14-6-4 The Supremacy Of Christ
But where do we get the motivation from to memorize Scripture, and the
Gospels (or a Gospel) in particular? I'd suggest that it comes from first
of all realizing, on a theological level, the greatness of Christ. He
is now Lord of Heaven and earth, all power has been given unto him, He
is the " Prince of the Kings of the earth" . Those early brethren
who had seen the Lord in His humanity really appreciated this. Thus "
Yahweh of hosts, him shall you sanctify" (Is. 8:13 LXX) is applied
by Peter to the Lord Jesus, whom we should sanctify (1 Pet. 3:15). Paul
speaks about " the Lord" as if we all know who he refers to;
the Lord, the one and only Lord, the exalted Lord Jesus. This
especially comes out in his breaking of bread passage in 1 Cor. 11:23-29.
Such is the supremacy of Christ that " We cannot lift Christ too
high" as Robert Roberts expressed it in Seasons of Comfort.
If we appreciate the extent and height of His Lordship and exaltation,
we will see the extent to which our minds should be dominated by Him.
Our very consciousness should beat with His spirit, His mind. We are told
that He should live in our hearts; for us, He should be the alpha
and omega (Rev. 1:11). The confession of faith before baptism is summarized,
in its quintessence, as confessing with the mouth Jesus as Lord (Rom.
10:9 RV). Not only this, of course; but all the doctrines a candidate
must know beforehand are summarized in this. There is ample reason to
fear that as a community we have scarcely begun to realize this. We are
(or were) doctrine-centred, Bible-centred perhaps, but not purely
Don't misunderstand me. I'm not saying that we've got anything wrong
as far as basic doctrine is concerned; I'm making the point that our perspective
and emphasis has been wrong. We have, for example, emphasized the
political establishment of the Kingdom at Christ's return far far more
than the cross of Christ. Yet the teaching of Christ and the apostles
says very little about this; reading through the New Testament with an
open mind, the basic theme is clear: Christ died on the cross for our
sins, according to the Old Testament scriptures. The future political
Kingdom is one outcome of what has been achieved by the victory of the
Lord Jesus on Calvary. We have almost shied away from the New Testament
due to our over-reaction against New Testament-only 'Christianity'. An
over-emphasis on the place
of natural Israel and the political Kingdom of God which simply does not
reflect the emphasis found in the New Testament. Consider the preaching
of Paul. The Gospel he preached was concerning the death and resurrection
of the Lord (Rom. 15:20,21 cp. Is. 52:15). Ananias relayed his commission
to him (Acts 22:15): that he was to be a world-wide witness of the reality
of the resurrection (it may well be that Paul had witnessed the crucifixion
too). And all the Lord's men are to be witnesses of Him world-wide
I'm not saying that a basic emphasis upon the literal
establishment of the Kingdom of God on earth is wrong. Far, far
from it. I'm suggesting that our emphasis has been misplaced.
Likewise the promises to Abraham and David are fundamentally concerning
the Lord Jesus and His conquest of sin; the reference which they
have to the political Kingdom is very much secondary to this. We
benefit from those promises only insofar as we are in Christ, and
therefore the blessings promised to and through Him become relevant
to us. An over emphasis on the future political Kingdom can lead
us to ignore the many passages which speak of love, joy and peace
in our present lives; we seem to prefer the Catholic idea
of grim suffering now resulting in an unimaginable physical paradise
in the future. The outcome of this is that we have neglected the
need to emphasize personal spirituality, the need to assimilate
the Lord Jesus into our own personality. And because it is impossible
to realistically imagine the future political Kingdom, it is not
the motivating power that it should be. What should and can motivate
us is the wonder of sin forgiven and an open relationship with God
here and now. In any case, what we know about the political Kingdom
is at best only knowledge about the brief Millennium. The Millennium
is not solely equal to our salvation and redemption. Our salvation
is fundamentally about our sins being forgiven and God therefore
manifesting Himself is us. The descriptions of the Millennium are
to give us some physical example of the results, the outcome,
of the fact sin has been overcome through Christ. Paul's letter
to the Romans is an exposition of the Gospel. He says so straight.
But he never speaks there of the Gospel of the literal Kingdom on
earth, true and valid as it is. We read in Acts 28:31 that whilst
in Rome, Paul taught the things of the Kingdom and the Lord Jesus.
But his letter to the Romans places the emphasis, and this
is my point, upon the reign of grace. He speaks of how grace "
reigns" , as if grace is the dominating, ruling principle in
the lives of those who have now sided with the Kingdom of God rather
than that of this world. Testifying the Gospel of God's grace is
paralleled by Paul with testifying about the Kingdom- and he says
this again in a Roman context (Acts 20:24,25). In Romans 5, Paul
makes a seamless connection between the reign of God's grace now,
and our future reigning in the literal Kingdom of God to be established
materially upon earth at the Lord's return: Grace reigns unto
eternal life, i.e. the result of the reign of grace now is
eternal life in the future (Rom. 5:21)... and thus " the ones
receiving the abundance of the grace and of the free gift of the
righteousness in life will reign through the one, Jesus
Christ" (Rom. 5:17). Elsewhere, Paul clearly understands the
idea of future reigning as a reference to our ruling in the future
Kingdom of God. This is a very real and wonderful hope which we
have, and is indeed part of the Gospel. My point is that this is
not all there is to the Gospel, and we appear in some quarters
of our community to have gotten it rather out of balance.
Such is the supremacy of Christ that this must alter that balance.
"Israel" means something like 'God rules' (Gen. 32:22-28)
(1); His people are those over whom He rules. We therefore are under
His Kingdom now, if we accept Christ as King over our lives.
Col. 1:13 says as much, speaking of us having been already translated
into the Kingdom of Christ. The preaching of the Kingdom is made
parallel to preaching the time of acceptance with God and forgiveness
of sins now (Lk. 4:43 cp. 19, 2 Cor. 6:2); Rom. 14:17,
which seems to teach that the Kingdom of God is more about "
peace and joy in the Holy Spirit", both now and eternally,
than physical, tangible things. Christ's parables about the Kingdom
don't speak of a political Kingdom, but rather about the relationship
between God and the believer in the here and now. It is also so
that “the kingdom of God” was then understood to have been the nation
of Israel, and many parables of the Kingdom focus upon them (e.g.
the leaven of Mt. 13:33 is “the leaven of the Pharisees” of Lk.
12:1; those who would not understand the word in Mk. 4:4 are those
of Judges 2:17). Of course, present suffering is necessary; and
none of us would deny we have plenty of it. But the comfort, the
joy and peace, should abound along with this. This is the fruit
of the Lord the Spirit (2 Cor. 3:18), the result of Christ dwelling
in us, being Lord and King in our hearts, here and now. It makes
an interesting study to analyze what percentage of NT references
to the Kingdom and Christ's Kingship have reference to the future
political Kingdom. Many of the Kingdom prophecies of healing were
it seems consciously fulfilled in the Lord’s healings:
· Is. 35:6 LXX
the stammerer healed = Mk. 7:32-35
· Is. 35:3 = Mk.
· Is. 35:8,10
= Mk. 11:1 Bartimaeus following on the Jerusalem road
The Kingdom prophecy of Zech. 14:21 that there will no longer be a trafficker
in the Lord's house was fulfilled by the Lord's casting out the
traders from the temple. This doesn’t mean that these passages will
not have a glorious future fulfilment. But in the person of Jesus
and in the record of His life we see the “Kingdom come nigh”, as
He Himself said it did. We can so focus on the future fulfilment
that we can forget that He was the Kingdom in the midst of men;
the essence of our eternal future, of the coming political Kingdom
of God, was and is to seen in Him. Satan fell from Heaven during
His ministry ((Lk. 10:18), as it will at the second coming (Rev.
Note the parallel in Jn. 3:3,5: “Except a man be born again, he cannot
see [perceive] the kingdom of God… he cannot enter
into the kingdom of God”. If we truly see / perceive the things
of the Kingdom in this life, then we will enter it in the future.
Israel ‘saw’ the land physically through the spies (Num. 13:18;
32:8), but were told that they would “not see the land” (Num. 14:23;
32:11; Dt. 1:35). Again, as in the Lord’s teaching, ‘seeing the
land’ is put for ‘entering’ into it. Knowing facts about the future
Kingdom doesn’t mean we will enter it. But really ‘seeing’ the things
of the Gospel of the Kingdom will by its very nature change us into
people who will enter it. For we will be living the essence of the
Kingdom life right now. Israel through the spies went to ‘see’ the
land (Num. 13:18), but could not enter it because of their
unbelief (Heb. 3:19). They didn’t ‘see’ it in the sense of perceiving
what God’s Kingdom was all about. They only saw the physicality
of the land; and this wasn’t enough to enter it. The synoptics’
formula that he who believes the Gospel and is baptized will be
saved is matched by John in Jn. 6:40: “every one that beholdeth
the Son, and believeth on him, should have eternal life; and I will
raise him up at the last day”. Believing the Gospel of the Kingdom
is matched by seeing / perceiving the Son. This is the basis. “The
kingdom of God’s sake” (Lk. 18:29) is paralleled with the sake of
the Name of Christ by the account in Mt. 19:29. The things of the
Name and the things of the Kingdom were therefore not two different
things, rather were they different ways of referring to the same
When we read of “eternal life” being granted to us now, we are
reading about “the life belonging to the age”, i.e. the Kingdom
of God in the future. The idea is that we can live the life which
we will eternally live- right here and now. We can experience the
quality of that life now. And if we don’t… we don’t have the guarantee
of eternity in the Kingdom. For in spiritual terms, in terms of
essential spiritual experience, there will be a seamless transition
between the spiritual life we now enjoy, and that which we will
experience in the future Kingdom. The location of that eternity
will be on earth; and yes, there must be death, resurrection, judgment
and immortalisation of our body. But those more ‘physical’ realities
don’t figure so deeply in the message which John is putting across
in his record of ‘the Gospel’. Notice how in Jn. 3:36, 'having everlasting
life' is paralleled with 'seeing life'; to perceive and live what
God's Kingdom life is all about, is in a sense to 'have' it.
It can be that we live as good Christians, but the reality and present
Lordship of Christ is a fundamental part of our lives which we miss out
on. But more than that. If we don't have the spirit of Christ, we are
none of His (Rom. 8:9,10,11 cp. 5,6). The Lord Jesus is called "
the life, the eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested
unto us" (1 Jn. 1:3 RV). In this lies the importance of a Christ-centred
life and mind; He is the definition of eternal life. This is
what eternity will be like, John is saying: life lived as Christ lived
and lives. " This is life eternal: that they might know thee, the
only true God, and Jesus Christ" (Jn. 17:3). Notice that eternal
life isn't defined in terms of sitting under a fig tree in a perfect climate
watching the animals living happily together (although we are invited
to believe that by God's grace this will be our experience).
It is the life of Christ our Lord; and that's why one of His titles is
" the life, the eternal life" . He shewed us what eternal life
will be about, and invites us to begin that experience, however imperfectly,
even now (cp. Hos. 6:3 RV). And it is in this sense alone that "
we may know that we have (now) eternal life" (1 Jn. 5:13).
Paul's relationship with and perception of the Lord Jesus is held
up by the Spirit as our example. He himself asks us to copy (Gk.
mimic) the way in which he followed the Lord Jesus (this
is what 1 Cor. 11:1 implies in the Greek). We have seen that his
mind was increasingly saturated with the Gospels, and with
the surpassing excellency and supremacy of the Lordship
of the risen Jesus. As he faced death, he more intensely modelled
his words upon those of Christ. Thus when he speaks of how he is
about to finish his course (2 Tim. 4:7), he is combining
allusions to Mt. 26:58; Lk. 12:50; 18:31; 22:37; Jn. 13:1; as well
as to his old hero, John the Baptist (Acts 13:25). And yet despite
this, perhaps because of his increasing identification with Christ
and sense of Christ's supremacy, Paul's concern was constantly for
doctrine; he pounded away, time and again, at the danger of apostasy.
As he got older, this was a bigger and bigger theme with him. His
last words just before his death are full of this theme, more than
any other of his writings. And yet that same letter has more reference
(relatively) to the Gospels and to the Lordship of Christ than anything
else he wrote. On average, Paul refers to Christ as " the Lord"
once every 26 verses in his letters. But in 2 Timothy, he calls
Christ " Lord" once every six verses; and in his very
last words in 2 Tim. 4, once every 3 verses, nine times more than
average! His appreciation of the excellency and the supremacy
of Christ, of the height of His Lordship, grew and grew. And so
did his appreciation of his own sinfulness (consider the chronological
progression of 1 Cor. 15:9 - Eph. 3:8 - 1 Tim. 1:15). So did his
enthusiasm for preaching the word to the world, and strengthening
the ecclesia (2 Tim. is fine proof of this). The picture of Paul
in prison, having reached this spiritual pinnacle, fired the minds
and living of " many of the brethren in the Lord" (Phil.
1:21). And for me too, the old and brave Paul in that cell is the
man I fain would be And yet as his perception of Christ and
his surpassing excellency increased, so did his warnings against
apostasy, and the need to hold on to true doctrine. In other words,
his absorption and appreciation of the Spirit of Christ was what
fired his zeal for purity of doctrine and practice. It was this
which gave him the spiritual energy and power to live the life that
he did, to the point that he could truly say that for him, to live
was Christ; that the life he lived in the flesh, the things he did,
the thoughts he thought, was all the result of Christ living in
him and through him. He brought every thought (and this
isn't figurative language) into captivity to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
My sense is that as he was lead out to face his death, a phrase
he'd coined to the Philippians years back was in his mind:
" For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil.
1:21). Paul was an evident type of Christ. In the spiritual pinnacle
and pathos of his time of dying, I see an image, a superb image,
of the death of his Lord and ours.
(1) James Muilenburg, The Way Of Israel (London: Routledge
& Kegan Paul, 1962) p. 45.