Monday, September 19, 2016

P4 - What the Christian "has" to live the Christian life - Person of Jesus Christ

Image result for The cross
2 Corinthians 4:6 "For God, who said, “Light shall shine out of darkness,” is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ."

Over the last few days, we have considered what Jesus gives the Christian to live the Christian life. Whenever it comes to the Christian life, the New Testament urges the Christian to understand what all they have in Christ. The world, the flesh and the Devil work hard to detract followers of Jesus from their true identity. In 2 Corinthians 3-4 we find at least four things in the Christian's possession. We have noted two of them in the last two posts...

1. Positional Standing with God. 2 Corinthians 3:1-6

2. Power to live for God. 2 Corinthians 3:7-4:1

Today's post is going to continue by noting the third and perhaps most important blessing Jesus could give to the Christian - namely Himself. Thus we find that the Christian "has"...

Person of Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 4:2-12
In the opening passage of today's post we discover the profound truth about our salvation: we don't merely receive grace as some type of abstract power from God to live the Christian life. Instead, we obtain the Person of Jesus Himself. In the argument of 2 Corinthians 3, Paul reminded his readers that they are heirs along with him of the New Covenant promises in Jesus. Indeed, the Christian receives a positional standing in God at saving faith. Such positional standing is what the New Testament refers to as "justification", which is to say - God's legal declaration and crediting of the sinner as having Christ's righteousness at saving faith. 

But then we also found that with the position comes the power to live the Christian life by way of the Person and work of the Holy Spirit. All of these wondrous truths are spelled out in the New Covenant promises predicted in Old Testament passages like Jeremiah 31:31-34, proclaimed by Jesus Himself as the Mediator of the New Covenant in Luke 22 and initiated in the church at Pentecost in Acts 2. 

To have position with God and power from the Holy Spirit is indeed remarkable to think about when it comes to how we live the Christian life in a hostile world. However, we have the remarkable truth elaborated in 2 Corinthians 4 that we also have the Person of Jesus Christ. To have Him with us through the Holy Spirit's ministry is cause for wanting to renounce the world and its allurements and embrace Jesus Christ as Savior, Lord and Treasure (2 Corinthians 4:1-4). Once the blinders are taken off by God through the hearing of the proclamation of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:5), it is at that juncture that Christ is brought to us, and we to Him, by the agency and work of the Holy Spirit (2 Corinthians 4:6).

Though Christians have the Person of Christ in this life, no one said it was going to be an easy life
2 Corinthians 4:7 notes the "treasure" we have contained within these "earthen vessels" of our humanity - "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves." The "treasure" that Paul refers to points back to the prior verse which makes mention of the "glory of God revealed on the face of Jesus Christ". 

Christ Himself is the treasure. We have Jesus in terms of all He achieved, all that He is in His ascended glory and Person and all His activities that He works forth on our behalf. Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary makes the following observation:

"Self was not the matter or the end of the apostles' preaching; they preached Christ as Jesus, the Saviour and Deliverer, who saves to the uttermost all that come to God through him. Ministers are servants to the souls of men; they must avoid becoming servants to the humours or the lusts of men. It is pleasant to behold the sun in the firmament; but it is more pleasant and profitable for the gospel to shine in the heart. As light was the beginning of the first creation; so, in the new creation, the light of the Spirit is his first work upon the soul. The treasure of gospel light and grace is put into earthen vessels."

Albert Barnes in his commentary on this text observes:

"Paul in the previous verses had spoken of the gospel, the knowledge of Jesus Christ, as full of glory, and infinitely precious. This rich blessing had been committed to him and his fellow-laborers, to dispense it to others, and to diffuse it abroad. His purpose in this and the following verses is, to show that it had been so entrusted to them as to secure all the glory of its propagation to God, and so also as to show its unspeakable value."

We have the Savior, delivered to us by way of the Gospel by the Person of the Holy Spirit. With that truth affirmed by the apostle, why then must this treasure have included the hardships of trial and testing? After summarizing all that he and his ministry partners had to endure for Jesus' sake, Paul notes in 2 Corinthians 4:10 "always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body." 

It is quite interesting how, in the ancient world, to access various substances of great value, their less valuable containers would need to be broken. A rose's scent, when crushed underfoot, would emit its sweet aroma. In Luke 7:36-39, when the woman with the alabaster box of perfume poured such upon Jesus' head, she had to break the alabaster box that contained that valuable perfume. Or again, we find Mary in John 12:1-3 pouring a type of perfume called "nard", which could only be accessed by the breaking of the small vessel she had with her. 

So Paul closes out with these words in 2 Corinthians 4:11-12 "For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you." The Christian life has as its treasure Jesus Christ in the Gospel. The point Paul is making though is that such a treasure must needs be accompanied by the testings and trials for it to be distributed to those who find no value in it. Once the treasure of Christ in the Christian is unleashed, God's grace by His Spirit attends such a life devoted to Him. Christ is disseminated among those who are lost. Saving faith issues forth from such hearts that respond to such overtures of grace from God through the believer. 

Closing thoughts
Today we considered how the Christian has the treasure of Christ in the Gospel. The Christian is an earthen vessel. We have Christ and all He is and all He has done and all He is doing. He our prophet speaks to us through the scriptures. He our Priest prays ever for us and appeals to the Father on our behalf. He as our King reigns over us by the scepter of His Word. Thanks be to God, Jesus Christ is not hermetically sealed off in history nor in Heaven. By the Person and work of the Holy Spirit, the Person and work of Jesus is made available to the Christian. In sharing with the Deity of the Spirit, the Person of Jesus as truly God is enjoyed. In like-manner, though the Son's glorified humanity is localized in Heaven, yet by the Spirit's work, His humanity is also enjoyed by His people who are united to Him in saving faith. We enjoy the whole Savior, deity and humanity - and rejoice in the fact that Jesus Christ is accessible to us 24/7. By the Gospel of Jesus we have the royal decree of the King concerning His commitment and love to us. 

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