Introduction to Christ’s life & death
Few people would deny that the man known as Jesus Christ was a real character of history. The impact he has had and continues to have on mankind is unsurpassed. The whole Western dating system pays witness to his historical reality so that the majority of people who live on the earth know of Jesus Christ. But who was this man and what was the significance of his life and death? Was he just a great religious teacher or was there something more to his existence that we should know about? The church theologian would tell us that Jesus Christ was in fact God – is this notion true? If we truly want to understand who Jesus is we must turn to the pages of the Bible and examine it’s teaching in detail so we can be sure of the truth on the matter of what Jesus is all about.
The purpose and mission of Jesus
From right at the beginning, in the book of Genesis, we read of a descendant who would come and reverse the effects of Adams sin. We read of a promised ‘seed’ who would destroy the effects of sin (Gen 3:15 – see The promise in Eden). As we continue we read of this descendant being the focal point of the promises which God gave to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob – that he would have victory over enemies and that he would eventually bring a blessing to all the nations of the earth (Gen 22:17-18 – see The promises to Abraham). This hope of a ‘promised seed’ was known to the Jewish people as “The Messiah” – the saviour. Many prophecies were given by the prophets concerning this one who would come to bring men back to God. The Bible speaks of how the people of Israel were chosen by God and that he established a Kingdom for them in the past. However due to disobedience this Kingdom was destroyed but the Bible teaches that the Messiah would be the one who would restore the Kingdom once again to Israel – but this future establishment would be everlasting and the rule of the Messiah would be righteous. As a reward for following the example of the Messiah the Bible teaches that we too can be given eternal life to rule in this Kingdom.
This was ‘the purpose’ that God had from the very beginning which became reality when Jesus (a name which means “God saves” – see Matt 1:21) was born. That great work of God who through Jesus Christ would seek to reconcile mankind back to Himself again. As the gospel of John records:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” John 1:1
The reference to “the word” is of great significance. The Greek word is “logos” and simply means “idea” or “purpose”. Gods purpose therefore was centered in Christ and so when “the man Christ Jesus” was born the purpose, the word, became flesh as we read of later in John:
“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.”
Jesus Christ was therefore ‘flesh’. Born a man. He lived a life in which he was tempted to sin like all other men – yet unlike all other men he had the power to resist the temptations of the flesh. He overcame these natural impulses and lived a perfect life of obedience. He is the only man to have ever lived who ‘did no sin’ (1 Peter 2:22). He fulfilled God’s will perfectly so that he was “the image of the invisible God” Col 1:15 and could say to his followers “he that hath seen me hath seen the father” John 14:9.
We read he died a sacrificial, painful death in utter submission to the will of the Father. Why did he need to do this? Why was this in the purpose of God?
Well it was God’s way of opening up a way of salvation and reversing the effects of Adams fall. Only one who possessed the inclination to sin and yet overcome it’s temptations completely could be a perfect sacrifice to take away sin. No other man could ever have done this for everyone else has “sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Jesus then was totally unique. He was indeed the only begotten son of God.
We read in the Bible that death is the wages for sin (Romans 6:23) and so therefore God raised Jesus from the dead because he had no personal transgressions. Jesus had to die because he possessed our ‘sin cursed’ nature – the same nature we all inherit from Adam. In death he overcame that nature destroying that nature “that had the power of death” (Hebrews 2:14).
Because of this, God raised Jesus Christ from the dead opening a way of salvation for all who have faith in God and in the Messiah – that by associating ourselves with Christ by belief and baptism in the gospel, we can have our sins forgiven and we too can be raised from he dead and given the gift of eternal life. In all of this God is declared right:
Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation (mercy seat) through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. Romans 3:25-26
So we have to ask ourselves: do we have faith that the shed blood of Christ declares God’s right-ness? If so how was God right in allowing His son, who had done no sin to die? How was he right in raising him from the dead?
Well, it was right Jesus died because he was of “flesh”. He bore sin prone and mortal nature (the ‘diabolos’) – the source of human sin. Jesus’ sacrifice declared that God was right to execute His judgement on man because of sin and because man bears this nature. However, it was also right that God raised him from the dead because he had overcome that nature and offered himself as a sacrifice. It was right God changed his flesh nature and gave him spirit nature. It is belief in this “righteousness” of God which is the mechanism for being acceptable before God.
The Bible teaches us that Jesus has indeed become the “mediator” between God and unrighteous, sinful man (1 Tim 2:5) and that God is willing to impute righteousness to us if we associate ourselves with him through baptism. This is the immediate benefit of being associated with Him – that, in the eyes of God we are counted righteous and are able to approach unto God to seek forgiveness of sin. However the ultimate befit is to be given eternal life when Christ returns to the earth. To have our vile bodies of sin prone flesh destroyed and made into immortal bodies. To have our natural natures we in inherit from Adam, destroyed and to be given the gift of an immortal nature.
The promised seed then that was in God’s purpose from the beginning was indeed Jesus Christ. All the faithful men and women of old looked forward in faith to his coming sacrifice. We are in the privileged position that his sacrificial mission has been fulfilled and must have faith in it’s effect. In his first coming he opened a way for men to have salvation and to draw near to God and in his second coming he will restore the Kingdom of God on the earth.
Jesus was not God
We would like to now dispel the common idea that Jesus was God. When we turn to our Bible’s and read the word of God without preconceived ideas and without ‘reading into’ the text the idea that Jesus was God himself can be seen to not be something which is taught. For example consider carefully this famous verse spoken in prayer by Jesus himself:
“…And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3
So we see then that to obtain eternal life one must have a correct understanding of God AND Jesus Christ. They are not the one and the same personage. Here’s another passage which proves the same:
“But to us there is but one God, the Father, of whom are all things, and we in him; and one Lord Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we by him.” 1 Corinthians 8:6
A careful analysis of history will reveal that the idea of Jesus being God in the concept known as “The Trinity” was not an idea that the apostles preached but was a concept which arose from within the early Church which developed into the “Catholic Church”. The doctrine of the Trinity is the idea that the ‘God head’ is made up of three personages “God the Father”, “God the son” and “The Holy Spirit”. These three beings are all equal parts of the same being. This corruption of the true teaching of the Bible continued down in time and remained with many of the “split off’s” from the Catholic Church also adopting this concept. The word ‘Trinity’ is not found in the Bible and the concept is not outlined there. It’s origin will be found in the creeds of men which have become an ingrained doctrine which people have attempted to squeeze into the Bible by twisting and reading into the text.
The Bible defies this doctrine of “The Trinity”. We’ve already seen a couple of examples but let us see what the Bible teaches in regard to the relationship between ‘The Father’ and ‘The son of God” (note the phrase “God the son” is also nowhere found in the Bible).
“Ye have heard how I said unto you, I go away, and come again unto you. If ye loved me, ye would rejoice, because I said, I go unto the Father: for my Father is greater than I.” John 14:28
The Father and Jesus then have different statuses. Jesus tells us that the Father is greater – they cannot therefore be equal.
As we study the Gospels we also find that Jesus had a different ‘will’ to the Father and that they ‘knew’ difference things. This would be impossible if they were one and the same being! Consider these passages:
“…Father, if thou be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but thine, be done.” Luke 22:42
“But of that day and that hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels which are in heaven, neither the Son, but the Father.” Matt 13:32
The idea that an almighty and eternal being would be born as a fragile baby child is not one that makes any sense at all. an immortal being, having to be fed, cleaned and taught things from scratch – and yet still be the same being that had awesome Creative power – simply seems very far fetched.
The Bible does however reveal that Jesus and The Father were one in purpose and we are told that we too, if we follow Jesus should be one in purpose as they are. Jesus “manifested” or showed forth, the character of God. Consider this verse:
“Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; That they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. And the glory which thou gavest me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one:” John 17:20
Jesus was a man
The Bible does not reveal Jesus as a God but as a man – albeit a special man because he was the son of God. He was though a man with the same ‘nature’ as all humans – that is to say a proneness to sin and being subject to death.
“For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus;” 1 Tim 2:5
“Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death… ” Hebrews 2:14
“Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren… For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.” Heb 2:17-18
“For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin.” Hebrews 4:15
How could Jesus be tempted to sin against God if he was God? What would the point of been of speeding 40 days in the wilderness being tempted? These things simply do not make an sense unless we conclude that Jesus was a man, the son of God, and not God himself, having the same nature as other men but having been given the power, by God to overcome the temptations that came his way. In every temptation Jesus chose to do God’s will.
The sacrifice of Christ
Because of Jesus life of complete obedience to God, God raised him from the dead after 3 days. Jesus was raised, had his sin cursed nature removed and given immortal an immortal nature. The message of the Bible is that through association with Him by belief and baptism into his name we can also have our past sins forgiven and eventually if found acceptable at his return have our sin cursed nature removed and share with him in eternal life.
It is only through a correct belief and association with what Christ has done that we can have a hope of God removing our sin-prone natures and forgive us our transgressions.
“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
“And if Christ be not raised, your faith is vain; ye are yet in your sins.” 1 Corinthians 15:17
Christ then is our representative. He is the one who performed God’s will perfectly and the one who we should seek to follow. It is only through association with his work we can have our sins forgiven and our nature removed.
“The next day John seeth Jesus coming unto him, and saith, Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.” John 1:29
He paid the ultimate price, he sacrificed himself that we might have opportunity of association with what he has done.
“For he hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” 2 Cor 5:21
It is through what Christ accomplished in his life (namely that he bore our nature but did not sin and died as an offering for sin) that we have opportunity to be saved. His name, Jesus, means “saviour” and this is exactly how the Bible describes him:
For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord. Luke 2:11
Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins. Acts 5:31
How does Jesus “save” us? Through salvation from sin. This is indeed the work of Jesus.
The Righteous Judge
Because of his resurrection and glorification Jesus has a very exalted position. He has been given power to judge mankind:
“Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained [Jesus Christ]; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead.” Acts 17:31
“And he [Jesus Christ] commanded us to preach unto the people, and to testify that it is he which was ordained of God to be the Judge of quick and dead.” Acts 10:42
He is the righteous judge and future King of the Kingdom of God on earth.
The Biblical Jesus is very different form the Trinitarian Jesus preached by the churches. We have read in John 17 how important it is to understand who the real Christ was:
“…And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.” John 17:3
This article has simply outlined some of the features of the Biblical Christ. We encourage you to pickup your Bible and seek the truth on all these matters for indeed, understanding who Jesus was and what he accomplished is a matter of life and death.
Author: M. Davies, Nottingham, March 2011