Friday, March 3, 2023

The Doctrine of Scripture Series - Jesus In All 66 Books Of The Bible - Jesus Is Explained In The Epistles


    A few posts ago we were working our way through the books of the Bible, section by section, with the aim to understand how Jesus is revealed in the 66 books of the Bible. In today's post, I want to pick up on where we had left off in finding Him in the Book of Acts by noting how we see Jesus in the New Testament letters. Readers may review that particular post here

    As we survey the New Testament, we find it is divided into four sections (The Gospels, Acts, The Epistles, and Revelation). The Gospels portray the incarnate Christ, eternal in Deity, coming into our world to add a human nature to His Person through the virgin-birth. It is in the Gospels we see "the Word made flesh" (John 1:14), "Immanuel" or "God-with-us" (Matthew 1:23) coming to be also "man-for-us", Jesus, the One who would save His people from their sins (Matthew 1:21). The incarnate Son of God, in His humanity, would minister, die, rise from the dead, and ascend into Heaven (Matthew 28; Mark 16; Luke 24; John 20-21).

    As we come to know the Christ portrayed in the Gospels, we come to know Him as the "pre-Pentecost Jesus", which is to say, as the incarnate-yet-not-glorified Christ. Once the Lord Jesus died and arose from the grave, His humiliation state spoken of in Philippians 2:5-8 would end. His exaltation (covering His resurrection to ascension through to His soon return), spoken of in Philippians 2:9-11, would begin. 

    The Lord Jesus would still retain (and will always have) His human nature - physical, bodily, finite. However, that human nature would become a glorified, resurrected nature. In the forty days intervening between His resurrection and ascension, our Lord would make a dozen appearances to followers and skeptics alike as the physically, resurrected Christ. Once our Lord would ascend into Heaven, this meant that the Father would send the Holy Spirit in His name.

    As we saw in Acts, the second major division in the New Testament, Jesus Christ, exalted in the Heavens as our Prophet, Priest, and King, is able to be with His church through the sending of the Spirit. This is what we noted as the "post-Pentecost Christ", meaning that the Person of the Son (still truly God and ever truly man), localized in Heaven as per His human nature; is by His Deity, shared with the Holy Spirit and the Father as One God, able to be with His people until He comes (Matthew 28:18--20; Acts 1:11-14). We do right to distinguish between the Persons of the Holy Spirit and the Son, while recognizing that the Holy Spirit's main job is to transmit and bring to us the Person of the Son of God as "God with us" and "man for us". 

    What Jesus is able to do now as "the post-pentecost Christ" far exceeds what we saw in the Gospels. As we prepare to journey into the New Testament letters or "epistles", we find all 21 of them devoted to two primary goals. 

    First, to explain all that has transpired in the wake of Christ's current ministry as the exalted, post-Pentecost Christ until His return. Then, the second goal of the New Testament letters is to explain how the Christian is to operate and live in carrying forth the great commission; love the Lord God and love others, and walk in the light of the Holy Spirit Who points them to fix their mind on Jesus Christ. 

    In every New Testament letter, we find the first section devoted to imparting to us sound doctrine about Christ, our relationship to Him, and the riches we have with Him in the heavenly realms as we live by His Holy Spirit in reaching souls for His sake. The second sections of the New Testament letters spell out the practical realities of these truths, whether marriage, raising children, working a job, working in the home, or fellowshipping in the local church.

    With that summary and introduction, I'll attempt to summarize how we find Jesus in the New Testament letters. Keep in mind that these are but faint outlines to whet our appetite to explore each letter in detail. As we embark upon the letters (also referred to as "Epistles"), we find their purpose to be that of explaining Christ in terms of what He did, and what He is continuing to do in Heaven as our Prophet, Priest, and King. And so, we continue in our study.

Romans= Jesus is our justifier.

      The doctrine of justification by faith asserts that upon saving trust in Christ's work of salvation, the sinner is declared righteous or acceptable by God apart from any merit. In justification, the grounds of right standing lies not in the sinner, but is credited to the the sinner from Jesus' accomplished life, death, and resurrection. Jesus, being God and man, is the Just One. He is the judge of all the earth. In becoming man for our sakes and going to the cross, Jesus took all our sins upon Himself, having credited to Himself our sin and unrigtheousness. This truth of "crediting someone else's work" is called "imputation". Jesus Christ is our justifier. Romans key verses in spelling out these truths are found in Romans 1:16-17; 3:21-26; 5:8; and 8:32-39.

1 Corinthians=Jesus is our Sanctifier

      In 1 Corinthians 1:30, we read of how Jesus Christ is "our wisdom, holiness, and sanctification". Justification is that one time judicial act whereby God declares the believing sinner to be legal right before His sight with the imputed righteousness of Jesus Christ. What follows from the legal act of justification is the practical, experiential process of sanctification, wherein the believer grows in their exercise of practical righteousness. Jesus Christ is the source of imputed righteousness and practical righteousness for the Christ.

2 Corinthians = Jesus is the glory of God

     What is God's glory? God's glory is the refracted sum total of His goodness, attributes, and being made visible within Himself and then to us. Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, would come to manifest His Divine glory through His incarnation (see 2 Corinthians 4:1-6). Paul's point in writing 2 Corinthians was to urge all of us to heed the call to be Christ's ambassadors. We take His message forth as we view Him with unveiled faces, taking pleasure in His glory.

Galatians = Jesus is our sin bearer

      Galatians was written to proclaim the Gospel and to warn of the heresy of the Judiazers, which claimed one could be right with God by lawkeeping, circumcision, and right moral behavior. The problem is, the law cannot wash away the guilt of sin. Paul's central argument for Jesus being our sin-bearer is found in Galatians 3:10-13. He bore the curse of the Law, which expressed the ultimate curse God pronounced on Adam and Eve. Only when we trust in Christ alone,can the curse of sin be removed, with Christ's credited righteousness in justification being declared over the believing sinner.

Ephesians = Jesus is our beloved.

      Ephesians is the treasure chest of the Epistles. Paul prays in Ephesians 1:18-20 that the eyes of his readers would be open to all they have in Christ. Jesus Christ is called "the beloved" in Ephesians 1:4-5. In that wondrous truth of God's elective purpose of grace in choosing certain sinners before the foundation of the world, it is the Father who directed His love toward the beloved Son. 

    In so doing, He formulated the plan that would call forth sinners from every nation to believe the Gospel. The Holy Spirit would be the One sent by the Father and ther Son to perform this calling. In salvation, the call of the Spirit of God comes to my heart, awakening me to receive God's gifting of faith to believe on Jesus Christ, the Beloved One, who first loved me.

Philippians = Jesus our humble Savior

      Philippians 2:5-11 features the most extensive passage on the incarnation of the Son of God. The key to Christ's incarnation lies in His humility. Theologians call His coming into our world His "humiliation". Once He goes to the cross and dies, His resurrection begins what is termed His "exalatation", culminating in His ascension and enthronement in Heaven. This wonderful humility is to be emulated by His people (see Philippians 2:1-5).

Colossians = Jesus is Supreme

      Colossians emphasizes the supremacy of Jesus Christ in all things. In Colossians 1:13-20, we see nearly fifteen characteristics of the Lord Jesus Christ, among which being Him as the Creator and Sustainer of all things, as well as Head over His Church.

1 Thessalonians = Jesus the Soon Coming King

      1 Thessalonians draws our attention to what will be Christ's soon return. 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 highlights the doctrine of the rapture of the church - that event in which Jesus will appear in the clouds to snatch up believers, raising to life and glory those having died, and transforming those yet being alive, with the goal to take them to be with Him. 1 Thessalonians 5 then teaches the Second Coming of Christ to earth, which will occur subsequent to the rapture of the church. Both events together constitute parts one and two of Christ's return, with a time interval of seven years in between called "The Great Tribulation" (see Daniel 9:23-27; Matthew 24).

2 Thessalonians = Jesus, the defeater of His enemies

       2 Thessalonians further elaborates upon what Jesus will do against his foes in the time between the rapture and His second coming. We know that the Lord Jesus Christ is the Supreme Judge. No matter what Satan may try to do against the church now, his time is short.

1Timothy = Jesus, the Mystery of Godliness

      1 Timothy is written to a young pastor named Timothy to give instructions on how the church ought to conduct itself before the Lord. 1 Timothy 3:14-16 is central to the overall argument of 1 Timothy. The Church is the "pillar of foundation of truth", carrying forth that wondrous mystery of the Eternal Son of God having been made flesh for our sakes.

2 Timothy=Jesus, the subject of Scripture

      Paul writes again to young Pastor Timothy to "preach the Word" (2 Timothy 3:16-4:2). The Bible, the Written Word of God, is in a continual relationship with Jesus Christ, the Living Word. 2 Timothy 4:1-2 portrays the act of preaching as taking place before the throne of Christ. It is Christ who is the center and circumference of the preaching of the Bible.

Titus=Jesus, the grace of God.

      Paul writes a short letter to a young Pastor named "Titus", urging him to establish elders on the small Island of Crete. It is in Titus 2:11 that we read about the Lord Jesus Christ: "For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men." Grace is not just an abstract concept or even just about God's unmerited favor toward sinners. Grace is the sum of all who Christ is and did. Grace tells us that God came Himself in the Person of the Son to become man for our sake.

Philemon=Jesus our forgivness

      Philemon is the shortest of Paul's letters, written to Philemon, urging him to forgive a runaway slave named Onesimus. Philemon's message of forgiveness is based upon what Jesus achieved on the cross. To forgive means "to let go". In Christ, the guilt and offense of the sinner's sinful condition before God is "let go", replaced by Christ's righteousness in saving faith.

Hebrews=Jesus our High Priest

      As to who wrote Hebrews, no one is certain. Although I still lean toward Paul being the author, there are good reasons for thinking it was someone else. Regardless of who wrote the letter, it bears the marks of Divine inspiration. In Hebrews we see the threads of the Old Testament being tied together in Jesus Christ. The theme of "better than" resounds throughout the book. Jesus is better than the angels (Hebrews 1); better than Moses (Hebrews 2); better than Joshua (Hebrews 3-4); better than Melchizedek and Abraham (Hebrews 5-7); better than the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8); and better than the Levitical priesthood and temple sacrifices (Hebrews 9-11). Only Jesus is fit to represent believers as their Permanent High Priest.

James=Jesus is the Judge

      James was the half brother of Jesus according to the flesh. In James 5:9, Jesus is depicted as the Judge standing at the door. We know this to be Jesus because all judgment and power was committed to Him by the Father (see Matthew 25 and Matthew 28:18).

1 Peter=Jesus our Precious Cornerstone

      Peter's first letter is addressed to a people scattered across what would be modern Turkey and Armenia. The Christian is portrayed as a pilgrim passing through this world. It would seem that the Christian's life is not valued by our world, and the Christ whom they follow is detested even more. Nevertheless, regardless of what the world thinks, 1 Peter 2 reminds us that Jesus Christ is that precious cornerstone, rejected by the world but precious to us who believe.

2 Peter=Jesus, our Heavenly hope

       One of the most comforting passages is found in 2 Peter 1:10-11 "Therefore, brethren, be all the more diligent to make certain about His calling and choosing you; for as long as you practice these things, you will never stumble; 11 for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you." Jesus is shown to be the heavenly hope of the Christian. He is the One who is building that everlasting city and the New Heavens and Earth, wherein dwells righteousness (2 Peter 3:13).

1 John=Jesus, the lover in my soul

      We saw in Ephesians how Jesus Christ is the beloved, the object of the Christian's affections. We can note as well that as Jesus Christ occupies the Christian by the Holy Spirit, it is He who enables us to love Him. 1 John 4:19 reminds us: "we love Him, because He first loved us".

2&3 John=Jesus is the health of my soul.

       John would write these two short letters to urge health in spiritual matters (2 John) and to urge health in the daily life of the church (3 John). Sound belief (orthodoxy) must accompany sound living (orthopraxy). At the center of orthodoxy and orthopraxy is the Eternal God/man, the Lord Jesus Christ.

Jude=Jesus, the foundation of faith

      Jude wrote this short little letter to remind his readers: "contend for the faith once and for all delivers to the saints" (Jude 1:3). Throughout Jude's letter, He reminds his readers that certain heretics will attempt to steal their trust in Jesus Christ. Nevertheless, Jude ends with one of the strongest statements that pertain to how Jesus Christ is the foundation and preserver of faith, Jude 1:24-25: "Now to Him who is able to keep you from stumbling, and to make you stand in the presence of His glory blameless with great joy, 25 to the only God our Savior, through Jesus Christ our Lord, be glory, majesty, dominion and authority, before all time and now and forever. Amen."

More next time....

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