Weekend Reads: Christ the mediator

Books
by Caleb Nelson
Posted 7/11/15, 01:07 pm

William Symington’s Messiah the Prince Revisited: A Modernized Abridgement

By J.K. Wall

I hate abridged books. So I was shocked to find myself tremendously enjoying William Symington’s Messiah the Prince Revisited: A Modernized Abridgement (Crown & Covenant Publications, 2014), by J.K. Wall. Symington was a 19th century Scottish Presbyterian minister, and like many other Scottish Presbyterians, a brilliant theologian. Messiah the Prince is his treatise on the mediatorial dominion of Jesus Christ. Wall, a business journalist in Indianapolis, has taken Symington’s 100,000-word classic and rewritten it in 50,000 words by cutting the florid phrasing, repetition, and multiplied Scripture references of the original.

As God the Son, Christ enjoys a natural dominion over all of creation. But as the only mediator between God and man, He further enjoys a given dominion, or what theologians call His “mediatorial reign.” The key biblical evidence is found in the word “given.” As God, authority belongs to Him. As mediator, authority was given to Him, as He says in the preface to the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18). Daniel saw dominion given to the Son of Man (Daniel 7:13-14). God the Father gives dominion to the Son (Psalm 2:8). Paul tells us that Christ is head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22).

Most of the book is dedicated to drawing out the implications of Christ’s mediatorial dominion for the individual, the church, and the state. Thus, the book forms a mini-systematic theology in which everything is explained in terms of Christ and His Kingdom. The combination of Wall’s journalistic training and Symington’s theological acumen is riveting. Rather than simply reading about, say, Providence (as in a standard systematic theology), you will read about Providence in terms of how Christ uses it for the sake of His church.

In a nation in which Christ’s Kingship is openly defied, Wall and Symington provide a massive dose of encouragement. Christian, your God reigns (Isaiah 52:7)! 

Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross

By Colin S. Smith

Many books tell a famous story from a minor character’s point of view. Colin Smith’s Heaven, How I Got Here: The Story of the Thief on the Cross (Christian Focus, 2015) is an excellent example of the genre. It is an evangelistic tract, cast in the form of a novella. The story is believable—a young man with a moralizing mother grows up under Roman occupation and realizes that the temple sacrifices have no relevance to his colonized people. As a teenager, he steals from the temple. Soon he is stealing all the time.

Most of the book focuses on the few hours that this man and Jesus spent crucified next to each other. Chapter titles like “Faith—11:14 a.m.” (followed by “Hope—11:15 a.m.”) underscore that the main point of the story is not to be a heist thriller, but to tell just how this thief on the cross came to believe.

Smith is an Evangelical Free pastor in Chicago, and his gospel presentation is rock-solid. From the only words Jesus uttered to this man beside Him—“Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise” (Luke 23:43, ESV)—Smith expounds on the glorious free gift of salvation. “He didn’t put me on probation,” says the thief/narrator. “He accepted me freely and gladly, without hesitation or condition.” Smith then presses the invitation home: To be saved, you don’t have to do anything. Just swallow your pride and ask Jesus to show mercy on you.

The thief witnesses the interchange between Jesus and John (“Behold, your mother!”). From that, Smith explains that whether you’re as wicked as the thief or as righteous as Mary, you still need Jesus Christ as Savior. Through the words of this minor character, the good news of God’s grace shines plainly.

Caleb Nelson

Caleb is the pastor of Harvest Reformed Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Gillette, Wyo.

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