Which Jesus Do You Worship? (Machen)

 Many people will say something positive about Jesus.  I’ve heard someone who didn’t profess to be a Christian tell me he thought Jesus was a good guy.  I also had a Mormon get upset with me because I told him the Mormon religion and the Christian faith are worlds apart.  He got in my face and passionately told me loved Jesus in his heart.  I was wondering “which Jesus?”  J. Gresham Machen wrote well about this in chapter two of The Person of JesusHis argument was that the Christ who walked among us long ago, Jesus of Nazareth, is who Scripture says he is: God-in-the-flesh, truly man and truly God.  Here’s Machen:

“…It is not a sin to worship Jesus.  On the contrary, it is the highest and noblest privilege and duty ever given to man.  It is not a sin to worship the real Jesus.  It is not a sin to worship the Jesus who is God and man.  But it is a sin to manufacture a Jesus who was man only and not God, and then after you have manufactured that purely human Jesus to bow down and worship him.”

J. Gresham Machen, The Person of Jesus, p.24.

Shane Lems
Covenant Presbyterian Church (OPC)
Hammond, WI, 54002

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Christ our God

Emergence of the Catholic Tradition: 100-600 Christians have always confessed that Christ is divine – not a being less than or subordinate to God, but God himself.  Heretics in the early church fought against this doctrine; modern-day cults like Jehovah’s Witnesses still rail against it.  But the deity of Christ is one of the fundamental truths of biblical religion.  Jaroslav Pelikan explains this well in the first volume of his Christian tradition series (The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition [100-600]):

“Amid the varieties of metaphor in which they conceived the meaning of salvation, all [early] Christians shared the conviction that salvation was the work of no being less than the Lord of heaven and earth.  Amid all the varieties of response to the Gnostic systems, Christians were sure that the Redeemer did not belong to some lower order of divine reality, but was God himself.  The oldest surviving sermon of the Christian church after the New Testament opened with the words: ‘Brethren, we ought so to think of Jesus Christ as of God, as of the judge of living and dead. And we ought not to belittle our salvation; for when we belittle him, we expect also to receive little.’”

“The oldest surviving account of the death of a Christian martyr contained the declaration: ‘It will be impossible for us to forsake Christ…or to worship any other.  For him, being the Son of God, we adore, but the martyrs…we cherish.’  The oldest surviving pagan report about the church described the Christians as gathering before sunrise and ‘singing a hymn to Christ as though to [a] god.’  The oldest surviving liturgical prayer of the church was a prayer addressed to Christ: ‘Our Lord, come!’  Clearly it was the message of what the church believed and taught that ‘God’ was an appropriate name for Jesus Christ.”

Jaroslav Pelikan, The Emergence of the Catholic Tradition [100-600], Chicago (The University of Chicago Press, 1971),173.

shane lems

Bonhoeffer and Barth

Bonhoeffer_Ethics_Cover Sections like this in Bonhoeffer’s writings always make me wonder how much Barth influenced him; they also make me hesitate to think of and speak of Bonhoeffer as an evangelical in the present day sense of the term.  Here’s the section found on pages 194 & 197 of his Ethics:

“The Christian ethic speaks in a quite different sense of the reality which is the origin of good, for it speaks of the reality of God as the ultimate reality without and within everything that is.  It speaks of the reality of the world as it is, which possesses reality solely through the reality of God.”

“Christian belief deduces that the reality of God is not in itself merely an idea from the fact that this reality of God has manifested and revealed itself in the midst of the real world.  In Jesus Christ the reality of God has entered into the reality of the world.  The place where the answer is given, both to the question concerning the reality of God and to the question concerning the reality of the world, is designated solely and alone by the name Jesus Christ.  God and the world are comprised in his name.  In Him all things consist (Col. 1:17).  Henceforward one can speak neither of God nor of the world without speaking of Jesus Christ.”

“…The reality of Christ comprises the reality of the world within itself.  The world has no reality of its own, independently of the revelation of God in Christ.”

There is more to this discussion, of course; there are further nuances and developments to trace.  However, it is a discussion worth having.  In fact, John Baillie (a professor at Union Theological Seminary in the 1930’s when Barth’s influence was starting to grow) said, “Bonhoeffer was my student in this Seminary in 1930-1931 and was then the most convinced disciple of Dr. Barth that had appeared among us up to that time, and withal as stout an opponent of liberalism as had ever come my way” (quoted in Bethge, Dietrich Bonhoeffer: A Biography, p. 158).  Comments are welcome, of course.  I’ll be looking into this a bit more in the next few months, Lord willing.

shane lems

Mark’s Narrative and Christology

Mark’s Gospel is obviously centered on the person and work of Jesus.  Mark uses stories, imagery, parables, and speeches to give readers a clear and detailed introduction to Jesus of Nazareth (and what it means to follow him).  Speaking of Christology in Mark’s Gospel, I appreciate Eugene Boring’s helpful summary list of the titles of Jesus in Mark’s Gospel.  Here they are in edited/shortened format:

1) Christ (Christos)

2) Son of God (ho huios tou theou)

3) Son of Man (ho huios tou anthropou)

4) Lord (Kurios):

5) Suffering Servant (based on how Isaiah’s prophecies appear in Mark’s Gospel):

6) Teacher (didaskalos, rabbouni):

7) Prophet (prophetes):

8) Shepherd (poimen):

9) Holy One of God (ho hagios tou theou):

10) Bridegroom (nymphios):

11) King of the Jews/Israel (basileus ton Ioudaion/Israel):

12) Son of David (huios Dauid):

13) The Coming One (ho erchomenos):

14) The Mighty/Mightier One (ho ischyroteros):

Boring explains each of these in a rather detailed way – you can find the details on pages 248-258 of his commentary on Mark’s Gospel.

rev. shane lems

Biblical Support for Christ’s Deity

Without a Doubt: Answering the 20 Toughest Faith Questions In his excellent book, Without a Doubt, Ken Samples provides a brief list of Scripture texts which attest to the deity of Jesus Christ.  This list, as Ken notes, is incomplete, but it is a good start.  Here are some texts you may want to study for the next time you encounter a proponent of one of the modern-day cults (i.e. Jehovah’s Witness, Mormon, etc.) or a theological liberal (i.e. someone who denies the deity of Christ).

Divine titles proclaimed by or attributed to Jesus Christ:  1) God (John 1:1, 18; Rom. 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8), 2) Lord (Mark 12:35-37; John 20:28; Rom. 10:9-13; 1 Cor. 8:5-6), 3) Messiah (Matt. 16:16; Mark 14:61; John 20:31), 4) Son of God (Matt. 11:27; Mark 15:39; John 1:18; Rom 1:4; Gal 4:4), 5) Son of Man (Matt. 16:28; Mark 8:38; 14:62-64; Acts 7:56).

Prerogatives or actions of God in the Old Testament proclaimed by or attributed to Jesus Christ: 1) Worship of God (Is. 45:23/Phil. 2:10-11), 2) Salvation of God (Joel 2:32/Rom. 10:13), 3) Judgment of God (Is. 6:10/John 12:41), 4) Nature of God (Ex. 3:14/John 8:58), 5) Triumph of God (Ps. 68:18/Eph. 4:8).

Divine names, actions, or roles proclaimed by or attributed to Jesus Christ: 1) Creator (John 1:3; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2, 10-12), 2) Sustainer (1 Cor. 8:6; Col 1:17; Heb. 1:3), 3) Universal Ruler (Matt. 28:18; Rom 14:9; Rev. 1:5), 4) Forgiver of sins (Mark 2:5-7; Luke 24:47; Acts 5:31; Col. 3:13), 5) Raiser of the dead (Luke 7:11-17; John 5:23; 6:40), 6) Object of prayer (John 14:14; Acts 1:24; 7:59-60; 1 Cor. 1:2), 7) Object of worship (Matt. 28:16-17; John 5:23; 20:28; Phil. 2:10-11; Heb. 1:6), 8) Object of saving faith (John 14:1; Acts 10:43; 16:31; Rom. 10:8-13), 9) Image and representation of God (Col. 1:15; Heb. 1:3).

Divine attributes or qualities proclaimed by or attributed to Jesus Christ: 1) Eternal existence (John 1:1; 8:58; 1 Cor. 10:4; Col. 1:17; Heb. 13:8), 2) Self-existence (John 1:3; 5:26; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2), 3) Immutability (Heb. 1:10-12; 13:8); 4) Omnipresence (Matt. 18:20; 28:20; Eph. 1:23; 4:10), 5) Omniscience (Mark 2:8; Luke 9:47; John 2:25; Col. 2:3), 6) Omnipotence (John 1:3; 2:19; Col 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2), 7) Sovereignty (Phil. 2:9-11; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 19:16), 8) Authority (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:22), 9) Life in himself (John 1:4; 5:26; Acts 3:15).

Again, this list is incomplete (and, for the sake of space, I left out a few citations that Samples gave), but it is a good start.  Indeed, Jesus of Nazareth, the Messiah, is the eternal Son of God who is one with the Father and the Holy Spirit.

The above list in its entirety can be found on pages 125-6 of Ken Samples, Beyond a Doubt.

rev. shane lems

Who Is Jesus? Thinking Rightly of Christ

Thinking Rightly of Christ If you’re looking for a solid, biblical, and historic Christian book that is a basic study of who Jesus is, you’ll have to get this one: Thinking Rightly of Christ by Bryan Holstrom.  (Side note: Andrew has interviewed Bryan here before, and noted another helpful book he has written, namely, Infant Baptism and the Silence of the New Testament).  This one, Thinking Rightly of Christ, is a book that simply summarizes the Bible’s teaching about Jesus.

Holstrom starts out with a short lament:

“…If we’re honest about it, we would have to admit that far too much of the world’s thinking has infiltrated the confines of the visible church in our age.  The Christ who is proclaimed from many a pulpit, and taught in a great many seminaries today, often bears little resemblance to him who is set forth in Scripture as the King of kings and Lord of lords.”

He goes on to note that even many of us who are mature Christians don’t have a robust and full biblical understanding of who Christ is.  So he wrote this book to help us know the Lord Jesus better.

“The purpose of this book is to correct such deficient thinking about Christ, particularly among Christians, and to replace our false conceptions of his person and work with one befitting the Creator of the heavens and the earth, who upholds all things by the word of his power (Heb. 1:2-3).  To that end, each of the twenty chapters seeks to expound upon a truth statement drawn directly from Scripture that touches upon the subject at hand.  Those familiar with the Bible will appreciate that there are literally hundreds of truth statements about the person and work of Christ, any one of which could have been the subject of a separate chapter here” (p. 15).

Holstrom chose to stick with twenty statements that people misunderstand, are clear but underappreciated, and/or those that have been attacked or ignored (p. 15).  So this book doesn’t summarize every single statement the Bible makes about Christ, but it gives the reader twenty important truths about the Son of God that will help strengthen their faith in him.

I won’t list all the chapters here since you can see a preview on Amazon (here).  I do want to say, however, that this book would be great for a small group or individual study.  Each chapter is between 10 and 15 pages which might be the topic for one discussion/study.  This book is probably not for new Christians (it might be too detailed for them), but it is a good one for Christians who want to sit down and study – in detail – exactly who the Bible says Jesus is.  Each chapter even begins with a Scripture reference that might be memorized to the reader further grow in knowledge of the Messiah.  Come to think of it, this might be good “devotional” reading for those of you who want to sit and read 10-15 pages per day.

It would be helpful if there were study questions for each chapter and a Scripture index at the back of the book, but the content is solid and I very much recommend it.  In fact, I might use Thinking Rightly of Christ for teaching material in the future – it is a great 20-week (20-chapter) study course on the person and work of Jesus from Christian, biblical perspective.  If you want a biblical answer for the biblical question, “Who do you say that I am?” you’ll want get this book!

shane lems

Why DID We Crucify Him?

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I’m still thinking critically about the present-day view of Jesus, the view of which Deepak Chopra advocates by painting a rosy-cozy picture of a “third” Jesus.  Awhile back we saw Machen’s comments that were excellent and appropriate.  From a different “tradition,” here’s Bishop Willimon’s take on this whole thing.

“It is odd that we have made even Jesus into such a quivering mass of affirmation and oozing graciousness, considering how frequently, unguardedly, and gleefully Jesus told us that we were sinners.  Anyone who thinks that Jesus was into inclusiveness, self-affirmation, and open-minded, heart-happy acceptance has then got to figure out why we responded to him by nailing him on a cross.  He got there not for urging us to ‘consider the lilies’ but for calling us ‘whitewashed tombs’ and even worse.”

Right.  If Jesus just gave us some neat statements on realizing our potential, why in the world did we staple him to a tree while cackling like demons?  We need Jesus because he called sin sin and chased it to the cross to pay for it and take the damning curse from those who trust in him.  I don’t really care about my lack of self-actualization and low self-esteem.  My dark and depraved heart frightens me much more.

Qutoes from William Willimon, Sinning Like a Christian (Nashville: Abingdon, 2005), 8.

shane lems

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