[ Doctrine in Detail ]

Topic: IV. God the Son

Lesson: C. The Works of the Son

We all want to know Jesus better. Perhaps it is time to take a step back and look at the big picture of what Jesus Christ is about - what are his purposes and works?

Objective: To understand the purposes and works of Jesus Christ

This lesson is split into two sections, the earthly ministry and the eternal ministry. Some of the eternal ministry is already accomplished, such as the creation of the earth. Some is going on today, such as sustaining all things. Some are still in the future, such as judging all of the earth. The earthly ministry is what Jesus accomplished during the short time (about 33 years) of his life on earth.

1. Earthly Ministry

"The Lord Jesus Christ is the revelation of God to man. In the days of His humiliation He lived a sinless life, performed miracles, taught hte will of God, was crucified, and died. He was buried and arose bodily from the dead on the third day. The Lord Jesus offered Himself a sacrifice for sins, satisfied the justice of the Father, propitiated the wrath of God, reconciled God and man, and obtained an eternal inheritance." (Bible Fellowship Article of Faith 4.2) This statement describes the earthly ministry of Jesus Christ. This discussion will phrase things a bit differently, but the same works will be described.

Note the 'days of His humiliation', meaning his ministry on earth. He was humbled during this time and did not constantly show His glory (it was only glimpsed by what He did in his life, and for a few moments during the transfiguration).

The words 'arose bodily from the dead' simly means the physical resurrection. Today, many church leaders do not believe that Jesus really rose in his body from the dead. It is clearly taught in the Bible that this is what happened, but this miracle is simply too difficult for many to believe. Our fellowship stands strongly on this historical fact, that Jesus did rise from the dead in His physical body. This is the basis for our hope of our own resurrection some day in the future.

The word 'propitiated' means that Jesus took away the wrath of God. He satisfied God's justice, by His death on the cross God's wrath on our sin was expended, 'it is done'.

Earthly Revealer."In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son ... The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being ..."(Hebrews 1:1-3) The theme of Hebrews is that Jesus is better and far exceeds the Old Testament prophets, priests, kings, and even the angels. The extent of Jesus in his office and function of Prophet was to reveal God. A prophet speaks God's word, the emphasis is not on predicting future events (although Jesus did that) but on speaking the Word of God. Jesus was the ultimate revelation of God in what Jesus taught, in the things that He did including miracles, and in the very nature of who Jesus was.

Earthly Example.Of all the denominations within Christianity, the Mennonites have put the most emphasis on the principle of imitating Jesus. There was also a book by Charles Shelton, which suggested asking the question "What Would Jesus Do?" before making a major decision, and then living according to the answer. Is there a basis for the idea that we can live like Jesus?

Yes! "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."(1 John 2:6) If we call ourselves Christians, we are obliged to walk in the same way that Jesus walked. Of course we are not able to heal or walk on water whenever we chose. Walking like Jesus must mean having His attitude towards others, loving all people, caring for the poor and sick, being humble, and focusing on doing the Father's will. Jesus lived his earthly life as a perfect example for us to follow.

Earthly Righteousness.If we consider Adam and Eve in the garden, they were given an opportunity to obey God, perhaps for a period of time (unknown how long this might be), which would have shown them to be 'right-doers' or righteous. Instead, they followed the temptation of Satan and fell into sin by disobeying God. We all, like Adam and Eve, have sinned. Jesus paid for this sin on Calvary. By this act we would be made sinless, but this is still a neutral state. While our 'bad' is taken away, there is no positive 'good'. Being good is more than simply being sinless. Jesus earned righteousness by living a perfectly sinless, good, and obedient life on earth.

"... John tried to deter him, saying, 'I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?' Jesus replied, 'Let it be so now; it is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness.' The John consented."(Matthew 3:14-15) At the baptism of Jesus, He said it was to 'fulfill all righteousness'. After His death, Paul says that Christ Jesus is 'our righteousness'. "It is because of him that you are in Christ Jesus, who has become for us wisdom from God - that is, our righteousness, holiness and redemption."(1st Corinthians 1:30)

Somehow, the righteousness, the positive good, the merit, that Jesus earned by his good life has become 'our righteousness'. As we stand before God the good things we have done still fall short. But we stand in the righteousness of Christ Jesus. His goodness is credited to us, He has become 'our righteousness, holiness and redemption'. Jesus lived a life of perfect obedience, and this earned righteousness is imparted to believers.

Earthly Atoner.In Evangelical churches this is the most taught about doctrine. Jesus died for our sins in our place. This is called the Substitutionary Atonement, because Jesus died as a substitute for us. In the book, A Tale of Two Cities, by Charles Dickens, an Englishman goes into a French prison during the Revolution, and takes the place of a French nobleman. The Frenchman goes free, and the Englishman dies in his place. That is what Jesus has done for each of us. (Of course, we must accept this sacrifice by faith).

"God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood."(Romans 3:25) Although God presented Jesus as the atoning sacrifice, it is through 'faith in his blood' that we are saved. This is contrary to the Roman Catholic (and some other church's) teachings that we can be saved through baptism as a child, with the Church or a parent substituting for our lack of understanding and faith. No, faith in His substituting death is necessary to be saved. Now about children who die before the age where they can come to this faith, we simply trust in the fairness and goodness of God. But no adult should be deceived into thinking that because a Church performed a ceremony, he is saved. No, faith is necessary. More on this when we study the topic of salvation.

Although a central teaching, the idea that Jesus died in our place is often difficult to express to skeptics. I recommend the verse "He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."(1st Peter 2:24) It is simply stated that our sins were taken by Jesus.

2. Eternal Ministry

"The Lord Jesus Christ ascended into heaven, from whence He had come, and was exalted, taking His place at the right hand of th eFather, where He makes intercession on behalf of all who come to God through Him." (BFC Article 4.3) This statement of faith declares that Jesus had a life before the Virgin Birth (he came from heaven) and a life after the resurrection. He is making intercession today, he continues to live and serve. The works of Jesus before and after his earthly ministry are referred to as his eternal works. His earthly works do stand for all eternity, his atonement will always be the basis of our standing before God, but for purposes of study we separate his earthly life from the works performed before and after.

Eternal Creator.We know that "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."(Genesis 1:1) But we also read "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in with God in hte beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made."(John 1:1-3) The Word is Jesus Christ. The Apostle John was clear that NOTHING was made without Jesus, including things seen like the earth and things unseen like angels. Somehow, God spoke or thought the words 'Let there be ...' and through Jesus these things came into existence. The New Testament is giving greater detail than the Old Testament accounts, but in no way contradicts them. As we worship Jesus, it is good to understand what power He has, power that created all things.

Eternal Sustainer.Jesus, today, actively sustains all of creation. "The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word ..."(Hebrews 1:3) A scientist, looking only at the physical world, would say that matter and energy are constant, they may change from matter to energy and back, but the amounts stay the same. The scientist does not see that underlying all of physical creation is a sustaining power. We live (believers and unbelievers alike) because the Son sustains creation, and our lives. Very literally, our lives are in His hands.

Eternal Mediator."Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has gone through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold firmly to the faith we profess."(Hebrews 4:14) Jesus is the ultimate fulfillment of the Old Testament office of Priest. As a priest, he made the sacrifice for sin, and has gone to heaven where he can intercede for us. "For there is one God and one mediator between God an dmen, the man Christ Jesus"(1st Timothy 2:5) He is the only mediator, or 'in-between' between God an men.

The Roman Catholic Church teaches that we may pray to Mary, or to several of the Saints, to intercede for us. This is a false doctrine for a few reasons. First of all, the Scripture clearly states that there is 'one mediator', and only one, and that is Jesus.

Second, Mary as well as all of the saints were all sinners like us. Now the Scripture honors Mary, and as compared to most people she could be said to be good, but there is no indication that she was sinless. Only Jesus lived a perfectly righteous life and can give us righteousness.

Third, only God is omnipresent. Spirits such as angels and departed souls are still, although immaterial, localized to a place. We see cases of angels going from one place to another, or being delayed by other spiritual beings and not getting to a specific place at a specific time. To think that either Mary or Saint Joseph or any other saint is everywhere at once, and able to hear our prayers, is attributing a quality of God to them. This is clearly a form of idolatry, as well as simply being false. Jesus is omnipresent today because He is God the Son, and he can hear all of our prayers from all over the world at any time.

Finally, it is clear that there was one sacrifice for sin, the one Jesus made. The Bible clearly teaches that He is our priest and mediator. There is no indication in all of Scripture that we are to look for any other mediator than Jesus Christ. In his office of priest, Jesus pleads for us.

Eternal Ruler.Jesus fulfills the role of the Old Testament of King over God's people. For Israel, it was necessary that He was born of the line of King David. After the resurrection, the Apostle Peter proclaimed, "... let all Israel be assured of this: God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ."(Acts 2:36) We must understand at this point that Christ in Greek means the same as Messiah in Hebrew, and that it refers to the King of the Jews. "On his robe and on his thigh he has this name written: KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS."Revelation 19:16 We also that Jesus will be called 'King of kings and Lord of lords', which includes all people (not just God's chosen people).

I will digress a bit here to get across a point. In looking at the End Times, the early reformers were 'amillennial', meaning that along with the Roman Catholic Church the early Protestant churches taught that the 1000 year reign of Christ on the Earth (in Revelation) was not a literal, physical, reign but a spiritual reign as Christ ruled through the Church and in the hearts of believers. They denied a physical reign of Jesus on the earth following the tribulation but before the Last Judgment.

The Bible Fellowship, along with many Baptists and other denominations, believes that there will be a physical millennial reign of Christ on this earth. The believing church today is split on this issue, which really has to do with how literally we interpret prophesy. There is more on this as we get near the end of this course.

My point is that because one group believes only in a 'spiritual' reign, and our group in a 'physical' reign, that we often ignor the reality of Jesus as King of our lives today. We must be careful to understand that Jesus is the head of the church, and that He does reign in the lives of His people. We willingly submit to his Lordship as King. Yet, in saying this, we still look forward to that day when He will physically return from Heaven in His resurrection body and physically rule for a period of 1000 years on earth. Jesus, in his office of King, rules in the hearts of believers and will one day visibly rule the world.

Eternal Judge. Where I work, the macho men have a common view of Jesus, and although we all see Him as a great teacher, some of my co-workers have an impression that Jesus is somewhat of a wimp. We must look at this work of Jesus to dispel that - Jesus is the judge of all creation! "Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son."(John 5:22) When we stand before Him someday, He will be the one who judges our lives. For unbelievers, there is the White Throne Judgment where all whose names are not in the book of life will be judged by what they have done, and will be cast into the lake of fire. The judge will not be the Father, but Jesus. For believers, we will sit before the seat (Greek 'bema') of Jesus someday and he will judge what rewards we deserve for our service to Him.

Since Jesus is the judge of all the earth, the one who searches our minds and hearts, who will issue a right judgment, we cannot at all think of Him as weak or a wimp. Jesus will be the judge of all creation.

Summary

In His earthly ministry, Jesus revealed God, lived as our example, earned perfect righteousness, and atoned for our sins. The Son created all things, and sustains them today. He is the only mediator and priest between man and the Father, He rules in hte hearts of His people and will one day physically rule the world. He will ultimately judge all things.


Written Assignment:

For each of the following, state whether the human or divine nature of Jesus Christ is seen: Revealer, Example, Righteousness, Atoner, Creator, Sustainer, Mediator, Ruler, Judge.

Reading Assignment:

Ryrie: Chapters 47, 50 and 51


Key Verses:

"Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."(1st John 2:6)

"He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, so that we might die to sins and live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed."(1st Peter 2:24)

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus."(1st Timothy 2:5)


All Bible quotations are from the New International Version (NIV), (C)Copyright 1984 by the International Bible Society, used by permission.
Doctrine in Detail (C)Copyright 2002 by Ronald Miller, All Rights Reserved

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