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The States of Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
April 22, 2023 12:01 am

The States of Christ

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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April 22, 2023 12:01 am

Jesus came in humility to become one with His people, taking their weaknesses and their debts upon Himself. Today, R.C. Sproul describes the significance of the states of Christ in His redemptive work--His humiliation and exaltation.

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Even in the midst of humiliation, for example, even though we hear about Jesus' meek and mild, lowly babe born in a manger, yet even when that event took place, it was not without the manifestation of glory, because just outside the village of Bethlehem in the fields, the glory of God shone round about, and there was the greatest sound and light show that the world had known up until that point when the heavens manifested the radiant glory of God to announce the birth of Jesus. And so it was not without exaltation. When we think about the life of Christ, we typically think about His humility and His humiliation, being born there so lowly in Bethlehem, and then the height of humiliation with His death upon the cross.

But were there moments of glory that we see throughout His life and ministry? Hi, I'm Nathan W. Bingham, and thank you for joining us for this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. Each Saturday, we're working through Dr. Sproul's series, Foundations. It's his overview of theology, and we've just begun a section on the person and work of Christ. Today, Dr. Sproul will give us a fuller picture of what it is that Jesus has accomplished for you and I as Christians as He outlines and surveys those moments of humiliation, but also those moments of glory.

Here's Dr. Sproul. In our last session, we looked briefly at some of the names of Christ that we find in the New Testament, and in theology, particularly in Christology, we distinguish among three elements with respect to Christ. First of all, the names of Christ, which we looked at briefly.

Second of all, the states of Christ, and thirdly, the offices of Christ. And today we're going to look at the states of Christ, that is, His state of being or role in which He is acting at various times throughout His life or His existence. And so when we talk about the states of Jesus, we don't begin with His birth at Bethlehem, but rather we start, first of all, with His pre-incarnate state. And here we are led to do that by looking, for example, as we've talked earlier, of John's introduction to his gospel when he says, in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, was with God, and the Word was God. And then later on at the end of the prologue to John's gospel, John says, and the Word became flesh, full of grace and truth, and so we beheld His glory, dwelt among us, and so on. So that the affirmation that is made here in the first chapter of John is that this Christ who has appeared on the plane of history in space and time existed before His conception and His birth, that His divine nature is eternal with the Father, and so we have in Jesus not simply the birth of a baby, but the incarnation of God, the second person of the Trinity, God the Son or the Logos. Now again, in our examination of the names of the names of Christ, we remember how the term Son of Man was so important to Jesus' self-identity and His own self-consciousness. And that's important for us to understand because on many occasions throughout His earthly ministry, Jesus makes reference to His previous state. Again, no one ascends to heaven except the one who has come down from heaven.

Behold, you will see the heavens open, and you will see the Son of Man ascending and descending, the angels ascending and descending on the Son of Man. He is the one who exists from the beginning before Abraham was I Am. But obviously, He was not incarnate prior to His birth in Bethlehem.

Now that raises an interesting point of speculation. The question is often raised, well, even though the second person of the Trinity does not become incarnate until His birth in Bethlehem or His conception or His conception in the womb of Mary, does that mean that He is never to be found in the Old Testament? Because some people look at the Captain of the Lord of Hosts that Joshua encounters in his military campaign, or this mysterious figure of Melchizedek that we've already mentioned, to whom Abraham pays tithes and from whom Abraham received the blessing. Many have speculated that these mysterious persons who appear at certain points in the Old Testament were really the appearances of Christ in disguise, as it were. But again, they would not be deemed prior incarnations. Even those who hold to the view that Christ appears here and there in the Old Testament, they refer to them as Christophanies. Now you remember the word theophany, which is an outward manifestation of the invisible God, such as the burning bush, out of which the voice comes and speaks to Moses, where God appears to Moses in the bush. So, these manifestations are called Christophanies, or an outward manifestation of the second person of the Trinity prior to His birth.

But again, that is a matter of speculation. Then we move from the pre-existent, pre-incarnational state of Jesus to the state of His life on earth. And if you remember the Apostles' Creed, how the Apostles' Creed sort of hits the highlights of the earthly manifestation of Christ. He was conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, crucified dead and buried.

The third day, what? He rose again from the dead, and He ascended into heaven and sitteth on the right hand of God the Father, from whence He shall come to judge the quick and the dead. And so, the reference in the Apostles' Creed is to the birth of Jesus, to the death of Jesus, to the resurrection of Jesus, to the ascension of Jesus, to the cession of Jesus, which I'll talk about in a moment, and to the return of Jesus. And these describe different aspects or states of Jesus' existence after the incarnation. Now, there's another dimension I want to mention here before I look at each one of these quickly individually, and that is in theology, we normally speak of the life of Jesus as far as following a progression from humiliation to exaltation, where in His very birth to a peasant woman in abject poverty, with the cloak of His humanity hiding and concealing His deity, He is entering into His humiliation, and that throughout His life there is a progressive deepening of this humiliation as He moves towards the cross, as the people reject Him, as He is scourged and beaten and then finally crucified. And then, after the humiliation reaches its depths, then there is this explosion of exaltation where God vindicates Him with the resurrection and surrounds Him with glory in His ascension and so on. And so theologians often talk about this movement from humiliation to exaltation.

And I agree with this general framework of progress, but I don't agree with it altogether for this reason. One of the most exciting and enjoyable things I ever did was I wrote a book once called The Glory of Christ. And what was so neat about it for me, and I have to say it's one of the worst selling books I've ever written, so I mean other people didn't get as excited about it as I did, but what was so much fun about this was that I looked at all of these different key moments in the life of Christ and focused my attention solely and exclusively on the elements of glory that attended them, even in the midst of humiliation. For example, even though we hear about Jesus' meek and mild, lowly babe born in a manger, yet even when that event took place it was not without the manifestation of glory because just outside the village of Bethlehem in the fields the glory of God shone round about, and there was the greatest sound and light show that the world had known up until that point when the heavens manifested the radiant glory of God to announce the birth of Jesus. And so it was not without exaltation. And even the visitation of the Magi was an element of glory that was ascribed to this babe in the manger. And you go through his life.

You go to the Jordan River. You go to his baptism, which was also an act of humiliation when Jesus willingly submitted Himself to a cleansing rite that God had commanded of people who were sinners, and Jesus was not a sinner. And we remember John was reluctant to even baptize. He said, wait a minute, you're the Lamb of God. I don't need to baptize you.

You should be baptizing me. And Jesus said, suffer it now, John, for it's necessary to fulfill all righteousness. And Jesus humbles Himself to become one with His people to assume their debt, their obligation to every aspect of the law. And so He submits to baptism.

That's humiliation. But yet what happened when He does? The heavens opened, and the Holy Spirit descends as a dove upon His head. And then we go through His ministry, and towards the end of His earthly ministry, He announces to His disciples that He now has to go to Jerusalem to be delivered into the hands of His enemies and to be arrested and beaten and executed. They shrink back in horror because this announcement seemed to them to contradict every hope and every expectation they had for Jesus.

They were with Him to the end. They were convinced now that He was the Messiah. And it was unthinkable to them as when Peter made his great confession at Caesarea Philippi when Jesus said, who do you say that I am? Peter said, thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus blesses him for saying that.

And then a few minutes later Jesus says, you know, the Son of Man has to suffer. And what was Peter's response? Never. It may never be.

That can't happen. And Jesus said, get behind me, Satan, because Peter was not willing that Christ should go into this level of shame and humiliation. And yet He explains this to them, and then He sets His face as a flint toward Jerusalem, and He begins His final journey because He has a rendezvous with the cross. And just a few days after He tells them these things, He's on this mountain with Peter, James, and John, when before their very eyes He is transfigured before them. And His raiment becomes as white as is possible to be, and this brilliant radiance begins to shine from inside of Christ, so that the disciples fall on their faces in fear and trembling. And Jesus has a meeting there on the Mount of Transfiguration with Moses and Elijah, who are encouraging Him in His mission. And later on, you know, when John does write the prologue to his gospel and said, and the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and so on, he says, and we beheld His glory. In Peter's writings later on, Peter also makes reference to the transfiguration, where in the midst of this progression from humiliation to exaltation, there is a sudden intervention, an abbreviated intrusion, where suddenly the hidden, concealed, cloaked glory of Christ bursts through for the eyes of His immediate close friends, Peter, James, and John.

And they never forget it. In the cross, where He reached the depths of His humiliation, we tend to think that there's no glory attended to that. And again, the common conception is that the end of humiliation, the line between humiliation and exaltation, takes place at the resurrection.

I don't think so. If we look, for example, in the prophecy of Isaiah 53, of the suffering servant of Israel, it says of this one to whom the Lord would lay upon the iniquities of us all, and God would bruise, and so on, that He would make His grave with the rich, for He had done no iniquity. And we are told in the Scriptures that not only is the Lord going to break the bones of the dead, but He would break the bones and the legs of the dead. And that's significant because when prisoners were executed by crucifixion by the Romans, when the execution was finished, they would break the bones and the legs of the victim, and then the victims would be unceremonially buried or thrown into the refuse dump, the garbage dump, outside of Jerusalem. And the garbage dump's name was Gehenna. And you remember, among the Hebrew people, the name Gehenna became a metaphor for hell itself, because this garbage dump, which was outside the city for sanitary reasons, the way garbage was disposed of was through burning. And there were daily trips by the sanitation department, the sanitation department, to Gehenna, and fresh refuse was thrown on that heap every day so that the fire never went out.

And we hear that imagery when it's describing hell, where the flames of hell never are extinguished. And so the normal recourse for the burial of an executed victim of Roman punishment was they would break the bones and throw the body onto the garbage dump outside of Jerusalem. But the disciples of Jesus and Joseph of Arimathea made the special plea to Pilate that they may give Jesus a proper burial according to the Old Testament custom.

And, as the Scripture said, the Word of God was fulfilled that He would not allow His Holy One to suffer corruption so that His bones were not broken. And instead of being thrown into the garbage heap, He was anointed with precious spices, some authorities say a hundred pounds of special spices, and buried in a rich man's grave, fulfilling exactly the prophecy of Isaiah in His fifty-third chapter. And so if you look more closely at it, you see that the exaltation begins not at resurrection but at the moment of His death. At the moment of the death, that drape, that pall of humiliation is being lifted as His body is treated with great care, and He's given a memorial burial. And then, of course, comes the major flash of glory when God shakes the whole earth and brings His Son back from the dead in order to indicate that He is completely satisfied with His work.

He's raised for our justification, and God declares to the world that this is the one through whom He will judge the whole world. Now, in His resurrected state, He comes out of the grave with the same body that was put in the grave, and that's important. It's not like that body disappeared or was hidden or was buried somewhere, and Jesus comes along with a new body. No, that same body that was buried comes out of the tomb, but it comes out changed.

It is now glorified. And so the resurrected Christ is in a glorified state, which the Apostle explains to us in 1 Corinthians 15 is that which foreshadows that which foreshadows the new physical bodies that we will enjoy in the final resurrection, that Christ is raised as the firstborn of many brethren, and that we will participate in this kind of glorified body, which is sown in dishonor, raised in honor, sown in mortality, raised in immortality, sown in corruption, raised in glory, so we shall ever be with the Lord in heaven. But it's also significant that the final goal of the ministry of Jesus while He was on this earth was not the cross or even the resurrection, but the climax to this point in church history, which is really the penultimate goal of Christ. The ultimate goal is in His final return and consummation of His kingdom.

The penultimate goal, that which already has taken place, is found in His ascension. Because in the ascension, Christ is lifted up into heaven, and this is one of the most misunderstood concepts in all the Bible. Sometimes people just think of the ascension as Jesus going up. That just means He left this earth and went into heaven.

How nice. Well, He did ascend in the sense of going up, but there's a uniqueness to His ascension, a once-for-allness of His ascension. Jesus says no one ascends into heaven except He who descends from heaven. In that sense, He's talking in technical terms of the meaning of ascension.

It does not mean simply to go up and to go to heaven because all the saints go up and go to heaven. But the ascension is His elevation to His coronation, to His investiture as the King of Kings and as the Lord of Lords. The Son of Man is received into heaven and is crowned as the King of the Kings and Lord of the Lord. And so right now He rules as in the highest political office in the universe. Christ has the position of cosmic authority.

He is the King of all of the Kings and the Lord of all the Lords right now because of the ascension. But not only does He ascend to His coronation, but He also, we are talking about the session that I mentioned. We call ruling bodies in certain churches by the word session. It's because they sit in leadership and in judgment.

That's why it's called a session. But when Jesus enters into His session, it is His role as King where He is enthroned and seated where? At the right hand of God. And so He ascends in order to sit as King of Kings. And that's why the creed says, He ascended into heaven, sitteth on the right hand of God the Father Almighty, from when she shall come to judge the quick and the dead. But before that, we also have to add that He not only ascends to sit at the right hand of the Father, but He also ascends into the heavenly sanctuary where He permanently functions as our great High Priest forever.

Remember in the Old Testament, the priest only got to go into Holy of Holies once a year, and he would have a term to his life when he died, and somebody else would have to be the High Priest and so on. But our High Priest never dies, and He is in there interceding for us and for His people perpetually in the heavenly Holy of Holies. And He stays there at the right hand, ruling as our King and ministering as our Priest. The Lord said to my Lord, sit thou at my right hand. I will make you a priest forever after the order of Melchizedek.

So that Christ is both King and Priest, and we'll explore that more when we look at the offices of Jesus. And then it is from that place of exaltation, that place of majesty, that He will return in glory to consummate His King. That is the Christ that we now serve, the one who is ruling and reigning, and the one who intercedes for us even today. Thank you for listening to this Saturday edition of Renewing Your Mind. I'm Nathan W. Bingham.

Well, as we heard from R.C. Sproul, there is much more to the work of Christ than simply He died for our sins. And as we plumb the riches of Scripture to get a fuller picture of what He did for His people, by the Spirit's help, it leads to gratitude and it leads to greater affection for Christ. It's one of the reasons why I love this series, Foundations, by Dr. Sproul, because he takes us through the life and the ministry of Christ. And we consider so many topics, how we're meant to live in this world, how we're meant to pray.

He considers sin and the role of the church and God's Word in our life. And so I would encourage you to respond today and request your copy of Foundations. You can do so by visiting renewingyourmind.org, and for your donation of any amount, we'll send you the complete series.

It is 60 messages on eight DVDs, but you'll also receive digital access, which you can stream in the free Ligonier Ministries app, cast it to a TV, and you'll also have access to the digital study guide. So give your gift today at renewingyourmind.org. Now, I did just mention the free Ligonier app. If you use it often, can I encourage you to go to your app store of choice and leave a review?

Because positive reviews really do help other people discover the app, and then they'll have access to so many free resources from Ligonier Ministries. So thank you. The Old Testament is filled with significant people. There are prophets, priests, and kings, but did you know that they point to someone far greater? And that's what we'll hear from Dr. Sproul next Saturday, here on Renewing Your Mind. you
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-04-22 05:25:38 / 2023-04-22 05:34:21 / 9

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