Dear Church Family,
It’s been exciting for me as a preacher these past few weeks as we’ve begun our series in the Gospel According to John in worship on Sunday mornings. This coming Sunday will be our third and final sermon in the Prologue of John’s Gospel (John 1:1-18). It has been refreshing to spend some time in these verses, examining the doctrine of Christology (the study of the Person and work of Jesus Christ, the God-man).
Christology and Salvation & Evangelism
The Biblical teaching concerning the Person and work of Christ is summarized in the Westminster Confession of Faith in this way:
The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fulness of time was come, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the Virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man. (WCF 8:2)
Christology is a foundational doctrine of the Christian faith. It is crucial to our salvation. If you don’t understand who Jesus is and what He’s done, then you can’t know the gospel, let alone believe it. Having a right (and biblical) Christology is also crucial to our evangelism. We must be sure to present to the world the Jesus of the Bible, not a Jesus of our own making. So, it is always good to remind ourselves of what the Bible teaches concerning the second Person of the Trinity.
Christology and Categories
The doctrine of Christology also informs and is informed by what we believe about many other things (there’s a reciprocal give and take in the things that we believe). I call this inter-weaving of ideas and doctrines “sweater theology” – pull the thread of a particular doctrine, and you eventually destroy or change the ‘sweater’ of your theology.
There are many very practical ways in which our Christology also effects what we believe about various other doctrines, as well: anthropology (the study of man), soteriology (the study of salvation), ecclesiology (the study of the church), harmatology (the study of sin), hermeneutics, redemptive history, covenant theology, and the list goes on and on. We’ve addressed some of these various topics in our look at John’s Gospel thus far, and we will no doubt address these and others as we proceed in this preaching series.
Christ, the only Mediator between God and man
In our sermon from this past Sunday, I made a brief comment with regard to the unbiblical teaching of referring to the husband and father as the priest of the home or the priest of his family. That comment came by way of application of the Apostle John’s teaching that John the Baptist was not the Light, but was sent from God as a witness to testify about the Light (John 1:6-8). J.C. Ryle makes the point that these verses teach us the true nature of a Christian minister’s office:
Christian ministers are not priests, nor mediators between God and man. They are not agents into whose hands men may commit their souls, and carry on their religion by deputy. They are witnesses. They are intended to bear testimony to God’s truth, and specially to the great truth that Christ is the only Saviour and Light of the world.
As quoted above, the Westminster Confession of Faith puts it this way: Christ is the only Mediator between God and man (emphasis added). So, as Ryle points out, the Christian minister is not a priest or mediator between God and man. Nor is the Christian husband or father a priest or mediator for his family.
After the service, I received a couple of questions about this view. This view probably isn’t prevalent among our congregation – and perhaps even the erroneous idea that a Christian husband and father might be called a ‘priest of his home’ is new to many; however, it’s something that we ought to be aware of. The movement that describes itself as “Biblical Patriarchy” has grown in influence. Unfortunately, it has grown in influence particularly in conservative Presbyterian and Reformed circles, and especially amongst homeschoolers (full disclosure: we homeschool our children).
The “Biblical Patriarchy” Movement
Rachel Miller, the New Editor of the Aquila Report, has effectively highlighted the dangers of the “Biblical Patriarchy” movement in a couple of article: What’s Wrong With Biblical Patriarchy? and The Soul-numbing Dangers of Patriarchy. She was also interviewed on a podcast of The Mortification of Spin (part of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals): Sinister Headship. To learn more about the insidious nature of “Biblical Patriarchy” and the abuse that often goes along with it, I recommend reading these articles and listening to the podcast.
As this movement relates to our present sermon series and the particular topic at hand, though, it does also help to highlight the importance of proper categories in theology as the blurring of categories often leads to problems. I’ve written about this issue of the importance of maintaining proper categories before here.
As the only Mediator between God and man, Jesus is also called Christ “because he was annointed with the Holy Ghost above measure; and so set apart, and fully furnished with all authority and ability, to execute the offices of prophet, priest, and king of his Church, in the estate both of his humiliation and exaltation” (WLC 42). To refer to a Christian husband and father as the ‘priest of his family’ applies an office to a sinful human being which, in the New Covenant, is only applied to the perfect God-man, Jesus Christ – and only He can fulfill this office of a priest. Not only does this blurring of categories esteem the role of husband and father more than it should (and may potentially lead to abuse of that role), but it diminishes the role of our Savior.
Toward the Praise of Christ
A good and biblical Christology (the right understanding of the unique Person and work of Jesus Christ) helps to guard against our being carried away by every wind of doctrine. As we learn and study more about who Jesus is and what He has done, may our love, praise, and awe of Him grow more and more. The confession of every minister (and every husband and father) ought to be that of John the Baptist: Christ must increase, but I must decrease (John 3:30).
The Lord be with you!
- Pastor Peter M. Dietsch