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STUDIES IN CONTRASTS: THE DOCTRINE OF CHRIST

Written by: De Haan, Richard    Posted on: 05/12/2003

Category: Bible Studies

Source: CCN

              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 contrasting truths.

    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.     15:3-8).

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.     16:2).

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).

Explanation

    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 law today.

    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 evidence.

    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 same time.

    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. 8:16,17).

Resolution

    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.

Application

*    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 for us?

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.     5:8,9).

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;     Heb. 2:14,15).

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;     17:1).

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     12:24,32,33).

Explanation

    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).

Resolution

    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.

Application

*    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     our salvation.



                  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 to America.

    This man's Christianity caused conflict and division in his relationships.  Is this what Jesus promised?  Didn't He come to bring peace?

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     (Matt. 5:44).

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).

Explanation

    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 circumstances.

    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).

Resolution

    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.

Application

*    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.     1:8).

3.  He is referred to as Lord, like the Father (Joel 2:32; Rom. 10:13;     Heb. 1:10-12).

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     5:18).

6.  He stated His equality with the Father:  "I and My Father are one"     (John 10:30-39).

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.     40:28-31).

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-     7).

8.  Jesus' right to judge mankind was given to Him by the Father (John     5:22,23).

Explanation

    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).

Resolution

    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.

Application

*    We must honor Jesus Christ as God, recognizing that He is equal with     the Father.

*    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 to say.

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     (Rom. 8:29).

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     into eternity.

          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     Exodus 3:14.

          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.

    Resolution

          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.

    Application

    *    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 cross?

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).

Explanation

    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.

Resolution

    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 transgressions.

Application

*    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.     5:10).



                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     One

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