Preaching the Great Christological Texts, Part 1

Evangelicals believe the biblical teaching concerning the uniqueness of Jesus Christ as the sole and sufficient Savior for all persons who have lived or ever shall be. We note that such an affirmation is needed because the Christian church is now confronted with various theological heresies such as universalism, radical pluralism, theological inclusivism, and religious relativism, all of which call into question the clear teachings of Holy Scripture and belief in the particularity and finality of the revelation and salvific work of Jesus Christ.

What is it that drives Baptists like us, and evangelical Christians as a whole, to make such strong statements of theology and faith? I believe the answer can be found not only in “the clear teaching of the Holy Scripture” in general, but in the great Christological texts in the New Testament in particular. I refer to the quintessential quartet of John 1:1-18; Phil 2:1-11; Col 1:13-23; and Heb 1:1-3.

The clear exegesis and exposition of these four passages are the bedrock foundation of biblical and orthodox Christology. Both his person (full deity and perfect humanity) and work (sacrifice and atonement) are gloriously expounded in these texts, though it is his person that is more strongly emphasized.

What we think and believe about Jesus influences all aspects of our theology: what we think about God, the Bible, and salvation, for example. If we are to think correctly, that is biblically, about Jesus, these four great texts should be taught clearly, consistently, and courageously without compromise or apology.

What might four expository sermons on these great texts look like? What would be an accurate assessment of their theme and emphases? I would like to propose the following for consideration of how to get at these passages in preparing to proclaim them to the people of God.

1). A message on John 1:1-18 might be titled “Jesus Christ: The God of Incarnation.”
Such a sermon would declare that as the Word of God Jesus powerfully preexisted (1:1-5), was prophetically witnessed (1:6-9), was personally rejected (1:10-13), was permanently incarnated (1:14), is properly exalted (1:15-17), and that he perfectly communicated (1:18).

In this text emphasis is placed upon the Logos, the Word, Jesus as coeternal, coequal, and consubstantial with the Father (1:1-3). He is the perfect embodiment of God revealing himself to humanity (1:14, 18). By believing in Christ alone we can become children of God (1:12). Various structural analyses of the passage generally agree that the focus is on vv. 10-14, while vv. 1 and 18 also receive emphasis. The central verse is considered to be either v. 12 or v. 14. It can be argued, in fact, that v. 12 contains the soteriological heart of the passage and v. 14 the Christological heart. This text is so full theologically, one could consider a six part series of these 18 verses.

2). A message on Philippians 2:1-11 could bear the title “Jesus Christ: The God of
Humiliation.” This passage declares first that we must cultivate the disposition or mind of our Lord (2:5) by seeking unity (2:1-2), humility (2:3), and sensitivity (2:4). Second, we must consider the humiliation of our Lord (2:6-8), who humbled himself in his renunciation (2:6), in his incarnation (2:7), and in his crucifixion (2:8). Third, we should celebrate the exaltation of our Lord (2:9-11), who has an exalted position (2:9), designation (2:9-10), adoration (2:10), and confession (2:11).

The second and third divisions of this passage (2:6-11) is believed by many to be based on an early Christian hymn of two stanzas. It may find its Old Testament roots in Isaiah 53. The passage is ethical (especially vv. 1-5) and soteriological, with emphasis falling on the humbling and emptying of our Lord. The incarnation was not a subtraction of deity. It was an addition of humanity. Emphasis on Christ’s full deity and utter uniqueness as the God-man is clearly communicated in the text.

America Has Chosen a President

Note: The following email message was sent to the Southeastern Seminary community earlier today. Thanks to Dr. Albert Mohler for permission to reprint his article.

America has elected a new president in Barack Obama. A number of students and friends has asked me for my thoughts and reaction to this historic moment in our nation.

My close friend Al Mohler addressed the issue and shared his thoughts on his blog today (11-05-08). I can add nothing to his superb analysis and so I would direct you to if for your prayerful and careful consideration. Our new president needs our prayers. He also deserves our respect. He will receive both from me.

Danny Akin


America Has Chosen a President

By R. Albert Mohler Jr.

The election of Sen. Barack Obama as the 44th President of the United States came as a bang, not a whimper. The tremors had been perceptible for days, maybe even weeks. On Tuesday, America experienced nothing less than a political and cultural earthquake.

The margin of victory for the Democratic ticket was clear. Americans voted in record numbers and with tangible enthusiasm. By the end of the day, it was clear that Barack Obama would be elected with a majority of the popular vote and a near landslide in the Electoral College. When President-Elect Obama greeted the throngs of his supporters in Chicago’s Grant Park, he basked in the glory of electoral energy.

For many of us, the end of the night brought disappointment. In this case, the disappointment is compounded by the sense that the issues that did not allow us to support Sen. Obama are matters of life and death — not just political issues of heated debate. Furthermore, the margin of victory and sense of a shift in the political landscape point to greater disappointments ahead. We all knew that so much was at stake.

For others, the night was magical and momentous. Young and old cried tears of amazement and victory as America elected its first African-American President — and elected him overwhelmingly. Just forty years after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, an African-American stood to claim victory as President-Elect of the nation. As Sen. Obama assured the crowd in Chicago and the watching nation, “We will get there. We will get there.” No one hearing those words could fail to hear the refrain of plaintive words spoken in Memphis four decades ago. President-Elect Obama would stand upon the mountaintop that Dr. King had foreseen.

That victory is a hallmark moment in history for all Americans — not just for those who voted for Sen. Obama. As a nation, we will never think of ourselves the same way again. Americans rich and poor, black and white, old and young, will look to an African-American man and know him as President of the United States. The President. The only President. The elected President. Our President.

Every American should be moved by the sight of young African-Americans who — for the first time — now believe that they have a purchase in American democracy. Old men and old women, grandsons and granddaughters of slaves and slaveholders, will look to an African-American as President.

Regardless of politics, could anyone remain unmoved by the sight of Jesse Jackson crying alone amidst the crowd in Chicago? This dimension of Election Day transcends politics and touches the heart of the American people.

Yet, the issues and the politics remain. Given the scale of the Democratic victory, the political landscape will be completely reshaped. The fight for the dignity and sanctity of unborn human beings has been set back by a great loss, and by the election of a President who has announced his intention to sign the Freedom of Choice Act into law. The struggle to protect marriage against its destruction by redefinition is now complicated by the election of a President who has declared his aim to repeal the Defense of Marriage Act.

On issue after issue, we face a longer, harder, and more protracted struggle than ever before. Still, we must press on as advocates for the unborn, for the elderly, for the infirm, and for the vulnerable. We must redouble our efforts to defend marriage and the integrity of the family. We must be vigilant to protect religious liberty and the freedom of the pulpit. We face awesome battles ahead.

At the same time, we must be honest and recognize that the political maps are being redrawn before our eyes. Will the Republican Party decide that conservative Christians are just too troublesome for the party and see the pro-life movement as a liability? There is the real danger that the Republicans, stung by this defeat, will adopt a libertarian approach to divisive moral issues and show conservative Christians the door.

Others will declare these struggles over, arguing that the election of Sen. Obama means that Americans in general — and many younger Evangelicals in particular — are ready to “move on” to other issues. This is no time for surrender or the abandonment of our core principles. We face a much harder struggle ahead, but we have no right to abandon the struggle.

We should look for opportunities to work with the new President and his administration where we can. We must hope that he will lead and govern as the bridge-builder he claimed to be in his campaign. We must confront and oppose the Obama administration where conscience demands, but work together where conscience allows.

Evangelical Christians face another challenge with the election of Sen. Obama, and a failure to rise to this challenge will bring disrepute upon the Gospel, as well as upon ourselves. There must be absolutely no denial of the legitimacy of President-Elect Obama’s election and no failure to accord this new President the respect and honor due to anyone elected to that high office. Failure in this responsibility is disobedience to a clear biblical command.

Beyond this, we must commit ourselves to pray for this new President, for his wife and family, for his administration, and for the nation. We are commanded to pray for rulers, and this new President faces challenges that are not only daunting but potentially disastrous. May God grant him wisdom. He and his family will face new challenges and the pressures of this office. May God protect them, give them joy in their family life, and hold them close together.

We must pray that God will protect this nation even as the new President settles into his role as Commander in Chief, and that God will grant peace as he leads the nation through times of trial and international conflict and tension.

We must pray that God would change President-Elect Obama’s mind and heart on issues of our crucial concern. May God change his heart and open his eyes to see abortion as the murder of the innocent unborn, to see marriage as an institution to be defended, and to see a host of issues in a new light. We must pray this from this day until the day he leaves office. God is sovereign, after all.

Without doubt, we face hard days ahead. Realistically, we must expect to be frustrated and disappointed. We may find ourselves to be defeated and discouraged. We must keep ever in mind that it is God who raises up nations and pulls them down, and who judges both nations and rulers. We must not act or think as unbelievers, or as those who do not trust God.

America has chosen a President. President-Elect Barack Obama is that choice, and he faces a breathtaking array of challenges and choices in days ahead. This is the time for Christians to begin praying in earnest for our new President. There is no time to mobile games

The Type of Statesmen Southern Baptists Need, Part 1

In honor of our national elections, I want to offer a reflection on the type of statesmen I believe Southern Baptists need. I think this is an important issue because Southern Baptists are in the midst of a transitional era. I assume there are few who would question this. And there is perhaps no greater evidence that we are a denomination in transition than the hopes expressed and concerns raised about Convention leadership (both present and potential) over the course of the last decade.

Over the past five years we have witnessed the passing of some of the key leaders of the Conservative Resurgence from the denominational spotlight. Adrian Rogers is now with his Lord. Jerry Vines and Jimmy Draper have retired from their noted positions (though not from gospel ministry). It is likely that in the next half decade or so we will witness the retirements of Paige Patterson, Morris Chapman, Ed Young Sr., and Charles Stanley. Men like Jack Graham and O. S. Hawkins are likely in the final decade of their current ministry positions. The younger pastors and agency leaders of the 1990s are now middle aged, many with grandchildren. This means we need some new younger leaders, or at least godly and gifted men who have the potential to be future leaders.

This need has not gone unnoticed on the part of some of our current leaders. Draper took several steps during his final years at LifeWay to reach out to younger pastors. The past two SBC presidents, Frank Page and Johnny Hunt, have called for a greater investment in future leaders. Hunt, who is the current president of the SBC, has long been known for his personal commitment to mentoring men for pastoral ministry and other positions of spiritual leadership. Many others have observed the phenomenon of “younger leaders,” whether real or perceived, taking a greater interest in Convention affairs, often through electronic media like message boards and especially blogs.

Many current leaders and other observers have expressed concern about some of these younger leaders (or perhaps better, possible future leaders). Some are concerned that younger pastors and seminarians may be insufficiently committed to the SBC in an increasingly post-denominational age. As a Baptist historian, this is certainly one of my concerns. Others fear that too many younger Southern Baptists are committed to, or at least show too much sympathy for, Calvinistic theology. The assumption is that Calvinism-or at least too much vocal Calvinism-is a threat to the SBC. Whether this assumption is true or not (I think not), there certainly are a lot of younger Southern Baptists who seem more interested in attending conferences like Together for the Gospel than regional pastor’s conferences hosted by SBC churches or state convention or even the SBC annual meeting itself. Other concerns about the younger generation include a lack of commitment to certain historic Baptist principles, an alleged antinomian streak, an unhealthy openness to interdenominational cooperation, possible Charismatic or Third Wave tendencies, an insufficient appreciation of the Conservative Resurgence, a lack of commitment to the Cooperative Program, and a lack of respect for past and current Convention leadership.

Concerns about leadership have always factored into our denominational controversies. William Whitsitt resigned as president of Southern Seminary at the turn of the 20th century because of grassroots concerns about both his orthodoxy and his character (he rejected the perpetuity of immersion in an anonymous article and then denied writing the article when questioned by his trustees). J. Frank Norris was shut out of denominational life because of the often outrageous tactics he used in criticizing SBC leadership. Both the Elliott Controversy and the Broadman Bible Controversy were, at their core, concerns about the orthodoxy of professors and the integrity of a denominational bureaucracy that often covered for them. This was also the principle concern of the Conservative Resurgence: compared to most Southern Baptists, SBC leaders were either too theologically progressive or were willing to defend a status quo that encouraged-or at least tolerated-theological aberration.

Even our more recent controversies are about leadership. Though the Baptist Faith and Message was revised at several points in 2000, no revision garnered more attention than the statement that pastoral ministry is reserved for biblically qualified men alone. All of our paid denominational leaders were required to affirm the revised BF&M, which caused tension at some agencies, especially the International Mission Board. Elected trustees are also required to affirm the confession and no would-be Convention officer has any hope for election unless he or she accepts the BF&M. The more recent imbroglio over the baptism and prayer language guidelines at the IMB has been, among other things, a debate about how well a particular trustee board has led its agency. There have also been tensions about potential trustees whose churches do not give 10% to the Cooperative Program or who personally drink alcoholic beverages, the biblical appropriateness of females serving as certain types of seminary professors, and the propriety of agency heads running for elected denominational office. All of these concerns have to do with leadership.

In light of the role that leadership concerns have played in current and past Convention controversies, my next post will offer my personal reflections about the type of statesmen that the SBC needs. It is my hope that these posts will be a reminder to our present leaders and a challenge to all those who may one day find themselves in a position of denominational influence, whether paid, elected, or mobi