A vital part of the believers’ progressive (practical) sanctification is to do the commandants given by Christ in Luke 9:23—denying one’s self, taking up the cross, and following Christ.        

Luke 9:23-25: “And He was saying to them all, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. 24 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose It, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it. 25 For what is a man profited if he gains the whole world, and loses or forfeits himself?”

Context. Note the context in the previous passages (Luke 9:18-22), which is the identification of Christ (see the parallel account in Matt. 16:13-18):

And it happened that while He was praying alone, the disciples were with Him, and He questioned them, saying, “Who do the people say that I am?’ 19 They answered and said, ‘John the Baptist, and others say Elijah; but others, that one of the prophets of old has risen.” 20 And He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?” And Peter answered and said, “The Christ of God.” 21 But He warned them and instructed them not to tell this to anyone, 22 saying, “The Son of Man must suffer many things and be rejected by the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed and be raised on the third day.”

Jesus’ first questions to the “disciples” was regarding who “who do the people say that I am?” (they gave inadequate answers). Then, Jesus asked them specifically: “Who do you say that I am?” It was the most faulty, fearful yet devoted, disciple of them all, who correctly answered and confessed: “The Christ of God.” However, Peter’s full confession is recorded in the parallel account in Matt. 16:16: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Although Peter (like many of us) totally misunderstood Jesus’ mission (esp. Matt. 16:21-23), and made countless mistakes in both word and action, he rightfully saw Jesus as Lord, the Son of God (God in the flesh), the Messiah of Israel. As with all Christians, throughout Peter’s life, he had victories and failures (even after the resurrection; cf. Gal. 2:11), but he grew spiritually and doctrinally until the point of his death. Recalling, Jesus had prophesied of Peter’s death in John 21:14-19, “signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when He had spoken this, He said to him, follow Me!” (v. 19)—and he did just that – the rest of his life unto his death.

From the start of Peter’s journey as an apostle of Christ, to his death, in spite of his many mistakes in his Christian life, Jesus was his Lord and Savior. Although, his ongoing sanctification and understanding of the work and mission of Christ was developmental and progressive and at times faltered, his faith in the Christ as “the Son of the living God” was unwavering.

What I find interesting is that immediately after Peter’s high Christological Confession (“You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matt. 16:18), Jesus foretold that He must “be killed” (Luke 9:22) Peter “criticized” the Lord Jesus for saying He must die: “God forbid it, Lord! This shall never happen to You.” Jesus, then, responds in Luke 9:23, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” (Matt. 16:23 adds, “Get behind me Satan”).

Jesus indicates to His disciples (who heard Jesus’ rebuke) that true discipleship can not be realized unless one is willing to forsake it all. This would mean fully trusting Him in all things. Job demonstrated this kind of trust when he said, “Though He slay me, I will trust in Him” (Job 13:15).

Peter eventually grew in knowledge and understanding of the Savior and His mission. This is apparent in John 6 regarding Jesus’ seemingly difficult statements of eating His flesh and drinking His blood (John 6:54). In response to this, “many of His disciples left” (v. 66), which prompted Jesus to ask (v. 67) “the twelve, ‘You do not want to leave also, do you?’ 68 Simon Peter answered Him, ‘Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life. 69 And we have already believed and have come to know that You are the Holy One of God.’”

 

Denying oneself involves humility before the Lord.

Peter makes this point in 1 Pet. 5:6-7: “Therefore, humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, so that He may exalt you at the proper time, 7 having cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares about you” (NASB). In verse 6, the verb tapeinoō (“be humble”) is in the aorist imperative—, which indicates an urgent command, as in Be humble right now!—“under the mighty hand of God.” Keep in mind, the OT writers frequently used God’s hand as a symbol of discipline (Exod. 3:19; 6:1; Job 30:21; Ps. 32:4) and deliverance (Deut. 9:26; 32:32; Ezek. 20:34).

But how are we to be humble ourselves under the mighty hand God. The means of doing this is found in verse 7: “By casting all your cares [‘anxiety, worry’] on Him” (NET). The verb epiripsantes is the aorist participle of epiriptō (“to throw, cast upon”). So the verb would literally be translated as, “casting” (ESV, Holmen) or “having cast” (NASB 2020), or better “By casting” (NET). Unfortunately, translations such as the NIV (even the 2011 updated) make the participle independent of verse 6 by translating the participle as “Cast,” the beginning of a new sentence: “Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you” (NIV).

In other words, the very means of obeying the urgent commandment in verse 6 (“be humble under the mighty hand of God”) is found in the action of the participle: “By casting all your anxiety [or ‘worry’[1]] on Him—because He cares.”

Luke 9:23: “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me.” Although following Christ is a commandant (present imperative), the two preceding verbs arnēsasthō (“let him deny”) and aratō (“let him take up”) are in the aorist imperative—thus, as seen above, a commandment that stresses urgency— “Do it now!” commandment! Commenting on the parallel passage in Matt. 16:24, Calvin says of the phrase, “And let him take up his cross”:

As God trains his people in a peculiar manner, in order that they may be conformed to the image his Son, we need not wonder that this rule is strictly addressed to them. . . . (Calvin, Commentary of Matthew).

9:24 “For whoever wishes to save his life [psuchēn, “soul”] will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” Nothing is more important in this life than to live for and serve the risen Lord Jesus Christ. Amen? As seen, Peter came to understand this clearly: “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have words of eternal life” (John 6:68). We as Christians have nowhere else to go except to the Lord Jesus—who has given us the words of eternal Life: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (see also 1 John 5:20). In our stressful, unpredictable lives all we can do is ask: “Lord, to whom shall we go?”

9:25 “For what good does it do a person if he gains the whole world, but loses or forfeits himself?” For us, nothing, but Christ matters. Without the Son, the soul will perish: “The one who has the Son has the life; the one who does not have the Son of God does not have the life” (1 John 5:12; cf. John 3:36).

9:26 “For whoever is ashamed of Me and My words, the Son of Man will be ashamed of him when He comes in His glory, and the glory of the Father and of the holy angels.” Contextually, this statement was in the present state of the looming event of His death. However, there seems to be wider application (whether the latter phrase is referring to the final Eschaton [Second Coming] or, as many see it, the Transfiguration in vv. 28-36). The term translated, “ashamed” is from epaischunomai. Note the prefix of the verb, epi (“on, upon”) with aischunō (“to dishonor, disgrace”).

This verb shows the personal aspect of the disgrace or dishonor. Paul is “not ashamed [same term] of the gospel” (Rom. 1:16). Christian teachers even more, should not be ashamed of the Son of God and His work; or that He alone is the only means of salvation. True believers who love the Lord should never be ashamed of proclaiming the Trinity and justification through faith alone.


Notes

[1] The term anxious/worry is from the Greek word merimna, which carries the meaning of being “drawn in opposite directions; pulled apart from both sides.”

 

 

Aside from the Christological affirmation in v. 6 (“who always subsisting/existing in form/nature of God”), one of my favorite sections of the Hymn is found in vv. 7-8: “But He EMPTIED Himself [reflexive – a self-emptying], TAKING [the means of His self-emptying] the form/nature of a bond-servant BEING MADE in the likeness of men. 8 BEING FOUND in appearance as a man, He HUMBLED Himself [reflexive – a self-humbling] by BECOMING obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”   

Paul in vv. 10-11, concludes his hymn by showing that Jesus is indeed the YHWH and prophetic fulfillment of Isaiah 45:23—before whom every knee shall bend and every tongue confess.                   

In Paul’s hymn, he provides an illustration of the ultimate example of humility (viz., God becoming flesh), the entire gospel is presented in this brief hymn (the deity and preexistence of the person of the Son in distinction from the Father, His incarnational emptying and perfect obedience, atoning cross work, and exaltation).

Thus, this is a good diagram of content for Christians (esp. evangelists) in their proclamation of the gospel.  

The Apostle Paul was passionate about the Christ that he preached. He understood that he was a “bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). Paul had a distinct and interesting style of writing. He wrote in conversational Koinē Greek, unlike the highly polished literary style[1] of James, Jude, and the author of Hebrews, but yet not in “vulgar” (or simple) Greek as with apostle’s John and Mark. Unquestionably, Paul was utterly fearless in his proclamation of the gospel and his pointed refutations against the growing false doctrines of the day (e.g., Acts 17:2-3, 16-17; Phil. 1:7, 16; 2 Tim. 3:16; Titus 1:9, 13; etc.). However, Paul’s chief focus and passion was the Person and nature of God the Son, Jesus Christ and His cross-work—justification through faith alone. Virtually every one of his Epistles was written primarily to affirm and defend the nature of God (esp. the deity of Christ and His infallible cross-work) and refute a particular false teaching.[2]

Before exploring the Christ that Paul preached, consider some distinct characteristics within Paul’s writings. First, all of his Epistles were marked with his Salutation: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (e.g., Gal. 1:3). Note that Paul does not say that the grace and peace flow from God the Father “through” Jesus Christ, but rather the grace and the peace flow equally from (Gk. apo) both God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. Second, when Paul calls Jesus “Lord,” he is calling Him LORD (kurios) in the most complete sense that the term can be ascribed. The terms “Lord” (kurios) and “God” (theos) were equal descriptions of deity in the mind of Paul.

For the Septuagint (LXX; i.e., the Gk. trans. of the OT) translates the Tetragrammaton (YHWH) as kurios (“Lord”). Hence, the Christ that Paul preached was fully God, that is, the Yahweh of the Old Testament.[3]

I. The Christ that Paul preached was God in the same sense as God the Father:

In Philippians 2:6, Jesus is said to be “existing/subsisting in the nature of God.”[4] In Titus 2:13, Paul calls Jesus “the great God and Savior” (cf. 2 Pet. 1:1). Writing against the flesh-denying Gnostics, in Colossians 2:9, Paul categorically affirms the full deity of Jesus Christ: “For in Him all the fullness of Deity [theotētos] dwells in bodily form” (NASB). The lexical[5] meaning of the term theotētos (“Deity”) is well attested by recognized Greek lexicographers and scholars, e.g., Thayer: “the state of being God”; Trench: “all the fullness of absolute Godhead . . . He was, and is, absolute and perfect God”; Bengal: “not merely [to] the Divine attributes, but [to] the Divine Nature itself”; Reformed Theologian Robert Reymond: “the being of the very essence of deity”; B. B. Warfield: “the very deity of God, that which makes God God, in all its completeness.” So strong is the meaning of theotētos (“Godhead”; KJV, NKJV) that the Bible of the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the New World Translation, translated it as, “divine quality,” rather than its lexical meaning to avoid, to be sure, Paul’s intended meaning: Jesus was fully God in human flesh.

In the entire Pauline corpus, the apostle taught implicitly and explicitly the full deity of Jesus Christ. This was his “teaching priority” (e.g., Rom. 9:5; 10:13; 1 Cor. 2 Cor. 2:8; Phil. 2:6-11; 2 Col. 2:9; 2 Thess. 1:12; 1 Tim 3:16; Titus 2:13). Perhaps Paul’s high Christology was due to the definitive words of Christ Jesus, which may have rung continuously in his mind: “For if you should not believe that I Am, you will die in your sins” (John 8:24; trans. mine).[6]

II. The Christ that Paul preached was fully God distinct from the Father and the Holy Spirit:

In Paul’s mind, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit are three co-equal, distinct Persons or Selves. This is seen in his Salutations[7] also in passages such as Ephesians 2:18 and especially 2 Corinthians 13:14: “The grace of the [tou] Lord Jesus Christ, and [kai] the love of God [tou theou, “the God”], and [kai] the fellowship of the [tou] Holy Spirit be with you all.” Grammatically, the three Persons are distinguished from each other by the repetition of the article (tou, “the”) and conjunction (kai, “and”).[8]

III. The Christ that Paul preached was the two-natured-Person—God-man:

The Incarnation (i.e., God becoming flesh; cf. John 1:14) was a part of Paul’s gospel (e.g., 1 Cor. 2:8[9]; Rom. 1:1-4; Gal. 4:4; Phil. 2:6-11; esp. 2 Tim. 2:8). Further, as with the Apostle John in 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7, Paul teaches that presently Jesus is God-man (e.g., Acts 17:31; 1 Tim. 2:5).

IV. The Christ that Paul preached was the Creator of all things:

As in John 1:3, Paul presents Christ as the Agent of creation. This is especially brought out in Colossians 1:16-17: “For by Him all things were created . . . all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together” (cf. 1 Cor. 8:6).

V. The Christ that Paul preached redeemed us through His physical death:

“Having made peace through the blood of His cross; through Him. . . . yet He has now reconciled you in His fleshly body through death, in order to present you before Him holy and blameless and beyond reproach (Col. 1:20, 22; cf. also Rom. 5:7-10; Eph. 1:7).

VI. The Christ that Paul preached was the substitutionary atonement for believers:

Substitutionary Atonement simply means that Christ died on behalf of the ones that are justified (cf. Isa. 53:11; Mark 10:45; Rom. 5:7-10; 8:32; 2 Cor. 5:14; Gal. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:18). Because man is dead (cf. John 8:34, 36; Rom. 3:10-18; Eph. 2:5) man has no ability to hear, come to, submit, or please God (cf. John 6:44; 8:47; Rom. 8:7-8). Thus, only God alone can regenerate, “make alive” the dead sinner, which then causes him to walk in the ways of the Lord. He becomes a new species in Christ, born again, with a new heart (cf. Ezek. 36-36-37; John 1:13; 2 Cor. 5:17-21; 1 Pet. 1:2-4). By His death, we are declared righteousness: The Christ that Paul preached was delivered up for us (huper)—in our place (cf. Mark 10:45; 1 Tim. 2:5-6).

Faith, repentance, and the ability to believe are granted by God: e.g., John 6:37-40, 44; Acts 5:31; Eph. 2:8; Phil. 1:29; 2 Thess. 2:13; 2 Tim. 1:9; 2 Pet. 1:1.

The Christ that Paul preached saves infallibly,—for salvation is through Him alone (cf. Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 1:30; Eph. 2:18).

VII. The Christ that Paul preached was physically resurrected:

In 1 Corinthians 15:3-4, Paul defines his gospel, which he includes the physical resurrection: “For I delivered to you as of first importance . . . that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures”—it was a *physical* resurrection (cf. John 2:19-21).

For this is the Christ that Paul preached, who was the Yahweh of the Old Testament, Creator of all things. For the Christ that Paul preached became flesh, thus, the two-natured Person—perfect God and perfect man. The Christ that Paul preached IS the actual substitutionary atonement for us, His elect; He died the death that we deserved—on our behalf. And this Christ was resurrected to life. This is the Christ of biblical revelation, the Christ that Paul preached, the Christ who is coming back again!

NOTES

[1] The Pastoral Epistles, however, were written in literary Greek, which has caused some to question its authorship.

[2] For example, in both Romans and Galatians, Paul provides a refutation to the false faith + works theology of the Judaizers. In Colossians, he provides a sharp refutation to the flesh-denying Gnostics (as with John in 1 & 2 John). And he provides a positive affirmation that (a) Jesus Christ is the Creator of all things (cf. 1:16-17), (b) He is fully God (cf. 2:9), and (c) that through His death and bodily sacrifice “we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins” (1:14, cf. vv. 20, 22).

[3] There are many places where a NT author quotes an OT passage referring to Yahweh, yet applies it to the Son, which clearly shows that the Son is Yahweh; e.g., compare Heb. 1:10 with Ps. 105:25; Rom. 10:13 with Joel 2:32; John 12:41 with Isa. 6:8; Phil. 2:10-11 with Isa. 45:23; etc.

[4] The Greek reads: en morphē theou huparchōn, lit., “in nature of God existing.” First, the term morphē (“form”/“nature”) denotes the specific qualities or essential attributes of something. The term huparchōn (“existing”) is a present active participle, which indicates a continuous existence or continually subsisting. Thus, Jesus Christ is continuously existing in the nature of God. That one denies that the Son was truly the morphē of God would be to deny that the Son was truly the morphē of man as verse 7 indicates: “He emptied Himself, taking the form [morphē] of a bond servant” (cf. 2 Cor. 8:9).

[5] The lexical definition of a term is simply the dictionary definition, thus, the meaning in its original significance.

[6] Ean gar mē pisteusēte hoti egō eimi apothaneisthe en tais hamartiais humōn (cf. also John 8:28, 58; 13:19; 18:5, 6, 8).

[7] In the Greek, Paul’s Salutations contain no articles (ho, “the”) before “God” and “Lord.” Hence according to the rules of Greek grammar (viz. Sharp #5; see n. 8 below), “God” and “Lord” are presented as two distinct Persons.

[8] This grammatical rule is known as Granville Sharp’s Greek rule #6, which generally states: When multiple personal nouns in a clause are each preceded by the article ho (“the”) and linked by kai (“and”) each personal noun denotes a distinct person (cf. Matt. 28:19; 1 Thess. 3:11; 1 John 1:3; 2:22-23; Rev. 5:13).

[9] Here Paul calls Christ “the Lord of Glory” a phrase that signifies both His deity (Ps. 24:7-10 calls Yahweh, “the King of glory”) and His humanity (only man can be crucified: “for had they known it, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory”).