Knowing Christ by Mark Jones“Put all the pleasures of life such as family, job, recreation music, sports, entertainment, cuisine, and technology in one…Such joys pale in comparison with the delight of knowing Jesus and basking in communion with his person, not just his work!”
In his introduction of Knowing Christ, author Mark Jones states that his purpose for the book is, “to look at the person of Christ and give readers — particularly those in the church — a reason to love him more. We can only love him more by knowing him better,” and by knowing is meant a relational, personal knowledge, not merely intellectual acquaintance. His book is almost like a biography and character study of Jesus, examining the person, qualities, and work of Jesus Christ, both in his divine nature and his human nature.
In the Forward, J. I. Packer commends Jones’ book to us:
Have we ever, up to now, worked our way through any book that fully displays our Saviour as the brightest lights in the historical Reformed firmament have view him?
Have we ever formed the holy habit of contemplating Jesus in solitude, allowing Scripture passage after Scriptures passage to show us his many-sided glory and to draw us out in the many-angled adoration that is our proper response?
Do we often make a point of telling ourselves, and telling him, how lost we would be without him?
Do we constantly acknowledge the presence of Christ, who through the Holy Spirit keeps his promise to be with us always…?
Packer suggests that this book will help readers in these areas and more.
Each of the 27 chapters is about 6-10 pages long and begins with a key scripture verse or passage focusing on one aspect of Christ, making it an excellent choice for daily readings. The book also has a study guide at the back with questions for personal reflection or discussion, making it a good selection for private devotion or for group study.
The first chapter takes a look at who Christ claimed Himself to be, for as the author points out, there’s no more important question that a person can answer than, “Who do you say Jesus is?” Chapters such as “Christ’s Dignity”, “Christ’s Covenant”, “Christ’s Divinity” and “Christ’s Companion” explore Christ’s deity and His relationship to God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Following these topics are chapters that discuss “Christ’s Incarnation” and aspects of Jesus as relates to His humanity, such as: “Christ’s Faith,” “Christ’s Emotions”, “Christ’s Growth”, Christ’s Temptations”. Other chapters deal with Christ’s deeds while He lived on earth, including topics such as: “Christ’s Reading”, “Christ’s Prayers”, Christ’s Miracles”, and “Christ’s Sayings.” Next come chapters addressing the important subjects of Christ’s death, resurrection, exaltation and His intercession on behalf of His people. Additional chapters include such topics as “Christ’s People”, “Christ’s Wrath”, “Christ’s Names”, and Christ’s Offices.”
The 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith says this about the person of Jesus:
The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things he has made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin” (Ch. 8).
And the explanation given in Westminster Catechism (1647) says, “…the Lord Jesus Christ, being the eternal Son of God, became man, and so was and continues to be God and man in two distinct natures, and one person for ever.”
These truths are indeed profound! The incarnation of Christ is a mystery in and of itself. But it is an absolutely essential doctrine to our faith, as Jones explains,
The incarnation opens up the possibility of communion between God and man, which would otherwise be impossible…After all, if Jesus were in all things only a man, he would be at an infinite distance from God just as we are. In the same way, if Jesus were in all things only God, he would be at an infinite distance from us. As the mediator, however, he bridges the gap between the infinite God and the finite man. All that belongs to God, Jesus possesses. All that makes someone truly human, Jesus possesses.
Certainly we who are Christians love Jesus for saving us, but as Jones points out through the words of Puritan Stephen Charnock, there is “something in Christ more excellent and comely than the office of a Savior; the greatness of his person is more excellent than the salvation procured by his death.” Jesus Christ deserves our worship and obedience, not merely for what He accomplished for us, but for who He is.
I found it profitable to focus on these many individual aspects of the one person, the two natures, and the many characteristics and works of the Lord Jesus. Some sections were quite thought-provoking as Jones makes observations about Christ that I had not considered deeply before. I found this to be especially true in the chapters that discuss Christ’s humanity and His dependency on the Holy Spirit while on earth. Consider a few passages which stood out to me:
Christ performed miracles because the Holy Spirit enabled him…He could have depended upon his own inherent ‘divine’ resources, but instead he depended upon the will of the Father, who gave to him the Spirit as he needed. Indeed, he humbled himself in the ‘likeness of men’ by voluntarily laying aside the full exercise of his deity while exercising dependence upon the Spirit in his ministry…By receiving and depending upon the Holy Spirit, Christ was fully dependent upon his Father.
Divine grace is a perfection of God’s nature and thus a characteristic of how he relates to finite creatures…As the apple of God’s eye, Jesus received grace upon grace so that he might impart to his people grace upon grace…Christ’s heart, soul, mind, and strength, whereby he loved the Lord his God, were given grace from God so that he might enjoy communion with God.
(Quoting J. C. Philpot) There is not a grace or fruit of the Spirit possessed by His people in measure, which the Lord did not possess without measure…Faith in all its actings, hope in all its anchorings, love in all its flowings, patience in all its endurings, humility in all its submittings, prayer in all its supplications, praise in all its adorings, obedience in all its yielding, holiness in all its flame, and worship in all its fervour — all these graces and fruits of the Holy Spirit may be seen shining forth as with beams of heavenly light in the personal experience of our blessed Lord.
Through his death [Christ] purchased a right to his people and the benefits of their salvation. However, his intercession remains necessary to actually bring us into possession of all spiritual blessings, and ultimately of heaven. In other words, the application of all Christ’s work for his people depends, in the final analysis, upon his intercession. Without it, there is no salvation.
With all that is in this book that was helpful and profitable, I have to provide a caveat, especially for Christians who are new in the faith or not well-grounded in Biblical teaching. There are just a few points that the author makes that I found myself uncomfortable with and confused by. Mind you, I’m not claiming to be the expert or to be smarter or better taught than Jones. But I believe he makes a couple of statements or observations that I don’t think can be supported from Scripture.
In the very first chapter, Jones makes a statement that just made me squirm. He writes,
Of all the human desires that [Christ] retained as he entered his glorified state in heaven, few exceed his desire to know his people. Jesus, the Lord of glory, supremely satisfied in the love of the Father, Holy Spirit, and elect angels, remains unsatisfied if he cannot know, love, and ultimately be with his people.
While I have no problem with the first part of this statement, saying that Jesus is “unsatisfied” makes him sound like He is less than perfect, that He is somehow lacking. In eternity past, wouldn’t He have been perfectly content within the Godhead, who is completely self-sufficient, needing nothing outside of Himself?
Another example is where Jones is talking about the fact that Jesus took on the “likeness of sinful flesh.” While we know that Jesus was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Is. 53:3), Jones says, “Christ probably did not take on all of the infirmities that characterized man’s nature after the Fall…As far as we know, Christ was not subject to disease.” We know Jesus experienced hunger, fatigue, and pain. Was His experience of pain limited only to the last week of his life? Isn’t it possible that he got an ear infection as a baby, or caught a cold that was going around? Obviously He could’ve healed Himself if He did get sick, but just as He subjected Himself to hunger, pain, and yes, even death, may He also have willingly subjected Himself to illness? The Scriptures don’t tell us, so whether Jesus was susceptible to illness or not is pure speculation.
In one passage I found a bit disconcerting, Jones talks about the limited knowledge of Jesus. We know that Jesus came as a baby, so inevitably he had to develop humanly-speaking, learning how to walk, talk, read, etc. And He voluntarily submitted Himself to the will of His Father and to the leading of the Holy Spirit. But Jones shares these words from B. B. Warfield,
Christ, as man, had a finite knowledge and must continue to have a finite knowledge forever. Human nature is ever finite…so that it is certain that the knowledge of Christ’s human nature is not and can never be the infinite wisdom of God itself.”
I admit that initially I found this statement to be troubling. But after sharing my concerns with others whom I trust regarding their understanding of these matters, I came to realize that it’s the distinction between Christ’s divine nature and His human nature that is being described. Christ will retain His human nature for eternity, all the while remaining 100% God. Having two natures is simply a concept we can’t really comprehend!
That being said, much of what I read in this book challenged me to think and ask questions, and brought me to a new and deeper level of understanding and appreciation for who the man Jesus was. For the most part, Knowing Christ served to remind me of the excellencies of the Son of God, who lived a perfect life and died a perfect death for sinners like me.
Before considering Knowing Christ, I would recommend the following books: