Why is Christianity so different from every other religion in the world? The answer focuses not on the practice of religion, nor primarily on a plan for living, but on the Person of Jesus Christ. Jesus, Son of God the Father and Second Person of the Trinity, is the central figure of our evangelistic message.
Today many voices are making other claims. Atheists say there is no God. Polytheism may allow that Jesus is one of many gods. When I first went to some Far Eastern countries, I had to learn that in giving the invitation to receive Christ I needed to make it clear to my listeners that they were turning from all other gods and turning to the true and living God as revealed in the Scriptures.
We, as ambassadors for Christ, boldly echo the ringing conviction of the Apostle Peter when He affirmed, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). The title Christ means “anointed one.” It is the term in the Greek language for the ancient Hebrew word Messiah—the anointed one whom God would send to save His people. Peter and his fellow Jews, the first believers of the early Christian church, recognized Jesus Christ as the Messiah promised in the Old Testament. Their period of world history was one of discouragement and despair. The promised Messiah shone as a beacon in the darkness, and His light has never dimmed. “In Him was life, and the life was the light of men. … That was the true Light which gives light to every man coming into the world” (John 1:4, 9).
Today, as world leaders struggle with seemingly insurmountable problems, as storm clouds gather around the globe, this darkening and menacing situation simply accentuates the brightness of the One who proclaimed, “I am the light of the world. He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness, but have the light of life” (John 8:12). He is “the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” (John 1:29) He is the promised Messiah of ancient Israel. He is the hope of the hopeless, helpless Gentiles—which includes most of the population of the world, whether they be African, Asian, American or European.
In all my evangelistic ministry, I have never felt a need to “adapt” Jesus to the many and varied nationalities, cultures, tribes or ethnic groups to whom I have preached. I believe in contextualization. I try to adapt illustrations or emphasize certain truths that will help a particular audience understand the Gospel more clearly in light of their cultural background.
But the essential truths of the Gospel do not change. All things were created by Him, and He sustains all creation, so the message of His saving grace is applicable to all. The facts concerning His virgin birth, His sinless life, His sacrificial and substitutionary death, His resurrection and ascension to the right hand of the Father, and the glorious hope of His return must not be diluted or distorted in any way.
Jesus is not only the Christ; He is also God, our Lord and Savior. This is a staggering, almost incomprehensible truth: God Himself has come down on this planet in the Person of His only Son. The incarnation and the full deity of Jesus are the cornerstones of the Christian faith. Jesus Christ was not just a great teacher or a holy religious leader. He was God Himself in human flesh—fully God and fully man.
This great truth is underlined throughout the New Testament. The Bible says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by Him all things were created … For it pleased the Father that in Him all the fullness should dwell” (Colossians 1:15-16, 19). Matthew tells us of the birth of Jesus and states, “All this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,’ which is translated, ‘God with us’” (Matthew 1:22-23).
Jesus Himself gave frequent witness to His uniqueness and His divine nature. To His opponents He declared, “Before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). They immediately recognized this as a clear claim to divinity and tried to stone Him for blasphemy. On another occasion Jesus stated, “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30), and again His enemies tried to stone Him “because You, being a Man, make Yourself God” (John 10:33). Furthermore, He demonstrated the power to do things that only God can do, such as forgive sins. The charge brought against Him at His trial was that “He made Himself the Son of God” (John 19:7); and when asked if He was the Son of God, He replied, “You rightly say that I am” (Luke 22:70).
Was Jesus deluded in making that claim? Or is it true? What proof did He offer that He was truly God come in human form?
First, there was the proof of His perfect life. He could ask, “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46)—and no one could answer, because His life was perfect. Those who schemed to bring Him to trial had to obtain false witnesses to bring charges because He was blameless. He was able to confront the full fury of Satan’s temptations and yet not yield to sin; He “was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin” (Hebrews 4:15).
Second, there was the evidence of His power. His power was the power of God almighty—the power only God has. He had power over the forces of nature; He could quiet the storms on the sea of Galilee. He had power over sickness and disease; He raised the dead, healed the sick, restored sight to the blind and made the lame walk. His miracles were a witness to the fact that He is Lord of all nature: “For by Him all things were created … And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist” (Colossians 1:16-17).
Third, there was the evidence of fulfilled prophecy. Hundreds of years before His birth, the prophets of the Old Testament spoke precisely of the place where He would be born and of the manner of His death and burial. Numerous details of His life were foretold by the prophets, and in every instance these prophecies were fulfilled. That is why Jesus could say to the bewildered disciples on the road to Emmaus, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25-27).
Fourth, there was the evidence of His resurrection from the dead. Jesus Christ was “declared to be the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). The founders of the various non-Christian religions of the world have lived, died and been buried; in some instances, it is still possible to visit their graves. But Christ is alive! His resurrection is a fact! His tomb is empty—and this is a compelling and central proof of His unique divine nature as God in human flesh.
Fifth, there is the proof of changed lives. History vividly illustrates what the Bible clearly affirms, “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it?” (Jeremiah 17:9). Education and discipline can do no more than rub off the rough edges of human selfishness—but Christ alone, the divine Son of God, has power to change the human heart. And He does. Christ can take the most sin-laden, selfish, evil person and bring forgiveness and new life. The Bible says, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). His power to change the human heart is further proof of His divine nature.
Yes, Jesus Christ is who He said He is: God Himself in human form. And that is a crucial truth that undergirds the reality of our salvation. Only the divine Savior could die as the perfect and complete sacrifice for our sins. Only the divine Lord could tell us how we should live. Only the risen and ascended Son of God is worthy of our worship and our service. We confess Jesus Christ as God, our Lord and Savior.
During His time here on earth, He was God in the flesh, true God and true man. He is from eternity to eternity. Jesus Christ, by His death and resurrection, became the Gospel. As His ambassadors, we must represent Him in all His fullness totally and truthfully. Anything less disqualifies us from our high and holy calling.
The Nicene Creed that came out of the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325 affirmed He is “very God of very God, … being of one substance with the Father.”
By faith Jesus becomes our Lord and Savior. All authority in Heaven and on earth has been given to Him. The present evil world system does not yet acknowledge His Lordship; it is still under the deceiving power of the prince of this world, Satan. But those whom Jesus indwells have authority over the evil one and all his demons. The Apostle John declares, “He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Therefore, in spite of our human limitations and even our failures as evangelists, the Lord is sovereignly directing His own work of redemption through our evangelism. And we are linked to the vast resources of His power so that we don’t merely “get by” in our lives and ministries, but “in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him” (Romans 8:37). And as the context of that inspiring and reassuring verse promises, nothing “shall be able to separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:39). God can turn the greatest tragedies into that which is for our good and for His glory, for “we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28).
Because Jesus is Savior, He saves us from the penalty of sin. Because He is Lord, He, by His Holy Spirit, gives us power over sin as we daily walk with Him. And some future day He will take us to be with Him, far from the very presence of sin. Only because Jesus is God and we have confessed Him as Savior and Lord, can He bestow—and we receive—these benefits, this blessed assurance and hope. ©1984 BGEA
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, New King James Version.
Photo: BGEA Archives