STUDIES IN CONTRASTS: THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST
Written by: De Haan, Richard Posted on: 05/12/2003
Category: Bible Studies
STUDIES IN CONTRASTS: THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST
The Bible contains many statements that on the surface seem to fight
one another. It tells us to be both happy and sad, agressive and meek,
dependent and independent, peaceful and warlike.
Why is this? Partly because the Bible equips us to respond in
different ways to ever-changing circumstances and needs. In Ecclesiastes
3:1-4, Solomon wrote:
To everything there is a season, A time for every purpose under
heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; A time to plant,
and a time to pluck...; A time to kill, and a time to heal; A
time to break down, and a time to build up; A time to weep, and a
time to laugh; A time to mourn, and a time to dance.
Solomon went on to say, "(God) has made everything beautiful in its time"
(Eccl. 3:11). It's for good reason that the Bible encourages us to break
down and to build up, to laugh and to cry, to heal and to kill. The
challenge of spiritual maturity is to understand how to respond to these
RBC senior research editor Herb Vander Lugt has written this booklet
to show how contrasting bibilical ideas contribute to a more complete
knowledge of the doctrine of Christ. It is our prayer that through these
pages you will gain a better understanding of the life-changing truths of
the "whole counsel of God" (Acts 20:27).
THE RESURRECTION IS A MATTER OF : REASON / FAITH
Many well-educated Christian leaders set forth in great detail the
historical and logical evidence for Christ's resurrection, believing that
it has great apologetic value. But other Christian scholars, equally
convinced that Jesus conquered death, see little value in this evidence.
They insist that we must accept the biblical teaching about Christ's
resurrection by faith alone. Which view is correct? Can both be right?
The Resurrection is a Matter of Reason
1. Christ's resurrection is a well-supported, historical event reported
by contemporaries of Christ and is preserved as a matter of historical
record in thousands of good manuscript copies (see Luke 1:1-4; 1 Cor.
2. The changed lives of the apostles is a powerful evidence of their
belief that Jesus truly conquered death (Acts 2:14-40; 3:11-4:21; cp.
John 18:15-18, 25-27).
3. The church was founded in the first century on the message of the
resurrection (Acts 2:22-36; 3:13-15; 4:8-10).
4. Sunday, the day of our Lord's resurrection, replaced the Jewish
Sabbath as the day of worship well before AD 100 (Acts 20:7; 1 Cor.
5. Paul used logic to argue that the ressurection of Christ from the dead
is essential to Christianity. He said that without it the gospel
message would be a lie, he would be a liar, and Christians would be
deceived and without hope (1 Cor. 15:12-19).
The Resurrection is a Matter of Faith
1. Historical events by their very nature cannot be laboratory-tested and
therefore cannot be viewed as scientifically provable.
2. The resurrection of a dead person is so contrary to scientific laws
that believing in it, no matter how great the historical evidence,
requires a step of faith.
3. Faith, which God demands as the condition for salvation, requires
trusting what the Word of God says about that which cannot be seen
(Rom. 8:24,25; Heb 11:1,6).
In Peter's sermon to the assembled Jews just 50 days after Christ's
resurrection, he could declare that all the apostles were witnesses to the
fact that they saw their resurrected Savior. Luke, the author of Acts,
reported these words and went to great lengths to make sure that he was
giving an accurate report of what happened (Luke 1:1-4; Acts 1:1-3). Even
liberal scholars believe that Paul wrote 1 Corinthians only 35 years after
the resurrection. And in 1 Corinthians 15:1-11 he could affirm the
historicity of the resurrection of Christ without fear of rebuttal, because
many people who had seen the resurrected Christ were still alive and could
testify that they had seen Him. This is first-hand testimony to the fact
of the resurrection, the kind of evidence that is acceptable in a court of
This historical evidence possesses real value. It shows us that God
does not expect us to take a blind, irrational leap of faith. However, we
must realize that all this evidence and logic does not provide scientific
proof. The non-Christian is not forced to believe in the resurrection in
the same way he must believe in something that is proven through laboratory
The New Testament writers, though affirming the fact of the
resurrection, also emphasized the need for faith. Paul declared that our
hope involves fiath. If it were an expectation based on scientific proof,
it would no longer be hope (Rom. 8:24,25). Moreover, the writer of
Hebrews, though affirming the historical validity of the gospel, declared
that we take a step of faith when we believe in God (11:6).
We do not face a problem of choosing between belief and reason. Nor
is it a matter of using reason as far as it will take us and then taking a
leap of faith. Rather it is using our minds and exercising faith at the
F. F. Bruce points out that believing in the resurrected Christ,
though involving our thought processes, is at heart a moral decision.
Certainty comes when the Holy Spirit witnesses with our spirit (Rom.
We can be encouraged by the solit evidence that supports the
historicity of Christ's resurrection. Yet belief in it calls for the
exercise of faith--a reasonable faith to be sure but faith nonetheless.
* We should be able to give those to whom we witness good evidence for
our belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ (1 Pet. 3:15).
* Because we cannot prove the resurrection by empirical evidence, we
must urge poeple to take a reasonable step of faith.
* We must walk in obedience and continual dependence on the Holy Spirit
so that we can enjoy the certainty of faith that comes through His
inner witness (Rom. 8:16,17).
CHRIST CAME TO: LIVE FOR US / DIE FOR US
Popular books and movies about Christ tend to emphasize His exemplary
life, but they portray His death as untimely and unfortunate. In sharp
contrast, many conservative Christians say very little about Christ's life
and teachings. Instead they focus primarily on the cross and the empty
tomb. Whis is it: Did Christ come to live for us, or did He come to die
Christ Came to Live for Us.
1. By living as God among men, He showed us what God is like (John 14:9).
2. By living out the human experience, He showed us how God wants us to
live (1 John 2:6).
3. By living an unembittered, unretaliating, uncomplaining life even in
the face of suffering and death, He showed us how to endure the
problems of life (1 Pet. 2:21-23).
4. By living a perfect life, He was qualified to be our Savior (Heb.
5. By living obediently in the face of temptation, He showed us how to
overcome evil (Matt. 4:1-11; Heb. 2:18; 4:15).
Christ Came to Die for Us.
1. His death on the cross was predicted in the Old Testament as His
central mission (Ps. 22; Is. 52:13-15; Is. 53).
2. His death on the cross was the means by which He became our Savior,
fulfilling the message of the angel to the virgin Mary (Matt. 1:21;
3. His death on the cross was announced by John the Baptist at the
beginning of His ministry when John declared, "Behold! The Lamb of
God who takes away the sin of the world" (John 1:29).
4. His impending death on the cross was in His mind from the very
beginning of His public ministry as "the hour" for which He had come
into this world (John 2:19-22; 10:11, 17, 18; 12:23,27; 13:1; 16:32;
5. His death on the cross was just as necessary for the salvation of
sinners as the death of a seed is to produce a plant (John
Yes, Jesus Christ lived for us. He did so for a little more than 30
years to reveal God and to show us how to live. He told Philip that all
who had observed Him had seen the Father (Joh 14:9). John gives us the
standard for our lives, saying that we should "walk as He walked" (1 John
2:6). And Peter told us that Jesus showed us how to suffer unjust
treatment (1 Pet. 2:21).
However, it is also true that He came to die for us. At the very
beginning of Christ's ministry, John the Baptist referred to Him as the
"Lamb of God"--an allusion to His coming death as a Lamb. The Old
Testament writers predicted His death as a sacrifice for sinners (Ps. 22;
Is. 52,53). Jesus declared Himself to be the good Shepherd who would give
His life for the sheep. And Paul announced the reason for His death:
"Christ died for our sins" (1 Cor. 15:3); that is, to pay the penalty we
all deserve at the hand of a holy God (Rom. 6:23).
As you can see, the Bible teaches that Christ came both to live for us
and to die for us. Neither His life without His death nor His death
without His life would be adequate for our complete salvation.
* We must recognice that our salvation is entirely a gift of God, earned
for us by the substitutionary life and death of Jesus Christ.
* We must earnestly seek to follow the example of Jesus Christ, being
satisfied with nothing less than a perfect life.
* We must view our good conduct as a means of glorifying God and
expressing our thanks to Him, but never as a means of contributing to
CHRIST CAME TO BRING: PEACE / DIVISION
An elderly American citizen who emigrated from the Ukraine as a young
man tells how he experienced severe conflict with his parents, relatives,
and acquaintances when he became a Christian.
He had grown up in the state church but turned to atheism because of
the hypocrisy of the clergy. When he began to proclaim his unbelief
zealously, his family was disturbed, but they didn't oppose him.
One day, however, his atheism was challenged by a Christian. After a
few weeks of daily meetings, he accepted Jesus Christ as his personal
Savior. He went home that evening to tell his parents what had happened,
thinking that they would be glad. Much to his surprise, his father became
so angry that he struck him on the head and ordered him to leave the house.
His family and acquaintances turned against him and his employer fired
him. Strangely, they preferred atheism to a vibrant faith in Christ. He
did odd jobs and continued to be persecuted until he found a way to escape
This man's Christianity caused conflict and division in his
relationships. Is this what Jesus promised? Didn't He come to bring
Christ Came to Bring Peace
1. Zacharias, before Christ's birth, prophesied that the Messiah would
"guide our feet into the way of peace" (Luke 1:78,79).
2. Christ laid the basis for peace between God and us through His death
on the cross (Rom. 5:1; Col 1:20).
3. Christ gives those who trust Him an inner peace far beyond anything
the world can offer (John 14:27).
4. Christ calls on us to follow His example--to be peacemakers (Matt.
5:9), to turn the other cheek (Matt. 5:39), and to love our enemies
Christ Came to Bring Division
1. Christ often brings a "sword" instead of "peace" into family
relationships, causing those who reject Him to hate those who believe
in Him (Matt. 10:34-36).
2. Christ said that those who followed Him would be hated by the world
because the world hated Him, and because His followers would not
belong to the world (John 15:18,19; 17:14).
3. Christ divides people into two groups--those who receive Him and those
who do not (John 1:11-13).
4. Christ will bring about an eternal separation of those who believe in
Him from those who do not believe (John 5:28,29).
By his atoning sacrifice on the cross, Christ paid the price for sin
and made it possible for sinners to be at peace with a holy God (Col.
1:19,20). Jesus also gives believers who are trusting in Him the peace of
God (John 14:27). This inner peace of God is the absence of spiritual
unrest and the assurance of His loving presence in the midst of all
Yes, Jesus also said, "I did not come to bring peace but a sword"
(Matt. 10:34). He then specified that belief in Him would divide family
relationships (v.35) and even create enemies of family members (v.36).
People who reject Christ often hate those who accept Him because they are
offended by their testimony and conduct (John 17:14).
Jesus Christ made it possible for us to be at peace with God and to
have the inner peace of God. But following Him puts us at odds with those
who reject Christ's rule over their lives, causing division and conflict.
* We should be thankful for the inner peace God gives us and do our best
to promote a peaceful relationship between ourselves and others--both
saved and unsaved.
* We must not expect complete freedom from conflict with the unspiritual
or unsaved. A close walk with the Lord puts us at odds with those who
are disobedient and rebellious.
* We must be willing to endure hatred and pray for those who persecute
us (Matt. 5:44).
JESUS CHRIST WAS: EQUAL TO THE FATHER / LESS THAN THE FATHER
The old man was respectful toward the young woman who was telling him
about her faith in Christ. He knew quite a bit about the Bible and viewed
Jesus as more than a great teacher. But he said, "I can't believe that He
is God. There can be only one truly supreme Being. Even Jesus said that
He wasn't as great as His Father."
The young woman was quite unprepared for this response. She had
always believed in Jesus' deity and equality with the Father. But now she
was confronted with the fact that some Bible passages affirm His equality
with the Father while other seem to treat Him as less.
Jesus Christ was Equal to the Father
1. He is eternal, like the Father. He is called "Everlasting Father"
(Is. 9:6), and the unchanging "I AM" (John 8:58).
2. He is called God, like the Father (John 1:1; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Heb.
3. He is referred to as Lord, like the Father (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13;
4. He is portrayed as the Creator of all things, like the Father (Col.
1:16; Heb. 1:10; cp. Gen 1:1,26).
5. He declared Himself to be the Son of God, using a term that His
contemporaries understood as a claim to equality with the Father (John
6. He stated His equality with the Father: "I and My Father are one"
7. he revealed an authority that made Him equal to the Father when He
forgave sins (Matt. 9:1-8).
Jesus Christ was Less than the Father
1. Jesus declared, "My Father is greater than I" (John 14:28).
2. Jesus grew in wisdom (Luke 2:52); the Father has always knows
everything (Ps. 147:5).
3. Jesus became tired (John 4:6); the Father never grows weary (Is.
4. Jesus said He didn't know the day nor the hour of His return; the
Father did (Matt. 24:36).
5. Jesus said, "I can of Myself do nothing". (John 5:30), affirming His
dependence on the Father.
6. Jesus often felt the need to pray to His Father (Matt. 14:23; 26:36;
Luke 6:12; John 14:16).
7. Jesus subjected Himself to His Father's will (Matt. 26:39; Heb. 10:5-
8. Jesus' right to judge mankind was given to Him by the Father (John
The Bible strongly affirms Christ's essential equality with the
Father. John 1:1 explicitly declares, "The Word was God." To be God, He
had to be without any limitations--eternal, all-powerful, all-knowing,
everywhere present. Moreover, Jesus identified Himself as the great "I AM"
of Exodus 3:14, declaring that He had existed from all eternity before
Abraham came into being (John 8:58). The writer of Hebrews identified Him
as God, whose "throne is forever and ever" (Heb. 1:8). Logic demands that
all three persons in the Trinity be co-equal and co-eternal.
While on earth in His humanity, however, Jesus "grew in wisdom" (Luke
2:52), expressed His dependence on the Father (John 5:30), and declared His
Father to be greater than He (John 14:28). He said these things because,
in becomming a human being, He had voluntarily let go of the rights,
powers, and honors that were His as God. He did this so that He could be
completely human--enduring temptation, suffering, and even dying a painful
and shameful death. He so fully identified with us that He actually
depended on the Holy Spirit to perform miracles (Matt. 12:28) and offered
Himself as a sacrifice on Calvery through the "eternal Spirit" (Heb. 9:14).
But all the while He remained God.
In heaven today, Jesus Christ possesses a glorified human body (Acts
1:9-11; 2:29-33; Heb. 10:12,13). He is still God and man in one person
(Col. 1:15-20; Heb. 1:1-12). However, He is no longer in the state of
humiliation, as He was when He lived on earth. In His body He can be in
only one place at one time, but in the unity of the Trinity with the Father
and the Holy Spirit, He is present everywhere (Matt. 28:19,20).
Since Jesus is God, He is equal to the Father. But in becoming a
member of the human family, He temporarily laid aside the independent
exercise of His divine rights and powers.
* We must honor Jesus Christ as God, recognizing that He is equal with
* We must humbly asknowledge the great mystery that the eternal second
person of the Trinity lives in a glorified human body.
* We can rejoice in the assurance that though we will always be finite
creatures, we will someday receive glorified bodies and be like Jesus
(1 John 3:1-3).
CHRIST IS: FIRSTBORN / ETERNAL
Susan, a churchgoing young mother, had been taught to believe that
Jesus Christ is God. But two members of a large religious group going from
house to house challenged her concept of Jesus Christ. "The Bible says
that He is the firstborn over all creation", they stated. "How then can He
be God if He is not eternal?" They also pointed out that the Bible calls
Jesus "the only begotten Son". Susan was perplexed. She didn't know what
Christ is Firstborn and Begotten
1. He became God's Son on a certain day (Ps. 2:7).
2. He is the firstborn of a large family with many brothers and sisters
3. He has the position of the oldest son in a family (Col. 1:15).
4. He is "the only begotten Son" (John 1:14,18; 3:16,17; 1 John 4:9).
Christ is Eternal
1. Isaiah gave Him the name "Everlasting Father" (Is. 9:6).
2. Micah prophesied that the origins of the coming Messiah would be
rooted in eternity (Mic. 5:2).
3. Jesus claimed to have existed from eternity as the second person of
the Trinity. In Isaiah 9:6, He is given the name "Everlasting
Father", which means that He is an eternal being. Micah 5:2 declares
that "His goings" (that is, His origin) reach back through all time
Jesus declared, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham
was, I AM" (John 8:58). The expression I AM indicates His
timelessness and identifies Him as the eternal, unchanging Yahweh of
The words begotten and firstborn do not deny Christ's eternal
existence. The declaration, "You are My Son; today I have begotten
You" (Ps. 2:7), is based on God's promise to David in 2 Samuel 7:14.
These words were spoken as a part of the coronation ritual for the
kings in the Davidic line. In the New Testament, they are linked to
Christ's right to rule--as evidenced by His resurrection (Acts
13:33,34; Rom. 1:4; Heb. 1:5,8; 5:5).
The expression only begotten in John 1:14 is the translation of
the Greek monogenes, from the root genes which means "kind" or
"class". The word begotten should not appear in the translation of
this verse. Jesus Christ is "in a class by Himself," "the only one of
His kind," "unique." He is unique in that He, though appearing in
human form, existed from all eternity.
The expression firstborn in Colossians 1:15 (also Rom. 8:29 and
Heb. 1:6) refers to His place of preeminence as the God-man. He
possesses and exercises the rights of a firstborn son.
As the second person or the Trinity, Jesus Christ existed from
eternity, but His existence as a human being began when He was born of
Mary. The terms firstborn and only begotten relate to His God-man
role and status.
* All who reject the absolute deity and full humanity of Jesus
Christ are distorting the message of the Bible.
* All who believe on Jesus Christ as God-man and Savior should
honor Him and make Him their Lord.
CHRIST PAID FOR OUR SINS / WE PRAY FOR OUR SINS
Ralph, a wealthy Christian businessman, became romantically involved
with his secretary. He often took her to lunch and gave her expensive
presents. Mary enjoyed these favors, soothing her conscience by telling
herself that she was being unjustly cheated of the better life because of
the small salary her husband made as a Christian worker. Ignoring the
warnings of their church leaders, Ralph and Mary divorced their mates and
married each other.
Within 2 years, Ralph developed physical problems. He cries when he
talks about what he did, and says he remembers the warning of a friend who
told him he would suffer consequences for his sin. But he had gone ahead,
confident that all the punishment for his sins had been paid for by Christ.
His new wife is also quite unhappy. The things money can buy don't
produce the pleasure she expected from them. She feels trapped - caring
for a sick man she doesn't really love.
Are both of these people paying for their sin? If so, how does this
square with the idea that Jesus Christ paid for all of our sins on the
Christ Paid For Our Sins
1. Christ died to take away our sin (John 1:29) and to release us from
condemnation (Rom. 8:1).
2. Christ's death is the basis on which our sins are paid for, once and
for all (Heb. 9:25-28; 10:10-18), and through which we are given a
completely new standing before God (Rom. 4:25).
3. Christ's blood was shed so that our sins could be forgiven and not
held against us (Matt. 26:28; Rom. 3:21-26; 5:6-11).
4. Christ's death makes it possible for us to stand before God as "holy,
and blameless" (Col. 1:21,22).
We Pay For Our Sins
1. Moses paid for his sin of anger and disobedience by being forbidden to
enter the Promised Land (Deut. 32:48-52; 34:1-12).
2. The Bible warns both believers and unbelievers that sin has bad
consequences (Gal. 6:7,8).
3. Careless observance of the Lord's Supper was the cause for sickness
and death among the believers in Corinth (1 Cor. 11:27-30).
4. People who have been forgiven through faith in Christ will still stand
before Him for judgement (2 Cor. 5:10).
The full penalty for all our sins has been paid by Christ. Hebrews
9:27,28 tells us that just as Christ was once sacrificed to bear the sins
of many (all who trust Him), He will return to complete the salvation of
those who look for Him. Paul, in Colossians 1:20-22, declared that Christ
amde peace between sinners and God through His death on the cross. This
truth is reiterated throughout the Scriptures.
Christ met the full requirements of God's just anger against sin.
Therefore, God can forgive and accept us without violating His holy nature.
At the moment we place our faith in Christ, God as our Judge declares us
righteous and accepts us into His family. The forgiveness of 1 John 1:9
relates to our new relationship with God. As our Father, He removes our
daily sins so that they will not be barriers to our fellowship with Him.
Yes, Christ died for our sins. But Paul warned believers against
fooling themselves into thinking they can sin with impunity. He siad that
we will reap what we sow (Gal. 6:7).
God may allow sin to work out its natural consequences - a broken
home, venereal disease, financial difficulty, a diseased liver - in the
life of a Christian. Furthermore, He will chasten us like an earthly
father does a disobedient child (Heb. 12:6).
In some cases, for example, He will bring pain, distress, or even
physical death (1 Cor. 11:30-32) to a Christain who refuses to turn away
from a sinful lifestyle.
Ultimately, He will deal with unconfessed and unforsaken sin at the
judgment seat of Christ. Every Christian will stand there to "receive the
things done in the body,...whether good or bad" (2 Cor. 5:10). But this
will not be punishment. Rather, it will be an evaluation of the quality of
our lives for the purpose of determining rewards.
God as Judge views us a guiltless because Jesus Christ has paid the
full penalty for our sins. but as righteous Father He chastens us when we
are disobedient and lets us reap the natural consequences of our
* When we as believers fall (through deliberate transgressions) or fall
(through weakness), we need not despair and think we will be condemned
to hell. Christ Jesus paid the complete price for all our sins --
past, present, and future.
* We mock God and will reap sad consequences if we presume on His grace
by living sinful lifestyles (see Gal 6:7,8).
* We must always bear in mind that Christ knows our every thought, hears
our every word, and observes our every deed, and that the quality of
our lives will be evaluated at the judgement seat of Christ (2 Cor.
JESUS CHRIST: IS / IS NOT GOD'S ONLY SON
Jesus Christ is the only Son of God. This has been the teaching of
Christians down through the centuries. "Not so," say many people. "The
Bible often refers to angels and people as the sons of God." Some point to
Paul's statement in Acts 17:28 where he, speaking to pagan philosophers,
approvingly quoted one of their own writers who said, "For we are also His
offspring." Since angels and people are called sons of God, how can it be
said that Jesus Christ is the only Son of God?
Jesus Christ is God's Only Son
1. He is specifically referred to as the "only " Son (John 1:18,
3:16,18; 1 John 4:9).
2. He is unique in His sonship in that He alone is the Son who is the
"brightness" of God's glory, the "express image" of God's person, the
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