King Jesus' Supremacy In The Church (Part 3)May 10, 2023 Ecclesiology 3 Comments
"Then He said to them, 'These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'" -Luke 24:44
"You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me... For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me." -John 5:39, 46
Are there right ways and wrong ways of reading the Bible? Yep.
If we are to read the Bible correctly, we must read it in such a way that we see how Christ is the center of it all. He is the point of every passage and the Hero of every story. That's the reality reflected in Jesus' two statements cited in the passages above.
In Luke 24, Jesus was explaining to two of His disciples how everything in the Law, Prophets, and Psalms pointed to Him. In the New Testament era, this threefold reference (Law, Psalms, Prophets) was shorthand for referring to the entire Old Testament canon.
In John 5, Jesus tells the Jews that their study of the Scriptures was insufficient because they failed to see how the Scriptures bore witness to Him.
These two passages show us that the Bible is all about Jesus. But how so? How do the different parts of the canon point to Christ? Take a moment to check out the graph below. Begin with the Old Testament and go around the cross in clockwise fashion until you get to Revelation. Below the chart I will then explain each in a bit more detail.
The Old Testament
The storyline of the Old Testament points ahead of itself to the coming of Christ. While we don't have space here to provide an exhaustive treatment, here are a few of the key ways we see this at work.
After the fall of humanity into sin in Genesis 3, God promised in verse 15 that one day a particular Seed of the woman would be born and He would crush the serpent's head. Already this early on in the Old Testament storyline, we, the readers, have been put on notice to look for the arrival of this Serpent Crusher. The remainder of Genesis reads like a family history, tracing His genealogical line. We're told in Genesis 12:1-3 that it would continue through Abraham. It would be through His descendants that God would one day bring blessings "to all the families of the earth". The careful reader knows that this blessing would take the form of the promised Seed being born to reverse the curse of sin. In Genesis 49:10, we see that the line is narrowed down to Judah.
"The scepter shall not depart from Judah, nor the ruler's staff from between his feet, until tribute comes to him; and to him shall be the obedience of the peoples."
This verse adds more detail to the profile of the coming Serpent Crusher -- He would come as a King. Well sure enough, in 1 Samuel 17, a young man named David stepped forward and defeated the enemy of God's people at that time, Goliath. He would go on to become King. And it's at this point in the storyline that we're tempted to wonder if David might be that promised Serpent Crushing King. In fact, God even promised that his throne would be established forever (2 Samuel 7:16). But David's egregious sin with Bathsheba in 2 Samuel 11 quickly disavows us of such a notion. David's not the one. We must look for another. And guess what? The Old Testament ends with us still waiting for the Serpent Crushing King of David's line to arrive.
The Old Testament anticipates the coming of Christ. The Gospels record His arrival. And thus we read in Matthew 1:1...
"The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham."
The line of the Serpent Crushing King has finally reached its appinted end with the birth of Jesus Christ. And each of the 4 gospel accounts provides us with a unique, yet complementary, vantage point through which to see Him. While each gospel provides its own lens, each also has the same focal point - Jesus' cruficixion and resurrection. Jesus, in similar fashion to David many centuries before Him, defeated the greatest enemy of God's people... sin & death. Following His resurrection, Jesus then commissioned His disciples to go and proclaim the news about Him everywhere (Matt. 28:18-20, Luk. 24:47-48, John 20:21-23).
The Book of Acts
And this they did. The Book of Acts records the story of how the good news about Christ began to spread like wildfire across the entire Roman Empire. Acts 1:8 serves as a sort of table of contents for the book. Jesus told His disciples that they would be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria, and to ends of the earth. And sure enough, as the narrative progresses, that's exactly what we see happening. The Church is born in Jerusalem in Acts 2 and by the last chapter the apostle Paul is proclaiming the Gospel in the far reaches of the empire, Rome itself. Churches were planted everywhere in between and the Gospel's progress was unstoppable.
The majority of the "books" of the New Testament were originally letters addressed to some of these local congregations all around the Roman empire. "Romans" was a letter written by Paul to the local church in Rome. "1 Corinthians" was a letter written by him to the local church in Corinth and so forth.
What is interesting to note is how Christ-centered these letters are. The apostles consistently pointed the churches back to the cross of Christ in order to help them see how they should live together in light of it. Here are a few examples.
In Ephesians 2:1-10, Paul reminded the believers in Ephesus that before their conversion, they were dead in their sins and trespasses. But in verses 4-9, he reminds them that God, who is rich in mercy and becasue of the great love with which He loved them, made them alive together with Christ. Then, in verses 11-22, he shows how this Gospel is what formed the center of their unity as a church. The church there was made up of Jewish and Gentile believers and Paul wanted them to see how they were reconciled to God and one another through the work of Christ.
In Philippians 2:1-4, Paul calls the church in Philippi to relate to one another on the basis of humility. What's the motivation for doing so? Because this is the model Christ left for us who...
though He was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. -Philippians 2:5-11
How were the Philippians going to grow in their humility toward one another? By looking to Christ and His cross.
A similar sort of thing can also be seen in Colossians 3. Notice how Paul frontloads the Gospel in order to empower growth in godliness:
If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with Him in glory. Put to death therefore what is earthly in you. -Colossians 3:1-5 (Emphasis mine)
In these New Testament letters, we see that the consistent strategy employed by the apostles for fueling a local church's growth in holiness was to point them back to the Gospel and then exhort them to live in light of it.
The canon of Scripture ends with the book of Revelation. This book has gotten a reputation for being full of darkness and terrifying images. This is unfortunate. While some of those things are certainly present, the book as a whole is thoroughly Christocentric. The point of Revelation is that even though the Church may suffer now, our victory is assured because Christ, as the Passover Lamb, has secured our eternal salvation.
Worthy are you to take the scroll and to open its seals, for you were slain, and by your blood you ransomed people for God from every tribe and language and people and nation. -Revelation 7:9
Notice how the work of Christ at the cross forms the foundation and launchpad of our future, eternal victory. This theme is pervasive throughout the entire book. So when you read Revelation, the real key to understanding its meaning is by focusing on the Lamb, not the beasts.
What Does This Mean For Us?
This has been a meager attempt to show how all the different parts of the canon of Scripture relate to one another and center on the Person and work of Jesus Christ.
And this means that in all of our preaching and teaching at Five Points, Jesus must be the Center. He is not simply one feature among many. He's the point. That's what it means for King Jesus to reign supreme in our preaching and teaching.