Crucifixion Billboard

 

“The passion of the Christ is the
theological centre of the gospel”

 
The Blood of Jesus Christ, God's Spotless LambFor four years of my life I would drive home by going west on I-84 into Portland and then out the other side on Hwy 26.  I’d follow the sweep around from 82nd Avenue and pull onto the Interstate for just the last few miles into town.  Every day I would  have no choice but to subconsciously or consciously register the image presented to the right of the road.  There was a big building with a vast billboard on its side.  I can’t even guess its size, but it seemed to loom large as I drove that road day after day, sometimes prayerfully trying to not see the image plastered on it!
Paul was perplexed and distressed by the Galatians.  
So soon after visiting and seeing such fruit in that region, he heard about false teachers coming in and undermining his position as apostle, and the gospel he had preached.  In the third chapter he remembers his ministry among them: “It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified.”
It is as if Paul is saying to them, “Come on, what happened?  When I was there I preached Christ and Him crucified!  It was like I cleared the front wall of the church (forgive the anachronisms here), shifted the furniture and the musical instruments and pasted up the largest poster ever with Christ crucified right there in front of you!  Why have you turned away from that?”
Why did Paul seek to paint the most vivid picture of Calvary that he could in his ministry?
Firstly because the passion of the Christ is the theological centre of the gospel.
Paul knew that the gospel was not about praying a prayer, repent and believe, turn your life over to Jesus, open the door of your heart, etc.  That is all language for response, but the gospel itself is Jesus crucified and risen.  The gospel itself is what God has done in Christ, and the focal point of that is the cross.  Paul trusted in that work, not in his own rhetorical brilliance to manipulate or bring about response in his listeners.  So he simply preached Christ, because Jesus is the good news; and Him crucified, because that is centre of gravity for what God has done in Christ.
Since the cross looms so large in the gospel presented by the New Testament, how is it that people get their eyes off it?  Where can you look when your whole view is filled with a billboard of Christ crucified?  If that is all you can see, surely all will be well?  Not quite:
The second reason.
Paul placarded Christ crucified so vividly is because of the human tendency to look elsewhere.  Where did they look, even after Paul’s great presentation of Christ crucified?  They looked within.  They had been duped by the false teachers who critiqued Paul as a mini-apostle and his message as a half-gospel.  If they wanted to be born again and not just born a bit, and if they wanted to really please God in how they lived, then they needed to put some effort in and start striving with the law as their guide (and circumcision as the entry point).
Paul pulls no punches in Galatians.  Someone had cast a spell on them.  They were being so foolish.  Their turn from trusting to striving was no indicator of maturity and progress.  In fact, it was a dangerous trap.  Back in the first chapter Paul seemed to scream at them in his distress over their turn.  They had turned from the One who had called them!  They had not turned to vice or to a competing religion.  They had turned from trusting Christ to striving.  They had turned from New to Old.  They had turned from the gospel to the Law.  And in their decision to become more religious, they had turned from God himself.
This is the Genesis 3 impulse within all of us.  
”I can handle this, stand back God. . . . now if I can just get these fig leaves to hold together . . . ”
The solution to this self-orientation, to this self-trusting self-love that says I can take care of this; the solution is to be captured by the shocking glory of God crucified.
That is why Paul’s gospel seemed so incomplete to the religious anti-gospel teachers.  Paul’s gospel didn’t take seriously all the personal integrity commitments and religio-legal demands.  In fact, Paul’s “grace-of-God-placarded-on-the-cross”  gospel didn’t make the necessary demands for personal determination which everyone knows must be central in any true religious endeavour.  Genesis 3.  Fig leaves.  Hopeless.
Jesus came and died in our place because fig leaves never worked.
Let’s all take the opportunity to pause and reflect, imagining the largest ever billboard of Christ crucified right before our eyes, and let’s ask God, by His Spirit, to keep our hearts living in the shadow of that.  Moving from there is never progress.

Upon that cross of Jesus mine eye at times can see
The very dying form of One Who suffered there for me;
And from my stricken heart with tears two wonders I confess;
The wonders of redeeming love and my unworthiness.
I take, O cross, thy shadow for my abiding place;
I ask no other sunshine than the sunshine of His face;
Content to let the world go by to know no gain or loss,
My sinful self my only shame, my glory all the cross.

Leave a comment at our blog.
~ Peter
 
[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’]http://christmycovenant.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/01/Peter-Mead.png[/author_image] [author_info]Dr Peter Mead is a Bible teacher and ministry trainer, based in southern England. His main ministry is as co-director and mentor of Cor Deo, a full-time mentored study and ministry training program.  Peter leads the Advanced Bible Teachers Network at the European Leadership Forum.  He holds degrees from Multnomah Biblical Seminary (MDiv/MA), and the Doctor of Ministry degree in homiletics from Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where Dr Haddon Robinson was his mentor.  For more information on Cor Deo, including the weekly theological blog, please visit www.cordeo.org.uk. Peter also authors the BiblicalPreaching.net website for preachers.[/author_info] [/author] [button link=”http://www.biblicalpreaching.net” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Biblical Preaching[/button] [button link=”http://www.cordeo.org.uk/” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Cor Deo[/button]

What Then Shall I Do With Jesus?

 

To be “just neutral” toward
Jesus Christ is impossible!

 
It is perhaps appropriate that the words of the Roman governor, Pontius Pilate, spoken so shortly before the crucifixion of Jesus of Nazareth, should serve as a title for this tract nearly two thousand years later. (Mt 27:22) The situation faced by Pilate and that faced by every one of us is, after all, much the same: What shall we do with this troublesome person named Jesus? For us, as for Pilate, there is no escape from the dilemma; we cannot avoid making a decision of some sort.
Pilate felt uneasy about Jesus. It was obvious that the religious leaders had delivered Him up out of envy, and that He had committed no crimes worthy of death. Also, there was a mysterious aura about this Man who conducted Himself with such calmness and authority, who made no answer to the false charges leveled against Him, and who spoke of a “kingdom not of this world”. And, on top of all this, Pilate’s wife had received a distinct premonition to the effect that he should have nothing to do with Jesus. Yet, despite his inward sense of the injustice and wrongness of it all, Pilate soon succumbed to the pressures of the mob and delivered up the holiest of all men to the shameful death of the cross. (Mt 27:11-26; Lk 23:20; J n 18:33-38)
It is our hope that some who read these lines will turn from following in the steps of Pilate. Instead of seeking to crucify Jesus afresh in their own hearts, they will acknowledge Him as their Lord and God.
 
The Four Alternatives
We must point out, first of all, that to be “just neutral” toward Jesus Christ is impossible. Jesus Himself made this very clear. “He who is not with Me is against Me; and he who does not gather with Me scatters.” (Mt 12:30)
Either we will be among those who love and follow Jesus or among those who hate and seek to destroy Him; there is no middle ground. The situation has often been summed up by Christian apologists in terms of four options. On the one side, we acknowledge Jesus as the Truth. On the other side, we refuse to acknowledge His claims and thus automatically affirm (though perhaps without realizing it) that we believe Him to be either a liar, a lunatic, or a legend.
The reasons for this should be clear: Jesus of Nazareth made claims for Himself that are absolutely unparalleled among the religious leaders of the world. He claimed the power to forgive sins and the right to receive worship from His fellow men. He demanded absolute devotion to Himself and promised men divine gifts such as peace and life. He claimed to be the unique Son of God and said that He would come in power and great glory at the end of the world to judge all men. He taught His own sinlessness and moral perfection. He put forward His teachings as absolutely authoritative, saying that even His very words were directly from God. He claimed to be the Light and Savior of the whole world… Thus, when we reject the truth of Jesus’ words, we are left with few alternatives as to His true nature.
A man who claimed to be all that Jesus claimed to be and yet was not, must have been either a deliberate deceiver, a psychotic, or a myth—all other possibilities are, at most, only combinations of these three. Yet, each of these “possibilities” is so impossible as to demand refutation only because of the hardness of men’s hearts.
 
LIAR
Jesus claimed to be God, but knew He was not.
For any who have read the gospel account of Jesus’ words and deeds with real moral under- standing, the mere mention of this “possibility” is a sufficient refutation of it. The integrity of Christ is beyond question. Even the Irish historian Lecky recognized that “the character of Jesus has not only been the highest pattern of virtue, but the strongest incentive to its practice, and has exerted so deep an influence, that it may be truly said, that the simple record of three short years of active life has done more to regenerate and to soften mankind, than all the disquisitions of philosophers and than all the exhortations of moralists.”
The ethical teachings of Jesus were lofty beyond compare and His own character a paragon of moral excellence. He hated and denounced hypocrisy in others and was transparently sincere and guileless Himself. He spoke of the devil as “the father of lies” (Jn 8:43-45) and said that His purpose for coming into the world was to “bear witness to the truth” (Jn 18:36-37). “If it were not so, I would have told you,” He assured His disciples. (Jn 14:1-2)
Surely there is no room here for the idea that Jesus based His whole life and teachings upon “a colossal lie as to His real nature;” (Montgomery) The novels, films, and record albums which have come forth in recent years portraying Jesus in a twisted fashion tell us nothing about the Christ of history, but they do tell us a great deal about the terrible moral sickness of our own generation. All who thus fly in the face of moral sanity and choose to conjure up a perverted Christ or a “Passover plot”, border perilously near to the “unpardonable sin” of which Jesus spoke. Even in His day, there were those who felt the pressure of God’s Spirit upon them, and, knowing that they were in the presence of Goodness Incarnate, yet chose to attribute everything to the devil. (Mk 3:22-30)
 
LUNATIC
Jesus believed Himself to be God, but in reality He was not.
There are many in our day who manifest delusions of grandeur, thinking themselves to be God—or Napoleon. They are rightly classed as insane, deranged, unbalanced. Yet Jesus made claims for Himself that are no less extravagant than those made by many who are at this moment patients in psychiatric wards. As J.W. Montgomery put it, “I know that you would immediately summon the men in the white coats if I seriously made the claims for myself that Jesus did.”
Nevertheless, the “possibility” that Jesus was deluded is quite easily disposed of. It is so transparently foolish that it too bears its refutation on its face. (Jn 10:20-21!) “Is such an intellect—clear as the sky, bracing as the mountain air, sharp and penetrating as a sword, thoroughly healthy and vigorous, always ready and always self-possessed—liable to a radical and most serious delusion concerning his own character and mission? Preposterous imagination!” (Schaff) Once understand the parables of this great Teacher, once observe His perfect life, or get a feel for His composure and balance under pressure, or listen to the answers He gives when under interrogation, and this option is definitely out! If only we were as sane as Jesus!
But let us note the sharpness of the dividing line: Either Jesus is the Son of God as He claimed, or else a psychotic. C.S. Lewis said it well: “The discrepancy between the depth and sanity and (let me add) shrewdness of His moral teaching and the rampant megalomania which must lie behind His theological teaching unless He is indeed God, has never been satisfactorily got over.”
 
LEGEND
Jesus never really claimed to be God; the words attributed to Him were actually invented by others.
This final “possibility”, held in a somewhat foggy fashion by multitudes of unbelieving college students, has nothing more to commend it than the previous two. In reality, it too needs only to be stated in order to be perceived as false. Once again, those who have gazed with comprehension upon the Person portrayed in the gospel records know that He is entirely beyond the scope of human invention. “A character so original, so complete, so uniformly consistent, so perfect, so human and yet so high above all human greatness, can be neither a fraud nor a fiction. The poet, as has been well said, would in this case be greater than the hero. It would take more than a Jesus to invent a Jesus.” (Schaff) In the words of Gresham Machen, “The Jesus of the Gospels is certainly not the product of invention or of myth; He is rooted too deep in historical conditions; He towers too high above those who by any possibility could have produced Him.” (Emphasis ours.) What an insult to the Lord of glory to suggest that He is nothing more than the cardboard fabrication of a group of feverish religious fanatics!
Furthermore, the idea often held that enthusiastic followers of Jesus in the second and third centuries began to trump up His greatness and put words in His mouth that He would have been shocked to hear, cannot stand in the light of historical investigation. The evidence that the biographies of Christ were written within the lifetime of His contemporaries is now so strong that even the late William F. Albright. was brought to the opinion that “every book of the New Testament was written by a baptized Jew between the forties and the eighties of the first century A.D. (very probably sometime between about 50 and 75 A.D.).” (Until his death in 1971, Dr. Albright was considered to be easily the foremost of American biblical archaeologists. It is significant that he came to these conclusions in spite of his somewhat “liberal” view of the Bible.)
Think of it! It was during the lifetime of hundreds of those who had seen and heard Him that the earliest biographies of Jesus were written. (Jesus was crucified about A.D. 30.) For a mere myth about Christ, in the form of the gospel, manufactured out of thin air and having no relation to reality, to have gained the acceptance of the early Christians when so many eyewitnesses were still among them, is incredible.
Besides, Jesus was a singularly poor candidate for deification. In order for the Jews of His day to have elevated Him to the status of Messiah against His own wishes, there would necessarily have been some correlation between Jesus and the stereotyped “Messiah” that people were expecting to appear. The opposite is in fact true. To quote Montgomery again, “Historically it can be proven beyond question that on every important point Jesus’ conception of himself as Messiah differed radically from the conceptions held by all parties among the Jews.” In short, “the people of that day wanted a kingly Messiah, not a suffering Servant; they wanted a human political deliverer, not a divine spiritual Savior.” (Pinnock)
For the original apostles themselves to have perpetrated the hoax and deified Jesus is likewise impossible. The transformation of a simple moralistic Jesus into a divine Christ is a task of which they were psychologically, morally, and religiously incapable. Each of them had been schooled in centuries of Jewish monotheism and were very slow themselves to see and accept their Lord’s true significance. Besides, their standard of honesty stands second only to their Master’s in its integrity. And, in any case, “they would hardly have been prepared to die for something they themselves had cooked up most deceitfully!” (Pinnock)
With the starkness and bankruptcy of these “alternatives” in mind, let us turn again to the words of Pilate. “What then shall I do with Jesus?” This question is one of unfathomable importance; according to the Lord Jesus Christ, to answer it wrongly is to perish forever. “Unless you believe that I am He, you shall die in your sins.” (Jn 8:24) Moreover, no one can escape giving an answer of some sort to it. To make no decision for Jesus Christ, is to already decide against Him. To refuse to acknowledge the truth of His claims is to automatically heap upon Him the greatest of insults. A truce with Jesus is not possible.
Christians are often asked what it would take for them to give up their faith. We may well direct the question to you, our unbelieving friends. “What would it take for you to give up your unbelief?” In one sense, we do not seek to get you to believe in Christ, we only seek to get you to quit disbelieving! —to stop suppressing that which you know to be true and to turn from the dry and broken cistern of human autonomy to the fountain of living waters. “Let the one who is thirsty come.” (Jer 2:13; Rev 22:17)
~ Charles Leiter
© Lake Road Chapel | www.lakeroadchapel.org
Used with permission.
 
Charles Leiter
Pastor Leiter lives in Kirksville, Missouri, with his wife, Mona and their five children. He has served as co-pastor of Lake Road chapel since 1974. He has been a conference speaker in the United States and Eastern Europe. Brother Leiter is the author of numerous tracts and highly regarded books including “Justification and Regeneration” and “The Law of Christ“. You may learn more about his ministry at www.lakeroadchapel.org.
 

What the Bible Is All About?

 

What is its primary purpose
in writing and its leading theme?

 

“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.” – 
John 1:14

 
We find the answer to our question when we examine the beginning and the end of Scripture. At the beginning God creates the world and all that is in it. We may be sure that he did this for his own glory, for this is his purpose in all he does. His creation is designed to reflect his glory. Humanity in particular was created for God’s glory, and this is our whole reason for being – to glorify God.
But we have fallen from our created purpose.
With the entrance of sin through our father Adam (Genesis 3), humanity and all the created order has fallen under a divine curse. The whole created order is out of sorts – there is pain and suffering and injustice and death. And there is sin, rebellion against our creator. The curse of God upon the human race is evident in each broadcast of the evening news and in the experiences of our own lives. Through sin we are out of sorts with our creator, and as a result our world has been plunged into chaos and misery of every kind.
But at the entrance of sin God not only spoke in judgment. He also spoke in grace and in promise. He promised that a champion would come to defeat the tempter and reconcile us to God. The root problem – our sin – would be corrected, and all of creation would be restored to its created purpose. All this we find at the beginning of our Bible.
The end of our Bible (the book of Revelation) records the end of the story.
History climaxes in a new heaven and a new earth, a new world in which God dwells with his people and his people bask in the glorious presence of God their creator. This blessedness is secured for us, we read, by that promised champion, who by now we know is the Lord Jesus Christ. From beginning to end, he is the theme.
Reading our Bible from the perspective of the beginning and the end enables us to gain a right perspective of the whole and all its parts. Throughout the Old Testament the redeemer is anticipated. The promise given and expanded. At the same time the world at large and God’s people in particular (Israel) demonstrate continuously their need for this redeemer. Kings, princes, the people at large, and even prophets fail. Humanity is so given over to its sin that it cannot stop. There is universal abandonment to sin and universal enmity with God. And no king is powerful enough or faithful enough to bring even God’s people – let alone the world at large – to cease from their sinning or into fellowship with God.
So the promise is that God will send his servant to fix the entire mess. The whole, overall theme of the first half of the Bible is this – “He is coming!” Over and again the promise is reiterated – “He is coming! God has promised a redeemer! In fact, God has promised that he will himself come to our rescue!” And the Old Testament ends with the promise outstanding. The need for a redeemer remains, but the promise is left unfulfilled – “He is coming!”
The New Testament, in turn, makes the happy announcement, “He is here!” – from promise to fulfillment.
Matthew and the other Evangelists (the Gospel writers, Matthew-John), introduce Jesus Christ to us as the redeemer whom God had long promised. And so they tell us about his arrival and his life and teachings and miracles, but they tell us particularly of his death and resurrection. They are careful to tell us that Jesus Christ died as the redeemer in place of sinners and has for his people exhausted the curse of God against their sin. Accordingly, he was raised from the dead in triumph and in glory. He has successfully accomplished his assigned saving work. In Acts this message is taken to the world, and the epistles spell out the significance of all this for us in more detail. And in Revelation, as we have seen, it all comes to climax in Christ’s glorious return as judge and as savior, when his redeeming work is brought to final completion and all his people stand in glory with him in the presence of the Triune God.
And so in the end, creation reaches its original design – the glory of God the creator.
Humanity is saved, and with it the whole created order is rescued from the divine curse against sin and restored to fellowship with God. The divine purpose is accomplished, and all the redeemed will be gathered to sing his eternal praise. God our redeemer has come and will come again to complete his promised saving work in Jesus Christ – this is the whole centerpiece and theme of the Bible.
~ Fred
 
Fred Zaspel
Pastor Zaspel holds a Ph.D. in historical theology from the Free University of Amsterdam. He is currently a pastor at the Reformed Baptist Church of Franconia, PA. He is also Adjunct Professor of Systematic Theology at Calvary Baptist Seminary in Lansdale, PA. He is the author of The Theology of B.B. Warfield: A Systematic Summary (Crossway, 2010) and Warfield on the Christian Life: Living in Light of the Gospel (Crossway, 2012).
[button link=”http://www.biblicalstudies.com” newwindow=”yes”] Visit Dr. Fred Zaspel’s Biblical Studies[/button]