Preaching the Great Christological Texts, Part 1

Evangelicals believe the biblical teaching concerning the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the sole and sufficient Savior for all persons who have lived or ever shall be. We note that such an affirmation is needed because the Christian church is now confronted with various theological heresies such as universalism, radical pluralism, theological inclusivism, and religious relativism, all of which call into question the clear teachings of Holy Scripture and belief in the particularity and finality of the revelation and salvific work of Jesus Christ.

What is it that drives Baptists like us, and evangelical Christians as a whole, to make such strong statements of theology and faith? I believe the answer can be found not only in “the clear teaching of the Holy Scripture” in general, but in the great Christological texts in the New Testament in particular. I refer to the quintessential quartet of John 1:1-18; Phil 2:1-11; Col 1:13-23; and Heb 1:1-3.

The clear exegesis and exposition of these four passages are the bedrock foundation of biblical and orthodox Christology. Both his person (full deity and perfect humanity) and work (sacrifice and atonement) are gloriously expounded in these texts, though it is his person that is more strongly emphasized.

What we think and believe about Jesus influences all aspects of our theology: what we think about God, the Bible, and salvation, for example. If we are to think correctly, that is biblically, about Jesus, these four great texts should be taught clearly, consistently, and courageously without compromise or apology.

What might four expository sermons on these great texts look like? What would be an accurate assessment of their theme and emphases? I would like to propose the following for consideration of how to get at these passages in preparing to proclaim them to the people of God.

1). A message on John 1:1-18 might be titled “Jesus Christ: The God of Incarnation.”
Such a sermon would declare that as the Word of God Jesus powerfully preexisted (1:1-5), was prophetically witnessed (1:6-9), was personally rejected (1:10-13), was permanently incarnated (1:14), is properly exalted (1:15-17), and that he perfectly communicated (1:18).

In this text emphasis is placed upon the Logos, the Word, Jesus as coeternal, coequal, and consubstantial with the Father (1:1-3). He is the perfect embodiment of God revealing himself to humanity (1:14, 18). By believing in Christ alone we can become children of God (1:12). Various structural analyses of the passage generally agree that the focus is on vv. 10-14, while vv. 1 and 18 also receive emphasis. The central verse is considered to be either v. 12 or v. 14. It can be argued, in fact, that v. 12 contains the soteriological heart of the passage and v. 14 the Christological heart. This text is so full theologically, one could consider a six part series of these 18 verses.

2). A message on Philippians 2:1-11 could bear the title “Jesus Christ: The God of
Humiliation.” This passage declares first that we must cultivate the disposition or mind of our Lord (2:5) by seeking unity (2:1-2), humility (2:3), and sensitivity (2:4). Second, we must consider the humiliation of our Lord (2:6-8), who humbled himself in his renunciation (2:6), in his incarnation (2:7), and in his crucifixion (2:8). Third, we should celebrate the exaltation of our Lord (2:9-11), who has an exalted position (2:9), designation (2:9-10), adoration (2:10), and confession (2:11).

The second and third divisions of this passage (2:6-11) is believed by many to be based on an early Christian hymn of two stanzas. It may find its Old Testament roots in Isaiah 53. The passage is ethical (especially vv. 1-5) and soteriological, with emphasis falling on the humbling and emptying of our Lord. The incarnation was not a subtraction of deity. It was an addition of humanity. Emphasis on Christ’s full deity and utter uniqueness as the God-man is clearly communicated in the text.

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