Theology in a nutshell
Jesus Christ, God and man
By Ken Horn
Editor’s note: This fifth article in the series “Theology in a nutshell” is on Christology.Christology is the study of Jesus Christ, literally, Jesus the Anointed One or Messiah.
Perhaps the most important question found in Scripture is this one that Jesus asked His disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:15, NKJV). Each person must answer that question today.
Every week the Evangel prints the following statement: “We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, in His personal future return.” This is how those who trust God’s Word view Jesus.
Let’s look at the most important aspects of a biblical view of Christ.
Jesus is God in the flesh.
Many people consider Jesus to be a good teacher, but not God. C.S. Lewis rightly pointed out that this is not an option. Jesus could not be a good teacher if He isn’t God. Based on His claims, Lewis said, Jesus must be either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. There is ample evidence for the latter.
John 1:1,14 makes this clear: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” Bible-believing Christians rightly stand against the many liberal church leaders who no longer believe the Bible as it was written and, as a result, preach that Jesus was not God.
Here are a few of the many biblical proofs that Jesus is God:
• He has the attributes of God, like eternality (John 1) and unchangeableness (Hebrews 13:8).
• He has the offices of deity, such as Creator (Colossians 1:16) and Upholder of the universe (Hebrews 1:3).
• He exercises prerogatives of deity — forgiving sin (Matthew 9:2,6) and carrying out “all judgment” (John 5:22).
• He has names that indicate deity: Immanuel (“God with us”), Logos (God’s living Word), Son of God, Son of man (a designation for the Messiah, the one Jesus used most of himself), Lord, and, most importantly, God.
• His special relationship with the Father and the Holy Spirit (John 16:15).
• Worship is given to, and accepted by Him (Matthew 14:33). Only God is to be worshipped (Matthew 4:10).
• Christ’s own awareness and claims to Godhood (John 8:58).
Jesus is fully God and fully man.
Throughout church history there have been those who have tried to minimize either Jesus’ Godhood or His humanity. It is difficult to conceive, but Jesus, once He had been incarnated, was fully both. He was not a demigod as in mythology, half man and half god. He was not a creation as the Arians taught. And neither was He God who put on flesh like a garment, as the Nestorians taught. He was 100 percent both — God the Son, who became human, and while temporarily laying down some of His Godly privileges (like omnipresence) continued to be fully God.
This is what is meant by “[He] emptied Himself” (Philippians 2:7, NASB). The NIV puts it this way: “[He] made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness.”
Jesus was a real, historical figure.
What’s known as “the search for the historical Jesus” is a rather specialized field of study, an attempt by liberal theologians to redefine the person of Jesus. “We can’t trust the Bible,” they say. “We must dig through layers of primitive legend to find the true Jesus.” Usually, in the opinion of individuals like this, Jesus is not God. These are the kind of academicians most often consulted for sound bites on television specials about religion.
I once had lunch with a former religion reporter for a major network. She constructively criticized the unbalanced treatment of a special on Jesus. And she lost her job.
When another network aired Jesus, Mary and DaVinci, based on the fanciful novel The Da Vinci Code by Dan Brown, I felt more pity than anger for the network. Basing a serious documentary on crackpot fiction simply made it evident the network had fallen from the ranks of serious journalism to the level of a supermarket tabloid.
What can we say with authority about the historical Jesus?
Jesus was born of a virgin.
This is one of those rare biblical truths that unbelievers are freely exposed to at least once a year, at Christmastime.
Jesus was perfect, without sin.
Though He was tempted “in all points … as we are” (Hebrews 4:15, NKJV), Jesus never sinned. Thus, He could become the perfect sacrifice for our sins.
Jesus died for our sins.
It is the fact that He died for our sins that makes Jesus relevant — and us responsible to make a decision whether or not to make Him Lord of our life.
The core of the gospel is in Jesus’ words in John 14:6: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.” Jesus is the only way to salvation. Because of who He is and what He has done, there is something that we must do. We must witness. We must tell the truth, but we must also convey the life that is found in Jesus Christ.
A chorus I recall from my youth says this: “It’s real, it’s real, oh, I know it’s real. Praise God the doubts are settled and I know, I know it’s real.”
When the doubts have been settled and your relationship with Christ proven, your goal must be higher that convincing doubters that you’re right. Reaching the heart with the reality of the loving Christ is far better than just reaching the head with proofs of His identity. It is better to win a person than a debate.
J. Hudson Taylor said, “How sadly possible it is to take delight in conferences and conventions, to feast on all the good things that are brought before us, and yet to be unprepared to go out from them to self-denying efforts to rescue the perishing.”
It is too easy for Christians to be smug and self-satisfied within their belief system. It is the hope for everything we write about the Son of God that it will compel Christian readers to obey the Great Commission — to touch people’s lives and introduce them to the living Christ.
“Why did Jesus have to die?”
This was the cover copy for the April 12, 2004, issue of Time. It is not just a question popular because of the movie The Passion of the Christ. It is one of the most-asked questions in theology. It can be debated philosophically ad infinitum. Reason says God could have saved mankind without Christ’s death. But there is really only one answer: God said Jesus had to die to bring salvation.
Jesus rose from the dead.
Frank Morison was a skeptic who believed that Jesus was a good man but certainly did not arise from the dead. He set out to disprove the Resurrection, but instead, as many before and after him, convinced himself of its reality. As he wrote, he found evidence mounting for the truth of the Resurrection … so much so that he called the work “the book that refused to be written.” Ultimately he was so convinced of the Resurrection’s reality that he finished and published Who Moved the Stone?, today a Christian classic that has helped countless other searchers.
The joy of being a Christian is found in the words of the old hymn: “I serve a risen Savior; He’s in the world today.” We serve a living God.
Jesus changes lives.
I met Mike and his wife, Robin, in Texas. Mike and Robin illustrate the remarkable transforming power of the risen Christ. When Robin came to know Jesus, she was delivered of occult practices. But Mike was still bound by drugs, alcohol and violence. “I carried around a ball of evil,” along with a knife and a gun, Mike told me. It was four years before Mike had his own transforming encounter with Jesus. Instantly, “God took the ball of fury away,” Mike said, and soon thereafter, the addictions went too.
This is the relevance of the Resurrection. A living Savior makes beneficial changes in the lives of those who put their trust in Him.
There is power in the name of Jesus.
Praying in the authority of Jesus’ name is one of the Christian’s greatest privileges. In his well-known sermon “Name Above All Names,” late missionary-evangelist Bernhard Johnson put it this way:
The name of Jesus is the name above all names because it is the only name that leads men to God. It is the name above all names because it is the only name that allows a human being not only to approach God but to partake of the grace, mercy, love, power and benefits of God. There is only one name that makes Satan bow and tremble. There is only one name that makes the principalities and powers fall. You can wave the name of any religious denomination in the devil’s face and he will walk up and spit at it. But if you will raise the name of Jesus, every principality and power and ruler of darkness and spiritual wickedness in high places, every seat of government of Satan, will fall and crumble to the earth.
Remember what it means the next time you pray the words “in Jesus’ name.”
Ken Horn is managing editor of Today’s Pentecostal Evangel.
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