Jesus Christ: Who is He? Part 9

 

Jesus Christ:

Who is He?

(Part 9)

Richard Hollerman

 

Our belief in the Christ Jesus of the Bible is of highest importance!

Who is Jesus Christ to you?  Jesus asked Peter to tell Him who people thought He was.  Some thought that He was John the baptizer, others said that He was Elijah, and still others thought that He was Jeremiah or one of the prophets.  Jesus then asked, “But who do you say that I am?” (Matthew 16:13-15).  This is the question that each of us must ask ourselves: Who will I say that Jesus is?  Who is He?  Who is He to you?

People on earth who claim to be Christian in orientation have many different opinions about the Lord Jesus.  For example:

 

·      The man on the street and in the pew may have a very confused and limited view of Jesus.

·      The Word of Faith Charismatic may believe that Jesus is a miracle worker who offers healing, health, riches, and earthly success.

·      The TV charismatic evangelist may say that Jesus made atonement for sin in hell and that we may become “gods” ourselves.

·      The liberal Protestant may believe that Jesus was merely a good teacher, a dynamic leader, or a charismatic Jewish rabbi.

·      The traditional Catholic may think of Jesus as unapproachable, thus Mary is needed as Mediator, Advocate, and Queen of Heaven.

·      The Watchtower Witness may affirm that Jesus was created by Jehovah God to be Michael the Archangel, then became merely a man, and now is a spirit being or lesser god.

·      Many may believe that Jesus had His origin in Bethlehem and was a child of His times, subject to human limitations.

·      The Jewish man may believe that Jesus was a misguided rabbi or a traitor to real Judaism.

·      The Muslim may believe that Jesus was a virgin-born prophet but surely wasn’t the Son of God who died on a cross for our sins.

Do many people really have aberrant views about Jesus Christ?  Indeed they do.  Some time ago I made a special study of one local pastor of the United Methodist Church, their third largest in the world, with some 11,000 members at that time.  Although the United Methodist denomination is among the most liberal and unbelieving in the Protestant world, I was shocked regarding what this TV preacher refused to believe!  This modern false teacher of Methodism rejected basic truths of Scripture, including the inspiration of the Bible, denied Biblical creation, denied the virgin birth of Christ, denied His sinless life, denied His deity, denied His atoning death, denied His bodily resurrection, denied His future return, and denied the existence of hell.  If this prominent clergyman refused to believe basic truths of God’s Word, there are likewise millions of people who want to be included in Christendom but who patently disbelieve the basic truth of God’s Word.

Over the years, surveys and polls have been taken to determine the belief or disbelief of American clergymen and public.[1]  Some of the findings have been startling.  Surely conservative professing Christians may not know what their own ministers or priests believe (or disbelieve).  For example:

 

·      Only 40 percent of Methodist pastors, 56 percent of American Baptist pastors, 56 percent of Episcopalian pastors, and 51 percent of Presbyterian pastors claim that they believe that Jesus was born of a virgin!

 

·      Only 49 percent of Methodists, 65 percent of Presbyterians, 70 percent of Episcopalians, and 67 percent of American Baptists believe that Jesus’ physical resurrection was an objective historical fact!

Notice the result of another survey of both pastors and laymen.  They were asked if they believe in Christ’s virgin birth, which definitely is a basic and non-optional teaching of Scripture.

Church

Clergy

Members

Methodist

28 percent

34 percent

Episcopal

40 percent

39 percent

Presbyterian

36 percent

57 percent

American Baptist

58 percent

69 percent

American Lutheran

68 percent

66 percent

 

What do some of the religious groups and theologies believe about the Lord Jesus?  Some of these are professing “Christian” in orientation, while some of them are very unchristian.  But since our faith in Christ is such a vital matter, one’s belief or disbelief of Christ is a matter of concern.  Notice the following alphabetized list.[2]

 

Buddhism: “Largely ignored by Buddhists in the East; sometimes regarded as an enlightened teacher by Western practitioners of Buddhism.”

Armstrongism: Jesus of the New Testament was Jehovah of the Old Testament.  He and the Father compose the “God Family,” a polytheistic idea.  When a Christian is resurrected, he will become a member of that God Family by arising to the status of Godhood.

The Baha’i Faith: “Jesus was not the only-begotten Son of God come down from Heaven, crucified and resurrected, nor the unique Savior.” He was “the sixth of the nine great manifestations of God—superseded by Muhammad and ultimately by Baha’u’llah.”

Christian Science: “Jesus Christ is not God, as Jesus himself declared, but is the Son of God.”  Christian Scientists deny the reality of the physical world, thus would deny Christ in this way.  He was “the divine manifestation of God/Christian science.”  Jesus was “a highly enlightened Christian Scientist.”  Mary Baker Eddy wrote, “The spiritual Christ was infallible; Jesus, as material manhood, was not Christ.”[3]

Deism: “A benevolent moral teacher, but not divine and not a miracle-worker; neither virgin-born nor resurrected.”

Divine Life Society/Integral Yoga Institute: Jesus was “a great prophet; one of many great souls; a spirit in the astral world.”

Druze: “Revered as a prophet, along with other great men of religious and philosophical history.”

Eckankar: “Eckankar believes that God exists in two parts, the Light and Sound, known as ECK.”  “Jesus is merely one great religious teacher among many,” such as Buddha, Krishna, and Muhammed.[4]

Gnosticism: “Christ was sent by the Supreme God to save the human race by revealing secret knowledge; primarily a messenger and an example; only ‘appeared’ to take on a body and only ‘seemed’ to die on the cross.”

Christadelphianism: “He did not actually come into being until He was begotten of the Holy Spirit and born in Bethlehem.”  Christ is definitely not deity.  In fact, he “had a sinful nature and needed salvation from sin.”

Krishna: “When Jesus Christ taught His doctrine in the Middle East, he appeared to be God’s only son, or pure devotee. . . . [But] why should God have only one son? . . . God can have billions and trillions of sons and . . . each and every one can be His ‘only’ son.”  Christ was “not an incarnation of God, but an enlightened teacher who taught his disciples to meditate.”

Hinduism: “A great teacher or guru; He did not die for sin, nor did He rise from the dead.”  Hinduism believes in three main gods—Brahman, Vishnu, and Siva—each having a spouse, but there are about 330 million other gods in existence. “Hindus see their gods and avatars (incarnations) as manifestations of the impersonal Brahman.  They view Jesus as merely one of those avatars.”

Islam: Jesus was a human virgin-born prophet of God, a miracle-worker, but He neither was divine nor did He die on the cross for our sins.  He will return in the End to defeat Anti-Christ.  He was one of a series of prophets, with Muhammad being the supreme and final one.

Jehovah’s Witnesses: “The incarnation is scripturally erroneous.  Indeed, if he (Christ) had been an incarnate being, he could never have redeemed mankind.” “Jesus is the first creation of Jehovah.  Before his incarnation, Jesus was Michael, the archangel, through whom Jehovah made the universe.”  “He was the first and direct creation of Jehovah God.”[5]  His body was not literally resurrected, but was only spiritually raised.

Judaism: “Not the Messiah promised in the Old Testament, but either a misguided but well-meaning rabbi, or a dangerous revolutionary.”

Local Church: “He [Christ] has God’s nature, and we also have God’s nature.  He is no longer God’s only begotten son: now by His resurrection He has become God’s firstborn Son (Romans 8:29) and we are the many sons of God (Hebrews 2:10).”

Marxism: Since Marxism is atheistic, Jesus is viewed as merely a man.

Masonic Lodge: “Freemasonry carefully excludes the Lord Jesus Christ from the lodge and chapter, repudiates His mediatorship, rejects His atonement, denies and disowns His Gospel, frowns upon His religion and His church, ignores the Holy Spirit.”  “Masonry excludes all particular biblical teachings about Christ, such as His Incarnation, redemptive mission, death and resurrection.  In fact, there is no biblical truth about Jesus Christ affirmed anywhere in Masonry.” “It [Masonry] reverences all the great reformers.  It sees in Moses, the Law giver of the Jews, in Confucius and Zoroaster, in Jesus of Nazareth, and in the Arabian Iconoclast, Great Teachers of Morality, and Eminent Reformers, if no more” (Albert Pike)

Mormonism: “Christ is the firstborn spirit Son in the eternal family, and while yet in pre-existence he advanced and progressed and became like the Father in power and intelligence; that is, he became God.”  Mormonism teaches that Jesus is the elder Spirit-brother of Lucifer (Satan), and was “conceived by a physical sex act between God the Father (Adam or Elohim) and Mary, thus not through a true virgin birth.”  Mormonism is polytheistic, believing that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are separate gods, and faithful Mormons also expect to arise to the level of godhood.  They believe in many gods.  “Each of these gods, including Jesus Christ and his Father, being in possession of not merely an organized spirit, but a glorious body of flesh and bones.”[6]

Native American Spirituality: Jesus Christ is not emphasized.

New Age: “Not a focal point, though some regard him as a wise teacher, guru, enlightened master (one more expression of the divine).” “Men call me Christ and God has recognized the name; but Christ is not a man.  The Christ is universal love, and love is king.”[7]

New Thought: “We revere Jesus the man . . . as one who exemplified . . . the great Principle of perfection and wholeness.  Jesus was a Way-Shower—the Savior—in the sense that He drew us out of our limitations.”

Rastafarianism: “An incarnation of Jah, who was black, not white.”

Rosicrucianism: “Jesus, highly advanced as he was . . . had a purely natural birth, with natural parents, Mary and Joseph. . . . The Christ spirit which entered the body of Jesus when Jesus himself vacated it, was a ray from the cosmic Christ. . . . Jesus and Jesus Christ . . . are thus two entirely distinct and separate entities or Egos.”

Scientology: “Mr. Hubbard refused to believe in the Christian Christ.  Implants are false concepts forced upon a Thetan, and Scientology chalks up ‘Christ’ as an implant more than a million years ago.  He wrote, ‘You will find . . . the Christ legend as an implant in pre-clears a million years ago.’”[8]

Secular Humanism: “If He existed, He was a religious/moral teacher, but not a divine being or savior who performed supernatural acts.”

Shinto: Not emphasized or recognized.

Sikhism: Not relevant.

Taoism: Not emphasized.

Unification Church: “It is a great error to think Jesus was God Himself.  Jesus is no different from other men.” “Jesus was a human leader anointed by God to carry out the messianic mission, realizing God’s reign on earth.  So we cannot say that he is equal to God. . . . He [Jesus] can by no means be called God Himself.  The relationship between God and Jesus can be compared to that between the mind and body. . . . After his crucifixion, Christianity made Jesus into God.”

Unitarian/Universalism: “They do not regard him as a supernatural creature, the literal son of God who was miraculously sent to earth as part of an involved plan for the salvation of human souls.”  “If he existed, a wise moral and ethical teacher, but not born of a virgin, a doer of miracles, or resurrected from the dead; not the only way to God.”

United Pentecostalism and Apostolic: Jesus was God in the Old Testament, the Son of God in the Gospels, and the Holy Spirit after the ascension.  “There are not three separate persons in the Godhead, each of whom is God.  There is one Spirit of God and one human personification of God in a human body. . . . As a man, Jesus was the body of God, but He was also both Lord and Christ.”  The name of God is “Jesus.” “God the Father dwelt in the man Christ. . . . The divine nature of Jesus Christ is the Holy Spirit . . . which is the Spirit of the Father. . . . The deity of Jesus is none other than the Father Himself.”

Unity: “Jesus, who became the Christ, was such a God-man, and provides the supreme example to help us discover our innate divine nature and power. . . . Christ is the true hidden self of each individual.”

The Way International: Jesus began only 2,000 years ago.  “Our very redemption . . . is dependent on Jesus Christ’s being a man and not God.” “I am saying that Jesus Christ is not God, but the Son of God. . . . Jesus Christ was not literally with God in the beginning. . . . Where was Jesus Christ before he was born to Mary?  Jesus Christ was with God in His foreknowledge.”

Implications of Rejecting the Christ of Scripture

At least some of our readers may be thinking, “If Jesus really wasn’t God, not much is lost.  We can still believe in God the Father and find forgiveness and heaven.”  Others, after reading the previous section above, may be thinking, “If so many millions, even billions, of earth’s population reject the Biblical Jesus, surely it can’t be that harmful.  That many people can’t be wrong, can they?”  But think for a moment:  If two people think opposite things about a given belief, they can’t both be right, can they?  Both may be wrong, but they both can’t be right.  It may be that one is right and one is wrong, but they can’t both be accurate in their faith.  Likewise, if the dozens of religions above believe different things about the Lord Jesus Christ, they can’t all be correct in their beliefs.  Although one belief may be true, it is definitely accurate to say that they all can’t be true.  We just can’t find truth by going to these different religions, most of which reject God’s means of communicating truth—His written Word, the Bible.

Although some may think that one can overlook the Biblical Christ, or be seriously in error about Christ, God says that this is false.  Definitely there would be major implications for life and eternity.  Some of the major ones that would affect our life and destiny are obvious:

First, if Jesus were not true, then He was a liar and cannot be trusted in anything He said.  In contrast, Jesus said that He was “a man who has told you the truth” (John 8:40).  He said, “I speak the truth” (v. 45). It was said of Jesus, “You are truthful, and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any” (Matthew 22:16).  Our Lord was truth embodied, for He said that He personally was the truth (John 14:6).  He told Pilate, “I have come into the world, to testify to the truth” (18:37).  We can rely on every word He spoke about Himself, about His nature, and about His relationship with God the Father.

Second, if Jesus were not God in the flesh, His death would have been a natural, human death without any power to save from sin.  In reality, Christ’s death was effective because He was both man (thus able to die physically on the cross) and God (thus able to redeem all of lost mankind).  Thankfully, “Christ died for the ungodly” and “while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:6, 8).

Third, if Jesus were not truly God, we would have no way to God in heaven.  We would be left to our own strength, ability, and perfect law-keeping—but no one can be saved this way.  “By the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin” (Romans 3:20).  Jesus is the only way to God the Father in heaven.  He said, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6).

Fourth, if the New Testament were untrue about the person and work of Christ, it would be wrong about the entire message, for the message stands or falls on the truthfulness of Jesus Christ, the center of the New Testament and the foundation of the new covenant.  The whole bedrock of truth would disintegrate since it rests on Jesus and His words (Matthew 7:24-27).  But God’s Word is true and we can rely on everything it affirms of Christ’s person and work for our salvation.

What shall we say about the false religions and views that are promulgated from many different quarters today?  What can we say about the false Christs of Islam, Hinduism, and Buddhism?  How do we respond to the counterfeit Jesus believed by the Jews, the Mormons, the Watchtower Witnesses, and the Jesus-only Pentecostals?  How about the defective Christ of liberal Protestantism and the perverted Jesus of New Age, of Masonry, of Unity, or of the Moonies?  As we saw, a false Christ, a false gospel, and a false message cannot save; rather, it will lead one to condemnation (2 Corinthians 11:4). Jesus warned that we should be on guard for those who would come as false Christs (Matthew 24:5, 24), for they “will mislead many” (v. 5).  So concerned was Paul about any false message, he wrote, “Even if we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you a gospel contrary to what we have preached to you, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:8).  If one rejects Jesus as He is presented on the pages of Holy Scripture, that person is under the judgment of God!

All of these false Christs and counterfeit forms of Jesus must be totally rejected.  Since it is blasphemy (to speak against or misrepresent God or Christ), we must turn away from this kind of teaching with abhorrence.  God gives the test of a true and false prophet:

It shall come about that whoever will not listen to My words which he shall speak in My name, I Myself will require it of him.  But the prophet who speaks a word presumptuously in My name which I have not commanded him to speak, or which he speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die (Deuteronomy 18:19-20).

We are required to listen to the words or teaching of both Christ Jesus and His prophets and, if we refuse this, God will require us to give account of this rejection.  We also see that if any prophet presumes to speak a message that is not from God, that prophet must die!  Today, God wants all to listen to His Son, Jesus Christ, and also to true teachers and preachers of Christ and His gospel. 

In Deuteronomy 13:1-11, we read that if a prophet teaches the people to “go after other gods,” that prophet must be “put to death.”  “The LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.  You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (vv. 3-4).  In like manner today, God is waiting to discover what we will do with the “false Christs” and aberrant views of Jesus.  Will we reject them or will we be deceived by the “smooth and flattering speech” of deceitful false teachers (Romans 16:17-18)?  Peter warns us of those who “distort” or “twist” the Scriptures “to their own destruction” (1 Peter 3:16).  Hundreds of churches, denominations, sects, and cults freely distort the Word of God regarding the nature, works, and saving gospel of Christ Jesus!

How vital is it that we believe the truth about Jesus?

Instead of passing this study off as unimportant or unneeded, we must see how important it is in God’s eyes.  There are many, many in the world of Christendom who would deny what we have discovered on the pages of our Bible.  They would hold to an entirely different view of God the Father and of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

We must remember that any Jesus different from the Jesus revealed in Scripture is no Savior and Lord at all.  Paul refers (perhaps ironically) to some who might come to the Corinthians and preach “another Jesus who we have not preached” (2 Corinthians 11:4).  While this is a hypothetical possibility, we can see that preaching and believing in “another Jesus” than the Jesus of history and reality will not avail.  Only the Biblical Christ can save from sin, death, and hell!  Only the true Jesus Christ can save from sin, death, and hell!

We must not minimize these truths for they are exceedingly important!  Our eternal salvation depends on Jesus Christ and our view of His identity.  For instance, we can be forgiven of sin, reconciled to God, receive eternal life, be saved from God’s wrath, and inherit the Kingdom of God, only if we believe the following about Jesus Christ:

 

·      That Jesus is the Son of God: “Unless you believe that I am He [the Son of God], you will die in your sins” (John 8:24; cf. John 20:30; 1 John 4:15; 5:5, 13).

 

·      That Jesus is the Christ/Messiah/Anointed One: “These [signs] have been written so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:31; cf. 1 John 5:1-5).

 

·      That Jesus was sent by God: “God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life” (John 3:16; 1 John 4:10; 5:11-13).

 

·      That Jesus is the Lord: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord . . . you will be saved” (Romans 10:9-10).

 

·      That Jesus is Savior from sin: “. . . we have heard for ourselves and know that this One is indeed the Savior of the world” (John 4:42; 1 John 4:14).

 

·      That Jesus died for our sins: “. . . being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith” (Romans 3:24-25).

 

·      That Jesus was lifted up in crucifixion: “. . . even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life” (John 3:14-17; cf. 12:32-33).

 

·      That God raised Jesus from the dead: “If you . . . believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved” (Romans 10:9; 1 Corinthians 15:1-22).

Obviously, there are many other truths that we must believe in order to be saved from sin and have eternal life, such as:

·      We must believe in God: “He who hears My [Christ’s] word, and believes Him who sent Me [God], has eternal life” (John 5:24).

 

·      We must believe in Jesus Christ Himself: “He who believes in the Son has eternal life” (John 3:36).

 

·      We must believe in God’s love for us: “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us” (1 John 4:16).

In other words, we not only believe certain truths about God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, but we must place our faith, reliance, and confidence in God Himself and Jesus Christ Himself—personally.  To use a human analogy, we may believe certain facts about a person we have met (that he is a man, that his name is John, that he is thirty years old, that he is married, that he has two children, that he was born in Georgia, that he works at a particular company, that he enjoys watermelon, and that he is 160 pounds), but we may not really believe in John personally, we may not trust in Him personally, and we may not be willing to commit ourselves to Him personally. 

Similarly, God says that we must believe certain truths about Him and about the Lord Jesus Christ, His Son, but we must go beyond this. We must place our personal faith and confidence in the crucified and risen Lord of glory, the One who saves from sin, the very Son of God who is the only way of salvation.    We must rely on Him as Savior and Sin-bearer, as well as submit in obedience to Him as Lord.

We have seen in this article that it is utterly vital that we believe certain truths about the Lord Jesus Christ, but we would be terribly mistaken if we conclude that this kind of mental faith or factual faith is sufficient to save.  By no means!  Instead, our personal faith must be in God Himself as our Creator, Maker, and the Giver of the Lord Jesus Christ.  We must place all of our reliance in the person of Jesus Christ to save us from sin and be the entrance into God’s eternal kingdom!  Since He is the way, the truth, and the life, we can see that He is the only way of salvation and eternal life (John 14:6).

This is one point that I missed when I first thought I was born again and saved from sin as a young person.  I believed certain truths about God and Christ, but my confidence and trust was more in my own understanding of God’s way of salvation and my compliance with it.  Only later did I transfer my trust to Christ Himself as Sin-bearer and Savior in order to be forgiven of sin.  You also must make sure that your faith goes beyond a simple acceptance of facts about Jesus Christ (as we have detailed) and partakes of the character of personal trust and reliance in Jesus as the only means of salvation.

 



[1] Jeffrey Hadden, “A Protestant Paradox—Divided they Merge,” Religion in Radical Transition, pp. 48-66.   See also our thorough review, Beware of False Prophets (presently unavailable).

[2] Several books may be of help to the interested reader and some of them were an aid in the comments we make.  The Trinity, John Ankerberg and John Weldon; Handbook of World Religions, Len Woods; Charts of Cults, Sects, and Religious Movements, H. Wayne House; The Kingdom of the Cults, Revised, Walter Martin and Hank Hanegraaff; A Compact Guide to World Religions, Dean C. Halverson; Eerdman’s Handbook to The World Religions, R. Pierce Beaver, et. al.; Cults and New Religions, John Ankerberg and John Weldon.

[3] Miscellaneous Writings, p. 84.

[4] Eckankar, p. 7.

[5] The Kingdom is at Hand, pp. 46-49, quoted by Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Revised, p. 436.

[6] Parley P. Pratt, Key to the Science of Theology, p. 44; quoted by Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Revised, p. 436.

[7] The Aquarian Gospel of Jesus the Christ, p. 8.

[8] Walter Martin, The Kingdom of the Cults, Revised, p. 383.


 

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