What do you know about the Christ? It’s one of those things that we sort of take for granted, but we’re living in a world unlike what we’re used to that is among other things challenging even the basics of Christianity. Even groups that cast themselves as “Christian” (mainline denominations, not just fringe groups) are teaching that Jesus is little more than a great religious man in history. In such a world we need to be reminded of who the Christ is.
The next several posts will talk about the God-breathed truth we can know about Christ. Of course, because it’s a bulletin article, it can hardly cover everything; but give the hope is that it will be a good place to start. And we’ll start with His “pre-incarnation”—His existence before He became a man.
- Pre-existence with God the Father
Although some religious groups describe the Christ as being a lesser, created being, the Bible proclaims Him to have existed before anything else along with God the Father. The Christ is deity and has all the nature of deity, including being eternal—no beginning and no end—never created. For example, Jesus prayed to the Father, (John 17:5) “And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.” And we can also note (in a verse we’ll quote again for a different reason, John 1:1, 2) “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” There’s an important point here: If the Christ were the beginning of creation (as some groups teach, misunderstanding Col. 1:15), He could not have been in the beginning with God.
- Equality with God the Father
Jesus is made of the same “spirit-stuff” as God, the Father. Paul tells us clearly about His nature, (Philippians 2:5, 6) “Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.” The apostle John also tells us through inspiration, (John 1:1, 2) “In the beginning was the Word [referring to Jesus, John 1:14), and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning.” There are a couple of crucial things to notice here: 1) The Christ’s very nature is God (that is, He is composed of the same “God-stuff” as God the Father) and 2) He is completely equal with God the Father.
- The Lamb slain before the foundation of the world
God anticipated that man would sin before He ever created the world, and before the world was created He had planned on redeeming us. And Peter tells us that Christ was chosen as the key figure in man’s redemption (1 Peter 1:20) “He [Jesus] was chosen before the creation of the world, but was revealed in these last times for your sake.” Paul, then, tells us that we were chosen in Him (Ephesians 1:4) “For he chose us in him [Jesus] before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight…” And John’s Revelation puts the who thing together: (Revelation 13:8) “All who dwell on the earth will worship him, everyone whose name has not been written from the foundation of the world in the book of life of the Lamb who has been slain.”
- Greater than the angels
Although angels in the Old Testament are often called “sons of God”, this is actually a Semitic idiom for any spiritual, angelic being. The writer of Hebrews makes absolutely sure that no one misunderstands this point, when he writes, (Hebrews 1:5, 6) “For to which of the angels did He ever say, “YOU ARE MY SON, TODAY I HAVE BEGOTTEN YOU”? And again, “I WILL BE A FATHER TO HIM AND HE SHALL BE A SON TO ME”? And when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says, “AND LET ALL THE ANGELS OF GOD WORSHIP HIM.”” The Christ is no angel, He was, is, and will always be deity!
“Who created the earth?” The usual answer is “God.” And that’s correct, but we often are thinking of “God” as God the Father. The truth of the matter is that it was the Christ, who was actual Creator of the universe. Paul makes this plain in Colossians 1:15, 16 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities–all things have been created through Him and for Him.” And as the Hebrews writer speaks of the Christ, he says, (Hebrews 1:2) “in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world.” The Christ is the actual Creator.
- All things hold together
The Christ, however, is not just the Creator, He is also the sustainer, the “glue” of the universe. As Paul finishes talking about Christ’s creative role (Col. 1:15,16), he then goes on to speak of His sustaining role in holding the universe together, “He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17). No small wonder that there was an earthquake as He died on the cross—the Great Sustainer had just bruised His heel (Gen. 3:15)!
- Old Testament appearances
But Jesus birth was not the Christ’s appearance in the pages of the Bible. As Joshua privately contemplated the great task of conquering Canaan a “stranger” appeared to him and the following event happened: Joshua 5:13-15 “Now when Joshua was near Jericho, he looked up and saw a man standing in front of him with a drawn sword in his hand. Joshua went up to him and asked, “Are you for us or for our enemies?” “Neither,” he replied, “but as commander of the army of the LORD I have now come.” Then Joshua fell face down to the ground in reverence, and asked him, “What message does my Lord have for his servant?” The commander of the LORD’s army replied, “Take off your sandals, for the place where you are standing is holy.” And Joshua did so.” Likewise the Christ may have also appeared in the story of Haggar running from Sarah, the appearances to Moses, a theophany that came to Manoah, and manifestations to Isaiah and Zechariah.
The major point here as we reflect on these multiple references to the pre-existent Christ is that Jesus is no mere man; He is no mere angel; He is not a creature of any kind; He is God. He is part of the eternal God; the One who created EVERYthing, the One who was chosen to be the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, and the one in many ways that seems to be the Father’s interface with the material world even before His incarnation—rightfully worshipped by men and angels.
And wonder of wonders, He clothed Himself in flesh to learn, to obey, to suffer, to be tried, to be tempted, and to experience everything we experience—and redeem us. More next week.