Faithlife Sermons

Christ: More Than a Name

Heidelberg Catechism  •  Sermon  •  Submitted
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1 Corinthians 1:18–31 ESV
For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written, “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise, and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.” Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God through the folly of what we preach to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For the foolishness of God is wiser than men, and the weakness of God is stronger than men. For consider your calling, brothers: not many of you were wise according to worldly standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, even things that are not, to bring to nothing things that are, so that no human being might boast in the presence of God. And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Scripture: 1 Corinthians 1:18-31
Message: Christ: More Than a Name
We are at a point in making our way through the Heidelberg Catechism that it goes through the statements of the Apostles’ Creed. Many of those regard the events of Jesus’ life. I believe that both of our communities have spent much time through Advent, Christmas, and Lent going through the record of Jesus’ life, and for most of us, we have heard and read about him throughout our lives. If you are wondering why we are not stopping at every single Lord’s Day, that is why. Tonight we do want to look deeper at what it means for Jesus to be “Christ,” to focus on what his calling was and is, and finally to consider how Christ is at work in us. Jesus is more than a moral example for us to imitate, and more than a man who died and came back to life. We also see with our Catechism that being followers of him and bearing this identity has implications for us as well. 
What it means for Jesus to be “Christ” (or The Problem of Christ)
Brothers and sisters, this morning in Corsica, I brought up the slogan that we often hear around Christmastime, “Keep Christ in Christmas.” As we have been making our way through the book of Micah there, we encountered a prophecy of the one God would send to save his people—the one who we know to be Jesus. Paul in his letter to the Corinthians is talking about the same person, having already come, and he refers to him a few times as “Christ.” When people refer to Jesus in that way, we may think very little of it. We say Christ came and lived perfectly, he gave up his life, and freed us from the punishment that all of us deserve. But as we encountered in the Catechism a few minutes ago, what we speak in the name of Christ implies much more. It is much more than a name in the way that the child of Mary and Joseph was given the name Jesus. It is not a prefix; it is not his middle or last name, or a fancy nickname. “Christ” is Jesus’ title. 
Christ comes from the Greek “Christos”—and that being the translation of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” When we say that Jesus is the Christ, our attention is to be drawn to him being the “anointed one.” As we confessed, his anointing was given by God himself, and it shows that he has been sent with a purpose. God commissioned and blessed Jesus to carry out a specific mission while he lived on earth.  To be anointed as the Christ, means that only he could accomplish what God had intended for him. That ordination and anointing goes all the way back to creation; it is part of who Jesus is.
           When Jesus came into this world, he lived an average human life for the majority of his years. There were glimpses of him being special in the way his birth was announced and attended to. He was likely the easiest child and teenager to expect obedience from. It was not until he was a grown man when he began a career ministry that the broader population began to take notice of him. As he went into cities and to rural areas throughout Israel, he was proclaimed to be the “Lamb of God,” and from time to time we hear him called, “The Christ” by some of his followers.
Why should we have an idea about the background of the meaning of the word, Christ? The reason why it is important is because the early church had this understanding when they heard the title of Christ being used. It was not a title that was tossed around lightly. This mindset was the foundation upon which Paul wrote in verses 23 and 24, “We preach Christ crucified: a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those whom God has called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” Paul is declaring that what is at the core of the gospel is really two things that we would likely expect to be as far apart as possible, and yet they came crashing together.
           Over here we have Christ—this powerful title which the people knew meant that the one to save God’s people was finally here. Christ was from God, and he would do great things; he would rescue and get rid of sin and death. On the other side we have the criminal’s execution. An act of punishment, what we might think about in our earthly minds to be what is deserved for the worst offenders in our society. This is what we preach—the Christ was crucified, and that as essential for salvation! He died, the reigning king went to the grave for his unworthy citizens. 
           It does not make much sense. That is what Paul is alluding to in the rest of that verse—it is a stumbling block to Jews. They had been waiting years upon years, and then all of sudden when this Jesus did come and claim to be the Christ, he was killed. Even though he came back to life, several weeks later he disappeared and left them. That is not what they expected; he did not fit the mold of what they expected from the Great Messiah. 
But it was not only the Jews that Jesus did not sit well with, but he also said that it was foolishness to the Gentiles and we could say today that it seems pretty foolish to the world. We believe and put our greatest hope in someone who died—that is not the powerful leader that people want. People tend to expect a Savior to be someone who will stand up against any potential issue or opponent and remain strong; if they fail, we lose hope. Death or suffering makes him seem like everybody else. Jesus seemed to have limitations, why should he be worthy of worship? Believing in a Christ who not only died but was killed by men is something that many have trouble grasping. 
           Yet that is exactly why Christ is the power of God and the wisdom of God. It is in the messiness and confusion and the inability of people to comprehend how the Christ could be crucified that God is at work. It is not only Jesus as a man, but Jesus as the divine Savior, ordained and anointed by God, that this can be believed. That he will work and he will transform our minds to plant and grow faith in us. According to our own understanding and believing as sinful and broken human beings, we will not be able to believe this is true. That is what makes the work of God all the more incredible, and by which we see that the Christ is the only one who can do this.
What is his anointing for? (What it means for Jesus to be “Christ”)
Our catechism provides three offices that many of us are likely familiar with. He is the chief prophet, high priest, and eternal king all wrapped up in one. If we are to understand the role of Jesus as the Christ, these are three categories that show how God’s wisdom and power are on display. Jesus revealed what God’s plans and will for deliverance are. He sets us free by the sacrifice that he offered on the cross and continues that work by bringing our case before the Father. And he governs us and keeps us in freedom that he has won for us. 
           What we see in the unique role of being the Christ of God and of his church is that Jesus holds authority over all aspects of our lives. He is the true leader of God’s people, and as such, we might say he is totalitarian, but in a way that is the most merciful and beneficial to us. Because while he is ruling, he is almost mediating for us. Christ is the go-between for us and for God—he is able to do that as only Jesus can because he remains God and man. What Scripture reveals for us in the gospel record is that it has been wholly the work of the Messiah or the Christ to bring about the fulfillment of all that God has desired in his covenant plan for our redemption. 
The Catechism also recognizes that we take on the title of Christians and it puts before us that it is an important name. It is likely, scholars believe, that it was people outside of the church who gave followers of Jesus this distinction. That is interesting, that they would not just name early church followers after Jesus, but the recognition of Jesus as Christ had become so great that even unbelievers took notice. In 1 Corinthians one verse 30, we are told, “It is because of [God] that you are in Christ Jesus…Therefore, as it is written: ‘Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.’”
           Those who come to know and believe in Jesus, not just as a historical man, but as the Christ who gave his life to save, come not of their own accord but because of what God has done in them. The means that he has used and the message he has communicated to us has taken root. When that happens, our faith becomes who we are—then we are said to be in Christ Jesus. The anointing of Jesus to be our redeemer, to be our deliver is carried toward its fulfillment when he can make residence in our lives. When he moves in, we are called to be active participants in his body. We share in the anointing of Christ. We can never fully get away from who he is and what has accomplished. What we see in answer 32 is really a fitting expansion on what it means to boast in the Lord!
Seeing Christ at Work in Us (What it means that Jesus is Christ; what his anointing is for)
           Brothers and sisters, we as believers, as recipients of faith, are given the opportunity to testify to the power and wisdom of God and what Jesus has done for us. What we have the opportunity to do with our lives is to show the love he has given to us.  In order to do that, we have to remain connected to the source of our Christ—that is to God the Father, which we do through the working of the Holy Spirit. The purpose of faith is not to have it seem like we have picked the most logical option or the greatest earning potential in this world, that is not what Jesus Christ came to guarantee. Paul admits it may not seem like the wisest decision, and it is likely not to be the message promoted by the influential and the rich—it is foolish, the gospel is—yet God has used weak and unexpected means to accomplish his will.  
           The mark of the work of Christ is when we can see that what we prize the most, what we consider worth talking about, and desire to do is connected to sharing and living in a way that honors and glorifies what God does. If Christ is in us and his good news has gone to work on us, then our lives will be changed. They will be changed to reflect how God’s grace is impacting us. We need his grace, but receiving it we will show it to others. That is the work of Christ in and through us.
           In thinking about this as an anointing, in the language of the Catechism, we may not always feel that anointed. I came across this account of Robert Robinson, a well-known hymn-writer. At some point in his life, he lost the vitality in his relationship with God that he once had, and he wandered into sin. That troubled him, and so he decided to travel. The story goes that as he journeyed he met a young woman, and they began to talk about spiritual things. One day she asked him his thoughts about a hymn—and it just so happened to his astonishment, it was one of his own. It was “Come, Thou Fount of Every Blessing.” He tried to avoid talking about it, but finally she got to him for a response. 
           He wept in telling her that he actually wrote that hymn, and he confessed, “I’d give anything to experience again the joy I knew then.” Despite knowing all the right things, despite knowing who Christ is and what he had to offer, Robert Robinson was in a pit. This young woman reassured him that the “streams of mercy” mentioned in his hymn still flowed. Recognizing that nothing he could do but wholly the gift of God’s mercy because of Christ did he was able to turn back to the Lord. While God’s mercy may at times seem weak and foolish for those that do not know the Lord, when Christ works in us, we cannot help but be restored in knowing his grace. 
           As we come to know Jesus, and as we grow in our knowledge of the meaning of what he has done, let us remember that he is eternally the Christ. As we bear his name, he will be present to us. In his love and in his sacrifice, we never need to worry that he is not enough. Brothers and sisters, rest and live in the assurance that he reigns over us, and know that he has wholly fulfilled what God has promised he would. Amen. 
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