Who is Jesus?

In Matthew chapter 16 Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that I am?” The disciples replied, “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets.” “But who do you say I am?” Jesus asked. And so Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.”

I am sure that when people of Jesus’ day said that they thought he was John the Baptist or Elijah or Jeremiah, they meant to be generous and complimentary. After all, it was an honorable thing to be numbered among the great prophets! Jesus Himself said that John the Baptist was the greatest of the prophets. To be identified with them would be an honor indeed.

Not surprisingly, then, when we ask people today the same question — “Who is Jesus?” — similar answers are often given. Some may say he was a prophet like the other prophets, with some differences perhaps. They may say he was a great teacher. Or they may place him in a respectable category of religious leaders such a Mohammed, Budah, Confucious. We often hear that he was a man like other men — a man with superior qualities in significant areas, of course, but in the final analysis, a man on the level of other men.

What is significant is that these answers, as respectful as they may have seemed, did not satisfy our Lord. Not until Peter acknowledged Jesus as the Divine Messiah was the question answered well enough. “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God!”

 In his comments on this passage Matthew Henry observes, simply, that it is entirely possible to have an honorable opinion of the Lord Jesus which is nonetheless wrong. An honorable opinion that is not honorable enough. Not until, like Peter, we acknowledge Jesus’ uniqueness and recognize Him as the Lord from Heaven do we give Him the honor and reverence that is due Him.

Wenham, Warfield, and Inspiration

I recently re-read John Wenham’s Christ and the Bible and was reminded what a helpful work it is. His purpose, as the title indicates, is to demonstrate Jesus’ view of Scripture. The survey of the evidence is excellent, treating in turn Jesus’ view of the Old Testament, his endorsement of the New Testament (ahead of time), the apostles’ understanding of their role as Jesus’ spokesmen, and concluding with an examination of the extent of the canon and the reliability of the Biblical text. Throughout he also answers objections that have been brought against each point under discussion. In the end he provides a very helpful summary of the historic Christian doctrine of Scripture. It is a truly valuable resource for anyone approaching the topic.

There is, however, a curious observation that arises from his Introduction. Here at the outset Wenham gives laudatory mention of Warfield and the momentous event he was in the history of the doctrine of inspiration. Of course. But then he goes on to claim that the argument he (Wenham) gives here (in Christ and the Bible) is substantively new. Specifically, what he has in mind is the old problem of establishing the authority of Scripture by the authority of Scripture: if we say we believe that the Bible is our supreme authority because the Bible claims to be the supreme authority, is that not reasoning in a perfect circle?

Wenham’s “new” argument circumvents this problem, arguing that quite aside from the presumption of inspiration and on any reading of the historical documents, we must say that Jesus believed and taught the doctrine.  And this is the ground on which we believe in inspiration – Jesus taught it.

All that is very good. But what is interesting is that this is not new at all. Warfield emphasized this a century ago. He stressed it at several points in his works and especially in his “The Real Problem of Inspiration” – we believe in inspiration because Jesus (and his appointed apostles) taught it.

Two observations arise from this. First, as it has been said so many times, anything in the last century written on the doctrine of inspiration is but a footnote to Warfield. It is very difficult indeed to add to the massive exposition and defense of the doctrine he provided.

Second, Wenham illustrates a point I have made elsewhere — that many today seem to reference Warfield without really reading him. No reading of Warfield could have missed this point, but Wenham thinks his argument is new.  In fact, Wenham’s argument does offer more detail on several points, sometimes considerably so, but there is nothing substantively new at all.

This second observation came to mind again while reading Wenham’s chapter on the canon. He states disagreement with Warfield but does not seem to have considered Warfield’s argument very thoroughly.

Honest, I am not on a campaign to see that every Christian read all of Warfield (even though in the back of my mind while I write this I’m thinking you’d be better for it if you did!). But I am a confessed Warfield affectionado. And we might do well to remember that when it comes to studying the doctrine of inspiration Warfield already said it, and he very likely said it better. Our study of this major point of doctrine just is not done until we have read Warfield ourselves. In God’s good providence, this was Warfield’s gift to the church, and we neglect him to our own loss.

At Times Life is Like a Used Car Lot

As I approach the end of each school year, I prepare for my annual office renewal ritual.  Part of the ritual is finding the left end of my desk.  You see the left end is where projects, reports, investigations, reviews, assessments, etc., etc. that have been handed my way collect over the course of a year.  It’s always nice to start the summer with the opportunity to see that my desk actually has a non-paper surface.

I was shuffling through the stack (actually that’s a very kind way of putting it, it’s more like a potential avalanche) in preparation for the renewal ritual and I was struck by the fact that it reminded me of a used car lot.  Some of the assembled clutter were reports and projects that had never started.  Most were reports and projects that started and stalled . . . started and misfired . . . started and died.  Some were reports and projects that were ‘important’ but were just sitting there rusting.  And a couple were reports and projects that had started sometime ago and were barely running at the present.

Actually what bothered me the most was the amount of time from my past year that they represented.  Although some only represented hours; others represented months of work.  None were being pursued in the present.  Other ideas had come to mind and replaced them.  Other things, for whatever reason, had become more pressing and more significant.  Consequently, these were moved to the ‘used car lot’ end of my desk.

I was feeling a bit upset about the pile, the amount of time it had removed from my life, and those who had initially assigned the project to me only to move on to other ideas and projects.  Then I was struck by 1 Corinthians 10:31 “Whether, then, you eat or drink or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 

“All” means “all.”  The Bible doesn’t tell us to do the easy things to God’s glory.  Or the things that make sense to us to God’s glory.  Or the things that can be done quickly.  Or the things that actually work out and are profitable.  The Bible tells us to do “all” things to God’s glory . . . even the things on the ‘used car lot’ end of my desk.

That thought has echoed through my mind in the days since the Holy Spirit first renewed it to my attention.  So once the renewal ritual starts, and I’m walking that pile to the shredder to be turned into confetti, I’ll do it to God’s glory.

Have any ‘used car lots’ in your life?  Do them to the glory of God.

A Lesson from a Toll Booth

A few weeks ago we were traveling to one of those family reunions that are put together in less than 24 hours.  This was a wonder in light of our inability with any amount of planning to get enough family members committed for an annual reunion.  We were going to my aunt’s funeral. 

We were at the end of the third day’s drive when we approached a toll booth.  It appeared to be no different than any of the other toll booths we had approached and ‘E-ZPass’ed our way through on the trip.  I double checked the signs to make sure we were in the correct lane.  I pulled into a lane with two cars in line.  The booths had traffic control arms that dropped for each car and rose once the E-ZPass signal registered.

As we came to a stop, the arm rose, and the first car left the booth.  The second car pulled up into position and stopped.  We pulled up and stopped.  And waited . . . and waited . . . and waited.  Finally an attendant came out to the car in front of us.  The driver rolled her window down.  The two conversed for a bit.  Then the driver looked into her purse, shuffled some things around, picked up her E-ZPass transponder, and handed it to the attendant.

As I watched the attendant take the transponder into the toll booth, I laughed to myself and at myself.  I fully thought the driver was going to hand the attendant money for the toll, not an E-ZPass transponder.  It was a welcomed laugh at the end of a long day on the highway.

It wasn’t until the next day that the lesson of that stop at the toll booth struck me.  As we went through our first toll booth of the day and I began to reflect on the events of the previous day, I realized that what we witnessed as very much like what Christ spoke of in Matthew 5.  It could easily be a contemporary equivalent of what Christ told his disciples.

In Matthew 5:14-16, He begins his instruction with a statement—v. 14a “You are the light of the world.”  Christ is simply saying here is the situation or condition that you must recognize.  This is not potential or prophetic.  This is positive, individual, and factual.  He follows that with a second statement—vv. 14b-15 “A city set on a hill cannot be hidden; 15 nor does anyone light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on the lampstand, and it gives light to all who are in the house.”  This is also individual and factual.  Light has a purpose—to illuminate.  Consequently, lights belong on hill tops and lampstands, not under baskets.  A covered light cannot fulfill its purpose.  Both truths are undeniable.

An E-ZPass transponder in a purse cannot fulfill its purpose.  It may be fully functioning, but if it is concealed it isn’t going to serve its purpose and the control arm will never rise.  Traffic will come to a halt.  An attendant will have to leave their booth.  The driver will be embarrassed (I assume).  And other drivers will be upset.

Christ ends this lesson with an admonition—v. 16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.”  Don’t hide our light.  Don’t limit your light.  Be a reflection of the heavenly Father in all you do and say.

As believers, we each have an E-ZPass transponder that will open heaven’s gates.  It is the salvation that we received through faith in Christ’s redemptive work on Calvary.  If we keep it in our purse or in our pocket, it cannot illuminate the world around us.  It cannot open the gates of heaven for all who need to enter.  So . . . “Let your light shine.”  And let it shine today.

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