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So You Say That You're a Christian: Then Who Is Jesus?

I am a Christian pastor who wishes to bring glory to God in all that I do, and to help people through my writing to know Him better.

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Introduction: The Essential Fact of Jesus' Deity

Today, we begin a study on the essentials of the Christian faith. Christians may disagree on many things about the Bible and faith. However, there are certain beliefs that must be adhered to in order to call a person truly a Christian. Otherwise, the definition of the word Christian becomes meaningless. You simply cannot believe what you want and still say that you are a follower of Jesus Christ. What He taught and what His apostles taught after Him, are the defining teachings of the Christian faith.

In Scripture, Jude called these essentials:

"...the faith that was once for all delivered to the saints."

The truth that we are going to be dealing with today is the deity of Jesus Christ.

There is a story in Arnold's Commentary that is very intriguing. It goes like this:

"When the first missionaries went to Japan, a young Japanese man who wanted to learn English was given the Gospel of John to translate into his native tongue. In a short time, he became very restless and agitated. At last, he burst out with the question, "Who is this Man about whom I have been reading, this Jesus? You call him a man, but He must be God."

This is not the first time the question of Jesus' identity has been asked about. From the very beginning, since He entered this world, people have talked about Him. Jesus Himself asked that very question of his disciples. The website gotquestions.org tells us this:

"Jesus asked a lot of questions. Query was one of His favorite teaching tools. One of the questions Jesus put to the disciples was “Who do you say that I am?” (Luke 9:20). This question drew out a response that is instructive to all of us.
The context of Jesus’ question “Who do you say that I am?” is important: “Once when Jesus was praying in private and his disciples were with him, he asked them, ‘Who do the crowds say I am?’
“They replied, ‘Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, that one of the prophets of long ago has come back to life.’
“‘But what about you?’ he asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’
“Peter answered, ‘God’s Messiah’” (Luke 9:18–20). Parallel accounts are found in Matthew 16 and Mark 8.
Matthew relates that Peter did more than just identify Jesus as the Christ; he also proclaimed Jesus’ divine nature: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16)."

Since the writing of the gospels there have been many who have tried to answer that question of who Jesus is. Some believe that Jesus was a real person, but the powers that He had were stories made up about Him. Others, believe He was a composite of several historical figures. Still others deny His existence altogether and think that the whole story was made up. However, these are not serious scholars who have studied the evidence thoroughly for themselves. The fact is that there is a lot of evidence both in Scripture and in secular literature to prove He actually lived.

Sadly, at least one British archaeologist named John M. Allegro, published a book entitled: 'The Sacred Mushroom of the Cross.' He believed that Jesus was a mushroom. Allegro was not just some crazy person off the street. He was asked to be a part of the team that translated the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, he didn't follow the other scholars who were doing it to advance the current understanding of Christianity. He, instead, came up with some wild conclusions. K. Thor Jensen wrote this about him.

"After translating an ancient document known as the Copper Scroll, Allegro became convinced that the story of Christ was actually a metaphor devised by the Essene people to hide the truth about their activities. They, (the Essenes), were just the latest proponents of a mystery cult centered around powerful hallucinations brought on by a fungus.

According to Allegro’s interpretation, Jesus was no bearded miracle man. Instead, he was a fly agaric mushroom."

Sadly, some people have been taken in by this fantasy. But the real evidence shows that Jesus Christ is more than just some drug induced fantasy man.

And what we must realize through all of this is that a correct understanding of who Jesus is becomes foundational for all the other beliefs upon which our faith rests. You take out that pillar from the structure and the whole thing comes crashing down on your head. You might tell me that you're a Christian. That's good. But if you don't accept the Jesus of the Bible. If you don't believe who He says Himself that He is, then you cannot be a real follower of Christ. And the Scriptures tell us clearly that Jesus was God in the flesh.

And nowhere is this seen more clearly than in John 1:1-14. Let us look at this passage first to see what it tells us about the deity of our Lord.

I. Jesus Was the Word of God Who Himself is God (John 1:1-2)

First, in this passage, Jesus is said to be the Word of God. This is the Greek term 'logos.' The term is important because, in that day, it would be understood by both the Jews and the Greeks alike. The Greek philosophers used logos, or ‘word,’ to talk about the divine reason that orders the universe” Although, to them it was some impersonal thing. However, the Old Testament Scriptures talk about the powerful Word of God as well. For instance, in Genesis 1 it refers to God creating everything by simply speaking it into existence. The gospel of John is actually using the same language as Genesis 1:1 when referring to the beginning. Genesis 1:1 tells us:

"In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth."

And John 1:1 says:

"In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God."

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Literally, the Greek says that:

"God was the Word." In this way it further emphasizes Jesus' deity.

An example of God speaking everything into existence by His Word is found in Genesis 1:3 which tells us:

"Then God said: Let there be light. And there was light."

After that verse, over and over again throughout Genesis 1, God says for something to be created and it simply appears. It just happens by the power of His Word. The gospel of John personifies that creative Word of God by saying that it was in the beginning with God and, in fact, was God. Later we find out that the Word, who is God, is the person of Jesus Christ.

Throughout the Scriptures, such as Psalm 33:6; Psalm 107:20; and Psalm 8:27, God's Word is His powerful self-expression in creation, wisdom, revelation and salvation. And John says that Jesus is the embodiment of that self-expressive Word.

The verb 'was' in John 1:1 highlights the eternal pre-existence of the Word. The Word 'was' with God and 'was' God. This is used in contrast to the verb 'made' or 'came into being' in verse 3 which indicates a beginning in time. Indeed, all things came into being through Him. They were made by Him. And that is the next point that John is making. Jesus was the Creator of all things.

II. Jesus was the Creator of all Things (1:3)

It was the Word of God that spoke things into existence. He was God the Father's agent involved in creating everything in the universe. Verse 3 of John 1 says it this way:

"All things came into being through Him, and apart from Him nothing came into being that has come into being."

The apostle Paul agrees with this assessment. In Colossians 1:15-17 he puts it this way:

"He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities-all things have been created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together."

The term 'firstborn over all creation' here is not referring to one born first chronologically but rather refers to a preeminence in position or rank. Jesus is the creator and ruler over everything.

III. Jesus is the Source of Life and Light (4-5)

The next thing that we learn about the Word of God from the Gospel of John is that Jesus is the source of both life and light. In verses 4-5 John tells us that:

"In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men. The Light shines in the darkness and the darkness did not comprehend it."

John uses the term 'life' about 36 times in his gospel. This is far more than any of the other New Testament books. He is not only using it here to say that Jesus has imparted physical life to all of the created world, which He has. But he is referring especially to spiritual and eternal life that a person gets as a gift of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

Light and darkness are also very familiar symbols in the Bible. In an intellectual sense, light refers to biblical truth and darkness to error or that which is false. Morally, light is a symbol of holiness or purity, and darkness is sin or wrongdoing.

Darkness is connected to Satan and the demonic world. Satan rules this spiritually dark world. In I John 5:19 it tells us that the whole world is under the control of the Evil one. John uses the term 'darkness' 14 of the 17 times it is used in the New Testament. So, it is almost an exclusively Johannine expression.

Those who want to come out of the darkness and the control of Satan, need to come to the Jesus, the Word of God and only source of true light and life.

IV. Jesus had Witnesses of Who He Is (6-8)

In verses 6-8 of John's gospel, we read that Jesus had a witness of who He was and is. In this gospel the terms 'witness' and 'testify' receive special attention. In the Old Testament courtroom, the truth of something was to be established on the testimony of several witnesses. John the Baptist was one of those witnesses who was the forerunner of the coming of the true Messiah. John came to testify about the light that all might believe in Jesus. John was careful to point out that he himself was not that light. He was merely the one to point out the arrival of the Light. There were others mentioned such as the Samaritan woman (4:29). The works of Jesus were another (10:25). The Father Himself testified as well (John 5:37). The Old Testament Scriptures also prophesied of Him (5:39,40). The crowd in 12:17 were said to be His witnesses. And also, the Holy Spirit chimed in as well in 15:26-27.

Of course, who can forget doubting Thomas. When he saw and heard the risen Christ, he said:

"My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28).

The gospel of John is just full of eyewitnesses to the identity of Jesus, the Word of God. Indeed, the whole purpose of the writing of this good news is that we may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing we may have life through His name (John 20:30,31).

V. Jesus is the Only Source of a Relationship with God the Father (9-13)

However, not only is Jesus the eternal Word of God who is Himself God, the Creator of everything, the source of light and life, who has many witnesses to His identity. But He is also the only source of a relationship with God the Father.

In verses 9-13 it says that most people rejected Him. He came into the world that He had created, and the world didn't know who He was. Even His own fellow Jews refused to receive Him. And, sadly, that is true of most of the world even to this day. They don't know or care who the Word of God is, or what He has accomplished.

However, for those who do acknowledge and receive Him He gives them the right to become children of the living God. They, through a spiritual new birth, become part of His eternal family. This is not something that a man can do for us, or any other creature for that matter. This is solely a work of Almighty God through faith in Jesus Christ. John 3:36, in speaking of Jesus, says it quite clearly when it tells us that:

"He that believes on the Son has everlasting life. And he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him."

Everyone else remains under the dominion of Satan, the ruler of this dark world. No one else except God's children through faith in Christ, will see God's eternal kingdom.

VI. Jesus, the Word Who is God, took on a Human Nature for Us (14)

It was this same Jesus, the Word who is God, who took on Himself a human nature. In John 14 the apostle tells us:

"And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth."

The word 'dwelt' here means tented or tabernacled among us. Jesus was 100 % God. And he took on human flesh more than 2000 years ago. Without giving up His divine nature, he also had a 100 % human nature. He was totally divine and totally human.

Why? Because man was a sinner, under the wrath of a holy God who cannot stand sin (John 3:36). And we were separated from God and on our way to hell. Do to the fact that we are all sinners, we could not do anything to save ourselves. But the good news of the gospel is that God loved the world so much that He gave His one and only Son to die for us that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

Paul says that:

"He who knew no sin became sin for us that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him." (II Corinthians 5:21).

Now when God the Father sees us, He doesn't see our sin. He sees Jesus' righteousness that was imputed to us.

And Jesus was not just a man dying for the sins of all other men. He was God the Son. He was God in the flesh dying for His creation, whom He loved with an everlasting love. God the Father accepted that sacrifice on our behalf and raised Jesus up from the grave. And Jesus will one day come again to take away all who believe in Him, both living and dead, to dwell with Him in a place that He Himself has prepared for those who love Him and await His return.

That is the gospel in a nutshell. And without a belief in these facts of Scripture, a person cannot rightfully call themselves a Christian. For they are not following the real and true Christ.

Conclusion

There are other essentials of the Christian faith that we cannot discuss now but will do so over the course of time. One of those essentials is the concept of the Trinity, because the Bible teaches that there is one true God. But it also informs us that there are 3 persons called God. God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit. We will deal with that in the next lesson.

But for now, have you accepted as your Savior, Jesus Christ the eternal Son of God who became flesh for us? He lived a perfect life of righteousness that we couldn't live, in order to die a death for the sins that we couldn't atone for. And was raised up by God the Father as victor over sin, death and hell so that we who believe in Him might be able to do the same and live with Him eternally.

Thank the Lord for the Eternal Word of God and praise Him for all that He has accomplished for us!

© 2022 Jeff Shirley

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