Basic Christianity – Session 4

 WHAT THE BIBLE TEACHES ABOUT JESUS

           

WHO JESUS IS

            Without doubt the question, “Who is Jesus?” is the central question of Christianity and of life.  If we answer that question incorrectly, it doesn’t really matter what else we get right because we will have missed the essence of life in this world.  Christianity is not based primarily on—

·         A book, even though we hold the Bible in high regard and it certainly instructs us in the Christian way.

·         A code of ethics or a list of rules and regulations about how to live, even though Christians should be the most ethical people and live the most moral lives on the face of the earth.

·         An institution, even though God established the church and the Scripture teaches that Jesus loves the church.

Christianity is based on a person, the person of Jesus Christ.  The heart of Christianity is personal relationship with Jesus.  Apart from Him, Christianity loses its inspiration and source of power, and becomes just another religion among many world religions.  That is why it is absolutely imperative that we have a clear understanding of who Jesus is.

            Even a cursory reading of those verses makes clear that the Scripture teaches two things about the identity of Jesus—He is God and He is man.  E. Stanley Jones, the famous missionary and scholar said of Jesus:  “Call Him a man, and you will have to change your idea of what man is.  Call Him God, and you will have to change your idea of what God is.”

 

THE DEITY OF JESUS

The Bible clearly teaches that Jesus is God.  Let’s look at just a few Bible passages which stress the deity, the goodness of Jesus:

·         When the prophet Isaiah foretold His birth, he said in Isaiah 7:14, “Behold, a virgin will be with child and bear a son, and she will call His name Immanuel.”  The name “Immanuel” is made up of two Hebrew words.  “IM” which is a preposition meaning “with, alongside, or among” and “EL” which is a basic way of referring to God.  The word literally means “God in our midst ... God among us.”

·         In I Timothy 6:15 the Scripture describes Jesus as “...the blessed and only Sovereign, the King of kings and Lord of lords...”

·         Philippians 2:10-11 says that before Jesus “...every knee should bow, of those who are in heaven, and on earth, and under the earth, and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord...”

·         John 1:1 – “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.”

o   When God was, Jesus also was.  “In the beginning was the Word...” or more literally, “Before the beginning began Jesus already was...”

o   Where God was, Jesus was.  “The Word was with God...”  The grammatical construction of that phrase implies a face-to-face relationship.  It is sometimes translated, “Jesus was face-to-face with God...”

o   What God was, Jesus was.  “The Word was God...”  That is, there is no difference between Jesus and God.  They are the same.  They are one.

·         John 10:30 – “I and the Father [meaning God]  are one.”  And the word translated “one” means “of one essence.”  In other words, He is saying that He and God are the same.

·         John 14:8 – In response to a request to show His disciples God, Jesus said, “He who has seen me as seen the Father; how do you say ‘Show us the Father?’  Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me?”

·         Thomas, one of His disciples, addressed Him as “My Lord and My God” and Jesus allowed that statement to stand without rebuke, giving his implicit approval of Thomas’ declaration.

 

In his classic book Mere Christianity C.S. Lewis writes this insightful paragraph:

“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 the 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.” [Mere Christianity, pp.55-56]

 

THE HUMANITY OF JESUS

            From the earliest days of Christianity there have been some who have questioned the humanity of Jesus.  In ancient times there were some “so-called” Christian teachers who had bought into a philosophical system that said material things, physical things were necessarily evil.  According to this teaching, if anything had material content, it was evil and inferior.  Only pure spirit was good.  And that kind of thinking caused them to attack the basic Christian belief that Jesus was God in a human body, God incarnate, God in the flesh.  These false teachers were saying that if Jesus were God, He could not have had a human body.

            Much of the New Testament was written to counteract that false idea.  The people denied the humanity of Jesus came to be known as Docetics.  The name is taken from the Greek verb “dokeo” which means “to seem or to appear.”  According the Docetics, Jesus was not really a man, He only appeared to be or seemed to be human.   In response to that kind of teaching the New Testament says the following: 

·          John 1:14 – “And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us…”

·          I John 1:1 – “What was from the beginning, what we have heard, what we have seen with our eyes, what we beheld and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life…”

·          Colossians 2:9 tells us that in Jesus “...all the fullness of Deity [of God] dwells in bodily form...”  The present tense verb “dwells” goes not just with the Deity of Jesus but also His humanity.  As one writer put it, “The One who took upon Himself human nature at Bethlehem will keep that humanity for all eternity.  He will forever be the God-Man.” [MacArthur, p.103]

 

            Why does the Scripture go to such links to spell out the identity of Jesus as being fully God and fully man?   The Scripture makes it clear that Jesus came to this world for a specific purpose.  As Jesus, Himself, put it, “For the Son of Man (which, by the way, was Jesus favorite way of referring to Himself and which is an obvious reference to His humanity) has come to seek and to save that which was lost.” (Luke 19:10)  In other words, He came to this world on a redemptive mission—to bring God and humanity back together again.  The clear message of the New Testament is that the reason God became flesh was to provide a solution to our sin problem and to provide us a way to restore our broken relationship with Him.  And as the God/Man--fully God and fully man--Jesus is uniquely qualified to bring us back into relationship with God.

            And the Scripture also makes it clear that the redemptive mission of Jesus was accomplished through His physical suffering, through His death on the cross and resurrection from the dead. 

·         I Peter 3:18“For Christ also died for sins once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that He might bring us to God, having been put to death in the flesh but made alive in the spirit.”

·         Hebrews 13:12“Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.”

·         Philippians 2:8“And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.”

·         I Peter 4:1“...Christ has suffered in the flesh...”

And what I want you to see in all that is to minimize the humanity of Jesus is to undermine the very reason He came to our world.

  

WHAT JESUS HAS DONE

            Jesus clearly stated His mission in Luke 19:10 - “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”  Jesus accomplished His mission by offering Himself as the sacrifice for our sins.  While God created us to live in fellowship with Him, we have rebelled against God, chosen our way over God’s way, and as a result are separated from Him.  Because of our sin we were spiritually dead and enslaved.  Our lives were without meaning, direction, and purpose because we were alienated from God.  God’s response to our sin was too become flesh in the person of Jesus Christ to pay the price for our sin on the cross.

            One of the best biblical summaries salvation is Ephesians 2:8-10:  “For by grace you have been saved through faith; and that not of yourself, it is the gift of God; not as a result of works, that no one should boast.  For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.” [Ephesians 2:8-10)  Four of the great words of the New Testament are used in those verses – “saved ... grace ... faith ... works”

·         “Saved” is the primary word used in the NT to describe the state of being made right with, reconciled to God.  The word is used that way approximately 90 times in the NT.

·         “Grace” describes God’s part in the salvation process.

·         “Faith” describes our part in the salvation process.

·         “Works” describes the result of the salvation process.

 

GRACE – GOD’S PART IN THE SALVATION PROCESS

            There is a basic, universal tendency to think we can do something to merit salvation.  “Just tell me—how many church services to I have to attend...how many prayers do I have to pray...how much money do I have to give…what bad habits must I remove from my life...what good things do I have to do to be saved?”  There is just something in us that finds it easier to understand and accept salvation based on our works rather than salvation based on God’s grace. 

            The grace of God towards us is fully and completely revealed in the coming of Jesus to our world.  One writer defines grace as “God’s riches at Christ’s expense.”  [Quoted by Brian Harbour in “Salvation” a sermon on Ephesians 2:1-10]  The Scripture makes it clear that our salvation is not dependent on what we do but on what God has done for us in Christ.  Through the death of Jesus on the cross and the resurrection of Jesus from the dead, God provided for us what we could not provide for ourselves.  Look at  how Ephesians 2:4-7 puts it:  “But God, being rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved) and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassing riches of His grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”  “Grace” reminds us that salvation is the work of God on our behalf at the expense of Christ.

 

FAITH – OUR PART IN THE SALVATION PROCESS

            It is important to understand that the words “faith” and “believe” in the New Testament in New Testament are from the same Greek word -- “pisteuo.”  The only difference is that “believe” is the verb form of the word and “faith” is the noun form of the word.  Having faith or believing is our part in the salvation process.  What does it mean to “Believe in the Lord Jesus…?”  In the biblical sense there are two dimensions to saving faith or belief.  There is--

·         An intellectual dimension, which means accepting with our minds the basic facts of the gospel—that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, and was raised from the dead.  But, mere intellectual acceptance of the basic facts of Jesus’ life is not saving faith or belief.

·         An emotional dimension, which means making a conscience, personal commitment to invite Jesus into our lives, to place our lives in His hands, to trust Him and only Him for our salvation.

To have saving faith or belief in Jesus means to:

    • Recognize that we are spiritually dead and separated from God in our sin…
    • Admit that we are powerless to do anything about our sin…
    • Acknowledge that the sacrificial death of Jesus on the cross and resurrection of Jesus from the dead is God’s answer to our sin…
    • Invite Jesus into our lives to forgive our sin, restore our broken relationship with God, and be the Lord of our lives…

 

GOOD WORKS – THE RESULT OF THE SALVATION PROCESS

            Ephesians 2:10 says it so clearly:  “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works…”  What I want you to see in that is the result of salvation is a changed life.  The Scripture says, “…if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” (2 Corinthians 5:17)  While we are not saved by good works (we are saved “by grace through faith”), the result of being saved is that we will have a natural desire to please with our lives.

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