Thursday, May 01, 2008

Ascension Day and the Lordship of Christ

"and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:11).

The proclamation that “Jesus Christ is Lord” is the great task of the church

Paul wrote, "We preach Christ Jesus the Lord" (2 Corinthians 4:5). I think that we often give the impression that we approach the world with the gospel from a position of weakness. We feel that we have to justify our message before we will be granted a hearing. Men must be brought to see that what we say is eminently plausible. We appeal to arguments from design and feel obliged to refute Darwinism before we can ever think of deploying the gospel. Friends, this ought not to be. When we announce the gospel, we do so from a position of strength because we proclaim that Jesus Christ is Lord! All authority in heaven and earth is his and he has told us to GO! He has the name above every name and to announce his name is to invoke his authority,

Jesus the name high over all,
in hell, or earth or sky;
angels and men before it fall,
and devils fear and fly.

We don’t have to justify the claims of the gospel to the non-Christian. It is the unbeliever that needs to be justified before God, not God before the unbeliever. We are ambassadors of the Lord Christ. Note the method of apostolic evangelism. On the Day of Pentecost, Peter preached, "Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this jesus, whom you crucified both Lord and Christ." (Acts 2:36). This declaration had a powerful impact, "Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said, 'Men and brethren, what shall we do?'" (Acts 2:37). It is the unbeliever that is in the position of weakness. They are still in their sin and guilt, heading for a lost eternity. We preach Christ Jesus the LORD! He is the only hope for lost sinners, "there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved." (Acts 4:12).
The church’s proclamation that Jesus Christ is Lord shatters the distinction between the sacred and the secular. The Christian faith is no “privatised spirituality” that has no role in public life. Jesus Christ is Lord of all. He is Lord of the arts, Lord of Science, Lord of Politics, Lord of ethics and morals. As Abraham Kuyper put it,

There is not a square inch in the whole domain of human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: "Mine!" -

Let me give you one practical example of bringing the Lordship of Christ to bear upon the public sphere. It is because I believe that Jesus Christ is Lord that I have written to our MP (see here) regarding the Human Fertilisaton and Embryology Bill. Now the secularists will say that Christian principles should not intrude upon the laws of our land. But we cannot accept that there are areas of life over which Christ is not Lord. German Christians faced similar pressure to acquiesce to the onward march of National Socialism in the 1930’s. But the Confessing Churches rightly resisted the Nazification of church and society. Their Barmen Declaration states,

8.11 Jesus Christ, as he is attested for us in Holy Scripture, is the one Word of God which we have to hear and which we have to trust and obey in life and in death.
8.14 As Jesus Christ is God's assurance of the forgiveness of all our sins, so, in the same way and with the same seriousness he is also God's mighty claim upon our whole life. Through him befalls us a joyful deliverance from the godless fetters of this world for a free, grateful service to his creatures.
8.15 We reject the false doctrine, as though there were areas of our life in which we would not belong to Jesus Christ, but to other lords--areas in which we would not need justification and sanctification through him.

Now, the church is not simply to announce that Jesus Christ is Lord. She is to live as a community under the Lordship of Christ. He is head over all things for the Church. The church is not a democracy. She is a "Christocracy". Our task is to fulfil the task that he has given us in the way that he prescribes.
An edited extract from an Ascension Day sermon on Philippians 2:5-11 which I preached earlier this evening at Yarnbrook Chapel, Wilishire.

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