Modern Western culture is in revolt from every form of received authority structure and thus no longer has any common truth which people can gather around. The mindset of the world is increasingly characterized by a splintering of classifications of identity based on multiple criteria—aspects of ethnic heritage, language, gender (male/female), religion, tribal identity, political philosophy, skin color, one’s perceived gender identity, sexual orientation and so on. This is evidence that modern people have lost a cohesive reason for their existence as humans. Thankfully the vision of God and of humanity rooted in Scripture and Christian tradition is radically different from modernity because it asserts that Truth defines reality and that the revelation of Truth is preeminently given in the Person of Christ, who is over and sustains all of creation. This is why the Lord Jesus is the center of Christian faith and he fundamentally challenges the paradigm of modern thought.
Christian orthodoxy has always affirmed that all our “truths”, whatever they are based upon and however valid they may be as descriptions of our life experience, are to be subsumed under the Truth of God himself. This incredible assertion is rooted in the Person and the teaching of the Lord himself. He demands to be placed at the center of the life and worship of those who would seek to know God. Where God is there is the Lord Jesus, beckoning us to come to him for life and knowledge of the living God.
The doctrine of the Incarnation stands out from all other claims of historic religious traditions. Atheists and agnostics tend to think it is absurd (at best) and adherents of other religious traditions dismiss it as either blasphemy or a teaching they can reinterpret so as to be harmless. The Apostles’ teaching about the Lord will not allow for any of these to stand; for he is the Lord himself, God the Son, who is eternally pre-existent with God the Father and God the Holy Spirit. His becoming fully human as the man Jesus did not alter who he was as God but the Incarnation did permanently unite humanity with Deity in his one Person. This is why the Lord Jesus is the center of Christian’s understanding of God.
In my estimation, this doctrine of the Incarnation, and thus the willful suffering of the Christ and resurrection from death for us, alone answers humans most basic needs. The reality of the Person of Christ (his identity as the God-Man) and of the effect of his self-sacrifice for humans addresses the human need to reconcile the need for justice and find mercy from God. Without his being the Mediator there is no grounds for hope for us—for we cannot find it in ourselves or in our effort to be self-disciplined or pursue lives of piety before God. And if we choose to take God’s holiness seriously then we are left no other option than to conclude that we do not meet God’s requirements for righteousness (personally or in our life together).
If the Lord Jesus is not “fully God” and “fully human” then he cannot be an adequate Savior to us. If in his humanity he is not perfectly righteous—indeed the Righteous One—then he could not have given himself as a perfect sacrifice for our sins. His blood would not atone for us if he was not perfect in his humanity in every way. In the same way, if he was not God himself in the flesh, then his “blood” (or life-blood) would not have the necessary power of Deity to fully deliver us from both the guilt and the power of sin. Further, if he was not God and Human in one Person then he could not truly represent God to us and demonstrate for us what God’s original intention for human beings is. This is why the Lord Jesus is the center.
The biblical writers present the Person of the Anointed One as both like us and also unlike us. Paul states emphatically,
“He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn [with position of supremacy over] of all creation; for in him all things in heaven and on earth were created, things visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or powers—all things have been created through him and for him. He himself is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head [Greek: kephale] of the body, the church; he is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, so that he might come to have first place in everything. For in him all the fullness of God was pleased to dwell, and though him God was pleased to reconcile to himself all things, whether on earth or in heaven, by making peace though the blood of his cross.” (Colossians 1:15-20, NRSV)
This is one of the most remarkable affirmations in the New Testament writings about the Person of Christ. I do not pretend to be able to understand or to explain the full meaning of Paul’s affirmation here but I think that there are a few points that can be drawn from this. One is that Paul is elaborating upon the Lord’s own words about himself, particularly in affirming that the Lord Christ is the kephale of the church (see also Colossians 2:19). The Lord taught, at length, about the essential unity of believers with himself with the metaphor of the Vine and branches (John 15). Is this not what Paul is asserting?
He must be the center of the practice of faith in order that we all “come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to maturity, to the measure of the full stature of Christ.” (Ephesians 4:13, NRSV) This unity is based on the sovereign work of God, through the power of Christ’s blood, to reconcile us together into one body (see Ephesians 2:14-16). Through him we come to love God the Father and have communion with God the Holy Spirit and can learn to be united with each other as Christ’s body. Again, this is why the Lord Jesus is the center.
The enemy hates God and will do anything to pull people away from faith in the Person of Christ. This strategic work comes in the form of blasphemy against him, tortured interpretations of Scripture which minimize his exalted Person, his accomplished self-offering for sin and his exalted position in the universe. The demons also bring accusations against God’s holy ones to depress them and convince them to not stand strong in truth. The rational for his accusations are based upon the reality of our sin and of God’s justice.
William Gurnall gives a very helpful comment pertaining to God’s deliverance through our Lord Jesus Christ,
“One might wonder whether or not God can be both just and righteous in pardoning a sinner. Faith shows that God may pardon sins, no matter how great, with safety to His justice. This question was settled at the council board of heaven by God Himself and He has expressed His decision in the form of a precious promise: ‘I will betroth thee unto me for ever; yea, I will betroth thee unto me in righteousness, and in judgment’ (Hos. 2:19). Who is it that God intends to marry? One that has played the whore. And what does ‘betroth’ mean? God will forgive our sins and receive us into the arms of His love and peculiar personal favor. But how can such a righteous God betroth a whorish bride to Himself? He says He will do it in judgment and in righteousness. It is as if God admonishes, ‘Do not try to clear My justice; I will do that Myself. It is My holy will to do it in this way.’ When Satan comes against the believer and questions how such a wretched man could ever find favor with God, faith can confidently reply: ‘Yes, Satan, God can be as righteous in pardoning me as He is in damning you. He tells me it is ‘in judgment and in righteousness.’ I leave you to dispute this case with God, who is able to justify His own act.’” (William Gurnall, The Christian in Complete Armour, Vol. 3 [Banner of Truth:2002], pp.139-140)
Compared to the reality of the Person of Christ, of his teaching and of believers vital union with the living God through him, all other considerations become secondary to understanding our experience as human beings. He himself has been given to us so that we can understand our purpose and destiny. And in coming to terms with him and the demands of the Kingdom we can learn to put our unique experiences in life into proper perspective. For he has become, in his exalted humanity and the splendor of his Deity, like a compass and like a sure path to those who trust him so they can enter into the life of the Kingdom.
We rightly sing and proclaim with the Psalmist about our Lord Jesus Christ,
“You are the most handsome of men; grace is poured out upon your lips; therefore God has blessed you forever. Gird your sword on your thigh, O mighty one, in your glory and majesty. . . . In place of ancestors you, O king, shall have sons; you will make them princes in all the earth. I will cause your name to be celebrated in all generations; therefore the peoples will praise you forever and ever.” (Psalm 45:2-3, 16-17, NRSV)