Soli Deo Gloria: For the Glory of God Alone
Posted: Thursday, March 22, 2012 1:57 pm
The Messenger, March 22, 2012
Christ the King
By WALLY BUMPAS
Special to The Messenger
In our previous article, we spoke of the comfort the Christian would have if he or she could hear Jesus praying for them in the next room. In fact, this is not far from the truth: Jesus “always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:25). This is a large part of what Jesus is currently doing, having “ascended into heaven.”
But there’s more comfort and encouragement to be gained from reflecting on Christ’s present location and occupation. The Heidelberg Catechism has been taking us line by line through the Apostles’ Creed. Question 50 asks: Why the next words, “and is seated at the right hand of God?” Answer: Christ ascended into heaven, there to show that He is head of His church, and that the Father rules all things through Him.
Question 51: How does this glory of Christ our head benefit us? Answer: First, through His Holy Spirit He pours out His gifts from heaven upon His members. Second, by His power He defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.
The New Testament teaches that Christ is a king. But, is He the sovereign ruler of nations, people and events today, or will He become the sovereign ruler in the future, after His return? This is a crucial point, vital to our comfort in this life.
Before dealing with that question, consider the significance of Jesus being “seated.” This seemingly minor point highlights the difference between Christianity and all the religions of the world. Several New Testament passages speak of Jesus sitting down after He ascended into heaven. “After making purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high …” (Hebrews 1:3).
Picture the drama of an attorney making his closing arguments before the jury in a packed courtroom. He concludes by saying, “The defense rests.” He sits down. The case has been made and there’s nothing left to do. In a similar way, when Christ paid the full penalty for our sins, there was no more payment to be made. The work is finished. Nothing we do can add to it. To help us grasp this, the Bible says Jesus “sat down.”
So what is the difference between Christianity and everything else? Christianity is the good news of what Christ has already done. The religions of the world, by contrast, are about things people have to do to please the deity and earn acceptance and blessing. The gospel: what Christ has done to make us right with God. Religion: what I have to do to make myself right with God (or the gods). Jesus paid it all; then He sat down. This is the good news.
Jesus has not, however, been sitting and doing nothing for the past 20 centuries. He prays for us, and He reigns as our King. But how can anyone look at the world today (and perhaps his own chaotic life) and believe that Christ is reigning and “rules all things”?
First, we must look, not at the news, not out the window, not at all the people I know, and not at myself, but in the Bible. In the New Testament we learn that Christ was enthroned as King in the first century, after His death, resurrection and ascension into heaven. “He put all things under His feet” (Ephesians 1:20-22). “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to Me” (Matthew 28:18-20).
Imagine an unruly crowd at some sort of demonstration. They are loud and throwing things. They are becoming violent. It looks out of control. But they are surrounded by 200 mounted and armed riot police. In fact the situation is not out of control at all. It just looks that way.
Likewise, watch the news today and the world looks out of control with no guiding purpose. Your life may seem out of control with no guiding purpose. But this is never true. Christ the King is at work in the world, building His Church and directing history to its appointed goal. To get the big picture of history to its final goal, all the details (my life and yours) have to be directed as well. So Christ our King “defends us and keeps us safe from all enemies.” Obviously this is hard to reconcile with how things often look, and with the suffering we experience in this life.
Easter will be here soon. The events of our Lord’s final days will be remembered in our churches. When Jesus was betrayed, arrested and murdered, a casual observer might have thought that the “Jesus movement” had completely fallen apart and ended in unspeakable tragedy. But if one reads the final week of Christ’s life, in all four gospels, and pays close attention, it is breathtaking to see how utterly in control Jesus was, right down to the smallest details.
So it is in the world and in the life of every believer. The task of the church is to announce this good news. Christ has died in the place of sinners who must turn to Him, and Christ is King, directing history and the lives of each one of His people. Christ is at work in the world, and we are privileged to participate in that work until He returns. To that blessed event we turn in our next article.
(If you have questions or would like to comment on this article, you may do so online at http://graceunioncity.com/resources/gcc-in-the-news. Scroll to the bottom of the page to submit your comment.)
Editor’s note: Wally Bumpas serves as pastor of First Presbyterian Church in Dyersburg.