Christos – Messiah

I preached on 2 Samuel 23 today in which David describes himself in his last words as ‘the anointed of the God of Jacob’.

The word translated ‘anointed’ (mashiyach – that is, messiah) was interesting to research. I commented in my sermon upon the fact that the word is first used by God about Jacob himself when he anointed the pillar at Bethel (Genesis 31:13). Intriguing then that David here is described as ‘the anointed of the God of Jacob’. I think that the experience of David ‘going into exile’ as Jacob did is a key part of his own identification with Jacob and the description he has. That will be unpacked as I preach through 2 Samuel 15-20. 

I was sure that Bill Dumbrell (my former lecturer) had written about ‘Christos’ but could not find it in his book on the Synoptics. I then pulled out his book on Romans and, sure enough, there was a little excursus on ‘Christos’. Here is part of his summary:

“Christ, in the OT the title for Israel’s anointed king, become by New Testament time a shorthand for Jewish expectation of a royal figure to come to restore the fortunes of Israel, i.e., to enable her to take place in the purposes of God for the world. He would introduce the final world-age, the final kingdom of God age. In terms of OT expectation, Jerusalem and her temple would become the world centre to which nations would come in prilgrimage to receive from Israel the Torah, God’s will revealed by which world society would then be regulated so as to live at peace for ever. As a Davidic descendant the Messiah would restore the fortunes and the borders of Israel, so that she could operate as divine space in the physical world. By her diffusion of the divine will from Jerusalem, Israel’s spiritual leadership of the world would be evident.”

Bill then goes on to describe Jesus’ confrontation with national Israel of his day and the rejection experienced. As a result, “Jesus began the construction of a group around himself, which would lead to a Christian Israel, a fact reported in all four Gospels. It is particularly clear from the Gospel of John that Jesus would continue his ministry to the world through this group.”

I have to admit I’m a little surprised by Bill’s description here ‘Christian Israel’ – though I understand his concept (Ephesians 2:11-22 does come to mind in terms of the wider expression.)

Bill then adds: “It is thus significant that virtually the only time Jesus acknowledges his messiahship, as now achieved and in place, is at Luke 24:26, when he had concluded his suffering ministry. Jesus was about to be elevated by the ascension to be world ruler. By his death, the nucleus of a restored Israel at Pentecost would be brought into being under the direction of the Spirit of God, to provide spiritual leadership and a ministry pointing the way to a final personal and world transformation.

“This is the point to which Paul has come at Romans 1:4. The gospel, which Paul preaches, is a call to all, Jews first and then Gentiles to submit to the rule of Christ the King. A new age has dawned by the ascension of Jesus to the right hand of God as the Christ. Christ, through the Spirit of Christ, had poured out at Pentecost the potential blessings of the new reign, to be received through the missionary activity of the people of God, now operating as the true Israel.

Bill concludes:

“For Paul ‘Christ’ is always the title of kingship. It never simply descends to a personal appellation but is always vocational. The significance of the term is always meant to evoke by its use in Paul or by us, the risen Jesus’ kingship of the world. The risen Christ is now the king of the universe and will remain so until, at the end, having destroyed all enemies at his Parousia, he will hand over the kingdom to the Father (1 Cor 15:24-25).”

[WJ Dumbrell, Romans, pages 14-15].

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