[Basics of Christian Faith 4] Jesus Christ the Lord
Jesus was a human being, a Jew in Galilee with a name and a family, a person who was in a way just like everyone else. Yet in another way he was something different than anyone who had ever lived on earth before. It took the church five centuries of active debate to agree on some sort of balance between 'just like everyone else' and something 'different.' For those of us raised in the church, even raised in a nominally Christian culture, the balance inevitably tilts toward 'something different.' As Pascal said, “The church has had as much difficulty in showing that Jesus Christ was man, against those who denied it, as in showing that he was God.” --Philip Yancey
Who is Jesus? He is a unique person because he is the God-man.
Yet this is not a dogma imposed on us simply to receive without question; it is a conclusion which grows out of the evidence in the Bible. Many facts point to the conclusion that Jesus Christ is God; many others lead to the conclusion that he is truly human. In him is the union of undiminished deity and perfect humanity. –Charles Ryrie
If you were having a discussion with someone about Him, would you be able to prove your convictions from Scripture? There are different opinions out there dating back to the early church. Some people have denied His deity; some have denied the reality of His humanity. Some assign to him a lesser status as a god, e.g., Jehovah’s Witnesses. Some say that he was merely a man, a good man, even a great man. One who had the courage to die for his convictions. As such he was an example to us. (Unitarians)
Is Jesus Fully God?
The Scripture is our only source of information and we have learned that it is inerrant in the original manuscripts, because it is God-breathed. So what the Bible says about Jesus must be true and cannot be edited to suit our particular notions.
Let's ask the Bible some determinative questions.
Did Christ Exist Before He Was Born At Bethlehem?
Read Micah 5:2 and Colossians 1:16-17.
John 8:58: “Before Abraham was, I AM.”
Both the Old Testament and the New Testament state clearly that the Son of God existed before He came to earth and shared our humanity. He is the Creator and Sustainer of all things.
Did Jesus Ever Claim To Be God?
There are some who say that Jesus never claimed to be God, but that His disciples concocted the myth after He died. But that assertion is overwhelmingly contradicted by the evidence of Scripture. The Jews of his day understood perfectly what He was saying.
Read John 5:18.
What did He say that so enraged them?
“I and the Father are one” (John 10:30).
“If you knew Me, you would know MY Father also” (John 8:19).
“When a man looks at me, he sees the one who sent me” (John 12:45).
“Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father” (John 14:9).
“He who hates me hates my Father as well” (John 15:23).
“That all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent Him” (John 5:23).
In unmistakable language, Jesus claimed equality with the Father. Even when He was on trial for His life and was questioned under oath He didn't recant or water down His identity.
Read Matthew 26:63-65.
Did His Disciples Believe That He Was God?
Peter's confession: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16).
When He revealed himself to Thomas after His resurrection, Thomas called him, “My Lord and my God.”
Jude, his half-brother who didn't believe in Him before his resurrection calls Him, “Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord,” and “the only God our Savior.”
Did He Demonstrate The Unique Characteristics Of God?
In Mark 2:1-12, He demonstrated his OMNISCIENCE and his authority to FORGIVE sins.
In John 5:25ff, He promised to RAISE THE DEAD, claimed to be the SOURCE OF LIFE as the Father is, and to have authority to JUDGE the world.
In John 15:26, He promised to SEND the Holy Spirit to be with believers after He RETURNED to heaven.
In Matthew 28:20, He promised to be EVER-PRESENT with us.
Throughout the Gospels He demonstrated his OMNIPOTENCE by the miracles He did. He healed every kind of disease and disability. He calmed the raging sea. He multiplied the bread and fish. He raised the dead. He did the works that only God can do.
Did Others Substantiate His Claims To Deity?
Read Matthew 14:33. He was worshiped as Son of God. In Jewish usage, this did not imply subordination, but rather equality and identity of nature.
Read Colossians 2:9. In Him, the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form.
Read Hebrews 1:2-3. He was the exact likeness of God’s substance.
Read Revelation 19:16. “King of Kings and Lord of Lords.”
These are just a few of the places which state without equivocation that Jesus Christ is fully God. We can trust our life on earth and our eternal future in His hands because He is the truth, He is the way to God, and He is the source of eternal life. If He is not God, our faith is built on a foundation of sand. We have no hope, we will die in our sins, and we are of all people most miserable.
The other question we must answer is:
Is Jesus Fully Human?
The Bible gives abundant evidence that Jesus was fully human.
His Birth Was Unique
Incarnation means in flesh. When God invaded the human race, his conception and birth as a human baby was unique. An angel told a young virgin named Mary that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive and bear a son, who would be holy, the Son of the Most High. And angels announced his birth to the world.
His Nature Was Unique
Jesus had a human nature, but he didn't have a sin nature. He was without sin and no other human being can make that claim.
Read Hebrews 4:15 and 2 Corinthians 5:21.
Why is this so important? Because if he were just another sinner like us, he couldn't die as our substitute. He could only die for his own sins. We needed a sinless Savior and only God could meet that qualification. What were the reasons for His coming?
Proofs Of His Humanity
He matured like all human beings do (Luke 2:40, 52).
He had a human body: seen, heard, and touched (1 John 1:1).
He had a human soul and spirit (Matthew 26:38, Luke 23:46).
He possessed human names, Son of Man, Son of David, Jesus.
He was hungry (Matthew 4:2).
He was thirsty (John 19:28).
He grew tired (John 4:6).
He wept (John 11:35).
He showed feelings (Mark 6:34; Luke 7:13, compassion; 10:14, indignation; Mark 14:34, sorrow; John 11:5 love).
He was tested (Hebrews 4:15).
He prayed (Luke 5:16).
He died (John 19:30, 33).
Purposes For His Coming As A Man
To reveal God to men (John 1:18).
To provide an example for living (1 Peter 2:21).
To die as a sacrifice for humanity's sins (Hebrews 10:1-10).
To enable Him to be a merciful High Priest (Hebrews 4:15-16).
To destroy the devil's work (1 John 3:8).
To free us from bondage to fear of death (Hebrews 2:14-15).
To be the Savior of the world (1 John 4:14).
There's one more passage we should look at that will help explain how this could be.
Read Philippians 2:5-11.
He made himself nothing, or He made himself of no reputation.
The Amplified Version says, “He emptied himself.”
Did Christ empty Himself of some or all aspects of deity when he came to earth?
If emptying means that Christ gave up or lost some of His divine attributes during His earthly life, the other Scriptures we have already looked at contradict that notion. This passage says that He humbled himself by taking on a human body and nature and by dying on the cross the death of a criminal. This means that there is no subtraction to His deity, but just the addition of humanity with its consequent limitations.
The concept involves the veiling of Christ's preincarnate glory (John 17:5), the condescension of taking on Himself the likeness of sinful flesh (Romans 8:3) and the voluntary nonuse of some of His attributes of deity during His earthly life (Matthew 24:36). His humanity was not a glorified humanity and was thus subject to temptation, weakness, pain and sorrow. Choosing not to use his divine attributes is quite different from saying that He gave them up. Nonuse does not mean subtraction. –Ryrie p. 58, 59
Jesus was and is genuinely God and genuinely man, undiminished deity and perfect humanity in one Person forever.
C. S. Lewis put it well.
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: 'I'm ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don't accept His claim to be God.' That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic--on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg--or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.
Why is it so important to understand what the Scriptures say about our Lord Jesus Christ? Because who He is validates what He did. If He is not uniquely the God-Man, then he was just another human martyr who suffered unjustly. There are many others who did that. But because He is the God-man, He suffered and died and rose again victoriously from the dead for our sins, in our place and for our benefit. Then He went back to heaven. We can trust Him without a shadow of a doubt. We can believe all of His promises. We can look at life in a fallen world from the perspective of eternity. That's what will give us hope, courage, and perseverance in adversity, joy in the midst of sorrow, peace in the midst of struggles, faith in God's plan for our lives, love for others, the ability to forgive, and the absolute certainty that death for us is only the doorway that opens to a glorious eternity in the presence of our great God and Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.
Read Isaiah 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 8:58; Colossians 1:16
1. What do these verses tell us about the Son of God? What is He called and what has He done? When did His life begin?
Read John 1:1-18
2. Who is the Word (v. 1, 14)? Who is He declared to be? What is He the source of? From this passage how would you describe Him?
Read John 5:18; 8:19; 10:30; 14:7, 9; 12:44; Matthew 26:63-65
3. Who did Jesus claim to be? What did He say about his relationship to God the Father?
Read Mark 2:1-12; John 5:27; John 15:26; John 5:25; Matthew 28:18; 28:20
4. What characteristics and prerogatives of God did Jesus claim for himself? If His claims were not true what impact would that have on our faith? On our salvation?
Read John 1:18; 1 Peter 2:21; Hebrews 2:14-15; 5:1-2; 10:1-10; 1 John 3:8
5. List some of the purposes for which the Son of God became a man?
Read Matthew 4:2; Luke 2:40, 52; John 4:6; 11:35; 19:28, 30, 33
6. What evidence do these verses give of Jesus’ humanity? Why is it essential to believe in the full deity and humanity of Jesus Christ?
Read John 8:46; 2 Corinthians 5:21; 1 Peter 2:22; Hebrews 4:15; 1 John 3:5
7. How was Christ different from every other person ever born? Why was this essential?
Read Philippians 2:6-11
8. What did Jesus deliberately do so that people could be saved? What is His position now? What will all people eventually do? Have you submitted to Him as Lord of every area of your life?