Questions and discussions about the person and work of the Lord Jesus abound today, along with the variety of views about who the Lord Jesus is and what He has done in His finished and sufficient work. One example of this comes from the State of Theology conducted by Ligonier Ministries in conjunction with Lifeway Research. In their research, they asked people about who Jesus is and what He has done, and what’s unique about the person and work of Jesus. Two statistics stood out as I recently reread this study from 2020 on the issue of whether Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God. Thirty percent disagree with the statement, and sixty-six percent agree. Another issue was raised whether God accepts the worship of all religions, including Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Forty-two percent agree with this statement, and the rest reject it.
These two statistics reveal that Christians have real questions about who Jesus is and what He has done. The mixing of religions with Christianity is called syncretism, and Jesus rejects it in John 14:6 when He states He is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life”. Jesus is not one among many options, paths, or avenues. He is the only way to God. Theologians call this the exclusivist restricted view, meaning that salvation is restricted and exclusive for those who repent and believe in Christ alone. The opposing view is inclusivism, which states that everyone can be saved no matter what our religious beliefs. Biblical Christianity rejects inclusivism because Jesus teaches that He is the only way to God, and it is only by believing and trusting Him can one be saved.
Over the past ten years, we’ve continued to see issues along the lines of the person and work of Jesus. Some prominent teachers teach that Jesus’ death in our place and for our sin is cosmic child abuse (or worse). The statistics show us doctrinal and theological slide away from biblical orthodoxy. The rate of rejection of orthodoxy is continuing. Rather than grounding themselves in the Word of God, many people are sliding away into a feelings-based faith. So, they feel Jesus isn’t truly real or isn’t the Truth and didn’t come to do what He did. Even so, the truth still stands that Jesus is the centerpiece of all of history and creation.
Jesus Himself claimed deity, not only in His performing miracles, but directly saying, “I Am” seven times in John’s Gospel. For Jesus to say, “I Am” takes Bible readers back to Exodus 3:14, where the Lord tells Moses, “I AM.” We have one Lord, who is eternally self-existing and sufficient in and of Himself. We need to understand this because, without it, we have no Lord. With no Lord, we have no Savior, who came under the sentence of death to pay for our sins in our place and rise again.
What’s most unique and what sets Jesus apart from the world’s religious leaders (Buddha, Mohammad, Joseph Smith, etc.) is that they are all dead and gone—still in the grave. None of the world’s religious leaders rose again from the dead after claiming to be God and doing the work of God. Consider with me for a moment: if the Jewish religious leaders or Roman government officials could find the body of Jesus, wouldn’t they have done so? Don’t you think they were searching for the body to silence the early Christians? They couldn’t find Jesus’ body because He wasn’t there in the tomb (or anywhere else on earth). He was resurrected on the third day and ascended to the Father’s Right hand, where He is our Mediator, Intercessor, and Priest. That is why they couldn’t find the body of Jesus. But this also demonstrates that Jesus is who He says He is, and why—over and over again, as people have grappled with Jesus’ teaching and the history surrounding His life, death, and resurrection from Scripture and other historical sources—they have put their trust in Jesus.
In this issue of Theology for Life, we aim to help you understand that the Bible and church history have good questions and answers to the issues you face. Jesus is not a distant and dead Savior. The Bible is not a book of fairytales and myths. So, join us as we look at a variety of issues and questions people ask about the person and work of Jesus, both from Scripture and church history. Along the way in your reading of this issue, I pray that your faith in Christ is strengthened, and you are equipped to proclaim the glories of Christ’s finished and sufficient work for God’s glory.
In Christ Alone,
Dave Jenkins, Executive Editor, Theology for Life Magazine