John Owen wrote that the Person of Christ is the best, the most noble, useful, and beneficial object that we can be conversant about in our thoughts, or cling to in our affections. Owen’s comment reflects Scripture’s emphasis regarding the centrality of Christ for the whole Christian life.
Scripture presents the importance of thinking rightly about Christ in multiple ways. I will highlight just three and focus on the third and how it informs manhood.
1. Thinking rightly about Christ is important for its emphasis in Biblical revelation.
The Person and Work of Christ as the only Redeemer of sinners is the message of the entire Bible, which is both authoritative and sufficient. This point is made clear in Luke’s Gospel where Luke records Jesus expounding from Moses and the Prophets. From the promise of the seed who would crush the serpent’s head in Genesis 3 to the messenger of the covenant in Malachi 3, the Old Testament in types, shadows, and promises point to the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ. The Scriptures are the record of God’s redemption for his glory through the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
2. Thinking rightly about Christ is important for its centrality to the Christian faith.
Many people have thoughts about Jesus. But not every thought about Jesus is worth having. Matthew records an interesting account in his Gospel about the importance of thinking rightly about Christ. Christ asks his disciples what others thought about him. Who do men say that I am? These people had seen Jesus, and even received the benefits of his miraculous acts, such as being fed. Yet, they confused him with John the Baptist, Elijah, Jeremiah, or one of the other prophets. They saw him. They thought about him. But their thoughts were wrong. Jesus then turned the question to his disciples. Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This reply received Christ’s commendation. Christ also reminds us that this kind of knowing comes from God the Father. So, we learn that we must think about Christ according to his self-revelation and that we need grace. To think of Christ wrongly is detrimental to the faith.
3. Thinking rightly about Christ is important because Christ is the model for the Christian life.
Jesus Christ is more than an example for believers, but he is not less. The exemplary element of Christ’s life is not detached from his saving work. All Christians are conformed into the image of Christ. He is the image of the invisible God and, therefore, he is what Christians are to look like. Scripture teaches that Christians are being renewed in the image of the God who created us (Col. 3:10).
The incarnation reveals the wonder of God’s grace as he has sent his Son to earth, the image of the invisible God (Col. 1:15). There are two significant passages that link the incarnation to how Christians are to live. These passages instruct men how they are to live and to lead in all spheres of their lives. In Matthew 20, two disciples, via their mother, request to have places of prominence in God’s kingdom. The other disciples are angered by this request, as it would seemingly relegate them to lower positions in the kingdom. Christ’s reply is stunning.
He exposes their request to indicate the culture’s understanding of power and rule. He tells them that the rulers of the Gentiles lord over their subjects and exercise their authority in a harsh manner. In other words, there is a harsh macho understanding of leadership. But it is not to be so in Christ’s kingdom. Rather, to be great is to serve. Humility is to characterize leadership in the Christian life. And Christ points to himself as the chief example (Matt. 20:28). After explaining the greatness he expects, he says, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.” The disciples, as we should, understood that Christ was not asking them to vicariously lay down their lives for the sins of others. Yet, there is something about the incarnation that is to govern and shape how we as believers in general, and men in particular, are to live. We are to be servants and to be humble.
The second passage points to the same truth. Paul, in Philippians 2, offers one of the most beautiful and rich statements of the Person of Christ and his incarnation. The deep Christological statement regarding the deity of Christ and his taking on human flesh is set within the context of exhorting believers to humility, love, and unity. As with Matthew’s account in chapter 20, Paul is giving instruction to Christians, both men and women. We are to be conformed to his image. And Christ’s willingness to take on flesh to ransom his people should instruct all believers how we are to live selfless lives. This means for men that they are to lead with humility and with selflessness. Christian men do not need to take on views of macho-ness (if that is even a word) that are antithetical to Scripture. Christian men are to be like Christ. This means that they accept their role and execute it with humility, selflessness, and love. Christ’s incarnation is not to be thought of one month a year. Rather, the incarnation is to captivate us and motivate us each day to live for and like Christ, our Savior and Redeemer.
Charles M. Barrett teaches Church History and Systematic Theology at Geneva Reformed Seminary and serves as Assistant Minister at Faith Free Presbyterian Church in Greenville, SC. He is married to Bridget Barcott Barrett and together they parent their son, Taylor, and daughter, Sophia. He sporadically tweets at @BarrettCharles.
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