Christocentric By Tony Cooke

By Tony Cooke

I like that term. It simply means that the Lord Jesus Christ is at the center. If Scripture teaches anything, it teaches that Jesus is supreme, pre-eminent, and central in all things.

Colossians 1:16 and 19 in the Message version refers to Jesus and says that “…everything got started in him and finds its purpose in him,” and “…everything of God finds its proper place in him.” When you look at those verses in their broader context you see how strongly Paul emphasizes the centrality of the Lord Jesus Christ.

Colossians 1:15-18 (NLT)
15 Christ is the visible image of the invisible God. He existed before anything was created and is supreme over all creation, 16 for through him God created everything in the heavenly realms and on earth. He made the things we can see and the things we can’t see—such as thrones, kingdoms, rulers, and authorities in the unseen world. Everything was created through him and for him. 17 He existed before anything else, and he holds all creation together. 18 Christ is also the head of the church, which is his body. He is the beginning, supreme over all who rise from the dead. So he is first in everything. 19 For God in all his fullness was pleased to live in Christ…

Each major section of the Bible presents a different aspect regarding Jesus’ character, person, and work.

  1. The Old Testament is preparation for Jesus.
  2. The Gospels are the manifestation of Jesus.
  3. The Book of Acts is the propagation of Jesus‘ message.
  4. The Epistles are the explanation of Jesus’ work.
  5. The Revelation is the consummation of Jesus’ kingdom.

There seems to be a tendency among some, though, to make just about anything central except the Lord Jesus. People often get excited about a teaching, a movement, a doctrine, or a cause, and then place greater emphasis on that one issue than they do upon Jesus Himself. Whatever we teach, it must be grounded and centered in the Person of the Lord Jesus Christ. Further, it must lead to His glory and honor.

“People Just Get Bored with Jesus”
Many of my minister-friends remember Pastor Sam Smith. Sam and his wife Donna established Faith Christian Center in Seekonk, Massachusetts and pastored there for many years before his retirement and departure to heaven. Sam was an outspoken, no-nonsense kind of guy who loved seeing people get saved. He would often comment how unfortunate it was that ministers seemed to chase every new wind of doctrine and became obsessed with fads, jumping from one extreme to another. He would remark, “People just get bored with Jesus.” What a sad (but true) commentary.

A Christocentric perspective does not mean we will not teach other biblical truths, but it means that we will keep Jesus central and supreme in what we teach. For example:

  1. It is great to teach faith, but we need to remember that He is the Author and the Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).
  2. It is important to teach grace, but we must remember that the grace we proclaim is nothing less than the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 15:11 and thirteen similar references).
  3. It is outstanding to teach eschatology, but it is His coming that we anticipate.
  4. Worship is wonderful, but we don’t worship the act of worship; we worship Him.
  5. Leadership is great, but only if we are leading people into a closer relationship with Jesus and more effective service for Him.
  6. It is tremendous to teach holiness, but we must remember that He is the basis and source of our holiness.
  7. We want to proclaim and see the gifts of the Spirit in operation, but they are to glorify Him.

Church history, for example, has witnessed some groups becoming focused on water baptism (and specific beliefs and practices about baptism) almost to the exclusion of other important New Testament emphases. Instead of keeping baptism in its proper context, an “altar” is built around water baptism, and more emphasis is seemingly placed upon it than upon the Lord Jesus Christ Himself. Baptism is important; I am not disputing that. What I am saying is that baptism, in and of itself (without faith in and focus on Jesus), is a mere ritual. Its significance does not exist apart from the very Person of the Lord Jesus and its portrayal of our identification with His death, burial, and resurrection. He is what makes baptism important.

Likewise, we have heard teaching on spiritual warfare and demonology that magnifies demons and demonic power more than it does the Lord Jesus Christ. Any legitimate teaching should make us more aware of, conscious of, and impressed with Jesus, not with the enemies He has dethroned and defeated.

Holding Fast to the Head
Paul gave an indication of how we would recognize false teachers (Colossians 2:19). He said that such individuals are, “…not holding fast to the Head,” and that is a direct reference to the Lord Jesus. The NLT renders it, “… and they are not connected to Christ, the head of the body.” Before we teach or receive teaching, perhaps we should stop and ask certain questions:

  1. How does this relate to Jesus, the Head?
  2. How is connected, and how does it connect us, to Him?
  3. How does it glorify, honor, and exalt Him?
  4. Does this teaching accurately reflect and represent His words, His work, and His nature?

Jesus certainly was not shy or backward about declaring His own centrality, but there was not an ounce of arrogance or pride within Him. Jesus simply knew who He was and what He had come to do. Consider the following:

John 5:39 (NLT)
39 “You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to me!

John 14:6 (NKJV)
“I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.”

Luke 24:27 (NKJV)
27 And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.

Revelation 22:13 (NKJV)
13 “ I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

If anyone else made such statements, we would be aghast at their delusional grandiosity and their off-the-charts narcissism, but Jesus was merely speaking the truth.

Being Christocentric in one’s theology does not exclude or diminish the importance of the Father or the Holy Spirit. Not only did the Holy Spirit empower Jesus for ministry (Acts 10:38), but Jesus said, “…when the Helper comes… the Spirit of truth… He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). John 16:14 says that the Holy Spirit will bring glory to Jesus by revealing to us whatever He (the Holy Spirit) receives from Jesus.

The Father also drew attention to Jesus when He said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him” (Matthew 17:5, ESV). Then, in Hebrews 1:6 and 9 we read more of God the Father’s testimony of Jesus:

  1. But when He again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: “Let all the angels of God worship Him.”
  2. to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

Paul’s description of the way God the Father honored Jesus is outstanding:

Philippians 2:9-11 (NLT)
9 …God elevated him to the place of highest honor and gave him the name above all other names, 10 that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

We can rest assured that there is no tension, friction, jealousy, or competition amongst the members of the Trinity; they work in absolute perfect harmony, and whenever you exalt Jesus, you are also honoring the Father and the Spirit.  Scripture reveals just how flawless their sense of teamwork is when we learn that the day is coming, “…when he [Jesus] will turn the Kingdom over to God the Father, having destroyed every ruler and authority and power” (1 Corinthians 15:24, NLT).

It would do us well to seriously consider if what we teach is truly drawing people to Jesus and exalting Him as He deserves, or are we guilty of disseminating doctrinal distractions and diversions?  Are we bringing clarity or clutter when it comes to His glory, centrality, and preeminence. Jesus is not someone we “use” to get something else. In other words, He is not merely a “means to an end.” Jesus is our means and our end!  He is both “the way” and He is our destination!

May you be richly blessed as you hold fast to Christ, the Head, and as you keep the Lord Jesus central in all that you do and say.