Each year as we approach the Christmas season and the threshold of a new year, I have found it rewarding to reflect on the uniqueness of our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. As one who believes in the authority and inspiration of the Scripture there is the hope and conviction that the return of Christ is not only imminent, but that even those momentous events described in Matthew 24 and Revelation 6-18 cannot be far away. The world, for the most part, however, does not hold to such a belief. The world celebrates Christmas without Christ and this grows more blatant as the years go by. And not only that, but many today resent the singing of carols or any sort of religious emphasis during the season of the year. Some have even suggested changing the name of the season to some secular, nondescript name. In fact, do we not now live in a age in which only one prejudice is tolerated—anti-Christian bigotry?
Michael Novak, the eminent columnist, once said that today you can no longer hold up to public pillorying and ridicule groups such as African-Americans or native Americans or women or homosexuals or Poles, and so on. Today, the only group you can hold up to public mockery is Christians. Attacks on the Church and Christianity are common. As Pat Buchanan once put it, “Christian-bashing is a popular indoor sport.”1
But this should not surprise us. The world view, which more and more Americans have opted for, even if by default, is that of secular humanism with its hope in mankind, not the God-man, Christ Jesus. Ironically, coupled with this world view is a certain despondency, disappointment, and discontentment with the job mankind is doing. This has opened the door for the New Age movement and its confidence in mankind, but also its belief in what amounts to demonic powers, the powers that are behind all the religions of the world, the cults, and occult. The world has always had its religious leaders and false messiahs. Christ warned that in the last days many false messiahs would arise, which, as John tells us will culminate in the Antichrist (1 John 2:18, 22; 4:3).
Of the religions of the world, Christianity is unique because it stems from the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the greatest man who ever lived. In Jesus, we have One who has virtually changed every aspect of human life, but sadly, most people are completely oblivious to the reality of how He has so completely impacted the world. Certainly one of the great tragedies of the Christmas holidays each year is not just the commercialization of His birth, but the way it is trivialized even when people do speak of His birth and Christmas as an expression of the “spirit of giving.” As Kennedy points out,
. . . How tragic it is that people have forgotten Him to whom they owe so very much.
Jesus says in Revelation 21:5, “Behold, I make all things new.” (Behold! [idou in Greek]: “Note well,” “look closely,” “examine carefully.”) Everything that Jesus Christ touched, he utterly transformed. He touched time when he was born into this world’ He had a birthday and that birthday utterly altered the way we measure time.2
The person, work, and life of Jesus Christ stands as irrefutable evidence against the secular world view and all the religions of the world regardless of their makeup. No one else is qualified or capable to meet the needs of fallen humanity or restore that which was lost by Adam in the fall of man. A striking illustration of this is seen in Revelation 5:1-11. A careful study of the context and content of Revelation 6-19 suggests that the seven-sealed book, which only Christ can open, contains the story of mankind losing his lordship over the earth to Satan, the usurper, and its recovery through the God-man Savior, the Lion who is also the Lamb. He alone is able to accomplish what no one else in the universe can, and, based on His death as the Lamb and His resurrection as the Redeemer/Savior, He recovers what was lost through the judgments of the sealed book.
Thus, as we consider the uniqueness of Christ, we also need to recognize this uniqueness demands our allegiance and commitment as believers. It demands that we rearrange our priorities and stand as luminaries in a dark and dismal world holding forth the message of the unique Christ, the God-man Savior of the World. Jesus Himself sought to impress this mindset on His disciples when He stated, “You are the salt of the earth, … You are the light of the world …” (Matt. 5:13-16).
In the person of Jesus Christ, we have one so unique that His life cannot be explained by natural processes. His person and life defy the natural. The uniqueness of Jesus Christ presents evidence, as Josh McDowell has so well written “demands a verdict,” that this Man is not only unique, but the Savior of the world.
To properly consider the uniqueness of Christ, let’s first consider the uniqueness of Christianity.
Alone of all the beliefs of mankind, be they religious or political or philosophical, “Christianity (including its Old Testament foundation) is based upon historical acts and facts. Other religions are centered in the ethical and religious teachings of their founders, but Christianity is built on the great events of creation and redemption.3
The Moslem faith is based on the teachings of Mohammed, Buddhism is based on the teachings Buddha, Confucianism on the teachings of Confucius, Marxism on the teachings of Marx, and evolution on the teachings of Darwin. Not one of these is based on the observation of historical data or facts, but on the teachings and theories of men. Remember, evolution is based on theory—not on observable data.
Christianity, however, is founded, not on what Jesus taught (and this distinction is vital to grasp) but on who Jesus is and on what Jesus accomplished. Of course, as Christians, we stand firmly on His teachings. No one ever spoke and taught like Jesus, but ultimately, the value of what He said was dependent upon who He was and what He did and the abundant historical evidence that authenticated His life and words. This gave the teachings of Christ authority and placed them alone in the category of absolute truth. The truthfulness of Jesus and His teachings stand on the validity of historical records which are subject to investigation and examination.
All other beliefs are based on the teachings and ideas of those who were nothing more than mere men. No matter how brilliant, charismatic, or powerful they may be, there is no guarantee of their objectivity, accuracy or ultimate ability to deliver what they have promised.
The uniqueness of Christianity, however, ultimately depends on the uniqueness of its central figure—the Lord Jesus Christ. Some try to place Christ among the great religious leaders of history, as one among many, but this is grotesque and absurd. Either He was who He said He was and who history demonstrates Him to be, or, as someone has put it, He was on par with ‘a man who thinks he is a poached egg.’ Christ’s uniqueness is so great that no one, absolutely no one, can compare with Him.
But there is another evidence of the uniqueness of Christianity as an outgrowth of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ. It is the awesome impact of Christ through the church on mankind and history. In his excellent book, What If Jesus had Never Been Born?, Kennedy give an overview of some of the positive contributions Christianity has made throughout the centuries. Following this overview, he develops this in great detail. Here are a few highlights:
These are some of the many contributions brought about by the preaching of the message of the gospel of salvation in Christ. Such happened because of the spiritual change that Christ brings into the hearts of men. After summarizing these contributions, Kennedy concluded:
When Jesus Christ took upon Himself the form of man, He imbued mankind with a dignity and inherent value that had never been dreamed of before. Whatever Jesus touched or whatever he did transformed that aspect of human life. Many people will read about the innumerable small incidents in the life of Christ while never dreaming that those casually mentioned “little” things were to transform the history of humankind.5
The fact of fulfilled prophecy is a unique feature of Christianity. The coming of Jesus Christ was prophesied in minute detail regarding His lineage, nature, place of birth, where He would be raised, His career, purpose, the specific manor and nature of His death, His resurrection, and many other fulfilled prophecies. And all of these prophecies were made hundreds of years before His birth or first advent.
His birth was, of course, the most unique birth in all of human history. Though ancient mythology was filled with tales of demi-gods who were supposed to be the progeny of lustful unions between women and gods (demons), there was nothing even close to the narrative of the birth of Jesus Christ.
Christ’s birth stands alone in history. By the miraculous work of the Holy Spirit, God Himself took up residency in a virgin’s womb in embryonic form so that after a natural nine-month pregnancy, she gave birth to a son who was also God’s Son. He was the God-man Savior—not a God-indwelt man. He was both true and genuine humanity and undiminished deity united in one Person forever. No other birth was like this in fact or fiction.
As a result of this unique birth, Christ was able to bypass the curse of sin and the curse of Jeconiah so that He was uniquely qualified as the sinless One to both go to the cross to die as the Lamb of God and to reign on the throne of His father David as the Lion of the tribe of Judah (Rev. 5).
This is found, as mentioned above in the divine/human natures of Christ—two natures united in one person. The Bible makes the claim that Jesus Christ is both God and Man. As God He created all things (Jn. 1:1; Col. 1:16). As man He was sinless and came as the sinless substitute to die for mankind’s sin. But the declaration of Scripture and the evidence of His life affirm that He was not half man and half God, but totally man and totally God united in one Person.
He is God’s indescribable and unfathomable gift to the world. He is the most unique Person of the universe. No other religious leader has ever seriously made such a claim for no other could support it by their life.
His life is unparalleled in beauty, scope, character, and effect. No one ever spoke like Jesus Christ, did the things He did, or made the claims He made.
In view of Christ’s mighty words and works, and the perfect and sinless person men found Him to be, the claims He made cannot be dismissed. People cannot, in all honesty to the historical evidence, dismiss Christ’s claims as those of a mad man or reject Him as a fraud. Modern skeptics try to attribute his miracles and claims to simply the character of his life. But they do this simply because of their prejudice against the light (truth) and against the miraculous, not because there is a lack of bona fide historical evidence.6
His death is also unique, not because He was crucified, but because it was prophesied in Psalm 22 long before death by crucifixion was known in Palestine. Second, it is unique because of the manner in which he died, displaying his sinless and holy character. And third, because of the miracles surrounding his death—the darkness, the earthquake, and the opening of the graves. After seeing Christ on the cross and the events of that day, the Roman centurion who had seen hundreds die on a cross said, “truly this was the Son of God.”
Other religious and philosophical leaders have come and gone, risen and fallen, but none have come back from the dead to carry on their work as did Jesus Christ. This too is unique, not only because Jesus Christ stands alone in this respect, but because of the Old Testament predictions and the incontrovertible evidence for the historical fact of the resurrection—the empty tomb, His post-resurrection appearances, and the transformed lives of his disciples, not to mention the continuation of Christianity in the face of the greatest adversity.7
The fact is, men reject Jesus Christ, His birth, miracles, and resurrection not because of a lack of evidence, but (1) because they have never really researched the evidence with an open mind, or (2) do not want to submit to his authority and claims, or (3) because they have a basic anti-supernatural philosophy, a prejudice against the miraculous, or both.
They approach history with a preconceived notion and then adjust the evidence accordingly. In other words, before they even begin their historical examination they have determined the content of their results.
Many historians approach history with certain presuppositions and these presuppositions are not historical biases but rather philosophical prejudices. Their historical perspective is rooted within a philosophical framework, and the metaphysical conviction usually determines the “historical” content and results. The “modern” researcher, when presented with the historical evidence for the resurrection, will usually reject it, but not because of historical examination.
The response will often be: “Because we know there is no God”; or “The supernatural is not possible”; or, “We live in a closed system”; or “Miracles are not possible”; etc.… All too often it is the offshoot of philosophical speculation and not historical homework.8
An illustration of what McDowell is talking about is the Jesus Seminar which recently claimed to search for the ‘Jesus of history’ who they claim is different from the ‘Jesus of faith.’ It is the view of those involved in the Jesus Seminar that the historical Jesus was a bright, witty, countercultural man who never claimed to be the Son of God, while the Jesus of faith is a cluster of ‘feel-good’ ideas that help people live right but are ultimately based on wishful thinking. In discussing the Jesus Seminar, Strobel quotes Dr. Luke Timothy Johnson and writes:
Johnson systematically skewers the Jesus Seminar, saying it “by no means represents the cream of New Testament scholarship,” it follows a process that is “biased against the authenticity of the gospel traditions,” and its results were “already determined ahead of time.” He concludes, “This is not responsible, or even critical, scholarship. It is a self-indulgent charade.”
He goes on to quote other distinguished scholars with similar opinions, including Dr. Howard Clark Kee, who called the Seminar “an academic disgrace,” and Richard Hayes of Duke University, whose review of The five Gospels asserted that “the case argued by this book would not stand up in any court.9
What makes Christ’s person unique? The virgin birth of the Son of God, the incarnation, the birth of the God-man. Only the virgin birth can give an adequate answer to the phenomena of the uniqueness of Jesus Christ.
(1) In Christ’s life and ministry, he demonstrated who He was--the God-man, the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth. He also declared His purpose—to die for our sin.
(2) In His death on the cross, Christ accomplished that purpose. He bore our sin in His sinless body on the tree. He died as our substitute, and took our judgment.
(3) By His resurrection, God proved the value of His Son’s death and the sinlessness of His Person. It proved Him to be the unique God-man.
As ordained in the eternal counsels of God, historically for man, it all began in the fullness of time (Gal. 4:4) when Mary gave birth to her firstborn son, Jesus. But this was no ordinary birth. Rather, it was the result of the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:20; Luke 1:35). Though anticipated in the prophets for hundreds of years, it all began with that first Christmas when the Son of God became flesh and began to dwell among men.
Luke 2:1-14. Now in those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus to register all the empire for taxes. 2:2 This was the first registration, taken when Quirinius was governor of Syria.2:3 Everyone went to his own town to be registered.2:4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to the city of David called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family line of David. 2:5 He went to be registered with Mary, who was promised in marriage to him, and who was expecting a child. 2:6 While they were there, the time came for her to deliver her child.2:7 And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in strips of cloth and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.
2:8 Now in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping guard over their flock by night. 2:9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were absolutely terrified.2:10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for take note, I proclaim to you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people: 2:11 to you is born today in the town of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. 2:12 This will be the sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in strips of cloth and lying in a manger.” 2:13 Suddenly a multitude of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,
2:14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among people with whom he is pleased!”
The following well known anonymous composition of the nineteenth century beautifully demonstrates the uniqueness of Jesus Christ, the Savior of the World.
One Solitary Life10
He was born in an obscure village, the child of a peasant woman. He grew up in another village, where He worked in a carpenter shop until He was thirty. Then for three years He was an itinerant preacher. He never wrote a book. He never held an office. He never had a family or owned a home. He didn’t go to college. He never visited a big city. He never traveled two hundred miles from the place where he was born. He did none of the things that usually accompany greatness. He had no credentials but Himself.
He was only thirty-three when the tide of public opinion turned against Him. His friends ran away. One of them denied Him. He was turned over to His enemies and went through the mockery of a trial. He was nailed to a cross between two thieves.
While He was dying, His executioners gambled for His garments, the only property he had on earth. When He was dead, He was laid in a borrowed grave through the pity of a friend. Nineteen centuries have come and gone, and today He is the central figure of the human race.
All the armies that ever marched, all the navies that ever sailed, all the parliaments that ever sat, all the kings that ever reigned, put together, have not affected the life of man on this earth as much as that one solitary life.
6 The following are a list of books that clearly set forth some of the awesome evidence for Christ: The Case For Christ, Lee Strobel, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998; The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, Craig Blomberg, InterVarsity Press, 1987; The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable?, F. F. Bruce, Eerdmans, 1960; The Evidence for Jesus, R. T. france, InterVarsity Press, 1986; Jesus Under Fire, Michael J. Wilkins and J. P. Moreland, Zondervan, 1995; The Resurrection Factor, Josh McDowell, Here's Life, 1981; Evidence Demands a Verdict, A Campus Crusade for Christ Book, 1972. Many more could be cited.
7 Two more outstanding books on the evidence for the resurrection are Knowing the Truth About The Resurrection, Our Response to the Empty Tomb, William L. Craig, Servants Books, 1988, and Did Jesus Rise From the Dead, The Resurrection Debate, Gary Habermas and Antony Flew, Terry L. Miethe, Editor, Harper & Row, 1987.