Christ As King: The Royal Supremacy of Christ Part 3

Royal Authenticity of Christ (NT)

It is one thing to claim to be the King, it is another thing to prove it. In the Davidic Covenant There were two criteria for this king laid out (2 Sm 7:13). First, he would come from David’s line: “I will raise up your descendant after you, who will come forth from you, and I will establish his kingdom” (2 Sm 7:12; cf. Ac 2:30). Second, the king “shall build a house for My name” (v. 13). The future king must build the temple of God.

Jesus as David’s Son

Matthew links Jesus to David in order to establish his authenticity as the Christ. He emphasizes Jesus’s connection to David more than any other NT book, both in direct mentions (17x) and in concentration (0.9x every 1000 words). The book starts with “the record of the genealogy of Jesus the Messiah, the son of David” (Mt 1:1).[1] This list, though abridged, gives the record of Jesus’s lineage verifying that he is indeed the Christ. Further, he cites the crowd’s reaction to Jesus. Some wonder if Jesus is the Son of David (Mt 12:23). But most often, men just cry out his name as Son of David.[2]

Luke also identifies Jesus as meeting this criterion. When the angel appeared to Mary, he said that God would give her Son “the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and His kingdom will have no end” (Lk 1:32-33). Joseph his stepfather “was of the house and family of David” (Lk 2:4). The Holy Spirit promised to Simeon that he would see the Lord’s Christ (Lk 2:26). And then he adds an alternate genealogy back through David probably from the line of Mary.[3]

Matthew develops a story from Jesus’ life which points out that the Christ is more than just another one of David’s sons (Mt 22:41-46). Jesus has a run-in with the Pharisees where he questions them about the identity of the Anointed One. He asks, “What do you think about the Christ, whose son is He?” They say, “The son of David.” Then Jesus asks, “How does David in the Spirit call Him ‘Lord,’ saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand . . .”? If David then calls Him ‘Lord,’ how is He his son?’” The conclusion from this question is that the Christ must be more than just a son. While it is unstated in this text, the Son is greater than David because he had to be God (cf. Dn 7).

But does Jesus meet this additional criterion? Matthew thought so because he introduced his Gospel labelling Jesus the Christ (Mt 1:1). And Matthew proves his statement by recalling the healing of the paralytic. Jesus says, “Your sins are forgiven” (Mt 9:2). The scribes respond, “This man is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mt 9:2, cf. Mk 2:7). Jesus responds, “‘So that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins’—then He said to the paralytic, ‘Get up, pick up your bed and go home’” (Mt 9:6). This miracle, along with the others, indicates Jesus’ divine identity. And in this way, Jesus proves that he does meet the criterion of being David’s greater son.

Jesus and Yahweh’s House

Matthew also presents Jesus as building Yahweh’s house in the context of Peter’s Confession. Peter confessed to Jesus: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” This phrase points back to the Davidic covenant in two ways. First, the Christ was a descendent of David. Second, Jesus being the Son of God fulfills God’s promise to David that his son “will be a son to Me” (2 Sm 7:14). Whether he realized it or not, Peter confessed that Jesus was the fulfillment of the Davidic Covenant.

In this context, Jesus answers Peter saying, “I also say to you that you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build My church” (Mt 16:18). Jesus explicitly speaks of the kingdom in the next line: “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of heaven” (Mt 16:19). Thus, this whole passage is filled with kingdom language, pointing back to that promise given to David. That Jesus mentions building his church in this context is significant. The church, as revealed later, is the temple of God. This conclusion is confirmed by the fact that God “dwell[s] in them and walk[s] among them; I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (2 Cor 6:16). The Spirit also dwells in the church making it God’s temple (1 Cor 3:16).

The foundation of the temple is Jesus himself (1 Cor 3:11). The only other time Jesus stated that he would build something he referred to himself. He said, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up” (Jn 2:13). The word is εγειρω in John. When the synoptics cite this saying, they use the word οικοδομεω which is the same word in Matthew 16:18 (Mt 26:61; 27:40; Mk 15:29). He links his building program directly with the rebuilding of the temple, that is, his body.

But does building the temple of his body and his church count as a fulfillment of 2 Samuel 7:13? In a sense, yes. The church is spiritually fulfilling this aspect of the Davidic covenant.[4] But in another sense, no. David would have understood a literal temple because he wanted to build a literal temple (2 Sm 7:1-7). Further, Solomon built a literal house for God (2 Kgs 6:1ff). Thus, the OT promises need more than just a spiritual fulfilment. The answer to this dilemma is Ezekiel’s Temple. Ezekiel diagrams a temple that was a physical temple on the earth (Eze 40-42).[5] It seems this will happen when God “will restore the fortunes of Jacob” (Eze 39:25). Therefore, it seems probable that Christ will ultimately fulfill this criterion of the Davidic Covenant literally.

Royal Authority of Christ

Christ’s first appearance displayed his authority. Early in Jesus’ ministry, people realized that he taught with authority (Mt 7:29; cf. Mt 21:23-27; Mk 11:28-33; Lk 20:2-8). This teaching made the demons cry out that Jesus was “the Holy One of God!” (Mk 1:24; Lk 4:34). The Holy One is a Messianic title which emphasizes the sender. Domeris notes, “The primary sense of the title ‘the Holy One’ is that of representation or agency. The inclusion of the genitive ‘of God’ makes explicit the authority behind the representative, the principal behind the agent.”[6] The authority which he wields is not just apparent in his teaching, but also because he can cast out that demon with his word (Mk 1:27; Lk 4:36). Another way he displayed his authority was through the title Son of Man. He claimed that as Son of Man he had the power to forgive sin (Mt 9:6,8; Mk 2:10; Lk 5:24). And he had authority over the sabbath (Mt 12:8; Mk 2:28; Lk 6:5).

Jesus has authority over men and angels. Jesus prayed for glory based on the “authority [he has] over all flesh that to all whom You have given Him, He may give eternal life.” (Jn 17:2). This authority infuses believers with the ability to glorify him in trials (2 Cor 12:9). But Jesus’ authority extends beyond the believer to the demonic realm. He can delegate his authority to his followers so that they can cast out demons (Mt 10:1; Mk 3:15; 6:7; Lk 9:1; 10:19). And when he sends Michael and the angels against Satan in the eschaton, he will cast out Satan because “the authority of His Christ [has] come” (Rev 12:10).

Jesus entered his full authority through his death and resurrection. Death was not beyond the authority of Jesus. He had the authority to lay down his life and to take it up again (Jn 10:18). His resurrection not only proved he had power over his life, but it also placed him in a position of power. Paul says of Christ that he “was born of a descendant of David according to the flesh, who was declared the Son of God with power by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom 1:4). There are a few points of interest here. First, the contrast between these statements is not that he was at one time the son of David and then the Son of God. Rather it is between the phrases “according to the flesh” and “with power.”[7] Before his resurrection, he was the son of David in weakness. But after his resurrection, he was the Son of God with power. Second, it is not that he was newly appointed “the Son of God.” He was already the Son when he was sent into the world (Lk 19:10). Rather, it was that he became “the Son of God with power.” As Michael Emadi notes,

By His resurrection from the dead, Christ was invested with a new power that He did not possess as Mediator prior to His resurrection. The need to distinguish between this occurrence of “Son of God” with the previous expression (in v. 3, “His Son”) strongly supports the view that “in power” modifies “Son of God.” Upon His resurrection, Christ entered a higher rank of Sonship in which His power is gloriously displayed as the One whom God has made both Lord and Christ.[8]

Based on his new position, Jesus said to his disciples: “All power is given to me” (Mt 28:18). He now had received authority to go and conquer the nations through the Gospel. When the fulness of the Gentiles are in, Jesus will come “with power and great glory” and display his authority to all men (Mt 24:30 Mk 13:26). And he will exercise his authority by executing judgment on all men, “because he is the Son of Man” (Jn 5:27).

Royal Activity of Christ

Christ’s royal activities are broad in their scope. On the one hand, he holds the universe together because he is before all things (Col 1:17). On the other hand, he is involved in the world of free-willed beings such as angels and men. Within this second category, there are two basic functions in which he engages. First, he rules over his people, and second, he judges his enemies.

Christ functions as ruler over his church (Col 1:18). One of the frequent metaphors Christ uses of his leadership is that of a shepherd. As noted above, this was not just a comforting image, but a predicted aspect of Jesus’s reign. Matthew quotes Micah 5 linking Christ’s kingly office to his pastoral office (Mt 2:6). Matthew quoted Micah 5 verses 2a-c and then skips down to 4a. This selective quotation indicates that Matthew wanted special attention drawn to the king-shepherd motif. David Bauer notes that the shepherd motif plays a role in the rest of the book:

On the one hand, the concept points back to 1:18-25 and the promise of salvation from sin, for the chief function of a shepherd, along with feeding the sheep, was to deliver the sheep from danger of destruction. Jesus serves, then, as shepherd in saving his people from sin. On the other hand, Matthew describes the specific means whereby Jesus accomplishes this salvation in the passion narrative, where Jesus, precisely in his role as “king of the Jews” or “king of Israel” (27:1 1,29,37,42; cf. 20:28; 26:26-29) and as “shepherd” (rcoiļisva, 26:31), dies on behalf of his people.[9]

In other places, Jesus saw the crowds following him and had compassion on them because they were “like sheep without a shepherd” (Mt 9:36, Mk 6:34). Jesus’ sermon on the Good Shepherd explains his viewpoint concerning leadership (Jn 10:1-16). He would lay his life down for his sheep (Jn 10:11). His loss of life, however, did not indicate his loss of authority because he had the authority to lay down his life and to take it up (Jn 10:18).[10] In the church, Peter mentions that Jesus is “the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls,” emphasizing the protection that Jesus’s shepherd-kingship offers (1 Pt 2:25).

Christ also functions as judge of this world. His shepherding for those outside of the church will not be a peaceful protectorate but a ridged judgment. Following the LXX reading of Psalm 2:9, John says that Jesus will shepherd “all the nations with a rod of iron” (Rev 12:5). This shepherding will occur at the second coming when Jesus returns to destroy the Beast and the False Prophet (Rev 19:15). The nations which follow them will be “killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him who sat on the horse” (Rev 19:21). When the Millennial Kingdom comes, those who follow Christ will also rule with him, shepherding the nations (Rev 2:27; cf. 20:4). And once he conquers all things, he will hand over this kingdom to his Father (1 Cor 15:25).

Christ also functions as legislator of the church. The Sermon on the Mount offers the best example of his laws. He introduces the old law with the formula “You have heard that it was said” (e.g., Mt 5:23). But then he intensifies it with his own words “but I say to you” (e.g., Mt 5:28). He is rewriting the law of the old kingdom, making explicit the principles underneath. In each case, he points to the heart of the sinner in addition to his actions. When he leaves the strict legal context of chapter 5, he develops what the heart of kingdom citizens should look like in chapters 6-7. Their heart should be in tune with their actions, unhypocritical, and loving. The commands are not just some vague ethical ideal. They are commands for Christians to follow. As Christ said: “You are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Mt 5:48).

Theopraxical Ramifications of Christ’s Royal Office

As Christians, we are obligated to submit to our shepherd-king. The primary way in which we submit is to his word directly. His commands for Christians are best developed in the Sermon on the Mount.[11] But beyond these, his delegated authority through his apostles and his pastors must also be followed (1 Pt 5:2-4). Christ will judge us according to our works (Mt 25:14-30). And how we respond to his immediate and delegated authority will most likely be a significant factor in the judgement.

Besides the Sermon on the Mount, the great commission is also part of kingdom responsibility (Mt 28:18). After Christians have gone out, they are to make disciples (Mt 28:19). Their main function is to spread the kingdom by winning over citizens to that kingdom. This is done by two means baptizing them and teaching them. Baptism is the first step into the kingdom, like a naturalization ceremony. The other part is the teaching “all that I command you” (Mt 28:20). A person must be taught the commands of the King. If he is left in the dark, it is the failure of the discipler to teach him. Also, it is the duty of the discipler to teach all which his King commands. A partial representation will only lead to partial obedience. Finally, it is to be done under the authority given to Christ (v. 18). As such, the teaching must be done in a manner comparable to how Christ would teach.

Conclusion

In sum, this survey found that Christ’s position as king demands that we treat him with respect and dignity. The function of the king in the OT sets the stage for his position of dignity and respect. His position was predicted in the OT and he perfectly fulfilled it. He came onto the world’s stage claiming to be that king. He met the criterion for being that king. And he has the authority to act as the king. In the end, it is our duty to obey and honor him to the best of our abilities.

 

 

[1]. There are some textual issues with the genealogy, but will assume a stable text for this paper. Henry A. Sanders, “The Genealogies of Jesus,” Journal of Biblical Literature 32, no. 3 (1913): 184–193.

[2]. Matthew 9:27; 15:22; 20:30, 31; 21:9, 15

[3] William H. Bates, “A Study in the Genealogy of Jesus,” Bibliotheca Sacra 74, no. 294 (1917): 328.

[4]. For an excellent discussion, see: I. Howard Marshall, “Church and Temple in the New Testament,” Tyndale Bulletin 40, no. 2 (1989): 203–22.

[5]. It appears that Ezekiel really believed that this temple would be a literal temple. As Soares states, “to the priest-prophet, who had seen the Solomonic temple, no Messianic future could be conceived without a real sanctuary. The vision of the temple is the promise to the Jews that they shall yet rebuild the house of the Lord.” Theo. G. Soares, “Ezekiel’s Temple,” The Biblical World 14, no. 2 (1899): 93.

[6]. W. R. Domeris, “The Holy One of God as a Title for Jesus,” Neotestamentica 19 (1985): 12.

[7]. David J. Macleod, “Eternal Son, Davidic Son, Messianic Son: An Exposition of Romans 1:1–7,” Bibliotheca Sacra 162, no. 645 (2005): 89–90.

[8]. Michael Emadi, “An Exposition of Romans 1:1-7 with Special Emphasis on Paul’s Doxological Christology,” Reformed Baptist Theological Review 5, no. 2 (2008): 53.

[9]. David R. Bauer, “The Kingship of Jesus in the Matthean Infancy Narrative: A Literary Analysis,” The Catholic Biblical Quarterly 57, no. 2 (1995): 312.

[10]. Peter develops how pastors (shepherds) of the church imitate the Chief Shepherd in their work: “I exhort the elders among you . . . shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness; nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock” (1 Pet 5:2-4). This list illustrates how Jesus views how he views his reign over the church. See also Paul’s development of the pastor shepherd motif (Ac 20:28; 1 Cor 9:7; Eph 4:11).

[11]. “The ethic of Jesus, as set forth in the Sermon on the Mount, is a Kingdom ethic. The sayings which have been gathered together in this “sermon” must be understood within the context of the vocation of Jesus and his preaching concerning the nearness of the Kingdom of God, the first signs of which beginning to be seen in his ministry.” Bernhard W. Anderson, “The Biblical Ethic of Obedience,” The Christian Scholar 39, no. 1 (1956): 70.

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