teach the deity of Christ, this truth is often challenged. Some say that Jesus never claimed to be God and that these verses were written by his disciples who deified him because of the impact he had on their lives. Jesus, it is claimed, only saw himself as a great moral teacher on a par with other religious leaders. However, Jesus’ understanding of his own deity in the Gospels does not support this perspective. He clearly saw himself as God. This can be seen primarily in six ways.
1. Jesus taught with divine authority. At the end of the Sermon on the Mount, “the crowds were astonished at his teaching, for he wasteaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes” (Matt. 7:28–29). The teachers of the law in Jesus’ day had no authority of their own. Their authority came from their use of earlier authorities. Even Moses and the other OT prophets and authors did not speak in their own authority, but would say, “This is what the Lord says.” Jesus, on the other hand, interprets the law by saying, “You have heard that it was said. . . . But I say to you” (see Matt. 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44). This divine authority is shown with staggering clarity when he speaks of himself as the Lord who will judge the whole earth and will say to the wicked, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23). No wonder the crowd was amazed at the authority with which Jesus spoke. Jesus recognized that his words carried divine weight. He acknowledged the permanent authority of the law (Matt. 5:18) and put his words on an equal plane with it: “For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished” (Matt. 5:18); “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away” (Matt. 24:35). (more…)
The New York Times reports that a 3-foot-tall stone tablet found near the Dead Sea in Jordan contains writings that mention the Messiah and the resurrection. Scholars believe that the writing on the stone talks about the Messiah, “prince of princes,” who “in three days…shall live” after being killed.
Two things were particularly interesting to me about this story. First, the stone dates to a few decades before the birth of Jesus. Second, it was Jewish and secular scholars—not Christian—who reported the findings. I pray that God will use this stone to point many Jewish people to the Stone, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Tags: Book Reviews, dan lioy, gospel, gospel of john, Jesus, jesus as torah, jewish theology, torah
Chapter 5 “Jesus as Torah in John 5-6”
Part 1 (Examining treatment of Jesus as Torah in John 5)
Dr. Lioy views a shift in John’s emphasis from chps. 1-4 as emphasizing Jesus as the eternal Tanakh against the backdrops of Jewish piety and history towards a comparison of Jesus with some of the major festivals of Judaism.
Tags: bono, bono christian, gospel, Music Reviews, rick hogaboam, u2
You can find Bono’s explanation of the Gospel at the following link: http://www.worldmag.com/articles/10892
Here is a summary of some things Bono states:
”The point of the death of Christ is that Christ took on the sins of the world, so that what we put out did not come back to us, and that our sinful nature does not reap the obvious death,” replies Bono. “It’s not our own good works that get us through the gates of Heaven.”
“Look, the secular response to the Christ story always goes like this: He was a great prophet, obviously a very interesting guy, had a lot to say along the lines of other great prophets, be they Elijah, Muhammad, Buddha, or Confucius. But actually Christ doesn’t allow you that. He doesn’t let you off that hook. Christ says, No. I’m not saying I’m a teacher, don’t call me teacher. I’m not saying I’m a prophet. I’m saying: ‘I’m the Messiah.’ I’m saying: ‘I am God incarnate.’ . . . So what you’re left with is either Christ was who He said He was—the Messiah—or a complete nutcase. . . . The idea that the entire course of civilization for over half of the globe could have its fate changed and turned upside-down by a nutcase, for me that’s farfetched.” (more…)
Tags: communion, Daily Devotional, john piper, maundy thursday, rick hogaboam, spring
A lot of people will notice that the calendar notes that today is both Maundy Thursday and the first day of Spring. First of all, some of you may be wondering what “Maundy” means and think it insignifiant since everyone is working, the kids are in school, and the mailman will pay a visit. BUT, Maundy Thursday is indeed important, because it is supposed to remind us of the Lord’s words to love one another. John Piper posted the following regarding today (http://www.desiringgod.org/Blog/1136_thursday_of_the_commandment), (more…)
Tags: bible, bible commentary, crucifixion, Daily Devotional, david, Devotional, old testament, psalm 22, psalms, rick hogaboam, Theology
Psa 22:1-31 To the choirmaster: according to The Doe of the Dawn. A Psalm of David. My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? Why are you so far from saving me, from the words of my groaning? (2) O my God, I cry by day, but you do not answer, and by night, but I find no rest. (3) Yet you are holy, enthroned on the praises of Israel. (4) In you our fathers trusted; they trusted, and you delivered them. (5) To you they cried and were rescued; in you they trusted and were not put to shame. (6) But I am a worm and not a man, scorned by mankind and despised by the people. (7) All who see me mock me; they make mouths at me; they wag their heads; (8) “He trusts in the LORD; let him deliver him; let him rescue him, for he delights in him!” (more…)