Jesus said, before Abraham was, I am. Abraham rejoiced to see my day. Before Abraham was, he didn't say before Abraham was, I was. It's before Abraham was, I am. Many people claim to be followers of Jesus, despite what they believe or how they live.
It's why it's vital as Christians that we ensure that the Christ we follow is the Christ of the Bible. Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us for this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. As R.C. Sproul continues his overview of theology, we'll be considering now the person and work of Christ. And what you'll hear today, I personally find to be one of the most helpful brief overviews of who Jesus is that I've ever heard.
As R.C. Sproul paints this beautiful portrait of Christ from Genesis to Revelation, here's Dr. Sproul. In this session, we're going to begin a whole new section of our study of systematic theology, which in one sense is perhaps the most intimidating section there is to teach in theology, and yet on the other hand, one of the most blessed and rich sections that we can study in this process, and that's the section of theology that we call Christology, because now we focus our attention on our understanding of the person and work of Christ Himself.
And it's significant that our faith, our religion is called Christianity, because so much of our attention is focused on this One who came to us, who was God incarnate, Emmanuel, dwelling in our midst, who has not only redeemed us to the Father, but who also has revealed the Father to us in such majestic terms. Now, any study of the person of Christ, at best, can only scratch the surface of what we find there, because the portrait that we find of Jesus in Scripture is so wide and so deep and so rich that it really defies anybody's ability to grasp exhaustively. In order to get a little taste of the complexity that we find when still studying the person of Jesus, I want to look at one of my favorite passages in the New Testament, which is found in the fifth chapter of the Apocalypse of St. John, or more commonly called the book of Revelation, where we have here in this record part of the vision that John experiences while he's in exile on the island of Patmos. Chapter 5 begins with these words, and I saw in the right hand of Him who sat on the throne a scroll written inside and on the back, sealed with seven seals. And then I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, who is worthy to open the scroll or to loose its seals? And no one in heaven or on the earth or on the earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look at it.
You see, he's having this vision into heaven. The court has been set, the judgment is ready, the books are presented, and the scrolls are there. And this loud voice says, who is worthy to open the scroll?
And John is filled with excitement and anticipation as he awaits now to see who will step up who has been declared worthy enough to open up these hidden scrolls. And then John says, But I wept much, because no one was found worthy to open and to read the scroll or to look at it. But then one of the elders said to me, Do not weep, for behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has prevailed to open the scroll and to loose its seven seals. And I looked, and behold, in the midst of the throne of the four living creatures, in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as though it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent out into all the earth.
And then He came and took the scroll out of the right hand of Him who sat on the throne. And then we hear of the prayers of the saints and the song of the angels, worthy is the Lamb who was slain to receive honor and dominion and glory and power and so on. But what we read in this vision that I find so exciting is that when John's mood swing becomes intense because first he's excited that somebody's going to come and open up the scrolls, and then he's plunged into depression because no one is found worthy, and then he's told not to cry by the angels because it is announced that one has been found worthy indeed, the Lion of Judah. And so now you're sitting there, and he's sitting there waiting to see this massively powerful beast, the king of the jungle, come roaring into the scene and ripping open the scrolls.
And instead, what does he see? A lamb as he had been slain. And in this imagery, what you're seeing is a vivid example of the profound contrast between the humiliation of Christ and the exaltation of Christ, between His triumphs and His sufferings. And it also gives us a hint into the complexity and multifaceted dimensions of His character, as well as His work. And I've often asked myself the question, why in the providence of God did God see fit to provide the church and for the world four gospels? Why not just one gospel, one definitive biography of Jesus? And yet it has pleased God for His own reasons to give us not two gospels or three gospels, but four biographical portraits of Jesus, all looking at the person and work of Jesus from a slightly different perspective. There is the Jewish look that we get from St. Matthew, and we see in Matthew the emphasis on demonstrating Jesus' fulfillment of numerous Old Testament prophecies, how He is shown so clearly to be the Messiah who was promised in centuries past. And then we see the gospel offered to us by Mark, which is so brief and almost abrupt in its clipped fashion, where he follows the life of Jesus that flows like a blaze of miracles across the landscape of Palestine, straightway Jesus does this and straightway Jesus does that. And we see the miracles that are performed by Christ.
And then we see the portrait provided for us by Luke, the physician, who is plugged in to the Gentile community, was a companion of Paul on Paul's missionary journeys to the Gentile nations. And there we see the Jesus who is not simply coming to save Jewish people, but who is the Savior of men and women from every tribe and tongue and nation. And you get different insights into the teaching of Jesus. The parables and His wisdom are expressed in Luke's gospel.
And then comes John's gospel, where two-thirds of the book is devoted to the last week of Jesus' life. And you see this highly theological portrait that is presented of Christ by John, who is demonstrates Christ to be the incarnation of truth, who is the light of the world, the one in whom there is life abundantly. And so each one of the gospel writers gives us a glance at the character of Christ from just a slightly different perspective, where they begin to probe the depths and the riches of who He is.
And not only do they simply provide for us their own opinion of who Jesus was, but in their narratives we get to hear, or at least to read, the response of the shepherds who come from the fields outside of Bethlehem. We see the response of the aged Simeon who comes into the temple when Jesus is presented for His dedication, and He looks at the occasion, and He looks at this baby and says, Now let thy servant depart in peace, for mine eyes have seen the salvation of my people Israel. We see Jesus confounding the doctors in the temple when He's a young boy. We see Him introduced to His public ministry by John the Baptist, who sees Him coming to the Jordan River and begins to say, or to sing the Agnus Dei, Behold the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world. We see Jesus through the eyes of a Nicodemus who comes at night to inquire of Him, saying to Him, Good teacher, we know you are a teacher sent from God, otherwise you would not be able to do the things that you do. And so we see Jesus the rabbi, Jesus the teacher, who not only confounds the other rabbis when He's a child, but in His adulthood surpasses in wisdom and insight the greatest teachers of His day. We see Jesus talking by the ancient well of Jacob in Samaria at Sychar to a woman who was an outcast in the town, and the woman coming to the conclusion that she is talking first with a prophet, I perceive, sir, that thou art a prophet.
And as the conversation progresses and Jesus reveals to that woman all about herself, then she realizes that she is speaking to the promised and long-awaited Messiah. And so it's a fantastic thing that throughout the Scriptures we see Jesus not only through the eyes of the gospel writers, but also through the viewpoint, through the lens of those whom He met, those whom He encountered, those whom He rebuked, those whom He healed, those whom He taught. We see Him at the judgment hall and the praetorium of Pilate, where Pilate announces to the world that is watching and screaming for His blood, I find no fault in the man. Again, we hear Pilate giving those words that have been immortalized in Christian history. When he presents Jesus to the crowd, he says to the crowd, Eka homo, behold the man, the man, because here we find the portrait of a human person that is absolutely without parallel in human history.
I can't think of anybody who's written a biography of any great hero, no matter how biased they were and careful to conceal the blemishes of the character of their hero. I don't know any biographer who has actually gone so far as to suggest that the hero he's writing about was sinless. And yet the record that we see of Jesus in the Scriptures is that of a man who is absolutely pure, a man who is without sin, a man who can say to his accusers, which of you convicts me of sin? And so the portrait that we find in the gospels of Jesus is staggering. Again, from the shepherds in the field to the centurion at the cross, who after he witnesses the crucifixion says, truly, this was the Son of God. From Caiaphas and his opponents to doubting Thomas, who after the resurrection when Thomas sees the risen Christ falls to his knees and cries out, my Lord and my God. And in addition to these views that we have of the contemporaries of Christ, we have Jesus' own testimony of His own identity, where Christ says, no one ascends into heaven except he who has descended from heaven. This Jesus who says, I teach nothing on my own authority, but only that which the Father says to me, that I declare to you. This Jesus who in His desire to hide and conceal for a season His true identity because of the popular misconceptions about what the Messiah will be, nevertheless makes some bold and extravagant claims, if indeed they are distortions, that are recorded for us in John's gospel in the famous list of the I Am's that include such things as Jesus said, I am the bread of life that came down from heaven. And just as our fathers were nurtured and nourished by the manna that God provided for them in the wilderness during the days of Moses, now I am the new manna. I am the bread of life. And when people heard him say that, some of them were so enraged they walked no more with him. I am the vine, he said.
You are the branches. As long as you abide in me and I abide in you, you know, you will prosper. And he said, I am the door through which men must enter. And comparing himself, or really I should say contrasting himself, with the false prophets of the day who were poor shepherds of the sheep, who were like hirelings, who were more concerned for their paycheck than they were for the care and nurture of the sheep, Jesus said, I am the good shepherd. And the good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep, and his sheep know his voice.
And even more dramatic was the comment he made. Before Abraham was, I am. I am. Abraham rejoiced to see my day. Before Abraham was, he didn't say before Abraham was, I was. It's before Abraham was, I am. And the phrase that he used in all of these I am's as others, such as I and the Father are one.
I am the way, the truth, and the life. And the phrase that he used was the combination of two Greek words. There are two words in Greek, two verbs that can be translated and are translated by the English words I am, the verb to be. There is the Greek word ego and the Greek word emi. But when Jesus gave these I am's, he didn't just say, ego, the way, the truth, and the life, or emi, the door, but rather he would say, ego, emi, use them both. And the significance of that was not missed on the first century community because if we would look at the Greek translation of the Old Testament, which is called the Septuagint, and see how the Greek-speaking Jews translated the sacred name of God, Yahweh, I am who I am.
The phrase that they used in Greek to do it was the combination of the two verbs to be, ego, emi. And so when Jesus used this language, he clearly identified himself with the very sacred name of God. And he claimed to have nothing less than the authority of God when he used the title Son of Man, referring to the one who comes from the presence of the ancient of days, who descends from heaven as the judge of the earth.
And we'll talk about that more later. But Jesus in using that phraseology said on one occasion, I do this that you might know that the Son of Man is Lord of the Sabbath. To claim to be the Lord of the Sabbath day when it is God who institutes the Sabbath, it is God who regulates the Sabbath day, it is God who commands the legislation governing the Sabbath day for Christ to say, I am the Lord of the Sabbath, is to identify Himself with deity. Also using that same phrase, Son of Man, on another occasion, he announced the man's forgiveness of sins, and he said, I did this that you may know that the Son of Man has the authority on earth to forgive sins.
And again, the enemies of Jesus were outraged because they, in their Jewish tradition, held the view that only God has the authority to forgive sins. And so they said, this man is making himself equal with God. And so what we see in this magnificent portrait of Jesus is the perfect man, but not just the perfect man. We see the one who indeed is God with us, God incarnate. And it's because of this rich and profound portrait of Jesus that bears witness to the greatness of His humanity and the revelation of His deity that the church, in setting forth her theological formulations in the early centuries, had to come to grips with the difficulty of being faithful, both to the humanity of Jesus and to the deity of Christ. And that's why we looked earlier at the Council of Nicaea in terms of our study of the Trinity, and we will also look at the subsequent Council of Chalcedon to see how the church defined the relationship between the human nature of Christ and the divine nature of Christ, but also beyond what we find in the gospel portraits. That's not the end of the picture of Jesus that we get in the New Testament, because beyond the gospels we find the apostolic testimony, the testimony of the Apostle Paul, who unveils for us so clearly and plainly the ministry of Christ as Savior, where Paul explains what goes on in the atonement and how Christ is our mediator and how He accomplishes our redemption and how He accomplishes our redemption for us. And not only Paul and his several letters, but also in the letters of Peter, the letters of John, the book of Hebrews, which gives us one of the highest Christologies that we'll ever find anywhere, where Christ is shown to be the express image of His person, the very brightness of the glory of God, superior to the angels, superior to Moses, superior to the Aaronic priesthood of the Old Testament, who is called our archegos or our champion in the book of Hebrews. And so, from Matthew to the end of Revelation, the central motif of the New Testament is Christ. But even then, that's not enough, because if we go backwards into the Old Testament from Genesis 3 throughout the books of Old Testament history that describe the details of the tabernacle, for example, which tabernacle is incarnate in Jesus Himself, who in His person and work is the tabernacle of the Old Testament. And all of the details and machinations involved in the sacrificial system of the Old Testament find in its minutest detail their fulfillment in the ministry of Jesus, and not to mention the books of the prophets, which are filled with the references to the One who is to come. And so, it's not simply that we go to the New Testament to learn of Jesus, but Christ is proclaimed on virtually every page of the Old Testament, from Genesis to Revelation. It's the story of Jesus, the Christ. And what a wonderful story it is, the One who came to redeem the people for Himself. I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us for this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. A right understanding of theology helps us to better understand who God is, and ultimately, it should lead us to worship. What you heard today is a message from R.C.
Sproul's series, Foundations. It is his overview of theology, and it helps us to think biblically about so many topics, not just who is Jesus and what He has done, but also helps us to think rightly about subjects like the Holy Spirit or the end times, hell, miracles. And we'd love to send you this series. It's 60 messages in full on eight DVDs for your gift of any amount. You can make your donation today at renewingyourmind.org. And when you give your gift, not only will we send you this DVD set, but you'll have digital access to the messages and the study guide. So give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org. The Bible is clear on who Jesus is, but those truths have constantly been under attack. How has the church responded through the centuries? That's what we're going to learn together next Saturday here on Renewing Your Mind.
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