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Jesus as the Revelation of the God of Israel (Advanced)

(This is an advanced study on the person of Christ. If you have not read the more introductory post I did in Amharic, I advise you to read that and more similar posts first)

Jesus the Son: Jesus as the revelation of the God of Israel

By Samson Tilahun
A Paper Presented to: Dr. Stephen J. Wellum, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary
February 2013

Introduction

Who is Jesus of Nazareth? This same question intrigued those who were present at the feast in Jerusalem. Some resolved to see him as a prophet or as the prophet. The establishment was content to see him as a deceiver and a messianic pretender. This same challenge has been posed to every generation and has always been the canon of faith, orthodoxy as well as the defining mark of an era. Jesus, however, asked his own disciples at Caesarea Philippi, “who do people say that the son of man is?”  On behalf of the the thorntwelve Peter confessed: “you are the Christ, the son of the living God” (Matt 16: 13-19), but what did “Son of the living God” meant exactly?  The early church fathers began this quest with the understanding of the “Economic Trinity”. For them knowing “who Christ is”, was not an atomized rational quest that’s done in a vacuum. Rather it was a faithful examination of the glorious revelation that was once for all delivered to the saints. In this paper, I shall first of all briefly summarize the different point of views offered for this same intriguing question, as to the person of Christ, and proceed with a faithful reflection of the biblical revelation.  In doing so, I would like to answer the related question, “is Chalcedonian Christology the norm for Christology today?” and present ‘Sonship’ as a sturdy wall that carries all theological and practical weight.


 Historical Developments in Christology

(Christology is the study of the person and the work of Jesus Christ. It is made up of two Greek words: Kristos, meaning Christ and Logos, which means study/ Knowledge.)

In this section I asses the different Christological developments across church history, precisely for the purpose of shading light onto our discussion, to see which model fits the biblical data. The difficulty lies in what the church has always affirmed a mystery, namely the “Incarnation”. The question is whether the Christological affirmation of the apostolic witness/kerygma, possesses enough ontological significance that warrants the later periods to develop from and if it’s a legitimate development?[1]

The Early Church

Clearly, the early church dedicated itself to careful thinking about the Godhead from a vantage point of the economic trinity (the different roles or activities of the three in relationship to the world)[2], in which Jesus of Nazareth is included in that identity or definition. As Polycarp was being martyred, he prayed to God the Father:

 “I glorify you, through the eternal and heavenly High Priest, Jesus Christ, your beloved Son, through whom to you, with him and the Holy Spirit, be glory both now and for the ages to come.”[3]0

Iranaeus referred to the Son as “the Word of the Father” when commenting on Gen 1:26, with which he identifies the role of the Son in creation as co-extensive with that of the father.

It was not angels, therefore, who made us…except the Word of the Lord, nor any Power remotely distant from the Father of all things. For God did not stand in need of these [beings], in order to the accomplishing of what He had Himself determined with Himself beforehand should be done, as if He did not possess His own hands. For with Him were always present the Word and Wisdom, the Son and the Spirit, by whom and in whom, freely and spontaneously, He made all things, to whom also He speaks, saying, “Let Us make man after our image and likeness;”[4]

Hippolytus wrote against dynamic monarchianism-one of the earliest adoptionistic heresy that saw Jesus as a mere man and Christ as a heavenly being.  Also more explicitly against Modalism of One Noetus, he wrote:

If, then, the Word was with God, and was also God, what follows? Would one say that he speaks of two Gods? I shall not indeed speak of two Gods, but of one; of two persons, however, and of a third economy, viz., the grace of the Holy Spirit. For the Father indeed is one, but there are two persons, because there is also the Son; and then there is the third, the Holy Spirit….The economy of harmony is led back to one God; for God is one. It is the Father who commands, and the Son who obeys, and the Holy Spirit who gives understanding: The Father who is above all, and the Son who is through all, and the Holy Spirit who is in all.[5]

In defense against such heresies as Modalism, Arianism and subordinationalism, to mention a few, this economic understanding of the co-extensive role and the co-ordinate relationship of the son with the father is then further developed to include ontological terminologies such as:  “essence/ οὐσία”, “person/ ὑπόστᾰσις” etc. Tertullian formulated the clearest doctrine of the Trinity that the church had developed further since then.

All are of one, by unity … of substance; while the mystery of the economy is still guarded, which distributes the unity into a Trinity, placing in their order the three persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Three, however, not in condition, but in degree; not in substance, but in form; not in power, but in appearance, yet they are of one substance and of one condition and of one power, inasmuch as he is one God from whom these degrees and forms and aspects are reckoned under the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.[6]

In conclusion, the early church had clearly developed a doctrine of the Person of Christ from the foundation of the economic Trinity, which has a paramount significance for the thesis of this paper. After all the council at Nicea gathered together to sort out the heresy of Arianism, that had the person of Christ as its core.

Christology from above v. Christology from below,

The quest for the historical Jesus was in part a reaction against the traditional understanding of Jesus who is both divine and human. N. T. Wright, who identifies himself as the third quest, writes:

The ‘Quest’ began as an explicitly anti-theological, anti-Christian, anti-dogmatic movement. Its initial agenda was not to find a Jesus upon whom Christian faith might be based, but to show that the faith of the church (as it was then conceived) could not in fact be based on the real Jesus of Nazareth. [7]

This era, then, challenged to reinvent Jesus as: “a good man, a teacher of great spiritual truth, but not the miracle-working, preexistent second person of the Trinity.”[8] Christology from above was “far more common in the early church”, writes Pannenberg, who argues that the best way to do Christology is to start from ‘below’ as that avoid presupposing the divinity of Jesus, which is only possible from the position of God himself. However he himself can’t deny counter evidences that are present in the NT such as:  Gal 4:4; Rom 8:3; Phil 2:5[9]

Rudolf Bultmann, among others, has objected to the idea of a physical perception of Jesus. He concluded, commenting on Corinthians 5:16, that we cannot know Jesus through ordinary human means of perception or empirical historical research.[10] As such therefore, he sought to demythologize the story by dividing the Jesus of history from the Christ of faith. Jesus belongs to the historical investigation and Christ to the kerygma. McLeod writes, “By the time he has carried through his programme, however, little of the NT is left”[11]

The gospels do present Christ in two periods.  We would rather speak of a per-resurrection and post resurrection point of view than the sheer unbelief of Bultmann. It rather rests solemnly on a temporal distinction, on the axis of salvation-history. On a negative note, it’s a matter of point of view, a perspective from the point of view of the flesh (κατὰ σάρκα) and that of the new creation, the spirit.

 Functional v. ontological

The leading voice of functional Christology, Oscar Cullman, asserts that whenever the NT asks “who is Christ”, does not primarily addresses “what’s his nature” than “what’s his function”[12]. He admits that early fathers such as Athanasius did address the redemptive work of Christ but did so, nonetheless, from the point of view of his nature[13].  Cullman developed his functional Christology using salvation-history (Heilsgeschichte) as his grid and locates Christology in this “real christological event”. In saying this he distanced himself from Bultmann’s sense of “keyrigmatic event”.[14]   I concur with what Cullman affirms. I take issue with what he denies. It’s evident that the NT usually speaks of the work of Christ than speculate his nature. However this emphasis is not superior to the later.  John clearly engages with the person of Christ ontologically whenever he says “the word was with God and the word was God” and “every spirit that acknowledged that Jesus has come in the flesh is from God[15]. Erickson concludes[16], “Ontological concepts are implicit if not explicit in the NT. Any Christology to be fully adequate must address and integrate ontological and functional matters.” [17] 

(Raymond Robert, in his Jesus: Divine Messiah (2003), concludes: “While it is undoubtedly true that some of Paul’s descriptions of Jesus are to be viewed as “functional” (for example, Christ, Servant, Head of the church, even Lord in the mediatorial sense), many are not (for example, Son, Son of God, Lord in the Yahwistic sense, Image of the invisible God, and God). And even the functional descriptions of Jesus derive their power to evoke our religious interest and devotion ultimately from the ontological descriptions of Christ which surround them and lie behind them”. Likewise D.A. Carson, Jesus the Son of God (2012) “Although his (John’s) language is functional, it is impossible to overlook the ontology that’s presupposed behind it”. Also more decisively Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, pp. 234-35)


Biblical Revelation

Several theological fallacies are due to failure to grasp and appropriate the biblical revelation. For instance, Rudolf Bultmann’s, Oscar Cullmann’s and Karl Barth’s understanding of ‘revelation’ had tremendous ramification to their theological conclusions. Jesus’ response, to Philip’s desire to see the father, is revealing. This is not a functional question. Christ’s response too should be our hermeneutical key. If Philip failed to notice anything, he should have looked to Christ’s works and words in the economy of redemption, for in them he could see both the father and the son. Therefore an appropriate grasp of the idea of biblical revelation is in order.

The God of Israel: Biblical presuppositions for the Identity of Christ

The special intimate covenant relationship between Yahweh and his redeemed people is described in terms of covenantal treaty (the Law), father-son relationship and matrimonial union.[18] Yahweh revealed himself to Israel:

(1) through his name ‘YHWH’ that identifies the unique identity of God,

(2) Revelation through his acts in the history of Israel and

(3) Self-revelation by character description given by God himself to Moses (Ex 34: 6; Cf. Num 14:18; Neh 9:17; Ps 103:8; Joel 2:13; Jonah 4:2)[19].

Covenant transactions between Yahweh and Israel presupposes a kind of personal presence among his people, which shades light as to the possible meaning of his covenant name, Yahweh, in connection with the repeated pragmatic “I AM-`ehyeh” motifs[20] (Ex 3:11-12; 3:13-15; 4:10-11; 4:13-17). This pragmatic presence of Yahweh with Moses (I am with your mouth, I am with you…etc.), coupled with the demonstrations of signs and wonders as a display of his personal presence, becomes a back drop in order to understand the mission of Yahweh in Egypt. Jean Galot calls this divine condescension and reciprocal commitment a kind of incarnation or to use his words: “acting after the manner of a man”. Yahweh sets his mission to reveal his holy name to Israel (Ex 6: 2, 6).

The word “I” takes a significant turn in Ex 6:1-9 when it is repeated 18 times, which I think best explain the approximate meaning of the divine name. The word “I” predicates personal attributes such as: ‘I appeared’, ‘I established’, ‘I have heard’, ‘I have remembered’ and divine actions such as: ‘I will bring you out’, ‘I will deliver you’, ‘I will redeem you’, ‘I will take you’, ‘I will do to Pharaoh’, ‘I will bring you into’…I AM YHWH (Ex 6: 2-9).  “ I am the LORD” (Ex 6:2) is followed by Yahweh’s initiative to appear to Abraham, so as to initiate and establish a covenant (Ex 6:3). This, thus, becomes a basis for Yahweh’s present initiative to personally come down to Egypt for the purpose of disclosing himself through his name “YHWH” (Ex 6:5-6). In doing so, this disclosure again takes a redemptive turn, when he creates a people for his name by delivering them from slavery with an outstretched arm and act  of judgment (Ex 6:6-7; Cf. Ex. 32:11; Ex. 6:1; Neh. 1:10].

“Say therefore to the people of Israel, ‘I am the Lord, and I will bring you out …I will deliver you … I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great acts of judgment. I will take you to be my people, and I will be your God, and you shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians. (Exodus 6:6-7 (ESV)).

Even though it’s misleading to try to find a single center in the exodus narrative, yet Yahweh creating a people for his name, stands tall (Ex 20:2; Deut 4:32-39; Isa 43: 15-17)[21]. Jim Hamilton writes:

“The repeated assertion that people will know that “I am Yahweh” demonstrate that Yahweh is purposely revealing his own identity.”[22]

This divine identity is disclosed to Israel (Ex 6:7), to Egypt (Ex 7:5) and to Pharaoh (Ex 9:29), so that they know: that there is none like YHWH (8:10; 9: 14), that the earth is YHWH’s (Ex 9: 29) and that through his divine act of judgment over Pharaoh, Yahweh makes himself known for generations to come: “for this purpose I have raised you up, to show you my power, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth. ”(Cf. Dan 9:15, Rom 9:17, Ex. 14:18; Neh. 9:10).  This self-disclosure of Yahweh’s identity gets an initial fulfillment, for the sake of the promise made to the fathers (Gen. 17:8; Deut. 29:13; Cf. Rom 15:8), when God takes Israel by the hand and leads them to his holy abode in order for Yahweh to reign upon his redeemed/ covenant people forever and ever (Ex 6:7; 15: 13, 17-18; Deut. 4:20; 7:6; 14:2; 26:18; 2 Sam. 7:24). This redemptive reign however was challenged when Israel’s idolatry has gotten on the way (Ex 32-Ex34) that eventually led Israel to covenantal unfaithfulness and divine judgment to exile.


The Eschatological Identity of God

It is in this period of redemptive history that the identity of the God of Israel takes a universal significance, especially in the eschatological hope of Israel. Just as God’s mission to revels himself to Israel as YHWH was accomplished through the event of the exodus, God promised to disclose himself to the nations yet again in the eschatological time of salvation.

The new exodus (Isa 40-55), will be an event that includes the gentiles, because the God who brought Israel out of Egypt is also:

(1) the creator of all things and

(2) the sovereign Lord of all things[23].

The covenant God of  Israel will finally be known by the nations as the only true God, YHWH, the God of Israel, the sole creator of all things (Isa 40:26, 28; 42:5;44:24; 45:12,18;48:13;51:16;Neh 9:6; Hos 13:4) and ruler of all things (Dan 4:34-35) The Lord is God and there is no other god besides him (Deut 4:35, 39; 32:39; 1Sam 2:2; 2Sam 7:22; Isa 43:11; 44:6;45:5, 614,18,21,22;46:9; Hos 13:14; Joel 2:27).  He created all things and he reigns supreme over all things. Bauckham writes:

In the future, when God will fulfill his promises to his own people, showing himself to be finally and definitively the gracious God they have known in their history from the Exodus onwards, God will at the same time demonstrate His deity to the nations, implementing His sovereignty as Creator and Ruler of all things in establishing His universal kingdom, making his name known universally becoming known to all as the God Israel has known[24].

In this Eschatological final redemption comes another promise, a new covenant, in which Yahweh will bring to pass a new exodus (Jer 31: 8) in order to create an eschatological people for his name (Jer 31: 31-34, Cf. Ex 6: 7). This gets a climactic fulfillment when the new covenant community is formed after the manner of the second exodus to create a people (1 Pet. 2:9) for his name and a final fulfillment awaiting at the consummation in the new heaven and earth (Rev. 21:7). These Eschatological fulfillment are then predicated and centered upon the coming Messiah as the son of God. Therefore the OT envisions and looks forward to an embodiment of his name for the purpose of displaying his own glory by creating a reconstituted people of God under the new covenant[25]. What is significant is that, according to the NT, the nexus of these expectations come to a reality in the person of the Messiah. The inclusion of gentiles in the Eschatological people of God, for instance according to Isaiah 2:1-5, 11:10; 42:6; 49:6, becomes a reality by preaching the Son of God to the gentiles (Gal 1:15-16; Rom 15:5-13)[26]. Salvation in Christ then has new creation as its goal.

Jesus: the Messianic Son of God, the Servant of God

Messianic expectation would be best understood in its royal expectation. As such therefore we find such expectation from the very beginning. According to Kaiser, the Pentateuch identifies the royal figure with: the Seed (Gen 3: 15; Gen 9: 27; 12: 3), Shiloh (Gen 49: 8-12), Scepter, Star, King (Num 24: 15-19) and Prophet (Deut 18:15, 18).[27] Vos likewise locates Shiloh as the climax of the Genesis narrative[28]. For instance T.D. Alexander highlights the royal overtone of the heel-bruised seed of the woman, in contrast to the licking dust serpent, in Gen 3:15.[29] Furthermore, the Lord promised Abraham that ‘kings will come from you’ (Gen 17:6, 16; 35: 11; 36: 31). At this juncture, it is noteworthy once more to see that Paul identifies this seed with the Messiah in Galatians 3: 16. Although the account of Joseph’s life dominates Genesis 37-50, when in old age Jacob gathers his sons around him to tell them what will happen in days to come (Gen 49:1), it is remarkable that kingship is associated with the descendants of Judah (Gen. 49:8-12), and not Joseph (Gen 49:22-26).[30] The account of the exodus, divine deliverance from Egypt and their subsequent journey towards the Promised Land, further develop this theme of royal figure, especially by describing the creation of a kingdom of priest, a holy nation. This becomes much more thorough going in historical narratives (Joshua, Judges, Samuel), whenever they anticipate an establishment of monarchy in Israel, ‘in those days Israel had no king; everyone did as he saw fit’ (Judg. 17:6; 21:25; cf. 18:1; 19:1) and divine provisions of temporal spirit-empowered deliverers[31].  The appointment of David as the anointed king, after the rejection of Saul, and Yahweh’s subsequent covenant with David to establish his dynasty forever, brings the royal figure to rest over one person (2Sam 7: 12-14; 23: 5; Cf. 2Chron 17).

Here for the first time the king is related with Yahweh as the ‘Son of God’ (Cf. Ps 2:7), ‘the firstborn son’ (Ps 89:26-27, Cf. ‎Col 1:15; Ex 4:22; Heb 12: 23) and whose dominion is described in words reminiscent to the Abrahamic promises (Ps 72:7; Cf. Ps. 80:11; 89:25; Zech. 9:10). This Messianic sonship is functional, that is to say that the Davidic king is to rule and act like Yahweh. Yahweh is his father. It is also noteworthy that the king, as the son of God, is to represent Israel, who likewise is said to be “the firstborn son” (Ex 4:22; Hos 11: 1; Jer 3:19; Deut 1: 31; 8: 5; 14: 1). Just as Israel was “God’s son”, because of her election and adoption to sonship, referring to Yahweh’s choice of Israel as his covenant people (Rom. 9:4)[32] in order to accomplish his mission in the world[33], so the Davidic King is also said to rule as Yahweh’s vice-regent. Due to space limitation I skip over the prophetic developments, especially after the eighth century BC that associates the renewal of the temple, sacrifices, priesthood, people, land, covenant, etc… with the coming royal figure, who would be both a reigning king and a suffering servant.

All of these eschatological expectations are picked up by the NT writers and conclude that Jesus of Nazareth is that promised messianic son of God. Matthew traces Jesus’ genealogy with that of the royal family. Among Christ’s symbolic acts, carrying ‘royal’ implications, the Temple was central. “David…had had the original idea for the Temple; Solomon…had built it. Hezekiah and Josiah…had cleansed it and restored it. Rebuilding it was supposed to be part of the post-exilic royal task …of Zerubbabel and Joshua”[34]. In fulfillment, he performed actions that had royal significance, such as riding on a donkey (alluding to Zech 9: 9; Cf. Mt. 21:9/Mk. 11:10/Lk. 19:38/Jn. 12:13) “Lo, your king comes to youhis dominion shall be from sea to sea, and from the River to the ends of the earth” and after the triumphal royal entry, Jesus (according to the Synoptics, Matt 21:12-13) cleansed the temple.

Another messianic consciousness of Jesus is found in the parable of the tenants (Matt 21:33-46). “The prophetic story of the rejected servants climaxes in the rejected son; he, however, is the messianic stone which, rejected by the builders, takes the chief place in the building. Those who oppose him will find their regime (and their Temple) destroyed, while his kingdom will be established.” [35] Matthew’s royal riddles climax with: “If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son? (Matt 22:45 (ESV))”. Jesus’s Messianic definition was radically different than that of the Second temple Judaism on one hand and the Maccabaean revolutionary movement on the other. After all Jesus died with ‘the king of the Jews’ written above his head[36].I conclude this section with the confession of Simon Peter, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’

Jesus: The Exalted-Messianic Son of God, the Sovereign Ruler

The NT comes to climax with the exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth (a designation dropped out of use almost immediately) to the divine throne after his passion. Peter warned his hearers:  “Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified.” (Acts 2:36 (ESV)) Peter said this after he quoted Ps 110:1, one of the most quoted OT text in the new and one that is used to affirm Christ’s exaltation again and again. “The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool” (Ps 110:1, ESV). This, in conjunction with Ps 8: 6, is frequently used to affirm:

(1) Christ’s exaltation to sovereignty over all things and above angelic powers (Matt 22;44; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 1Cor 15:25-28; Eph 1:20-22; 1Pet 3:22; Heb 1:13-2:9)

(2) that Jesus is given the divine name, Kyrios. (1Cor 8:6;  Phil 2:9; Acts 2:17-21, 38; 9:14; 22:16; Rom 10:9-13; 1Cor 1:2; 2Tim 2:22)

(3) The worship of Jesus as recognition of his divine sovereignty[37]. (Phil 2:9-11; Rev 5: 1-14; Matt 28:17; Heb 1:6; John 5:21-23.)

The glorious vision in Revelation 5, of the slain Lamb coming to the divine throne and evoking the worship of all creation, brings this to climax: “every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all that is in them, saying, “To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever![38] Rev 5: 10

Jesus: The Eternal Son of God, the Creator

The NT writers simultaneously affirm the exaltation of Christ, to the divine throne, as the vindication of the son’s claim to be one with Yahweh. The incarnated and exalted messianic son is the preexistent-eternal son of God. The self-revelation of God in the economy of redemption, the economic trinity, centers upon the coming of the Son into the world. Bavinck writes:

“Granted, all God’s outward works (opera ad extra) are common to the three persons. “God’s works ad extra are indivisible, though the order and distinction of the persons is preserved.” It is always one and the same God who acts both in creation and recreation. In that unity, however, the order of the three persons is preserved. The “ontological” Trinity is mirrored in the “economic” Trinity.[39]”

Since the one mighty act of God (ad extra) is distributed in the economy of redemption, the deeds and the words of the Son is the deeds and the words of the father. Therefore: (1) the Son is one with Yahweh in creation: affirming that Yahweh created all things through the son, thus he’s preexistent- asserting “an ordered equality that constitutes the working of the Father and Son-the Father works all things through the Son”[40]. (2) The Son is the sent one from the father: affirming the life of the son issuing from eternity and is one with Yahweh in purpose ( Matt 10:40; Luke 4:43; 10:16; Gal 4:4-6; John 4:34; 5:23-24, 30-47; 6:38-44, 57; 7:16, 28-29, 33; 8:16-18, 26-29, 42; 9:4; 12:44-50; 13:16; 14:24; 15:21; 16:5, 28; 17:3, 18; 20:21); also those passages that speak of the Father “giving” and the Son “receiving[41] (John 5:19, 22, 26, 27, 36; 10:18; 17:2, 8, 11, 22; 18:11). (3) The Son is one with Yahweh in being and glory: affirming Christ’s eternal claims to divine Sonship- eternal generation (John 5: 26; 17: 4-5, 24; Cf. 8: 58). (4) The son is in coordinate relationship with the father and the Spirit: affirming mutual glorification, mutual indwelling (Perichoresis) and mutual knowing (Matt 11:27; Gal 4:4-6; John 13: 31-32; 14: 20; 15:26; 16:13-14; 17: 1-5, 21).


In conclusion

       Therefore, “is Chalcedonian Christology the norm for Christology today?”  The answer is ‘yes!’ Yet, it is a qualified affirmation. If whatever this affirmation means that we take the creed as an end in itself, that is to say if one views the creed as filling the void that the apostles left, then I would answer to it negatively. However, provided that we take the creed as an articulation of the doctrine that is clearly thought in biblical terms, then I affirm that the Christological affirmation of the apostolic witness possessed enough ontological significance that warranted the early church periods to develop from and it’s a legitimate development. My premise is that even the apostolic period devoted itself to careful exegesis and reflection of the ‘Son, par excellence’ revelation (Heb 1:1-4). Therefore the person of Christ is best seen from the economic and immanent understanding of ‘Sonship’. Jesus Christ is the eternal son, whom the father loves (opera Ad Intra in the immanent Trinity), through whom the father created the world and whom the father sent into the world (opera ad extra in the economic Trinity) to bring about the eschatological redemption and judgment, by exalting him to the divine throne above all creation through the son’s ignominious death on the cross:

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in everything he might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, 20 and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, making peace by the blood of his cross. (Colossians 1: 15-20 (ESV))

Whatever else he is, he is the Son whom the father loves before the foundation of the earth and whom he sent. As clearly stated in Rom 1: 1-4, Christ is the Son of God from eternity, the preexistent Son, who was descended from the seed of David, the messianic Son, according to the flesh and who was declared to be the Son of God ‘in power’ – the exalted Son[42]; a striking amassing of Christological titles: Son of God, Seed of David, Messiah and Lord”[43]. It is the Son who is “appointed” as Son[44]. This is the heart of the gospel of God, the gospel concerning his Son.

I close with this most glorious vision of the Son, standing in the midst of the throne and living creatures and approaching to the center of the drama of salvation having accomplished redemption. In Revelation 4 Yahweh is worshiped by the host of heaven as follow:

Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created; (Rev 4:11)

Nevertheless in Revelation 5, “the theme of the praise switches from creation to redemption”[45].

 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, and you have made them a kingdom and priests to our God, and they shall reign on the earth; (Rev 5:9-10)

-Come, Lord Jesus! –



[1] I. Howard Marshall, The Development Of Christology In The Early Church. Tyndale Bulletin 18 (1967): 77-93.

[2] Gregg R Allison, Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2011), 233

[3] Martyrdom of Polycarp, 14, in Holmes, 239; ANF, 1:42. Allison, G. R. (2011). Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine , 233

[4] Irenaeus of Lyons. (1885). Irenæus against Heresies. In A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe (Eds.), The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I: The Apostolic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus (A. Roberts, J. Donaldson & A. C. Coxe, Ed.) (487–488). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.

[5] Ibid., 14, in ANF, 5:228. Allison, G. R. (2011), 234

[6] Ibid., 14, in ANF, 5:228. Allison, G. R. (2011), 234

[7] N. T. Wright, Jesus and the victory of God: Christian Origins and the Question of God (London: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge, 1996) P. 17

[8] Millard J. Erickson, Christian Theology, 2nd ed. (Michigan: Baker Books, 1998). P. 679

[9] Wolfhart Pannenberg, Jesus-God and Man (Philadelphia: Westminister, 1968). P.33

[10] Millard J Erickson, Christian Theology, 724

[11] Donald MacLeod, The Person of Christ: Contours of Christian Theology (Downer Grove, IL: IVP, 1998), 110.

[12] Oscar Cullmann, The Christology of the New Testament, rev. ed (Philadelphia: Westminister, 1963), p.4

[13] Ibid.

[14] Ibid., 4n1

[15] Millard J Erickson. Christian Theology, 717

[16] Ibid,719

[17] Raymond Robert, in his Jesus: Divine Messiah (2003), 11-15, concludes: “While it is undoubtedly true that some of Paul’s descriptions of Jesus are to be viewed as “functional” (for example, Christ, Servant, Head of the church, even Lord in the mediatorial sense), many are not (for example, Son, Son of God, Lord in the Yahwistic sense, Image of the invisible God, and God). And even the functional descriptions of Jesus derive their power to evoke our religious interest and devotion ultimately from the ontological descriptions of Christ which surround them and lie behind them”. Likewise D.A. Carson, Jesus the Son of God (2012) “Although his (John’s) language is functional, it is impossible to overlook the ontology that’s presupposed behind it”. Also more decisively Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, pp. 234-35

[18] Jean Galot, Who Is Christ? A Theology of the Incarnation. (Chicago: Franciscan Press, 1981), 41-49

[19] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), 7

          [20] Bruce K. Waltke, An Old Testament Theology: An Exegetical, Canonical, and Thematic Approach (Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, 2007), P.  367.

[21] Gordon D. Fee, Pauline Christology: An Exegetical-Theological Study (Peabody, MA: Hendrickson, 2007), 484. Fee discusses the people of God (re-creation) dimension as an important element of Christology, that finds reconciliation of Jew/ Gentile, the church/body of Christ, temple, reconstituted Israel at the center of the Christ event.

[22] James M. Hamilton Jr., God’s Glory in Salvation through Judgment: A Biblical Theology (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2010). P 94.

[23] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 8.

[24] Ibid.

[25] Gordon D. Fee, Pauline Christology, 483.

[26] Ibid.

[27] Walter Kaiser Jr., the Messiah in the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI : Zondervan, 1995), P. 37

[28] Geerhardus Vos, The eschatology of the Old Testament (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Publishing, 2001), 89

[29]T. Desmond Alexander, Royal Expectations in Genesis to Kings: Their importance for Biblical Theology. Tyndale Bulletin 49 (1998), 191 – 212. T.D. Alexander notes: that when due attention is given to the teledot formulae and the keyword ‘seed’, it becomes evident that the book of Genesis in its final form anticipates the coming of a king through whom God’s blessing will be mediated to all the nations of the earth. The coming of such an individual is first intimated in Genesis 3:14-15… The linear genealogies in Genesis 5 and 11 trace the ‘seed of the woman’ to Abraham, through whom God promises to bless all the families of the ground (Gn. 12:1-3)

[30] Ibid. Also, in an audio lecture, by T.D.Alexander, I have heard him that the Genesis account opened the promised royal figure to come from either Ephraim or Judah, which makes sense then why the tabernacle to remain in Ephraim, and Joshua to take the leadership role. However the ark being captured and the rejection of Eli’s priesthood led the transfer of royalty to Judah.

[31] Ibid.

[32] D. A. Carson, Jesus the Son of God: A Christological Title Often Overlooked, Sometimes Misunderstood, and Currently Disputed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2012), 32

[33] Charles H. H. Scobie, The Ways of Our God: An Approach to Biblical Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2008), P. 377.

[34]N. T. Wright, Jesus and the victory of God, 483

[35] Ibid, 501

[36] Ibid, (490)

[37] Richard Bauckham, Jesus and the God of Israel, 18-31

[38] This is contrary to the most seminal conclusion of Wilhelm Bousset that Lordship is a Hellenistic syncretism with the mystery religions/ early Gnosticism. Wilhelm Bousset, Kyrios Christos: A history of the belief in Christ from the beginnings of Christianity to Irenaeus. James Dunn similarly concluded in his Christology in the Making.

[39] Herman Bavinck, God and Creation, vol. 2 of Reformed Dogmatics (trans. John Vriend; Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004), 318

[40] Keith E. Johnson, Trinitarian Agency and the Eternal Subordination of the Son: An Augustinian Perspective. Themelios 36.1 (2011): 7–25

[41] Ibid

[42] Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, (NICNT; Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1996), 49

[43] Ibid, 51

[44] Ibid, 48

[45] Andrew Moody, That All May Honour the Son, Themelios 36.3 (2011): 408

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