Monday, 20 August 2018

Christian Fundamentals: Confessing Which Christ?

King of Kings

People don’t believe in miracles, not because they haven’t witnessed a miracle, but because their world view will not allow for miracles. Even though someone they otherwise respect should relate an account of a miracle many will not believe it. They will, rather, reconsider the esteem in which they hold their friend.

Neither will showing them a miracle guarantee their conversion because they may make every effort to explain it away and we have seen this. So it was with the people who saw the miracles of Jesus and his disciples, who drove out demons, healed the sick and preached the kingdom message. They saw Jesus feed five thousand (John 6:1-15) and ate their fill, but this did not guarantee their accepting who Jesus was.

When the crowd later sought out Jesus in Capernaum he said, ‘You are seeking me, not because you saw signs, but because you ate your fill of the loaves. Do not labour for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you.’ (vv26-27)

Jesus then launched into his controversial Bread of Life sermon (John 6:28-59) The result was ‘many of his disciples turned back and no longer walked with him.’ (v66) Many today are pleased to feed the five thousand, but are not so eager to preach the Bread of Life. But this is the test of the true disciple; are we seeking to have our fill today, or are we seeking ‘a better country?’ (Heb.11:13-16)

The message of the gospel is, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’ (Mark 1:15) The beginning of our journey into that kingdom is acceptance of who Jesus is, what he came to do.

When Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do the crowds say I am? They replied,

Some say John the Baptist

Others say Elijah

And still others that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life’”

A person’s response to Jesus is a sort of tipping point in either coming to a deeper knowledge of the things of God or increasingly failing to understand at all. Jesus spoke plainly and demonstrated his authority but seeing, they did not see, and hearing they failed to understand.

The Christ of God

Some of course did see and understand and when Jesus asked, “’But what about you? Who do you say I am?’

Peter answered, ‘The Christ of God’” (The predicted Deliverer. Lk.9:19-20, c.f. Lk.2:11; Jn.4:25)

At Pentecost upwards of three thousand saw and understood (Acts 2)

This is crucial because those who see, confess and order their lives accordingly will go on to grasp the mature vision of Christ portrayed by Paul, for instance, in his letter to the church in Colossae. Here Paul places Jesus at the centre of Creation, its cause, keeper and purpose (Col.1:15-20) and of the New Creation. These verses are believed to be a quotation from an early Christian hymn and so represent how those first Christians thought of Christ as the God of Creation and of the New Creation.

Christ is:

  • The image of the invisible God (Col.1:15a) and the beginning (Col.18b, c.f. Rev.3:14; Jn.1:1)

  • The firstborn of all creation (Col.1:15b) and the firstborn from the dead (Col.1:18c, c.f. Ro.8:29)

  • Preeminent because he is before all things (Col.1:17a) and the head of the body, the church (Col.1:18)

  • The one who holds all things together (Col.1:17b) and who reconciles all things to himself (Col.1:20a)

  • Everything in Creation is by him, through him and for him (Col.1:16b) and so everything in the New Creation (Col.1:20c)

This is mature teaching, requiring deep contemplation and those who accept Jesus as the Christ of God, the promised Deliverer, the image of the invisible God (Col.1:15) have much to ponder. But those who ascribe to Jesus the lesser role of prophet, teacher, great man, or exemplar fail entirely to see him. They fail to understand why Christians insist on his being God made flesh, Creator and Saviour.

The King

This Jesus is King, and the gospel is the gospel of his Kingdom (Mark 1:15). The invitation of the gospel is to enter into the Kingdom, and the way we do that is to recognise Jesus as King, repent, and turn to him as the one who brings us Kingdom life (John 6:40) As we have seen, and as church history demonstrates, he is not going to make us popular in the world. But then his Kingdom is not of this world.(John 18:36)

Such blessings as are to be had from this great hymn in Paul’s letter are not accessible to followers Jesus the ‘good guy.’ Such faith as they have is not in the Christ Paul preached or the disciples witnessed to. Jesus’ question and Peter’s answer place Christ in his rightful place and in our witnessing that is where we always seek to put him. Otherwise we rob people of that wonderful knowledge of him that awaits them as they trust him and grow in him. Any message that does not have Christ as the cause, keeper and purpose of all things is not the Christian message.

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