Week of Interesting Blog Posts: Preaching the Great Christological Texts

Between the Times had a great post on preaching Christological texts:

Evangelicals believe the biblical teaching concerning the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the sole and sufficient Savior for all persons who have lived or ever shall be.  We note that such an affirmation is needed because the Christian church is now confronted with various theological heresies such as universalism, radical pluralism, theological inclusivism, and religious relativism, all of which call into question the clear teachings of Holy Scripture and belief in the particularity and finality of the revelation and salvific work of Jesus Christ.

What is it that drives Baptists like us, and evangelical Christians as a whole, to make such strong statements of theology and faith?  I believe the answer can be found not only in “the clear teaching of the Holy Scripture” in general, but in the great Christological texts in the New Testament in particular.  I refer to the quintessential quartet of John 1:1-18Open Link in New Window; Phil 2:1-11Open Link in New Window; Col 1:13-23Open Link in New Window; and Heb 1:1-3Open Link in New Window.

The clear exegesis and exposition of these four passages are the bedrock foundation of biblical and orthodox Christology.  Both his person (full deity and perfect humanity) and work (sacrifice and atonement) are gloriously expounded in these texts, though it is his person that is more strongly emphasized.

What we think and believe about Jesus influences all aspects of our theology: what we think about God, the Bible, and salvation, for example.  If we are to think correctly, that is biblically, about Jesus, these four great texts should be taught clearly, consistently, and courageously without compromise or apology.

What might four expository sermons on these great texts look like? What would be an accurate assessment of their theme and emphases? I would like to propose the following for consideration of how to get at these passages in preparing to proclaim them to the people of God.

1). A message on John 1:1-18Open Link in New Window might be titled “Jesus Christ: The God of Incarnation.”
Such a sermon would declare that as the Word of God Jesus powerfully preexisted (1:1-5), was prophetically witnessed (1:6-9), was personally rejected (1:10-13), was permanently incarnated (1:14), is properly exalted (1:15-17), and that he perfectly communicated (1:18).

In this text emphasis is placed upon the Logos, the Word, Jesus as coeternal, coequal, and consubstantial with the Father (1:1-3).  He is the perfect embodiment of God revealing himself to humanity (1:14, 18).  By believing in Christ alone we can become children of God (1:12).  Various structural analyses of the passage generally agree that the focus is on vv. 10-14, while vv. 1 and 18 also receive emphasis.  The central verse is considered to be either v. 12 or v. 14.  It can be argued, in fact, that v. 12 contains the soteriological heart of the passage and v. 14 the Christological heart.  This text is so full theologically, one could consider a six part series of these 18 verses.

2). A message on Philippians 2:1-11Open Link in New Window could bear the title “Jesus Christ: The God of
Humiliation.”  This passage declares first that we must cultivate the disposition or mind of our Lord (2:5) by seeking unity (2:1-2), humility (2:3), and sensitivity (2:4).  Second, we must consider the humiliation of our Lord (2:6-8), who humbled himself in his renunciation (2:6), in his incarnation (2:7), and in his crucifixion (2:8).  Third, we should celebrate the exaltation of our Lord (2:9-11), who has an exalted position (2:9), designation (2:9-10), adoration (2:10), and confession (2:11).

The second and third divisions of this passage (2:6-11) is believed by many to be based on an early Christian hymn of two stanzas.  It may find its Old Testament roots in Isaiah 53Open Link in New Window.  The passage is ethical (especially vv. 1-5) and soteriological, with emphasis falling on the humbling and emptying of our Lord.  The incarnation was not a subtraction of deity.  It was an addition of humanity.  Emphasis on Christ’s full deity and utter uniqueness as the God-man is clearly communicated in the text.

3). The third message on Colossians 1:13-23Open Link in New Window, could be titled “Jesus Christ: The God of Creation.”  Here the message is that Jesus is Lord of the Cross or Savior (1:13-14), Lord of Communication or Revelator (1:15), Lord of Creation or Creator (1:15-17), Lord of the Church or Leader (1:18-20), and Lord of the Christian or Master (1:21-23).
 
Also viewed by many as an early Christian hymn, this text emphasizes that (1) Christ makes visible the invisible God, (2) Christ is the agent of creation, and (3) God’s fullness dwells in him (cf. 2:9-10).  Perhaps used as a polemic against first-century heresy, this text is quite relevant in confronting “New Age” ideas concerning the relation between God, Jesus Christ, and the world.  Further, the preeminence of Christ “in” and “over” his church sounds a much-needed call in our day when personal agendas and self-serving attitudes unfortunately prevail in too many of our churches.

4). Finally, a sermon on Hebrew 1:1-3 could be presented under the title “Jesus Christ: The God of Revelation.”  The message of this passage is that Jesus is God’s best because of his 1) proclamation (1:1-2a), 2) his possessions (1:2b), 3) his power (1:2c), 4) his person (1:3a),5) his provisions (1:3b), 6) his purification (1:3c), and his 7) position (1:3d).  Seven marvelous characteristics of our Lord weave this text together.  Thirteen times the author will use the word “better” in this book to convey the superiority of Jesus to prophets, angels, Moses, and Aaron, i.e., to the entire Old Covenant economy.  The emphasis of the prologue (which closely parallels Luke 1:1-4Open Link in New Window; Acts 1:1-3Open Link in New Window) is upon Christ’s superior revelation to anything previous, as well as its climactic and definitive nature.  Jesus is God’s very best in every way.  When we have Jesus, we have all from God that we need.
 
Though there is some degree of overlap in these texts, each is unique in its own right, and all four are essential in laying the foundation for a biblical orthodox Christology.  We need to preach about Jesus.  We need to expound his person and his work so that his people will know their Savior for who he is and what he has done.  I commend these four great texts to preachers of the gospel across our land with the prayer that their exposition will exalt the wonderful Savior who loved each one of us so much that had anyone of us been the only person to ever live, he still would have left heaven and died on the cross of Calvary just for us.  His death does not teach that we are great.  His death teaches that He is great.  He is great in love and holiness.  He is great in power and purpose.  He is simply a great God.