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Christocentricity

The Glory

The Glory in The Lord’s Prayer Doxology

The Glory

 

Most Christians are familiar with the Lord’s Prayer because most traditional churches routinely include it in their Sunday services. While I was a local church pastor, I dropped it from our order of service simply because it had become a litany spoken or sung with very little thought to what it meant.

I have written about The Lord’s Prayer before, but in this article, I want to focus on the last phrase, the doxology (a liturgical formula of praise to God), of Matthew 6:13: “Yours is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever. Amen.” In particular, I want to zoom in on the word ‘glory’ because I believe that we need to grasp the fuller meaning of this divine attribute.

The Missing Doxology

Of the various modern translations of the bible, only the New King James and the Holman’s Christian Standard Bible show the doxology in the main body of the text. The others relegate it to a footnote with the comment that only some early manuscripts include these words. The line taken by most commentators is that the ‘best’ Greek manuscripts do not include the doxology. However, the Codex Washingtonianus, and the Textus Receptus (The Received Text), derived from it, included the doxology. John Chrysostom, a late 3rd century father of the church expanded on the doxology in his writings. Even before that, the Didache (The Teaching of the Twelve) of the late 1st century included a slightly truncated form of the doxology. On these grounds alone, I would certainly include the doxology in the main body of the biblical text, and 1 Chronicles 29:11 adds weight to this: “Yours, O Lord, is the greatness and the power and the glory and the victory and the majesty.”

Things that Dull the Light of Glory

The Westminster Shorter Catechism was written in 1646/1647 by a synod  of English and Scottish theologians and laymen intending to bring the Church of England into greater conformity with the Church of Scotland. This catechism  still represents the heart of Reformed Theology, and by this, I mean the Calvinism of the last 75 or so years.

Question number One of this catechism is phrased as: ‘What is the chief end of man?’ The answer is then given as, ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’. A more modern way of phrasing this as a statement would be ‘The purpose of man is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’.

For me, this begs the question, “How do we glorify God?” Is it through praising and worshipping him? Obeying him? Testifying to others how glorious God is? It is surely all these things… but it is more. My understanding of God’s purpose for all people is ‘to come to know Jesus; to become like him in this lifetime; and to help others to do likewise’ and I will explain later how I connect this to ‘glorifying God’. This is how we glorify God.

Behind the Reformed statement of the purpose of humanity is, I suspect, an implied contention that we glorify God most by submitting joyfully to his meticulous control of our lives. Of course, this would only be sincere if we believed this core Calvinist doctrine – I don’t. I hold that we glorify God most by knowing him in and through the Lord Jesus Christ and by testifying, through words and lifestyles, to what we have come to know of his glorious nature. God’s glory has more to do with his nature than the manifestation of his presence.

On the Pentecostal/Charismatic end of the spectrum, teachers commonly understand the glory of God as his awesomeness or even as the radiance that issues from him. Yes, God is awe-inspiring and radiant, yet I doubt that this describes the essence of his glorious nature and being.

God’s Glory is Best Displayed in His Goodness

A key scripture that sheds light upon God’s glory is Exodus 33:12-23 which reads:

Moses said to the LORD, “You have been telling me, ‘Lead these people,’ but you have not let me know whom you will send with me. You have said, ‘I know you by name and you have found favour with me.’ If you are pleased with me, teach me your ways so I may know you and continue to find favour with you. Remember that this nation is your people.” The LORD replied, “My Presence will go with you, and I will give you rest.” Then Moses said to him, “If your Presence does not go with us, do not send us up from here. How will anyone know that you are pleased with me and with your people unless you go with us? What else will distinguish me and your people from all the other people on the face of the earth?” And the LORD said to Moses, “I will do the very thing you have asked, because I am pleased with you and I know you by name.” Then Moses said, “Now show me your glory”. And the LORD said, “I will cause all my goodness to pass in front of you, and I will proclaim my name, the LORD, in your presence. I will have mercy on whom I will have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I will have compassion. But,” he said, “you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.” Then the LORD said, “There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock. When my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. Then I will remove my hand and you will see my back; but my face must not be seen.” NIV

This account is very well-known and mainly self-explanatory. However, here are two things to think on:

  • God’s response to Moses’ request to “show me your glory” was that he would cause all his goodness to pass by. The two words he then used to amplify this were ‘mercy’ and ‘compassion’. Therefore, a central idea here is that God displays his glory to humans through his goodness, mercy, and compassion.
  • Human beings cannot fully experience the manifestation of God himself in the physical realm. His appearance is described as ‘the sun shining in all its brilliance’ (Revelation 1:16) and we all know that we cannot look into the physical sun without blinding ourselves. So, in the Exodus account, God spared Moses this sort of damaging experience by covering him up until only the after-glow of his presence was visible. In the heavenly realm, we will be able to meet with God face to face, but we cannot do this in the present physical life: “…you cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live.”
Jesus, the Manifestation of the Glory of God

In this world, we cannot behold God’s glorious presence yet we can ‘see’ him indirectly in his goodness, mercy, and compassion.

However, this has never been enough for material-obsessed humanity, so God incarnated on Earth as Jesus of Nazareth who said, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.” (John 14:9)

I have written and spoken on the nature of Jesus so many times, but just in case someone is reading my work for the first time, then just consider the following:

  • He is the image of the invisible God… for God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him. (Colossians 1:16-19)
  • For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form (Colossians 2:9)
  • In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being. (Hebrews 1:1-3)

So, if we want to know what the glory of God is like we need only look to the life, ministry, and teachings of Jesus. There we find wisdom, grace, mercy, kindness, compassion, forgiveness, and any other noble quality we may think of. Divine glory in bodily form!

Human Purpose Revisited

Going back to the Westminster Shorter Catechism’s statement that: ‘Man’s chief end is to glorify God and enjoy him forever’, a bigger and more glorious picture now emerges. To ‘glorify God’ is to contemplate and testify to Jesus’s nature and character. It is also to live out these qualities in our world because our testimony to his glory must surely transcend just words and emotions. To ‘enjoy him forever’ is to enter into a living and eternal relationship with him in this life and the next. From glory to glory!

This is why my theological focus centres on Jesus and why I have promoted Christocentricity and a Jesus-centeredness for over four decades. It is so easy to get lost in an intellectual appreciation for God and a mind-centred witness to our world. It is just as easy to get lost in the emotional and sensory wonder of the manifestation of God’s glory in our world. But, if we look to Jesus then everything falls into place.

“Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. And if what was fading away came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!

Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold. We are not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face to keep the Israelites from gazing at it while the radiance was fading away. But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3:7-18)

The Glory in The Lord’s Prayer Doxology Read More »

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Jesus, the Full Representation of God

top image of postI realise that an article titled ‘Jesus, the full representation of God’ is signalling a theological discussion that may not appeal to everyone. For this reason, and because it is a complex subject, I am going to start with a concise overview instead of ending with one.

I am a passionate advocate of Christocentricity (Jesus-centeredness). A vital part of this way of understanding the Bible, and life in general, is that the Lord Jesus Christ presents the full nature, character, values, principles, and priorities of the Godhead. This means that although the scriptures, in general, reveal the ways of God and humanity, Jesus will always be the plum-line of truth. If I want to know if something is ‘of God’ then I need only to look to Jesus.

However, other theologians contend that although Jesus is indeed the fullest revelation of the Godhead, He is not the ‘full’ revelation. In other words, they contend that some aspects of God’s nature and character are not manifested in Jesus but are found elsewhere in the Bible. In a crude sense, it is as though God has two faces, one benign and loving and the other apparently harsh and violent.

There are also some scholars who hold to a form of Christocentricity, as I define it, but contend that we find Jesus himself in the Old Testament and the book of Revelation where He is sometimes presented very differently to the Gospel depictions. Some also propose that because God is one (Father, Son and Holy Spirit) then anything attributed to ‘God’ anywhere in the Bible must equally apply to the Lord Jesus (God the Son). In this sense then, all biblical references to God would be Christocentric.

This article is the first in a two-part series on the centrality of Jesus, and in this post, I just seek to make the case that Jesus is the FULL representation of the nature and character of God.

A Concise Overview

The distinction between ‘full’ and ‘fullest’ is important. If we concede that Jesus of Nazareth is not the full representation of the Godhead then we, of necessity, have to find ways of reinterpreting key texts such as Colossians 1:19, 2:9, Hebrews 1: 1-3 and so on. These attempts can often end in a distortion of scripture.

Claims that God displays different character traits in the Old Testament to those manifest in Jesus have other implications and flatly contradict the Lord Jesus’ own statements such as “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

If we cannot rely on Jesus to adequately present the nature of the Godhead to us, then what can we know with certainty about God? Also, if Jesus, God manifest, is not our primary interpreter of scripture, then how do we rightly interpret the Bible?

On the positive side, knowing that Jesus is the full revelation of the nature and character of God gives us certainty and consistency. We know that we can know God because Jesus reveals Him fully and His life and words are faithfully recorded in the Gospels, within the context of the fullness of inspired scripture. It gives us a consistent standard against which we can evaluate and better understand all of the Bible as well as life in general.

The clearest biblical statements on the subject matter covered in this article are in Colossians 1:19 and 2:9. They read ‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him’, and ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’. Jesus himself said, “anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:7-9), and, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me” (John 12:44-45). Other key texts that bear on this subject are Hebrews 1:1-3, 1 John 1:1-3 and John 1:14 and 18. The point of the discussion, analysis and commentary in this article is to make the point that in Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of the Gospels, we have the FULL presentation of God’s nature and character.

Why the distinction is important

Before going any further, I want to stress that the distinction between ‘full’ and ‘fullest’ is important.

  1. If we concede that Jesus of Nazareth is not the full representation of the Godhead then we, of necessity, have to find ways of reinterpreting key texts such as Colossians 1:19, 2:9, Hebrews 1: 1-3 and so on. In my view, attempts to read these texts as anything other than straightforward statements of the full representational nature of Jesus often end in seriously distorting the scriptures.
  2. Claims that God displays different character traits in the Old Testament to those manefest in Jesus have other serious implications. Once again, those who hold this view are obliged to reinterpret the clear statement that ‘in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’ (Colossians 2:9). Attempting to do this usually results in the claim that Paul’s declarations refer to the ascended Christ and not the Christ of the Gospels. However, this flatly contradicts the Lord Jesus’ own statements such as “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).

While these are important considerations, the biggest problem inherent in the ‘fullest’ but not ‘full’ idea concerns our ability to know God. If Jesus Christ is not the full presentation of the nature and character of the triune God, then how are we to know and trust him?  Are we to select those character traits that fit our concept of who God should be? Are we to unhitch ourselves from the Old Testament and disregard what it reveals of divine holiness, justice, and judgment? If we cannot rely on Jesus to adequately present the nature of the godhead to us, then what can we know and what can we trust? If Jesus, God manifest, is not our primary interpreter of scripture, then how do we rightly interpret scripture? I will be touching on these concerns in my next article.

On the positive side,  knowing that Jesus is the full revelation of the nature and character of God gives us certainty and consistency. We know that we can know God because Jesus reveals Him fully and His life and words are faithfully recorded in the Gospels, within the context of the fullness of inspired scripture. It also gives us a consistent standard against which we can evaluate and better understand all of the Bible and life in general.

I will try to cover some of these and other aspects of the discussion further on or in my second article, but first I must anchor the matter in the biblical evidence. It is important that this thesis is based on a responsible interpretation of scripture rather than an opinion.

Colossians 1:19 and 2:9

The clearest biblical statements on this issue are in two verses in Colossians. They read ‘For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him’ and ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’.

Colossians 1:19 is part of Pauls’ powerful declaration of the supremacy of Christ, which starts in verse 1 with the words, ‘He is the image of the invisible God’. Further, in verse 22 Paul refers to our reconciliation with God ‘by Christ’s physical body through death’. Then, in chapter 2 verse 9 he uses the words’ in bodily form’. So, the context of the two verses is the physical/bodily Jesus of Nazareth and not some mystical pre-incarnate or post-ascension Jesus.

In Colossians 1:19 three key words are ‘all’, ‘fullness’ and ‘dwell’. There are no particular difficulties in translating the underlying Greek here. ‘Pan’ (all) means ‘whole’ or ‘every’. ‘Pleerooma’ (fullness) means ‘repletion, fills, or full’. Robertson quotes Lightfoot (a well-respected theologian of a previous generation) as commenting that pleerooma  is, ‘a recognized technical term in theology, denoting the totality of the Divine powers and attributes’. The third key word in the text (dwell) is ‘katoikeesais’ meaning ‘to house permanently, inhabit, or dwell’.

Colossians 2:9 contains the same three words and adds ‘soomahkoos’, which means ‘corporeal, physical, incarnate, or in bodily form’. Here Robertson asserts that, ‘all the pleerooma of the Godhead, not just certain aspects, dwells in Christ and in physical form’. He adds that Paul ‘asserts plainly the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ in corporeal form’. (For those interested, these quotes are from Robertson’s Word Pictures in the New Testament).

In a short article of this nature, I can’t go into all the details of the subtleties various commentators have applied to these two texts, but I think I should cite one well-known New Testament scholar, N.T. Wright. He writes, in commenting on Colossians 1:19 that, ‘God in all his fullness was pleased to take up permanent residence (this is the best way of taking the Greek verb) in him. The full divinity of the man Jesus is stated without any implications that there are two Gods. It is the one God, in his fullness, who dwells in him’.

Now, to even better understand Paul’s inspired statements, let me take you to some things Jesus said about himself.

What Jesus said

Jesus was talking to His disciples about the fact that He, in himself, was the only way to God the Father. Then He said, “If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”   Philip said, “Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.” Jesus answered: “Don’t you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:7-9).

Earlier in John’s account, he recorded Jesus as saying, “When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me (John 12:44-45).

I have bolded the key words in these two texts and I don’t think they need any commentary.

Other key texts

Although there are several other texts that bear on this issue, I will cite just three. Hebrews 1:1-3(a): ‘In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being…’

1 John 1:1-3 ‘That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked at and our hands have touched — this we proclaim concerning the Word of life. The life appeared; we have seen it and testify to it, and we proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and has appeared to us.  We proclaim to you what we have seen and heard, so that you also may have fellowship with us. And our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son, Jesus Christ’. This passage is an amplification of what John wrote in his Gospel that ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).

Another relevant text is John 1:18 ‘No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known’.

Conclusion and lead into the next article

The aim of this discussion, analysis and commentary is to make the point that in Jesus of Nazareth, the Jesus of the Gospels, we have the FULL presentation of God’s nature and character.

I cannot see how any other interpretation can be given to the texts I have referenced, but in the next article, I will explain why I think some scholars of our day do in fact attempt to reinterpret these key texts.

In my next article, I intend dealing with the following topics:

  • Jesus in the Old Testament
  • Jesus in the book of Revelation
  • The rationale for a ‘two-faced’ God
  • Red-letter theology
  • How I understand a Christocentric interpretation of scripture.

For those of you who have read the entire article, and not just the ‘Concise Overview’, thank you. I hope it has been thought-provoking and helpful to you. I would appreciate your questions or comments, as always, but perhaps these would be more appropriate after you have read the follow-up article.

Jesus, the Full Representation of God Read More »

About Me

My name is Christopher Peppler and I was born in Cape Town, South Africa in 1947. While working in the financial sector I achieved a number of business qualifications from the Institute of Bankers, Damelin Management School, and The University of the Witwatersrand Business School. After over 20 years as a banker, I followed God’s calling and joined the ministry full time. After becoming a pastor of what is now a quite considerable church, I  earned an undergraduate theological qualification from the Baptist Theological College of Southern Africa and post-graduate degrees from two United States institutions. I was also awarded the Doctor of Theology in Systematic Theology from the University of Zululand in 2000.

Four years before that I established the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), which today is represented in over 70 countries and has more than 2 500 active students enrolled with it. I presently play an role supervising Masters and Doctoral students.

I am a passionate champion of the Christocentric or Christ-centred Principle, an approach to biblical interpretation and theological construction that emphasises the centrality of Jesus

I have been happily married to Patricia since the age of 20, have two children, Lance and Karen, a daughter-in-law Tracey, and granddaughters Jessica and Kirsten. I have now retired from both church and seminary leadership and devote my time to writing, discipling, and the classical guitar.

If you would like to read my testimony to Jesus then click HERE.