Introduction to the Reader
If you are among the Evangelical or Fundamentalist Christians, you may think the title questions absurd. You will assume that you already know the answers. If you are among the more liberal Christian groups, you may think these questions rather off-putting. In either case (or in those cases inbetween) you may well find something in the following that you had not anticipated. Is it a good bargain?
Who Is Jesus?
The scriptures have much to say concerning who Jesus is.
- He is the seed of the woman (Gen. 3:15) that bruises the serpent’s head.
- He is the blessing that comes through Abraham that replaces the curse. (Gen. 12:3)
- John the Baptist’s announcement, “Behold the lamb of God that takes away the sin of the world” is an announcement that these are now fulfilled. (John 1:29)
- He is the Passover lamb, whose life (i.e. blood) filling the heart takes away death (i.e. the sin of the world). (John 1:29)
- Moses told the Israelites that God had humbled them, let them be hungry, and fed them with manna that they might know that man does not live by bread alone. “But by every word proceeding from the mouth of God shall man live.” (Deut. 8:3)
- God, through Moses, told the Israelites that He would raise up a prophet like Moses. He would put his words into this prophet’s mouth and this prophet would speak to them all the words God commanded. Anyone who would not listen would have to give account to God Himself. (Deut. 18:15-18) Jesus is that prophet. God’s voice sounded from heaven announcing, “This is My chosen one, hear him.” That is, this is the one who will speak to you all the words of God. (Matt. 17:5, Luke 9:35 (NASB))
- John’s testimony is that Jesus IS THE Word of God, which answers both the Deut. 8:3 & 18:15-18 passages. (John 1:1, Rev. 19:13).
- Jesus told the Jews that the fathers ate the manna in the wilderness and they died. But he was the bread that came down from heaven that one might eat and not die. (See several portions of John 6)
- Joel spoke of the days when God would pour out His spirit upon all flesh: sons, daughters, handmaids, servants, young, and old. Jesus told the disciples, “The words I speak to you are spirit and life…” (John 6:63)
- Jesus is the priest after the order of Melchisedek. (Psalms 110:4, Heb 5:10)
- He is the faithful shepherd-king. (Ezekiel 34:23, John 10:10)
- He is the Shepherd and Bishop of our souls. (1 Peter 2:25)
- He is the Messiah, the Son of God, spoken of by the prophets (see Matt 16:16)
- He is the Creator through whom all things have come into being. (John 1)
- He is the light that brings life. (John 1)
- He is the light that judges. (John 3)
- He gives the power to become a child of God, i.e. created in His image. (John 1:12-13)
- He is the one who reveals the Father to us. (John 1:19)
- He is the covenant of light (Isaiah 42 & 49)
- He is the author of the faith that overcomes the world, which is our eternal salvation. This faith is written, by the author, on the heart of flesh instead of stone. (Heb 5:9, Heb 12:2, & Ezekiel 11:19)
- He is the way to the Father. (John 14:6)
- He is the truth. (John 14:6)
- He is the life. (John 14:6)
The above list is a thumbnail of who Jesus is according to the witness of the writers of Scripture. If you follow the logic that Jesus is the substance of all the types, figures, and shadows of the Old Covenant, this list would be much larger. This now brings us to consider salvation.
How does Jesus save people?
For those segments of Christendom that concern themselves with the question of salvation, the long-standing, well established answer is that this is what happened on the cross. Because Jesus died for our sins, we can ask for and receive forgiveness and be assured of a place prepared for us in Heaven when we die.
However, if I am dead in trespasses and sin, as Paul assures me that I was in time past, (Eph. 2:1), then no number of further deaths are going to do me the least bit of good. I need life, not more death. Furthermore, if I am dead in trespasses and sin, I am a derelict wreck of the creation I was meant to be. Forgiveness still leaves me in a wrecked condition, unable to serve the living God.
So how does our concept of “forgiveness” solve our problem. Did the writers of the Scriptures have a deeper meaning for the concept we render “forgiveness?”
One of the main passages cited to support salvation through God’s forgiveness is Colossians 1:14, which I have quoted below, giving some context. Verses 13 and 14 are in bold print.
We give thanks to God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, praying always for you, since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and the love which you have toward all [the true believers];…For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the [real knowledge] of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you may walk in a manner worthy of the Lord to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and [growing by the knowledge, the real knowledge], of God; strengthened with all power, according to His glorious might, unto all steadfastness and patience, joyously giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us [unto the portion of true believers] in light. For He delivered us from the [authority] of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins. (Colossians 1:3-14, New American Standard Bible. Bracketed portions reflect the notes given in the margins of my Bible.)
In all my years of association with Evangelical and Fundamental Christians, I have never heard of any meaning or implication of forgiveness other than “pardon.” Often the two terms have been used interchangeably. Thus we come up with absurd statements such as “we are justified sinners” and “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven.”
In the New Testament Scriptures there are only two words used that we render as forgive or forgiveness. #863 in the Greek dictionary at the back of Strong’s Concordance, is used almost exclusively. The other, #5483, is used in the prayer Jesus prayed on the Cross, “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do.” The Colossians text above uses #863 which means to send forth, to forsake, forgive, to lay aside, leave, let alone. let be, let go, omit, put or send away, yield up, and more. So lets rewrite the text above with the sense given by this definition: “For He delivered us from the [authority] of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forsaking, laying aside, leaving, sending away, etc. of sins.”
This is much more than the idea conveyed by “forgiveness.” This entails a remedial action on Jesus’ part that removes the condition of sin from within. Where, now, is there any room for the notion of only being “justified sinners” or “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven?
Salvation-through-forgiveness makes the assumption that man’s problem is guilt. If I can just be delivered from guilt, I will be OK, seems to be the attitude portrayed. This assumption requires a major blindness to all the other problems man has to deal with. We have a hole in our being that corresponds to all the things Jesus is.
- I was made to live by every word proceeding from the mouth of God. Where and how do I access this word of God?
- I was created to be a living being, but I wander in the darkness of death. How can I find life and light?
and so on down the list.
The being of Jesus
is fits all the deficits I have in my being. This is a salvation that means something, that has a real and discernible effect on the life of the individual and on the church. This salvation comes only by knowing Jesus present within and among us performing all the above mentioned functions, not through the formulaic presentation of most of Christendom. Jesus instructs all would-be-followers to believe in the light that you may be children of the day, because it is by encountering his light within us and believing what we are told by this light that we are delivered us from the [authority] of darkness, and transferred us to the kingdom of His beloved Son, in whom we have redemption, the forsaking, laying aside, leaving, sending away, etc. of sins.
Suggested further reading: Lewis Benson’s lecture #3 of the series of 10 Moorestown lectures.