6 GRITTY BENEFITS OF A ROBUST CHRISTOLOGY
My friends and I have thought up a genius idea to streamline the Christian book industry. Our plan is to create a random book title engine to maximize book hype. You would provide your favorite orthodox doctrine and the engine would add to it -driven, -centered, total-, or -everyday. And no, I’m not being serious!
But there is this sneaking habit among Evangelicals to dabble with what I call “magic spell” Christianity. In practice, some Christians believe that if they say or write the correct word–like those in our book title engine–then things will actually happen. It is the temptation to avoid the hard work of growth in grace by just saying someone is “gospel-driven.” It is the temptation to avoid working through conflict with a spouse and just claim that the marriage is “christ-centered.” And no, I’m not joking!
The life of the Christian is hard work. There are no magic spells, no opere operatum monikers. It’s the hard work of learning, studying and trusting the person of Christ; and then knowing your own life well enough to apply that doctrine correctly. Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy are most beautiful when they appear together in the Person, work and reward of Christ.
That is the main reason why this blog exists. We want to continually challenge you to see the points of connection between your life and Jesus’s life. And we only get better through practice. So let’s consider together what the Westminster Shorter Catechism summarizes as the three offices of Christ (WSC 23-26).
Far from detached theology, these aspects of Christ’s work as Redeemer are crucial for healthy Christian living.
- Jesus, as our prophet, reveals God’s will for our salvation. From the proto-evangelium (i.e. the first preaching of the Gospel) of Genesis 3:15 onward God has been revealing his way of salvation. John says of Jesus, “No one has ever seen God, the only God who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known” (John 1:18). When the Christian struggles with doubt over his or her salvation, Jesus is there, in the Word, to speak the way of salvation that is by grace through faith. When the Christian wonders if God can love a sinner like him, the voice of Jesus echoes through the pages of the Bible assuring him it is so.
- Jesus, as our sacrifice, atones for our sins. Jesus provides for us both his active and passive righteousness. He actively performed God’s law without sin on our behalf (Rom 8:3-4). He passively allowed himself to suffer and be killed for the sins of his people (1 Pet 3:18). In this way he robbed sin of its power and deposited death into death itself. In what practical way can the Christian cherish and live out of this gift? When the Christian can look to the finished work of Jesus, acknowledgement of guilt becomes a road to grace rather than a pathway to self-pity and self-atonement. Morbid introspection becomes a useless tool. And the threat of condemnation is no longer a motivating factor for this, the new creature in Christ, a sinner purchased by Jesus’s precious blood (1 Pet 1:19).
- Jesus, as our priest, mediates between us and God. In addition to the redemptive-historical appointment of sacrifice, there was another key typical figure in the Old Testament sacrificial system. Sacrifices didn’t jsut sacrifice themselves. There were priests, ordained by God, who mediated between the people and God. The priest was an emblem, someone who would go before God when the believer could not. The priest was an advocate, someone who would plead the sinner’s case based on the ground of a sacrifice performed. This office of priest has been filled by Jesus. He is the great high priest of the people of God (Heb 4:14). When the Christian is faced with her own sin, even that thing she said she would never do again, what should she do? When the child of God lies awake at night with worry, dread, and anxiety, to whom should he go? The Christian can run to God in prayer knowing that Jesus is there. He can sympathize with you (Heb 4:15) and lives to make intercession for for his people (Heb 7:25).
- Jesus, as our king, graciously conquers our rebellion and subdues us to himself. Paul’s description in Romans 3 of the man without God is a startling picture of stubborn rebellion. Man, unconverted in sin, will have anything and everything except the one, true God. His heart is in rebellion to him and even his best actions are offensive to him. Even Christians, still struggling with the sinful flesh, may at times find themselves singing the lyrics of Come Thou Fount, “prone to wander Lord I feel it, prone to leave the God I love.” It is in those moments, if a man is to be saved or a saved man is to stay saved, it will be because of the might of God and not the weak strivings of man (Matt 19:26). The might of God in salvation is accomplished through Jesus our King. When his people run, he chases them down. When they curse, he blesses. When their sin increases they find his grace to increase all the more.
- Jesus, as our king, rules and defends us. The world is a confused and scary place. I don’t know any Christian who has ever at any point in their life had all of their questions answered. It seems that the children of God must alwayslook to God and ask, “What should I do, Lord?” The complexities of Christian living and ethics in this world can only be solved by an open and well-loved Bible. But even when the Christian has the word of God for the whole of life there are still the trials, tragedies, hardships, and conflict of His providence that are hard to read. Believers need to know that there is someone looking out for them. Jesus is, as the Christian’s King, sitting at the right hand of God ordering the world for his own glory and the ultimate good of his people (Rom 8:28). There is not a day that goes by that the Christian does not have an opportunity to thank God for the kingly care of Jesus.
- Jesus, as our king, restrains and conquers our and his enemies. Sin, death, the devil, and the enemies of the Gospel do not rest and will not rest. In this time before the return of King Jesus, we as his people, know the conflict, persecution, and spiritual warfare that fill this world (John 16:33). It may be besetting sin. It may be punctuated moments of demonic opposition. It may be an abrasive coworker, hell-bent on undermining and disproving the Christian faith. Can even the strongest, most mature Christian look at himself and say, “I am enough to face these things?” No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Jesus, who loved us and gave himself for us (Rom 8:37). Jesus is not only a king who conquered us in love, who provides wisdom and protection now, but he is also the one who will eventually conquer all of his and our enemies even in the end death itself (Rev 20:14). Jonathan Edwards helps us better understand the richness of this truth in his outstanding sermon “Christ Exalted.”
Take some time and reflect on these things. The truths about Jesus are not paintings for the museum. The beauty of Christology is, in fact, seen best when it is on display in the grit and struggle of ordinary Christian living.