In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days He has spoken to us by His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, and through whom He made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of His being, sustaining all things by His powerful word. After He had provided purification for sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. So He became as much superior to the angels as the name He has inherited is superior to theirs.
Jesus said to them, “My Father is always at His work to this very day, and I, too, am working.” For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill Him; not only was He breaking the Sabbath, but He was even calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.
Jesus gave them this answer: “I tell you the truth, the Son can do nothing by Himself; He can do only what He sees His Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does. For the Father loves the Son and shows Him all He does. Yes, to your amazement He will show Him even greater things than these. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, even so the Son gives life to whom He is pleased to give it. Moreover, the Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honour the Son just as they honour the Father. He who does not honour the Son does not honour the Father, who sent Him.
I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes Him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the truth, a time is coming and has now come when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God and those who hear will live. For as the Father has life in Himself, so He has granted the Son to have life in Himself. And He has given Him authority to judge because He is the Son of Man.”
Jesus Christ is who makes Christianity a distinctive faith.
Stuart Briscoe says, “When the creed called God Maker of Heaven and Earth, it parted company with Hinduism and eastern faiths in general. Now by calling Jesus Christ God’s only Son, it parts company with Judaism and Islam, and stands quite alone.”
In our pluralistic society where we try to be tolerant of other people, the distinctives – those things which set us apart, can become blurred.
However, if we truly believe the basic truths of the Christian faith, and what the Bible clearly teaches, then we simply cannot ignore the fact that we stand alone in what we believe, regardless of how unpopular that may make us. It is a good thing to try to understand people who might believe differently to us. The Bible calls us to be peaceful and tolerant of others, but some things are not open to negotiation.
The Christian faith is unique in many of its doctrines and beliefs, and we cannot and dare not pretend that the things which separate us from other belief systems don’t matter, because they do.
History proves that Jesus existed, but more importantly we need to consider what He said and taught. The things that He said require a response. The implications are too significant for us to turn a blind eye and think it doesn't matter. The question of whether Jesus was who He said He was is a question that each us should explore. It's too important not to.
The Lordship and deity of Jesus Christ – the truth that He was and is God – is crucial to our faith.
Jesus Christ is undoubtedly one of the most controversial people in history, and in this sense He backs us into a corner, and forces us to make up our minds about just who we believe Him to be.
In Luke 9, Jesus was talking to His disciples (reading from verse 18): “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?’
That is the big question for us, and we need to know how to answer it.
“I believe in Jesus Christ, God’s only Son, our Lord.”
What does this mean? All of eternity will not be long enough for us to answer this question, and we cannot hope to fully explore this vast subject in the short time we have this morning, but we will try…
What we’ll do today is to look at this three-fold statement from the Apostles’ Creed individually: Jesus as Christ, Jesus as the Son, and Jesus as Lord.
1) Jesus the Christ
The name ‘Christ’ means messiah.
Jesus was a very common name in New Testament times, and still is in Latin America.
Jesus is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name Joshua, and the Aramaic name Yeshua, which means ‘God is Saviour.’
In the original Hebrew, the word ‘save’ has the same root meaning as room or space. The implication here is that when Jesus saves, He gives people room or space to live, or freedom and the opportunity for growth.
It is clear that Jesus knew this when He said in John 10:10, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.”
John Wesley also understood this when he wrote in one of his hymns, “Long my imprisoned spirit lay, fast bound in sin and nature’s night. Thine eye diffused a quickening ray. I woke, the dungeon flamed with light. My chains fell off, my heart was free, I rose, went forth, and followed Thee.”
However, people are often given the impression that living a Christian lifestyle is a crimping or a cramping life – instead of freedom, we now have to comply with all sorts of rules and regulations. We’ve looked at this in recent weeks, and this perception is simply not true.
Another mistake is that modern man has applied what has become known as ‘liberation theology’ to the salvation of Jesus.
They see the salvation Jesus offers as a means of liberating people from political, social and economic oppression, and as a result the Church often regards its main purpose to be a voice against social ills, and not much else.
This is not to say that Jesus is not concerned about these things, but to say that salvation is only about freeing people from political, social or economic woes is to miss the point. Liberation theology deals with the temporary, while true salvation deals with the eternal.
Salvation in Christ deals with sin.
It is sin that brings about guilt and shame, and political, social and economic oppression.
Oppression and injustice are not the problem. They are the symptoms of a deeper cause – human sin is the problem, and that is what Jesus provides salvation from.
But what do we mean by the word ‘Christ?’
Christ is not Jesus’ surname – it is one of His titles.
It is derived from the Greek christos, which as we’ve seen means messiah.
Messiah literally means ‘The anointed one.’
In Biblical times, only three kinds of people were anointed: Prophets, Priests and Kings.
And Jesus fulfills all three roles.
Firstly, He is the prophet who speaks to us on God’s behalf. Old Testament prophets would usually end a prophecy with the words, “Thus saith the Lord.”
Jesus fulfills the prophet role in exactly the same way. As the Word of God, He has told us what God says.
Secondly, He is the Priest who speaks to God on our behalf. An Old Testament priest would represent the people to God. Jesus though, takes this priestly role infinitely further. Because His death removed the barrier between mankind and God, we are now able to approach God directly, which was not possible prior to His death.
And thirdly, the role of a King in Old Testament times was to lead and protect his people.
In John 10 Jesus draws the analogy of Himself as the Good Shepherd, who not only guides and protects His flock, but also as a shepherd who lays down His life for His sheep.
So Jesus as the Christ, is the One who saves.
2) Jesus as the Son
In older translations of the Bible Jesus is often called the only begotten Son of God.
The word begotten simply means ‘to be born.’
This is where Islam objects to the idea that Jesus was born as a son of God – it would take sexual intercourse between God as the Father and the virgin Mary in order for this to happen. To them it is unthinkable for God to do such a thing. They see it as blasphemy, and is thus rejected by Muslims.
What they do not understand is that the deeper root of the word ‘begotten’ in Greek means ‘of a kind’, in the sense of genes.
So when the Bible talks of Jesus being the only begotten Son of God, it does not mean that Jesus is the result of sexual intercourse between a father and a mother, but rather that He is of the same kind as God.
Jesus is not to be regarded as inferior to God. When the Bible uses the word begotten, the implication is not that Jesus was born as an inferior offspring of the Father. In fact, it means the exact opposite. He is begotten of God.
Of a kind with God. He is, in fact, God.
This is another fundamental difference between Christianity and all other faiths. It is only Christians who believe that Jesus is God Himself, in human flesh.
Other faiths recognise Him as a real historical character, as a good moral teacher, and even as a prophet, but they stop short of acknowledging Him as God Himself.
Of course, this is another issue which doesn’t make complete sense to us: The fact that Jesus, while He walked this earth in human form was fully human in every way (with the one exception of being without sin), yet at the same time He remained fully God.
It does make some sense though, when we consider the reason for Him coming to earth in the first place: to atone for the sins of humanity.
When we look at John 3:16, it is clear that God is the only person qualified to die on our behalf, and to take our punishment upon Himself.
The doctrine of atonement disqualifies all other human beings – there is no good moral person or prophet whose death for us would have been enough to satisfy God’s demand for justice. So it wasn’t just Jesus as a good man who died on the cross for us – that would not have been enough.
It was God Himself who bore our sins.
Jesus Christ, as God, is the only option. He is God.
3) Jesus as Lord
The word ‘Lord’ is translated from the Greek ‘kurios’, which is translated from the Hebrew word Adonai, used in the Old Testament to describe the deity of God.
So when we use the statement ‘Jesus is Lord’ we are not merely saying that He is worthy of respect (much like the Lord of a manor).
We are acknowledging the deity of Jesus, and that He is worthy of our praise and worship.
Critics often say that Jesus never actually spoke the words, “I am Lord”, or “I am God.”
But there are many instances in Scripture where He clearly implied it.
In John 13:13 He says to His disciples, “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord,’ and rightly so, for that is what I am.”
Another example is after Thomas doubted that Jesus had risen from the dead in John 20.
When he finally sees the risen Christ, Thomas confesses his disbelief with the words, “My Lord and my God.”
If Jesus did not consider Himself to be Lord and God, He would have told Thomas that he was mistaken, but He didn’t do this. He allowed Thomas to worship Him as God.
There are many other times in Scripture, but it is clear that He claimed to be Lord and God, merely by what He said and did.
So don’t fall into the trap of agreeing with those who say that Jesus never claimed to be God. He did it consistently throughout His earthly ministry.
As we saw earlier, there many people who believe that Jesus is a real historical character. There are non-Biblical writings which also support this.
The Jewish historian Josephus, born in AD 37 writes:
‘Now there was about this time, Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call Him a man, for He was a doer of wonderful works – a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to Him many of the Jews, and many of the Gentiles. He was the Christ; and when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned Him to the cross, those that loved Him at first did not forsake Him, for He appeared to them alive again on the third day, as the divine prophets had foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning Him; and the tribe of Christians so named after Him, are not extinct to this day.’
But by merely saying “I believe in Jesus”, if we do not believe He is the Christ, God’s only Son our Lord, then we are no different from the rest of the world.
As Christians we need to move beyond merely acknowledging Jesus as a Jewish man who lived in the Middle East about two thousand years ago.
The author CS Lewis says it best – “A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic – on a level with a man who says he is a poached egg – or else he would be the devil of hell. You must make your choice. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him, you can kill Him as a demon, or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God.
But let us not come up with any patronising nonsense about His being a great moral teacher. He has not left that open to us. He never intended to.”
Again, Jesus backs us firmly into a corner, and forces us to make up our minds about who He really is. In Matthew 12:30 He says “He who is not with me is against me, and he who does not gather with me scatters.”
There is no room for neutrality. We either accept and love Jesus (and all that He is and stands for), or we reject and hate Him. That’s the choice we need to make.
So, if we choose to believe that Jesus is who He says He is, we can never again regard Him as simply a good man, or a great moral teacher.
Jesus Christ is God, introducing us to Himself in human form.
Remember, “What about you? Who do you say I am?”
That is a question each of us needs to answer for ourselves.
There are also serious implications for us if we choose to acknowledge Jesus as Lord. The word ‘Lordship’ implies ownership.
This means that if we confess Jesus as Lord, then we are to surrender our lives to Him; not just by saying a prayer, but by practically surrendering our lives.
Our lives are no longer our own.
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 reminds us “You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honour God with your body.”
And Galatians 2:20 says, “I myself no longer live, but Christ lives in me. So I live my life in this earthly body by trusting in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.”
It is easy for us to recognise Jesus as a historical figure, however there are many people who are not Christians who do exactly that.
We are called, as we confess Jesus as the Christ and Jesus as Lord, that He is God.
CS Lewis sums it up like this:
“We are faced then with a frightening alternative. The man we are talking about was and is just what He said or else a madman or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic or a fiend; and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God. God has landed on this enemy occupied world in human form.”