By Rev. Lance Filio
We have come now to the most crucial question in the Christian belief system and it is the identity of our central figure – Jesus Christ. In order for us to list down the reasons for believing in him, we need to determine first what we believe about Him. Every generation has to wrestle with this question and it inescapable. Jesus Christ is one historical person who no one can ignore nor dismiss. Who is this person Jesus? Is he human or divine?
There is a popular way of proving the divinity of Jesus and they call it the trilemma. The three options which we can say makes sense of who Jesus is are these: Liar, Lunatic or Lord. C. S. Lewis, the famous atheist writer who later on became Christian in recent history wrote his own reflection on this question.
“I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. 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 the level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to. . . . Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor 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. (Mere Christianity, 55-56)”
We cannot dismiss the question. We need to answer and make this decision based on what we know from Scripture. Why? Because Jesus made sure he reveals his own person and work in history. He even made sure he himself asks this question in history. In Matthew 16, Jesus, talking to his disciples in Caesarea Philippi, asked: “Who do people say the Son of Man is? (verse 13)”. They answered: “Some say John the Baptist; others say Elijah; and still others, Jeremiah or one of the prophets (verse 14)”. Jesus pressed further the question by making personal to his disciples: ” “But what about you? Who do you say I am? (verse 15)”. From here we know the most important revelation of the New Testament occurred when Peter answered: “You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God (verse 16).” Jesus commended Peter’s answer, confirmed that this revelation came from his Father and not from man and explained that upon this rock of revelation, Jesus Christ, the Messiah, the Son of the Living God, will build his church (verse 17-18).
If we recognize the authority of Scripture, we can dismiss the notion that Jesus is neither a liar nor a lunatic. Why? Because He claims to be God, and he has proven so by his person and work. We can say with certainty He is God because He has proven to us he is so. We believe Jesus is God and we have Scripture reasons to believe his claim. Our answers are purely based on revelation because we recognize God’s authority in them and as Christians, there is no higher authority in this life.
We believe in Jesus because the Bible tells us so. Scripture authoritatively tells us He is God, and He’s only the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one can come to Father except through the Son. He is the eternal, personal and divine Word of God. He is the Lord of History and the King of Glory. This is what we will hear preached this morning, the reasons we believe in Jesus and these are Scriptural reasons for believing in Jesus: (1) Jesus the Word; (2) Jesus the Lord of History; and (3) Jesus King of Glory.
Jesus the Word
The first piece of authoritative revelation we will examine today is the gospel of John. The apostle John made sure we will not make the mistake of identifying the person of Jesus. In his book, John wrote for us at the opening chapter as a way of summary, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God (verse 1) … And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us … (verse 14a).”
Now, reading this verse in English may seem awkward but the meaning is plain. First, we can identify the person of the subject. He is the singular masculine person, the Word. In the succeeding verse after the opening summary (verse 1-18). In verses 19-28, John the Baptist was challenged to identify himself but denied he is the Messiah. He explained that he was preparing the way and later on in verses 29-34, pointed to Jesus saying: “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world! … And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God.” Therefore, the identity of the Word being spoken about in verse 1 is clear, the Word is the Messiah, the Lamb of God and more so the Son of God!
Second, the nature of the Word is also clear from these verses. It further clarifies for us that the nature of the person of the Word is eternal, personal and divine. The Word is eternal or as what John wrote, In the beginning was the Word. Now, the beginning points to the period before creation. And to confess that the Word is there – in the beginning – points to his eternal nature and since we know from Scripture that being eternal means having no beginning nor ending, an attribute of God, the Word is not a creature but the Creator (Col 1:16). Next, the Word is personal or as what John wrote; the Word was with God. He is the second person or the Son who is personally distinguished from the Father (ton theon). The Son is not the Father, and the reverse is also true; The Father is not the Son. To affirm this truth means that John was moving away from the natural assumption that only one person can occupy the divine nature of God. In here, we can understand that John is telling us about the personal distinction in God. But is He saying to us that there is more than one God? No. The Shema prayer of the Old Testament saints holds that there is only one God (Deut 6:4-6). Therefore, we can distinguish the persons but not separate the one nature of the being of God. Scripture tells us nothing more, nothing less. Last, the Word is divine or as what John wrote; the Word was God. John was not telling us the same thing here when he wrote the Word was with God. He was not making a distinction about the person of the Word. Rather, he was emphasizing the divine nature of the Word – He is divine! The Word is the divine person, God the Son. He is not a human person who has become God later on. He has always been God and distinguished from God the Father.
Last, the incarnation of the Word is made plain here by John. The divine person of God the Son added to himself another nature, a human nature and not a human person. Jesus is not a divine person and a human person rolled into one. Jesus is a divine person with two natures – divine and human. John confirms what the Christian creeds have affirmed, Jesus is both God and man. The revelation about Jesus points us to his supernatural nature. He is not like anyone in creation. He is unique. He is the only begotten Son of God who was given his Father to save the world from sin and death (John 3:16). His incarnation points to the climactic work of God in redemptive history. The Word becoming flesh was the beginning of God’s work in history. God saved his people by uniting himself to our nature and redeeming us from the destructive nature of sin and eventually dying on our behalf so we can inherit eternal life. He is the Way, the Truth and the Life (John 14:6).
So we believe in Jesus because he himself is God and as God, He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. So as God’s truth, Jesus spoke of fulfilling the redemption of his people in history. Was he able to do so?
Jesus the Lord of History
The second piece of authoritative revelation which we will further examine is the extent of redemptive history. God did not begin the work of redemption at the incarnation. Rather, he revealed his redemptive work when man first fell into sin (Gen 3:15) and this entire work reveals to us the person and work of Jesus Christ. Jesus, after the resurrection from the dead, explained to his disciples that the entire Old Testament Scripture was all about him, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled (Luke 24:44)”. Jesus spoke before ascending to heaven: “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Jesus is the Lord of History, He is the Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending.
It is important that we see that the entire Scripture bear witness to the person and work of Jesus Christ. But He is not only the content of revelation but also the Great Revealer. In John 8, Jesus made a controversial claim that almost killed him. He confessed it was him whom Moses referred to as the “I am”. So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am (John 8:57).” Here Jesus was revealing to everyone his divine identity. He is the Great I am, the personal God revealed to Moses who was even before Abraham. Talk about religious pedigree, Jesus had a monopoly compared to all of those whom these Pharisee acknowledge. He is before them all. In the same way, in 1 Cor 10, Paul confessed that Jesus was the rock where the Israelites drank from. He was speaking about the pre-incarnation of God the Son not just as an angel of the Lord but Lord himself, the Jehovah of the Old Testament. There was never a time that the divine Son was not God. He has always been God. At the same time, in Genesis 32, the angel of the Lord who wrestled with Jacob. Jacob confessed in verse 30 that “I have seen God face to face. Plainly, he said it was the face of God and not some ministering angels. Therefore, we have reasons to believe that it was God himself who wrestled with him. He was the Son of the Living God!
We believe in Jesus because he is God, and he has revealed to us his person and work. He has fulfilled the work of redeeming his people. This what the whole of Scripture points to. This is the unifying theme from Genesis to Revelation. Dr. Scott Oliphint summarized the implications for us when he wrote:
“What this means for us is that we believe in Jesus, in the first place, because of what he has permanently become, and done, as we read of that in the New Testament. But all that he is and does in the New Testament can be properly understood only in light of who he is and what he does in the Old Testament! In other words, we believe in Jesus because the whole Bible—all of the history of God’s redemption of his people—reveals him. The Scripture shows us the central place he has in all of human history.”
In sum, Jesus is divine, and he has accomplished the redemption of his people. But is his work done only in history but not as a future reality?
Jesus the King of Glory
The glorious end of all creation began at the inauguration of new creation. The work of Jesus Christ is not only accomplished in history, applied personally to his people but at the same, consummated in Christ – the new creation. In his resurrection and ascension, Christ now rules over all creation and inaugurated for us this new creation. He is the all-consuming reality of the new heavens and the new earth and new heaven. Where can we see this heavenly reality? In Revelation 5:11-14, John wrote this reality for us to read:
Then I looked and heard the voice of many angels, numbering thousands upon thousands, and ten thousand times ten thousand. They encircled the throne and the living creatures and the elders. In a loud voice they were saying:
“Worthy is the Lamb, who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and strength and honor and glory and praise!”
Then I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and on the sea, and all that is in them, saying:
“To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb
be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!”
The four living creatures said, “Amen,” and the elders fell down and worshiped.
Revelation is not history waiting to happen. Rather, the proper reading of this book requires for us to look at reality into two over-lapping ages. The present age which is the creation that will eventually come to end including sin and death and age to come which is the new creation that has come during the first coming of God the Son and will be the continuing reality for all of us in all eternity. Indeed, Jesus Christ is the King of Glory and all creatures are called to worship him.
Jesus is now worshiped eternally in heaven and will soon return to bring about the regeneration of all things. (Revelation 22:12-13; 17; 20-21)
“Look, I am coming soon! My reward is with me, and I will give to each person according to what they have done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.
The Spirit and the bride say, “Come!” And let the one who hears say, “Come!” Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.
He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming soon.”
Amen. Come, Lord Jesus.
The grace of the Lord Jesus be with God’s people. Amen.
Jesus is God and the revelation of God. We believe in Him because Scripture points to his person and work.
ZCRC(Imus), Jesus Christ, the One whom we worship every Lord’s Day is truly divine. He is the revealer, redeemer, and renewer of all thing in creation. He is new creation. He is the beginning and the end, the Alpha, and Omega. He is all in all. We believe in Him because he is everything that Scripture reveals himself to be. May the Lord continue to reveal himself to his people. Amen.