A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministry of a Christ without a cross.” This quote penned from the hands of the liberal theologian Richard Niebuhr in 1937 could summarize the state of evangelical Christianity today. Could this possibly be a reality that we have a “Christ-less” and a “cross-less” Christianity in the current context? While most conservative evangelicals would agree with the exclusivity of Christ as the only way of salvation and the blood atonement on the cross, how much preaching and emphasis do we place upon the holiness of God and the amazing grace found through the substitutionary atonement of His Son?
Often Jesus is presented more as a life coach–a therapist to help people deal with self-esteem issues or as a genie to be used to guarantee health, wealth, and prosperity. Jesus is not a life coach. He’s not a therapist. He’s not a cosmic genie. He’s not merely a great teacher. He’s not just one of many enlightened persons who has come upon the scene of history to provide direction for the aimless.
The name “Jesus” means “salvation is of the Lord.” How often do we hear His name as a cuss word or expressions of anger? His very name carries with it the power of God for the salvation of all who believe. The word “Christ” means “Anointed One” or “Messiah.” In the Old Testament, three different types of persons were anointed and set apart for God’s special tasks—prophets, priests, and kings. Prophets came declaring the word of the Lord while priests were appointed to be mediators in bringing the people into the presence of the Lord through the sacrificial system. Kings were anointed to reign in the power of the Lord.
John Calvin was the first theologian to describe how Christ fulfills the consummate role of all three offices of Prophet, Priest, and King. As the Prophet, He is the living Word of God. He speaks with the authority of God as God in the flesh (John 1:1-3, Hebrews 1:1-3). As the Priest, He is the Mediator between God and man through His sacrifice on the cross. Hebrews 9:26 says, “But as it is, he (Jesus) has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.” Paul writes in 1 Timothy 2:5-6: “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.” As the King, Jesus reigns over the entire universe as the King of kings and Lord of lords. (Ephesians 1:20-23)
This reigning Christ left the glories of heaven and became obedient to a cruel death on the cross to fully absorb and exhaust the wrath of God that stood against us as sinners. Our most dire need is to be reconciled to the Father through the cross of Christ.
As Americans, we think we are pretty good. After all, don’t we think that God grades on a curve and will overlook our minor imperfections? Don’t we admit that what we really need is a life coach to help us have our “best life now” so that we can “become a better me?” Don’t we pursue the American dream at all costs with a little bit of Jesus added on top or our lives like whipped cream? In essence, we champion self-esteem, health, wealth, and prosperity. Instead of seeking satisfaction in the above, we as guilty sinners should admit our need for the substitutionary atonement of Christ to bring us into a right relationship with the Father. Would you bow your life before Jesus as Prophet, Priest, and King and receive His gift of salvation won through the cross and resurrection!