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Who Was Jesus Christ?

By David A. DePra

     Who was Jesus Christ?  No reputable scholar today denies Jesus existed.  None deny He was crucified.  But many do deny who He was.  Jesus claimed to be God Incarnate.  Yet many people continue to say He was not.  They say He was merely a good and wise teacher.

     As you read the words of Jesus, ask yourself, what kind of mere man would say them?  Only a liar or a crazy man would make these claims – UNLESS THEY WERE TRUE!

 I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness,but will have the light of life. (John 8:12)

 I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by Me.  (John 14:6)

 I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in Me will live, even though he dies. (John 11:25)

 No one has ever gone into heaven except the one who came from heaven— the Son of Man. (John 3:13)

 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world….I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty. (John 6:33, 35)

 “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!  (John 8:58)

 When a man believes in me, he does not believe in me only, but in the one who sent me. When he looks at me, he sees the one who sent me. (John 12:44-45)

 You call me “Teacher” and “Lord,” and rightly so, for that is what I am. (John 13:13)

 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come back and take you to be with me that you also may be where I am. (John 14:3)

 I have overcome the world. (John 16:33)

 My teaching is not my own. It comes from him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. (John 7:16-17)

      No one who reads these claims of Christ can honestly say that He did not claim to be God.  No.  He did claim that – over and over again.  He put Himself at the center of the universe, and made no apology for it.

     The claims of Jesus Christ of His identity make it impossible for anyone to sit on the fence.  His claims make it impossible for us to deny He is God, and classify Him only as a good and wise teacher – among other good and wise teachers.  Any mere man making these claims would be a lunatic, or a liar.  Jesus was therefore one of these, or He was exactly who He said He was:  God Incarnate.  We must decide which to believe.

 Jesus Claimed to be God

      Jesus Christ is known to us through many roles.  He is Lord, Savior, and the only Way to the Father.  He is the Word of God, the second Person of the Trinity, who exists from all eternity.  Fundamental to this is the fact that He is God – God Incarnate.

     The moment I admit that Jesus Christ is God, every argument against Him falls to the ground.  For if Jesus is God, then He cannot lie.  Thus, He is just as He claimed:  The only way to the Father.  He is then born of a virgin, lived the perfect life, and then qualified to bear the sin of  the world.  He is then Risen Lord, King of kings, and Lord of lords.  But if He was just a man – a good teacher – then not only is Christianity based on a lie, but Jesus Himself was the LIAR.

     C.S. Lewis came up with an argument many years ago along this line.  It is logically sound.  It goes like this:  Jesus had to be one of three things:  Lunatic, Liar, or God Incarnate.  Why?  Because of the claims He made about Himself.  You see, Jesus did not leave it to us to figure out who He was.  He stated it openly:  He said, “I am God.”

     This forces us to deal with the argument of C.S. Lewis.  For if Jesus claimed to be God, then it narrows down for us probable identities to the three mentioned:  Lunatic, liar, or God.

      Someone who claims to be God might be a LUNATIC.  He might be crazy.  In other words, He might actually THINK He is God, even if He isn’t.   Jesus’ friends and enemies both actually considered that as a possibility.  His friends said, “He is beside himself.”  The scribes said, “He hath Beelzebub, and by the prince of the devils casts he out devils.”

      Someone who claims to be God might be a LIAR.  In other words, they KNOW they aren’t God, but are simply claiming this for their own advantage.  Jesus was also accused of this.

     Now, the problem which arises if Jesus were a lunatic or a liar is that it is no longer possible to accept, let alone follow, His teachings.  It is no longer possible to call Him “one of many good teachers which God has used down through history.”  You can’t.  Why?  Because the teachings of a lunatic certainly cannot bring sanity to our living.  And the teachings of a liar cannot be the Truth.   Thus, the fact Jesus claimed to be God makes it ALL or NOTHING:  Either Jesus was who He claimed to be – God Incarnate – or we must discard Him.

     Of course, there is a way out of this unavoidable conclusion.  Simply say Jesus never existed.  But not even the most hardened skeptic denies that any longer.  Most everyone agrees that Jesus did exist.  His identity is the thing which is questioned.

     The other way out of the argument of C.S. Lewis is to claim that Jesus never said He was God.  To this we will now turn our attention.  Jesus continually claimed to be God.  And through His resurrection from the dead, no doubt remained.

     Here are a few of the places where Jesus clearly claimed to be God:

 If God were your Father, ye would love me: for I proceeded forth and came from God; neither came I of myself, but he sent me.  (John 8:42)

      To be “sent” by God, you had to have pre-existed before your birth.  And certainly to “proceed forth” from God means to BE God.  There is no other conclusion Jesus leads us to in this passage:  He was God become man.

 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.  I have glorified thee on the earth: I have finished the work which thou gavest me to do.  And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.  (John 17:3-5)

      Again, Jesus points to a pre-incarnate existence.  He says the Father “sent” him.  And He mentions “the glory” He had with the Father “before the foundation of the world.”   But more, He says that to know HIM is eternal life – just as to know the only true God is eternal life.  No man could make these claims and be telling the Truth unless He were telling us that He was God become man.

 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.  Then said the Jews unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?  Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am.  Then took they up stones to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by.  (John 8:56-59)

      The Jews understood exactly what Jesus was here claiming.  That is why they took up stones to put Him to death.  Jesus invoked the very name God gave to Moses:  I AM.  (see Exodus 3:14)  There is no question about His claim:  He was God.

 But Jesus answered them, My Father worketh hitherto, and I work.  Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God.  (John 5:17-18)

      Why did the Jews seek to kill Jesus?  Because, according to their tradition, He broke the Sabbath.  But more so, because “he said God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” 

 I and my Father are one.  Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.  Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?  The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, make thyself God.  (John 10:30-33)

      Claiming to be God merited death by stoning.  This is why the Jews sought to kill Jesus, among other reasons.  John leaves no doubt about how the Jews understood the claims of Jesus.  He quotes them as saying, “For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, make thyself God.”

     Note that Jesus never once says to them, “You misunderstand Me.  I’m not God.”  No.  Thus, Jesus was either crazy, a liar, or exactly who He claimed to be:  God.

 Peace be unto you.  Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and behold my hands; and reach hither thy hand, and thrust it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.  And Thomas answered and said unto him, My Lord and my God.  Jesus saith unto him, Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou hast believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.  (John 20:26-29)

      This is after the resurrection.  Thomas addresses Jesus as “My Lord and my GOD.”  We don’t find Jesus correcting Thomas.  Instead, He commends him for finally believing, even though, for Thomas, it took more proof than for the others.

 I am the way, the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except by Me.  (John 14:6)

      Can any mere man say that HE is the way or the TRUTH or the LIFE?  Only God is those things.  And Jesus made many such claims which point to His identity as God Incarnate.

 I am Alpha and Omega, the beginning and the ending, says the Lord, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.  (Rev. 1:8)

      These are the first words recorded from the mouth of Jesus in the book of Revelation, which is a revelation OF Jesus Christ the Person.  He claims to be God – the Almighty, who existed forever.

     This passage from Matthew is often pointed to as “proof” that Jesus denied He was God:

 Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?  And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments.  (Matt. 19:16-17)

        Jesus was not saying to this young man, “Don’t call me good because I’m not God.”  No.  Rather, He was saying, “Don’t call me good unless you call me God.”  This becomes especially clear when we read the entire exchange between Jesus and the young rich ruler.  This young man went on to rehearse to Jesus all of the “good” deeds he had done – which according to him – fulfilled the requirement to inherit the kingdom of God.  Jesus, knowing his heart beforehand, was simply trying to point out that his works were not good enough.  The only good is God.  Thus, this passage is not one which shows Jesus denying He was God.  Rather, it indirectly shows Him affirming the fact He was God.

 Other Scriptures

      There are many other scriptures where Jesus referred to His Divinity.  But let’s turn to some of the others who wrote the Bible.  They don’t record the words of Jesus, but state openly that He was God.  This shows that the same argument which applies to Jesus – lunatic, liar, or God  -- also applies to the source of the Bible.  It is either the product of mad-men, a conspiracy of lies, or the inspired Word of God.

 But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of thy kingdom.  (Hebrews 1:8)

      God Himself is quoted here addressing the Son.  Guess what He calls Him?  God.  And the Father ought to know the identity of His Son.

 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  The same was in the beginning with God.  All things were made by him; and without him was not any thing made that was made.  In him was life; and the life was the light of men.  And the light shineth in darkness; and the darkness comprehended it not….. And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.  (John 1:1-5, 14)

 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:  Who, being in very nature, God, thought equality with God not something to cling to for Himself:  But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:(Phil. 2:5-7)

 For in him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.  (Col. 2:9)

      Of course, Jesus is called The Son of God many times in the Bible, forty-eight times to be exact.  One would think that being called The Son of God would be easily understood as a statement to the effect that Jesus is God – since the Father brought forth His Son.

 Jesus is the ONE Way to God

      Jesus also said, "In My Father's house there are many dwelling places. I go to prepare a place for you." And then He tells us, "And where I am going, you know. In fact, the WAY you know."

     Jesus is telling us that we already know where His Father's house is, that how to get there. He says, "The way you know." But Thomas didn't understand. Can you blame him? The disciples could not have possibly grasp the fact that Jesus was talking about

anything spiritual. They thought He was talking about a physical location. So Thomas asked, "We don't know where you are going, and so how can we know the way?"

     Jesus answers, "I AM THE WAY, and the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by Me."

     Let's pin that down, so that there can be no misunderstanding.  What did Jesus mean when He said, "I am the Way?" He explained.  He said, "No one comes to the Father except by Me." In other words, Jesus was saying, "I AM THE ONLY WAY."

     So here we have a tremendous claim of Jesus Christ. He is telling us that if you want to dwell in the Father's house, indeed, if you want to come to the Father, you have to come BY HIM. In fact, He says that He is the ONLY way to the Father.

     The reason Jesus is the ONLY Way to the Father, is that He is the only begotten Son. He alone is God become man. He alone bore the sin of the world. He alone rose again to newness of life.  You can argue all you want, but if Jesus did all of this, He IS the only way to God; the only way to be saved.

     In this day and age of liberal religion, we are more and more hearing of supposed Christian leaders who are denying that Jesus is God, and that He is the only way to the Father. Under the guise of love and open-mindedness, they state, "We cannot limit God to one way." That's very generous. But the problem is, there IS only one Way. And nothing you say, and nothing you do, is going to change that reality.

     The fact is, God is not limited because there is one Way. Indeed, this is because that one Way is unlimited. God desires all men to be saved and to come into the knowledge of the Truth. And He invites all to receive Jesus Christ. Thus, God's ONE WAY is not a way intended to keep people out. It is a Way that invites people in, and which gives them eternal life.

     People who insist that there are many ways to God are not being honest with themselves, and quite frankly, usually do so because they have somewhere rejected the Truth of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is the only way to the Father because He alone is God become man,and He alone bore the sin of the world, and was raised from the dead. Thus, in order to say that there are many ways to God you must refuse the Truth that Jesus is God, and you must deny the need for a Savior who bore our sin, and you must deny the need for a new birth.

 True Conversion – A Revelation Embraced

      The problem with denying the Truth about Christ is that if you deny them you cannot be a Christian.  Really? Why? Because embracing them is the WAY you became a Christian. Thus, denial of them means you never embraced them. You can't have. At best, the Truth was a learned doctrine to you.

     In order to become a Christian, to be converted to Christ, you and I must pass through a threshold of revelation -- we must see who Jesus Christ is. This can happen in a day, or it can take us years to pass through that threshold. But it is God who must reveal to us the identity of His Son. He will show us that Jesus is God, that Jesus is the only Way to Himself, and that Jesus is our personal Savior. In the light of Jesus, we will see we are sinners in need of Him. At that point we will either embrace Christ by faith, or reject Him.

     If we embrace Christ by faith, as we pass through this threshold of revelation, we then enter into a new realm. We are born again. We have, as it were, passed through the ONLY "threshold" or "doorway" of revelation which leads into our Heavenly Father's house. There is simply no other way in except Jesus Christ.

     Now note: Having entered the Father's house through the only Way, how can we then deny Jesus is the only Way? We can't. For again, we cannot deny Jesus and be a Christian if the way we became a Christian was to embrace Him.

     Jesus Christ as the ONLY WAY to God -- as the Way, and the Truth, and the Life -- is not merely a doctrine of Christianity. It is Christianity itself. The Person of Jesus Christ is the very foundation of Christianity. Jesus is God, Jesus is the only Way, and Jesus is our Savior -- these are the essentials upon which all else is built.

     Sadly, many who deny these things do not even understand them. But ignorance as an excuse wears thin. That's because behind the motive of saying there are MANY ways to God, they really want THEIR WAY to God. They want to be free to decide for themselves how to come to God. They want to create God in their own image.

     The reality is, if there were ten ways to God, then we would say there are twenty. And if there were twenty, we would say there are thirty. Why? Because if we did not find OUR WAY on the list of many ways, we'd just insist the list has to be bigger. In short, man wants to be able to take HIS WAY to God.

     God has made things very easy for us. He simply tells us that it is ALL or NOTHING. The claims of Jesus Christ about Himself do not give us the freedom to put Him on a list of many possible ways to God. He said, "I am THE Way." Thus, we either believe Him, or we don't. It really IS all or nothing.

     People need to come to terms with the claims of Jesus Christ.  Either He was telling the Truth, was a liar, or was crazy. The last two options mean He cannot be on a list of "ways" to God -- for God would hardly give us a liar or lunatic to lead us to Himself. The claim of Jesus that He was the only way to God is either fully true, or not. Again -- all or nothing.

     Jesus is the Door. He is the Way. You don't even get into God's house except through Him. Thus, if you deny Him, you cannot be in God's house. For there is no other way in.

 I am the door: by me if any man enter in, he shall be saved, and shall go in and out, and find pasture. The thief comes not, but to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly. (John 10:7-10)

      The apostle John did not mince words when he wrote about coming to God through Jesus Christ:

 Whoever transgresses, and abides not in the doctrine of Christ, has not God. He that abides in the doctrine of Christ, he hath both the Father and the Son. If there come any unto you, and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: For he that bids him god speed is partaker of his evil deeds. (II John 1:9-11)

I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth. Who is a liar but he that denies that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that

denies the Father and the Son. Whosoever denies the Son, the same hath not the Father. But he that acknowledges the Son has the Father also. (I John 2:21-23)

      John is telling us that we must ABIDE in the Truth of Christ. In other words, LIVE in it. Of course, this is what happens if we enter into the Father's house through Christ. We live, and move, and have our being in Him.

     So Jesus Christ is the ONLY WAY to God. But God desires that ALL be saved and come into the knowledge of the Truth. God offers THE WAY free of charge, solely by His grace.

     This was the continual message of the New Testament church:

 Be it known unto you all, and to all the people of Israel, that by the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, whom ye crucified, whom God raised from the dead, even by him doth this man stand here before you whole. This is the stone which was set at nought of you builders,

which is become the head of the corner. Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved. (Acts 4:10-12)

      Again -- we must come to terms with the claims of Jesus Christ.   He would say to us: Who do you say that I am? (see Matt. 16)

 The Incarnation

      In what other religion in the world do we find an incarnation like this or even an incarnation at all?  At best, there is the idolatrous religion of Jainism, which only claims the polytheistic incarnation of its god and founder, Mahavira.  But, in fact, Mahavira himself denied theism.  He condemned the practice of praying to or even having discussions about God.

     The only other conceivable shadow of the biblical concept of incarnation is found in Hinduism.  But here the incarnations are forever cyclical, and just as forever meaningless. The Hindu gods’ incarnations are, finally, also part of the duality and illusion of the world and never redemptive in the sense of a propitiatory atonement.

     There is no concept of incarnation in Buddhist belief unless we consider the alleged “Buddha nature” supposedly inherent in all men to be an “incarnation” of a mythically deified Buddha.  Hardly comparable to God becoming one of us as an individual Person.

     Judaism has no incarnation.  In Judaism, the idea of Jesus as the incarnate Son of God is harshly rejected.  And they are presented with the Truth directly. 

     Taoism has only an impersonal principal, the Tao, as an ultimate reality.  There is no need or place for an incarnation.

     In Sikhism, Guru Nanak taught that God is unborn and non-incarnated.

     In Parsism (Zoroastrianism), the god Ahura Mazda is not incarnated.

     In Islam the thought of an incarnation is blasphemous.

     In Confucianism, Confucius acknowledged himself as only a sinful man, although he was later worshipped.  But he was never incarnate.

     Of the 11 or 12 classical world religions, there is no concept of incarnation except in Jainism and Hinduism and both of these involve nothing more than myths.

 The Resurrection

 The Resurrection is the proof that Jesus Christ was who He claimed to be:

 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;  And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.  (Romans 1:3-4)

 Paul also tells us that unless Jesus has been raised, we have NO salvation:

 But if there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen:  And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain.  Yea, and we are found false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that he raised up Christ: whom he raised not up, if so be that the dead rise not.  For if the dead rise not, then is not Christ raised:  And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins. Then they also which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.  If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men most miserable.   (I Cor. 15:13-19)

      We might list the following as proofs that the witnesses of the resurrection of Jesus Christ were telling the Truth:

 1.      Cataclysmic change on the part of the witnesses.  They were convinced of SOMETHING.

 2.  None of them went back to their previous life after Jesus’ death.  The disciples had everything to lose – and did – and nothing to gain, by preaching Jesus.  Jesus had been crucified.  They were risking the same.

3.      Internal consistencies.  All of them told the same story.

4.      No one claims to have seen Him walk out of the tomb.  All of the appearances of Jesus have Him already out of the tomb.  If you were making up a story about resurrection, you would surely have an eyewitness to Jesus coming out of the tomb.  The lack of this lends credibility to the story.  It is what happened.

5.  Women were the first to the tomb.  In those days, women were considered unreliable witnesses.  This would never have been part of a fabricated story.

6.  The tomb was empty.  The easiest way to disprove the resurrection was to produce the body.  7

7.  Could not be mass hallucination.  There were many appearances of Jesus, preaching and teaching, over a 40 day period.  They could not have imagined, as a group, all of that, and then also imagined the ascension.

8.  They died alone for what they believed – proof they really believed it.

 We Cannot Afford to be Wrong

      God Himself tells us that the identity of Jesus Christ stands or falls upon the resurrection.  Our salvation depends on it.  Therefore, we cannot afford to be wrong about this. 

     The best way to know is by the life of the resurrected Christ within you.  Now this is proof that many will not accept, for anyone can claim they have Christ in them.  But in the first century, before Christianity became organized into a religion, the life of Christ within was so strong and real, that it really was THE proof.

  Hereby know we that we dwell in him, and he in us, because he hath given us of his Spirit.  (I Jn. 4:13)

 If we receive the witness of men, the witness of God is greater: for this is the witness of God which he hath testified of his Son.  He that believeth on the Son of God has the witness in himself: he that believeth not God hath made him a liar; because he believeth not the record that God gave of his Son.  And this is the record, that God hath given to us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.  He that hath the Son hath life; and he that hath not the Son of God hath not life.  (I John 5:9-12)

 And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever;  Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it sees him not, neither knows him: but ye know him; for he dwells with you, and shall be in you.  (John 14:16-17)

 But ye have an unction from the Holy One, and ye know all things.  I have not written unto you because ye know not the truth, but because ye know it, and that no lie is of the truth.  (I Jn. 2:20-21)

 But the anointing which ye have received of him abides in you, and ye need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it hath taught you, ye shall abide in him.  (I Jn. 2:27)

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