Many today don't have a firm grasp on what the Bible says about Jesus. Was He just a wise man? A prophet? Douglas Groothuis presents biblical evidence for Christ's lordship.
"I love Jesus", exclaimed a woman in the audience, "but He never wanted anyone to worship Him!" As I looked at the group of about thirty people, I saw nods of agreement and heard rumblings of approval. Another member of the panel discussion that I was on said, "I find the way of Jesus helpful, but I can't exclude anyone's spirituality outside of Christianity." Someone else in the audience declared that Jesus was only a prophet and that the Qur'an was more important than the New Testament.
These comments were offered during a panel discussion on 'spirituality'. Two of the other panelists were from a theological seminary where Jesus is not acknowledged as Lord and the Bible is not respected as God's written communication to humanity. Another panelist repeatedly said all religions teach that we are one with God. She said she accepted Jesus – but only as one way, not the only way.
Recent polls show that a disturbing percentage of Christians fail to understand what the Bible tells us about Jesus. According to a Barna poll from 2000, about one out of four born-again Christians believes that it doesn't matter what faith you follow because they all teach the same lessons. Fifty-six percent of non-Christians agree. Many today water down the radical claims of Jesus – to say that "Jesus works for me" instead of "Jesus is Lord".
My experience highlights the challenge facing those who claim that Jesus is the singular way to God and redemption. Spirituality is 'in', but Christianity is often 'out'. Our culture openly addresses the nature and needs of the soul and how to be spiritually successful. Most Americans have a positive view of Jesus, however blurry it may be. They see Him as a sage, mystic, or a prophet. Yet when Christians affirm that Jesus is "the way and the truth and the life", and that no one can be reconciled to God apart from Him (John 14:6, NIV), many reject it.
Is there a strong biblical case for the supremacy of Jesus in a world of personalized spirituality? A careful look at the New Testament – the main document we have about Jesus' life – answers this question for us. I will present some of the biblical evidence that Jesus Christ was God incarnate and the only way to abundant and eternal life. As Christians seeking to think biblically, it is important to know and affirm what the Bible says about Jesus and the way to salvation – whether it's politically correct or not.
Prophet, Priest and King
Jesus never suggested that He was another prophet or that He was merely one of many mystics who tapped into spiritual power and knowledge. When Jesus was involved in a dispute about the Sabbath, He exclaimed that He was "Lord of the Sabbath" (Mark 2:23-27). Genesis 2:3 teaches us that God created and instituted the Sabbath; it was not invented by any mere human. Jesus is, therefore, claiming to have divine authority over the Sabbath as God.
In another argument about the Sabbath, Jesus proclaimed, "My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working." At this, the Jews tried even harder to kill Him because He was "making himself equal with God" (John 5:17-18). One should notice that Jesus did not oppose their conclusions.
Jesus ended another dispute by saying, "Before Abraham was born, I am" (John 8:58). Jesus was referring to the time that God declared Himself to Moses as "I am who I am" (Exodus 3:14). Hearing this, the Jews then tried to stone Jesus, because He was claiming to have existed as God before He was born. Jesus claimed to be God incarnate.
Jesus' claim to be God in the flesh singles Him out of the crowd
Although many claim that Jesus does not differ much from other religious leaders such as Buddha, Jesus' claim to be God in the flesh singles Him out of the crowd. The Buddha claimed no such thing, nor did Muhammad or Confucius. But Jesus' claims were not spoken in a vacuum. They were backed by His credentials. He fulfilled a host of prophecies given by the Hebrew prophets concerning His virgin birth (Isaiah 7:14; Matthew 1:18-25; Luke 1:26-38), His divinity (Jeremiah 23:5-6; Isaiah 9:6; John 1:1), His atoning work on the cross (Isaiah 53; 1 Peter 2:24-25) and His resurrection from the dead (Psalm 16:8-11; Acts 2:24-28).
Besides this, Jesus substantiated His divine claims with a perfectly righteous life, compassion for the downtrodden (which was often expressed through His many healing miracles, including raising the dead), His genius and authority as a teacher, and His unsurpassed insight into the human condition. It is no wonder that people worshipped Him.
After His resurrection, Jesus appeared to His disciple Thomas, who had doubted the reports that His master was raised from the dead. When Thomas saw Jesus, he cried out, "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28). Jesus accepted Thomas' worship. The Book of Revelation tells us that a host of angels and saints are continually worshipping "the Lamb who was slain" (Revelation 5:12-13; see also 7:17). No other religious leader in history is accorded this honor; none other deserves it.
Resurrection and the Life
To better understand why Jesus is the only way, we need to center on His death and resurrection. No founder or leader of any world religion claimed to die as a sacrifice for human sin in order to set us right with God. Nor is any other world religion based on the resurrection of its divine founder.
Jesus taught the Jewish teacher Nicodemus that God's love was supremely expressed by sending His "one and only Son" so that whoever trusts in Him would not be lost but would experience everlasting life (John 3:16). Jesus is God's only son, the once-for-all revelation of God among us (Matthew 1:23). He came not simply to display His deity in humanity, but to offer Himself as a sufficient sacrifice for our wrongdoing and separation from God. Jesus declared, "The Son of Man came to seek and to save what was lost" (Luke 19:10) and "to give his life as a ransom for many" (Matthew 20:28).
Jesus announced to His disciples that He possessed "all authority in heaven and on earth", and that they must "make disciples of all nations" by teaching them to obey His teachings (Matthew 28:18-20). This call to discipleship is rooted in the reality of the resurrection of Jesus in history. The origin and rapid growth of the Christian movement cannot be explained apart from this supernatural event.
The New Testament's reports of the resurrection of Christ are written by eyewitnesses or those who carefully consulted them not long after the events occurred (2 Peter 1:16; Luke 1:1-4). Their truthfulness as historical documents stands up to careful testing. Confessing Christ as the risen Lord need not be and should not be a blind leap of faith in the dark. Indeed, Peter told his readers that they should "give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have" (1 Peter 3:15).
Jesus is not a hobby. He is Lord. Therefore, Peter preached that "salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). In a world filled with many false views of Christ, we can rest in the truth of the gospel, "because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).
© 2006 Douglas Groothuis
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