Considering the Claims of Christianity
“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God; 2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee. 3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight. 4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins. 5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins. 6 And John was clothed with camel’s hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey; 7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose. 8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.” (Mark 1:1-8)
When John Mark picked up his pen, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, he wanted to write about Jesus from a particular point of view. Mark wanted to present Christ to the world as “an active, energetic, swiftly moving, warring, conquering, King” (William Hendriksen).
Mark wanted men, women and young people to come to the King of Glory who had condescended to come to them in humility and grace.
Mark knew that he had neither the time nor the energy, to write all that could be said of Jesus. His friend John was right: there were so many things Jesus said and did, which, “if they should be written everyone, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.” (John 21:25)
The best that Mark could do, was to write the beginning of the good news concerning Jesus. Mark believed that Christ was the Anointed One, the Messiah.
Christ was the fulfillment of Jewish hopes and dreams. Christ was the Son of God. The concept of Jesus being the Son of God has caused much debate over the centuries, for the question comes: What does it mean? Various ideas have been set forth.
The Mormon theology teaches that Jesus Christ is a son of God in a sensual sense. “Remember”, wrote Orson Hyde, “that God our Heavenly Father was perhaps once a child and moral like we are, and rose step by step in the scale of progress, in the school of advancement: has moved forward and overcome until He has arrived at the point where He now is.” (Journal of Discourses, Vol. I).
In plain language, the God of the Mormons is an exalted man, who has heavenly wives, with whom He produces sons. Jesus is a son of God, in the sensual sense of the phrase.
Like Mormonism, the theology of the Christian Science religion diminishes the glory of Christ by teaching that Jesus was the Son of God in name, but not in nature. Christian Science offers a dual Christ.
The Lord is presented as a great man inspired by the “Christ idea,” as Mrs. Eddy called it, but one who was not unusual, and who never really died at all for the sins of the world.
Other religious groups also dismiss the tremendous importance of the descriptive title of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. We do not want to make that mistake.
Therefore, let us briefly consider the biblical usage of the term, Son of God.
The title, “Son of God”, is the name given to Christ.
It was given by the angel Gabriel to Mary prior to the Lord’s birth. Luke 1:35 “And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore also that holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God.”
It was given by the heavenly voice at Christ’ baptism. “And there came a voice from heaven, saying, Thou art my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” (Mark 1:11)
It was given at the Lord’s transfiguration. “And there was a cloud that overshadowed them: and a voice came out of the cloud, saying, This is my beloved Son: hear him.” (Mark 9:7)
It was given by Peter, in a wonderful moment of spiritual illumination. “And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” (Matt. 16:16)
It was given by the demons. “And cried with a loud voice, and said, What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God? I adjure thee by God, that thou torment me not.” (Mark 5:7)
It was given by the centurion. “And when the centurion, which stood over against him, saw that he so cried out, and gave up the ghost, he said, Truly this man was the Son of God.” (Mark 15:39) As the Son of God, Jesus is worthy of love and faith.
The title, “Son of God”, is Messianic. In the Old Testament the title “Son” was used in such a way as to anticipate a special person who was to come. David wrote of the Messiah. “I will declare the decree: the LORD hath said unto me, Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee.” (Psalm 2:7)
Jesus taught that He was the fulfillment of all the prophetic utterances. One day, on the road to Emmaus, two men were walking.
They were heading for Jerusalem which was 7.5 miles away. “And it came to pass, that, while they communed together and reasoned, Jesus himself drew near, and went with them.” (Luke 24:15)
“And beginning at Moses and the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).
The title, “the Son of God”, indicates that Jesus was not simply a Son but the Son. As THE Son of God, Jesus was different from all others in that He shares the same essence and glory of God.
It is the testimony of the Scriptures that Jesus is very God of very God. This is the heart of the New Testament doctrine. The Son of God, is also God.
It is a great mystery to be sure, and harder to understand because, unfortunately, the term “Son” has often been misunderstood, as we have seen.
The term, “son”, by itself, is often interpreted to refer to someone wholly different from, subsequent to, and inferior to the Father.
As a result, what is missing, is the understanding that the term “Son”, when used of Christ was a functional term for time.
It was in the sphere of time, that Jesus functioned as the Son: separate from the Father, subordinate to Him, and dependent. But, this function in the Divine relationship did not negate the essential substance that the Son shares with the Father. In His essence, Jesus is the same as the Father. In His function, as a Son, He is subordinate. Consider the evidence.
The Father and the Son are one in essence. Is the Father eternal? The Scriptures state that the Son is eternal also. Micah 5:2 speaks of One “whose going forth have been from of old, from everlasting.”
The reference is to Jesus of Nazareth “(Matt. 2:4-6).
Is the Father omnipresent? Then so is the Son. Jesus said in Matthew 18:20, “Where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Is the Father immutable (unchangeable)? Then so is the Son. Hebrews 13:8 says that Jesus Christ is the same, “yesterday, and to day, and for ever.”
Is the Father almighty? Then so is the Son. Creation demands the display of divine power, and Jesus manifested that power. John 1:3 says of Christ that, “All things were made by Him.”
Colossians 1:17 declares that “By Him all things consist.”
Hebrews 1:3 states that Christ is the One upholding “all things by the word of His power.”
Jesus said in Matthew 28:18, “All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Jesus is one with the Father. He is the Almighty God.
Is the Father infinitely good and holy? Then so is the Son. Matthew 19:17 says that, “There is none good but one, that is God.”
In John 10:11 Jesus said plainly, “I am the good shepherd.”
Elsewhere, Jesus is called “the Holy One and the Just,” the One who knew no sin, who is without sin and without spot, “holy, harmless, and undefiled.”
Jesus Christ is the righteous One, in who is no sin for He is full of “grace and truth” (Acts 3:14; Heb. 7:26; John 1:14).
The Father and the Son are one in will. John 4:34 Jesus saith unto them, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.”
John 6:38 “For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me.”
The Father and the Son are one in power. The Father has power to bestow spiritual life upon others, but so does the Son. Jesus said, John 5:26 “For as the Father hath life in himself; so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself;”
All of these passages, and more, testify to the tremendous truth that Mark was writing about the most unique Person he had ever met, and the world has ever known. Because Jesus Christ is the Son of God, people should prepare to receive Him as their King.
John the Baptist was sent as a herald, to remind people to do that very thing. “As it was written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee” (Mark 1:2-3 cf. Micah 3:1). “The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight” (Isa. 40:3).
The larger question arises, “How can the heart prepare itself for the King, especially if the heart has lived apart from the Lord?”
Some people have lived life as atheists. Perhaps the most famous atheist of the 19th century was Robert Ingersoll. Ingersoll made a living giving lectures which ridiculed the Bible in general and Christianity in particular.
In the 20th century, Madame O’Hara was a well known atheist. In the 1960, she used her son William as a religious and political pawn, to create more of a separation between church and state, as she was able to stop mandatory Bible verse recitation in the public schools in the United States. This ruling was given in 1963 in the case, Abington School District v. Schempp. Prayer in schools other than Bible-readings had already been ended on June 25, 1962 by the Court’s ruling in Engel v. Vitale.
By the grace of God, William has come to faith in Christ, while mom still lives her life as an atheist. And yet, the gospel message calls upon her to prepare to meet the coming King.
While there are those who live life as an atheist, others live the life of an agnostic. The agnostic is not sure if there is a God, and insists that no-one else can know for certain either.
Charles Bradlaugh (1833 – 1891) was an agnostic who attracted attention by attacking the Christian faith. One night after speaking, he opened the session for comments, and made a bold invitation. “If there is any Christian who would like to come to the platform and say a word in defense of the Christian religion, he has the opportunity.” No one moved except one lady, who walked with feeble but determined steps toward the stand.
“I am a woman to speak,” she began, “for I know something.” Then she told her story. “Fifty years ago I was left a widow with three children. I had not a penny in the world, but I believed in God as my Father, and in Jesus Christ as my Saviour. I committed my life to His care. I have, by His blessed help, reared all my children, and all are today in positions of trust. Soon, I shall leave this world, and I know my Lord is waiting to meet me on the shores of eternity. I know what my religion has done for me. What has your agnosticism done for you?”
As atheism, and agnosticism, has done nothing to elevate individuals or prepare hearts for heaven, neither has religion, without righteousness.
There are those who profess to have respect for the Bible, for the Church, and for holy things, but they have no personal involvement.
Someday, they hope to return to church.
Someday, they hope to have faith. Someday, they will do what is right, but not now. To those who are atheistic, to those who are agnostic, to those who are religious, but not righteous, the voice of John cries out afresh, “Prepare ye the way of the Lord.”
Preparation for the Lord can be done, in part, by seriously considering the case for Christianity.
There are several reasons for accepting the gospel concerning Jesus Christ.
The first reason for accepting Christianity is because of the claims of its Founder. In particular Jesus Christ claimed to be very God of very God. Others, like John the Baptist, claimed to be sent from God, but Jesus said, “I am God.” He did not say it once, or twice, but repeated this assertion throughout His ministry. In John 8 the record is provided of a conversation that Christ had with the Jews. Claiming to be God, the Jews picked up stones to kill Him for such blasphemy, but Jesus, “passing through the midst of them, and so passed by” (John 8:51, 53,56-59).
There are only three responses to the claims of Christ to be God. Jesus is a liar, He is a lunatic, or He is Lord of lords. It will not do to say that Jesus was a good moral teacher, but not God. Jesus could not be a good moral teacher if He was lying about the most important point of His ministry.
In 1943, C.S. Lewis recognized this, and wrote these words in his book, Mere Christianity. “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: “I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.” That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg—or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son Of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him Up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”
The second reason a person should accept Christianity is because of the reliability of its book, the Bible. Written over a period of 1500 years, on three continents, in three languages, by more than forty authors, the Bible remains the most unique book on earth. It tells the story of mankind from creation to eternity.
The Bible claims to be from God. “Thus saith the Lord,” is a constant quote. And there is compelling evidence that the Bible is from the Lord in the form of prophecy.
There are many prophecies that were recorded years before their fulfillment, concerning individuals, nations, and most of all, the Messiah.
What this means, is that the Bible cannot be dismissed as hard to understand or mythology. The truth of the matter, is that most of the Bible is rather easy to understand.
It was Abraham Lincoln who said that it was not the parts of the Bible that he could not understand that bothered him, it was the parts that he did understand which bothered him.
Many people are pleasantly surprised to discover that the Bible still speaks about relative issues: family, life, death, love, marriage, mental health, and how to live with God forever.
A third reason to accept Christianity is because it offers an explanation for life. All religious systems try to explain the significance of life, its meaning, and the role of death, but none can come close to the Christian belief, which teaches that,”The chief end of man is to know God, and to enjoy Him forever.”
Many of the people that we live with are lost. They do not know who they are, where they came from, or where they are going. They need an answer to the basic questions of life.
Christianity offers that explanation. We were made for God, and our hearts will be restless until we return to Him.
The story is told of an elderly gentleman who was out walking with his young grandson. “How far are we from home?” the child was asked.
The boy answered, “Grandpa, I don’t know.”
The grandfather asked another question, “Well, where are you?’ Again, the boy answer, “I don’t know.” Then the grandfather said with some humor, “Sounds to me as if you are lost.” The young boy looked up at his grandfather and said, rather wisely, “Nope, I can’t be lost. I’m with you.” Ultimately, that is the answer to our lost-ness, too. We can’t be lost if God is with us.
A fourth reason for accepting Christianity is its continuity with the past. In Genesis we read of the original creation, and the loss of all, while in the book of the Revelation we read of the restoration of everything. In the center of time, the link between the past and the future is Jesus Christ.
There is a fourth reason to accept Christianity and that is its foundational doctrine of the resurrection. The Christian religion is established, or disproved, in the answer to one question: “Who moved the stone?”
If men moved the stone to steal the crucified body of Jesus out of the grave, and rebury Him elsewhere, then Christianity is false.
But if the angels moved the stone to let the world see an empty tomb, then Christianity is to be accepted. We know that the disciples were in no mental, or physical condition, to move the stone, so who did?
The fifth reason for accepting Christianity is the disciples themselves. The disciples had to be convinced, against their wills, as it were, that Jesus was alive. But once convinced they gave their lives for the Lord (Foxes Book of Martyrs).
The sixth reason to accept Christianity is the power of the gospel to change lives. Sometimes people wonder if the gospel works. Don Shelby believes it does, and wrote these helpful words: “When we tell ourselves “I can never change,” or “That will never happen,” we presume too much and believe too little.
In Jesus Christ, God renders all of our final conclusions premature and all of our talk of determinism, as simply bad faith.
In Christ, God opens closed doors, brings resurrection, reveals possibilities, reclaims the lost, liberates the cursed and possessed, and changes the unchangeable.
The fact that the gospel has withstood the test of time is another reason to accept Christianity. Cults come and go. False messengers are ultimately exposed. But the gospel lives on.
The majesty of its message is a ninth reason to accept Christianity—it is the greatest story ever told. It is the story of a Savior’s sacrificial love.
A little boy was told by his doctor that he could save his sister’s life by giving her some blood.
The six year old girl was near death, a victim of disease from which her brother had made a marvelous recovery two years earlier. Her only chance for restoration was a blood transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the illness.
Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was the ideal donor. “Would you like to give your blood?” the doctor asked. The young child hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled bravely, and said,
“Sure, I’ll give my blood for my sister.” Soon, the two children were wheeled into the operating room—the girl was pale and thin, and her brother, robust, and the picture of health. Neither spoke, but when their eyes met, the boy smiled. As his blood was siphoned into the veins of his sister, there was a dramatic and obvious change.
The ordeal was almost over when the boy asked the question that broke the silence. “Doctor,” he asked, “when do I die?” It was only then that the doctor realized what the earlier moment of hesitation meant.
There had been some misunderstanding. The boy actually thought that in giving his blood to his sister, he was giving up his life! And in that moment, he made his great decision.
Long ago, in heaven, there was a great decision made. And there was no misunderstanding when Jesus Christ asked, “Father, when do I die?” In the fullness of time He came to pour out His blood at Calvary so that others might live, for, “without the shedding of blood, there is no forgiveness of sins.”
Here is the glory and grace of the gospel. Heaven, have you ever heard such a lovely story? Sun, moon, and stars, bow down and listen, the Creator shall die for His creation. From one end of the universe to the other, let the news go forth of the greatest story ever told.
Finally, the simplicity of its message is an excellent reason to accept Christianity. All other religions in the world demand a system of good works for salvation.
Christianity teaches that good works will not save. Rather, Christ is the object of true saving faith. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall be saved” is the central, and the simple truth of the gospel.
As we come to understand the gospel, let us share it with others. And let us exhort others to prepare their hearts for the coming King, by considering the claims of Christianity.