And he [Jesus] asked them, “But who do you say that I am?” Peter answered him, “You are the Christ.” Mark 8:29
Christology is the study of the person and work of Jesus Christ, it is a part of systematic theology. It is appreciated through Biblical theology by an unfolding revelation from the OT into the New. To garner the best understanding of the person of Christ one must look to the Old and New Testaments to build a Scriptural foundation. Furthermore, it is necessary to consider the creeds of the early church in their use of Christological statements and formulas, as the Fathers dealt with errors and misunderstandings of the Trinity and the person of Christ. This is what I aim to do, be it in brief, through this study. The following is an overview.
The Greek term “Christos” is a language equivalent to the OT Hebrew ”Messiah,” which simply denotes “Anointed One.” In the OT priests, prophets and kings were anointed. In the person of Christ these three offices come together to their full realization in Christ.
The name Jesus, or, as it is in Hebrew; Joshua, means Savior. Jesus came to save His people from sin, death and hell. He is called Christ, or anointed, because He is set apart by God to do His work of mediator. He is called Jesus because he is the savior of the world, He is called Christ because He God in the form of man.
In The Old Testament
The Westminster Confession expresses it this way: “Although the work of redemption was not actually wrought by Christ till after his incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefits thereof, were communicated unto the elect in all ages successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices, wherein he was revealed and signified to be the Seed of the woman, which should bruise the serpent’s head, and the Lamb slain from the beginning of the world, being yesterday and to-day the same, and for ever” (WCF 8:VI).
In the Old Testament Christ is revealed as the one to come. When he is with His disciples He instructs them that all the law and the Prophets speak about Him (Luke 24:27; John 5:46). There are even some OT passages which explicitly anticipate the Messiah to be God in the form of man (Isaiah 9:6-7, is one of the most significant texts). The OT is full of Christ, although often in a hidden and more subtle shade. All of God’s chosen people knew about Him, trusted in Him, endured reproach for His sake (Hebrews 11:25,26), looked forward for His day (John 8:56), and were justified by Him just as the New Testament people are (Romans 4:24-25).
A brief look at the various sections of the Old Testament will confirm how valid this affirmation is. The Son appears in numerous prophecies. All prophets before His incarnation were speaking on His behalf; Christ was speaking in and through them.
Before Christ actually clothed Himself with our nature, He made certain appearances (theophanies) in visible form (for instance, Genesis 16:7; Exodus 32:34; 33:14; Joshua 5:13-15).
Jesus is anticipated in the OT through the means of types and symbols. An impression of Him is made by certain persons (for instance, Adam; Melchizedek), events (for example, anointing to office of prophet, priest and king), institutions (for instance, the seven annual feasts of Israel), places (for example, the tabernacle and the temple) and also objects (the ark, the altar of burnt-offering, and the brazen serpent).
The poetical books are full of references to Christ in several different ways. The Psalms contain many expressions of messianic anticipation. Proverbs, which at first glance seems to be a purely ethical book, delineates Christ too (see esp. 8:21-31 and 9:1-12).
The prophets also saw His glory and spoke of Him (cf. John 12:41). Isaiah reaches such poetic heights in speaking of Christ that he is commonly known as the Evangelical Prophet. He refers to the universal dominion of Christ, the fruits of His reign and His ultimate victory. He is said to establish His kingdom through voluntary suffering and death (chapter 53). In their own ways, the other prophets speak of the Christ, as Peter affirms that they do (Acts 3:22-25).
Jeremiah presents Him as the Lord our Righteousness (23:6); and Ezekiel uses the Shepherd theme (34:23,24, with John 10). Daniel’s prophecy of The Son of Man (7:9-14) is none else but Jesus, who is given an everlasting kingdom of righteousness and holiness.
In the minor prophets the is also reference to Christ. Jonah himself is a type of Christ (Matthew 12:39). Others, such as Micah, were able to give particular details about His coming, such as His birthplace (5:2).
With Zechariah we have a collection of several Messianic anticiptions. Jesus is variously described as the Source of His people’s strength (12:8), the Angel (Malak, Messenger) of Jehovah (12:8,10; 13:7), God’s Fellow (13:7), rich in salvation (9:9,10), high priest and king (6:9-15), the fountain opened for sin and uncleanness (13:1), and as the One pierced by His own people (12:10).
Malachi predicts that the results of His coming will be world-wide acknowledgement of Him (1:11), and great blessings for His people (3:10-12).
As the body without the spirit is dead, so the Old Testament is meaningless without Christ therein presented. He being the principal subject, the Old Testament is ever fresh and living because it presents us with the Living Word, who in the fullness of time was made of a woman (Galatians 4:4) “for us men and for our salvation.”
In The New Testament
Christology in the Gospels: In Mark, Jesus is the suffering servant and the Son of God. In Matthew, Jesus is the Messiah, and the fulfillment of the OT. In Luke (and Acts), Jesus is the savior of the world. In John, Jesus is the divine word of God, mediator and Son.
Christology in Paul: The apostle uses the term in Christ to describe the reality of the believers union with the risen Lord. Jesus is depicted as the last Adam (Rom 5, 1 Cor 15), and the resurrection is seen as the means by which Christ is proved to be the Son of God (Rom 1:1-3). Most significant Christocentric passages are 1 Cor. 8:6; 2 Cor. 5:14-21; Phil. 2:9-11.
Christology of Hebrews. Perhaps the most significant book of the Bible to explain the person and work of Christ. The work of Christ is described in these ways; there is a once-for-all sacrifice, Christ has defeated Satan and released his captives, initiated a perfect and permanent covenant. The Lord is now active in his present work of intercession. There is also explicit declarations of divinity and an explanation of the necessity of his humanity. The high priest is both divine and human, and Christ is made perfect in suffering.
In The Early Church Creeds
The Person of Christ was addresses by all of the first seven Ecumenical Councils. Most specific of these are the first through fourth; Nicaea, of 325 was the first, then came Council of Ephesus (431) Council of Chalcedon (451) and the Second Council of Constantinople (Nicaea II, in 553).
The Nicene Creed (325) contains the famous homoousios clause; to say that Jesus is of the “same substance” as the Father.
The Council of Chalcedon in 451 issued a formulation of the being of Christ — that of two natures, one human and one divine, “united with neither confusion nor division.” This is called the doctrine of the hypostatic union, and still identifies Christian faith today.
As we go through this series, we will look in further detail into the above areas. Thanks for reading today. Please take the time to log in and leave a comment or question, I welcome your conversation.