Who Do You Say Jesus Christ Is?
Fundamentals of the Christian Faith Series
2000 William R. Cunningham
Who do you say that Jesus is? What do you know of Jesus Christ? Is he personal to you or a figure in the stories of the book the Christians call the Holy Bible? It is interesting what opinions and beliefs exist about Jesus Christ. In this lesson we are going to examine these beliefs as well as challenge you to answer the question for yourself. Who is Jesus apart from your church clich s? Is Jesus real to you or merely the founder of the Christian faith? Is Jesus as real to you as your pastor or deacon? Can you honestly say that you think of Jesus as a real person or do you distance yourself from him by claims that He is God?
Who is Jesus To You?
Consider the following scripture.
Matthew 16:13 through Matthew 16:16 (NKJV) When Jesus came into the region of Caesarea Philippi, He asked His disciples, saying, "Who do men say that I, the Son of Man, am?" So they said, "Some say John the Baptist, some Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets." He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God."
Caesarea Philippi seems to have been a very religious area. The Canaanite god Baal-gad, the god of good fortune, was worshiped there in Old Testament times. Later, in the Greek period, a shrine in the cave was dedicated to the god Pan. In addition, many niches in the cave held statues of the Nymphs. When Herod the Great was king of the Jews, he built a temple out of white marble and dedicated it to Emperor Augustus. In 20 B.C., the Romans under Augustus gave the territory to Herod the Great. The area then passed to Philippi, Herod's son, after Herod's death. Philippi rebuilt the city into a beautiful place and renamed it Caesarea Philippi in honor of Tiberius Caesar and himself.
Who Do Others Say Jesus Is?
Jesus asked his disciples two questions. The first was who others say that he was. For the most part people said that Jesus was one of the great prophets that had come back to life. This response could have also meant that Jesus came with the spirit of one of the great prophets, not that he was actually one of them raised from the dead.
There are many opinions as to who Jesus is from various religions, even those claiming to be of the Christian faith. Let me give you some of them now, which was taken from the book "Who Is This Man Who Says He's God?" from RBC Ministries.
Jesus was a great man. On group that holds this opinion of Jesus is the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints-the Mormons. They believe that the distinction of Jesus Christ was not that he was God. He was merely the first spirit-child of many others to follow. His birth was just as natural as any other human birth.
Jesus is a created being, second in command to God. The Jehovah's Witnesses hold this belief. They believe that Jesus is a "god" and not the Almighty God as the Christian faith proclaims. Jesus was the first created of God and not God himself. They also, interestingly enough, hold that Michael the Archangel was indeed Jesus. Generally, the Jehovah's Witnesses reject the true deity of Christ.
Jesus' existence began when he was conceived. One group that teaches this is called "The Way International." They believe that Jesus is NOT God because there was a time when Jesus did not exist (same philosophy as Arianism in early Christianity). They believe that Jesus is the Son of God and not God the son.
Jesus was a prophet of God. The followers of Islam hold this belief. The Koran states that Jesus was a messenger (or apostle) of Allah. It goes on to say, "Far be it from his glory to have a son." The wording of the text seems to be opposing another opinion, perhaps Christianity and not merely a statement of Islamic beliefs.
Jesus is not as great as some believe him to be. This is a typical view of the atheists. They do not believe in God so Jesus was merely a man. They even hold that Jesus is not as great as some other historical figures such as Buddha or Socrates.
Jesus is a great moral teacher. Some people hold that Jesus isn't deity but he is still a great moral teacher.
Jesus is a mystic, the way to self-discover. New Age thinkers hold that Jesus is a way to self-actualization. Jesus is a channel or an ancient that give them a look at the past. His purity is obtainable by all due to the fact that he was previously reincarnated.
For the New Ager, Jesus is one of many Christs who appear in a given age to direct humanity toward the divine, to show the way to divinity. Jesus was a man who by virtue of his working through the spiritual road-blocks of his life gained the highest evolutionary level that man can achieve and was given the office of "Christ" (From www.leaderu.com).
Jesus is a projection of human need. Some people believe Jesus only exists in our minds because we need someone like him for hope. A life without someone like Jesus would be hopeless and meaningless. With Jesus, we have a glimpse of hope for this life and the hereafter. Similar to this is a belief that Christianity is a myth that is based on a mythical character. This isn't to say that Jesus Christ didn't exist historically. Rather, it means that the man Jesus, who perhaps really existed, was made to be someone he is not. Maybe he was a great teacher and even a healer. However, this doesn't mean that he was the Son of God or even God himself that would save everyone from their sins.
Some deny the deity or even the existence of Jesus Christ while others water down who Jesus is by claiming he was a great man or great teacher. What we know about Jesus comes from a very reliable source, namely the Holy Bible. The evidence of the reliability of scripture is beyond the scope of this lesson, however I encourage you to lookup Christian History and the history of the Christian Canon for more information on this topic.
Who Do You Say Jesus Is?
Matthew 16:15 through Matthew 16:17 (NKJV) He said to them, "But who do you say that I am?" Simon Peter answered and said, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus answered and said to him, "Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah, for flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.
Jesus asked his disciples who they say he is. Peter spoke up and said that he was the Christ, the Son of the living God. What is very interesting about Peter's statement is that it didn't come from a scholastic foundation. He didn't search the scriptures and put two and two together to deduce that Jesus was indeed the Messiah spoken of in the Old Testament. This point is made evident in Jesus' statement to Peter. Peter was blessed because he had received a revelation from God. Jesus said that God in heaven revealed to Peter who Jesus Christ was. The term Bar-Jonah means son of Jonah.
The fact that God revealed the identity of Jesus is very important to our understanding of Christ. Knowledge is not enough when we speak of spiritual things. Our knowledge is extremely limited when compared to the universe and of course to God. Therefore, I can confidently say that the knowledge of Christ comes not merely from evidence of scripture and history. Knowledge of Christ comes by the working of the Holy Spirit. Therefore, we can depend on the Holy Spirit to move when we speak the Gospel to people. Consider the following verse of scripture.
1 Corinthians 2:1 through 1 Corinthians 2:5 (NKJV) And I, brethren, when I came to you, did not come with excellence of speech or of wisdom declaring to you the testimony of God. For I determined not to know anything among you except Jesus Christ and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness, in fear, and in much trembling. And my speech and my preaching were not with persuasive words of human wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith should not be in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
It wasn't Paul's ability as a great orator that people came to Christ. The Holy Spirit operates on the hearts of people to persuade them to turn their lives over to Christ. Many times I hear people comment on how good a preacher someone is. The question is why that person thinks that the preacher is good. Many times "goodness" is measured on how emotionally stimulated you are instead of new revelation that you received from God. We must remember that the Holy Spirit moves when the spirit of the word of God is given.
What does the Bible say about Jesus Christ? For one thing we know that the Bible did speak about the coming of a Messiah in the Old Testament. The New Testament spoke of the revelation and return of this Messiah. Who was this Messiah and what should I do now?
The Old Testament Prophecies
Isaiah 7:14 (NKJV) Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
This scripture is very interesting because many believe that this is a prophecy of Jesus Christ. However, the context of the scripture does not support only that opinion. It is very unlikely that this prophecy was only about Jesus Christ because it would have been useless to King Ahaz at the time. The immediate message of the prophecy was that of a sign for the deliverance of Israel from the Assyrians. Therefore, it is held that this prophecy had a fulfillment during its time and a total fulfillment in Jesus Christ.
The word virgin (alma h) in the Hebrew text could mean a young woman of marriageable age. It could also mean a virgin. When the Hebrew Scriptures were translated into Greek (Septuagint), the word alma h was translated to mean a virgin. This means, if nothing else, that the Jewish people were still waiting for a sign from God for their deliverance from the Romans. The following is from the Nelson Study Bible.
Some have thought the anonymous "virgin" may refer to a royal mother-more specifically Ahaz's wife. Thus the child would be Hezekiah, Ahaz's successor. Hezekiah would be a sign to Ahaz that God was in control: The Lord was with Ahaz; He would save Judah from the enemies that surrounded him, which would enable Hezekiah to inherit the throne.
Others have identified Isaiah's wife, "the prophetess", as the "virgin." She was a young woman of marriageable age, another meaning of the Hebrew word translated virgin. The child in this case would be Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz. According to this view, the child's two names, Maher-Shalal-Hash-Baz meaning "Speed the Spoil, Hasten the Booty," and Immanuel meaning "God with Us," symbolize judgment and salvation.
Some cite the parallel between the prophecy that a "virgin shall conceive" and Jesus' miraculous birth as evidence that this prophecy was fulfilled only in Jesus. Mary was the virgin mother; and the birth of Jesus was the sign of God's salvation. His name would be Immanuel, "God with Us," because Jesus was the Son of God and He lived among us (Matt. 1:23). According to this view, Isaiah's prophecy had no fulfillment prior to Jesus' birth (Matt. 1:18-25).
It is not uncommon for biblical prophecies to have one level of fulfillment in the immediate future, and a final fulfillment many years later in the person and work of the Savior, Jesus. Thus the pregnancy of Isaiah's new wife and the birth of her son could have been a sign to King Ahaz. However, this would have been a fulfillment, not the fulfillment. The prophecy was completely fulfilled in the coming of God's only Son to the earth. He is the only Child who can truly be called Wonderful, Counselor, and Prince of Peace. (From the Nelson Study Bible: In Depth-Immanuel)
Read Isaiah 9:1-7. This is another prophecy about the coming Messiah, Jesus Christ.
Micah 5:2 (NKJV) "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting."
This is another prophecy concerning Jesus Christ and in this case Bethlehem.
The New Testament Claims
Matthew 1:21 (NKJV) And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name Jesus, for He will save His people from their sins."
Jesus (Hebrew for Joshua meaning Yahweh saves) would save his people from their sins.
John 1:1 (NKJV) In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
In this scripture John the Apostle establishes the deity of Jesus Christ as well as his incarnation in later verses.
Romans 9:5 (NKJV) of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.
The Apostle Paul understood the deity of Jesus Christ and the fact that he came to us to save us.
Philippians 2:5 through Philippians 2:7 (NKJV) Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.
Here we see Jesus as man and God. This is a very complex topic, which is beyond the scope of this study. How can Jesus be God and man? Who did Jesus pray to? How could Jesus pray to the Father when he was God himself? We will dive into these questions in another study. Suffice it for me to say that we do not understand our own universe let alone the attributes or nature of God. So we can for now accept that Jesus is deity.
1 Timothy 3:16 (NKJV) And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifested in the flesh, Justified in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Preached among the Gentiles, Believed on in the world, Received up in glory.
Timothy also understood Jesus as being deity.
What Jesus Said About Himself
What did Jesus say about himself? Some believe that Jesus really didn't know who he was, which would support the idea that the character of Christ was fabricated. However, let's look at the Bible to see if that opinion holds up. What did Jesus say about himself?
John 10:25 through John 10:30 (NKJV) Jesus answered them, "I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father's name, they bear witness of Me. But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep, as I said to you. My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand. My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all; and no one is able to snatch them out of My Father's hand. I and My Father are one."
Here Jesus calls God his father and that he and God the Father are one. Note that the phrase "are one" does not mean that God and Jesus are the same person (The doctrine of the Trinity states that there were three persons and one God). The key is to keep in mind that Jesus said that he and God are one. According to the early creeds of the church, this could be understood as being the same essence and purpose. This also demonstrates our ignorance of God and how much we do not understand even his very being or nature.
John 8:57 through John 8:58 (NKJV) Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM."
The term "I AM" was very crucial. It was a reference to YHWH (Yahweh). The religious leaders to whom Jesus was talking to in the above verse understood Jesus' statement as unequivocally stating that he was God and therefore greater than Abraham.
John 14:6 through John 14:10 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me. "If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him." Philip said to Him, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus said to him, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.
Here again Jesus claims to be one with the Father.
Who Do You Say Jesus is?
It is interesting how little we know of something when we start thinking about it or talking about it. How much could you say you know about Jesus Christ? The Bible tells us that Jesus is the son of God, the incarnation of God on the earth. The Bible tells us that Jesus and the Father are one, which means that Jesus is deity. We know that Jesus is the savior of the world and that he can give you forgiveness of sins if you would just believe in Him.
However, how do you talk to someone from another religion, even those claiming to be Christians, about Jesus Christ? I believe that it is very beneficial for Christians to know as much as possible about Jesus Christ. We should know Christ personally and experientially. He should be more than a figure that we read about in the Bible or a person that is out there somewhere. Christ should be a real person to us and we should relate to him that way.
Who is Jesus Christ? Jesus Christ was born Jesus of Nazareth, son of Joseph. He was born of a virgin, Mary, and conceived by the Holy Spirit. Through Christ we have the remission of our sins. I don't have to pay the penalty for my sins because Christ has already paid at the cross. Yes Jesus was a real historical figure that lived and walked on this earth. However, he was also the Son of God and deity. Though we don't completely understand how this could be, we must accept this from the evidence given to us else Christianity becomes a big hoax. Those close to Christ understood him not as the military leader who would free the Jewish people from the Romans but as the savior of the world, the son of God, and one with God. This was so much so that they called Jesus God.
Do you consider Jesus to be deity and one with God or do you consider him to be a great teacher or even a great person. Not holding to the deity of Jesus Christ is detrimental to the Christian faith and doctrine. We will examine that aspect in a future lesson. For now, know Christ and what the Bible says about him so that He becomes personal to you and not merely a figure in the pages of a book. Amen.
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