Thinking Rightly about Jesus
There is no greater need for the church today than to think rightly about Jesus, biblically and theologically. The life and health of the church depends on a correct Christology, rooted and grounded in an accurate theology proper—yet not merely a Christology confessed but one that leads us to faith, trust, and confidence in our Lord Jesus and to an entire life lived in adoration, praise, and obedience to the triune God.
The reason why this should be is obvious if we have understood what Scripture teaches regarding our triune God in the face of the incarnate Son. Given that Jesus is the divine Son, the eternal “Word made flesh” (cf. John 1:1, 14), in him alone is life and life eternal (John 17:3). Repeatedly, Scripture reminds us that in Christ alone, all God’s sovereign purposes find their fulfillment (Heb. 1:1–3). As Paul beautifully reminds us, in Christ alone, God’s eternal plan is to bring “all things,” “things in heaven and things on earth,” under Christ’s headship (Eph. 1:9–10), which has already begun in his first coming and which will be consummated in his return. Jesus, the incarnate divine Son, is central to God’s eternal plan and new creation work. Indeed, as Paul again reminds us in his famous Christological hymn, not only is the eternal Son the one through whom the Father has created, but also, the very purpose of creation is ultimately “for him” (Col. 1:16).
Given the centrality of Christ in Scripture and theology, it’s not surprising that to misidentify him is so serious. In fact, as Jeremy Jackson rightly reminds us, at the heart of all heresy and false understandings of the gospel and Christian theology is a distortion or denial of Christ.1 In many ways, one’s Christology is a test case for one’s entire theology. The more our Christology is off, especially in terms of the Son’s unique, exclusive identity and all-sufficient work, the more our theology will be wrong in other areas. “Ideas have consequences,” and the most central “idea” to get right is who Jesus is vis-à-vis the triune God. There are many beliefs that distinguish Christianity from other worldviews but none as central and significant as who Jesus is.
In this addition to the Short Studies in Systematic Theology, Stephen J. Wellum examines the divinity and humanity of Christ, focusing on who Jesus is from Scripture and historical theology, showing readers why Jesus is unique and how they should think about the incarnation.
Thinking through all that Scripture says about Jesus and wrestling with the church as she has sought to faithfully confess Christ is not an easy task, but it’s absolutely necessary, especially if we are going to think rightly about God, the gospel, and the entire Christian faith. The study of Christology is not reserved for academic theologians; it’s the privilege, responsibility, and glory of every Christian. The Christian life and the Christian ministry are about knowing God in truth, believing and obeying God’s Word in our lives, and being vigilant for the truth of the gospel by “destroy[ing] arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and tak[ing] every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Cor. 10:5).
To Christ Be the Glory
Yet although Scripture and theology remind us about the centrality of Christ in everything, the evangelical church, sadly, is in danger of neglecting this truth. Evidence for this concern is found in the 2018 State of Theology report, which reveals a serious lack of biblical-theological knowledge and fidelity.2 But further evidence is found in whatever seems to be the latest discussion on social media. The evangelical church seems more willing to “fight” and “divide” over issues that are entailments of the gospel than to stand faithfully for truths that are central to the gospel, namely, Christology and theology proper, as evidenced in the State of Theology poll.
The church first exists to know and proclaim the glory of the triune God in the face of Christ.
My goal is to call the church back to what is central: the glory of Christ. My hope is to equip the church to know better the basic scriptural data regarding Christ and the church’s theological confession of him. My prayer is that in spending time thinking through the glory and majesty of our Lord Jesus Christ, [you] will be led, in some small way, to a renewed delight to know and proclaim Christ and him alone (Col. 1:28). Indeed, the church first exists to know and proclaim the glory of the triune God in the face of Christ, and a move away from this center will lead the church away from life and health.
One of Scripture’s culminating visions is Revelation 4–5. It is a breathtaking vision in which the triune God is seen in all his glory, holiness, authority, sovereignty, and self-sufficiency. In this vision, we are reminded about what is truly central and important: the Lord on his throne and the Lamb who was slain. In every generation, Christians need this vision to renew them. We need to be reminded about who is central, who is worthy, who is to be obeyed, and who is our only hope and salvation. As a result of thinking through the glory of our Lord Jesus in Scripture and theology, may we be led to confess with the angelic hosts:
To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be blessing and honor and glory and might forever and ever!” (Rev. 5:13)
- Jeremy C. Jackson, No Other Foundation: The Church through Twenty Centuries (Westchester, IL: Crossway, 1980), 31–42.
- The State of Theology, Ligonier, accessed May 7, 2020, thestateof theology.com
This article is adapted from The Person of Christ: An Introduction by Stephen J. Wellum.
How can we tell if a church is really a church? What characteristics distinguish a true church?
Why were Joseph and Mary commanded to name the holy Child “Jesus?” What does his name mean for believing Christians?
One of the most debated, and at times perplexing, aspects of belief in the Trinity is the question “Does Scripture actually teach that Jesus is fully God?”
Many Christians often can assent to key statements on Christ’s divinity like the Nicene Creed, but struggle defending such statements from Scripture.