Without dispute, Jesus is the name upon which men and women must call in order to be saved. In the very early stages of the church’s development, it is clear that the name of Jesus was the chief stumbling block to those opposed to the gospel.
The Jewish religious leaders were ‘greatly annoyed because [the apostles] were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead’ (Acts 4:2).
Peter responded by preaching that ‘Jesus is the stone that was rejected by you’, yet they did not listen and ‘charged them not to speak or teach at all in the name of Jesus’ (Acts 4:11, 18). Sinful men will always do all they can to suppress the truth concerning the person of Jesus Christ, God’s Son.
It is his redemptive, new covenant name that is given to the church for prayer, preaching, administering the sacraments and evangelising the lost.
However, the Western church seems to have forgotten to highlight that ‘Jesus’ is the name, not only of the incarnate Redeemer, but also of the second person of the Trinity. In evangelism and preaching, we must seek to recover the connection between Jesus, the mediator who stands between men and God (1 Timothy 2:5, Hebrews 8:6; 9:15), and the triune God, who is ‘the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit’.
The proper articulation of this connection will give the church a clear identity and resolve many apologetic issues as well.
A Christ-Trinity hermeneutic is needed for evangelism and worship, so we can rightly explain both the gospel and the person of God. Too often, in both, Jesus appears dislocated. Somehow he is ‘suspended in mid-air’ and you are left unsure just how he is connected to God.
The church needs to ‘join the dots’, metaphorically speaking, to connect Jesus to the Trinity, by proclaiming him as the second person of the Trinity, who is the only mediator between God and men. ‘Jesus’ is equivalent to the Old Testament name ‘Joshua’ — a name that means ‘God is salvation’ or ‘God saves’. This is the news our lost world needs to hear preached.
While it is true that every generation needs to hear the gospel, the way it is articulated always needs to be thought through clearly in order to address the issues of any given day.
Contemporary challenges include multi-faith claims, political correctness in relation to sexual ethics, and the postmodern attitude that denies there is such a thing as truth. A freshly understood presentation of the gospel, with a more robust trinitarian framework, would undoubtedly strengthen the church for these challenges.
For example, feminist influences seek to strip away masculine language for the Trinity. But the second person is designated as ‘the Son’ and this cannot be changed.
Others try to dilute the uniqueness of the Son. But Jesus said, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6). We cannot compromise with other religious claims on this point.
He continued, ‘No one comes to the Father except through me. If you had known me, you would have known my Father also. From now on you do know him and have seen him’ (John 14:6-7).
We must evangelise using this whole statement, not just a part of it. The Son is the ‘way’ to the first person of the Trinity, God the Father, and this excludes all other religious claims.
The biblical concept of the Son of God as mediator presupposes the triune God, because a mediator has to be an intermediary between different persons. In addition, Christ as the sole mediator between God and mankind thereby excludes other, competing religious philosophies, ‘For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus’ (1 Timothy 2:5).
Job said, ‘For [God] is not a man, as I am, that I might answer him, that we should come to trial together. There is no arbiter between us, who might lay his hand on us both’ (9:32-33). Jesus Christ, through his death on the cross, burial, resurrection and ascension, is the only one who is both worthy and able to lay his hand on sinners and on the holy Trinity to bring about reconciliation. Now that is a message to be preached!
Kevin Bidwell is minister of Sheffield Presbyterian Church (other articles on http://kevinbidwell.blogspot.co.uk).