The New Years Resolution of getting back to sound theology has brought some back and forth from well meaning folks and not so well meaning folks. Their dogma on the Gnostic philosophy and with semantics and the “gotcha” mentality does no one any good. (see comments). The main thing is to approach Christ after Christmas and enjoy the encounter.
Jesus Christ : Christology
We believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate, fully God and fully man, one Person in two natures. Jesus—Israel’s promised Messiah—was conceived through the Holy Spirit and born of the virgin Mary. He lived a sinless life, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, arose bodily from the dead, ascended into heaven and sits at the right hand of God the Father as our High.
Priest and Advocate
The act of God becoming a man as a substitute offering for a sinful man as significant in many ways but most importantly to show us the way from our sinful nature, show us what a relationship with God could be like and to be the blameless sacrificial lamb for our salvation.
The Hypostatic Union of Jesus Christ as described in Philippians 2:7 is also found throughout the Gospels. Our servitude comes from the attitude of Jesus Christ who proclaimed that he came to “serve and not to be served.” In Philippians 2:7 is that “he made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient too death –even death on a cross!.” Since the leaders of the time expected a “political king” to save them from Roman rule, they either missed or rejected that this humble servant was the Messiah. (They may have understood his human nature, but missed his divine nature.) One of the most striking analogies of political leader and servant leader to me is that Jesus took on the responsibility for all and to show it in his teaching by washing feet is a wonderful symbol of a servant leader. In contrast the political leader Pontius Pilate took no responsibility especially when “washing his hands of Jesus.” Jesus taught humility and he acted as a humble servant, so in that God placed his son on a mission to align himself with the “least of these,” the hypostatic union is the nature of Jesus to be aligned as fully God and fully man. The synopsis written to the Philippians by Paul describes both the human nature of God in Christ and the union with His divine nature.
The Christological heresies as the early church attempted to understand and explain the hypostatic union began with the debate of the Deity of Jesus. The first question the early church theologians debated centered on the relationship of Jesus to God. Early Christian thinkers known in the church as “apologists,” attempted to form a fusion of Greek Philosophy with the Gospel and a proposal of what they called “logos Christology.” The question continued with the “apologists” lobbying for a mythological story of creation where God speaks the world into existence in accordance to the Word and then spoke into existence the human Jesus. A second heresy was from Paul of Samosata who called for “monarchchianism” which theorized that divine power descended on Jesus so that he was not born of God but a carrier of divine power, an inspired man. Paul was excommunicated shortly after his presentation in AD 268.
Israel’s Promised Messiah (Relation to Prophecy)
It is important that Jesus be known as “Israel’s promised Messiah” because it is the connecting tissue to God the Creator and His promise in the line of David. The consistency of God is proven with this connection and that God delivered the Messiah through a plan that was connected throughout the Old and New Testament. Its importance for our understanding of Jesus is to understand why he knew what he knew and how he amazed the religious scholars in the Temple. Our understanding of the Bible through Jesus being Israel’s promised Messiah is that God is true to His promises and His design can be found from beginning to the end times through studying His plan to redeem his people.
The virgin birth is essential and significant for our understanding of Christology and soteriology. Through genealogy and the promise of the Savior God chose a young Virgin named Mary to carry, give birth and raise Jesus. Conception by a virgin was the appropriate way for the Son of God to be conceived and to become human. As the Holy Spirit “hovered” over the old creation of the earth, so it is with the new creation. For Jesus to become human he was born in a human way to the world and humanity he came to save.
Sinless Life, Crucifixion
The significance of Jesus’ perfect obedience (both active and passive) for our salvation is based on the sacrifice of the Lamb. The sin offering in the Old Testament was a Lamb and more importantly the Passover Lamb was to be an unblemished lamb(Exodus 12:3 -6) sacrificed as a substitute for the people of Israel who’s doorposts were covered by the blood of the Lamb. Jesus was the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, blameless and unblemished as the prophet Isaiah describes, the “Suffering Servant, who as a lamb died in the place of sinners.” (Isaiah 53:4-7)
Could Jesus have sinned?
Jesus was tested in the desert in an all-out sparring with the devil! The story of his baptism and his anointing was followed by 40 days facing temptation. The teachers of religious law implied that Jesus was a sinner by the people he associated with. There is no record that Jesus fell into sin but did he have a choice? I doubt that He did and my reasoning is that Jesus had the opportunities but if we believe that he is God and had all the authority, wisdom and constant interaction with his Father then even if he wanted to, or was tempted to, he modeled self-control. The closest thing to sin is the temptation of wanting God to take away the bitter cup. He closes that dialogue with what he often said “Not my will, but yours.” That is obedience and sin is disobedience to God’s will.
Why did Jesus die?
The mystery of faith of the ancient church proclaims “Christ has died, Christ is risen and Christ will come again.” In God’s plan Jesus has to die for our sins in order to rise to conquer death. The promise that He will come again in Glory to judge this world is also part of God’s plan.
Bodily Resurrection, Ascension and Session
The importance of Jesus’ resurrection is part of our redemption. Death has lost its sting not just symbolically but in truth. Jesus conquers death through His resurrection and he provides a way for us to conquer death by following him. He still bore the scars and wounds of his brutal crucifixion and at times even his disciples don’t recognize him. His body was transformed form a mortal body to a spiritual and immortal body.
Ascension and Session
The significance of the ascension and session of Jesus Christ is a “mission accomplished statement to His followers and the newly appointed Apostles. This is Jesus “finishing well on earth,” to return to His rightful place at the right hand of the Father. This mission on earth is completed and as Jesus gives the Apostles their final instructions, this is part of the resurrection process. Jesus rises from the dead, he ascends to heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father (session) where He alone is our advocate to the Kingdom. The promise that He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead is the next mission of Jesus Christ at the end of the World. In summary systematic theology goes from Resurrection to Ascension to Session for the process to reach completion according to the prophetic word in John 6:62 and 20: 17 and the gospels (Mark 16:19, Luke 24:51). The description of the Ascension can be found in Acts 1:9-11).
High Priest and Advocate
The significance of the ministry of Jesus Christ can be found in Luke 4:18- 19:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners and recovery of sight for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor.”
What that means to me in my life is that Christ is in the center and in any church that I serve Christ must be in the center. The scriptural answer to Jesus, our High Priest is found in the priestly order of Melchizedek and can be found in Hebrews 6:20-7-17. The description is that a High Priest could not come from the line of David, yet Jesus also came from the line of Melchizedek the King of Salem and priest of God Most High. (Hebrews 7:1) He was Abraham’s High Priest and his name means “king of righteousness,” and also “king of peace.” Melchizedek was a Levitical priest who had no known genealogy and no known beginning or end. The Psalmist declares In Psalm 110:4: You are a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus is the High Priest who offered up the ultimate sacrifice, himself as the high Priest over the new covenant.