I am currently writing a short series on how Christ is the great fulfiller of Old Testament Israel. Whereas Israel had fallen short of the purpose and promises of God, Christ came through as the great One to fulfil the covenant purposes of God.
In the last article, I mentioned two ways in which Christ fulfilled Israel:
- Jesus was God’s great firstborn Son
- Jesus was the true vine
But there are three more points I wanted to cover in this article, the first being this:
Jesus’ Faithfulness in Temptation
Most of us will be aware that, in the Old Testament, Israel had been tested for 40 years in the wilderness.
And you shall remember the whole way that the LORD your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. (Deuteronomy 8:2)
While Israel could have entered the promised land of Canaan quite soon after the great exodus from Egypt, they rather decided to harden their hearts, not believe God and grumble constantly. Thus, they were to spend 40 years wandering in the wilderness until a new generation would be raised up to enter the land. You can see this summarised in Numbers 14:20-23.
Yet, though Israel had fallen short in those wilderness wandering years, we see that the Son of God was faithful in His own wilderness testing. True, Christ’s testing in the wilderness was only 40 days rather than 40 years. But theologians have no doubt that this number 40, as well as that Christ had been tempted in the wilderness, points to the parallel account of Israel in the Old Testament. These are the some summary words from Luke’s account:
1 And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the wilderness 2 for forty days, being tempted by the devil… 14 And Jesus returned in the power of the Spirit to Galilee, and a report about him went out through all the surrounding country. (Luke 4:1-14)
And, interestingly enough, we are told that the Son of God was led by the Spirit into this wilderness. This account of Christ should give us some helpful insight into a holistic and Biblical understanding of suffering, quite contrary to some of the prosperity gospel teaching.
These words of theologian and professor at London School of Theology, Max Turner, ring true when considering this particular aspect of paralleling Christ’s life with that of Israel:
‘The final ‘temptations’ echo Israel’s in the wilderness but, while they ‘rebelled and grieved his Holy Spirit’ there (Isa. 63:10), the new representative of Israel remains faithful and overcomes the tempter.’
Jesus Disciplined by the Father
In that wilderness testing, we read that Israel was being disciplined by God for their unfaithfulness and unbelief.
Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the LORD your God disciplines you. (Deuteronomy 8:5)
Though we know well that Jesus Christ, the divine Son, was perfect and sinless (2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22), He was to receive the Father’s discipline at the cross. We see this expounded on in the book of Hebrews:
…2 looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. 3 Consider him who endured from sinners such hostility against himself, so that you may not grow weary or fainthearted…5 And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?
“My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord,
nor be weary when reproved by him.
6 For the Lord disciplines the one he loves,
and chastises every son whom he receives.” (Hebrews 12:2-6)
One cannot imagine how the perfect One would receive the undeserved chastisement of the Father. But we also know this is an amazing and necessary reality of the gospel, the good news. Christ was giving His life on behalf of a rebellious humanity who had defied their Creator and Father, all that we might be restored and reconciled back into the love relationship for which we were created. The faithful One was faithful to endure the discipline of the Father at the cross.
Jesus Receives the Promises of Abraham
Though I mention this point lastly, by no means does this indicate it is of little importance. Matter of fact, I would say it is this point that carries the greatest of weight.
The great explainer of the Old Testament, that being the New Testament, teaches us that it is Christ who is the one to truly receive the promises of Abraham. Yes, those promises were to Abraham and his offspring, this offspring being previously understood as Israel. But Paul brings clarity to the inheritance of these promises in his own words to the Galatians:
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. (Galatians 3:16)
Whereas Israel had always been seen as the offspring of Abraham, Paul declares that Christ is actually the great offspring of Abraham. He was the One singular offspring. Thus, it is ultimately to Christ that all the promises and blessings of Abraham belong. As Paul also remarks:
For no matter how many promises God has made, they are “Yes” in Christ. And so through him the “Amen” is spoken by us to the glory of God. (2 Corinthians 1:20 NIV)
Christ is not only Abraham’s offspring and the receiver of such promises, but He also is the fulfilment for all of God’s promises.
Therefore, I believe we can conclude that Christ was the faithful One to the Father, coming as the Messiah of Israel who would Himself fulfil Israel’s role. He was God’s firstborn Son, the true vine, faithful in His wilderness temptation, endured the discipline of the Father, and received all the promises of Abraham, even fulfilling every promise of God.
Knowing that Christ is the great fulfiller of Israel, I believe such only leads us to conclude that all of those in Christ, whether Jew or Gentile, are the new Israel of God. This is what I plan to consider over my next few articles.
I like this series, you're doing a good job with it 🙂
The one thing I'll bring up with this post is that Hebrews quote in relation to Christ being disciplined by the Father — the passage is not saying that Christ was disciplined, it was saying that he endured much suffering from sinners and therefore we shouldn't be afraid of suffering either – it is used to discipline us.
I guess what I'm really trying to say is that God disciplines his sons, but Christ, on the cross, was not being disciplined (in the way that we are, that we would come back to holy living) but rather punished in the same way that the sinner being sent to hell is punished.
Christ didn't go to the cross to purify himself — he was perfect. He didn't need discipline. He was being condemned by God on the cross as to condemn our sins with him.
Of course, the good part about this was that his punishment, though not at all deserved, was temporary and is all that saved us 🙂
Thanks for the comment, ChristSpeak.
I understand what you are saying, and yes, the Hebrews 12 passage does speak of our discipline as the children of God. But, interestingly enough, Hebrews 12 starts out by speaking about what Christ endured (vs2). Then, the writer makes a parallel between that and how we endure the discipline of God. So, due to the parallel between what Christ endured (vs2) and what we endured in our discipline (vs7), I think it is ok to view the cross as God's 'discipline' of Christ.
In our minds, discipline is what a parent does to a BAD child. But I believe the bigger picture shows that discipline is for training a child, whether that child is good or bad. Punishment will always be a result of bad, but discipline can even be given to the child who is good. Therefore, if we wanted to argue that Christ's perfection keeps Him from the Father's discipline, then I think we miss the bigger picture that discipline is about training (making one a disciple).
Now, why would Christ need this training-discipline? Well, we have to keep in mind the incarnation of the Son. Yes, He was the divine Son, but He was fully human. Therefore, I believe Christ had to walk through everything we would, even the sense of learning to listen to the Father, be trained by Him, rely fully on Him, etc. This was the reality of the flesh incarnation. We cannot deny this part of Jesus, for he was both fully God and fully man. That is how I also see discipline (training) being connected to Christ.
A final thing to consider is, if we do connect discipline to doing 'wrong', then because Christ took on our sin at the cross, He was no longer viewed as perfect. He needed to be 'disciplined' since He bore our disgusting sin. This final act was the great disciplinary act upon a Son who was paying for the sin of humanity. That is why Isa 53:10 could say: 'Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him.' This crushing (for sin) was discipline and this discipline was a crushing (for sin).
So, in all, I still think a bigger, holistic picture of discipline will allow us to see that the incarnate Son, Jesus, did receive discipline from the Father.