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Biblical Christology

Part One

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Whenever we talk about theology we are generally referring to the study and the understanding of God, specifically being the orthodox and traditional Christian identification of God in the Holy Bible. In its restricted sense theology means the Doctrine of God.[1] That study and understanding is in theory divided in categories that include but are not limited to; who God is as an equal member of the Godhead Trinity, what He has done, what He is doing and what His intentions are.

As we further dissect our theological studies we would obviously come to the study of the Christ or a branch of Christian theological studies called “Christology”. In common Christian study and discussion we refer to “the Christ” as Jesus, Jesus Christ or even Christ Jesus.

Christian orthodox theology (straight and truthful doctrine) is generally defined as Trinitarian in nature. That means that the Godhead is made up of three distinct persons operating mutually together in complete compound unity. A functional Trinitarian assessment would be to say that God the Father is our Creator, God the Son is our Redeemer and God the Holy Spirit is our Sustainer. They are all one in purpose and function but work in compound unity as three distinct persons.

The opposing viewpoint of such a Trinitarian belief would be Modalism, or its contemporary twist called the “Oneness” doctrine often found in some Pentecostal / Charismatic denominations which holds that there is only one God (one person) which appears in three modes or has three varying aspects to His existence as one person.

Let us examine more closely the Trinitarian Godhead through an orthodox perspective and look at the theology of Jesus the Christ, the “Second person of the Trinity” as He is commonly referred to in theologically descriptive terms. The person of Jesus Christ is the central focus of the entire canon of Scripture, both the Old Testament and the New Testament. To know Jesus the Christ personally and intimately is to know God the Father personally and intimately. To experience the person of Jesus the Christ inwardly is to be filled with (His) the Holy Spirit. 

One might ask why I have referred to the Lord Jesus Christ as “Jesus the Christ”. It is because He is the Christ, (Strong’s Concordance Greek word # 5547) “Christos” [2] which means He is the anointed One, or from a Jewish prophetic Old Testament vantage point, the “Messiah”. The term “Christ” is not a surname or as we in the Western culture would perceive a family identification name such as “Miller” or “Smith” or “Jones”. Benjamin B. Warfield says “ ‘Christ’ is not a personal name, but the Greek rendering of the Hebrew title

‘Messiah’ ” [3].  Theoretically we should refer to Him as “Jesus the Christ”, because Christ is His positional title. He is the Christ, the anointed “One”, the “Messiah” of God. However, we have commonly referred to our Savior as Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus, or the Lord Jesus Christ. This is because of the various English translations of Scripture we have become familiar reading and studying from have typically omitted the article “the” for ease of reading. Warfield goes on to say of the earliest Christians that “They had made so much of His Messiahship in speaking of Him that the title “Christ” had actually usurped the place of His personal name, and He was everywhere known simply as “Christ”. [4]

There are actually many descriptive titles or names given for Jesus the Christ in the New Testament canon of scripture. Let’s examine some of the most predominant ones found in our Christological studies.




            In Luke 1:35 Mary the mother of Jesus is confronted by an angelic appearance and told that her “holy offspring shall be called the Son of God” (NASB). This descriptive title literally means that Jesus Christ is the Son (descendent) of God the Father. This is a relational description between God the Father and God the Son (Jesus the Christ).                     

                In Matthew 8:20 Jesus refers to Himself in a descriptive title when He says “The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests; but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay His head." He calls Himself the “Son of Man”, not to be confused with an Old Testament identification of prophets “son of Man”. By this descriptive title Jesus is referring to His divine conception in the Virgin Mary, saying that He is born of humanity, but conceived of God. 

In John 1:41 Andrew proclaims to his brother Simon “We have found the Messiah”. The use of this descriptive title shows us that His disciples recognized Him as a “messianic” figure in His day, even thought they might not have understood the depth of that recognition at the initiation of His earthly ministry when this statement was made. The word “Messiah” is only used four times in the entire Bible,  twice in the Old Testament and twice in the New Testament. Yet, there are over 320 Messianic prophecies found in the Old Testament.

One of the most important descriptive titles is the one we have already been discussed to some extent. We see it in a passage often referred to as the Messianic proclamation in Matthew 16:15 & 16. Peter has been asked by Jesus who he (Peter) thinks He (Jesus) is. Peter promptly responds by saying “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This is where the reality of Christ actually being recognized as the “Messiah of God” is very clear. The use of Greek word “Christos” as we previously discussed is an obvious transliteration from the Hebrew word (Strong’s Concordance Hebrew word # 4899) “Mashiyach”[5]. Both bear the same definitive language in their two separate languages. A transliteration simply means that the words of one language are transferred into the symbols or alphabet of another language for easier understanding. Thus, we come to understand that “Christos” and “Mashiyach” are one in the same definitively. The obvious English transliterations are Christ and Messiah.

It is Peter’s proclamation of Jesus as the Christ that Jesus declared on this revelation His church would be built. Matthew Henry comments “The church is built upon a rock; a firm strong and lasting foundation.[6]” This is not a person, as it has been interpreted by the Roman Catholic tradition regarding the apostle Peter, but a revealed truth that Peter received from God the Father and proclaimed.        

In John 4:42 Jesus revealed Himself to the Samaritan woman at the well who immediately went into town and shared her miraculous experience. These Samaritan converts responded in faith with another descriptive title when they said “and we know that this One is the Savior of the world.” This title of Savior and in specific “of the world” opens wide the possibilities that Jesus the Christ is the Savior of all mankind, not just a Jewish Messiah. This concept has a very broad theological implication not only to the “looked-down-upon” Samaritans, but also the rest of the known world of Gentiles.   

                Jesus identifies Himself in yet another descriptive title during the week of His passion. He sends His disciples into Jerusalem to retrieve the donkey that He will make His entry into Jerusalem on. He gives authority to His disciples by telling them that they should say to the owner of the donkey that “The Lord has need of Him”. The word Lord is another word for the word “Master”. This is a positional authority used as a descriptive title by Jesus for Himself. Jesus is indeed our Lord (master). He is later referred to as the Lord of lords, a

master of all earthly masters, two other times in the New Testament writings.     

The final descriptive title we will discuss is the title “King”. In I Timothy 6:15 Paul describes Jesus as “the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings”. This was actually a political title given to the Caesar of the Roman Empire. In this context it places Jesus the Christ on and above any earthly kings, giving Him in effect not only all authority over the earthly kingdoms of mankind, but also over all of creation.




Noted theologian Thomas C. Oden says “Four elementary scriptural teachings are essential for understanding the distinctive personhood of Christ; Christ is truly God; He is truly human; He is one person; There are in him two rest of the world, we have a lifelong love based obligation to fulfill this commission in our own lives as He so empowers us to do so.  

The virgin birth of Jesus is a key doctrine to the understanding of His divine nature. Though the actual doctrine is not explicitly taught in the New Testament, the factual implication is testified to twice in the gospel accounts. Both in Matthew 1:25 and in Luke 1:27 Mary, the earthly mother of Jesus is identified as a virgin. These plural accounts both testify of her miraculous conception by the Holy Spirit, thus proclaiming the divinity of Jesus.  Wayne Grudem comments on the virgin birth by saying “The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person. If we think for a moment of other possible ways in which Christ might have come to the earth, none of them would so clearly unite humanity and deity in one person.”[7]       

                The faultless and sinless mortal life of Jesus also indicated His divinity in that God is righteous and completely holy and has absolutely no darkness in Him at all (see: I John 1:5). The apostle Paul testifies to this also in his second letter to the church at Corinth. Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. II Corinthians 5:20-21

An interesting quote from the Roman Governor Pilate at the trial of Jesus, found in John 18:38 rehearses him saying of Christ, “I find no guilt (fault) in Him”. It is just another testimony of the sinless life of Jesus the Christ.

The very foundational basis of our faith in Jesus for our salvation is found in the reflection of His divinity in His resurrection from the dead. In the book The Faith – A History of Christianity, author Brian Moynahan states “The Resurrection was the beginning of a new religion, for it was the evidence of Christ’s divinity.”[8]  The Apostle Paul goes on to say in I Corinthians 15: 14   and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. Paul also tells the church at Rome that they must “believe in your heart that God

raised Him from the dead” as a mandate for personal salvation. So the resurrection is not only indicative of the divinity of Jesus, but it is also something that we must believe took place in order to be recipients of its eternal benefits.  

Finally, the divinity of Christ is displayed clearly in His ascension. To understand His ascension we must also use the descriptive word “exaltation”. That is the ultimate end and purpose of our Lord’s ascension. We see this clearly implied in Paul’s letter to the church at Ephesus;   These are in accordance with the working of the strength of His might which He brought about in Christ, when He raised Him from the dead, and seated Him at His right hand in the heavenly places far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age, but also in the one to come. And He put all things in subjection under His feet, and gave Him as head over all things to the church, which is His body, the fulness of Him who fills all in all. Ephesians 1:19-23

Paul also portrays this same theme in his epistle of joy to the church at Philippi. In the Fortress Press book titled Introduction to the New Testament, author Gerd Theissen speaks of Paul’s statements about Christ’s exaltation in this way; “The fact that Jesus was a man and that he was crucified is of decisive importance in the letter: here a divine being enters and leaves the human world.” [9]And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore also God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father. Philippians 2:8-11

This passage, sometimes thought to be the earliest hymn of the newly forming Christian church, is clearly used by Paul to show us the incarnation, act of atonement and ultimate exaltation of Christ in heavenly and supreme importance over all as God.

[1] George P. Pardington Outline Studies in Christian Doctrine (Camp Hill PA, Christian Publications 1951)  57

[2] James Strong The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (McLean, VA,  McDonald Publishing 1988) 78

[3] Benjamin B. Warfield Christology & Criticism (New York, Oxford Press 1932) 149

[4] Ibid 150

[5] James Strong The Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible (McLean, VA,  McDonald Publishing 1988)  43

[6] Matthew Henry Matthew Henry’s Commentary Volume V (McLean, VA,  McDonald Publishing 1986) 230

[7] Wayne Grudem Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI, Zondervan 1994)  530

[8] Brian Moynahan The Faith-A History of Christianity (New York, Doubleday  2002) 18

[9] Gerd Theissen Introduction to the New Testament (Minneapolis, MN Fortress Press 2003)  9


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