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Apostolic Teaching on Jesus

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1. After the Ascension:

The earthly life of Jesus is finished. With His resurrection and ascension a new age begins. Yet the work of Christ continues. As Luke expressively phrases it in Ac 1:1,2, the Gospels are but the records of "all that Jesus began both to do and to teach, until the day in which he was received up." It is beyond the scope of this article to trace the succeeding developments of Christ’s activity through His church and by His Spirit; in order, however, to bring the subject to a proper close, it is necessary to glance, even if briefly, at the light thrown back by the Spirit’s teachings, after the ascension, on the significance of the earthly life itself, and at the enlargement of the apostles’ conceptions about Christ, consequent on this, as seen in the Epistles and the Apocalypse.

2. Revelation through the Spirit:

3. Gospels and Epistles:

It is therefore a question of much interest how the apostolic conceptions thus gained stand related to the picture of Jesus we have been studying in the Gospels. It is the contention of the so-called "historical" (anti-supernaturalistic) school of the day that the two pictures do not correspond. The transcendental Christ of Paul and John has little in common, it is affirmed, with the Man of Nazareth of the Synoptic Gospels. Theories of the "origins of Christianity" are concocted proceeding on this assumption (compare Pfieiderer, Weizsacker, Bousset, Wernle, etc.). Such speculations ignore the first conditions of the problem in not accepting the self-testimony of Jesus as to who He was, and the ends of His mission into the world. When Jesus is taken at His own valuation, and the great fact of His resurrection is admitted, the alleged contradictions between the "Jesus of history" and the "Christ of faith" largely disappear.

4. Fact of Christ’s Lordship:

It is forgotten how great a change in the center of gravity in the conception of Christ’s person and work was necessarily involved in the facts of Christ’s death, resurrection and exaltation to the right hand of power. The life is not ignored--far from it. Its influence breathes in every page, e.g. of Paul’s epistles. But the weakness, the limitations, the self-suppression--what Paul in Php 2:7 calls the "emptying"--of that earthly life have now been left behind; the rejected and crucified One has now been vindicated, exalted, has entered into His glory. This is the burden of Peter’s first address at Pentecost: "God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified" (Ac 2:36). Could anything look quite the same after that? The change is seen in the growing substitution of the name "Christ" for "Jesus" (see at beginning of article), and in the habitual speaking of Jesus as "Lord."

5. Significance of Christ’s Person:

Jesus had furnished His disciples with the means of understanding His death as a necessity of His Messianic vocation, endured for the salvation of the world; but it was the resurrection and exaltation which shed light on the utmost meaning of this also. Jesus died, but it was for sins. He was a propitiation for the sin of the world (Ro 3:25; 1; Joh 2:2; 4:10). He was `made sin’ for us (2Co 5:21).

6. Significance of the Cross and Resurrection:

The strain of Isa 53 runs through the New Testament teaching on this theme (compare 1Pe 1:19; 2:22-25, etc.). Jesus’ own word "ransom" is reproduced by Paul (1Ti 2:6). The song of the redeemed is, "Thou didst purchase unto God with thy blood men of every tribe," etc. (Re 5:9). Is it wonderful, in view of this, that in the apostolic writings--not in Paul only, but in Pet, in Jn, in He, and Rev, equally--the cross should assume the decisive importance it does? Paul only works out more fully in relation to the law and the sinner’s justification a truth shared by all. He himself declares it to be the common doctrine of the churches (1Co 15:3,4).

7. Hope of the Advent:


The literature on the life and teaching of Jesus is so voluminous, and represents such diverse standpoints, that it would be unprofitable to furnish an extended catalogue of it. It may be seen prefixed to any of the larger books. On the skeptical and rationalistic side the best account of the literature will be found in Schweitzer’s book, From Reimarus to Wrede (English translation, Quest of the Historical Jesus). Of modern believing works may be specially named those of Lange, Weiss, Ellicott Edersheim, Farrar, D. Smith. Dr. Sanday’s book, The Life of Christ in Recent Research, surveys a large part of the field, and is preparatory to an extended Life from Dr. Sanday’s own pen. His article in HDB has justly attracted much attention. Schurer’s Hist of the Jewish People in the Time of Jesus Christ (ET, 5 volumes; a new German edition has been published) is the best authority on the external conditions. The works on New Testament Biblical theology (Reuss, Weiss, Schmid, Stevens, etc.) deal with the teaching of Jesus; see also Wendt, The Teaching of Jesus (ET). Works and articles on the Chronology, on Harmony of the Gospels, on geography and topography (compare especially Stanley, G.A. Smith) are legion. A good, comprehensive book on these topics is Andrews, Life of our Lord (revised edition). The present writer has published works on The Virgin Birth of Christ and The Resurrection of Jesus. On the relations of gospel and epistle, see J. Denney, Jesus and the Gospel.

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