You Were Made for This: An Introduction to the Priesthood (and Yourself)

priestcolor“You were made for this!”

This phrase seems to be thrown around quite a bit these days: Sports commentators talk this way about athletes; teachers about pupils; mentors about those they coach. In short, it is a way of speaking that comes from a recognized “authority” on someone who is ascending in their field. It is language meant to boost esteem and put everyone on alert, that the next star is rising.

In our celebrity-crazed culture, everyone wants to be special. Indeed “special” is the carrot that has motivated so many to aspire to greatness. I’ve felt this pull and have thanked God that my dreams of athletic glory were mercifully cut short. Still, the hunger for this kind of glory remains.

And it remains with such a strong pull because we were made for glory! Not just some of us, but all of us were made to enjoy and exhibit the glory of God. And thus, until we discover the true source of glory, we will chase glory in vain. Therefore, we must see what Scripture says about the glory of God.   Continue reading

Matthew’s Gospel: A King and His Kingdom

There has been much recent debate on the nature of the gospel.  Did Paul get it right?  Or should we look to Jesus to know the gospel?  See the panel discussion at the recent TGC Conference: Did Jesus Preach the Gospel?

Taking a biblical-theological approach, the gospel is best understood when we look at all that the Bible has to say about the subject.  This includes the proto-gospel preached to Adam (Gen 3:15), the gospel preached beforehand to Abraham (Gal 3:8), the good news which David celebrated in the Psalms (esp. 40:9; 68:11; 96:2), and the good news announced by Isaiah (40:9; 41:27; 52:7; 60:6; 61:1) and the other prophets (Nahum 1:15; Joel 2:32).  Likewise, to rightly discern the meaning of the gospel to the early church we must look at its multiple uses in the gospels, letters, and John’s singular use in Revelation 14:6.

In this fabric of gospel theology, it is important to remember that God has given us four inspired accounts of the gospel. These don’t stand out as different gospels; nor do they reclaim the true gospel—as some infer.  They are rather four accounts of the one true gospel that all the apostles preached.  In conversation with the OT gospel promises and the epistolary explanations of the gospel, the four gospels give us a message of the person and work of Jesus Christ, the one who stands at the center of the gospel.

Starting yesterday, I began to consider the gospel in the gospels, or better the gospel according to the ‘gospelists’–Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. Continue reading

UPDATED: Identifying the Son: A Chiasmus for Christ (Matthew 3:1-4:17)

UPDATE: On the basis of a few comments and further reflection, here is an updated outline of the chiasmus in Matthew 3-4.  What do you think?

In preparation for Sunday’s message, I came across some themes in Matthew 3:1-4:17 that seemed to present themselves as a conceptual chiasmus in Matthew’s gospel.  The issue revolves around the identity of Jesus, which the whole point of Matthew’s writing and the point he is trying to make early on in his gospel.

What I noticed is that in chapters 3-4 is that Matthew seems to pit John’s testimony about Jesus against Satan’s questions to Jesus. The former affirms the sonship of Christ and prepares the way (3:3) for the Father to declare his unconditional approval of the son (3:17).  By contrast, Satan takes the word of God and twists it back against Jesus so that, he questions Jesus identity with it (4:1-11).

In the end, John’s testimony proves true as Jesus abides in God’s word (4:4, 7, 10) and resists the temptation of the devil.  In the end, John’s proclamation of the kingdom’s nearness (3:2) is confirmed by Jesus’ devotion to the Father.  Therefore, Matthew records Jesus’ announcement of the kingdom, which nicely concludes this section of his gospel (4:17).

Here is my conceptual outline below.  Would love to hear your thoughts. Continue reading

The Ongoing Priesthood of Jesus Christ

The kingdom of Christ and the kingship of Christ have received most scholarly attention in recent years.  (In truth, the kingdom of Christ has rightly received great emphasis since the Christ declared that the kingdom of God was drawing near).  Comparatively, the priesthood of Jesus Christ has often been slighted, misrepresented, or put in second (or third) place behind Christ’s status as king or prophet.  However, this ought not be so.

The New Testament frequently displays Christ doing priestly activities (atonement, intercession, teaching, etc.), and in places like Hebrews, the author displays him as the high priest par excellence.  On this important role, John Murray provided an insightful reflection on the “inter-permeation” between Christ’s priesthood and kingship.  While Christ’s kingship is often affirmed, it is often disfigured because of its separation from Christ’s kingdom.  Murray nicely unites the two.

In context, he points to 1 John 2:1-2; Rom 8:34; and Heb 7:24-25 as places where Christ’s ongoing priesthood is explicitly mentioned.  He argues that Christ’s priesthood should be recaptured if we are to fully appreciate the exalted work of Christ. Here is his main argument.

Truly Christ executes his kingly office as head over all things to his body the church. But Christ is a priest upon his throne, and we must not allow the consideration of his kingly office to eclipse that aspect of Christ’s heavenly activity with which we are now concerned. There is here an inter-permeation of the various offices. What we are concerned with now is to recognize that his specifically high priestly ministrations are more operative and pervasive in the church upon earth than we are frequently disposed to to appreciate. And when his specifically priestly function is duly appreciated, new perspectives are opened up in the interpretation of the activity of our exalted Lord. . . . This adds new richness to our conception of the relation he sustains to his people and enhances our understanding of the significance for us, as individual believers and as members of the body which is the church, of the activity which Christ in heaven continues to exercise in reference to God on behalf of those whom he has purchased with his blood (John Murray, “The Heavenly, Priestly Activity of Christ,” in Collected Works of John Murray, vol. 1 [Edinburgh: Banner of Truth, 1976], 47).

In light of the attention given to the papal election of Pope Francis and the Catholic Church’s confused understanding of priesthood (and kingdom), it is vital that Protestants recapture a biblical understanding of priesthood.  It begins with understanding what Murray has argued.  We must understand how the ongoing priesthood of Christ, the priesthood of believers continue to this day and how those two realities are related.  Murray’s article is a helpful starting place.  Hopefully, in the days ahead, Protestants will be better equipped to affirm the finished work of Christ’s atonement and the ongoing work of his intercession and royal-priestly session.

Soli Deo Gloria, dss

Martin Bucer on Christ as Prophet, Priest, and King

This fall I am writing a paper on the atoning work of Jesus the Christ as (1) Prophet, (2) Priest, and (3) King and how these relate to the church and the world.  So as I come across rich quotes, I will be putting them up. I hope they will encourage any who take the time to meditate on their truths.

The first is that of 16th Century, German theologian and contemporary of Martin Luther and John Calvin, Martin Bucer.  In his commentaries on the gospels, he makes two quotes worthy of contemplation.

Christ was anointed, so that he might be our king (rex), teacher (doctor), and priest (sacerdos) for ever.  He will govern us, lest we lack any good thing or be oppressed by any ill; he will teach us the whole truth; and he will reconcile us to the Father eternally.

And again…

Just as they used to anoint kings, priests and prophets to institute them in their offices, so now Christ is king of kings (rex regum), highest priest (summus sacerdos), and chief of prophets (prophetarum caput). He does not rule in the manner of an external empire; he does not sacrifice with brute beasts; he does not teach and admonish only with an external voice.  Rather, by the Holy Spirit he directs minds and wills in the way of eternal salvation; by the Spirit he offered himself as an acceptable offering to God; and by the same Spirit he teaches and admonishes, in order that those destined for his kingdom may be made righteous, holy and blessed in all things (Quoted from the combined version of Bucer’s commentaries on the first three Gospels and on John: M. Bucer, In sacra quator evangelia, Enarrationes (Basel, 1536), pp. 9 and 606; quoted by Geoffrey Wainwright, For Our Salvation: Two Approaches to the Work of Christ [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1997],104).

Soli Deo Gloria, dss