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The Christian Counter

     
WHO IS JESUS CHRIST?
Lesson 25

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An angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.”  Matthew 1:20,21

Introduction

Perhaps the most controversial person to ever live on earth was Jesus Christ. Some people say He was a blasphemer.  Others say He was a prophet.  Some people say He was a troublemaker and others say He is the Son of God.  Not long after He ascended to Heaven, His followers began to disagree about His teachings, prerogatives and identity. So, who is Jesus? Where did He come from? Where did He go? What was He all about? Jesus is a challenge to explain because the bible says so many things about Him.

Jesus remains a controversial figure because of the claims He made and the things He did while on Earth.  If He is not the Son of God as He claimed (Matthew 26:63,64), then He has to be the greatest liar who has ever lived. Conversely, if any person denies that Jesus is the Son of God, the Bible says that person is a liar! (1 John 2:22,23) Jesus leaves no one straddling the ideological fence. He is either all that He says or He’s the world’s greatest imposter. Interestingly, either people love Him or hate Him. There is no middle ground. The birth, life, death and resurrection of Jesus play a pivotal part in Earth’s destiny. One man, Jesus Christ, changed the course of human destiny. Jesus brought the assurance of salvation and eternal life out of the tomb. Of course, the promise of salvation existed before Jesus died on the cross, but after the resurrection, we have “living proof” that the penalty for sin has been paid and the promise of eternal life is a coming reality. Jesus taught that this life is but a prep school for the life to come. The differences between the life we know right now and the life to come are almost to good to be true. Life will be very different when we finally dwell in God’s physical presence because the curse of sin and every blemish on Creation will be removed. Jesus will no longer be veiled from our eyes. We will see His face and rejoice in His instruction. Everlasting life will be filled with everlasting joy and endless vistas of learning. In the earth made new, we will build houses and inhabit them. We will know each other even as we are known. (1 Corinthians 13:12) The redeemed will live forever without seeing death, sorrow, sickness, injury or suffering! Better yet, the redeemed will live forever seeing the One who made life possible. The experience of everlasting life and all that goes with it is only possible because one man, Jesus Christ, changed the destiny of a planet in rebellion.

The Alpha and Omega

Less than 27% of the world’s population claims to be Christian. This indicates Jesus is either unknown to most of the world or He is not considered to be the Son of God by billions of people. Although Christian denominations may not agree on the teachings of Jesus, lively debate has no bearing on whom Jesus really is.

The source of disagreement among Christians about Jesus seems to be quite simple. Jesus Christ is so magnificent and so awesome that people cannot understand Him. He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and end of everything that exists. Jesus is the artist that paints the sunsets with properties of light. Jesus is the biological engineer who put the world’s ecological systems into operation. Jesus is the designer of life’s DNA; the One who put the intricate chemistry of the human body into motion. He is the author of life. He is the executor of God’s justice. Jesus Christ is everything. He has no beginning and no end. Therefore, it is not possible to fully define Jesus! He is simply too much to comprehend.

Although God has completely demonstrated His love for mankind through the life and death of Jesus, we still have much to learn about God’s love. Even more, Jesus Christ is not through revealing the love of God! He has plans. He has authority and power. And most of all, He is not limited by time or space. He lives forever and the people who love Him will someday enjoy His presence forever! I believe that because Jesus Christ is so magnificent, the Bible allows some wiggle room for variations in our understanding of His mission and teachings. Every question that we might have about Jesus is not answered in the Bible, but we will soon be able to ask Him any question that we might have.

Test all things

When it comes to religious ideas, I have observed that many people use the “sour milk method” for testing. In case you were not raised on a farm, the “sour milk method” of testing works like this: A five-gallon bucket of milk can be tested with one teaspoon of milk – if the milk in the teaspoon is sour, all the milk in the bucket is sour. It is not necessary to drink five gallons of milk to know whether all the milk is sour. Unfortunately, people often test new ideas with teaspoons or “sound bites.” I mention this because you will probably find some new ideas in this study about Jesus, and at first these ideas may appear to be sour, but please do not throw the whole Bible lesson out just yet. I would prefer you use another farm method for testing. I call it the “rotten apple “exam. This method requires the examination of each apple in the barrel so that bad apples can be separated from the good ones. This method of investigation can produce very good results because the good apples are not discarded with the bad! Really, the spiritual difference between these two methods of investigation is attitude. If you find an idea about Jesus that is different from what you have heard before, look up the Scripture references in your Bible. Do your best to glean as much from this study as you can.

The God of Both Testaments

For many years, I assumed the God of the Old Testament was the Father and the God of the New Testament was Jesus. In other words, I assumed they were two different Gods. I concluded that the Father was grumpier than Jesus. Perhaps my assumptions began during childhood because I remember hearing preachers say the God of the Old Testament was more likely to kill people than the God of the New Testament. Today, my view about the Father and Jesus is very different. One is not grumpy and the other gracious. They are both gracious beyond comparison. Jesus said that He and the Father are one. (John 10:30) I know some people interpret this verse to mean Jesus and the Father are two manifestations of one being, but I disagree. I understand the oneness of the Father and the Son to mean that they are perfectly united in purpose, plan and action. For example, a man and his wife are one (Genesis 2:24), yet the two are separate human beings. So I do not understand Jesus’ words to mean that Jesus is the Father and Jesus is also the Son, as some people believe. My study has led me to conclude that the Godhead has three distinct and separate members in it: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. Each member of the Godhead shares in the name “God” because each member of the Godhead has the same prerogatives and attributes as the other two, yet they live and function harmoniously in different ways.

What Did Jesus Do before He Was Born?

I did not question my early assumptions about the Father being the God of the Old Testament and Jesus the God of the New Testament until I began to wonder about the life and actions of Jesus before He came to Earth as a baby. As I studied the topic, I made an amazing discovery. The “God” of the Old Testament is not the Father, but actually Jesus! (John 1:1-14; 5:37-40; Colossians 1:17,18) More than 90% of the references found in the Old Testament pertaining to “God” refer to Jesus Christ! This discovery profoundly changed my understanding of the Bible and Jesus. Consequently, I now have a much different perspective about the words and teachings of Jesus. It is wonderful to understand how Jesus discussed themes and issues when He was on Earth (as recorded in the Gospels) that He previously discussed with Moses, Isaiah, Ezekiel, Jeremiah and other Old Testament prophets before He came to Earth. As we proceed through this study on Jesus, I will provide scriptural references that demonstrate why I believe, in most cases. The God of the Old Testament is Jesus.

One Theme

Most Christians do not question why the Bible is divided into the Old and the New Testaments, but after studying both testaments for many years, I have concluded the division is artificial. Actually, the New Testament is a continuation of the Old Testament. Neither Testament should be exalted above the other nor is one book in the Bible inferior to another. The Jesus I find in the Old Testament is a Jesus of love, compassion and long-suffering. This is consistent with what I find about Him in the New Testament. The Old Testament reveals a history of God’s people repeatedly rejecting their Benefactor, but the same story is also found in the New Testament (and throughout church history, I might add). I find a God of justice and deadly judgments in the Old Testament, and I also find the same thing in the New Testament.  As I said earlier, I believe the New Testament is simply a continuation of the Old Testament. The actions and testimony of Jesus in both Testaments reveal what the Godhead is like. (John 5:37-40)

Jesus, the Creator of Heaven and Earth

The Bible begins, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” (Genesis 1:1) The first verse in the Bible explains Earth’s origin. This verse also introduces our Creator and we call Him by several titles or names: Jesus, God, Lord, The Word, Son of God, Master, Jehovah and Savior. Did you know that the creative agent of the heavens and Earth is not the Father, but the Son? Notice what Paul wrote, “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.” (Hebrews 1:1,2) Jesus is the “hands-on” creative agent of the Godhead. The Father, Son and Holy Spirit were in perfect harmony about the creation of Earth, and yes, all three were present! The Father was observing, Jesus was creating, and the Holy Spirit was hovering over the Earth, ready to dwell within the hearts of a new creation called man. (Genesis 1:2) Notice this statement by Paul affirming that Jesus is the creative agent within the Godhead, “For by Him {Jesus} all things were created: things in Heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:16,17, insertion mine.) In the fourth commandment, the creative works of Jesus are recognized: “Remember the Sabbath day by keeping it holy…For in six days the Lord made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, but rested on the seventh day. Therefore the Lord blessed the Sabbath day and made it holy.” (Exodus 20:8-11)

John places the creative handiwork of Jesus beyond dispute by writing, “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him.” (John 1:10)

Three points need to be highlighted in the texts just presented. First, Jesus is the creative agent of the Godhead. Second, Jesus is called by many different names or titles because one title cannot describe all that Jesus is! Last, Jesus is a name that we use to identify a member of the Godhead after He was born of Mary. In other words, the name “Jesus” as it applies to the Son of God, is only 2,000 years old. Jesus, of course, is much older.



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