Monday, September 30, 2019

The Excellencies of Christ [and His Church]

This past week I was studying for my ACG class [topic is 'Mother Church'] and was reminded of my favorite sermon by Jonathan Edwards. No, it's not Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God (though that one is very good too). The sermon, titled 'The Excellency of Christ', is based on Revelation 5:5-6:
And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.” And between the throne and the four living creatures and among the elders I saw a Lamb standing, as though it had been slain...
Edwards points out that John is told by the angel that the Lion of the tribe of Judah can open the scroll. In his vision, it would be quite natural for him to expect to see this Lion; instead, in his vision he sees a Lamb.  Edwards reasons,

He is called a Lion….He is called a Lamb. That which I would observe from the words…There is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ. The lion and the lamb, though very diverse kinds of creatures, yet have each their peculiar excellencies.
Throughout the sermon, he helps the reader consider the diverse excellencies that meet in Jesus - the strength of the Lion, the meekness of the Lamb, the infinite majesty of God Almighty and the infinite condescension of the Suffering Servant. This leads Edwards to his application or 'uses'. First, there is an evangelistic use. He contends,
Let the consideration of this wonderful meeting of diverse excellencies in Christ induce you to accept of him, and close with him as your Savior. As all manner of excellencies meet in him, so there are concurring in him all manner of arguments and motives, to move you to choose him for your Savior, and every thing that tends to encourage poor sinners to come and put their trust in him: his fullness and all-sufficiency as a Savior gloriously appear in that variety of excellencies that has been spoken of.
In other words, what could you possibly need in a Savior that can't be found in Jesus? He is all-sufficient for every need you have.  The second use of this truth is for the Christian.
Let what has been said be improved to induce you to love the Lord Jesus Christ, and choose him for your friend and portion. As there is such an admirable meeting of diverse excellencies in Christ, so there is every thing in him to render him worthy of your love and choice, and to win and engage it. Whatsoever there is or can be desirable in a friend, is in Christ, and that to the highest degree that can be desired.
I love this sermon. It's rich, Christo-centric, stirs my affections and makes me want more of Christ. But what drew my mind from my study of ecclesiology to this sermon?  For the six weeks, I have been leading my ACG (Adult Community Group) through a study of the different images of the church in the New Testament. There are many - Paul Minear describes ninety-six images related to the church!  We haven't considered all ninety-six, but the ones we have are very diverse. The church as the Kingdom of God is an image to be held alongside the church as the Body of Christ. The church as a building is to be held alongside the church as a vine. The church as the Bride of Christ is meant to be held together with the church as a sheep pen. Diverse images for sure!

So why so much diverse imagery from the pens of the New Testament authors to describe the church? Let me plagiarize Edwards,
"There is an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in the church of Jesus Christ. The building and the vine, though very diverse kinds of images, yet have each their peculiar excellencies." 
No one image would suffice to sum up the beauty and the mystery of the Chruch. My 'use' of this truth mirrors Edwards. Let the consideration of this wonderful meeting of diverse excellencies in Christ’s church induce you to accept it (not reject or eschew it), serve it (instead of consume it), and love it, as Christ does.