The Importance of Christ’s Deity

June 8, 2013 1:16 am

 

Currently Reading:

Pastoral Ministry: How to Shepherd Biblically

by John MacArthur and The Master’s Seminary Faculty

Category: Church Ministry

Thomas Nelson, 2005

 

 

 

 

This week I decided to post an essay on the topic of the importance of Christ’s deity, which is what I wrote for my Theology II class. Why is Christ’s deity important? Is it foundational to saving faith? Can it be compromised? Does it matter whether Jesus was partially God or only human? This response answers this crucial doctrinal question:

 

THE IMPORTANCE OF CHRIST’S DEITY

The deity of Jesus Christ is one of the most important doctrines of the Christian faith. It is the foundation and the basis for the gospel message and what distinguishes Christianity from all other religions in the world. No other religious or philosophical figure claimed to be God, whether in the form of only God or dual nature of God-man. Failure to believe in the divinity of Jesus Christ leads to a major misunderstanding of Christianity, and constitutes a belief in another gospel altogether. Despite Scripture’s clear statements regarding the divine nature of Christ, many throughout history and today do not believe in the deific nature of Jesus, even people within the evangelical community. They liken Jesus to being partially God or a glorified human being. However, this is not what the Bible teaches or what the majority of Christians throughout history believed about Jesus’ nature. Scripture clearly teaches that Jesus is divine, thus belief in Christ as God is necessary and important because the truth of Christianity, including the truth of Scripture, worship, and salvation, rests in this crucial reality.

Before beginning a discussion of the importance of Christ’s deity, it is imperative to begin by briefly demonstrating the Godness of Jesus Christ from the New Testament. One example of Jesus’ implied divinity and authority which only God can lay claim is found in the healing of the paralytic account in Matthew 9:1-8. After Jesus declares that the paralytic’s sins were forgiven, the scribes say in verse 3, “This man blasphemes.” This statement would in fact be true for anyone other than God incarnate, but since Jesus obviously placed Himself in God’s position, His words to the man were an unequivocal claim of divine authority.[1] The author Matthew not only portrays Jesus as divine, but Jesus Himself implies His divinity through His words and subsequently by His actions when He heals the paralytic, something only God has the power to do.

The authors of the New Testament also state, in theological reflections, the reality of Jesus’ divine nature. A prominent example is found in John 1:1-2, in which the text states, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being.” The opening verses of the book of John demonstrate Jesus to be a separate person from the Father, yet not different in essence or being. Jesus, as the Word, is portrayed as essentially God, and verse 2 shows Jesus as participating in the creation of the universe, which Genesis 1 shows was God’s task alone, and not angels or men. John here unequivocally affirms the Word’s deity, one who is on par with the Almighty Creator; both Yahweh and the Word – Jesus – are called theos, or “God.”[2] This passage shows that the Word Jesus has all the essence or attributes of deity. His intimate and eternal relationship with the Father gives credence to Jesus’ identification throughout the New Testament as the Son of God (Mark 1:1, Matthew 16:16, 1 John 4:15), who is different from the Father in Personhood and function, but the same in essence and being. The authors of the New Testament, and Jesus Himself, give no doubt in their words and writings that Jesus, in His human nature, was also God, fully equipped with power, authority, and truth.

Now that the deity of Christ has been established and discussed using New Testament references, there is the question of how important is the theology of Christ’s divinity for the Christian faith. Is it absolutely important to believe that Jesus is Lord? Is it an indispensable element of the gospel message and of Christian living? If so, then why? The next few paragraphs will answer the question of why Christ’s deity is important to the Christian faith.

The first reason why the doctrine of Christ’s deity is important is that it authenticates the inspiration and authority of Scripture. If Jesus is truly Lord, then this shows that Jesus fulfilled the messianic prophecies of the Old Testament, an act which not only authenticates the inspiration of the Old Testament, but gives credence to the Christian faith. An example of a passage in which Jesus’ deity affects the integrity of Scripture is Psalm 110:1-7. Jesus implies in Matthew 22:44 that He is the fulfillment of the messianic prophecy of Psalm 110:1-7, since this passage speaks about the Son of David, which the people in New Testament epoch acknowledged Jesus as (Luke 18:38, Matthew 1). However, Psalm 110 mysteriously portrays the Son of David as greater than David. He is on par with the essence of God, since verse 1 states, “The Lord says to my Lord…”

 This verse hints that there are at least two Persons within the Godhead, and one of those Persons is depicted in Psalm 110 as human, since He is David’s human heir and a perpetual priest interceding for the elect people forever. The prophesied Messiah is inescapably both human and divine, which only Jesus is by His deific nature and incarnation. David declared the nature of the Messiah in Psalm 110, and Jesus affirmed it in His words and ministry.[3] Jesus’ deity and life gives us a clear understanding of the meaning of Psalm 110 and affirms its fulfillment, showing that Scriptures are indeed the word of God.

Jesus’ deity is also vividly portrayed in the New Testament, being a theme of central focus particularly in the book of John to inspire trust and obedience to Jesus and, essentially, God’s Word. In John 2:13-22, Jesus cleanses theJerusalemTempleof its corrupt practices. When questioned by the Jews about His authority to do such things, Jesus states in verse 19, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.” Verse 21 interprets this saying of Jesus, commenting that it refers to Jesus’ body rather than theJerusalemTemple. This passage presents Jesus as the new temple, where proper worship is to be rendered. According to Jesus’ words in John 4:23, true worship is not measured by one’s presence in a physical location (theTemple). Rather, it is done according to a right heart, in spirit and in truth.

As the book of John proceeds, Jesus shows that in His incarnation and ministry, He constitutes the replacement of the entire Jewish festal calendar, including the festivals of Tabernacles (chapters 7-8), Dedication (chapter 10:22-39), and even Passover.[4] Basically, Jesus is the new temple that replaces the old sanctuary by virtue of His crucifixion and resurrection. All of sayings that direct worship to Jesus would be truly blasphemous if Christ were not God in human flesh. If Jesus were not divine, the point that the author John tries to make concerning the book of John would be futile and pointless, since Jesus would not have been the fulfillment of Old Testament Judaism. However, since Jesus is evidenced to be divine through His fulfillment of OT prophecy and the New Testament writers’ endorsement of His identity, this reveals that Scripture is truly God-breathed, efficacious, and trustworthy. Since the gospel message speaks on the necessity to believe in Jesus as Lord (Romans 10:9, John 3:16), the deity of Christ is of tantamount important to the Christian faith. Scripture commands us to believe in not only this gospel theology, but all the teachings found in the Bible (John 14:15, Deuteronomy 11:1) since they come from God. Failure to believe in Scripture’s teaching of Christ’s deity is to trivialize, ignore, or manipulate the Bible, which can lead a person to ignore other vital teachings about Christ and the Christian life.

The second reason that Christ’s deity is of importance to the Christian faith is that it informs believers of the true nature of the Godhead and of proper worship. Throughout biblical history, the Jewish people recited the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4) twice daily because this foundational confession affirmed the existence of the one true and living God and entailed that He alone is the proper object of worship.[5] To worship other gods, humans, or other created objects entails blasphemy against the one true God. Against the backdrop of the historic Yahweh religion, two astounding points come to mind. First, Jesus was fully human, yet He received the praise, worship, and adoration that is due only to God without ever rebuking people of idolatry (Matthew 14:33, John 20:28). Second, after Jesus returned to heaven as the glorified Lord and Messiah, praise and worship of Jesus intensified in the church (Ephesians 5:19, Philippians 2:9-11).

Since a mere human being cannot be worshipped, this entails that Jesus must also be God in nature. The life of Jesus portrays the fascinating reality that God is eternally existent through more than one Person. Passages such as Matthew 3:16-17, 28:19, and 2 Corinthians 13:14 shows that there are three Persons within the Godhead: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, which is a reality that was hinted at in the Old Testament (Genesis 1:1, 26) but given full light and understanding in the New Testament. Therefore, Jesus is apt to receive worship, devotion, confidence, and trust that God alone demands and deserves. Like the Father, Jesus is also the One whom prayer is directed towards and is the object of saving faith. Acknowledgement of Jesus as Lord and God as triune is absolutely essential to true understanding of God and proper worship of Him. Anything other than this constitutes apostasy, idolatry, and futile worship, whether it be from a Jew, Muslim, or professing Christian. The doctrine of Christ’s deity is so significance that to deny this would reveal oneself to be a false Christian who does not truly worship Jesus or God.[6] Since John 4:23 states the importance of worshipping God in spirit and in truth, the revelation of Jesus and the triune relationship is of utmost importance to worshipping God in the right way and having a saving relationship with Him.

In the New Testament, Jesus is presented as an additional object of saving faith, a reality not known before in the Old Testament times. In fact, God the Father in the NT is held up somewhat infrequently as the object of faith compared to Jesus.[7] This is not because Jesus is a competing object of faith separate from the Father. Rather, it is in Christ that God meets believers in salvation. Only because Jesus is fully divine, intrinsically sharing God’s nature and attributes, does He become a legitimate object of trust.[8] Therefore, pleasing and saving worship of God springs from an acknowledgement of the Person and deity of Christ, which is in full harmony with the monotheistic reality of the historic Jewish faith.

The third reason that Christ’s deity is important to the Christian faith is that it is the basis for a believer’s eternal salvation. In other words, our salvation depends on the reality that Jesus is God and not merely a glorified man. Why is this so? First, Jesus’ deity gives credence to the claim of His sinlessness (John 8:46, 2 Corinthians 5:21). If Jesus were not divine, then He could not have been sinless, since no human beings can be sinless by birth. All people are unrighteous by nature and deeds (Romans 3:10, Psalm 51:5, 1 John 1:8). If Jesus were not sinless, He could not have qualified to take our punishment upon Himself on the cross, for He would have needed to be punished for His own sins. Since only God is good and holy by nature (Mark 10:18, Leviticus 11:45), He alone is morally spotless and can empower the incarnate Christ to live out a truly sinless and obedient life. Thus, Jesus is fully qualified to be the perfect atonement and substitute for sinful humanity. As much as Christ needed to be God, He also needed to be human, since the debt of eternal justice is for man alone to pay, and not other created beings. That is why through Christ, humanity has an all-sufficient Lord and Savior. For the Son’s sacrifice on the cross to be efficacious, the Redeemer had to be both divine and human simultaneously without ever losing one nature.[9] The addition of Christ’s deity to His human nature is proof that His work on the cross has the power to save us, because our faith is futile if Jesus is forever dead and unable to grant us eternal life. The Son of God was able to sacrifice His human nature for our salvation and make it effective only because the death of that nature was not the end of his existence. It is because He remained fully divine throughout His earthly ministry (and even now) that death could not hold Him captive.[10]

Because of Christ’s finished work on the cross in His humanity and divinity, we are counted as righteous and just when we are united with Christ in repentance faith. Unionwith Christ means that Christians receive every benefit of salvation when they abide in Christ by faith.[11] Union with Christ is the application of salvation, in which the Spirit of God join believers to all Christ’s saving deeds, including His death (Romans 6:2-6), resurrection (Romans 6:4), ascension (Colossians 3:3), session (Ephesians 2:6), and second coming (Romans 8:19).[12] Being joined in Christ, we receive regeneration (Ephesians 2:4-5), justification (2 Corinthians 5:21), adoption (Galatians 3:26-29), perseverance (Romans 8:1), resurrection (1 Corinthians 15:22), and glorification (Colossians 3:4). Union with Christ is the central truth of the whole doctrine of salvation.[13]

When we abide in Christ by faith, the entire righteous, holy, and pleasing life of Christ is credited and counted to the Christian’s life so that He can be presented as perfect before the Father. God treated Jesus as if He committed all our sins so He can treat us as if we had lived Christ’s perfect life. The life of Christ is the basis for our merit before God so that we may have eternal life and all its benefits counted and reckoned to us. If Christ were merely a teacher or human being, His work on the cross would not have been efficacious or acceptable, and our union with Him would grant us no saving benefits. Since God alone is the author and finisher of salvation (Psalm 62:1, Jonah 2:9), only He is qualified to pay the penalty of sinful humanity on the cross and make people perfect by crediting His ministry work to their account when they abide by faith in Him. This union underlies and makes possible the entire process of salvation.[14] From beginning to end, people are saved only in Christ, and that union is a role only God could take on.

In conclusion, the doctrine of the deity of Christ is an indispensable one that is also exclusive to the Christian faith. No other religions or philosophies speak of a god who came to earth and took on human flesh to pay the penalty of man’s debt toward God so they can be made innocent and righteous. Christianity stands if Christ’s deity is true and falls it is not. If Jesus is divine, then He is the fulfillment of Scripture. His life testifies to the trustworthiness of Scripture, the power of God, the need to worship God in spirit and in truth, and the fact that there is salvation is no other name other than Jesus (Acts 4:12). The unbelieving world may misunderstand the life and nature of Jesus Christ, but the church must not for the sake of its missionary efforts to make disciples of all nations (Matthew 28:19) and preach the gospel to all creation (Mark 16:15). Christians must faithfully uphold the important doctrine of Christ’s deity if they desire to see God at work in their preaching and evangelism. To believe otherwise would prove detrimental to the cause of the gospel, and make Christianity a lifeless religion.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

 

Bray, Gerald. God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology.Wheaton,Ill.: Crossway, 2012.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.Grand Rapids,MI: Zondervan, 1994.

Kostenberger, Andreas J. “The Deity of Christ in John’s Gospel.” In The Deity of Christ, edited by Christopher W. Morgan & Petert A. Peterson.Wheaton,Ill.: Crossway, 2011.

___________. A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, Biblical Theology of the New Testament.Grand Rapids,MI: Zondervan, 2009.

Harris, Murray J. Three Crucial Questions about Jesus.Grand Rapids,MI: Baker, 1994.   

Hoekema, Anthony A. Saved by Grace.Grand Rapids: MI: Eerdmans, 1989.

MacArthur, John. Editor. The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible Updated Edition.Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006.

Murray, John. Redemption Accomplished and Applied.Grand Rapids,MI: Eerdmans, 1955.

Ortlund Jr., Raymond C. “The Deity of Christ in the Old Testament.” In The Deity of Christ, edited by Christopher W. Morgan & Petert A. Peterson.Wheaton,Ill.:            Crossway, 2011.

Peterson, Robert A. “Toward a Systematic Theology of the Deity of Christ.” In The Deity of Christ, edited by Christopher W. Morgan & Petert A. Peterson.Wheaton,Ill.: Crossway, 2011.

Stott, John R.W. The Authentic Jesus.London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1985.

Wellum, Stephen J. “The Deity of Christ in the Apostolic Witness.” In The Deity of Christ, edited by Christopher W. Morgan & Petert A. Peterson.Wheaton,Ill.: Crossway, 2011.

 


[1] John MacArthur, ed. The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Bible Updated Edition (Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006), 1375.

[2] Andreas J. Kostenberger, “The Deity of Christ in John’s Gospel,” in The Deity of Christ, ed. Christopher W. Morgan & Petert A. Peterson (Wheaton,Ill.: Crossway, 2011), 99.

[3] Raymond C. Ortlund Jr., “The Deity of Christ in the Old Testament” in The Deity of Christ, 49.

[4] Andreas J. Kostenberger, A Theology of John’s Gospel and Letters, Biblical Theology of the New Testament (Grand Rapids,MI: Zondervan, 2009), chap. 10.

[5] Stephen J. Wellum, “The Deity of Christ in the Apostolic Witness” in The Deity of Christ, 142.

[6] John R.W. Stott, The Authentic Jesus (London: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1985), 34.

[7] Murray J. Harris, Three Crucial Questions about Jesus (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1994), 77.

[8] Ibid., 77.

[9] Wellum, The Deity of Christ, 134.

[10] Gerald Bray, God is Love: A Biblical and Systematic Theology (Wheaton,Ill.: Crossway, 2012), 202.

[11] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 1256.

[12] Robert A. Peterson, “Toward a Systematic Theology of the Deity of Christ” in The Deity of Christ, 209.

[13] John Murray, Redemption Accomplished and Applied (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1955), 161.

[14] Anthony A. Hoekema, Saved by Grace (Grand Rapids: MI: Eerdmans, 1989), 59. 

 

The Disciple’s Prayer

June 1, 2013 11:55 pm

 

Currently Reading:

Christ’s Prophetic Plans: A Futuristic Premillennial Primer

General Editors: John MacArthur & Richard Mayhue

Category: Theology / Eschatology

Moody Publishers, 2012

 

 

 

 

I had a class on prayer in the Spring 2013 semester, and my final research project was on the topic of the Disciple’s Prayer in Matthew 6:9-15. After reading through the paper again, I realized how wonderfully helpful it can be to Christian discipleship and especially to prayer life, which is severely lacking in many believers’ lives. How important is prayer? What is it that we are to pray for? Is there a right way and a wrong way to pray? Is prayer meant to change God or to change me? Many of these questions are answered in the Disciple’s Prayer, in which Jesus spoke about the importance, content, and focus of prayer. Here is my paper from last semester:

 

MATTHEW 6:9-15

 

I. Introduction

Prayer is an integral part of the Christian life. Theologian Wayne Grudem succinctly defines prayer as the privilege of personal communication with God (Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994], pg. 376). Through prayer, Christians acknowledge their dependence on God, trust in His sovereignty over their lives and the affairs of world history, and are involved in activities with eternal significance. When Christians pray, the work of God’s kingdom is essentially advanced.

However, the content of prayer is very broad, as it can include petition, intercession, confession, waiting, affirmation, thanksgiving, and many other realities. To experience the fullness of communion with God and how to understand ourselves in relation to the Lord, Jesus gives us a short but excellent model for prayer which encapsulates God’s will for human prayer. This prayer is found in Matthew 6:9-15, often called the Disciple’s Prayer.

  1. The wrong way to pray

The prayer model found in Matthew 6:9-15 is set against the backdrop of apostate Jewish worship. In Matthew 6:1-4, Jesus speaks about the folly of doing charitable deeds (such as righteous morality and giving to the poor) for the sake of being noticed by men. Even speaking of prayer in verses 5-9, Christ exposes the hypocrisy of the religious leaders who pray with heartless, meaningless repetition for public show. Prayer must not be done to flaunt one’s own religious merit, but in humility to recognize God’s merit and worthiness. 

  1. The right way to pray

Access to God is explained in Jesus’ words in John 4:24, in which He states that believers must worship in spirit and in truth, without which there is ineffective worship of God. The correct way to pray is with a heart that has not only been regenerated, but one with a proper attitude (Matthew 15:8) that is inclined towards obedience and righteousness (Matthew 23:23). Prayer must be done for the sake of glorifying God and not oneself. Thus, the Disciple’s Prayer is an important and necessary model that shows believers what to pray for and how to pray as a way of life.

  1. The structure of the Lord’s Prayer

Matthew 6:9-15 should be recognized as a model and not merely a liturgy. It is notable for its brevity, simplicity, and comprehensiveness, in which verses 9 and 10 are directed toward God and verses 11-13 toward human needs (John MacArthur, ed., The MacArthur Study Bible [Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006], pg. 1371). This passage acts as a skeleton in which believers flesh out words of praise to the Lord. From it, Christians understand how they are expected to act towards the Lord and towards other people in the world, which Jesus explains in the concluding two verses.

Matthew 6:9-15 is essentially a prayer that explores themes of God’s character, our own character, His interests versus our own interests in life, and understanding our role in relationship to Him (Bryon D. Stuhlman, “The Lord’s Prayer in Worship.” [Word & World 22 no 1, Winter 2002], pg. 78). The next section explores eight principles of prayer found in the Disciple’s Prayer, which we must understand and submit ourselves to if we want to be obedient to God and have an effective, well-informed prayer life.

 

II. Eight Principles of Matthew 6:9-15

A. Unselfishness

The Disciple’s Prayer begins in verse 9, in which Jesus instructs believers to “Pray, then, in this way…” Jesus sets the stage for the heart and content of prayer, which He begins by stating, “Our Father who is in heaven…” The first words acknowledge the principle that prayer must be rooted in unselfishness. This unselfishness is manifest in a Christian’s dependence on God, who is a loving and wise Father ruling over all from His heavenly throne. The idea of God as Father is rooted in the Old Testament, in which the Jewish people viewed God as the Father of Israel, the nation He chose to be His special people (Isaiah 63:16; Jeremiah 31:9).

Jesus speaks of the reality of a more personal intimacy when He spoke of God as a Father to individuals, both Jew and Gentile, when they come to faith in Christ. Passages such as Acts 17:28, John 1:12, and Romans 8:14 teach that when people believe in the name of God’s Son, they become children of God, whereas those who remain hardened in unbelief are “children of the devil” according to such passages as John 8:44 and Ephesians 2:2. Because believers belong to God the Son, they can come to God as His beloved children, and God relates to them as an intimate and accessible Father.

The principle of unselfishness is further rooted in the understanding of “Our Father” in the opening words of the verse. The author Matthew’s use of the plural first person pronoun instead of the singular indicates the communal nature of the Christian faith (MacArthur, Matthew 1-7 [Chicago, IL: Moody, 1985], pg. 376). Christianity is not a selfish or self-serving religion, but one that involves and impacts the entire church. Because there is no singular personal pronoun in the entire Disciple’s Prayer, Christians pray holding up to God what is best for all, not just for one individual. They can also be involved in praying corporately, imploring God to both the body of Christ and individual believers in their needs.

Recognizing God as a personal Father, as the transcendent Being in heaven powerful enough to meet our needs, and Lord who considers the interests of all within the church, Christians are called to be unselfish. They are expected to rely on God for guidance, and be in fellowship with other believers so as to serve them and pray for what is best for them.

B. Reverence

The theme of reverence captures the last sentence of verse 9, which says, “Hallowed be Your name.” Jesus states that God’s name is to be hallowed in the life of the Christian. God’s name captures all that God is – His character, motives, plan, will, power, etc. To fail to hallow, bless, or revere God’s name is to curse it, or take it in vain, which is a violation of the Fifth Commandment (Exodus 20:7). Therefore, reverence to God must always be a central focus of Christian living and a key aspect of worshipful prayer.

How exactly is God’s name hallowed? Jesus is not saying that Christians are responsible for making God holier than He already is by their reverent actions. Hallowing God’s name is also not merely an intellectual assent of who God is, such as declaring, “Father, Your name is holy.” Rather, Jesus calls for Christians to hallow the Lord’s name by regarding it as holy in all that they do, which means that believers fear God so much that they would do anything not to bring shame and dishonor to God’s reputation (R.C. Sproul, The Lord’s Prayer [Harrisonburg, VA: Reformation Trust, 2009], pg. 31).

Christians are reverential, and ultimately hallow God’s name, when they conform to His will. For Christians to live in disobedience to God or misrepresent His word is to take His name in vain, claiming as Lord someone whom they do not really follow, which Scripture warns about in Mathew 7:21. The Christian’s prayer must be for God to reveal the holiness, the divine power, and the hidden glory of His name in Christians and throughout the world. It is when we yield ourselves to be led of Him that the Father’s name is most hallowed in our prayers and our lives.

The essence of hallowing God’s name is to revere, honor, glorify, and obey Him with the greatest veneration (John Calvin, A Harmony of the Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1979], pg. 318). Therefore it is not proper to use God’s name in vain through speech, conduct, lifestyle, or attribute information to God that is false, erroneous, or heretical. Where there is no lifestyle or commitment to reverence to God in prayer life, there is only blasphemy and sacrilege.

C. God’s sovereignty

            A lifestyle of reverence for God entails a faithful recognition of and submission to God’s sovereignty. Verse 10a reads, “Your kingdom come…” If a Christian has been saved and lives to please God by hallowing His name, His greatest desire is to subsequently see the Lord reigning as King in His kingdom. It is to desire to see Jesus’ kingdom reign not in heaven, but over this fallen world.

            What is the meaning of this kingdom? In one sense, the kingdom spoken of by Jesus is the reign of Christ in the hearts of believers (MacArthur, Matthew 1-7, pg. 381). For every person that finds salvation, the kingdom influence expands. The present existence of the kingdom on earth is internal, in the hearts and minds of those who belong to Jesus Christ, the King.

            However, passages such as Luke 19:11-27 describe that God’s kingdom is yet to come, and that Christians are preparing for that day. Therefore, the ultimate sense of the kingdom spoken of in verse 10a is Jesus Christ coming back to rule over the world for His millennial reign (Revelation 20:1-11). The Old Testament prophecies regarding the kingdom has been largely understood as the Davidic Messianic Kingdom based on the Abrahamic (Genesis 12:1-3) and David (2 Samuel 7) Covenants, which goes into effect once the New Covenant has been fulfilled with national Israel (Jeremiah 33:31-34). There is no kingdom without a King, and Scripture gives ample evidence that this kingdom will have a visible manifestation on earth, even over the world of unbelievers and enemies (Psalm 110:1).

To pray “Your kingdom come” is to pray for the final program of the Lord to be fulfilled, which is for Christ to come and reign on earth as King of kings and Lord of lords. It is to pray for Jesus’ second coming in order to vindicate the righteous, judge the enemies, fulfill His promises to the OT patriarchs, and establish His long awaited rule in Zion (Mary E. Hinkle, The Lord’s Prayer [Word & World 22 no 1, January 2002], pg. 13). This future reality should be the focus that drives our life of obedience today, knowing that our deeds of evangelism and edification expresses our great hope and trust in the literal kingdom that Christ will someday establish on earth.

The greatest opposition to Christ’s kingdom is the present world ruled by Satan. The goal of Satan’s kingdom is to oppose anything that would honor, glorify, or usher in God’s long awaited kingdom. That is why the Christian’s life must never be self-centered or occupied with the ways of the world. Christians are to live for and submit to God’s sovereignty, praying for His kingdom to come, and expanding the kingdom influence by evangelizing the lost all around the world until the day of Christ’s return.

D. Submission

Verse 10b, “Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven,” characterizes a believer’s wholehearted willingness to submit to God’s purposes. It is the opposite of a person’s desire to live for his own goals at the expense of the Lord’s (Andrew Murray, “With Christ in the School of Prayer,” in Andrew Murray on Prayer, edited by Andrew Murray, 330-334 [New Kensington, PA: Whitaker House, 1998], pg. 332). It is not a declaration to abide by one’s personal will, but by God’s will, which entails that the believer seeks to live life identifying with and making God’s will his very own.

To pray for “Your kingdom come” already implies that one has submitted to God’s rule coming to earth to demolish all ungodly ways of living. The coming of God’s kingdom to earth is an outworking of God’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven, and Christians faithfully submit to that idea. Therefore, to acknowledge the accomplishment of God’s will is to rebel against the current worldly system, which rejects Christ and enslaves people to sin and eternal damnation. Such a prayer calls us to abandon sin and be unwilling to strike a truce with Satan.

God’s will is manifest in three ways. The first is the will of purpose, which is what God plans to come to pass in the universe. There is also the will of desire, which is God’s desires that are not always fulfilled because of sinful human rebellion against His commands. The third will is God’s will of command for His children, which are God’s imperatives for believers to follow, who are capable of obeying because of their reborn nature. The totality of God’s perfect and varied will is to be the focus of our petitions and praise to God.

In summation, we are called to submit. We are not only to submit to God as subjects in name, but also in our actions and desires. Therefore, our will should be to accomplish the will of God as He wants and plans for this world.

E. Dependence

The Lord’s Prayer now moves into the realm of three petitions of human need, which is the Christian’s personal request in the midst of daily living. Human petition is not prayer that is characterized by personal ambition, but by humility and continued obedience to God’s will. The first principle of godly prayer in this category is dependence on God for sustenance, which verse 11 elucidates as: “Give us this day our daily bread.” This verse describes the need to depend on God one day at a time for the food, shelter, and welfare that a Christian needs to survive and operate as a faithful servant in God’s kingdom.

This verse describes the fact that God is ultimately the source of all the food and provision men receive, whether they be believers or non-believers. The non-Christian believes that he acquires his own food, clothing, shelter, and well-being through his own efforts, without much thought to God’s providence. However, passages such as Matthew 6:25-34 and 1 Corinthians 4:7 speak of God’s supreme control over all matters of distribution to whomever He wills. Therefore, God is the source of all necessities.

Without a proper view of God there is no proper view of man, which is why an understanding of God’s providence in feeding people is crucial in fostering a rightful spirit of dependence on God, without which Christians would be trapped in the sinful pattern of self-autonomy and ingratitude (David Beckmann, “Praying the Catechism” [Presbyterion 16 no 2, Fall 1990], pg. 85). Whether God provides through miraculous means or grants believers the ability to work hard for food (which is usually the case), God must always be recognized as the source of our physical well-being. This is why we must depend and trust in God daily for our bread, otherwise we would display a lack of faith similar to the wandering wilderness Israelites in Exodus 16.

F. Penitence

What follows physical provision is the more important issue of spiritual provision, which leads to the second petition of human need of penitence. Verse 12 reads, “And forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors.” The Greek word for debt is opheilema, which is one of five New Testament Greek terms for sin. Therefore, to sin is to incur a spiritual debt before God (Arthur Pink, An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1974], pp. 163-164).

Sin is that which separates man from God, and is therefore man’s greatest problem. Our debt before God is something we can never pay back, and the penalty for such sinning against God is eternity in hell. Because man’s greatest problem is sin, his greatest need is forgiveness, and that is what God provides through the atonement of His Son Jesus Christ. Because Christ paid our debts off with His sinless life, we are declared innocent when we trust in Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior (Romans 8:1).

Even though we are justified, we are still in need of daily cleansing because of the sins into which we fall in daily living. We frequently require God’s gracious forgiveness not to continually appease a Judge for regaining eternal salvation, but to have unhindered access to the Father in joy and fellowship. That forgiveness, or cleansing, happens when we confess daily, which leads to washing of our souls.

Christians are able to forgive others of wrongs because they are first forgiven by the Father. It is a fruit of the heart regenerated and abiding in Christ (Matthew 5:7, 1 John 3:9). The principle is simple but sobering: if we forgive, we will be forgiven; if we do not forgive, we will not be forgiven. Christians who fail to forgive others of their transgression come under God’s discipline and chastening until he repents of his ways.

G. Perseverance

The last of three human needs is the petition for perseverance in the face of temptation. Verse 13 speaks of a Christian’s dependence on God’s provision once again in the area of spiritual health, declaring, “And do not lead us into temptation, but deliver us from evil.” No Christian life is ever complete without the virtue of perseverance which comes with much humility and dependence on God the Provider.

God can never personally tempt anyone into sin (James 1:13), but He can allow Satan to tempt the believer in order test, strengthen, or humble him. Therefore, this prayer is a Christian’s plea to be rescued from the evil one. Because a Christian hates sin and shutters at the thought of temptation, he asks God to watch over his eyes, ears, and heart so he will not do anything sinful. This Christian asks God to protect him from sin and its consequences.

When Christians sincerely pray this request, they essentially ask for strength to persevere in godliness and are granted such strength from the Holy Spirit (Murray, 333). Through this prayer, Christians also declare that they submit to God’s Word, which helps protect them from sin (James 4:7; Psalm 119:11). The believer prays to be kept from overwhelming exposure to sin, and if he falls into it, to be rescued from it.

The flesh is essentially weak, and lack of humility in and supplication by God can easily cause a Christian to fall into transgression. That is why it is absolutely imperative for Christians to confess their weakness before God and depend on His resources to fight against sin. In turn, God grants believers the ability to persevere in dependence, penitence, unselfishness, reverence, submission, and other traits that characterize a soundly saved Christian.

H. Action

The final principle of verse 14 and 15 relates to the issue of forgiving of debts found in verse 12. In verse 12, the praying believer seeks for forgiveness for his own debts before God. In return, the Christian is expected to take the lesson to heart and put it into action by extending that forgiveness to those who have wronged them.

As previously explored, forgiveness is a fruit of the heart regenerated and made alive in Christ (Matthew 3:8, John 15:4). Therefore, it is expected of Christians to forgive since they have been forgiven by God. To do the opposite would be to sin not only against a neighbor, but God Himself. Such disobedience in action invites the chastening hand of God, who disciplines and withdraws blessings until the believer comes to acknowledge His error (Frank C. Gaebelein, Matthew-Luke [Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1984], pg. 175).

The dire reality is that if the professing Christian fails to repent of his sin and continually exhibits an unforgiving spirit, then it is very likely that he has never experienced God’s saving grace to begin with, and is therefore subject to God’s eternal wrath for his own transgressions. This is why both penitence and graciousness are key virtues of the Christian life, and are indispensable factors in worshipful prayer. We are never more like God than when we show forgiveness to others, especially the undeserving. Therefore, it is important for the community of the church to reflect this glorious truth to the world by abounding in forgiveness. Without such practice, prayers in general will never be effective.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY 

Beckmann, David. “Praying the Catechism: A Prayer Based on the Larger Catechism’s Exposition of the Lord’s Prayer.” Presbyterion 16 no 2 (Fall 1990), 81-88.

Calvin, John. A Harmony of the Gospels Matthew, Mark, and Luke. Grand Rapids,MI: Baker, 1979.

Gaebelein, Frank C., gen. ed. Matthew-Luke. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary with The New International Version of The Holy Bible Volume 8.Grand Rapids,MI: Zondervan, 1984.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine.Grand Rapids,MI: Zondervan, 1994.

Hinkle Mary E. “The Lord’s Prayer: Empowerment for Living the Sermon on the Mount.” Word & World 22 no 1 (January 2002), 9-17.

MacArthur, John, ed. The MacArthur Study Bible: New American Standard Updated Version.Nashville,TN: Thomas Nelson, 2006.

_______________. Matthew 1-7. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary.Chicago, Ill.: Moody, 1985.

Murray, Andrew. “With Christ in the Schoolof Prayer” in Andrew Murray on Prayer, edited by Andrew Murray, 330-334.New Kensington,PA: Whitaker House, 1998.

Pink, Arthur. An Exposition of the Sermon on the Mount. Grand Rapids,MI: Baker, 1974.

Sproul, R.C. The Prayer of the Lord.Harrisonburg,VA: Reformation Trust, 2009. 

Stuhlman, Bryon D. “The Lord’s Prayer in Worship.” Word & World 22 no 1 (Winter 2002), 78-83.