The Cruciality of Jesus Christ (1)
This is a revised transcript of a lecture of mine on “The Cruciality & Pre-existence of Christ.” Thought you’d enjoy the change of pace.
For the Christian, without the Lord Jesus Christ life means nothing. Whatever other people say; however the non-Christian tries to answer the question of meaning, the Christian sees no answer to the big questions of life; no remedy for the plight of man, without Jesus Christ.
In the Lord Jesus is truly the explanation for the way that life was originally, the way that it is now as a fallen creation, and the way that it’s going to be in the future. Everything resolves itself around the Him. Indeed, Christianity without the work and person of the Jesus is unthinkable. With Christianity, if you take out the Lord Jesus Christ then you are left with nothing. You are left with just a man-made morality and with nothing else. You are left with no transcendent point by which the world; ourselves included, can be understood. In fact, what you are left with, as the unbelieving philosopher Feuerbach said, is mere anthropology; man musing upon himself – just using the metaphors of deity. So, Christianity truly, as W.H. Griffith Thomas put it,” is Christ.”
Christ is the one who has been “set forth,” as Paul puts it in the Book of Colossians, “by the Father for mankind.” We have to view things through Jesus Christ in order to get them in the right balance and perspective.
When we study about Jesus the first thing that we have to realize is that it is a personal study. Further, from a believing viewpoint, it is personal, both for ourselves as Christians, and also on the side of the Lord! He wants us to represent Him correctly. He wants us to have correct thoughts and feelings about Him, and He wants these thoughts and feelings to be reflected in our worship and in our daily lives. How sad it is that we can be such hypocrites in our representation of our Lord! While hypocrisy does not logically destroy a truth-claim, it does nothing to endear that truth-claim to onlookers either. Truth must be served both with fidelity in content and in practice.
I’ve already said that Christianity is Christ; without Jesus Christ there is simply no Christian faith at all. I want to underline that point in the rest of this lecture.
Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist…
This is telling us that the Father is the source of all things and we have been created by Him and for His glory.
… and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist. I Corinthians 8:6
This means that Jesus Christ is the ‘Instrument’ of all creation. It is through Him that everything was made.
In the first part of the verse Paul says the creation is made for the Father, and that is certainly true. But there are other passages which will claim that this world was also made for the Son.
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, [that is prior to all things] and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:16, 17
Colossians is all about the preeminence of Jesus Christ. And here we are told quite clearly that by Christ everything was created. (This can also be translated ‘through him’ but usually the preposition there is translated ‘by’).
So, everything that has been created, whether they are visible things or invisible things – because of course the Christian worldview includes invisible entities like angels, as well as visible things, – that these things in their respective hierarchies were created by Christ. But, not only were they created by Christ or through Christ, but they were also created for Christ. The preposition eis there, meaning “towards,” or “for,” or “unto” Christ. Hence, the Lord Jesus Christ is the one through whom all things were created, and also the One for Whom they were created.
Jesus and Aseity: Now this has to be the case, because as the Creator there is no one else to create for in the beginning. He creates simply for Himself. This means that if Jesus is the Creator, as both Paul and John insist, that not only the Father but also the Son and the Spirit too have the attribute of aseity: they need nothing at all, they are completely self-contained.
The Trinity itself, to speak more technically, has the quality of aseity (which in Christian parlance means that God is independent and not contingent on what He creates). Thus, each of the Persons of the Trinity, because they all interpenetrate each other (each is involved in the works of the others), and because they all share the Divine attributes, they must have this attribute of aseity. They need nothing outside of themselves. They depend on nothing and are not completed by anything. †
Colossians 1:16 states that “all things were created for him,” not only by him but for him. He didn’t need to create, but did so for Himself.
And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. – Colossians 1:17
So we must go further, for this verse tells us that everything consists by the power of Jesus Christ.
We begin to see, therefore, two major aspects of the Bible’s teaching about Jesus Christ as Lord:
- His preexistence
- His sovereignty in creation
Let us look at these some more.
But in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world….
So the world was made by the Father through the agency of the Lord Jesus Christ.
He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature…
(We are not the express image of God, we are made in the image of God but we do not image God exactly)
…and he upholds the universe by the word of his power. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high. – Hebrews 1:2, 3.
That means every atom in the universe is held together by the power of Christ and his Word! “The word of his power” is a way of saying the power of Christ as omnipotent God is “spoken power.” It is power not only to create but to sustain, even a fallen world.
So the first thing that we must understand in this doctrine of Christ is that we’re talking here about God: God the Son (cf. Jn. 8:58). We have to begin with this high and exalted view of Christ, because if we don’t, we cannot arrive at the scriptural portrayal of Him. How, for example, can we comprehend such passages as Phil. 2:5-8?
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, 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 2:5-8
This great passage explains the condescension of Christ; the humiliation of Christ. We will not appreciate what Christ did for our salvation if we fail to grasp who this Christ is whom the Apostle is telling us about.
† There are some teachings that only the Father has aseity, the Son does not have aseity even though he enjoys full deity. One Dutch scholar who taught this JJ Van Oosterzee in his book The Image of Christ as Represented in Scripture - a very good book overall, but he does fall into that heresy of saying only the Father has aseity.
More to come…