In an egocentric world, it’s no surprise when consideration for all concepts point back to humans. All subjects are hijacked for the cause and blessing of men and women alone will little consideration beyond that. Even the gospel is now proclaimed with man at the center of that message. Yet there is a question that stands behind that proclamation that must be asked: Who is the object of the gospel?
For myself, the driving force behind this question has been lingering now for several weeks. As I have been reading, studying, and worshiping at various events, this question has come to the forefront. As prayers, promises, and pieces of music have all heralded Jesus Christ as Savior, I have found lacking a focus on Jesus Christ as God.
To remember Jesus Christ as Redeemer and recognize the work He did on our behalf is of paramount importance. It causes us to elevate our view of Him while minimizing ourselves. And as we do that, there becomes an acute awareness of who we are with Christ and who we are without Christ that forces us to our knees in an indescribable thankfulness towards Him. Therefore, we must never neglect the work of Jesus Christ.
However, there is another side to this that must also not be forgotten: the deity of Jesus Christ. Paul writes in Colossians 1:15-20:
He is the image of the invisible God,
The firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by Him,
In heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities –
all things have been created through Him and for Him.
He is before all things,
And by Him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
He is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that He might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all His fullness dwell in Him,
and through Him to reconcile
everything to Himself
by making peace
through the blood of His cross –
whether things on earth or things in heaven.
Found within these words are what I would call the beauty of the Christian life. Paul’s words, divinely inspired by God, call us forth into submission and worship of Christ. We do so because our of a deep and saturated love for Him.
It is important to see what Paul does here. It is only after exalting Jesus Christ for who He is that Paul then draws attention to what Christ has done. Only after a long exposé of the wonderful God-man does Paul then set forth what Christ did beginning in verse 20. Upon delighting in Jesus Christ, finding all wonder, awe, and majesty in Him, Paul then draws our attention to the work of Christ on the cross noting beginning in verse 21 and continuing until verse 23:
Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds because of your evil actions. But now He has reconciled you by His physical body through His death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before Him. – if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it.
Paul does not neglect the gospel and that we as awful sinners find our identity in it. Yet, it is also this same gospel message that brings forth the glory of God. It is therefore not merely man who is at the center of the gospel message, but God who came veiled in flesh through Jesus Christ. We see God continuously at work for our greatest good and His glory, and so we do not neglect to rejoice at who we are because of His sacrificial death, but we also must not forget that Jesus Christ was more than a mere man. He was the unique God-man.
As worship through singing, prayer and praise, and preaching give way to man-centeredness it becomes both relevant and important to not neglect who Christ is. The error of this way results in three theological misgivings:
1) Christ’s Divinity is Undermined: Quite easily we can see how not remembering who Christ is undermines who He is. To neglect His deity neglects everything else we know about Christ. It negates his holiness, and when we do not see His holiness we do not see our sinfulness and thus the gospel becomes unnecessary.
2) Christ’s Message is Undermined: As we just noted, the gospel logically becomes unnecessary when we ignore the divinity of Christ. No longer does the gospel become relevant to us. For salvation to take place, it was necessary for man to pay the penalty, and yet the only one perfect enough to do so is God, hence the need for Jesus Christ. Without an acknowledgement of His deity, salvation becomes void.
3) Christ’s Authority is Undermined: As Mark Jones has rightly written in his book, Knowing Christ, to see Christ only as redeemer makes Him subject to men instead of men subject to Him. A look upon Christ without a view of who He is before He redeemed us takes away the authority He has.
In no way do I want to undermine the fact that we benefit from what Christ has done. To see what Christ effectively done through the work of the cross draws us into the presence of God. No greater sacrifice has been made and no greater joy can be found. So we rejoice and give all honor and praise to God for this marvelous work, but all the while we do so remembering not just what Christ did, but who Christ is. We reap the benefits of the gospel, but it is Christ who is the object of it, and not man.