Belief of our Fathers: Jesus Christ (Chapter 2)
January 1, 2019
This continues a study on the beliefs of our forefathers, based largely on the Dordrecht Confession of Faith from 1632. This section tells about Christology, or the study of Jesus Christ.
To read other chapters in this series on the Beliefs of our Forefathers, click below:
He saith unto them, But whom say ye that I am? And Simon Peter answered and said, Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered and said unto him, Blessed art thou, Simon Barjona: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father which is in heaven. (Matthew 16:15–17)
The study of the person and nature of Jesus Christ is called Christology. Christology answers the question: Who is Jesus Christ? It is not sufficient just to know about Jesus. James 2:19 tells us that the devils also believe, and tremble.
Of all the religions throughout the world, Christianity stands out as the only one whose God is a living God. All other religions worship or lift up men who have died, or they worship an idol who has never lived. Even though Jesus Christ had died, death was unable to hold Him in the grave. No other religious leader in this world possessed the power to rise from the dead or the power to forgive sin and erase guilt. Personally knowing Jesus Christ is essential to your relationship with God the Father. It will also influence your understanding of the Holy Scriptures, of salvation, of the world around us, and of yourself.
What the Anabaptists Teach
On April 21, 1632, in Dordrecht, Holland, leaders at a Dutch Mennonite conference adopted the Dordrecht Confession of Faith. It contains eighteen articles of faith stating what the Anabaptists believe about major doctrines of the Bible. Following are a few excerpts that speak about the person of Jesus Christ.
There is “one eternal, almighty, and incomprehensible [too wonderful to understand] God, the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and in none more, nor in any other; before whom no God was made or existed, nor shall there be any after Him. . . . He is the Creator of all things visible and invisible.”
The belief that with God “there was yet a means for their reconciliation [making peace], namely, the immaculate [unblemished] Lamb, the Son of God, who had been foreordained [planned before] thereto before the foundation of the world . . . that He by His coming, would redeem [buy back], liberate, and raise the fallen race of man from their sin, guilt, and unrighteousness.”
Regarding the coming of Christ into this world and His purpose we find that “the Word Himself became flesh and man; that He was conceived in the virgin Mary, who was espoused [engaged] to a man named Joseph, of the house of David; and that she brought Him forth as her firstborn son, at Bethlehem, wrapped Him in swaddling clothes, and laid Him in a manger.”
He is “God’s only, first and own Son; who was before John the Baptist, before Abraham, before the world; yea, who was David’s Lord, and God of the whole world, the first-born of every creature; who was brought into the world, and to whom a body was prepared, which He yielded up as a sacrifice and offering, for a sweet savor unto God, yea, for the consolation, redemption, and salvation of all mankind. . . . He is the Son of the living God, in whom alone consist all our hope, consolation, redemption, and salvation, which we neither may nor must seek in any other. . . . [Jesus] was crucified, dead, was buried, and, on the third day, rose from the dead and ascended to heaven; and that He sits on the right hand of God the Majesty on high, whence He will come again to judge the quick [living] and the dead.”
Martyrs Mirror First Confession
Another Anabaptist writing held in very high regard is the Martyrs Mirror. This book contains many stories and incidents regarding persecution from the time of Jesus until 1660. Also in this book are some of the Anabaptist confessions of faith including the Dordrecht Confession. A few other confessions of faith are listed that were prior to the one at Dordrecht. The First Confession was “drawn up at Amsterdam” on September 27, 1627, and is called “Scriptural Instruction.” The Second Confession, called “Confession of Faith, and the principal articles of the Christian doctrine,” is from October 7, 1630. Consider this excerpt taken from the First Confession:
“For although the blessed Lord Jesus Christ is the only meritorious [deserving] cause of the justification of man, their adoption by God as His children, and the foundation of their eternal salvation, God, the heavenly Father, of whom all things are, and who is the true Father of the whole family in heaven and earth, has nevertheless been pleased to impute [credit] the merits of His Son Jesus Christ to man, and make him partaker of the same, through the means of faith in His beloved, only, and only-begotten Son; whereby He owns them as children, and adopts them as heirs of everlasting life, according to the testimony of John, who says: ‘He’ (that is, Christ) ‘came unto his own, and his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God’ (John 1:11–13).”
In both the Dordrecht Confession of Faith and Martyrs Mirror, the statements regarding the person and work of Jesus Christ are accurate. The problem arises not so much in what is written, but in our understanding of what is written. It is important that our relationship with Him becomes much more than a distant association with a figure from the Bible who was written about by others.
The above statements tell us that our eternal destiny, heaven or hell, rests solely in and on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Do we really believe what we say we believe?
Some important points to notice:
First, according to the articles of faith, Jesus Christ is the Son of the living God, in whom alone rests all our hope of salvation. We must know Jesus.
The second point is taken from the First Confession. Jesus Christ is the only deserving cause of justification. It is His righteousness that is imputed to us, but it comes only by knowing and accepting Him and the finished work on the cross. It is the free gift of grace.
Often what we say we believe is not demonstrated by the way we live. This is the difference between knowing about Jesus and entering into a personal relationship with the living Savior. Knowing about Jesus amounts to facts we learn about a historical figure. This type of knowledge doesn’t always change our lives. Knowing Jesus moves Him from our head to our hearts and dramatically impacts our lives.
The holy Word of God is very clear regarding the full identity of Jesus Christ and the importance of knowing Him. While articles of faith and other religious documents offer much good information, God’s Word is the only truth that has not been distorted by the corruption of the fallen man as recorded in Genesis 3.
What the Scriptures Teach
Jesus Christ as the second Person of the Trinity—the Son of God.
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. (John 1:1–2)
God the Son, as part of the Trinity, has always existed, just as the Father and the Holy Spirit have. As part of the Godhead (the Trinity), Jesus is the eternal Son of God. He always was and always will be. For in him dwelleth all the fulness of the Godhead bodily (Colossians 2:9). He is the revelation of God. No one has seen God at any time and lived (John 1:18; Exodus 33:20). God has never shown Himself without being veiled. In Christ, God was veiled in human flesh.
While on earth, Jesus spoke often about His preexistence, saying things like, Before Abraham was, I am (John 8:58). On His last evening with His disciples before going to the cross, He said, And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was (John 17:5). Even John the Baptist bore witness of him, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me (John 1:15). John wrote, And I saw, and bare record that this is the Son of God (John 1:34).
Even before His human birth, Jesus enjoyed a father/son relationship with God the Father. John emphasized the importance of this relationship between God and His Son by restating that the Word was with God. God and Jesus, along with the Holy Spirit, are perfectly one in purpose, in power, and in character.
If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works (John 14:7–10).
This is similar to what a perfect marriage should look like, that while the husband and wife are separate human beings, they are so aligned and in communion that they are one unit. Take a look John 17, and you will see a beautiful, intimate prayer that the Son prayed to His Father, revealing their perfect relationship.
Jesus Christ Is Creator of the Universe
All things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made (John 1:3). For by him [Jesus] were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him (Colossians 1:16).
The truth of God’s Word leaves no question that the Father created all things through His Son. Not only was Jesus allowed to create all things, but the Father also gave Him authority over all things. Hebrews 1:1–3 says it this way: God, who at sundry times and in divers manners spake in time past unto the fathers by the prophets, hath in these last days spoken unto us by his Son, whom he hath appointed heir of all things, by whom also he made the worlds; Who being the brightness of his glory, and the express image of his person, and upholding all things by the word of his power, when he had by himself purged our sins, sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high.
The resurrected Jesus confirmed this fact before He ascended to heaven, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth (Matthew 28:18). He demonstrated this power over creation with His signs and miracles while on earth. He calmed a great wind storm, and the men marveled, saying, What manner of man is this, that even the winds and the sea obey him! (Matthew 8:27). Jesus even proved His authority over the spiritual world when He entered the country of the Gergesenes, where He cast demons out of a man. These demons recognized Jesus as the Son of God and knew He had authority over them. The demons cried out, saying, What have we to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of God? Art thou come hither to torment us before the time? (Matthew 8:29).
Jesus Was Born of God and Born of a Woman
The Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us (John 1:14). The “incarnation” is the word we use to describe the Son of God being made flesh in the body of Jesus. He is the [visible] image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1:15). Each born-again person becomes a son or daughter of God (John 1:12), but Jesus is the first Son, the only begotten of God, and has privileges over us. He is higher in rank. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name (Philippians 2:9).
Jesus’ mysterious and miraculous birth, which is humanly impossible to explain, was foretold from Genesis to the Gospels. Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, God with us (Matthew 1:23). Every prophecy of His birth came to pass exactly as the Father said it would. The virgin birth of Jesus Christ is not to be treated lightly. It proves His deity (that He is one with God) and His humanity (that He came as a man). This is yet another mystery we do not need to fully understand in order to believe.
The incarnation made it possible for man to see, touch, and experience God up close—at least for those who lived during His lifetime on earth. Jesus said in John 8:18–19, I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me . . . if ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also. We don’t need to see and touch Him to experience and know Him. Many who saw Jesus in that day still did not believe He was the Son of God (John 6:36), but blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed (John 20:29). He is God’s Word, and we can know Him personally by asking the Spirit to reveal Him to us as we read the Holy Scriptures.
Even though Jesus is one with God, He willingly submitted to the will and authority of His Father to function as the Son, saying, For I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me (John 6:38). His earthly parents had a hard time dealing with the fact that He was under the authority of His heavenly Father when, at a young age, He said, I must work the works of him that sent me (John 9:4). As a child, He submitted to the fifth commandment by obeying His parents (Luke 2:51), experiencing humanity in its fullest, with all its limitations. Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross (Philippians 2:6–8).
Can you imagine Jesus holding back His godly powers in order to identify with our humanity? Spiritually, He voluntarily became poor so that we could become rich with eternal life. For ye know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though he was rich, yet for your sakes he became poor, that ye through his poverty might be rich (2 Corinthians 8:9).
Jesus became a man and walked among us as a man. He experienced all the trials, temptations, and tribulations we experience in our daily lives. He overcame all of them without ever giving in to sin, and He was crucified on the cross as a sinful man. He obeyed every command laid out in the Old Testament law. He was the only perfect man to walk among us, but He died as one who had broken the law. He was a man who could be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15). He knows and understands our pain and helplessness. He suffered humanity in order to make us free from it.
Jesus Is Our Example
When the Bible says that Jesus is the firstborn of every creature (Colossians 1:15), it also means that He is the first man born who is the example of God’s purpose for man. Jesus showed us what a real man is—what Adam was created to be. Jesus was the only righteous person to ever walk this earth—the only human being able to keep the whole law. He was a leader, a guide to others, and a counselor. He had more wisdom than Solomon and He always told the truth, yet He made himself a servant of all. He showed us what could be done when we under the control of the Holy Spirit.
It is impossible to cover all the wonderful truths of Jesus Christ in this one chapter, yet as a man, Jesus demonstrated all the beauty and perfection of the Godhead, as listed in Galatians 5:22–23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance. This can be summed up into one word: love. God’s love is so powerful that it is considered the one quality Jesus said would prove to the world who His true disciples are. By this shall all men know that ye are my disciples, if ye have love one to another (John 13:35). His incarnation showed the image of God to mankind—what we were created to be but could not be without His Spirit within us.
Jesus Is the Redeemer of Mankind
His earthly name “Jesus” was a common name. It is the same as the Hebrew name “Joshua,” and its meaning, “God saves,” is very fitting. The word “redeem” means to buy back. By offering His own body on the cross, Jesus paid the sin debt of death for all mankind. That is why we can give thanks unto the Father, who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins (Colossians 1:12–14).
Jesus could never have accomplished man’s redemption if He had not been born into the human race. God’s law demanded a blood sacrifice to atone for the sins of mankind. Only as a perfect law keeper could He have satisfied God’s demand for redemption. As God, He is eternal and could not have been killed on the cross without a body of flesh and blood.
Jesus’ role as Redeemer was proved by His resurrection from the dead. The Father accepted Jesus’ death in our place. To the Jewish leaders, Peter said, The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom ye slew and hanged on a tree. Him hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel [and to us], and forgiveness of sins (Acts 5:30–31). The story of Ruth in the Bible is a beautiful picture of our redemption through Christ.
Jesus Is High Priest
Under the Old Testament law, God could only be approached by man through an animal sacrifice. The high priest’s job was to make atonement for the nation of Israel—first for themselves, then for the people. This atonement was good for only one year at a time. It had to be repeated year after year until the Son of God arrived. But this man [Jesus], because he continueth ever, hath an unchangeable priesthood . . . seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them. . . . Who needeth not daily . . . to offer up sacrifice, . . . for this he did once, when he offered up himself (Hebrews 7:24–25, 27).
Jesus did not need to atone for His own sin, and as the perfect Lamb of God, His sacrifice endures forever, leaving no further need for animal atonements. Under the New Testament, we are free to approach God without an animal sacrifice, because God the Father was satisfied with the atoning power of Christ’s sacrifice.
As High Priest, Jesus Christ is our mediator. He is a go-between to bring peace between two parties, as stated in 1 Timothy 2:5: For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus. As mediator, He is also our advocate. An advocate speaks on behalf of the people he represents. When Satan goes before God to condemn believers, as he did with Job, Jesus reminds him that He has atoned for their sin and has clothed them in His own righteousness, making them acceptable before God. He freed them from Satan’s power. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous (1 John 2:1).
Jesus Is Head of the Church
As head of the Church, Jesus is its authority. God hath put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church (Ephesians 1:22). Believers must follow His instructions for the purpose of the church and for Christian living, putting Jesus first in everything they do. For he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence [first place] (Colossians 1:18). Through Christ, God is glorified by the church. Unto him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus throughout all ages, world without end. (Ephesians 3:21). He is the living Savior and the object of the church’s worship. He loves the church as a man should love his wife. He gave His eternal life to the church. His desire is to find the church loyal to Him at His coming, as a chaste virgin.
Jesus Is King and Judge
The Bible talks about many kingdoms, such as God’s rule over all the earth, which Satan disrupted; His rule over the Jewish nation, which He had to set aside for the time being; His rule over the church; and His future earthly and heavenly rule: He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David; and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end (Luke 1:32–33).
Jesus spoke of this kingship before Pilate. Thou sayest that I am a king. To this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the world (John 18:37). Romans 8:34 says that after Christ rose from the dead, He went to sit at His kingly seat at the right hand of God, showing that Satan’s reign was overthrown—another purpose of the incarnation. Even his title, Messiah or Christ, is translated as “the anointed one,” referring to His kingship.
Christ’s restored kingdom over the earth will begin upon His return to earth. He will come again as a man in His glorified body. This same Jesus, which is taken up from you into heaven, shall so come in like manner as ye have seen him go into heaven (Acts 1:11). It will be fulfilled as it says in Revelation: I saw heaven opened, and behold a white horse; and he that sat upon him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness he doth judge and make war. . . . And he was clothed with a vesture dipped in blood: and his name is called The Word of God (Revelation 19:11, 13).
As king, Jesus will destroy His enemies and this earth with wars and judgments. As judge, He will judge whether the souls of men are loyal to Him by faith in the gospel, divide the tares from the wheat, and declare who will spend eternity in heaven and who in hell. Because he hath appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man [Jesus] whom he hath ordained; whereof he hath given assurance unto all men, in that he hath raised him from the dead (Acts 17:31). The resurrection of Jesus proves that the redemption of man was completed—the atonement was accepted—and that is what gives assurance to all believers that they will be raised to meet the Lord and received by God in the end. Hallelujah!
Without the virgin birth, Jesus would be just another man. Without His shed blood, we would still be separated forever from God the Father. Without the resurrection, Jesus would be dead, and His death would be useless to give us grace. Never before nor since in the history of our world has one man been able to cause such transformation in the lives of mankind. Of course, this is no earthly transformation. This is a supernatural change in the heart of each one who places his trust in Jesus Christ for salvation. Jesus is the only one able to give us real life, because He is the giver of life. Oh, may we have the same goal that the apostle Paul had in Philippians 3:10: that I may know him, and the power of his resurrection.
Father, we come before you with thankful hearts. Thank you for the amazing gift of eternal life through your Son, Jesus Christ. Thank you for opening the way to come before you in prayer through the body and blood of Jesus. As we read and study your Word, open our hearts to know Jesus in a personal way. Write your truths and the depth of your riches deep in our hearts. Help us in our unbelief. Father, grant us a spirit of wisdom and revelation in our knowledge of you and your Son, Jesus Christ. Open the eyes of our hearts so that we might know the hope of your calling and the glorious riches of our inheritance through your Son. Give us eyes to see the exceeding greatness of your power toward us and the working of your mighty power when you raised Jesus from the dead and seated Him at your right hand forever. Amen.
Do your beliefs line up with our Anabaptist forefathers?
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To read other chapters in this series on the Beliefs of our Forefathers, click below:
Chapter Two: Jesus Christ
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