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Who Is Jesus? (Part 3 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
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December 9, 2023 3:00 am

Who Is Jesus? (Part 3 of 6)

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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December 9, 2023 3:00 am

A popular theory suggests that God has many names, and all religions are essentially just different avenues that people take to reach the same God. True Christians, however, will never make this claim. Find out why on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.



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We hear people today making the claim that God has many names, that all religions are essentially just different paths to the same God.

True Christians will not make this claim, and today on Truth for Life weekend we'll find out why. Alistair Begg is continuing a series titled, Who is Jesus? We said last time that the fundamental question was, did Jesus himself ever claim to be God? People will respond to our affirmations and protestations by saying, well, we understand that you believe him to be God, but we're not sure that he himself regarded himself as God. And so, taking up the challenge, we addressed it, looking first of all last time at a number of the indirect claims which Jesus made to deity. We then proceeded from there to begin the first two of six direct claims made by Christ in addressing the whole question of the fact that he was both God and man. And having dealt with one in chapter 5 of John's Gospel and then in the eighth chapter of John's Gospel, we come now to the tenth chapter, and particularly to verse 29 and the declaration which comes just in one simple sentence in verse 30. Jesus is speaking of the fact that he has sheep who listen to his voice, and in verse 29 he says of them, My Father who has given them to me is greater than all. No one can snatch them out of my Father's hand. I and the Father are one.

Now, the word which is used there for one is not in the masculine, it is in the neuter. And it is significant insofar as the claim which Jesus was making was simply this—to be one in substance and essence with God the Father. And as a result of making that affirmation, he was met with a quite violent reaction. In verse 31, the Jews again picked up stones to stone him. And Jesus said to them, I've shown you many miracles from the Father.

For which of these do you stone me? It was almost as if he wanted to elicit from them this response so as to underpin the claim which he had so clearly made. And he could not have been disappointed for the reply in verse 33, We are not stoning you for any of these, replied the Jews, but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God. And still people walk the streets of Cleveland and say, Well, I'm not sure that Jesus himself ever claimed to be God.

And to that we should answer quite kindly and sincerely, Well, then let us look at the evidence together and see whether in fact he did. And in opening up the Scriptures and in going through them, we come to these straightforward statements. The Jewish mind was in no way misled concerning what Jesus was claiming.

Hence their response. Stoning was the justifiable reaction to blasphemy, and blasphemy was the claim on the part of any mere man to actually be God. And because they regarded Jesus as merely a man, they regarded his claim of oneness with the Father to be nothing other than blasphemy. Nevertheless, it is a direct claim on the part of Jesus.

That's why we turn to it. In John chapter 14, turning forward, Jesus has declared to the disciples that he is the way and the truth and the life, and no man can come to the Father but through him. He then follows that up in verse 7 by saying, If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. And from now on you do know him and have seen him. Now, clearly, Jesus is making some reference to himself.

Even a cursory glance at this makes that obvious. And while we might like to think that we would have immediately been tuned into it, the chances are that we may also have been responding as did Philip, because Philip responds and says, Lord, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us. And Jesus answered, Don't you know me, Philip? Now, Philip's response, of course, was, Yes, I know you.

He didn't really understand. Don't you know me, Philip, after I have been among you for such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, Show us the Father? Now, the interesting thing is that back in the Old Testament, in Exodus chapter 33, when God had spoken to Moses, he had made it clear to Moses, in verse 20, You cannot see my face, for no one may see me and live. He then went on to say, There is a place near me where you may stand on a rock, and when my glory passes by, I will put you in a cleft in the rock and cover you with my hand until I have passed by. And then I will remove my hand, and you will see my back, but my face must not be seen.

And so the Jewish mind grew up understanding this. There is no possible way that we will be able to actually see God face to face. We may understand manifestation of his glory, we may, as Moses caught a glimpse of his back, get that, but we will not be able to see the Father face to face. And yet here is Philip saying, Oh, show us the Father, and that will be enough for us. Now, says Jesus, understand this, Philip, and all the other Philip's who come after you. In my own life and in my personality, I am revealing all of the nature and character of God that it is possible for a human being to see and to know.

That's what he's saying. In me, Philip, if you're wondering about God, look at me. If you're wondering about the character of God and the nature of God, look at me. For I, and the Father of one, and anyone who has seen me, has seen the Father. And down through the corridors of time, Jesus addresses all who are interested to know God, and he says, So you want to know God?

Well then, look at me. And it is a surprise to me how many people have rejected Christianity, not as a result of having examined its claims and found them wanting, but as a result of never having examined its claims, and simply rejecting it out of hand on the basis of conjecture and various pieces of scientific jargon. But the honest man, the real scientist, the genuine skeptic, the honest seeker, in looking for spiritual reality, must come against this eventual statement by Jesus, Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father also. Turn forward to John chapter 17. And in his High Priestly Prayer, Jesus, in addressing the Father, says in verse 5, And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began.

It's an interesting statement if it was made just by a man, isn't it? Here's this man, and he gets down, and he says a little prayer. And in the midst of his prayer, as he speaks to the Father God, he says, And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory that I enjoyed and had with you before this world even began. Jesus is there speaking of a glory that he'd known not just at some time in the past but as part of his eternal possession before the world even began. And the inevitable reaction to this is to say, Who does this person think they are? I mean, who do you think you are?

The glory you had before the world began. You mean you were there before the world began, in the presence of God the Father? You were there, Jesus?

Yeah, I was. The sixth direct claim—and I've only chosen six, we could go to other places—the sixth takes us into John chapter 18, where we have the record by John of the arrest of Jesus in the garden of Gethsemane. Actually, in this olive grove, in verse 1, Judas, knowing the place, in verse 3, came to the grove, guiding a detachment of soldiers.

And some officials from the chief priests and the Pharisees, and they were carrying torches, lanterns, and weapons. Jesus, knowing all that was going to happen to him, went out and asked them, Who is it you want? Jesus of Nazareth, they replied. And then Jesus responds in just two words, Ego, I me, which actually does not have in Greek the word he.

He simply responds by saying, I am. And verse 6 records that when Jesus declared himself as I am, they drew back and fell to the ground. Now, you read that, and you say, Well, that's a very interesting little note there, a very interesting little vignette.

Yeah, but think about it for a moment. What in the world is going on? Here is an emotionally spent, unarmed individual in an olive grove. A crack detachment of troops are sent for his arrest—men who are routine in this process, as routine as a doctor giving an injection or a schoolteacher putting something up on a blackboard. It was as routine to them as that. And they come to the garden in the prospect of just another arrest in the course of their days. Surely they all knew about this Jesus of Nazareth. Certainly he'd been a troublemaker in the city for some time.

There were all kinds of statements being made about him. And so, finally, they come to the garden, and instead of having to go scurrying for the individual, as we might have expected—for example, if you thought you were within the prospect of crucifixion, do you think you would be walking out to the group as they came to find you, said, Excuse me, were you looking for somebody? No, you'd be buried somewhere. You would be hidden.

I would be hidden up a tree, behind a tree, in a vault, in a tomb, anywhere to get away. But he walks forward, and he said, And who is it that you want? And they say, We want Jesus of Nazareth. And he says, I am!

I am! Which was the same declaration we noted last week, which caused the Jews so much of a problem, because that was one of the words that God used to define himself and to reveal himself in the Old Testament. God speaks to Moses. Moses is going to go to Pharaoh. Moses asks God, Who will I say sent me? And God says, Tell Pharaoh, I am sent you. And Jesus takes this designation as the same revelation that he uses with the lady in front of the well in John chapter 4. She says, I know that when the Messiah comes, he will tell us all these things. And Jesus says, I am. And it changed everything. And now, in this instant, he says it again, and the Marines fall to the ground.

Why? They didn't believe any of this stuff. They weren't predisposed. They weren't hallucinating. They were just guys going about their business as usual.

So what happened? Something of the divine glory and power and majesty and wonder of who Jesus is emanated from him even in that moment, and they asked a routine question, and he gave his reply, and they were flat on the ground. Well, those are some direct statements. You can find more. Let me go on from there, though, and ask a second question.

Because the first question we asked was, What did Jesus say? And we've looked at some of that. Selectively, not exhaustively. The second question is, What does it mean? Because we can read this, but how do we understand it?

How do we process it and assimilate it? Now, let me give to you a number of statements. I'm going to give you now, in the next few moments, a crash course in historical theology, and I will give you stuff now that took me ages to try and understand. I do understand it. I hope I can say it, having understood it.

But for you, you're getting the benefits of all my blood, sweat, and tears throughout the years, so that you can get it in one or two phrases that are understandable. What does it mean that Jesus made these claims to deity? Well, when we take all that we've looked at in John's Gospel—and we might just go back to the first place of beginning in John chapter 1 and the opening couple of verses—when we piece it all together, we begin to realize that Jesus is speaking of the fact of his eternity. Hence the opening phrase of John's Gospel, In the beginning was the Word.

And this logos was understood both by the Jewish and Greek mind to be this essential creating principle. And, says John, the Word, whom he is going to identify as Jesus, was present in the beginning. He existed before all creation, he was thereby uncreated, and he was eternal. Now, when people come to you and say, Well, Jesus was just another religious figure, he was just a Gandhi or a Buddha or something, you say, No, no, no, no, no, he wasn't. And they'll say to you, Well, in what way was he not? Well, in one way you can point out from the evidence that Jesus actually made claims that none of these other individuals made, and he claimed to have existed from all of eternity. So he is identified as being marked in and by eternity.

Secondly, it reveals to us his personality. In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, so that within the Godhead he existed in living, active, intimate fellowship. He was not the Father, and he was not the Holy Spirit.

He was the Son. He was distinct within the triune God. So we have his eternity, we have his personality, and we have his deity. In the beginning was the Word, that's eternity, and the Word was with God, that's personality, and the Word was God, that's deity.

Although he was a separate person from the Father, he was not a separate being. That's the kind of phrase you should write down, because it is essential in debating with Mormons and Jehovah's Witnesses. If you don't understand that, you can talk to these folks. And I'm not saying writing it down will help you to understand it, or you will understand it just because you wrote it down, but if you don't write it down, there's no way in the world you'll even remember it, and if you don't remember it, there's no way you'll be able to bring it to recall.

If you can't bring it to recall, you won't be able to use it in a conversation. The divinity that belongs to the rest of God belongs to Jesus. The divinity that belongs to the rest of God belongs to Jesus. It means that we can therefore discover what God is like by looking at Jesus. And we can only and ultimately discover what God is like by looking at Jesus.

So that when man says, Well, you know, there is something within me that thinks there is a something, that there might be a God, that there might be some creative principle, but I'm not sure where I should look or I'm not sure what I should do," the answer is, Consider Jesus. You know the story of the little boy who's painting in the afternoon art class at school, and as the teacher comes around and looks at the various creations, the works of art by the children, she comes on this boy, and he's just painting away, and she looks down, and she says, And what is this? And he said, I'm painting a picture of God. And the teacher says, Come now, son, we don't know what God is like.

And the wee boy says, Well, if you come back when I finish, you'll have a better understanding. And twentieth-century men and women today are prepared to talk about God in the most remote terms, but when you get to it, they'll say, But we don't know what God is like. We can't know what God is like.

At best, we can have conjecture and hope. But the doctrine of the incarnation, the fact that Jesus is the God-man, means that we can therefore discover who and what God is by looking at and listening to Jesus. So when we say that God is eternal, we look at Jesus and find out what that means—that he is holy, that he is everywhere, that he knows everything, that he is all-powerful, that he is unchangeable, that he is independent. When we take all those characteristics of God and we say, Well, what does that mean? Well, then we look at the life of Jesus and we begin to put it together. It also means that there was a time when Jesus was God but not man, but there never was a time when he was man but not God.

That's another one you'd better scribble down. There was a time when Jesus was God but not man, but there never was a time when he was man but not God. That is historical, biblical orthodoxy. And that is what was taught to me as a small boy and for which I'm very grateful. So that by the time I became a theological student, I knew the answers to the questions. I didn't know what they meant, and I didn't even know why I knew them, but I just knew them. Because somebody somewhere in my past, his name I don't even know, must have labored hard on Sundays to make it clear to me, Listen now, there was a time when Jesus was God but not man, but there was never a time when he was man and not God. And so I'd be walking around saying, Hey, he was God but not man, but he wasn't man but not God. I didn't know what it meant.

I didn't know it was gonna be that important. I certainly didn't know I would have to teach it to thousands of people in the hope that they might be able to understand it. Colossians 2 9, For in Christ all the fullness of the deity, says Paul, lives in bodily form. Now, the theologians speak of this in very clear terms. When they address this issue—and this is volumes I'm gonna reduce for you—they say, in speaking of the incarnation, that what we have is not subtraction. So actually, subtraction, division, and addition are three key words used in theological terms. What do we have in saying that the God became man? Was it subtraction?

Answer it no. Because in becoming man, he remained God. Every so often in a discussion you will say—oh, yes, someone will say—oh, yes, we believe that there was a divine Son who was co-eternal with the Father. That was the Christ, they might call him. Or that was the Son. But when the Christ came, the Jesus of Nazareth Christ, he was not the same one as was eternal with the Father.

And they play all these kind of games. And so we need to be able to say, no, in the incarnation we do not have subtraction. In becoming man, Jesus remained God. Nor do we have division, so that he was split up and mixed up. He did not become a combo of God and man. You go out for a meal, and someone says, Well, would you like the steak fajitas or the chicken fajitas, or would you like the combo?

Which essentially means that he'd just mix it all up and bring it to you. It's okay, it tastes fine, but it is a combo. It's neither one thing nor the other. And some people's understanding of the incarnation is, if I might say so reverently, is that Jesus somehow became all combined and mixed up as part God and part man in this one person. And some of you are sitting there saying, Yeah, and I thought that was orthodoxy. No, you're wrong. You see, it isn't. And you've been telling people that he was a little bit of God and a little bit of man, he was kind of one part God and two parts man or two parts man and one part God, you know.

Here is a statement that you will want to write down. His deity was not humanized, nor his humanity deified. His deity was not humanized, nor his humanity deified. In other words, he remained fully divine through his earthly life. He chose, at times, to limit his knowledge. He chose, at times, to do certain things. But he remained completely divine throughout all of his earthly life. And even we see that in his death, because he just agreed to die. He said, No one takes my life from me. I have the power to lay it down, and I have the power to take it up again.

Men, ordinary men, have got no option in that matter. Even when we think we have, we don't. So if it wasn't subtraction and it wasn't division, what was it? Well, it was addition.

You've already worked that out. Jesus became what he had not previously been—namely, man—without ever ceasing to be what he had always been—namely, God. You're listening to Alistair Begg on Truth for Life Weekend. Here at Truth for Life, we love introducing you to theologians from throughout Church history, people with whom you may not be familiar. And today we're excited to tell you about a bundle of three books that features classic works from three different writers from throughout history, men who have influenced believers for years. We're calling this bundle Short Classics.

It's a set of three pocket-sized soft cover books that feature the works of Henry Scoogal, Thomas Chalmers, and J. I. Packer. You'll benefit greatly from the deep insight each of these men had, and you'll enjoy the accessible way these historic pieces are presented. You can find out more about the Short Classics bundle when you visit our website at truthforlife.org. And while you're on the website, check out the special feature we posted that provides you with pictures and comments from some of your fellow Truth for Life listeners from all around the world. As you listen to Alistair's teaching in your home or in your car, it's easy to forget that you're actually listening alongside countless others in many nations. I think you'll be greatly encouraged as you scroll through the collection of pictures from your fellow listeners from across the United States, people in South Africa, Australia, the UK, all around the world. Visit truthforlife.org slash stories. You'll be amazed to see all that God is doing through this ministry. I'm Bob Lapine. Thanks for making us a part of your weekend plans. Next weekend, we'll find out why Christianity is meaningless without the incarnation. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life, where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-12-09 05:18:04 / 2023-12-09 05:27:23 / 9

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