Faith in Christ leads to action
Jesus is the Son of God who has come to earth to bring salvation.
This document is reprinted from a paper I wrote
for a class at Ashland Theological Seminary.
A paper written and updated
Don Elijah Eckhart
April 24, 2015
Who is Jesus?
Jesus Christ is the unique Son of God. Along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit, the Son of God is one of the three persons of the Triune God. In the Gospel according to John, Jesus Christ is called the Word (Logos in Greek), identifying Him as God and linking Him to the eternal purpose of God. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God” (John 1:1 NIV). As a person of the Godhead, the Son participated in the creation of all things, not only everything on the earth, but also everything in heaven. “For by him 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” (Col. 1:16 NIV).
Jesus Christ became incarnate—he became fully human, while remaining fully divine. “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:14 NIV). Jesus’ coming into the world was a supernatural event. The angel Gabriel appeared to Mary, a virgin:
“You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.” (Luke 1:31-33 NIV)
Jesus is the son of Mary and also the Son of the Most High—Jesus is human and the Son of God. The reference to David suggests that Jesus is the long-awaited Messiah of the Jewish people. Even more, the Lord God will give him an everlasting kingdom, of which we can be a part..
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:34-35 NIV).
All three persons of the Trinity are present during this event of holy conception, highlighting its significance. The God of all creation purposed to enter the world as a human being, but without the sinful nature of humankind. Jesus embodies God’s continued faithfulness to humanity.
The Synoptic Gospels describe another event when all three persons of the Trinity were present: the baptism of Jesus. John the Baptist was baptizing multitudes of people for repentance. Being sinless, Jesus did not need to repent for himself; however, he was baptized as an initiation of his public ministry and as a way of confirming his association with sinful humankind. God the Father and God the Spirit affirmed Jesus’ baptism and impending ministry. “When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: ‘You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased’” (Luke 3:21-22 NIV).
After his baptism, “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert, where for forty days he was tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:1-2a NIV). Yet, Jesus did not sin, relying on the Spirit and the Scriptures. This demonstrates three things about Jesus: (1) he depended on the Holy Spirit (as all Christ followers should do); (2) he knew the Scriptures and how to apply them correctly (as dedicated Christians should be able to do); and (3) he was able to withstand temptation (validating once again his unique standing to overcome human sin, and also demonstrating what sanctified Christians should be able to do).
During his ministry, Jesus taught, healed people and performed exorcisms, raised three persons from the dead, performed other miracles, forgave sins, and challenged the traditions of the religious leaders. Jesus called twelve disciples, who may represent a reconstituted Israel (with its twelve tribes), an indication that Jesus viewed himself as Messiah. When Jesus asked his disciples who he was, “Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’ Jesus replied, ‘Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven’” (Matt. 16:16-17 NIV). Clearly Jesus accepted Messiah as his role. However, he was the Suffering Servant (prophesied in Isaiah 53), not a conquering king as the Jews expected. Jesus did not refer to himself as Messiah, preferring the title Son of Man.
Jesus experienced the human condition. For example, apparently he had no regular place to stay and may have slept outdoors. “Jesus replied, ‘Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head’” (Matt. 8:20 NIV). Jesus grieved with others over the death of Lazarus. “Jesus wept” (John 11:35 NIV). At Gethsemane on the night of Jesus’ arrest, two things are evident: his great distress and his even greater determination to be obedient to the will of God the Father. “My Father, if it is possible, may this cup be taken from me. Yet not as I will, but as you will” (Matt. 26:39b NIV). Jesus’ obedience was followed by false accusations by the religious leaders, torture at the hands of Roman soldiers, and crucifixion at the command of Pontius Pilate. Jesus “became obedient to death—even death on a cross!” (Phil. 2:8b NIV).
Had the story ended with Jesus’ death, his life and teachings would have been long forgotten. However, it does not end there. On the third day, Jesus rose from the dead. Jesus’ resurrection confirms the validity of his ministry and his claims on his followers, even on us as followers of Jesus today. Jesus demands total commitment from his followers, just as he demonstrated. “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23b NIV).
“Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” (1 Tim. 1:15b NIV). Jesus is the Savior. He will someday return from heaven for his followers, the Church, pictured as a bride. “For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready” (Rev. 19:7b NIV). In the meantime, Jesus sits at the right hand of God the Father and is our mediator. “For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5 NIV). It is notable that this verse refers to the man Christ Jesus. In his humanity, Jesus relates to us and intercedes for us before God the Father. Jesus is Lord, and ultimately everyone will confess so: “that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10-11 NIV).
What has Jesus done to provide salvation?
Many perspectives have been offered since the time of Jesus to answer this question. All of them cannot be covered in this paper. As my statement of faith, I look to Scripture for the insights that, in my judgment, hold the most promise. To me, salvation begins with God’s love.
God’s gift of salvation is a demonstration of His love, not condemnation, toward humans. “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him” (John 3:16-17 NIV). The life and work of Jesus, covered earlier, help to answer the question in the context of God’s love. God initiates salvation. Jesus is Savior. As a person of the Godhead, Jesus fully assented to his intervention on behalf of sinners.
Jesus came to bring light to a world of darkness (sin). Light shines truth and brings hope. “He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him” (John 1:10 NIV). That the world did not know him shows how far humans have strayed from God’s perfect design. Jesus is the only Way to eternal life with God. “Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’” (John 14:6 NIV).
Old Testament rituals provide background for understanding salvation provided by Jesus. God commanded the Israelites to offer many types of animal sacrifices for their sins. Yet, they continued to sin, and further sacrifices were needed. On the Day of Atonement, the high priest offered two goats, both as sin offerings for the people. One goat was slain and its blood was sprinkled as designated. “In this way he [Aaron or the high priest] will make atonement for the Most Holy Place because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been” (Lev. 16:16a NIV). The other goat (the scapegoat) bearing the sins of the people was led into the desert. Nevertheless, sin could not be eradicated; this ritual was repeated every year.
Jesus offered himself as the perfect sacrifice to accomplish what no animal sacrifice could. “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (Heb. 9:14 NIV). The Old Testament sacrifices were offered over and over again. “But when this priest [Jesus Christ] had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy” (Heb. 10:12-14 NIV). Only the blood of Christ (the Lamb of God) is effectual for the sins of all.
By his death and resurrection, Jesus paid the ransom to set free the captives from sin. Jesus did not pay a ransom to the devil, for God owes the devil nothing. The ransom is a voluntary payment by Jesus, who came to serve. “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many” (Mark 10:45 NIV). In this context, many can mean all, as is clear in this verse, citing the work of Christ Jesus: “who gave himself as a ransom for all men” (1 Tim. 2:6a NIV). When people believe that their freedom has been purchased at a great price, many respond by faith to Jesus as Savior and Lord.
Jesus conquered the devil, evil and death. “Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death” (Heb. 2:14-15 NIV). Thus, the devil and the threat of death no longer control people’s lives (that is, of those who believe in Christ) either here on earth or in eternity.
God desired to be reconciled with people, and Jesus has accomplished it. “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them” (2 Cor. 5:19a NIV). As the redeemed, we are to tell others of the message of reconciliation and salvation.
Who is Jesus Christ
Jesus is one of the Persons of the Holy Trinity, along with God the Father and the Holy Spirit. Jesus became incarnate, that is, fully human and lived a sinless life. He is both fully human and fully divine. Jesus did what no one else can do—died sacrificially and rose again on the third day to prove that He is Savior and Lord.