Christ, Truth, and Politics

Published in the Souvenir of Central India Theological Seminary of October 2005.


Pilate saith unto him, What is truth? (John 18:38)

It is interesting to note that the only instance where Christ ever met Pilate in recounted history was at His trial. The ensuing dialogue between both of them is intriguing. It heavily concentrates on the urgency of Truth in a world mismanaged by humans.

The trial of Christ at Jerusalem reminds us of the trial of Socrates at Athens. Tertullian might have been too quick to retort “What indeed has Athens to do with Jerusalem?” The unjust sentence of Socrates explicitly points out the fact that the greatest problem with humanity is not that it has not known the truth but that, to the contrary, having understood the ramifications of truth it has suppressed it and chosen to put an end to any voice that speaks on behalf of it. Weren’t there at least 80, of the earlier 220 who voted Socrates as innocent, who also later voted for his death penalty? Truth had less significance in the democratic Athens, whose laws Socrates himself highly respected. In Jerusalem as well, though Christ’s sentence was not decided through a Jury based on votes, yet it was the voice of the mob that prevailed against the truth.The obvious truth was that Pilate had found nothing worth condemning in Jesus. Yet, however, he talked of the Passover custom of releasing a prisoner and had Christ whipped despite the evidence that Christ was not a criminal.

The contrast between Socrates and Jesus is high at the point where Jesus begins to speak of a kingdom beyond this world and of His coming to bear witness to the truth. While for Socrates, truth had to be discovered through rational analysis, Christ claimed to know the truth and be a witness to the truth. While Socrates didn’t find any meaning in a world beyond Athens, Christ talked of a kingdom that transcends all spatial-temporal existence.

Pilate’s question to Jesus as to what was truth insinuates several meanings. He might have meant “Does truth mean anything at all?” or “What is truth in this situation?” or “Is truth absolute or relative?” or “Do politics and truth go together?” or “Even if there is something called Truth, is there any significance to it?” or “What truth are you talking about?” Whatever the import of the question was, the fact remains that Pilate found nothing appealing in any understanding of truth in a world that relativized everything to suit its selfish purposes.

Pilate had already become infamous for his hard ways of dealing with mobs. Josephus tells us of Pilate’s aversion of Jewish religious interference in his political moves. For instance, when he brought Roman banners with Caesar’s image on them, the Jews protested. He tried to put them down by deploying his troops only to find out that these people were committed to their religion more than they were committed to Caesar. In another instance, he sent his soldiers dressed in tunics to infiltrate the crowd and beat the offenders with clubs. They had protested against his secular employment of temple treasure. And so, now, when the Jews come to him with Jesus, he straight away dismisses them with the words “Take ye him, and judge him according to your law.” When they insist that he was a political malefactor, he takes him aside and asks him some questions only to find out that the Jews who once protested against the images of Caesar were now using the name of Caesar to get rid of Jesus. Later, Pilate finds himself accused of enmity against Caesar on grounds that he wished the release of Jesus. Understanding the breadth of experience Pilate had in politics, it is not amazing that his famous question “What is truth?” comes in response to Jesus’ statement that He was a King and had come into the world to bear witness to the truth. How could one be a King and also bear witness to the truth at the same time. Was the Roman Empire ready for such news?

Several centuries later, an Italian political philosopher by the name of Machiavelli was to write that a ruler is not bound by traditional ethical norms and is free to use whatever means available for his political purposes. His principles of power politics came to be known as Machiavellianism. Machiavelli proposed that it was better that a ruler be both loved and feared; but, since a combination of both was too difficult, it was desirable that a ruler be feared though not loved. His formulation of such principles was allegedly drawn from studies in Roman political history and the politics of his age. Unquestionably, tyranny and despotism are perfect possibilities in a political system that doesn’t recognize the sovereignty of God. Assuredly, every Nebuchadnezzar still needs a Daniel.

When questioned about His Kingship, Jesus promptly replied: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence.” This clearly recognized that force was indispensable to kingdom. Puzzling, however, is the way Jesus uses the concept of kingdom. He distinguishes between two kinds of kingdom: one, of this world; another, not of this world. He claimed to be the King of the latter with an additional comment that His servants didn’t help Him now because His kingdom was not from here. The word used for ‘world’ here is kosmos (world, order), not aion (age, course). It denotes this very physical world order that we live in. Important is also the phrase not from here, which is to mean that Christ’s kingdom didn’t have its origin or basis in this world. It is from above even as Christ is from above (the second man). And the King of this other-worldly kingdom is a witness of truth. His passion for truth led Him to come to this world confused by raging falsehood and deception. He said that everyone that belonged to the truth heard His voice. He was the King of the Kingdom of Truth. A few chapters earlier, He claimed to be the personification of Truth itself so that anyone who believes in Him and follows Him is delivered from the falsehood of this-worldly glory (which truly is darkness) and transferred to His kingdom of light. Knowing Him is far more urgent than knowing several diverse truths. He is the Truth that connects together all truths of past, present, and future and fills them with transcendent and eternal meaning. Pilate could not hear Christ’s voice. Dazed by Christ’s statements, he retorted “What is truth?” and left without waiting for an answer.

Immediately, he goes out and declares to the Jews: “I find in him no fault.” That was the truth. However, he added: But ye have a custom that I should release unto you one at the passover: will ye therefore that I release unto you the King of the Jews?” That was the falsehood. Why talk of releasing Christ as a criminal when no fault indicting Him had been found in Him? The ethical relativism of this-worldly politics thickens still further when the crowd demands the release of a notorious robber (they could endure physical robbery as long as their spiritual status was left untouched and their religiosity approved of). Pilate scourges Jesus and lets his soldiers humiliate Him thinking, perhaps, that this would soften the violent temper of the crowd. He still tries to stick closer to justice and truth though the current is tearing him away from it.

Jesus had told him earlier that His kingdom was not of this world. Pilate still seems to be out of touch with the import of His word. He asks Him: “Where are you from?” Jesus gave no reply. Pilate says: “Do you not speak to me? Do you not know that I have authority to crucify you, and I have authority to release you?” To which Jesus replies: “You could have no authority against Me unless it were given to you from above. Therefore he who delivered Me to you has the greater sin.” The relating of political authority to a transcendent Rulership above is significant. Hegel in his Reason in History writes regarding the role of the Divine in politics:

Religion is the sphere where a people gives itself the definition of what it regards as the True. Such a definition contains everything which belongs to the essence of the object, reducing its nature to a simple fundamental characteristic as focus for all other characteristics – the universal soul of all particulars. The idea of God thus is the general fundament of a people.

…secular existence is temporal and moves within private interest. Hence it is relative and unjustified. Its justification can only be derived from the absolute justification of its universal soul, its principle. And this is justified only as determination and existence of the essence of God. For this reason the State is based on religion.

Of course, Hegel writes of God, Religion, and Truth within the framework of his Phenomenology of the Spirit. But his insight into the necessity of truth and God as the unifying fundament of a people is great. Biblically speaking, God is the creator of man, and is the giver of not only political authority but also vision and direction to a nation. A nation which loses sight of God, will soon lose sight of practical value in truth and honesty. Private interest and engrossment with the present would reign high and become the ground for the release of despotism and tyranny. Jesus, by reminding Pilate that his authority was from above, was telling him that he was not autonomous in his field of politics. He was accountable to God. However, it is the one who handovers Jesus to Pilate that has the greater sin. Pilate has an opportunity to be just. He tries to release Jesus but is backfired by the crowd with the words: “If you let this man go, you are not Caesar’s friend. Whoever makes himself a king speaks against Caesar.” Threatened by such accusation, Pilate gives in to the demand of the crowd and handovers Jesus to be crucified, at the same time referring to Jesus as the King of the Jews, to the chagrin of the priests who, themselves having succumbed to the relative situation, ironically exclaim that they have no king but Caesar. Pilate, however, doesn’t stop here. He inscribes on the title on Jesus’ cross the words JESUS OF NAZARETH, THE KING OF THE JEWS and refuses to change it despite the chief priests’ protest. Somehow, Pilate seems to be attempting to stick close to the truth despite his obvious distance from it. He had already fallen prey to the public appeasement of secular politics. Truth had fallen in the earthly city.

But Christ, the Truth of God, did not die forever. He rose again on the third day. By His physical death on the cross, He put an end to the falsehood of this world order and rose again as the Firstfruits of a new world order founded on the very fulfillment of truth (His life and teaching), righteousness (His obedience), and justice (His sacrifice). If He didn’t arise humanity would have been left without any hope of justice and a life eternal that transcended this world. But He rose again. And one day, He will come back to judge the world according to Truth (Romans 2:2). He will return in the glory of His kingdom (Mt. 16:28; 2 Tim. 4:1) to inaugurate a new heaven and a new earth, the home of righteousness (2 Pt. 3:13).

 

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Law and Grace in Church Clothing

There is an increasing trend towards becoming trendy at church, which is not always bad. We must make a distinction between faith and culture; culture is dynamic and flexible; faith has to be absolute. The problem rises when faith attempts to claim elements of culture in order to sacralize them and render them inflexible. When faith tries to do that, then the result is a legalistic religious system that is very fundamentalistic. These issues were earlier discussed here. However, grace is not lawless either. The New Testaments cautions us against those who attempt to turn the grace of God into license for evil (Jude 1:4, NET).

Take the Example of Clothing

Let’s begin at the pulpit and one immediately notes at least 5 variants:
1. Those who stick to orthodox robes and cassocks or sacralized color definitions (e.g. white)
2. Those who stress on wearing business suits or traditional suits
3. Those who like to wear designer and more trendy clothes
4. Those who like to wear casuals.
5. Those who are comfortable with two or more of the combinations above
    (a) Those who are comfortable with 1-4
    (b) Those who are comfortable with 2-4
    (c) Those who are comfortable with 1,2,4 but not 3
    (d) Those who are comfortable with 2,3,4 but not 1
    (e) Those who are comfortable with only 2 and 4.
    (f) Those who are comfortable with only 1 and 2.
    (g) Those who stick to 2 and 3 or 3 and 4.

It is not attempted to state here who is right and who is wrong. However, it will become evident to the reader by now that the issue of law and grace is basic even to the kind of dress we choose to wear to church.

Now, while it does seem that the sacralizers (1) are particularly legalistic, the fact is that even those who maintain that only casuals “ought” to be worn to church are not less legalistic. On the other hand, there are those who look at dress in a more instrumental manner, as something to be used to suit some purpose. The wiser instrumentalists also know that dress-forms as cultural forms also communicate meanings and are cautious how they dress up. There are also revolutionaries who dress up to explicitly and blatantly communicate their revolt against some legalistic system. Then, there are the popularists who dress up in order to have a trendy following or to create a brand.

“Do not be conformed to this present world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may test and approve what is the will of God – what is good and well-pleasing and perfect.” (Rom.12:2)

“those who use the world as though they were not using it to the full. For the present shape of this world is passing away.”(1Cor.7:31)

“to dress in suitable apparel, with modesty and self-control.” (1Tim.2:9)

Suitable apparel refers to dress that suits the occasion and is comfortable to wear in the conditions. Modesty implies that the dress we wear must not be embarrassing and must protect shame, not be shameless and exposing privacy; dress must be honorable. Self-control means that our dress must not be provocative or appealing to the flesh but must exhibit self-control, temperance, and sound mind.

Christ the Anointed One

Published in Revive Magazine, Dec 23, 2016

THE titles “Christos” (Christ) in the Greek New Testament and “Mashiyach” (Messiah) in the Hebrew Old Testament mean “The Anointed One”. While there were many men who were anointed as prophets, priests, and kings in the Old Testament period, it is only Jesus who is particularly referred to as the Anointed One of God. Therefore, the title “Christ” or “Messiah” exclusively applies to Him alone. In this article, we will focus on an attempt to understand Christ as the Anointed One of God.

The Unity of Christ’s Anointing

A careful study of the Bible shows us the singularity and unity of Christ’s anointing as the Anointed Priest-Prophet-King of God—not three separate anointings, separate of each other, but one. He IS the Anointed One and His anointing includes all the offices of God’s work (of Mediatorship, of Manifestation, and of Mastership) through Him in the world. We can understand Him as the Priest-Prophet-King, the Divine Lord of the universe, the Image of the Invisible God (not made in the image, but is the image, Col.1:15), God, the Anointer, and the All-sufficient One.

The Anointed One is the Revelation of God (Prophet), the Ruler of all creation (Prince), and the Reconciler of all things (Priest) through whom and for whom is everything and in whom alone can all things be reconciled and be united (Col. 1:16; Eph.1:10). Therefore, we are saved, justified, can pray, and can have dominion in the Name of Jesus alone.

The Eternality of Christ’s Anointing

Under the Mosaic Law, the anointed priest (hakohen hamashiach) was one who was appointed in time, had to offer sacrifices for his own sins, and could be succeeded by another upon his death (Lev.6:20; 4:3; 6:22). The term of an earthly priest was finite; the rituals, repetitive; the effects, impermanent and imperfect. However, the office of Christ as the Anointed One of God is eternal, transcending the limits of time. Therefore, His one act of sacrifice was sufficient for eternity and His effects are absolute, permanent, perfect, and irreversible.

He incarnated as man in time. But as God, He is eternal. Therefore, His anointing is not contingent upon His humanity – i.e., one cannot say that Christ could not be called the Anointed One until after His incarnation as man. On the contrary, His anointing is independent of His humanity since He is the Source of all things and all things are through Him and for Him. It is because He is the Anointed One that He possessed the prerogative to incarnate as man and atone for the sins of the world. In that, His anointing preceded His incarnation. This is what Hebrews 1-2 is attempting to also teach us. Every time we have a heavenly declaration, we are told that He is the Son of God.

For to which of the angels did He ever say: “You are My Son, today I have begotten You”? And again: “I will be to Him a Father, and He shall be to Me a Son”? But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.” And of the angels He says: “Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.” But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your Kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You with the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” (Heb 1:5-9)

Now, it is possible that someone will argue, “See, there is use of tense here! And, we are told that God anointed Jesus because He loved righteousness.”. But, one must not forget that this declaration is not in time, but in eternity. Though He is the Anointed One because of the anointing, this precedence of anointing is not chronological but logical in the same way that He is called the begotten Son of God, but this begetting is not chronological, for He eternally is the Son of God. The angels did not begin worshipping Him after His ascension, but He is the One they worshipped from the foundation of the world. Also, it is false to argue that God anointed Jesus as King only after His ascension. He is King eternally.

It is also wrong to think of Him as being anointed by the Holy Spirit only after His baptism. He was never without the fullness of the Holy Spirit. But, some may misunderstand the statement of Peter in Acts 10:38.

How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. (Act 10:38)

It is important to understand that it is not the manifestation of the Spirit in Jesus that made Him the Anointed One. But, because He was the Anointed One, therefore, there was the manifestation of the Spirit in His work. Therefore, John could say only of Him:

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. (Mat 3:11)

It was not that He received the baptism of the Holy Spirit first and then He became the Baptizer with the Holy Spirit; but, He is the Baptizer eternally.

The eternal Priest-King anointing of Christ is stated by the writer of Hebrews as being after the order of Melchizedek:

For this Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God… first being translated “king of righteousness,” and then also king of Salem, meaning “king of peace,” without father, without mother, without genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life, but made like the Son of God, remains a priest continually…. And it is yet far more evident if, in the likeness of Melchizedek, there arises another priest who has come, not according to the law of a fleshly commandment, but according to the power of an endless life. For He testifies: “You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.” …. Also there were many priests, because they were prevented by death from continuing. But He, because He continues forever, has an unchangeable priesthood. Therefore He is also able to save to the uttermost those who come to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them. (Heb 7:1-3, 15-17, 23-25)

The Finality of Christ’s Anointing

The earthly priests, prophets, and kings were anointed with oil and ministered in divinely ordered earthly systems; therefore, they had to be respected (1Chr.16:22 – “Do not touch My anointed ones”). However, Christ the Anointed One was anointed with the Holy Spirit, eternally speaking in logical precedence, and He is servant of heavenly things.

But Christ came as High Priest of the good things to come, with the greater and more perfect tabernacle not made with hands, that is, not of this creation…. Therefore it was necessary that the copies of the things in the heavens should be purified with these [animal sacrifices], but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. For Christ has not entered the holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us (Heb 9:11. 23-24)

Christ is the Final Revelation of God through whom God has spoken in these last days (Heb.1:1,2) and is the fulfillment of all prophetic revelation (1Pet.1:10,11; Rev.19:10). He is the King of kings whose kingdom shall never come to an end (Rev.19:16). He is the Eternal Priest of God whose priesthood continues forever by the power of His endless life (Heb.7:25). This points to the sufficiency and finality of Christ in all things so that we are complete in Him (Col.2:9). It also speaks about the heavenliness of God’s new and final order and the Kingdom that comes from heaven, without the help of any human hand (Dan 2:34,44,45). This turns our eyes towards heavenly things where Christ is sitting at the right hand of God and in whom is our life hidden (Col.3:1-3).

Davidic Line and the Melchizedek Order

The priesthood of Christ was not after the Levitical order of Aaron, for Jesus was born in the tribe of Judah and His priesthood was after the order of Melchizedek, i.e. eternal (Heb.7:14-17). However, the kingship was given to the line of David by a divine covenant (2 Sam.7:12-16). Thus, in the Old Testament, we find Messianic prophecies that refer to Christ as David. For instance,

There I will make the horn of David grow; I will prepare a lamp for My Anointed. (Psa 132:17)
I will establish one shepherd over them, and he shall feed them– My servant David. He shall feed them and be their shepherd. (Eze 34:23)
David My servant shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd; they shall also walk in My judgments and observe My statutes, and do them. (Eze 37:24)

Yet, the Kingship of Christ preceded both Saul and David (1Sam. 8:7). Christ used a prophetic declaration made by David himself to prove to the Jews that the Messiah was not later but prior and above David.

While the Pharisees were gathered together, Jesus asked them, saying, “What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son is He?” They said to Him, “The Son of David.” He said to them, “How then does David in the Spirit call Him `Lord,’ saying: `The LORD said to my Lord, “Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool ‘? If David then calls Him `Lord,’ how is He his Son?” And no one was able to answer Him a word, nor from that day on did anyone dare question Him anymore. (Mat 22:41-46)

Conclusion

There is a danger in the Church of turning the eyes from the Anointed One to so-called “anointed” ones. Remember, even the devil was called an anointed cherub (Eze.28:14), but that anointing or chosenness didn’t make him spiritually flawless and perfect. He became puffed up with pride and fell from the glory of God. It is important for the Church to focus her eyes on Christ, the Anointed One of God, her Head, her Groom. In the New Testament, there is no anointing apart from the Spirit of Christ in us (1Jn.2:27). Because we belong to Christ and His Spirit is in us, therefore, we are witnesses of Christ the fulfillment of all prophecy, and we are kings and priests with Him.

To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and has made us kings and priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (Rev 1:5-6)

Vacuums, Covetousness, Temptation, and Victory

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. (Psa 23:1)
You are complete in Him, who is the head of all principality and power. (Col 2:10)

Covetousness is the desire-call of false and godless vacuum. Covetousness never desires God to fill its emptiness, boredom, greed, or desire because its hunger is false and godless. Covetousness looks for something more, something different, something other and is easily deceived into taking the unreal for real.

There are at least 3 kinds of vacuums:


1. Original Vacuum. This is the vacuum of infinity within the human spirit (Eccl.3:11). It can only be resolved by faith in the Infinite God and loving devotion to Him. A life without Truth, without God is a bottomless pit, infinitely empty, and that is hell. This vacuum manifests as meaninglessness, purposelessness, hopelessness. People try to cover it up by a false belief in either the immortality of personal soul or a recourse to nihilism (or nothingness, absurdity, meaninglessness, pointlessness).

2. Illusory Vacuum. This is a false vacuum created by false ideas, ideals, and allurements. Advertisements, for instance, are well known for creating a need where no such need is real. People buy an advertised object not because they need it but because the advertisement makes them unfulfilled without such an object and they desire fulfillment. The devil told Eve that she lacked something, though she lacked nothing; this false and illusory vacuum in her was her deception. She desired for the forbidden fruit because it was falsely projected to her that this was really desirable. This is how products are sold. The allurement was so strong that she felt bad that she, in her innocence, was kept away from this “good” thing. The allurement reeked with vile thoughts of suspicion, egoism, rebellion, and idolatry. She listened to the devil and forsook the commandment of God. Any mind that doesn’t keep the Word of God before it and listens credulously to any other voice that makes it feel unfulfilled or lacking is susceptible to fall. In the illusory state, the mind is deceived and turns to false things in order to fill a false vacuum. The resulting action is always covetousness, unfaithfulness, disobedience, and rebellion.

3. Addictive Vacuum. This is bondage. It is recurrent. It portrays a pattern. Addiction to drugs is one example of addictive vacuum. The bondage is intolerably strong and inescapable. There are also other addictions like addiction to self (narcissism), addiction to sex, addiction to silver, addiction to societal living, addiction to shopping, etc. Addictive vacuum is not just false, it becomes systemic warping the personality of the person. It enslaves the mind and will and emotion of the person and destroys his spirit. Therefore, deliverance is urgent.

Deliverance: “You shall know the Truth and the Truth shall set you free.” (John 8:32)

1. Knowledge of the Truth about the deception and about the bondage comes first.
2. Knowledge of the Deliverer, Christ, is crucial. Not just mental knowledge, but faith and commitment to and total submission to. The Son sets us free.
3. Reject all False Vacuum, covetous allurements, and anything that attempts to turn you from the Truth of God. They are all false and unreal and attempt to suck us away from the reality of God.
4. Be filled with the Holy Spirit “speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs [confessing to others complete satisfaction in God], singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord [rejoicing in His goodness all the time even when alone], giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ [always filled with gratitude for the gifts of God that makes us lack nothing, doubting nothing, being certain that God has given us all the best for us, not fearing anything], submitting to one another in the fear of God [honoring the true godly connections in life].” (Eph 5:19-21). The Spirit is Reality. The Spiritual is the True Real.
5. Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Gal 5:16)

Family Leadership

There are different models of Leadership:
1. Pyramid Leadership (Military, Hierarchial)
2. Functional Leadership (Team Playing)
3. Situational Leadership (Rising for the Situation)
4. Servant Leadership (Focuses on Serving)
5. Shepherd Leadership (Focuses on Leading, Protecting, Providing, Teaching)
6. Family Leadership (Leadership in the Father-Son Model)

Jesus gave us a picture of Family Leadership when He spoke about ministry and mission in the Divine Family. It was not a King who sent an Ambassador, but the Father who gave His only begotten Son. The Son learnt from the Father and obeyed His will.

We also find an example of Family Leadership in Paul’s mentoring of Timothy. Paul was not a boss, or a teacher, or a team-leader, or even a senior pastor to Timothy; he was a spiritual father to him.

The modern cry of the youth is for true spiritual fathers who can set an example, who can teach and also correct with authority, who can mentor them. The cry is not for celebrity figures and mass events. The cry is for a personal touch. For personal discipleship.

The Church is not a business or an organization; the Church is a family whose Head is God.