Saturday, September 17, 2011

Epic Jesus: my somewhat reformed perspective

Recently I listened to a podcast by Frank Viola of a keynote speech that he delivered at the 2011 Momentum Conference entitled Epic Jesus: The Christ You Never Knew.  Some of you know the impact that Frank's work has had on my ever changing understanding and convictions regarding the church.  This message is not about organic church, in fact there is only a reference to OC near the very end where he defines what makes a church organic.  Instead it is about the source of the life of the Church:  the man Christ Jesus.  I listened to it once before when I was greatly distracted with some devastating news and my thoughts surrounding that issue.  Frank contacted me and asked me if I could tell him how a person with a reformed frame of mind would assess this particular message.  So I decided to listen to it again with that question in mind.

In this message Viola presents Jesus Christ in an astounding way that is so incredibly glorious the person of Christ will take your breath away and leave you longing for more of Him.  He frames his talk around Colossians 1:15-22,24-27 and 3:4 giving an overview of the Colossian false doctrine of going beyond Christ. Then he moves through the passage using a storytelling style of speaking where he begins before creation in v. 15 and moves through a chronological timeline of Biblical events telling story after story and exposing Christ as he appeared to different people at different times.  Some will appreciate this creative approach, others who are more analytically minded and dig a line by line intellectual analysis of the scripts may find it a little too narrative for their tastes.

Some things I think reformed folks will appreciate in this talk:
  • Frank makes the social gospel, charismatic, and dispensational definitions of the Kingdom of God look highly inadequate by defining the Kingdom as the manifestation of the presence of God in the person Jesus Christ.
  • He declares the cross as the device of reconciliation that reunites Holy God to His fallen created universe by taking every sin we have committed, the world system that is in rebellion against His Father, the entire old creation that was corrupt and fallen, the condemnation of the law, the old Adamic nature you and I had outside of Christ, and the power of Lucifer all unto Himself and crucifying it all with Himself on the cross.  When Jesus died all of those things died with Him. 
  • Anyone with a passion for the sovereignty of God will greatly appreciate the last ten minutes of this message where Viola explains how time and eternity are related and how God operates in the creation while being outside of time, especially how our election and calling before the foundation of the world was declared by our God even as He knew and saw our most heinous sins we committed yet He chose us anyway.
Some things reformed folks may disagree with in this talk:
  • some folks have taken issue with what He calls a "new people of God" as he speaks of the church (Challies' review of From Eternity to Here comes to mind) but in this message he corrects some of the misunderstandings of that by describing Jesus as the new Israel.  In this effort Frank cites Matthews gospel where he quotes Hosea's reference to Israel being called out of Egypt and applies it to Jesus.  Then he illustrates how Jesus' 40 day wilderness experience is compared to Israel's 40 years in the wilderness and how the 12 Jewish disciples correspond to the 12 tribes.  He follows up this line of thinking through the half Jew - half Gentile woman at Jacob's well where Jacob found his wife and Jesus tells the woman about her many previous husbands followed by her need for Him:  the living water.  In doing so Viola carries the listener through a narrative of the forming of the Bride of Christ in Christ using Old Testament illustrations of Israel.
  • Complimentarians will likely not appreciate his reference to Galatians where he says that there are no distinctions between male and female in this new creation instituted as the Ekklesia (translated church) of God.  Let the listener decide if Frank makes that reference in a way that sides with complementarians or egalitarians or goes beyond that argument completely.

 My favorite line Frank spoke was "Jesus is the exposition, exegesis and the explanation of God...there is no God outside of Jesus."  All things considered I think that anyone who appreciates a good sermon with a heavy focus on Christ and a clear presentation of the gospel will consider listening to this podcast as time well spent.  There are some things that Frank has written that I would not recommend to my reformed brethren without a certain level of caution so as to not cause arguments and division but this is a talk that I would highly recommend to you.  As soon as you have 54 minutes to spare you should give it a listen and come back to tell me what you think or leave your comment on the Podbean comment box and be sure to let Frank know you are coming from a reformed perspective.

I hope that this message will blow your mind and give you a greater understanding of the immense size of the Christ that dwells in you as you continue in your hunt for His unsearchable riches.


  1. Thanks for posting, brother.

    That message was both enlightening and convicting (not in the guilt-driven, religious way). It made Christ to be so much larger in my eyes and Frank's constant message of Christ's supremacy has continued to guide my walk in Christ and shape me as a follower.

    I'm not reformed, nor do I even know what "reformed" means, but I love Jesus Christ and anyone else who does will enjoy and be edified by this message.

    In Christ,

  2. Haven't listened to the message, but read the transcript. Wonderful. I come out of a Reformed background, and must say that that I find much of what I have come to embrace in the past few years (now part of an organic fellowship and have discovered Austin Sparks - thanks to Frank) incompatible with Reformed theology. God was too far and distant, and I was way too determined. In the words of Maurice E. Hare:

    There was a young man who said "Damn!
    I perceive with regret that I am
    But a creature that moves
    In predestinate grooves
    I'm not even a bus, I'm a tram."

    I am not the elect. Christ is. In Him I become elect. God's interest is in choosing Jesus Christ, not me. So I think the fuss about election is much-ado-about-nothing. Nice blog, btw!


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