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Originally published in "The Lord's Coming Herald & Wesleyan Bible Prophecy Advocate," Spring Edition 2007

Preaching Christ

"For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord; and ourselves your servants for Jesus sake" (II Cor. 4:5).

The name "Christ" derives from the Old Testament concept of the Anointed One, or the Messiah. Preaching Christ for the early Church meant identifying the historical man, the flesh and blood person called Jesus of Nazareth, with the Old Testament promise of hope in the coming messianic Saviour, King, and Deliverer.

"We have found him, of whom Moses in the law, and the prophets, did write, Jesus of Nazareth the Son of Joseph!" (Jn 1:45). Such was Philip's first enraptured utterance of his new-found messianic faith. By that exuberant congnitive identification, and the signs and wonders that attested it, awareness of the man Jesus' messiahship in ever-widening circles spread.

It was Peter who stated the classic formulation of the primitive church's messianic confession in simple faith, and without equivocation: "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God!" (Matt. 16:16). In response to Peter's affirmation, Jesus declared that upon such committed understanding He would build His church, and the gates of hell would not be able to withstand the dynamism of His operation.

The keys for the establishment of the messianic kingdom of God's redemption on earth would attend the proclamation of Jesus as the Christ. All the authority and power of the God of heaven would decentralize to earth, and stand forcefully behind the envisioned messianic mission (Matt. 16:19). This revelation of Jesus as the absolute and universal Christ of Old Testament promise and hope, moreover, though divinely given (Matt. 16:17), was, nevertheless, to be kept under wraps until after a necessary atonement had been made for all the human race (Matt. 16:20-21).

At first, the disciples of Jesus only understood a part of the Old Testament conception of the Christ. They did not yet understand the aspect of His humiliation and His suffering, or the full implications of His universal sin-atoning mission. In common with many of the Jews of that day, they looked for a Messiah who would satisfy the noble aspirations of human nature--a "positive thinker" in modern jargon--who would bring the people to their highest potential of self-actualization. At this point, they did not understand that the Son of Man of regal glory was also, at the same time, the Lamb of God slain from the foundation of the world to bear the sins and sorrows of the many, and to make reconciliation for the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53).

The crescendo of miraculous events that attended the close of Jesus' earthly manifestation--His bodily resurrection, His ascension, and the Pentecostal effusion of the Holy Spirit--brought the followers of the Christ into a full realization of what Christianity was all about, and what it meant to proclaim Messiah to all the world. The concept of a universal Saviour became a consuming passion. To preach Christ meant to preach the crucifixion and the resurrection: Christ died for our sins, was buried, and rose again the third day, according to the Scriptures (I Cor. 15:1-7).

The good news is that people can, and do, still get biblically "saved" by hearing preachers who are ideologically on track expound the simple gospel story of the Christ.

Preacher, brother, friend, are you really ideologically on track?

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