Throughout the New Testament, we encounter many titles for Jesus of Nazareth—“Son of God,” “Son of Man,” “Lord,” and others. However, the title that is given to Jesus most often in the New Testament is one that is familiar to us, but one that we do not understand well. It is the title “Christ.”
Why do I say that we do not understand this title well? I say it because “Christ” is used so often in conjunction with “Jesus” that we tend to think of it as His last name. However, “Christ” is not a secondary name for Jesus; He would have been known as “Jesus Bar-Joseph,” meaning “Jesus, son of Joseph.” Rather, “Christ” is Jesus’ supreme title. But what does it mean?
The meaning of Christ is drawn from the Old Testament. God promised the ancient Israelites that a Messiah would come to deliver them from sin. The idea of the Messiah is carried over into the New Testament with the title Christ. The Greek word Christos, from which we get the English word Christ, is the translation of the Hebrew term Mashiach, which is the source for the English word Messiah. Mashiach, in turn, is related to the Hebrew verb masach, which means “to anoint.” Therefore, when the New Testament speaks of Jesus Christ, it is saying “Jesus the Messiah,” which literally means, “Jesus the Anointed One.”
In Old Testament times, people were subject to anointing when they were called to the offices of prophet, priest, and king. For example, when Saul became the first king of Israel, Samuel the prophet anointed his head with oil in a ceremonial fashion (1 Sam. 10:1). This religious rite was performed to show that the king of Israel was chosen and endowed by God for the kingship. Likewise, the priests (Ex. 28:41) and prophets (1 Kings 19:16) were anointed at God’s command. In a sense, anyone in the Old Testament who was set apart and consecrated for a servant task was a messiah, for he was one who received an anointing.
But the people of Israel looked forward to that promised individual who was to be not merely a messiah but the Messiah, the One who would be supremely set apart and consecrated by God to be their Prophet, Priest, and King. So, at the time Jesus was born, there was a strong sense of anticipation among the Jews, who had been waiting for their Messiah for centuries.
Amazingly, when Jesus began His public ministry, few recognized Him for who He was, despite overwhelming evidence that He possessed an anointing from God that far surpassed that which had rested on any other man. We know that there was great confusion about Him even after He had been ministering for some time. At one point, Jesus asked His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” (Matt. 16:13b). He was taking the pulse of His culture, getting feedback regarding the rumors about Himself. In response to Jesus’ question, the disciples ticked off various views that were being put forward: “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets” (v. 14). Jesus was being identified with all kinds of people, but none of these speculations was correct.
Then Jesus asked the disciples, “But who do you say that I am?” (v. 15b). Peter answered with what is known as the great confession, a statement of his belief as to the identity of Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God” (v. 16). With these words, Peter declared that Jesus was the Christos, the Mashiach, the Anointed One.
Then Jesus said an interesting thing. He told Peter that he was blessed to have this understanding of Jesus’ identity. Why did He say this? Jesus explained: “For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven” (v. 17). Peter had received a divine insight that Jesus was the Messiah; it was not something that he had discerned by his own ability. Again, this amazes me because one would think that nearly everyone who encountered Jesus would have recognized Him immediately as the Messiah. After all, there is no shortage of information in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah—where He would be born, how He would behave, and what power He would manifest—and everyone could see what Jesus had done—raising people from the dead, healing all sorts of maladies, and teaching with great authority. But, of course, they did not. Jesus’ anointing was not immediately apparent.
Many people today have positive things to say about Jesus as a model of virtue, a great teacher, and so on, but they stop short of saying He is Messiah. This is the great divide between Christians and unbelievers. Only one who has been born again can confess that Jesus is the Christ. Can you?
The Will of God
Doris Day sang a popular song entitled "Que Sera, Sera," "What will be, will be." At first glance this theme communicates a kind of fatalism that is depressing. Islamic theology frequently says of specific events, "It is the will of Allah."
The Bible is deeply concerned about the will of God---His sovereign authority over His creation and everything in it. When we speak about God's will we do so in at least three different ways. The broader concept is known as God's decretive, sovereign, or hidden will. By this, theologians refer to the will of God by which He sovereignly ordains everything that comes to pass. Because God is sovereign and His will can never be frustrated, we can be sure that nothing happens over which He is not in control. He at least must "permit" whatever happens to happen. Yet even when God passively permits things to happen, He chooses to permit them in that He always has the power and right to intervene and prevent the actions and events of this world. Insofar as He lets things happen, He has "willed" them in this certain sense.
Though God's sovereign will is often hidden from us until after it comes to pass, there is one aspect of His will that is plain to us---His preceptive will. Here God reveals His will through His holy law. For example, it is the will of God that we do not steal; that we love our enemies; that we repent; that we be holy. This aspect of God's will is revealed in His Word as well as in our conscience, by which God has written His moral law upon our heart.
His laws, whether they be found in the Scripture or in the heart, are binding. We have no authority to violate this will. We have the power or ability to thwart the preceptive will of God, though never the right to do so. Nor can we excuse ourselves for sinning by saying, "Que sera, sera." It may be God's sovereign or hidden will that we be "permitted" to sin, as he brings His sovereign will to pass even through and by means of the sinful acts of people. God ordained that Jesus be betrayed by the instrument of Judas's treachery. Yet this makes Judas's sin no less evil or treacherous. When God "permits" us to break His preceptive will, it is not to be understood as permission in the moral sense of His granting us a moral right. His permission gives us the power, but not the right to sin.
The third way the Bible speaks of the will of God is with respect to God's will of disposition. This will describes God's attitude. It defines what is pleasing to Him. For example, God takes no delight in the death of the wicked, yet He most surely wills or decrees the death of the wicked. God's ultimate delight is in His own holiness and righteousness. When He judges the world, He delights in the vindication of His own righteousness and justice, yet He is not gleeful in a vindictive sense toward those who receive His judgment. God is pleased when we find our pleasure in obedience. He is sorely displeased when we are disobedient.
Many Christians become preoccupied or even obsessed with finding the "will" of God for their lives. If the will we are seeking is His secret, hidden, or decretive will, then our quest is a fool's errand. The secret counsel of God is His secret. He has not been pleased to make it known to us. Far from being a mark of spirituality,the quest for God's secret will is an unwarranted invasion of God's privacy. God's secret counsel is none of our business. This is partly why the Bible takes such a negative view of fortune-telling, necromancy, and other forms of prohibited practices.
We would be wise to follow the counsel of John Calvin when he said, "When God closes His holy mouth, I will desist from inquiry." The true mark of spirituality is seen in those seeking to know the will of God that is revealed in His preceptive will. It is the godly person who meditates on God's law day and night. While we seek to be "led" by the Holy Spirit, it is vital to remember that the Holy Spirit is primarily leading us into righteousness. We are called to live our lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. It is His revealed will that is our business, indeed, the chief business of our lives.