The Doctrine of Christ: Introduction

When the Christian Faith is put in systematic form it is generally organized into six sections: theology (the Doctrine – the Biblical teaching – of God), anthropology (the Doctrine of Man), Christology (the Doctrine of Christ), soteriology (the Doctrine of Salvation), ecclesiology (the Doctrine of the Church) and eschatology (the Doctrine of Last Things). The first two segments – the Doctrine of God and the Doctrine of Man – were explained by the Rev. Elco Oostendorp in a series of articles running in THE OUTLOOK from March 1977 through January 1978. Now we turn to the segment which is commonly called Christology or the Doctrine of Christ.

The Doctrine of Christ is absolutely essential to the Christian Faith. Without Christ there would be no Christian Faith and without Christ there could be no faith which is explained as “a sure knowledge” and “a firm confidence” (Heidelberg Catechism q. 21). In other words, He is central in the revealed system of Truth which we call Christianity, and unless He came to do the work for the salvation of His people there could be no subjective experience of faith, either.


To see the need of Christ all we need do is look at Romans 1–3. There, by means of revelation, Paul builds up a case against man. He quotes from a number of Old Testament passages to prove his point. He quotes:

There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one . . . (Romans 3:10 ff).

And then in only a few words he crystalizes his argument: “for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God” (3:23). These words would sound with utter hopelessness were it not for the gift of God’s Son, Jesus Christ. In sin, man is in utter misery, under the just condemnation of God. Our Heidelberg Catechism reminds us that God’s “justice requires that sin which is committed against the most high majesty of God, be also punished with extreme, that is, with everlasting punishment of body and soul” (q. 11). We are reminded in the 12th question: “God will have His justice satisfied; therefore we must make full satisfaction to the same, either by ourselves, or by another.” Obviously, we cannot make satisfaction because by our sin we daily increase our debt to God. God must provide a way out of this death and corruption or we will never know salvation. We will know only death and the curse.

Paul, in writing to Rome, reminds us that God has provided the way out: we are righteous through faith in Jesus Christ (3:21ff).

The clear teaching of Scripture is that Jesus Christ came to be the Mediator of the Covenant (Hebrews 9). We are taught that Christ is the Priest and the offering before God. He shed the “blood of the covenant.” Through His work—through His death, we then know the friendship of God’s covenant (Psalm 25:14).

Herman Bavinck in his Our Reasonable Faith writes (p. 281):

Christianity stands in a very different relationship to the person of Christ than t he other religions do to the persons who founded them. Jesus was not the first confessor of the religion named after His name. He was not the first and the most important Christian. He occupies a wholly unique place in Christianity. He is not in the usual sense of it the founder of Christianity, but He is the Christ, the One who was sent by the Father, and who founded His Kingdom on earth and now extends and preserves it to the end of the ages. Christ is Himself Christianity. He stands, not outside, but inside of it. Without His name, person, and work there is no such thing as Christianity. In one word, Christ is not the one who points the way to Christianity, but t he way itself. He is the only, true, and perfect Mediator between God and men.

Christ alone bridges the chasm of sin and removes the barrier between man and God. “For there is one God, one mediator also between God and men, himself man, Christ Jesus . . .” (I Timothy 2:5).

That word “mediator” is an important one in the Christian Faith. We often hear it used, and use it ourselves. Let’s understand clearly how Jesus is the Mediator.

The common use of the word pictures a man called in to arbitrate in some dispute between conflicting parties, such as a dispute between labor and management. He, therefore, is acceptable to both sides. Jesus Christ is not this kind of Mediator!

As Mediator, Jesus Christ stands between the offended God and the offending sinner. By His work He brings the offending sinner to be one with God. Of course, He is not acceptable to the sinner. Christ is “despised and rejected of men.” Sinners do not want the kind of Mediator He is. The Mediator Jesus Christ is God’s gift to an undeserving people. “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16).

To be saved we must believe on Jesus Christ as Savior. By grace we must be related to Him spiritually. Some put it very simply: we must have Jesus in our hearts. But there is more to it. We must also know about Him. Through this growth of knowledge our love for Him grows. In our feeling-oriented age many professors of Christ see no need of knowledge. All that is necessary, they say, is having Jesus in our hearts. But we don’t really know someone unless we know about him. Further, the more we know, the more our love for him grows. So it is with Jesus Christ. In order to really say, “And I believe in Jesus Christ, his only begotten Son, our Lord” we must see what God has revealed in His Word about this matchless Savior.

As we consider the Doctrine of Christ we must look at the various aspects of His Person and Work. Who is He? What do His names say? What does it mean to call Him the God-Man? What was His Godgiven assignment when He came into this world? How was it, and for whom did He make satisfaction? Do the various aspects of His work in history mean anything to us? What do we really believe about Christ?

The Puritan John Flavel wrote in his The Fountain of Life (1671): Take heed . . . that you rest not satisfied with that knowledge of Christ you have attained, but go on to perfection. It is the pride and ignorance of many professors, when they have got a few raw and indigested notions, to swell with self-conceit of their excellent attainments. And it is the sin, even of the best saints, when they see how deep the knowledge of Christ lies, and what pains they must take to dig for it, to throw by the shovel of duty, and cry, Dig we cannot. To your work, Christians, to your work!

Jerome Julien who writes this series of doctrinal studies was for some time the secretary of the Reformed Fellowship and is pastor of the First Christian Reformed Church of Pella. Iowa.