- Read Mark 8:27-30 here.
- If you missed Sunday’s sermon (27 June), you can listen to it here.
- Follow the rest of this discussion here.
This week’s thesis is, The Church of Christ should understand the word “Christ”.
As I preach through this series, I’m surprised how little I’ve considered some of these topics before. The church may as well have the name “Rochester Gathering” for all the identity we seem to draw from our name. Yes, there are always the old school preachers who insist we’re the Biblical church because we have a Biblical name. That’s not what I’m talking about, and I’m not starting that conversation.
Our particular brotherhood bears the name “Church of Christ” because the Apostle Paul used that description in Romans 16:16. In that instance I suspect he’s using the word Christ simply as a name for Jesus, without giving it a lot theological baggage. But is there any special significance to us using the name “Christ” rather than “Jesus” or “Son of God” etc.? I certainly don’t recall ever hearing a sermon on the topic.
For those who are unaware, the word Christ is a transliteration of the Greek word Christos, which is the equivalent of the Hebrew word Masiah, which means Anointed One. If Bible translators had really done their job, they would have translated the Greek word Christos as “Messiah” or “Annointed One”. But that wouldn’t have been appropriate on every occasion as in some cases the title Christ is actually used as part of Jesus’ name. George Ladd provides a good summary of my (rambling) thoughts to this point,
The title and concept of Messiah… is the most important of all the christological concepts historically if not theologically, because it became the central way of designating the Christian understanding of Jesus. This is proven by the fact that Christos, which is properly a title designating “the anointed one,” early became a proper name. Jesus became known not only as Jesus the Christ or Messiah (Acts 3:20), but as Jesus Christ or Christ Jesus. Only occasionally does Paul speak of Jesus; he almost always uses the compound name; and he more often speaks of “Christ” than he does of “Jesus.” Although we cannot be sure, it seems that Christos became a proper name when the gospel of Jesus as the Messiah first moved into the Gentile world that did not understand the Jewish background of anointing and for whom therefore “the anointed one” was a meaningless term.
A Theology of the New Testament rev. ed. 1993, p133
If Messiah is the most important of all the titles and descriptions given to Jesus, then perhaps we should set aside some time to consider it. This is particularly poignant since it’s in the name of our church.
When I suggested that “The Church of Christ should eagerly seek the return of Christ”, I mentioned that I’ve found churches usually explain how biblical texts DO NOT teach premillenialism, rather than explaining how the passages ARE relevant to the church today. The same problem applies to Messiah. We spend a lot of time describing how the Jews of Jesus’ day sought an earthly Messiah who would overthrow the Romans and establish a Godly kingdom of peace and prosperity. We then assert that God never had this in mind and was always planning to establish a spiritual kingdom. But we seldom take the next step to discuss how the “Spiritual Messiah” relates to our faith.
I willing acknowledge that I don’t have a lot of application ideas for this concept. Here are the two I shared in my sermon.
- We must avoid succumbing to the same distraction as the Jews Jesus dealt with. They sought God to provide military and political answers to their predicament. They were fiercely nationalistic. It’s easy for Christians in the 21st century to also seek social change through the political process rather than through spiritual revival. It’s also difficult for us accept that the Kingdom of God supplants nationalism within the church.
- Jesus is our Messiah. He is victorious and he provides peace. That’s a pretty attractive message for the church to preach! Of course, we need to moderate that statement by saying that the ultimate victory and peace will only be realised in eternity, but it begins now. That’s a much more significant message than debates over whether the Lord’s Supper should have one big cup shared by everyone, or lots of little cups!!
A third implication that I didn’t explore is that “The Church of Christ should emphasise the Kingdom of God”. If Jesus is our Messiah, then he’s also our King. He did establish a kingdom. We’re in it. We should understand it. That’s a big topic, but definitely something to explore at a later date.
Throughout this sermon series I’ve made the point a couple of times that The Church of Christ should emphasise, or understand….” By saying this I mean that it should become part of our DNA. Most long term CoC members could explain the essentiality of baptism, the reason we have the Lord’s Supper weekly and why we sing a cappella. They’re DNA issues. We need to teach and repeat topics like the importance of having a Messiah, and the significance of Jesus crucifixion so that they also become deeply ingrained in our theology.
- Can you come up with some additional implications of thinking of Jesus as Messiah?
- Would it seem strange to you if our church name was “Church of Messiah”? Would it make you think about church or your relationship with Jesus differently?
- Do you agree with the statement, “The Kingdom of God replaces nationalism for Christians”?