In part 2 of this series, we said that our mission as a church begins with God’s glory. Anything and everything else we do serves that ultimate goal and purpose. God’s glory is displayed in a variety of ways – in nature, in beauty, in wisdom, in truth. But, as we saw in the previous post, the ultimate display of God’s glory is in the person and work of Jesus.
The Person of Jesus
When we talk about Jesus, we must start with the idea that Jesus is fully God. Contrary to what some religious groups would say, Jesus was not simply a good teacher or a miracle worker or a political revolutionary. Jesus was also not a man who became a God. The biblical teaching is that Jesus is none other than the creator God himself in human form (John 1:1, 14). As the early church father St. Augustine summarized it, “God added humanity to his divinity.”
However, equally important to the discussion is the fact that Jesus was fully human. He did not merely appear as a human, but truly came in the flesh (1 John 4:2). As a man, he experienced every hardship, every trial, every temptation, every experience that we do as humans (Hebrews 2:14-18). How can Jesus be both fully God and fully man? That is indeed a mystery, but in that tension we find the full biblical teaching. As one church confession puts it, “two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.” (1689 LBC, 8.2)
The Work of Jesus
Knowing who Jesus is, we can then look to what he did. It truly is impossible to summarize the work of Jesus (John 21:25), but we can get an overall view by using five jam-packed words: fulfillment, life, death, resurrection, and ascension.
Throughout the pages of the Old Testament, God made promises to one day send a redeemer to free humanity from their bondage to sin and death. These promises were given to and through the people of Israel, his chosen people whose job it was to share these promises with all the people of the world (Genesis 12:3, Isaiah 56:7). Jesus’ work then begins with bringing to fulfillment every promise that we find in the pages of the Old Testament.
Because of our fallenness, every human being is sinful (Romans 3:23). Thus, there is no human being who has – on their own – been perfectly pleasing to God. However, the bible teaches that Jesus lived a perfect life (John 8:46, 1 Peter 1:19), the life that none of us have ever lived! It’s because of this perfect life that Jesus was able to be a perfect sacrifice for our sins.
The cross is the central feature of the Christian faith (1 Corinthians 1:23-24). On the cross, Jesus died a death that each of us deserved because of our sinfulness. On the cross, Jesus acted as a propitiation – one who absorbs God’s wrath for us (Romans 3:25). On the cross, Jesus atoned for our sins and paid a debt that we could never pay (Mark 10:45). His work on the cross is at the heart of what Jesus came to do.
The story does not end with Jesus’ death, however. The earth-shattering, history-altering, altogether shocking truth is that on the third day after his death, Jesus rose from the dead! In doing so, Jesus proved that every claim he made was true. The resurrection is also a guarantee that all who trust in Jesus will also one day rise to eternal life (1 Corinthians 15:20), a life that is free from suffering, sin, and death. It is not an overstatement to say that the resurrection is the lynchpin on which the whole Christian faith rests (1 Corinthians 15:14).
After his resurrection, Jesus ascended into heaven where he sits at the Father’s right hand and exercises his rule over the whole earth. It is from this position that Jesus continues to build and grow his church (Matthew 16:18). To this day, the work of Jesus continues in his intercession for those who believe in him (Hebrews 7:25). This is very good news, because it means that we are not saved by our good works but by the advocacy of Jesus himself. And one day, Jesus will return to earth to bring the fullness of his kingdom with him.
So how do we go about the work of proclaiming Jesus? The first thing is to recognize is that the job of talking about Jesus does not belong to an elite few but it is the job of all of those who belong to Jesus. To be sure, the elders of the church have a particular responsibility to teach from the bible about Jesus. And of course there will be some who have a particular gift of evangelism, people who always find themselves talking about Jesus. But none of us are exempt from sharing Jesus with any and all who would hear.
Second, it is important to remember that we proclaim Jesus through both our words and our deeds. Far too often, the ministry of “speaking” and the ministry of “doing” get separated from one another, resulting in an imbalanced ministry of proclaiming Jesus. The gospel is “news,” and news must be shared, spoken about, shouted from the rooftops! But the bible also teaches that people will know that we are Christians by our actions, by our love, and by the fruit that grows in our lives. We all have a part to play in proclaiming Jesus in word and deed.