Sub-Ordinate Role But No Less Divine

and/or misunderstanding, that unbelievers frequently expresss about the Trinity. As a believer you should be aware of this. James White on occasion says:

Difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature.

For many who deny the Trinity or the deity of Jesus, it is thought that since Jesus fulfilled a lesser (subordinate) role in his incarnation compared to that of the Father, Jesus must therefore possess a lesser nature.

Those who oppose the deity of Christ often point to Jesus’ submissive remarks about doing the will of his Father. For example, Jesus says, “the Father is greater than I am.” They infer from this that Jesus does not share the same nature with the Father. But this is confusing categories. It ignores the broader context that is talking about their relational roles, not their nature.

Jesus also calls the Father, “My God.” Yet those who oppose the deity of Christ ignore that this is a humble acknowledgment of the incarnate Jesus modeling for us humility and submissiveness (John 20:17). This exalting-affirmation is what we would expect from the Son of God.

Similarly, it is argued, since Jesus is the agent of the Father in many respects such as creation, Jesus cannot be fully God. Regarding the Spirit, they will make the similar false assumption. Since the Spirit is sent by the Father, the Spirit cannot have the same divine nature as the Father. They will look at these statements and make the fallacious leap that difference in function indicates inferiority of nature.

They also deny the freedom of the Divine persons to choose their roles. Or to put it another way: they assume that to be truly God, the Son and the Spirit must have the exact same roles as the Father in order to share in the same nature.

A simple, but effective, illustration will show that difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature: A husband and wife—as well as children!—will possess different roles in a marriage. Wives are to take on the submissive role, yet this does not indicate that difference in function requires inferiority of nature. Does the wife have a lesser nature than that of the husband? Not according to Christian anthropology. They are both fully human.

Let’s praise God for the incarnation, which itself presupposes a submissive role that brought about our salvation. We do not worship a unipersonal-unitarian God, but worship instead a complementary-trinitarian God.

Jesus’ Threefold Office

Priest, and King

Joel Beeke (original source here)

Reformed theology affirms that Scripture and its teaching on grace and faith emphasize that salvation is solus Christus, “by Christ alone”—that is, Christ is the only Savior (Acts 4:12). B.B. Warfield wrote, “The saving power of faith resides thus not in itself, but in the Almighty Savior on whom it rests.”

The centrality of Christ is the foundation of the Protestant faith. Martin Luther said that Jesus Christ is the “center and circumference of the Bible”—meaning that who He is and what He did in His death and resurrection is the fundamental content of Scripture. Ulrich Zwingli said, “Christ is the Head of all believers who are His body and without Him the body is dead.”

Without Christ, we can do nothing; in Him, we can do all things (John 15:5; Phil. 4:13). Christ alone can bring salvation. Paul makes plain in Romans 1–2 that though there is a self-manifestation of God outside of His saving work in Christ, no amount of natural theology can unite God and man. Union with Christ is the only way of salvation.

We urgently need to hear solus Christus in our day of pluralistic theology. Many people today question the belief that salvation is only by faith in Christ. As Carl Braaten says, they “are returning to a form of the old bankrupt nineteenth-century Christological approach of Protestant liberalism and calling it ‘new,’ when it is actually scarcely more than a shallow Jesusology.” The end result is that today, many people—as H. R. Niebuhr famously said of liberalism—proclaim and worship “a God without wrath who brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross.”

Our Reformed forebears, drawing on a perspective traceable all the way back to the fourth-century writer Eusebius of Caesarea, found it helpful to think about Christ as a Prophet, Priest, and King. The 1689 London Baptist Confession, for instance, puts it this way: “Christ, and Christ alone, is fitted to be mediator between God and man. He is the prophet, priest and king of the church of God” (8.9). Let us look more closely at these three offices.

Christ the Prophet

Christ is the Prophet whom we need to instruct us in the things of God so as to heal our blindness and ignorance. The Heidelberg Catechism calls Him “our chief Prophet and Teacher, who has fully revealed to us the secret counsel and will of God concerning our redemption” (A. 31). “The Lord thy God,” Moses declared in Deuteronomy 18:15, “will raise up unto thee a Prophet from the midst of thee, of thy brethren, like unto me; unto him ye shall hearken” (KJV). He is God’s Son, and God demands that we listen to Him (Matt. 17:5). Continue reading

The Excellency of Christ

A rich and sumptuous feast of delight in the gloriously diverse person of Jesus our Savior — Every Christian should read this sermon – perhaps one of the single most impacting sermon that you may ever read.

Dear Beloved in Christ, I am oftentimes reminded of what C. S. Lewis said one time concerning the reading of old books. In essence, Lewis wrote that for every new book we read, we ought to read at least three old ones. What he wanted to communicated wisely to the Church was that the reading of old books takes us out of our culture and religious “present-tense” context and allows us to see a clearer and bigger picture of the teaching of Scripture without being hindered by the biases and narrowness of our present cultural milieu or context.

Recently, as I was studying and praying generally for the future of Christ’s Church, and considering more specifically gaining wisdom with regard to how to pastor Christ’s people, I came across a discourse, or study written by Jonathan Edwards in the early 18th century. Jonathan Edwards was a great and godly preacher of God’s Word, and was perhaps the finest and most able theologian America has ever produced!

The discourse or study is entitled ‘The Excellency of Christ’. The study struck me deeply in my heart and mind because it helped me to reflect on the glory of God in the incarnation, but perhaps even more practically, it helped me to think of how Christ builds and matures His Church in a way consistent with the incarnation, yet paradoxical with regards to the ways and methods of the world. Continue reading

Lamb of God

“Lamb of God” Music and Words by Jason Hansen, Bob Kauflin, and David LaChance, Jr. © 2015 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

Lead Vocal: Rebecca Elliott
Piano: Bob Kauflin
Cello: Bethany Payne

Lyrics:

VERSE 1
O Lamb of God, all worlds obeyed Your will
From dark and void their being came
O Lamb of God, Your glories echo still
Creation sings its Maker’s praise
Eternal God, One with the Father
Before all time You dwelt in love
Eternal God, unlike all others
Yet You descended unto us

VERSE 2
O Lamb of God, in filthy manger lay
In humble dress You entered earth
O Lamb of God, Creator bows to save
The needy ones, helpless from birth
Incarnate Word, gift of the Father
To take our place and bear our sin
Incarnate Word led to the slaughter
You conquered death and rose again

VERSE 3
O Lamb of God now reigning on the throne
The Judge of all, faithful and true
O Lamb of God, You’ll make Your power known
When all Your foes receive their due
Victorious King, when history’s fading
You’ll call Your Bride to take her place
Victorious King, Creation’s waiting
For Your redeemed to see Your face

© 2015 Sovereign Grace Praise (BMI)

From the album, Sooner Count the Stars: Worshiping the Triune God

The Ligonier Statement on Christology

In all good conscience I am happy to affirm along with its affirmations and denials.

Firstly, some introductory words from Dr. R. C. Sproul:

Who is Jesus? Nearly every adult person has formed some opinion of Jesus. These opinions may be superficial, uninformed, or downright heretical. The truth about Jesus, not mere opinion, matters . . . and it matters eternally.

Those who bear the name Christian profess to follow Christ as His disciples. They hold a Christology—a doctrine of Christ—that reflects their view of Christ. This Christology may be articulated implicitly or explicitly. It may represent the depth of biblical revelation and historic Christian reflection on Scripture, or it may be novel and disconnected from God’s Word. But no professing Christian lacks a Christology.

Since following Christ is central to Christianity, the church has labored for centuries to proclaim the Christ of history and Scripture, not the Christ of our imaginations. In such historic statements of faith such as the Nicene Creed, the Definition of Chalcedon, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Westminster Confession, Christians have articulated the biblical teaching on Christ.

Today these statements are often neglected and misunderstood, resulting in widespread confusion regarding the person and work of Christ. For the glory of Christ and the edification of His people, the Ligonier Statement on Christology seeks to encapsulate the historic, orthodox, biblical Christology of the Christian church in a form that is simple to confess, useful to help teach the church’s enduring faith, and able to serve as a common confession around which believers from different churches can rally for mission together. This statement is not a replacement for the church’s historic creeds and confessions but a supplement that articulates their collective teaching on who Christ is and what He has done. May Christ use it for His kingdom.

In the name of God’s Son incarnate, our Prophet, Priest, and King,

R.C. Sproul
Spring 2016

THE LIGONIER STATEMENT ON CHRISTOLOGY

We confess the mystery and wonder
of God made flesh
and rejoice in our great salvation
through Jesus Christ our Lord.

With the Father and the Holy Spirit,
the Son created all things,
sustains all things,
and makes all things new.
Truly God,
He became truly man,
two natures in one person.

He was born of the Virgin Mary
and lived among us.
Crucified, dead, and buried,
He rose on the third day,
ascended to heaven,
and will come again
in glory and judgement.

For us,
He kept the Law,
atoned for sin,
and satisfied God’s wrath.
He took our filthy rags
and gave us
His righteous robe.

He is our Prophet, Priest, and King,
building His church,
interceding for us,
and reigning over all things.

Jesus Christ is Lord;
we praise His holy Name forever.

Amen.

Affirmations and Denials

Explanatory Essay

Christ’s Deity, Voluntary Subordination & Perfect Humanity

sproul-77The Deity of Christ – R.C. Sproul

The confession of the deity of Christ is drawn from the manifold witness of the New Testament. As the Logos Incarnate, Christ is revealed as being not only preexistent to creation, but eternal. He is said to be in the beginning with God and also that He is God (John 1:1-3). That He is with God demands a personal distinction within the Godhead. That He is God demands inclusion in the Godhead.

Elsewhere, the New Testament ascribes terms and titles to Jesus that are clearly titles of deity. God bestows the preeminent divine title of Lord upon Him (Philippians 2:9-11). As the Son of Man, Jesus claims to be Lord of the Sabbath (Mark 2:28) and to have authority to forgive sins (Mark 2:1-12). He is called the “Lord of glory” (James 2:1) and willingly receives worship, as when Thomas confesses, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Paul declares that the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Christ bodily (Colossians 1:19) and that Jesus is higher than angels, a theme reiterated in the book of Hebrews. To worship an angel or any other creature, no matter how exalted, is to violate the biblical prohibition against idolatry. The I ams of John’s Gospel also bear witness to the identification of Christ with Deity. Continue reading

The Begotten of the Father

Daniel Mann has taught at the New York School of the Bible since 1992 and blogs at www.MannsWord.blogspot.com. He is the author of Embracing the Darkness: How a Jewish, Sixties, Berkeley Radical Learned to Live with Depression, God’s Way (Xulon Press, 2004). In an article entitled “Jesus: The “Begotten” of the Father” he writes:

The letter to the Hebrews presents many teachings affirming the deity of Christ and His supremacy over the angels, Moses, and everything else that had come before Him.

However, after asserting that Jesus “made the worlds,” that He is “the brightness of [God’s] glory and the express image of His person,” and that He upholds “all things by the word of His power” (Heb. 1:2–3),1 this letter cites a controversial verse—at least controversial today—to prove that He is uniquely related to the Father as His Son: “For to which of the angels did He ever say: ‘You are My Son, today I have begotten You’?” (Heb. 1:5; quoting Ps. 2:7).

Certainly, Scripture never does refer to angels in this manner. However, this verse suggests to some that Jesus is “begotten” in the sense of being created and having a beginning in time. If this is the case, then He can’t be eternal, and therefore He can’t be God. This same “problem” is also reflected in perhaps the most famous New Testament verse: “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten [monogenes in Greek] Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16).

Many cults understand this verse, and others like it, to affirm that Jesus was birthed into existence. Mormon Doctrine reads, “Christ was begotten by an Immortal Father in the same way that mortal men are begotten by mortal fathers.”2

However, this is to understand the term “begotten” with our understanding and not from the perspective of scriptural usage. Hebrews 1:5 was quoted from Psalm 2, a psalm widely regarded as messianic, even among ancient Jewish authorities: “I will declare the decree: The Lord has said to Me, ‘You are My Son; Today I have begotten You’” (Ps. 2:7).

“Begotten” must be understood in the way it was originally intended, and we can determine this by examining the context. In this context, “begotten” can’t possibly mean, “to physically birth.”3 The One who is “begotten” is being addressed. He therefore already exists, even before He is “begotten.” The verse therefore can’t mean, “The Lord has said to Me… ‘Today, I am giving birth to you.’” Instead, “begotten” must mean something else. Besides, Hebrews quotes Psalm 2:7 to prove the superiority of Christ over the angels. Reference to a physical human birth could hardly demonstrate His superiority.4 Continue reading

Munus Triplex: Christ as Prophet, Priest and King

Text: Hebrews 1:1 Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 4 having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Christ in His offices of Prophet, Priest and King meets our desperate need for trusted guidance, a sufficient sacrifice under His Kingly reign.

Jesus is God

TrinityShield_300Jesus is God: List of Bible verses (from James White’s book, The Forgotten Trinity (Chapter 9, endnote 2)

Mt. 1:21; Psa. 130:8; Isa. 35:4 [God will save His people]
Mt. 3:12; Rev. 6:16; Psa. 2:12; 76:7 [Fear God]
Mt. 5:18; Mk. 13:31 [God’s word is eternal; Jesus’ word is eternal]
Mt. 25:31-46; Psa. 50:6; 59:11; 96:13 [God is Judge, Jesus is Judge]
Jn. 1:3; Isa. 44:24 [Yahweh alone created all things]
Jn. 1:7-9; Isa. 60:9 [God is light]
Jn. 7:37-38; Jer. 2:13 [Yahweh the fountain of living water]
Jn. 10:11; Psa. 23:1; 110:3 [The Good Shepherd]
Jn. 12:41; Isa. 6:1 [The vision of Isaiah—Yahweh’s glory]
Jn. 14:6; Psa. 31:5 [God is truth]
Jn. 14:14; 1 Cor. 1:2 [Prayer to Jesus]
Jn. 14:26; 16:27; Rom. 8:9; 1 Pet. 1:11; Neh. 9:20; 2 Sam 23:2-3 [Spirit of Yahweh/God/Christ]
Jn. 17:5; Isa. 48:11 [Will not give His glory to another]
Acts 1:8; Isa. 43:10 [Witness of Whom?]
Acts 4:24; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 4 [Who is our Master?]
Rom. 10:13; Joel 2:32 [Call on the name of…]
Eph. 4:8-9; Psa. 68:18 [God leads the captives…]
Phil. 2:10-11; Isa. 45:23 [Every knee will bow…]
Col. 1:16; Eph. 5:25, 27; Rom. 11:36 [All things are to God…]
Col. 1:17; Acts 17:28 [We exist in God]
Col. 2:3; 1 Tim. 1:17 [Only wise God…treasure of wisdom]
2 Tim. 1:12; Jer. 17:5 [Trust in Yahweh—believe in Jesus]
Heb. 1:3; 1 Tim. 6:15 [Jesus’ power—God is only sovereign]
Heb. 1:10; Psa. 102:25 [Jesus is Yahweh]
Heb. 13:8; Mal. 3:6 [God changes not]
Jam. 2:1; Zech. 2:5 [Lord of glory]
1 Pet. 2:3; Psa. 34:8 [Taste that Yahweh is good]
1 Pet. 3:15; Isa. 8:13 [Sanctify Yahweh]
Rev. 1:5-6; Exod. 34:14 [Glorify Jesus]
Rev. 1:13-16; Ezek. 43:2 [God’s voice is the voice of Jesus]
Rev. 2:23; 1 Kings 8:39 [Jesus searches the hearts]
Rev. 3:7; Revelation 15:4 [God alone is holy]

“I have found two particular passages to carry the most weight in communicating this truth to those who believe that Yahweh is God, believe the Bible is true, but reject the deity of Christ: Hebrews 1:10–12 in comparison with Psalm 102:25–27, and John 12:37–41 in comparison with Isaiah 6:1–10.” – James White, The Forgotten Trinity, p. 132

HT: The Confessing Baptist