Theology’s Call

TheologyMethod

Recently there has been a steady stream of relatively short but rich publications on theological method (“how to do theology”).  I take this as a sign of revitalization in the discipline of dogmatics:  thinking God’s thoughts after him through faithful reflection up Holy Scripture in the Church and for the world. These works contain much that is wise and practical.  The four pictured above provide a good place to start, but there are many others. What especially stands out is the collective cry for prayer, holiness, and humility, as well as other virtues — all in dependence upon the grace of God, the power of the Holy Spirit, and participation in the very life of Christ.  Oh, that the Lord would raise up such theologians among us!

The Earliest Christian Confession and Wisdom

The gospel and Christian theology can be summed up by two early Church confessions: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (OT)” and “Jesus is Lord (YHWH).” This confessional couplet both roots our faith in the OT revelation, with its redemptive-historical promises and affirms monotheism. It also brings a shift of focus from the Law to the glorified Christ: within a trinitarian matrix, the living Lord Jesus becomes the hermeneutical and experiential center for God’s people. The earliest application of this new way of life is embedded in certain “heightened christological” passages of the New Testament. My book, Christological Wisdom: How Jesus Becomes God’s Wisdom for Us focuses on a number of these texts as models for the contemporary church. In this way, we, too, can better confess Christ, the needed wisdom for today.

Christ the Returning One (Gleanings in Christology #10)

The longing of every Christian is for the return of Christ. This has been true since the cry of the earliest church, Maranatha, “Come, Lord!”  In fact, the whole creation groans waiting for this day (Rom 8:22-23).

When Jesus returns as he promised, several wonderful things will happen. Here are some of them.

Satanic forces, and all those who oppose Christ, shall finally be defeated (2 Thess 1:7-10). This broken world will be made brand new, including both heaven and earth (2 Pet 3:13). Every knee shall bow before Christ and confess him as Lord (Phil 2:11). Believers will receive glorified bodies like Christ’s glorious body (Phil 3:21). Then, at last, you and I shall be with him and shall be like him, confirmed in holiness and everlasting joy (1 Jn 3:2).

The main reason for his delay is that others might come to know our Savior (2 Pet 3:9). Let’s share the message of Christ everywhere so others may also enjoy these amazing blessings of his return.

Christ the Resurrected One (Gleanings in Christology #9)

There are two dimensions to Christ’s resurrected life: as the resurrected Lord he is bodily absent from us, seated at the Father’s right hand (Heb 1:4); yet as the resurrected Lord, he is also present with us by the Spirit (Matt 28:20).

These two dimensions of Christ’s resurrected life merit meditation. As the Absent One, Jesus reigns in his glorified body (Ps 110:1). As the Absent One, Christ represents us before the Father (Heb 4:14-16; Rom 8:34). As the Absent One our Lord is in heaven, receiving worship (Phil 2:9-11), welcoming saints home (Acts 7:56), and preparing a place for us (John 14:2).

He is the Absent One. Yet Jesus is also here with us as the Present One. Our life is “in him” by his Spirit (Col 2:6)! One day the Absent One will return in all his bodily glory, and we will be fully present with him forever. Let’s keep confessing Jesus as Lord and believing that God has raised him from the dead (Rom 10:8-9)!

Christ the Example (Gleanings in Christology #8)

In the New Testament nearly everything is re-oriented around Christ; he fulfills all the Old Testament prophecies and types.  Jesus is the new temple, the effective sacrifice, the true king, the final prophet, the perfect priest, the second Adam, and so much more.  The Old Testament moral teachings also find their goal in Christ: he modelled perfect humanity.

His earthly life reflected God’s glory, exhibiting moral beauty.  Jesus answers two important questions. How can I be saved?  Trust in Christ. How should I live?  Become increasingly like Christ in the Spirit’s power.

Many Scriptures call Christ our example: e.g., 1 Peter 2:21-24. Many of these Scriptures challenge us to be conformed to his example: e.g., Eph 5:1-2.  Other texts promise that one day we will be like him in moral perfection: 1 John 3:2. Since these things are true, let’s seek to grow in Christ likeness day by day.

Christ the King (Gleanings in Christology #7)

In the catechism’s treatment of Christ’s three offices, the final set of questions relates to kingship. Children confess that Christ is king, “because he rules over us and defends us.” In response to the question of why he or she needs Christ as king, each child confesses, “Because I am weak and helpless.”

Hebrews reveals to us that this king is none other than the powerful Son of God, even God himself. He is powerful, both creating the world and sustaining it. He will one day shake the heavens and earth in judgment. But wrapped up with his power is his compassion, revealed in his incarnation and sympathetic priestly ministry. Blessed, indeed, are all who take refuge in him! (Ps 2:12).

The motif of the Son’s kingship, as with his prophetic and priestly offices, spills over into the church. Our reign is one that is caught between the times of the exaltation of Christ at his ascension, and his return to establish his eternal kingdom. We live “in these last days” (Heb 1:1), waiting “till his enemies be made his footstool” (1:13; 10:13; cf. 2:8), but we also “have tasted the powers of the age to come” (6:5), and receive “a kingdom that cannot be shaken” (12:28). We reign with him provisionally as a “royal priesthood” (1 Pet 2:9).

But one day, persevering in faith, we will fully reign with Christ in his consummated kingdom. We will rule, even as the Son was given authority from the Father (Rev 2:26-27; Ps 2).

Christ the Priest (Gleanings in Christology #6)

Jesus is not only the final prophet; he is also our great high priest. How is Christ a priest? The child responds in the catechism, “Because he died for our sins and pleads with God for us.” This death for sins was an efficacious sacrifice (Heb 7:25-28). Christ is now seated at God’s right hand as our sympathetic priest (Heb 4:14-16).

“Why do I need Christ as a priest?” The child’s answer: “Because I am sinful.” The call of the gospel is not to those who are strong and proud, but to those who are humble. The warning of Hebrews 2:1 is for us: “Let us pay much closer attention!”  We can only find forgiveness of sins in Christ, our only true priest.

Once forgiven, as God’s people, we are to function as a kingdom of priests, offering sacrifices of praise (Heb. 13:15; 1 Peter 2:5), the sacrifices of goodness and sharing with others (Heb. 13:16), and doing the priestly work of announcing to others forgiveness in Christ (1 Peter 2:9).