As we continue in our meditations on the SEND Doctrinal Statement we come to the third section:
“We believe in Jesus Christ, God the Son, the world’s only Savior; in His pre-incarnation, virgin birth, sinless life, vicarious death, burial, and bodily resurrection, and in His personal, visible return to earth;”
I am dividing this into two posts; this one focusing on the person of Christ and a second post on the work of Christ.
The person of Christ is described in our statement as God the Son, the world’s only savior, pre-existent before the incarnation, and virgin born.
1. How does this statement hold our thinking?
When we think about Christ we must think of him in Trinitarian terms. He is God the Son. Christ’s deity is not negotiable. Christ makes God visible to us. John 1:14, 1:18 state:
And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. …No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known.
Christ is eternally God the Son, he existed before taking on human nature. He took on human nature being born of a virgin. Christ’s birth as a human was a miracle. He is fully God and fully man in one person. Taking on humanity did not reduce his deity. As the Church Fathers said, “remaining what he was, he became what he was not.”
Our statement also identifies Christ as the world’s only Savior. There is no hope for mankind apart from Jesus Christ. In the SEND Manual Doctrinal Perspective links, the following statement is made concerning Salvation of the unevangelized:
The Scriptures declare that God in His grace sent His Son Jesus Christ to pay the penalty of sin which is death (Romans 6:23). Christ’s sacrifice for sin is the only way that God’s justice can be satisfied and people can be forgiven (John 14:6; Acts 4:12; 1 Timothy 2:5-6). Faith in other religions, regardless of its sincerity and its accompanying good works, will never bring a person into right relationship with God (Acts 14:11-15; 17:29-30; Romans 1:18-23; 1 Corinthians 10:20; Revelation 9:20). By Christ’s death and resurrection, God offers forgiveness and salvation to all who through faith believe in Christ’s work on their behalf (Romans 1:5, 16, 17; 3:21-26; Ephesians 1:7; 1 John 2:2).
These commitments about the person of Christ come from our commitment to the authority of the Bible which is our only reliable source for our thinking about the person of Christ. Stephen Pardue points out that our thinking about the person of Christ must be grounded in Scripture. In the introduction to Jesus Without Borders: Christology in the Majority World he writes:
So we need the strongest theological resources available, from both past and present, both west and east, to do theology in our current context. But theology at its best ultimately takes its cues from somewhere beyond these two streams: God’s self-revelation in Scripture. As a theological resource, Scripture does not simply stand alongside traditional and contemporary reflection. Rather, it stands above these two, orienting and judging the theological task from start to finish. (p 2,3)
2. How does this statement hold our emotions and will?
John Owen writes:
… beholding the glory of Christ is one of the greatest privileges that believers are capable of in this world, or even in that which is to come. Indeed, it is by beholding the glory of Christ that believers are first gradually transformed into his image, and then brought into the eternal enjoyment of it, because they shall be ‘forever like him’ for they ‘shall see him as he is’ (2 Cor. 3:18, 1 John 3:1-2). On this depend our present comforts and future blessedness. ( John Owen, The Glory of Christ, Banner of Truth Trust, 1994, p 4)
We glory in the grace of God revealed to us in Jesus Christ. This leads us to savor Jesus Christ. In the words of Peter, “though you have not seen him, you love him. Though you do not now see him, you believe in him and rejoice with joy that is inexpressible and filled with glory” (1 Peter 1:8 ESV). I encourage you to take some days to read through John Piper’s book Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ.
On my desk I have an olive wood carving of the good shepherd that I bought in Bethlehem. It daily reminds me that Jesus is the good shepherd who laid down his life for his sheep; that he came to seek and save the lost. Such am I; “I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20b)
3. How does this statement hold our actions?
Kevin Vanhoozer begins his article in Jesus without Borders: Christology in the Majority World:
If theology is the doctrine of “living to God” as seventeenth-century English Puritan Williams Ames held, then we may define Christology as the doctrine of “living to follow Jesus Christ.” This means following his story in the fullest sense of the term “following”: understanding who he is, the significance of what he has done, and how to live to God as Christ’s disciples in our present contexts. Christology is faith seeking understanding of its prime confession: “I believe in the Lord Jesus Christ.” It is the joyful response of heart, mind, soul, and strength to our Lord’s own self-communication. To be a disciple – to perform Christology – means knowing (1) who Jesus Christ is for us “yesterday and today and forever” (Heb. 13:8) and (2) how to follow this same Jesus today, in different contexts. (p 11)
Beholding the glory of Jesus Christ transforms our life. Owen, in the book cited above, emphasizes that as we behold the glory of Christ we are transformed into his image (2 Corinthians 3:18). Throughout the New Testament, our faith in Christ is presented as a motive for a pure and serving life (e.g.: Ephesians 5:2; Philippians 2:5f; 1 John 2:6).
Believing that Jesus is the world’s only Savior gives urgency to our calling as missionaries. This is reflected in one of our core values in the SEND Manual:
Urgency: In light of the urgency of the hour and the lostness of people, we are committed to a life of obedience which calls us to endure hardship as soldiers of Jesus Christ in order to proclaim the gospel and see His Church established.
May our belief about the person of Jesus Christ hold and shape our thinking, our passions, and our actions!