Who Is the Christ?

Who is the Christ?

The obvious answer is Jesus.

But, as I wrote in my two previous posts, the New Testament seems to clearly provide a distinction between Jesus and the Christ based on its language. Further, while the gospels seem to be about Jesus because “Jesus” is the overwhelming focus of the stories, their structure actually reveals the writers were really focusing on “Christ.”

So, is the obvious answer that the Christ is Jesus the best and  most complete answer to the question “Who is the Christ?”

Galatians 3.28 says, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male or female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus was a Jew and not a Greek. But, in Christ, there is neither Jew nor Greek.

Jesus was a slave and not free. But, in Christ, there is neither slave nor free.

Jesus was male and female. But, in Christ, there is neither male or female.

So, when we answer the question “Who is the Christ?” with Jesus, we have unnecessarily and artificially limited the Christ to a Jewish male slave. But, the Christ is not just a Jewish male slave. The Christ includes all people. So, our vision of the Christ tends to be too small.

So, who is the Christ?

Romans 16.25 says, “Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages.”

According to Ephesians 1.9, God is “making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ.”

Ephesians 3.4 says, “When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ.”

In Ephesians 5.32, Paul says “this mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.”

Colossians 2.1-2 tells us that Paul struggled for his newly created communities so “that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ.”

In Colossians 4.3, Paul asks the churches he planted to pray for him and his co-workers “that God may open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ.”

Jesus was a Jewish man that lived like a slave under King Herod and the Roman Empire. Jesus’ life is attested to by many ancient writers. It’s actually quite shocking how much is written about Jesus outside of the New Testament given who Jesus was. Therefore, Jesus is fairly well known.

But, the Christ?

As the scriptures above declared, the Christ is a mystery. But, there is something we can definitively say about who the Christ is.

So, who is the Christ?

In Matthew 22.34-46 (Mark records a similar account in Mark 12.28-37), Jesus is engaged in discussion with the Pharisees. Jesus had just silenced the Sadducees, but one of the Pharisees, a lawyer, asks Jesus which is the greatest commandment. Jesus responds that the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. And, he says there is a second commandment – to love your neighbor as yourself – that is like the first. All of the law and prophets depend on these two commandments.

Having given this answer, Jesus asks the Pharisees a question. “What do you think about the Christ? Whose son is he?” Jesus didn’t ask them “Who am I?” or “Who do people say that I am?” His question has clued them the Pharisees in to the fact that he is the Christ. And, Jesus has clued the Pharisees in to the fact that he is a son. The question is whose son?

The Pharisees respond that Jesus is “the son of David.” There are several instances in Matthew, the gospel of Jesus as king, where Jesus is referred to as the son of David. But, take note of Jesus’ response to the Pharisees answer that he is the son of David. “How is it then that David, in the Spirit, calls him Lord, saying, ‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I put your enemies under your feet?”‘ If then David calls him Lord, how is he his son?”

Jesus did not affirm the Pharisees’ answer that he was the son of David. Rather, Jesus calls that answer in to question. For, if Jesus was the son of David, why would David call Jesus Lord? Since David called Jesus Lord, Jesus indicated he must be someone else’s son. So, he asked the Pharisees how he was David’s son. And, the Pharisees had no answer.

Why did Jesus not affirm that he was the son of David even though the Jews called him that in Matthew, Mark, and Luke?

I believe because David was a man of war. Speaking of David, 1 Samuel 16.18 says, “Behold, I have seen a son of Jesse the Bethlehemite, who is skillful in playing, a man of valor, a man of war, prudent in speech, and a man of good presence, and the Lord is with him.” As a man of war, David was deemed to be like the Lord because Exodus 15.3 says, “The Lord is a man of war, the Lord is his name.”

However, because David was a man of war, David was not allowed to build a temple for God. In 1 Chronicles 22.8, David says to Solomon, “But the word of the Lord came to me, saying, ‘You have shed much blood and have waged great wars. You shall not build a house to my name, because you have shed so much blood before me on the earth.”

We should pay careful attention to the fact that Matthew records the Pharisees’ declaration that Jesus is the son of David, and therefore a man of war, immediately after Jesus says the two greatest commandments are love for God and neighbor and that indeed all the law and prophets depend upon love. Therefore, by not affirming the Pharisees’ answer that he is the son of David, Jesus is rejecting the notion that he is a man of war because he is rejecting that he is the son of David, meaning that he is like David and will act like David. The Jews expected the Christ to be a king like David. But, Jesus is telling the Pharisees that the Christ does not wage war and does not shed blood. For, if the Christ did those things, then he would not be able to build a house for God.

Interestingly, Jesus is not called the son of David in the gospel of John, and it will become clear why in a moment and in future posts. Further, the phrase “son of David” is never used in the New Testament outside of the first three gospels. Jesus, in physical lineage, may have been the son of David, but in reality, in truth, as the Christ he was not David’s son.

If Jesus is not the son of David, then whose son is the mysterious Christ?

In Matthew 16.16 , Simon Peter said, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.”

Mark 1.1 says, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.”

When Jesus laid his hands on people and healed them, Luke 4.41 says the “demons also came out of many, crying, ‘You are the Son of God!’ But he rebuked them and would not allow them to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.”

In John 11.27, Martha said, “Yes, Lord; I believe that you are the Christ, the Son of God, who is coming into the world.”

John tells in John 20.31 that he wrote his book “so that you may believe Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God.” John’s entire gospel was written to reveal that Jesus was the son of God, which is why the phrase “son of David” is never used by John.

Jesus is the mysterious Christ, the son of God. The Christ, the son of God, is far bigger, far grander, far more marvelous than a Jewish male slave.

When was the son of God begotten?

What does it mean that the Christ is the son of God?

What was the significance of the early Christian proclamation that Christ was the son of God?

These questions will be explored in upcoming posts.

The Gospels Are About Christ not Jesus

In my previous post, Is There a Distinction between Jesus and the Christ?, I showed how “Jesus” is found far more often in the gospels than “Christ.” Further, when “Jesus” is used alone without “Christ” in the New Testament, the vast majority of the time this occurs in the gospels.

Yet, the gospels are about Christ, not Jesus.

Wait a minute. The gospels are not about Jesus?

Admittedly, perhaps I am overstating the case, but, yes, the gospels are not about Jesus. They are about Jesus Christ, Jesus the Christ, or Jesus who became Christ.

How so?

Well, let’s look at the introduction to each of the gospels.

Matthew 1.1 says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

Oops…that’s not right.

It really says, “The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham.”

As Matthew works through the genealogy of Jesus Christ, he concludes it in Matthew 1.16 by saying, “and Jacob the father of Joseph the husband of Mary, of whom Jesus was born, who is called Christ.”

Then in verse 17, Matthew summarizes the genealogy, saying, “So all the generations from Abraham to David were fourteen generations, and from David to the deportation to Babylon fourteen generations, and from the deportation to Babylon to the Christ fourteen generations.” Not the deportation to Babylon to Jesus, but the deportation to Babylon to the Christ.

Finally, in verse 18, Matthew writes, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ took place this way.”

Throughout the introduction to the gospel of Matthew the emphasis is on the Christ, or Jesus Christ, not Jesus. Although Herod inquires where the Christ was to be born in Matthew 2.4, the early emphasis on Christ in Matthew is all the more striking when we recognize that the word “Christ” does not appear again in Matthew’s gospel until 11.2. There are two more uses of Christ in chapter 16. Then, the gospel closes with a flurry of uses of Christ in chapters 22 through 26.

By emphasizing Christ at the beginning and end of his gospel, Matthew is signaling that he is not writing about Jesus, the son of Mary, or Jesus of Nazareth or Jesus, a carpenter’s son, or Jesus, a great teacher, or Jesus, a prophet, or Jesus, a king, or Jesus, a healer, or any other way we want to describe Jesus. Yes, Jesus was all of those things, and Matthew wrote about many of them. However, Matthew’s gospel is about Jesus the Christ.

The gospel of Mark primarily presents Jesus as a servant. Yet, the very first words of the gospel in Mark 1.1 state, “The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” Like Matthew, Mark’s gospel uses “Christ” in its introduction but doesn’t use the term again until two isolated uses in chapters eight and nine. However, like Matthew, the gospel of Mark closes with a flurry of uses of Christ in chapters 12 through 15. Again, in ancient writings, this sort of bracketing in a story provides important insight into the true subject matter of what is written. This bracketing reveals what is really important, what is being stressed In the case of Mark, the true subject matter of the entire gospel is Christ.

Unlike Matthew and Mark, Luke does not use the term “Christ” in the opening sentence of his gospel. Instead, Luke gives a lengthy sort of preamble to the birth of Christ. So, in Luke 2.10-11, when the angel of the Lord announces the Christ’s birth to the shepherds, he says, “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Who did Luke say was born?

Not Jesus.

But, the “Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”

Just before the child Jesus was brought into the temple for purification, “it had been revealed to [Simeon] by the Holy Spirit that he would not see death before he had the Lord’s Christ.” Luke emphasizes that Simeon was not going to see Jesus, a mere child like any other, but the Christ.

Just like Matthew and Mark, after the introduction and birth of Jesus Christ, Luke uses the term “Christ” quite sparingly with just three mentions in chapters three, four, and nine. However, Luke closes his gospel with seven uses  of “Christ” in chapters 20 through 24. Once again we see the bracketing of the entire story of Jesus with the term “Christ” to emphasize exactly who Luke is writing about – the Christ, or Jesus Christ, and not Jesus.

The beginning of John’s gospel, the famous prologue, is one of my favorite portions of the Bible. John begins by telling us about the Word. Everything was made by the Word. In the Word was life. The Word was the true light of all men. The Word became flesh and dwelt among us. The Word was the son of God, full of grace and truth.

Who was this Word?

Not Jesus.

Rather, the Word is Jesus Christ.

The conclusion of the prologue, John 1.17, says, “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

We received grace and truth through Jesus Christ, and it was the Word that became flesh that was full of grace and truth. Therefore, Jesus Christ and the Word are one and the same.

Unlike the first three gospels, the gospel of John uses the term “Christ” throughout. Instead of introducing the gospel of the Christ, telling the story of Jesus, and closing with the recognition of the Christ, John’s gospel is about the Christ all the way through. I plan to cover why John’s gospel is unlike the others in this respect in a future post.

So, even though “Jesus” is far more prevalent in the gospels than “Christ,” even “Jesus” takes up the bulk of the story of the gospels, the construction of the gospels tells us they are not simply about Jesus. Instead, God’s good news, God’s gospel, is the Christ.

The gospels are about the Christ not Jesus.

What Is the Meaning of Psalm 119?

What is the meaning of Psalm 119?

If you peruse the first page of Google results, then you will come to the common understanding that Psalm 119 is about God’s word. For most modern day Christians, if the psalm is about God’s word, then that means Psalm 119 is ultimately about the Bible. Therefore, you often find statements like the following to explain the meaning of Psalm 119.

  1. The Bible, the word of God, is all sufficient.
  2. The truth of the Bible, God’s word, is reliable.
  3. God’s character is reflected through the Bible, his word.
  4. The Bible, God’s word, is authoritative.

Matthew Henry, who’s Bible commentary is exhaustive and found everywhere, said, “The general scope and design of this psalm is to magnify the Divine law and make it honourable.” For most modern day Christians, Divine law comes from the Old Testament, specifically the ten commandments. The law is often equated with Torah. We commonly think of Torah as law, but it is better thought of as the teaching of parents to their children.

In almost every verse of Psalm 119, there is a synonym for Torah. Roughly, there are ten different terms referring to Torah or the word of God throughout the psalm – law, way, testimonies, commandments, precepts, word, judgments, righteousness, statutes, and truth/faithfulness. Depending on your translation, you will also see the word ordinances.

According to Matthew Henry, Psalm 119 is an extended prayer or meditation that declares 1) Torah is to be held up as a source of blessing and right conduct and 2) the writer is dedicating himself to Torah. Today, this gets translated to the idea that the Old Testament, God’s law, more specifically the ten commandments, is a source of blessing and right conduct and we should dedicate ourselves to keeping the law, the ten commandments, and everything God said in the Old Testament.

But, as I read through Psalm 119 the other day, the Spirit showed me another way to read and understand the psalm. To read the psalm as the Spirit revealed to me requires two key points of understanding.

First, the Bible is not God’s word. Rather, Jesus is God’s word. My previous post, Do You Believe the Bible is God’s Word?, details my thinking on this. So, I will not rehash it here. Therefore, whenever we read “word” in Psalm 119 we should not think about the Old Testament or the Bible. Instead, we should think Jesus.

Second, 1 John 4.8 and both say, “God is love.” Note that nowhere in scripture does it say “God is law.”

Further, Matthew 22.35-40 says, “And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. ‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.'” Luke 10.25-28 records virtually the same exact exchange.

What is Jesus saying?

All of the law, the ten commandments, the Old Testament, and the Torah can be summed up in just one word – love! Love for God and love for neighbor are the only two commandments that Jesus ever gave. Amazingly, Jesus gave us two commandments and neither of them are from the ten commandments that Moses gave. (So instead of Christians posting the ten commandments in courthouses, schoolrooms and elsewhere, shouldn’t Christians simply post Jesus’ two commandments to love God and love neighbor as yourself?) Therefore, whenever we read one of those ten synonyms mentioned above in Psalm 119 for God’s word, law, or Torah, our minds should immediately turn to love.

Further, Jesus is the way, the truth, and the life. The way of Jesus, the way of God, is love. You can see how I understand the way is love in my post Creation: A Witness to Jesus. So, whenever see the word way in Psalm 119, our minds should turn to love.

The idea that love is the way tells us something about the false way and mentioned several times in Psalm 119 and the wicked and insolent who take it. 1 John 4.18 says, “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.” Love casts out fear. When our way is motivated by love, fear cannot be a possible motivation for us. But, when we are not perfected by love, we are moving in the false way. Then, our actions are motivated by the false way of fear. Ultimately, it is fear that prevents us from loving God, ourselves, and our neighbor. Therefore, when we read “the false way” in Psalm 119 we can substitute fear.

As the Spirit showed me where to substitute Jesus, love, and fear into Psalm 119, I was overwhelmed with the length, height, breadth, and depth of God’s love. Below is the entirety of Psalm 119 as the Spirit revealed it to me. Read it and see how overwhelming and all-encompassing God’s love is.

Psalm 119

Blessed are those who love is blameless, who walk in the love of the Lord! Blessed are those who keep his love, who seek him with their whole heart, who also do not fear, but walk in his love! You have commanded your love to be kept diligently. Oh that my love may be steadfast in your keeping your love! Then I shall not be put to shame, having my eyes fixed on all of your love. I will praise you with an upright heart, when I learn your righteous love. I will keep your love; do not utterly forsake me!

How can a young man keep his love pure? By guarding it according to your love. With my whole heart I seek you; let me not wander from your love! I have stored Jesus Christ in my heart, that I might not fear you. Blessed are you, O Lord; teach me your love! With my lips I declare all the love of your mouth. In the love of your love I delight as much as in all riches. I will meditate on your love and fix my eyes on your love. I will delight in your love; I will not forget Jesus Christ.

Deal bountifully with your servant, that I may live and keep your love. Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your love. I am a sojourner on the earth; hide not your love from me! My soul is consumed with longing for your love at all times. You rebuke the fearful ones, who wander from your love. Take away from me fear, for I have kept your love. Even though princes sit plotting against me, your servant will meditate on your love. Your love is my delight; love is my counselor.

My soul clings to fear; give me life according to Jesus Christ! When I told of my fear, you answered me; teach me your love! Make me understand the love of your love, and I will meditate on your wondrous love. My soul melts away for fear; strengthen me according to Jesus Christ! Put fear far from me and graciously teach me your love! I have chosen the way of love; I set your love before me. I cling to your love, O Lord; let me not be put to fear! I will run in the love of your love when you enlarge my heart!

Teach me, O Lord, the love of your love; and I will keep love to the end. Give me understanding, that I may keep your love and observe love with my whole heart. Lead me in the love of your love, for I delight in love. Incline my heart to your love, and not to selfish gain! Turn my eyes from looking at worthless things; and give me life in your love. Confirm to your servant life, that you may be held in awe. Turn away the fear that I dread, for your love is good. Behold, I long for your love; in your love give me life!

Let your steadfast love come to me, O Lord, your salvation according to your life; then I shall have an answer for him who taunts me, for I trust in Jesus Christ. And take not Jesus Christ utterly out of my mouth, for my hope is in your love. I will keep your love continually, forever and ever, and I shall love in a wide place, for I have sought your love. I will also speak of your love before kings and shall not be put to fear, for I find my delight in your love, which I love. I will lift up my hands toward your love, which I love, and I will meditate on your love.

Remember Jesus Christ to your servant, in whom you have made me hope. He is my comfort in my fear, that your life gives me life. The fearful utterly deride me, but I do not turn away from your love. When I think of your love from of old, I take comfort, O Lord. How fear seizes me because of the wicked, who forsake your love. Your love has been my song in the house of my sojourning. I remember your name in the night, O Lord, and keep your love. This blessing has fallen to me, that I kept your love.

The Lord is my portion, I promise to keep your love. I entreat your favor with all my heart; be gracious to me according to your life. When I think on my fears, I turn my feet to your love; I hasten and do not delay to keep your love. Though the cords of the fearful ensnare me, I do not forget your love. At midnight I rise to praise you, because of your righteous love. I am a companion of all who are in awe of you, of those who keep your love. The earth, O Lord, is full of your steadfast love; teach me your love.

You have dealt well with your servant, O Lord, according to Jesus Christ. Teach me love and knowledge, for I believe in your love. Before I was afflicted I feared, but now I keep your love. You are good and do good; teach me your love. The fearful smear me with lies, but with my whole heart I keep your love; their heart is unfeeling like fat, but I delight in your love. It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your love. The love of your mouth is better to me than thousands of gold and silver pieces.

Your hands have made and fashioned me; give me understanding that I may learn your love. Those who are in awe of you shall see me and rejoice, because I have hoped in Jesus Christ. I know, O Lord, that your love is righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. Let your steadfast love comfort me according to your life to your servant. Let your mercy come to me, that I may live; for your love is my delight. Let the fearful be put to shame, because they have wronged me with falsehood; as for me, I will meditate on your love. Let those who are in awe of you turn to me, that they may know your love. May my heart be blameless in your love, that I may not be put to fear!

My soul longs for your salvation; I hope in Jesus Christ. My eyes long for your life; I ask, “When will you comfort me?” For I have become like a wineskin in the smoke, yet I have not forgotten your love. How long must your servant endure? When will you judge those who persecute me? The fearful have dug pitfalls for me; they do not live according to your love. All your love is sure; the fearful persecute me with falsehood; help me! The fearful have almost made an end of me on earth, but I have not forsaken your love. In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the love of your mouth.

Forever, O Lord, Jesus Christ is firmly fixed in the heavens. Your love endures to all generations; you have established the earth, and it stands fast. By your appointment they stand this day, for all things are your servants. If your love had not been my delight, I would have perished in my affliction. I will never forget your love, for by your love you have given me life. I am yours; save me, for I have sought your love. The fearful lie in wait to destroy me, but I consider your love. I have seen a limit to all perfection, but your love is exceedingly broad.

Oh how I love your love! It is my meditation all the day. Your love makes me wiser than my enemies, for it is ever with me. I have more understanding than all my teachers, for your love is my meditation. I understand more than the aged, for I keep your love. I hold back my feet from every fearful way, in order to keep Jesus Christ. I do not turn aside from your love, for you have taught me. How sweet is Jesus Christ to my taste, sweeter than honey to my mouth! Through your love I get understanding; therefore I hate every fearful way.

Jesus Christ is a lamp to my feet and a light to my love. I have sworn an oath and confirmed it, to keep your righteous love. I am severely afflicted; give me life, O Lord, according to Jesus Christ! Accept my freewill offerings of praise, O Lord, and teach me your love. I hold my life in my hand continually, but I do not forget your love. The fearful have laid a snare for me, but I do not stray from your love. Your love is my heritage forever, for your love is the joy of my heart. I incline my heart to perform your love forever, to the end.

I hate fearfulness, but I love your love. You are my hiding place and my shield; I hope in Jesus Christ. Depart from me, you fearful, that I may keep the love of my God. Uphold me according to your life, that I may live, and let me not be put to fear in Jesus Christ! Hold me up, that I may be safe and have regard for your love continually! You spurn all who are fearful from your love, for their cunning is in vain. All the fearful of the earth you discard like dross, therefore I love your love. My flesh trembles for awe of you, and I am in awe of your love.

I have done what is just and right; do not leave me to my oppressors. Give your servant a pledge of good; let not the fearful oppress me. My eyes long for salvation and for the fulfillment of your righteous life. Deal with your servant according to your steadfast love, and teach me your love. I am your servant; give me understanding, that I may know your love! It is time for the Lord to act, for your love has been broken. Therefore I love your love above gold, above fine gold. Therefore I consider all your love to be right; I hate every fearful way.

Your love is wonderful; therefore my soul keeps your love. The unfolding of Jesus Christ gives light; he imparts understanding to the simple. I open my mouth and pant, because I long for your love. Turn to me and be gracious me, as is your love with those who love your name. Keep steady my steps according to your life, and let no iniquity get dominion over me. Redeem me from man’s oppression, that I may keep your love. Make your face shine upon your servant, and teach me your love. My eyes shed streams of tears, because people do not keep your love.

Righteous are you, O Lord, and right is your love. You have appointed your love in righteousness and in faithfulness. My zeal consumers me, because my foes forget Jesus Christ. Your life is well tried, and your servant loves it. I am small and despised, yet I do not forget your love. Your love is righteous forever, and your love is true. Trouble and anguish have found me out, but your love is my delight. Your love is righteous forever; give me understanding that I may live.

With my whole heart I cry; answer me, O Lord! I will keep your love. I call to you; save me, that I may observe your love. I rise before dawn and cry for help; I hope in Jesus Christ. My eyes are awake before the watches of the night, that I may meditate on your life. Hear my voice according to your steadfast love; O Lord, according to your love give me life. The fearful draw near who persecute me with evil purpose; the fearful are far from your love. But you are near, O Lord, and all your love is true. Long have I known from your love that you have founded love forever.

Look on my affliction and deliver me, for I do not forget your love. Plead my cause and redeem me; give me life according to your life! Salvation is far from the fearful, for the fearful do not seek your love. Great is your mercy, O Lord; give me life according to your love. Many are my persecutors and my adversaries, but I do not swerve from your love. I look at the fearful with disgust, because they do not keep your love. The sum of Jesus Christ is truth, and every bit of your love ensures forever.

Princes persecute me without cause, but my heart stands in awe of Jesus Christ. I rejoice at Jesus Christ like one who finds great spoil. I hate and abhor fear, but I love your love. Seven times a day I praise you for your righteous love. Great peace have those who love your love; nothing can make them fear. I hope for your salvation, O Lord, and I do your love. My soul keeps your love; I love it exceedingly. I keep your love, for all my fears are before you.

Let my cry come before you, O Lord; give me understanding according to Jesus Christ! Let my plea come before you; deliver me according to Jesus Christ. My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your love. My tongue will sing of Jesus Christ, for all your love is right. Let your hand be ready to help me, for I have chosen your love. I long for your salvation, O Lord, and your love is my delight. Let my soul live and praise you, and let your love help me. I have gone astray like a lost sheep; seek your servant, for I do not forget your love.

How Do We Confess the Coming of Jesus Christ in the Flesh?

TODAY’S READING: 2 JOHN, 3 JOHN, JUDE

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.” (2 John 7)

John seems to make a very simple statement.

A deceiver, an impostor, does not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh.

But, it’s not as simple as it seems. For, to truly understand John’ statement we need to answer two questions.

  1. What does it mean to confess?
  2. Whose flesh is John referring to?

The Greek word for confess is homologeo. It is a compound word literally meaning the same word.

Generally, we think of confession as something done with our mouths. I believe this is why Christians have latched onto Romans 10.9-10, which says, “Because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes is and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.” Further, “No one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12.3)

Therefore, American Christianity has made spreading the faith a matter of getting someone to say the right words. All that needs to be done is to get someone to say confess that Jesus is the Christ, the Lord. We just need to get people to make a profession of faith.

However, without denying these scriptures, we need to understand that true confession goes beyond the words that we say.

In Matthew 7.21-23, Jesus says, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, your workers of lawlessness.”

Here are people that say “Lord, Lord.” They are confessing Jesus with their mouths. They even do mighty works – prophesying and casting out demons. But, the implication is that they have not done the will of God. They are workers of lawlessness.

Why does Jesus call them workers of lawlessness?

They prophesied and cast out demons. Neither of those actions are against the will of God or against the law.

Jesus summed up the law in two commandments – love for God and love for neighbor. To be a worker of lawlessness is to be a worker without love. Therefore, in 1 Corinthians 13.1-3, Paul says, “If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains but have not love, I am nothing. If I give away all I have, and if I deliver up my body to be burned, but have not love, I gain nothing.”

We can say the right words and do the right actions, but if they are not motivated by love, then the words and actions are empty, hollow.

We can say “Lord, Lord,” but not do the will of God – love. Without love as our motivation, our foundation, Jesus will declare he never knew us.

In Titus 1.16, Paul says of deceivers, “They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works.” The Greek word for profess is homologeo. So, you can confess, say with your mouth, that you know God, but at the same time you can deny God by your works. While the verse doesn’t say it, it is likely that the works deny God because they aren’t done in love.

So, confession goes beyond merely saying the right words. True confession is made by works of love.

What is love?

Love is best known through the cross (1 John 4). Therefore, love can be defined by the giving of one’s self, one’s life, for the benefit of others. That we can most easily understand love through the cross shows that love is best known through actions not words.

So, whose flesh is John referring to?

Is John saying that a deceiver does not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in his own flesh as a person?

Or, is John saying that a deceiver does not confess in the deceiver’s own flesh the coming of Jesus Christ?

A deceiver says one thing and does another. A deceiver can say with his mouth “Lord, Lord,” but his actions will not line up with those words. A deceiver’s mouth confesses Jesus, but his actions aren’t motivated by love. This can be known because in his own flesh, his own body, he is not giving himself for the benefit of others.

How did Paul make Jesus known?

How did Paul compare his ministry with those he believed were deceivers?

Paul did this through suffering in his own flesh just as Jesus. Paul touted his sufferings as proof of his confession because deceivers could not.

In 2 Corinthians 11.12-13, Paul says, “And what I am doing I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do. For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.”

And how does Paul boast in a way that is different than the false apostles and deceitful workmen?

By his sufferings in his flesh.

“Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one – I am talking like a madman – with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death. Five times I received at the hands  of the Jews the forty lashes less one. Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea; on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers; in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure. And apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.” (2 Corinthians 11.23-28)

In Colossians 1.24, Paul says, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in Christ’s afflictions for the sake of his body, that is, the church.”

Paul says in his ministry he has “renounced disgraceful, underhanded ways” and refuses “to practice cunning.” (2 Corinthians 4.2)

If he doesn’t use these tactics in his ministry to proclaim “the open statement of the truth” about Jesus, then how does Paul do it?

“But we have this treasure in jars of clay, to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not driven to despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying in the body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested in our bodies. For we who live are always being given over to death for Jesus’ sake, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh.” (2 Corinthians 4.7-11)

Paul’s open statement of the truth made in the sufferings of his own body. His confession was made with much more than words. He gave his very life for those he was ministering to.

A deceiver will have no problem lying, saying that indeed Jesus Christ came in the flesh.

But, a deceiver will never be able to show that in the flesh, in his own body, by his own sufferings.

All of this goes to show that we are to confess Jesus with words. But, much more than that, we are to confess Jesus Christ in the sufferings of our own flesh.

This then reveals that Jesus did not come to get us to merely believe the right things about him. He came to transform us. He came so that we could be conformed to his image.

Therefore, true confession of Jesus Christ is made through a life of transformation that has conformed us to the very image of Christ. We are now people willing to die on a cross with no self defense saying, “Father, forgive them.”