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The Theology of Jesus: Part 10 Eschatology (Conclusion)

Thank you, friends, for sticking with me through these ten posts.  We’ve been looking at some of the teaching of the Lord Jesus, asking how the truth He taught would “fit” into the ten categories of systematic theology.  If we define systematic theology in its simplest form, it is an effort to put into logical categories the data of Scripture.

So we’ve looked briefly at what the Lord Jesus said in the areas of introductory matters (prolegomena), bibliology, theology proper, Christology, anthropology, hamartiology, soteriology, pneumatology, and ecclesiology.  Our last area (from a systematic theology perspective) is called eschatology, the study of last things.

While there are good reasons to hold to a pre-tribulational rapture (as depicted in the painting above), Jesus’ primary passage on the end times is Matthew 24.  Here are a few points that can be seen in that text:

Concerning the “end of the age,” Jesus says  —
1. Many will come in His name and try to deceive the disciples (vv. 4-5).
2. His true followers will be persecuted, hated, and put to death (v. 9).
3. Many will abandon the faith and betray each other (v. 10).
4. Deceiving false prophets will appear and the love of most will grow cold (vv. 11-12).
5. This gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world — and then the end will come (v. 14).
6. These false messiahs and false prophets will perform great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect (vv. 22-25).
7. In the midst of all this distress, the Son of Man will come with power and great glory and His angels will collect the elect (vv. 30-31).
8. Only the Father knows when that day or hour will take place (v. 36).
9. The day of the Lord will catch men unawares (as God’s judgment did the people of Noah’s day) (vv. 36-41).
10. Our responsibility is to keep watch, to be ready, to be faithful and wise servants (vv. 42-51).

May He find us faithful and wise, as we serve Him, waiting for His return!

 
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Posted by on October 4, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 9 Ecclesiology

We are making serious progress in our thinking about the theology of the Lord Jesus.  Granted, He never left us a systematic theology textbook, but that’s okay.  Most of them are boring and tough to read.

Typically, systematic theology (which organizes the data of Scripture on a logical basis) covers ten areas.  We are now in our ninth area — the doctrine of the church.  What did the Lord Jesus teach about the church?

Two primary texts from the Lord Jesus teach about the church.  Let’s notice what He says:

Much of what we know about the New Testament church is left to the Holy Spirit’s guiding the Apostles into all truth.  We learn of offices in the church (Titus 1, I Timothy 3), the ordinances (I Corinthians 11), and spiritual gifts (Romans 12, I Corinthians 12, Ephesians 4, I Peter 4).

The Lord knew that the first-century church, filled with imperfect disciples, would have the problems we later find in the book of I Corinthians.  He knew that the tendency for Jewish converts to go back to Judaism would be real (as we see in the book of Galatians).  But He is still building His church!

Christians sometimes say, “I wish we were more like the First-Century Church!”  Make a list of some of the characteristics (both positive and negative) of the early church from Acts 2 and I Corinthians.  (to be continued)

 

 
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Posted by on October 3, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 8 Pneumatology

Okay.  Okay.  I’ll confess.  I have a particular interest in the doctrine of the Person and Work of God the Holy Spirit.  I did my Ph.D. dissertation on “The Pneumatology of John Nelson Darby (1800-1882).”  I even wrote a chapter on the Holy Spirit entitled “The Other Comforter” or “The Forgotten God” (I don’t remember which) in the book edited by Jack Fish Understanding the Trinity.

In my preaching and teaching ministry, I encourage other believers to develop a relationship with God the Holy Spirit!  If He is personal, we can have a relationship with Him.  If He is God, we can worship Him.  This challenge is not meant to supercede our relationship with the Lord Jesus, of course, for the Spirit’s primary work is to glorify Christ!

In our experiment of asking how the teachings of the Lord Jesus fit into the ten categories of systematic theology (the doctrine of man, the doctrine of sin, the doctrine of the church), we have covered several areas.  Let’s ask what the Lord Jesus taught about the Third Member of the Trinity, the Holy Spirit.

The Lord Jesus had a great deal to say about God the Holy Spirit.  Let’s look briefly at His teaching in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16):

There is so much here in these three chapters!  Here’s what I learn about God the Holy Spirit:

1. We need “another advocate” (14:16).  He will help us and be with us forever.
2. He is called “the Spirit of truth” — and we need truth! (14:17).
3. We should not be surprised that “the world” cannot accept the Spirit for it has no relationship to Him (14:17).
4. The Spirit will have a specific teaching ministry to the disciples of reminding them of the truths of the Lord Jesus (14:26).
5. The Spirit’s “curriculum” is the Lord Jesus — “He will testify about me” (15:26).
6. There is an order to the working of the Triune God.  Jesus came to do the Father’s will.  He is returning to the Father and the Spirit is being sent to take Jesus’ place (16:7).
7.  The Spirit’s primary ministry to the world is that of conviction of sin (16:8-11).
8.  The Lord Jesus was not finished with what He wanted to teach the disciples.  The Spirit of truth will guide the disciples into all truth (16:13).
9.  The Spirit of God will not speak on His own, but only what He hears (from the Father and the Son) (16:13).
10.  He will glorify the Lord Jesus (16:14-15).

If I’m right that we should develop a personal relationship with God the Holy Spirit, then we can talk to Him and ask Him for things.  One of His ministries is conviction of sin.  Write out a prayer today to the Holy Spirit, asking that He would bring conviction of sin to someone that you love. (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on October 2, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 7 Christology

Continuing our little experiment, we are asking how the teachings of the Lord Jesus fit into the ten categories of systematic theology.  Some might think this is a strange study, but the divisions of systematic theology (the doctrine of God, the doctrine of sin, the doctrine of the church, etc.) are meant in their simplest form to logically gather the data of Scripture so these areas can be understood and applied.

We are not suggesting that the writings of the Apostles or the canonical books of the Old Testament are unimportant or somehow less inspired.  Not at all. We’re just seeing how the truths taught by the Lord Jesus “fit” into these logical categories.

So far we’ve looked at introductory matters (prolegomena), bibliology, theology proper, anthropology, hamartiology, and soteriology.  Technically, we should have looked at Christology as our fourth category, but we will do that this morning.

To ask, what did Jesus teach about Himself is a fascinating study!  He spoke often about Himself.  But frequently He deferred to the Father when He made statements such as the following:

“Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.” (Jn. 5:19).

“By myself I can do nothing; I judge only as I hear, and my judgment is just, for I seek not to please myself but him who sent me.” (Jn. 5:30).

“So Jesus said, ‘When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he and that I do nothing on my own but speak just what the Father has taught me.'” (Jn. 8:28)

But what claims did the Son of God make about Himself?  We read passages like the following —

“Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son . . .” (Jn. 5:22)

“But what about you?” he asked. “Who do you say I am?” Peter answered, “You are the Messiah.” (Mk. 8:29)

Then Jesus declared, “I, the one speaking to you—I am he.” (Jn. 4:26)

“But he continued, ‘You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world.'” (Jn. 8:23)

“I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.” (Jn. 8:24)

The Lord Jesus knew that He was the Messiah.  He taught that He had come to do the Father’s will — which was to give His life a ransom for sinners.  He declared that, although He did not come to judge (but to save) the world (Jn. 12:47), He taught that He would be the Judge of the world! (Jn. 5:27)

Someone has said, “Eternity is an awfully long time to be wrong about Jesus!”  I agree.  His self-declarations (notice His “I am” statements in the fourth gospel) might embarrass some fringe Christians who are enamored with a pluralistic approach to religion (what does such a person do with His statement “I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father but by me”, Jn. 14:6?).

The church historian Philip Schaff said it best when he wrote: “Is such an intellect — clear as the sky, bracing as the mountain air, sharp and penetrating as a sword, thoroughly healthy and vigorous, always ready and always self-possessed — liable to a radical and most serious delusion concerning his own character and mission? Preposterous imagination!”

Study the seven “I am” statements of the Lord Jesus found in the gospel of John.  What seems to be the primary point of each one?  Feel free to write a comment below on what you discovered about the Lord.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on October 1, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 6 Soteriology

The theology of the Lord Jesus?!  Is there such a book?  Well, no, but we are trying a bit of an experiment by asking, how do the teachings of Jesus fit into the categories of systematic theology (the doctrine of man, the doctrine of sin, the doctrine of the church, etc.).  If systematic theology is thought of (in its best form) as the attempt to organize the data of Scripture into logical categories, then we might learn a few truths based on this approach.

Please take note:  We are not suggesting that the apostolic writings or the books of the Old Testament are less God’s Word than “the words of Jesus in red.”  That’s not our position or our purpose.  We are simply asking what the Lord Jesus taught about these areas.

We have looked at introductory matters (prolegomena), bibliology, theology proper, anthropology, and hamartiology.  Let’s think about some of what the Lord Jesus taught about the doctrine of salvation (soteriology).  And on that topic He had much to say!  He describes His mission as coming to “seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10).  He says that He did not come for the righteous, but for sinners (Mt. 9:13).  To those who say they are not sinners, we might say (with sadness), “Then Jesus didn’t come for you.”

A fascinating study of what Jesus meant by salvation is found in John 3.  There a leader of the Pharisees Nicodemus wants a private conversation with Jesus.  He came to Jesus “at night.”  Jesus explains to Nick that one must be born again to enter (or even to see) the kingdom of God.  Nick, stuck in Biology 101, doesn’t understand this necessity of being “born again” or “born from above.”  Jesus mildly rebukes Nick for failing to understand the need for conversion from the Old Testament Scriptures.

The Lord Jesus emphasizes that being born again is a work of the Spirit of God.  He then refers to the event in Numbers 21 when God’s people rebelled against God and against Moses.  God sent venomous snakes which killed many Israelites!  The people repented and asked Moses to pray for them.  God instructed Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole.  “Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (Num. 21:8).  We read that “when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.”  Jesus then says to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (Jn. 3:14-15).

We then read in John 3:  “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”

From this passage we may draw several clear conclusions about soteriology:
1. Every human being is a sinner in rebellion against God — and needs to be saved!
2. Salvation is a work of God the Holy Spirit.
3. Jesus is the One who provides salvation “as He is lifted up.”
4. Man is required to “look and live.” Faith in Jesus is absolutely necessary for salvation.
5. God’s primary desire is not to condemn, but to save.
6. But those who don’t “look and live” will remain under the wrath of God (see Jn. 3:36). (to be continued)

Read over John 3 in a translation you normally don’t use (The Living Bible, Phillips Translation, The Message, etc.).  Jot down a few new truths you learn about salvation from that wonderful passage.

 

 

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 30, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 5 Hamartiology

Hamartiology — the doctrine of sin!  Jesus had a lot to say about this area of theology.  We read in Mark 10:45 that the Son of Man “did not come to be served, but to serve.  And to give His life a ransom for many.”  He came to pay the ransom price to redeem us from our sins.

As we continue with our experiment with these posts, we are asking, how do the teachings of the Lord Jesus fit into the divisions of systematic theology?  Systematic theology is a logical way of organizing the data of Scripture into categories which summarize the important truths all Christians everywhere should affirm.

When it comes to the area of SIN, Jesus did not sugarcoat the truth.  Man is broken; the universe is fallen; and a Redeemer is needed!  He came as that Redeemer for the least, the last, and the lost.  We are all sinners, as He illustrates with the woman caught in adultery:  “Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8).  [I recognize that there’s a textual problem with this story, but the content is consistent with Jesus’ leveling of the self-righteous Jewish leaders].

Jesus’ sabbath controversies sometimes focused on the issue of sin.  For example, His visible miracle of giving sight to the man born blind could not be seen by the Pharisees who had concluded that Jesus was a sinner because He broke their idea of the Sabbath (He made mud which was work).  Lectured by the healed man, the Pharisees viciously accosted him verbally and said, “How dare you lecture us?  You were steeped in sin at birth!”  Yes, he was.  We all were.

The Lord often fought about the issue of externalism, pointing out in Mark 7 that it is “What comes out of a person [that] defiles them. 21 For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, 22 adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”  The heart of the problem was the problem of the heart.

Jesus gave clear instructions how to deal with sin, either that which I’ve committed against someone else (Mt. 5) or that which has been committed against me (Mt. 18).  God desires that we repent of our sins and get restored to God’s people.  Or get expelled from the fellowship.

There is a sin that will not be forgiven. Jesus speaks of the “unpardonable sin” in Mark 3, Matthew 12, and Luke 12. The specific circumstances giving rise to that issue was that the teachers of the law had decided that Jesus’ power was from Satan, not from God. Jesus said they were guilty of blasphemy against the Holy Spirit and “will never be forgiven” (Mk. 3:29). In fact, they had committed “an eternal sin.”

Matthew 12 says that words spoken against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but “anyone who speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come.” (v. 32). Luke 12 reiterates this point when it says, “10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but anyone who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.”

Sin is no small matter.  Sin cost the Son of God His life.  All sin can be forgiven, except the sin that labels Jesus as possessed by Satan and rejects the Spirit’s testimony about God the Son.  As one preacher put it, “There are no small sins against a great God.”  This great God, the Lord Jesus, gave Himself to save us from our sins.  (to be continued)

The Bible uses a variety of terms for sin: “transgression”, “iniquity”, “rebellion.” How did the Lord Jesus define sin? Read through one of the gospels and write your answer in the Comments section below.

 
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Posted by on September 29, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 4 Anthropology

We are trying a bit of an experiment with these posts.  What did the Lord Jesus believe — and teach — about MAN?  Granted, He did not present a finely-articulated systematic theology in terms of our divisions of doctrine.  But He certainly had much to say about what we ought to believe about sin, salvation, God, man, and other critical areas.

Jesus affirms man’s creation (Mt. 19:4), defends marriage between one man and one woman (Mt. 19:4-5), teaches that man is more than a material creature (Mt. 16:26), and emphasizes that man is the object of God’s great love (John 3:16).

The division of systematic theology known as anthropology involves such issues as man’s creation, the human person being made in the image of God, man’s make-up (is he body + soul + spirit or body + soul/spirit?), and practical questions such as: can we honestly hold to the idea of capital punishment and why?, does the Bible teach “male headship?”, etc.

Without a doubt the Lord Jesus made visible the invisible God in His incarnation.  If one asked what is God like?, the answer is “Look at Jesus!”  But He also modeled what is means to be a perfect man, a sinless human being.  As a human, Jesus became hungry and thirsty, could weep, expressed emotions like joy and grief, and had specific social needs (I think of John 6 when He says to His disciples, “You aren’t going to leave me too, are you?”).

He affirms both man’s material and immaterial natures.  The classic text on this point is Matthew 16 where we read,

Several aspects of Jesus’ anthropology stand out in this passage:

(1) It is quite possible to put human concerns above the plan of God (“merely human concerns”, v. 23).
(2) One’s human life (and priorities) often need to be denied to truly follow Christ (v. 24).
(3) Gaining the whole world and losing one’s soul is a poor exchange (v. 26).
(4) There will be rewards for those who choose to serve Him as redeemed human beings (v. 27).

The humanity of the Lord Jesus is a prominent theme in the Gospel of Luke.  Read through that gospel, highlighting verses that help to answer the question “What does it mean to be truly human?”  (to be continued)

 
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Posted by on September 28, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 3 Theology Proper

What did the Lord Jesus believe — and teach — about GOD? That has got to be one of the hardest questions one could ask of the theology of Jesus. Why? Because He was and is God “manifest in the flesh.” The Son has “exegeted” the Father (Jn. 1:18). He has made visible what is invisible.

We are trying a bit of an experiment in these posts. We are asking about the theology of the Lord Jesus. What did He believe? And what did He teach about the areas of doctrine such as sin, salvation, the church, etc.?

We are attempting to put into logical categories His teachings, not because we don’t believe and accept the rest of the New Testament canon, but just as an experiment.

We’ve seen that in terms of introductory matters (prolegomena), the Lord Jesus put the highest possible value on belief. In our last post we looked at the theological area called bibliology and saw Jesus’ affirming both general and special revelation as well as predicting the completion of the Scriptures in the New Testament.

But what did the Lord Jesus teach about GOD?  This area of theology proper deals with such matters as God’s existence, His attributes, and His works.  By “attributes” theologians (at least good ones) don’t mean that we attribute qualities to God that we would like Him to have.  Rather they are referring to characteristics that God possesses that He reveals to us. Discovery, not creation, of these attributes is a primary concern of theology proper.

Where to begin?  Does one begin with the sermons of the Lord Jesus?  They teach us some very specific things about God.  Does one plumb the parables of Christ to learn about God?  Would there be profit in studying the controversies that the Lord Jesus had with the religious leaders of His day?  How often were their arguments about the nature of God?  What about Jesus’ “interrogatory method” (by this we mean the 250 or so questions the Lord Jesus asks.  This was a paper prepared for the Evangelical Theological Society and will be sent to you if you ask for it)?  How do the questions of the Lord Jesus reveal the character of God?  Jesus Himself made specific claims of deity.  So we could say, “Want to know what God is like?  Look at Jesus!”  But this post isn’t about the Son of God, but rather God “in general.”  That is, which attributes of God does the Lord Jesus emphasize in His teaching?

Let’s think about one passage in each of these categories:  His sermons, His parables, His controversies, and His questions.  First of all, His sermons.  We have, of course, the “Sermon on the Mount” (Mt. 5-7) and His “Upper Room Discourse” (Jn. 14-16).

There is so much about the Person and nature of God in these sermons. Let’s focus for a few moments on Matthew 6:25-34. There Jesus says that we are not to worry about our life, what we eat or drink, or about our body, what we are to wear, because life is more than food and the body is more than clothing. He then directs our attention to the birds of the air and the flowers of the field. The birds don’t sow or reap or store away in barns and the flowers don’t labor or spin. Jesus says we are much more valuable than they. “If that is how God clothes the grass of the field, which is here today and tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you—you of little faith?” (v. 30). We should not worry about such things for “your heavenly Father knows that you need them (v. 32). In fact, worrying about food and clothing makes us look like pagans who “run after all these things” (v. 32). Rather, we are to seek first God’s kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be given to us (v. 33).

I draw several conclusions from this section of Jesus’ sermon:
(1) God knows what we need before we ask Him. And His knowledge of us and our needs shows His personal care and omniscience.
(2) Trusting Him — instead of worrying about such things — distinguishes us from the pagan world which denies His existence and love.
(3) The rulership of God and His righteous character are to be pursued by the believer. And such a pursuit is the antidote to worry.

Of the 46 parables which Jesus told, the parable of the persistent widow in Luke 18 says much about the Lord.  Jesus told this parable to encourage us to pray and not give up.  This widow who needed justice had to appeal to a judge who “neither feared God nor cared what people thought.”  The judge actually admitted that he neither feared God nor cared what people thought, but he finally gave the widow justice because the widow kept “bothering” him and he was concerned that she would eventually come and attack him if he didn’t!

Jesus drives the parable home when He says, “will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off? I tell you, he will see that they get justice, and quickly. However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (vv. 7-8).

We are to persist in prayer because our God cares about us, His chosen ones.  He is a just God who will see that we get justice — and quickly!  The question is — do we have faith in that kind of God?

“Meek and mild Jesus” was always getting into arguments, wasn’t He?  He never backed away from a fight, especially when the religious authorities were twisting God’s Word.  Jerry Bridges says “The essential problem lay in their different understanding of the nature of God.” [See his “Jesus Challenges the Pharisees”].  Here is a list of some of the absurd rules the Pharisees developed to keep others from breaking God’s rules!

My favorite controversy between Jesus and the Pharisees has got to be the story of the man born blind (John 9).  [I’ve done a number of posts on this chapter-long healing which you might want to look up.  Just enter “Insight” in the search box at the top of the webpage].

Rather than praising God and thanking Jesus for the giving of sight to this man who was born blind, the Pharisees dismiss Jesus because He spat on the ground and made mud, a violation of the Sabbath (in their view).  [By the way, one of their rules was that it was fine to spit on a rock on the Sabbath, but you could not spit on the ground, because that made mud and mud was mortar, and that was work!].

There are many points of conflict between Jesus and the Pharisees in John 9, but the issue of SIN jumps out at me.  They were convinced that Jesus was a sinner (because He broke their view of the Sabbath), that the blind man was a sinner (because he was born blind), and that God just doesn’t listen to sinners.  But they can’t explain away this man’s miracle and their only recourse is to toss him out of the synagogue with the words “You dare lecture us!  You were steeped in sin at birth!”  The theology proper point in this controversy is God’s attitude toward “sinners” (which we all are).  He wants to rescue them (Remember:  Jesus sought this man out!); the Pharisees want to remove them.

Sometimes the best way to teach is to ask questions.  Jesus asked over two hundred questions in the four gospels — and some of them go to the heart of what one ought to believe about God.

Jesus asks a series of questions in Matthew 7, appealing to a father’s heart (to give his son bread, instead of a stone, or to give him a fish, instead of a snake). He then draws the logical conclusion: If you who are evil know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!.  Please don’t miss these basic truths about God from these questions of the Lord Jesus:

(1) He is our “Father in heaven”;
(2) He is not evil, but good;
(3) He knows how and what to give His children; and,
(4) He still wants us to ask Him for things.

The sermons, the parables, the controversies, and the questions of the Lord Jesus tell us much about the character and works of God.

You now get to pick a sermon, parable, controversy, or question of the Lord Jesus — and ask what He was teaching about the nature of God.  Feel free to post your comment below. (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 2 Bibliology

Bibliology, the study of God’s revelation to man, is our next theological category to consider. What did the Lord Jesus believe about general and special revelation, the canon of Scripture, the truth of God disclosing information about Himself?

We are on a strange quest to ask what the Lord Jesus’ theology was. What did He say and teach about issues such as the nature of God’s Word and man’s response to it? We are using a systematic theology approach, attempting to collect the data in logical categories.

These posts can’t be exhaustive because we have ten areas to cover! We can only hit one or two highlights in each division of theology. We’ve seen (in the first area of prolegomena) that the Lord Jesus put the highest premium on the issue of belief. Belief was such a critical matter to Jesus that He actually allowed His friend Lazarus to die so that others would believe in Him!

Systematic theology divides this topic into two sub-divisions: general revelation (God communicating truth about Himself to all people everywhere) and special revelation (God communicating truth about Himself to a select group).  In terms of general revelation (its three avenues being nature, human nature, and human history), we have many references by the Lord to nature as He refers to animals, plants, locations, weather, natural disasters, etc.  He used the objects of nature to drive home spiritual points about a relationship with Himself.  He made evident the care of God when He said, “Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they neither toil nor spin; yet I tell you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.” (Mt 6:28-29).

Perhaps this is why the most frequent analogies Jesus makes to the natural world are from farming, fishing, vineyards and shepherds: human beings working together with nature, transforming the raw materials of nature into food and drink and clothing. The images Jesus uses are dominated by a picture of the environment that shows human beings using, domesticating and cultivating nature for their own use: mustard seed, yeast, bread, sowing and seeds, vineyards and vines, new and old wine, sheep and goats, the good shepherd, the sheepfold, the flock, weeds among the wheat, fishermen, a net full of fish. (https://incommunion.org/2004/12/11/jesus-and-the-natural-world/)

Jesus also appeals to man’s human nature (conscience, for example) as He tells a parable such as the parable of the tenants in Matthew 21 (v. 40- “What will he do to those [wicked] tenants?”).  When He is anointed by a sinful woman, Jesus, after telling the story of two debtors’ being forgiven, asks Simon the Pharisee “which of them will love him more?” (Lk. 7:42).  The conscience was important to the Lord Jesus — and He appeals to it often.

The Lord also uses human history to speak of God’s actions in His creation.  He affirms the historicity of Adam and Eve (Mt. 19), makes reference to the Noahic flood (Mt. 24:37), refers to the real existence of Jonah (Mt. 12:40), and alludes to the history of the Jewish nation (Jn. 8:33).

But what did the Lord Jesus say about special revelation?  First of all, there is no question that He affirmed in the strongest terms possible, the divine authority of the Old Testament Scriptures.  He affirmed the authority of the Old Testament in His confrontation with Satan (Mt. 4:4), described the imperishable nature of God’s Word (Mt. 5:18), said that the Scripture cannot be broken (Jn. 10:35), appealed to Scripture when confronting false doctrine (Mt. 22:29), said that God’s word is “truth” (Jn. 17:17), declared the historicity of Jonah (Mt. 12:40) and Noah (Mt. 24:37-38) and Adam and Eve (Mt. 19:4-6), saw the creation story as reliable (Mk. 13:19; Mt. 19:4), made reference to the Law and the Prophets as canonical (Mt. 5:17), used Moses and all the prophets to explain the things concerning Himself (Lk. 24:27), and referred to the entire canon by mentioning all the prophets from Abel to Zechariah (Mt. 23:35).   Wow. (https://carm.org/what-did-jesus-teach-about-old-testament)

And, in terms of the divine canon (the collection of inspired books making up the Bible), Jesus clearly predicts the coming of the New Testament when He says the following in the Upper Room Discourse (John 14-16):

16 And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— 17 the Spirit of truth. 25 “All this I have spoken while still with you. 26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you. (Jn. 14)

26 “When the Advocate comes, whom I will send to you from the Father—the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father—he will testify about me. (Jn. 15)

12 “I have much more to say to you, more than you can now bear. 13 But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all the truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. 14 He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you. 15 All that belongs to the Father is mine. That is why I said the Spirit will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (Jn. 16)

This “Spirit of truth”, this “Advocate, the Holy Spirit,” “will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.” From those words in John 14 we may infer that the Holy Spirit would “carry along” (2 Pe. 1:21) the Apostles and help them remember what Jesus had said to them. It would be their job to record the teachings of Jesus.

This same Spirit, Jesus says, “will testify about me.” (Jn. 15:26). How would the Holy Spirit most likely do that? We suggest it would be by inspiring the New Testament writers in their work.

But Jesus states He had “much more” to say to the disciples. The Spirit to come would “guide [them] into all the truth.” (Jn. 16:13). He would tell them “what is yet to come” (Jn. 16:13). But there is cooperation between the Son and the Spirit. Jesus says, “He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you.” (Jn. 16:14). The Spirit “will receive from me what he will make known to you.” (Jn. 16:15)

So, the Lord Jesus had much to say about bibliology.  As the Word, He embodied God’s communication to man, as the writer to the Hebrews tells us in his first chapter:
Read over John chapter one and take a few notes on the Lord Jesus as “the Word.”  Why would the Creator desire to communicate to His rebellious creation?  Feel free to post your Comment below. (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 26, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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The Theology of Jesus: Part 1 Introductory Matters

Theology, the study of God and the things of God, has been my life.  I have taught it and fought it (in its aberrant forms) for over forty years.  I’ve been privileged to work with hundreds of eager students dying to know what terms like “the hypostatic union”, “impeccability”, “ex nihilo”, and “interpolation” really mean.  I’ve written “papers” (which is academic speak for a scholarly presentation on a theological topic in front of other theologians who are conferencing somewhere) and published a bunch of books (some even by real publishers) which attempt to make the doctrines of the Bible understandable and some which challenge contemporary hereticks (the original spelling of that word).

But, in a real sense, I’ve never asked, “What was Jesus’ theology?  What did He believe and teach?”  [Please don’t misunderstand me.  I’m not suggesting that we do a kind of red-letter-approach to theology — that is, that only Jesus’ words are authoritative.  No.  All Scripture is inspired by God.  He delegated authority to the Apostles.  I’m only experimenting with the question “What theological declarations did the Lord Jesus make?”]

I’d like to think that what I’ve taught over those four decades is consistent with what Jesus taught, but I’ve never stopped to carefully ask the question, “What did He believe?” These posts will be my attempt at precisely that question.  And I’m going to do something strange.  I’m going to take the ten categories of systematic theology (such as Prolegomena, Bibliology, Ecclesiology, etc.) and comment on some of what the Lord Jesus said about each of those divisions of theology.

I know.  I know.  Systematic theology is a modern category.  Well, not entirely.  If systematic theology refers to the logical ordering of the data of Scripture, I’m not sure we can simply wash our hands of it and dismiss it as a “Western” approach to truth.  [Biblical theology, in my opinion, is looking at the same data of Scripture from a chronological perspective — how are doctrines progressively revealed throughout biblical history?  I don’t see either approach as superior to the other.  Just different.]

So, I hope you’ll stay with me for these posts.  I promise there won’t be more than a dozen of them.  And I promise I’ll try to be practical and clear in presenting the theology of Jesus as I find it in the Word.  Let’s begin!

The first category in a systematic theology approach is the area known as prolegomena.  This word literally means “the things you talk about before . . .”  In other words, before we talk about the doctrine of sin or the doctrine of final things, we need to discuss some preliminary or introductory matters.  And there are a lot of questions that a good prolegomena will cover.  Such as, what is faith?  What does it mean to”believe”?  Can we trust our human reason?  What the relationship between theology and philosophy? What are our sources of belief?  Are all doctrines first level issues?  That is, are there essentials which all Christians everywhere must believe and are there also distinctives on which genuine believers can differ (yet no side be guilty of heresy)?

It is likely that I will be able to cover only one or two issues in each of these sections.  Regarding prolegomena, I want to emphasize that the Lord Jesus never expressed merely an opinion.  What He “believed” was the truth.  “Believe”, as a verb, can have a variety of meanings.  It can express a hope (“I believe it won’t rain today.”).  It can refer to a conviction, a settled truth (“I believe in God Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth . . .”).  [How the Lord Jesus used the word “believe” throughout the gospel of John is a fascinating study].  As God manifest in the flesh, Jesus never expressed a subjective viewpoint open to correction or refutation.  He declared the truth as only the Way, the Truth, and the Life could do!

He was not a “man of his times,” a dismissive description by liberals of Jesus as holding to out-dated ideas of God’s justice.  His beliefs were not formed by error-prone traditions or fallible schools of thought.  As the Word, He came to fully explain the Father and He was, literally, “full of grace and truth” (John 1:14).

And for Jesus belief was of first level importance.  Everything in life depended on what one believed.  He stated, for example, in John 8:24- “I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am he, you will indeed die in your sins.”  The last thing a person wants to do is die in their sins, right?

Belief was so important to the Lord Jesus that He let His friend Lazarus die.  In John 11 we read Jesus saying, “’Lazarus is dead, 15 and for your sake I am glad I was not there, so that you may believe. But let us go to him.’” (vv. 14-15).  Jesus was glad that He was not there so His friend could die so that the disciples could believe?!  In His conversation with Martha, Jesus said, “I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; 26 and whoever lives by believing in me will never die. Do you believe this?” (vv. 25-26).  As the stone is being removed from Lazarus’ tomb, Martha says, “But, Lord, by this time there is a bad odor, for he has been there four days.” (v. 39).  Jesus’ response is:  “Did I not tell you that if you believe, you will see the glory of God?” (v. 40).

As they take away the stone, we read that “Jesus looked up and said, ‘Father, I thank you that you have heard me. 42 I knew that you always hear me, but I said this for the benefit of the people standing here, that they may believe that you sent me.’” (vv. 41-42).

The conclusion of this amazing account is that “many of the Jews who had come to visit Mary, and had seen what Jesus did, believed in him. 46 But some of them went to the Pharisees and told them what Jesus had done. 47 Then the chief priests and the Pharisees called a meeting of the Sanhedrin.” (vv. 45-47).  His opponents are alarmed and query, “What are we accomplishing?” they asked. “Here is this man performing many signs. 48 If we let him go on like this, everyone will believe in him, and then the Romans will come and take away both our temple and our nation.” (vv. 47-48).

Belief was of paramount importance to the Lord Jesus.  It was not just a matter of life or death.  It was a matter of eternal life or eternal death.

Take a Bible you don’t mind marking up and read through the gospel of John.  Highlight or underline every reference to “believe” or “faith” in that book.  Share one of your conclusions in the Comment section below. (to be continued)

 

 

 
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Posted by on September 25, 2018 in the theology of Jesus

 

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