“Whom do men say that I the Son of man am?” – Matt 16:13
The Barna Group published results of a survey this week that reveals nearly half of Americans under 50 do not believe Jesus is God, though nearly all believe he existed.
What a shame. Even Bono says he knows that Jesus was the Son of God.
What do people say about him?
They say when he lived on earth he was human and committed sins like other people. They say he was a good teacher, a great example, a good leader, a wise man, but he was not the Son of God.
The gospel of the cross of Christ will fall flat on people who think Jesus was just a man. Why would they trust their life to the work of another man? How could a man resurrect from the dead?
They think if a man can possess God’s powers, then perhaps we all can.
If Jesus can do it as a man, maybe the rest of us have the potential to be as he was.
Why do we need Jesus, again?
Preachers not Immune to Error
Poor preaching perpetuates the problem of misidentifying the person of Christ.
Some preachers may be careful to explain the work of Christ, but are careless when explaining the person of Christ. They may teach the mystery of Christ, but have neglected the prophecies declaring Christ to be fully God. They make another Jesus, and Paul says to avoid them.
“I fear, …if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached… ye might well bear with him.” – 2 Cor 11:4
Consider the example of A. E. Knoch, a teacher of the early 20th century and acquaintance of E.W Bullinger.
While neither Knoch or Bullinger were mid-Acts dispensational, Knoch catches the attention of some with his use of dispensational charts, emphasis on Bible study, and writings about the mystery. However, Knoch rejected the three-in-one doctrine of the Godhead, and taught that Jesus emptied himself of his deity attributes when he became man. (He also chose to create his own Bible.)
His teaching of the mystery led people to swallow his error of rejecting Christ as the eternal Son of God. Though you may read in his writings about Christ’s finished work, but the Christ he is talking about is not the Christ of the Bible.
What he taught that was right became the cup for the poison of his serious error.
The Error Continues
Knoch is just one old example, but the same errors and ancient heresies are being taught today by pastors on the radio, internet, and in grace churches. Have you heard them? Do you know what the ancient heresies are?
Have you heard the myth that Christ laid aside, emptied, removed, or did not use his attributes as God?
Perhaps you have heard it taught that Jesus stopped being God while he was forsaken on the cross, that he was separated from God, that he needed to have faith like us, that we can be God manifest in the flesh, that he did not know the mystery of God’s will, or that he stopped being a man when he resurrected from the dead.
All of these errors come from a misunderstanding of who Jesus is, and will eventually corrupt the teaching of what Christ did if left uncorrected.
If Jesus was not the Christ of prophesy, then Paul invented him (Rom 1:1-4).
If Jesus was not fully man, then he would not be a worthy mediator for man (1 Tim 2:5).
If Jesus was not fully God, then he could not provide salvation for us (Col 2:9-10).
There were many new things revealed in the mystery of Christ, but the nature and person of Christ is not one of them.
Who do you say Jesus is?
What Jesus did for all is the question answered in Paul’s epistles, but who is Christ is the quintessential question of Jesus’ ministry and all the law and prophets.
Jesus asked his disciples this question in Matthew 16:15 when no one knew the mystery of Christ or the preaching of the cross. It is the subject of prophecy. It remains a good question to ask before you explain what Jesus did according to the mystery.
If we do not have the right Christ according to prophetic scriptures, then we cannot preach the mystery about that Christ and salvation. All scripture is needed.
If you ask the average person do they believe in Jesus, they would say, yes. Ninety-two percent say he existed.
If you ask the average grace pastor if they trust what Jesus did, they would say yes. The Bible rightly divided clarifies the cross work of Christ.
However, it is just as important to ask them what they believe about the person of Christ. Half of Americans and many pastors do not believe Jesus Christ was fully God, with all of God’s attributes, and the fullness of the Godhead bodily (Col 2:9).