Fear of Christ is a phrase found just once (Ephesians 5:21). It’s the generic word for fear (phobos). Many translations render it as “reverence” or “respect”, but that isn’t strong enough. In a kingdom perspective, fear of Christ displaces every fear.
Do you read this as a warning that you might not go to heaven?
Ephesians 5 5For of this you can be sure: No immoral, impure or greedy person — such a person is an idolater — has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God. (NIV)
It didn’t mention heaven. Readers substitute heaven because that’s how kingdom of God has been understood. But the Bible’s narrative isn’t about us going to heaven; it’s about God’s kingship being restored to earth.
Do the Psalms tell us about Jesus? Are these verses about Christ?
Psalm 22 1 My God, my God, why have you forsaken me? … 16 They have pierced my hands and feet.
Psalms 118 22The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone.
The New Testament writers thought so. So did the church fathers. Were they right? Or were they bending texts to fit their beliefs? What did David intend? Does authorial intent define the meaning? Or is meaning in the ear of the hearer, whatever the reader wants it to mean?
When the church fathers used the Psalms this way, the Jewish leaders were mortified. They pointed out that no one read the Psalms like this until after Jesus died, so the Christians were merely imposing their own meaning on Jewish literature.
Should we be seeing the Messiah in the Psalms? Everywhere? Nowhere? In a few cases? What do you think?
All our fuzziness about the kingdom becomes clear when we ask, “Who is the king?”
Here’s a single question to clarify Jesus’ teaching on the kingdom: Who is the king?
That question has two answers:
God is king. It’s the kingdom of God.
Christ is king. God entrusted his kingship on earth to his anointed (Christ).
Our heavenly sovereign doesn’t impose his rule on us; he exercises his reign through us. He designed us to be images of his dominion, for the benefit of all the creatures on earth (Genesis 1:26-28; Psalm 8).
That’s why God promised to restore his reign through humans, through Abraham’s family. When Israel asked for a king, God agreed to have a son of David representing his reign on earth (2 Samuel 7:11-16). God’s reign is through “the Lord and his anointed” (Psalm 2:2).
So Jesus is God’s Anointed (the Christ). But Jesus rarely promoted himself. If we don’t realize that he’s talking about his own kingship, his kingdom teaching can sound cryptic.
There was this special day when Jesus discussed his identity with his followers. It must have been important for Jesus to take them 40 kilometres north of Galilee, a two-day journey to the headwaters of the Jordan River at Caesarea Philippi.
According to local legend, the cave there was the entrance to the underworld. There were two temples: one dedicated to the Greek god Pan, and another temple to honour Roman emperor. Surrounded by these competing claims for power — spiritual, religious, and political — Jesus asked them how they understood his identity: “Who do people say I am? … And what about you? Who do you say I am?” (Mark 8:27, 29).
This was Peter’s great confession. The synoptic Gospels record his answer slightly differently:
Mark 8 29 Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” Matt 16 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God.” Luke 9 20Peter answered, “God’s Messiah.” (NIV)
There’s no problem with the differences. Biographers regularly condense dialogue, and occasionally they expand it for emphasis or to explain the sense. The question is, Did the Gospel writers think Peter had made two significant statements about Jesus, or one?Continue reading “What does ‘Son of God’ mean (Matthew 16:16)?”
Is Jesus “a new Moses”? Would that be a helpful way to describe him?
Should we describe Jesus as “a new Moses” in the Biblical story? In the Old Testament, Moses liberated God’s people and established them as his nation. In the New, Jesus liberated humanity and established us as God’s kingdom.
The similarities are clear, so hundreds of books draw the comparison. Yet the New Testament writers seem reticent to describe Jesus this way. Why?
Calling Jesus “the Christ” is declaring him the ruler chosen by God to restore heaven’s reign to the earth.
Christology is the study of Christ. Well, that’s what it would be if it focused on the Christ bit.
These days, Christology is a branch of theology, the study of God (theos means God). Systematic theology starts with God, so Christology usually fits in as the study of the second person of the trinity. It discusses how Jesus could have two natures without his divinity messing with his humanity and vice versa. It rehearses how early Christians struggled with wrong ways to talk about God (heresies) and eventually found the right language (the creeds and Symbol of Chalcedon).
That’s all important, and I’m truly grateful for these great summaries of what we believe. But along the way, the emphasis shifted. Christology lost its focus on the Christ.
Guide dogs are amazing: a constant companion, willing to take a blind person where they want to go. The dog is trained for you personally, so it’s expensive to train one, and it really does become your own personal guide.
We make a huge mistake when we apply the same language to Jesus — calling him “my personal Saviour.” That’s a term Scripture never uses, because it could suggest that we think Jesus belongs to us, and he will take us where we want to go. That’s a completely corrupt way to understand Jesus, as if he was our personal servant and guide. And yet that attitude is widespread in the church today. We’re proclaiming that selfish arrogance each time we tell people, “Invite Jesus into your life; he’ll make it so much better for you.”
If you ever meet Queen Elizabeth, please do not invite her to be your personal queen. You’d be insulting her, as if she did not have that authority already. Please don’t invite her to sit on the throne of your heart! She already has the throne! What you must do is to acknowledge her authority, bow before her in recognition of her regal status, and follow her commands.
Imagine standing on the banks of the Jordan as Jesus surfaced, hearing a voice proclaiming, “This is my Son, the one I love, who pleases me.” What would that mean to you?
You would not have thought, “Just look at that! The Father called him the Son, and the Spirit descended on him. There must be a trinity!” That understanding didn’t come until much later. So how would a first century Jew have understood the heavenly announcement? Continue reading “Heaven’s proclamation of Jesus (Matthew 3:17)”