Taking Hold of Christ by Faith

We say that the righteousness which the Spirit of God works through us is, not the cause, but the testimony of the righteousness in which alone we can appear before God. We maintain that eternal life belongs to us of right, as being co-heirs of Christ, but nevertheless freely (Rom 8:12-17). Now, if we enquire [sic] in whom, properly speaking, this righteousness resides, we will only find it in the Person of Christ alone. But, in the measure in which He was given to us, whoever takes hold of Him by faith, possesses Him eternally, — as, by God the Father, He was made for us wisdom, righteousness, sanctification and redemption (1 Cor 1:30), — thus, His righteousness is also made ours; it is imputed to us. To this alone we hold, on this alone we totally rely, for it alone is perfect (Theodore Beza, The Christian Faith, 29).

The Fullness of Time

From Church History by Eusebius.

Then at last, when all humanity throughout the world was now ready to receive knowledge of the Father, that same divine Word of God appeared at the beginning of the Roman Empire in the form of a man, of a nature like ours, whose deeds and sufferings accorded with the prophecies that a man who was also God would do extraordinary deeds and teach all nations the worship of the Father. They also predicted the miracle of his birth, his new teaching, the wonder of his deeds, the manner of his death, his resurrection from the dead, and, finally, his restoration to heaven by the power of God.”

Social Context

“Reflecting their origins in an oral culture, even Homer’s epics were conveyed from generation to generation through social events of singing and play. The past was present not only in written records but in living speech. Paul’s admonition to “let the word of Christ dwell in you richly” through “psalms and hymns and spiritual songs” (Col 3:16) reflects this social context. The goal of such singing in public worship was not individualistic, either in terms of mystical contemplation or self-expression, but the enveloping of the community in the gospel” (Michael Horton, The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims On the Way, 88).

Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is . . .

  1. God the Son Incarnate (Matthew 1:21-23, Luke 1:35, John 3:16)
  2. Savior (Matthew 1:21)
  3. Messiah (Acts 10:38, Matthew 3:16-17, John 3:2)
  4. Lord (Acts 2:36

Each of those four points is scrutinized by non-believers. That should not surprise believers. Both during his public ministry, as well as after his resurrection, Jesus was the object of scrutiny.

Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, the brother of James, and Joses, and of Juda, and Simon? and are not his sisters here with us? And they were offended at him. But Jesus said unto them, A prophet is not without honor, but in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house” (Mark 6:3, 4)

And when they were assembled with the elders, and had taken counsel, they gave large money unto the soldiers, Saying, Say ye, His disciples came by night, and stole him away while we slept. And if this come to the governor’s ears, we will persuade him, and secure you. So they took the money, and did as they were taught: and this saying is commonly reported among the Jews until this day (Matthew 28:12-15).

And even up to the present day Jesus continues to be an object of scrutiny, e.g., the twenty-first century “New Atheists.”

This should not upset, disturb, or challenge the faith of believers in the least. Skeptics and Christ-deniers, as a fact of consideration, do not and should not undermine certainty of who Jesus is for believers, but rather, they actually demonstrate God’s revelation regarding the promised Savior: God promised that there would be an ongoing war, that is, antithesis, between the promised Champion and his enemies: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed” (Genesis 3:15a). The enemies of Jesus reinforce that Jesus is who Jesus is.

Believers should not be disturbed by non-believers when they challenge basic claims about who Jesus is. Jesus preemptively warned his disciples of his and their enemies, and the Apostle Peter exhorted believers to not be disturbed if they are persecuted for doing good by their enemies, but rather, to be happy for suffering for righteousness’ sake, and, consequently, to be prepared to defend the Truth–the object of our Christian hope–against the enemies of Christ.

If the world hate you, ye know that it hated me before it hated you. If ye were of the world, the world would love his own: but because ye are not of the world, but I have chosen you out of the world, therefore the world hateth you (John 15:18-19)

For the eyes of the Lord are over the righteous, and his ears are open unto their prayers: but the face of the LORD is against them that do evil. And who is he that will harm you if ye be followers of that which is good? But and if ye suffer for righteousness’ sake, happy are ye: and be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled; but sanctify the Lord God in your hearts: and be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you with meekness and fear (1 Peter 3:12-15).

So, because we need to be ready always to give an answer, we will examine the testimony of Scripture.

Who is Jesus? Jesus is . . .

  1. God the Son Incarnate (Matthew 1:21-23, Luke 1:35, John 3:16)
  2. Savior (Matthew 1:21)
  3. Messiah (Acts 10:38, Matthew 3:16-17, John 3:2)
  4. Lord (Acts 2:36)

Jesus: God the Son Incarnate

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is God the Son Incarnate (Matthew 1:21-23, Luke 1:35, John 3:16).

The Only Begotten Son

Scripture teaches that Jesus is the only begotten Son: “For God so loved the world that he gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life” (John 3:16). Jesus is unique because he is God the Father’s only begotten Son. God the Son is the only begotten Son from all eternity (see John 1). For this reason, we believe Jesus is God the Son.

Incarnate

Jesus, however, isn’t only God the Son. God the Son became incarnate; he was, as the Apostles’ Creed summarizes, “conceived by the Holy Ghost, born of the virgin Mary.” Thus, Jesus is true God by nature, and Jesus is true man by nature.

It is evident from John 3:16, Matthew 1:21-23. and Luke 1:35 that Jesus had two natures, both human and divine. God sent his only begotten Son, that is, God the Son, to earth. God the Son was sent to earth and took on human flesh; he was conceived by a miracle, by the power of the Holy Ghost, and he was born of a true human, the virgin Mary, and this was in fulfillment of prophecy (Isaiah 7:14).

It is obvious that Jesus had a true human nature because he had a true human mother; and humans–like plants and every other living creature–each bring forth only their kind. So, Christians are not projecting Mary’s maternity upon Jesus Christ. We believe that Jesus was born of the virgin Mary, and that she was his natural mother, not just because of passages like Matthew 1:21-23, but also because Jesus himself clearly believed, knew, and testified that he had a human mother in Mary (see John 19:26-67). This means that when Christians confess that Jesus’ mother was Mary, they are merely thinking Jesus’ thoughts after him. When we say that Jesus had a human nature, it means that he had a human soul and a human body and a human will. Jesus is fully man.

Jesus is unique in his uniqueness. Jesus is fully man, and fully God. Jesus is fully God and unique — he is the only begotten Son of God. Jesus is fully man and  unique — his conception was by the Spirit, born to a virgin (unique!). For these reasons, the fully human Jesus is called the Son of God (Luke 1:35).

God the Son Incarnate (God-man)

Jesus is God the Son and has a divine nature. Jesus is the son of Mary and a has a human nature. Jesus is God the Son Incarnate: Jesus is one person and has two natures, that is, Jesus is the God-man.

Firstborn Among Brethren

Jesus is unique, as mentioned above, because he is God the Father’s only begotten Son: Jesus is the eternal Son of the eternal Father. The Father, however, has other children. Scripture teaches that believers are also the children of God. Jesus, however, is the only eternal Son of the eternal Father. You and I, we are sons and daughters of God, but we are not children according to eternity, but rather we are the adopted children of God by the grace of God!

God adopted children in Jesus by engrafting them into the eternal, only-begotten Son; believers, with the instrument, the gift of saving faith, believe that God is their Father for the sake of Christ. The Apostle Paul understood this distinction between God the Son and God’s other children, see Romans 8:29-30:

For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom he did predestinate, them he also called: and whom he called, them he also justified: and whom he justified, them he also glorified.

God the Son Incarnate – Our Older Brother?

Believers are brethren. We are the children of God. Jesus, however, is firstborn. That means he is our older brother.

And Jesus is the perfect older brother. He is just like our Father: he loves us, he cares for us, he is compassionate towards us, he protects us, he shares all that is his with us, e.g., his inheritance and kingdom, but most importantly, he shares and gifts to us his own Spirit! And without the Spirit we would not know our brethren–especially Jesus-nor our Heavenly Father: “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our Spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs of God, and joint-heirs with Christ” (Romans 8:15-17a).

Jesus:  Savior

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is the Savior.

Savior

Why do we call Jesus the Savior? The reason is simple: Jesus saves people.

Jesus is the Greek name for the Hebrew name Joshua. “Joshua” means “LORD/Jehovah is salvation.” Jesus/Joshua is the same name. In Scripture, we learn that the angelic messenger of God specifically told Mary (Luke 1:31), as well as Joseph (Matthew 1:21), to name and call Mary’s child “Jesus.” Why?  For this reason:

Thou shalt call his name JESUS: for he shall save his people from their sins (Matt. 1:21).

Through God the Son Incarnate, it is revealed that God is our Savior.

Savior from what? What does Jesus save people from? That answer is also simple: Jesus saves people from their sins. But that only stirs up another question: What is sin? As the Shorter Catechism summarizes:

Q. 14 What is sin? A. Sin is any want of conformity unto, or transgression of, the law of God.

Men living in the state of sin have lost communion with God (Gen. 3:8, 24). Not only has fellowship with God been broken, but we are also told that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23). That is precisely why sinners need a Savior.

Man was created in the image of God and had original righteousness. We were created with the purpose of enjoying continued communion and fellowship with God, and maturing in that communion and fellowship. But having fallen from that original state, we are now subject to our present sinful state–separated from God, deserving the justice and wrath of a holy God. We need to be saved and restored, therefore. Thankfully God chose to redeem and save us by sending God the Son. As Paul said:

This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners; of whom I am chief (1 Tim. 1:15).

And this salvation is the gift of God, freely offered to all who repent and believe in the name of Jesus.

Our Savior Reveals the Love of God

The Son of God, the Second Person of the Trinity, came and took on human flesh. Through the power of the Holy Ghost, the Son of God became Incarnate through the miracle of being conceived in the womb of the virgin Mary. He did that in order to be our Savior. He took on our human flesh in order to use his human flesh as an instrument to secure the remission of sins, thus accomplishing redemption. Why was Jesus born? For this reason–to save us from our sins, thus demonstrating the love of God.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life (John 3:16).

But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Rom. 5:8).

John Murray, in his now classic work Redemption Accomplished and Applied, discuses the love of God revealed and demonstrated in Jesus the Savior.

The cross of Christ is the supreme demonstration of the love of God (Rom. 5:8; 1 John 4:10). The supreme character of the demonstrations resides in the costliness of the sacrifice rendered. It is this costliness that Paul has in view when he writes: “He spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?” (Rom. 8:32). The costliness of the sacrifice us of the greatness of the love and guarantees the bestowal of all other free gifts (17).

Jesus is our savior because he is our vicarious representative, that is, Jesus is the second Adam (see explanation in Romans 5:12-19). According to God’s gracious provisions, God the Son Incarnate, that is, Jesus, came to act for and in the place of the sinners that God chose before the foundation of the world in Christ (Eph. 1) to redeem by the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. That is why Jesus came into the world. To be a Savior, to save sinners from their sins.

Not “a” Savior, but “your” Savior

Lastly, it is important to note that Jesus is not a generic Savior. Jesus is a particular Savior of particular people chosen in him. According to God’s good pleasure, the children of God have been chosen in Christ, and the cross reveals God’s love for his children. Chosen in Christ, these children are crucified with Christ, and have new life in Christ who lives in them.

According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will (Eph. 1:4-5).

I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me (Gal. 2:20).

The Security of a Savior

There are benefits outside of salvation which flow from the saving work of Jesus. Believers enjoy the benefit of security: we place trust in our Savior, and enjoy peace and comfort in the sufficient, saving work of Jesus. Zwingli was a first generation Reformer, like Martin Luther, and he described the security enjoyed by those saved from their sins by Jesus the Savior.

If we have trusted in God through Christ, then the fruits of the flesh cannot throw us down into damnation. Rather, as Christ said to Peter: [“Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not” (Luke 22:31-32).] Thus, we remain firm in faith so that all our sins will be forgiven through Christ, although both the devil and the flesh will force us through the sieve and entice us with sin to despair. But, as Peter’s external denial did not bring him into damnation, so also may no sin bring us to damnation, save one: unbelief.

Unbelief says Jesus is no Savior at all. But belief says all our sins will be forgiven through Jesus, and that he is the only Savior!

Jesus: Messiah

Therefore we confess that, in order to fulfill the covenant promises of the ancient fathers and predicted by the mouth of the prophets (Is 7:14; Luke 1:31,35,55,70) the true, unique and eternal Son of God the Father (Rom 1:3; John 17:5; 16:28; Phil 2:6,7) took, at the time appointed by the Father, the form of a servant. Being conceived in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and without any operation of man (Matt 1:20; Luke 1:28,35), He took human nature with all its infirmities, sins excepted (Heb 4:15; 5:2). (Theodore Beza, The Christian Faith, 10).

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is the Messiah.

Messiah

Christians believe in Jesus Christ. What does Christ mean? Is that Jesus’ last name? No. It is a title meaning Messiah. God had promised to send a Messiah to Israel, the “anointed one” who would deliver and save Israel. As Peter, a Jew, told Cornelius, a Roman Centurion, “God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and power” (Acts 10:38).

Conceived By & Anointed With the Holy Ghost

In Luke 1:26-38, we are told that the Holy Ghost will come upon the virgin Mary, and that the power of the Highest will overshadow her and she will conceive a child in her womb. The verb “overshadow” in the Old Testament is associated with the manifestation of God’s special presence. The God-man is conceived in the womb of a virgin through the supernatural operation of the Spirit, thus, he will be called the Son of God. Jesus was conceived by the Spirit by Divine operation, but Jesus was also set apart by God for his earthly ministry when he was anointed with the Holy Ghost.

In Matthew 3:16-17 we read,  “And he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove, and lighting upon him: And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” After this, Jesus was led by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. After withstanding temptation, Jesus embarked on his earthly ministry. “From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt. 4:17).

Anointed with Power

Anointed with the Holy Ghost, Jesus was anointed with power to not only withstand the temptation of the devil (Matt. 4:1-11), but also for “preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all manner of sickness and all manner of disease among the people” (Matt. 4:23). That Jesus was anointed with Divine power was evident. It was so evident in fact, that even Nicodemus, who was a ruler among the Jews, came to Jesus at night and said, “Rabbi, we know that thou art a teacher come from God: for no man can do these miracles thou doest, except God be with him” (John 3:2).

Nicodemus was absolutely correct. God was with Jesus, and had divinely anointed Jesus to be the Redeemer. In the Old Testament, the divinely anointed prophets, priests, and kings were types and shadows of Jesus Christ: Jesus was divinely anointed to be (1) our prophet, to teach us about salvation, (2) our priest, to offer himself as the once-for-all sacrifice, as ransom to pay the price for our reconciliation and redemption, and (3) our king, who defends and governs us, and having delivered us leads us into the kingdom of God.

A Messiah Who Anoints His Disciples

After Jesus’ death and resurrection, he told his disciples that they were going to be anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power–Acts 1:8.

But ye shall receive power, after that the Holy Ghost is come upon you: and ye shall be witnesses unto me both in Jerusalem, and in all Judaea, and in Samaria, and unto the uttermost part of the earth.

Jesus is the Messiah–anointed with the Holy Ghost and with power. And this Messiah is the Redeemer of the children of God. Redeeming the children of God, this Messiah has anointed his disciples with the Holy Ghost and with power. Why? “Ye shall be witnesses unto me”–that’s why! We have been anointed to preach repentance and the gospel of the kingdom, “that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins” (Acts 10:43).

Jesus: Lord

Who is Jesus?

Jesus is Lord.

Lord

Jesus is God the Son Incarnate, and he has been appointed by God to be both the promised Christ (Messiah) and Lord.

In Luke 1:26-38, one of the most well known passages of Scripture, we learn that the angel Gabriel was sent to Mary and revealed to her that she was highly favored, that the Lord was with her, and that she was blessed. Gabriel also revealed that Mary would have a child, that he shall be great, called the Son of the Highest, and that the throne of David would be given to him, and that he would reign forever and his kingdom would be everlasting. Mary believed the angel, but asked for clarity: “How?” Biological levelheadedness, that.  So, the angel explained: the Spirit would come upon her, and the power of the Highest would overshadow her, and then she would conceive a child in her womb. The angel also told her that the child would be called the Son of God.

Before the angel left Mary he revealed to her that her cousin Elisabeth was also pregnant. Mary wouldn’t have known this because we are told earlier that Elisabeth conceived a child in her old age, and in awe of the grace of God she went into solitude. So, after the angel leaves, Mary went to visit Elisabeth, and, upon arriving, she greeted Elisabeth. When Elisabeth heard the greeting, the babe leaped in her womb, she was filled with the Spirit, and she began to prophesy (Luke 1:39-45).

Elisabeth was the first to reveal that Mary was already pregnant. In fact, Elisabeth called Mary’s child “my Lord.” Note: The same Spirit who filled David to prophesy in Psalm 110, and called the promised Christ and son of David “my Lord”, that Spirit centuries later filled Elisabeth to prophesy and call Mary’s child–the seed of David–“my Lord” (see Matthew 22:41-46). Elisabeth’s exclamation of blessing is the first messianic revelation regarding God the Son after his incarnation/conception. Mary is pregnant with the child, and the angel told her to call him “Jesus” — which means God is Salvation. When Mary went to visit Elisabeth the babe in her cousin’s womb leaped for joy and Elisabeth was filled with the Spirit and testified that the Messiah and Lord was present.

Lordship

God has divinely appointed Mary’s son–the Christ-child that shall be great, and called the Son of the Highest and the Son of God–to be both Lord and Christ (Acts 2:36). As Lord of his people, Jesus delivers, saves, protects, preserves, governs, defends, and leads them by His Word and Spirit.

After the Resurrection, the God-man Jesus Christ ascended to Heaven (the place where God the Son had always been). The God-man, Jesus Christ our Lord, now sits at the right hand of God the Father: this position denotes the judicial power given to Jesus upon the completion of his mission to live, suffer, be slain, and raised the third day (Luke 9:22). God the Son had a mission in coming to earth and taking on human flesh as an instrument to save his people from their sins. When he fulfilled the mission, he accomplished salvation and redemption for the children of God.

Jesus has been appointed by God to be both Christ and Lord. As the Messianic prophecy foretold, “The LORD said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hand, until I make thine enemies thy footstool” (Psalm 110:1). Also, Psalm 2 describes the present administration and judicial power of the Lordship of Jesus Christ.

Why do the heathen rage, and the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and the rulers take counsel together, against the LORD, and against his anointed, saying, Let us break their bands asunder, and cast away their cords from us. He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision. Then shall he speak unto them in his wrath, and vex them in his sore displeasure. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion. I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee. Ask of me, and I shall give thee the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession. Thou shalt break them with a rod of iron; thou shalt dash them in pieces like a potter’s vessel. Be wise now therefore, O ye kings: be instructed, ye judges of the earth. Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling. Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust in him.

God has ordained that all power be given to Jesus, for he is Lord. Because Jesus is Lord, we ought to willingly submit to him, and praise him.

Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name. That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And taht every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father (Philippians 2:9-11).

Deeply Personal

Jesus Christ our Lord is God the Son Incarnate. He was made of the seed of David according to the flesh, by the Spirit coming upon and God’s power overshadowing the virgin Mary. God declared through his resurrection from the dead that he is the Son of God (Romans 1:1-4).

In the Old Testament, this was the confession of God’s people: “The LORD our God is one LORD. And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5), i.e., YHWH is Lord. In the New Testament, the true God and one LORD further self-reveals himself through the salvation accomplished by Jesus Christ. Through Jesus we learn that God is Triune — Father, Son, and Holy Ghost. Therefore, we confess that Jesus Christ, who is God the Son Incarnate, is Lord! “The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord” (Romans 6:23b).

The Triune God has revealed himself and his justice and mercy in our salvation accomplished through Jesus Christ. God not only has revealed that God is our salvation–that Jesus has delivered us from sins and is the author of our salvation–but God has also revealed through Jesus Christ that the One True God is deeply personal and fellowships with his people. God is personal and fellowships with us in Jesus Christ our Lord.

A Renewed Life in Christ that is Better than the Original Life Lost in Adam

“Lastly, in order to better manifest this incomprehensible goodness, God did not wish that His grace should only equal our crime; He willed that where sin abounds, grace superabounds (Rom. 5:15-21). For this reason, while he was created in the image of God, the first Adam, author of our sin, was earthly, as his frailty showed well (1 Cor. 15:45-47). Jesus Christ, on the contrary, the second Adam, through whom we are saved, while being true and perfect man, is nevertheless the Lord come from Heaven, that is to say, the true God. For, in essence, all the fullness of divinity dwells in Him (Col. 2:9). If the disobedience of Adam made us fall, the righteousness of Jesus Christ gives us more security than we had previously. We hope for life procured by Jesus Christ, better that that which we lost in Adam; even more so as Jesus Christ surpasses Adam” (Theodore Beza, The Christian Faith, 10).