Who Is Jesus Christ?
“Where did this Man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands. Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us? So, they were offended at Him.” Mk.6:2-3.
“So, the men marveled, saying,” Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey Him.” Matt.8:27.
“Who do men say that I, the Son of man, am?” Matt.16:13.
“But who do you say that I am.?” Matt.16:15.
“What do you think about the Christ? Whose Son, is He?” Matt.22:42.
The last three enquiries form the greatest questions of Christology. The prolific best-selling author and pastor, Dr. David Jeremiah entitled one of his recent works.
The Jesus You May Not Know
The identity of Jesus Christ has been a question of the Ages. It was concerning Him that prophet Isaiah asked about 700 BC,” Who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?” Isa.53:1. During his earthly ministry, those who despised Him derisively quipped, “Where did this man get these things? And what wisdom is this which is given to Him, that such mighty works are performed by His hands. Is this not the carpenter, the son of Mary, and the brother of James, Joses, Judas, and Simon? And are not His sisters here with us, so they were offended at Him.” Mk.6:2-3. And those who were astonished by His works wondered,” Who can this be, that even the winds and the sea obey him?” Matt.8:27; Mk.4:41.
ECWA Articles of Faith and Practice answers the question in the following words,
Jesus Christ is very God and very Man having been conceived of the Holy Spirit and born of the Virgin Mary. He lived a perfect sinless life. He died on the cross, a sacrifice for our sins, according to the Holy Bible. He rose bodily from the dead and ascended into heaven, where He is now our High Priest and Advocate at the right hand of the Majesty on High (Luke 2:3-35; 1 Cor.15:1-4; Phil.2:5-8; Heb.1:3-4;1 John 2:1-2).
As seen from the preceding enquiries by Jesus Christ, the title question is the “Touchstone” of orthodoxy. The answer that one gives in response tells what that individual or group thinks of Jesus. More than that, it may determine one’s ultimate destiny. Although the nature of their teaching is hard to specifically identify, the false teachers who propagated the “Colossian Heresy” in the first century must have stumbled on this touchstone. In his response to the heresy, Paul warns the Colossians, “Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells the fullness of the Godhead bodily; and you are complete in Him who is the head of all principality and power.” Col.2:8-10.
Paul earlier declared, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. He is before all things, and in Him all things consist. And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the first born from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross.” Col.1;15-20.
The Christ Of The Ages
It may come as a surprise to many Bible readers to learn that Jesus Christ is referred to all through the Old Testament before His incarnation. He attested to this Himself. “Then He said them,” These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and Prophets and Psalms concerning Me…Thus it is written, and thus it is necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead the third day.” Lu.24:44-46. Cf.Jn.5:39.
There are several allusions to Jesus Christ in the Old Testament. The first allusion to Him in the Bible is in Genesis 3:15. Soon after the fall of Adam and Eve, God announced this verdict to the deceiver, Satan, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; and He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” The woman in reference is none other than the Virgin Mary, and her Seed is none other than Jesus Christ. Cf.Isa.7:14; Matt.1:23.
Genesis 3:21 states that God made a covering from an animal skin for Adam and Eve. This act is an allusion to the substitutionary death of Christ. An innocent animal was killed on behalf of sinful humans. Isa.53:4-6;1 Pet.2:21-24; 3:18.
In Exodus 25:8 God told the children of Israel to build Him a tabernacle so that he may dwell among them. The tabernacle in all its ramifications is a prototype of Jesus Christ. It was a foreshadowing of the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. By the Spirit’s inspiration, the same Greek word for tabernacle, skene, is used by the apostle John to describe the incarnation of Christ.Jn.1:14. This is also reflected in His name, Immanuel (God with us). Matt.1:23.
In Exodus 12, God gave the instruction on the observance of Passover. Just as the tabernacle, the institution of the Passover was a foreshadowing of the Person and Work of Christ. The unblemished animal typifies the unblemished life of Christ. The searching and cleaning of house and utensils to ensure the absence of leaven in the Passover sacrifice symbolizes the perfect and sinlessness of Christ’s sacrificial death and His sinless life. Leaven symbolizes sin and corruption.1 Cor.5:6-8.
In Numbers 21:8-9, God told Moses to make a bronze serpent and set it on a pole outside the camp. God said that whoever of the children of Israel that was bitten by a snake could look at the serpent and live. Jesus claimed that the emblem of the serpent symbolized His death on the cross.Jn.3:14-15.
Similar and several examples of allusions and prototypes of Christ are interspersed all through the Old Testament. But that does not mean that Christ did not exist until the Old Testament. One of the greatest prophecies about the incarnation of Christ is mentioned in Micah 5:2” But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out you shall come forth to Me the One to be Ruler in Israel Whose goings forth are from of old, from everlasting.” The Hebrew words, Qedem/Qedmah (old) and Olam (everlasting) are often used as synonyms meaning antiquity or eternity. This speaks of Christ’s eternal existence. He is the Word who co-existed with God in eternity.Jn.1:1-2; Heb.1:10-12.
Others Who Stumbled
The false teachers at Colossae were not the only ones who stumbled at the touchstone of orthodoxy. During the first century of the church and succeeding years, there were groups and individuals who erred at the doctrine of Christology. Besides Gnosticism, there were other groups that espoused erroneous views about the Person and Nature of Christ. Space would only allow examination of only three major ones.
This was a Jewish sect founded by a man named Ebion, and his followers were known as the Ebionites. Although they affirmed the authority of the Hebrew Bible, they maintained that Jesus was an ordinary man until adopted by God during His baptism. They denied Jesus’ Virgin birth and His eternal existence. Another false teacher, Cerinthus, who adopted similar views took it to a greater extreme by arguing that Jesus was no greater than a mere man who possessed extraordinary wisdom. For Cerinthus and the Ebionites, Jesus was too human to be God. The early church father, Irenaeus, opposed Cerinthus and his fallacious teaching.
If the Ebionites rejected Jesus’ Deity, the Docetists took the opposite position and denied His humanity. Many believe this false sect metamorphosed from Gnosticism. They derived their name from their core belief which states that Jesus was a divine being who seemed to be human in appearance. The Greek for “to seem” or “appear to be” is dokein, hence they were known as the Docetists. In their opinion, Jesus is too deity to be human. It is generally believed that they were the ones whom John opposed in his epistles. “By this you know the Spirit of God. Every spirit that confesses that Jesus has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh is not of God. This is the spirit of the Antichrist which you heard was coming and is now already.” 1 Jn.4:2-3;2 Jn.7.
Early in the fourth century, a presbyter in Alexandria, Arius, formulated another heresy. This new teaching denied the eternality of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Arius maintained that, as Son, Jesus was a created being and not co-equal with the Father. He further argued that as a created being, that there was a time when the Son did not exist. Alexander, the bishop of Alexandria was the first to dispute Arius’ views. But the strongest opposition was by Athanasius who succeeded Alexander. Arianism posed a strong threat to the church that the emperor Constantine who had embraced Christian religion summoned a Council of bishops to resolve the dispute. This Council commonly known as the Council of Nicaea 325 AD condemned Arius and his teachings. The Council further affirmed that Jesus is of the same essence, Gr. Homoousios (meaning of the same substance), as the Father. The resolution of this Council is summarized in the confession known as the Nicaean Creed.
The Identity Of Jesus Christ-His Names And Titles
One Christian radio station in the Washington, DC area does not accept vendors for preaching. It airs only Christian music. “The message is in the music.” the management says. Our Daily Bread ministries (ODB) known for writing and distributing devotionals and sound Biblical materials worldwide has one of its titles as Knowing God Through His Attributes.
The identity of Jesus Christ is revealed throughout the Bible. We can know Jesus Christ by the names and titles given to Him all through the Scriptures. More than a hundred of such names and titles are found in both the Old and Testaments. The identity of Jesus Christ is broad, vast, specific, and unambiguous. In Romans 1:18-19, Paul writes that God’s condemnation of the wicked was for their deliberate suppression of the revealed truth in unrighteousness. “Because what may be known about God is manifest in them, for God has shown it to them.” In like manner, what may be known about Jesus Christ has been clearly revealed to us in the Bible. His name Jesus, Heb. Yeshua/Joshua, means “Savior”. Immanuel literally translated and read in Hebrew means “God with us.” His titles, “Son of God.” and “Son of Man.” are titles of Deity. Lu.3:22; Matt.17:5; Jn.5:18; Heb.1:5-13; Dan.7:13. Isa.9:6.
Jesus made many exclusive claims and statements which if uttered by any other would-be blasphemy. Jn.5:17-18;19-23; 8:58-59; 14:6.
Fairest Lord Jesus, Ruler of all nature
Tune: CRUSADERS’ HYMN (111271)
Songs of Response
Published in 552 hymnals.
1 Fairest Lord Jesus,
ruler of all nature,
O thou of God and man the Son,
Thee will I cherish,
Thee will I honor,
thou, my soul’s glory, joy, and crown.
2 Fair are the meadows,
fairer still the woodlands,
robed in the blooming garb of spring:
Jesus is fairer,
Jesus is purer
who makes the woeful heart to sing.
3 Fair is the sunshine,
fairer still the moonlight,
and all the twinkling starry host:
Jesus shines brighter,
Jesus shines purer
than all the angels heaven can boast.
4 Beautiful Savior!
Lord of all the nations!
Son of God and Son of Man!
Glory and honor,
now and forevermore be thine.
From United Methodist Hymnal, 1989