A Website for Basic Christian Doctrine

Who is Jesus Christ?

By Jeremy Cagle

There is a lot of debate today on university campuses and in scholastic circles as to Who Jesus Christ truly was.  One book describes the dilemma this way:

Interpretations of Jesus are fraught with bias.  He’s a powerful figure whom people want on their sides – and they’re willing to re–create him in their image to enlist support.  Animal–rights activists imagine a vegetarian Jesus.  New Agers make him an example of finding the god within.  And radical feminists strip him of divinity so that Christianity doesn’t appear sexist.  “Frankly, it’s hard to escape the feeling that our culture has taken Jesus’ question ‘Who do you say I am?’ and changed it to ‘Who do you want me to be?’”1

To complicate matters, Christians and non–Christians alike give Jesus praise.  Listen to what some of the world’s most influential unbelievers said about Him.

Napoleon Bonaparte:

I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ was no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires.  But on what did we rest the creation of our genius?  Upon force.  Jesus Christ founded His empire on love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.2

John Jacques Rosseau:

Socrates dies with honor, surrounded by his disciples listening to the most tender words – the easiest death that one could wish to die. Jesus dies in pain, dishonor, mockery, the object of universal cursing – the most horrible death that one could fear. At the receipt of the cup of poison, Socrates blesses him who could not give it to him without tears; Jesus, while suffering the sharpest pains, prays for His most bitter enemies. If Socrates lived and died like a philosopher, Jesus lived and died like a god.3

Ernest Renan:

All history is incomprehensible without Him. He created the object and fixed the starting point of the future faith of humanity. He is the incomparable man to whom the universal conscience has decreed the title of Son of God, and that with justice. In the first rank of this grand family of the true sons of God we must place Jesus.4

Jesus was praised by men who never claimed to be His followers.  He was even praised by a man who created another religion.  Mohammed said this about Him in the Koran:

To Moses God gave the Scriptures and after him God gave other apostles. God gave Jesus, son of Mary veritable signs and strengthened Him with the Holy Spirit . . . We believe in God and that which has been revealed to us; in what was revealed to Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, Jacob, and the tribes; to Moses and Jesus and the other prophets by their Lord.  We make no distinction among any of them . . .5

But what does the Bible say about Jesus Christ?  What claims do His followers make for Him?  In the opening chapter to the Gospel of John, the Apostle gives 13 answers to that question.  Here are 13 titles for Jesus Christ in John 1.

1.  The Logos   

1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  “The Word” in Greek is logos.  Logos means “instruction” or “doctrine.”6  In regards to Greek philosophy, the Logos was “the reason” or “the cause” for everything that exists.7  Greek philosophers were always trying to find the origin of the cosmos.  John says that that origin is Jesus Christ.

2. God

1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.”  The Bible is very consistent on the fact that God is a Trinity.  He is one God in three Persons; each Person fully God and each Person fully distinct.  The second Person of the Trinity is Jesus Christ.  The Apostle John says that in the beginning Jesus was with God and He was God.8

3. The Light of Men

1:4 says, “In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.”    People with physical blindness cannot tell the difference between an open cliff and a safe bridge.  In a similar way, people with spiritual blindness cannot tell the difference between a teaching from Hell and a teaching from Heaven without some source of light.  Jesus is that light.9

4. One Greater than John the Baptist

1:15 says, “John testified about him and cried out, saying, ‘This was He of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me.’’”  By the time John the Baptist appeared preaching in the Judean wilderness, there had not been a prophet in Israel for 5 centuries.  So when the Baptist began his ministry, all the people thought that he was someone great . . . maybe even the Messiah.  But John quickly told them that the One following Him is greater because “He existed before me.”  Jesus Christ followed John’s earthly ministry but, because He was God, Jesus came before him.  And that made Jesus greater.

5. The Christ

1:17 says, “For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.”  Contrary to popular belief, “Christ” is not Jesus’ last name, it is His title.  “Christ” in Greek is kristos, which means “the Messiah” or “the anointed one.”10  In ancient times, kings and prophets were anointed for their sacred office.  During the anointing ceremony, the nation would gather together and watch as an old leader would pour expensive perfume or oil on the new leader’s head.  The Apostle John calls Jesus the Anointed One because God the Father set Him apart and anointed Him to save mankind from sin and to one day rule the earth as king.

6.  The Only Begotten God

1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.”  The word for “only begotten God” is monogeneis, a compound Greek word from monos which means “only” and geneis means “born.”11  In all the religions of the world and in all of human history, no one outside of the Bible has imagined that the only God of the universe would become a man and be born.  Yet that is exactly what the Apostle John claims for Jesus Christ.

7. The Lord

1:23 says, “He said, ‘I am a voice of one crying in the wilderness ‘Make straight the way of the Lord,’ as Isaiah the prophet said.’”  In ancient societies, a lord or royal person would not have to take side roads in their travels.  They could create their own roads to go wherever they wished.  In verse 23, John the Baptist says that he is the one who has been called to “make straight the way of the Lord.”  He has come to clear a direct path to the hearts of men for the Lord Jesus Christ.

8. The Lamb of God

1:29 says, “The next day he saw Jesus coming to him and said, ‘Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!’”  Lambs are the most innocent of creatures and so is Jesus.  Hebrews 4:15 says He was completely without sin.  Lambs were also offered as sacrifices and so was Jesus.  Isaiah 53:7 says that Jesus was led like a lamb to slaughter when He died for our sins on the cross.  He is the Lamb of God.

9. One Who Baptizes in the Holy Spirit

1:33 says, “I did not recognize Him, but He who sent me to baptize in water said to me, ‘He upon whom you see the Spirit descending and remaining upon Him, this is the One who baptizes in the Holy Spirit.’”  To be baptized into something is to be immersed or dunked into it.  John the Baptist says Jesus will immerse His followers into the third member of the Trinity.  In John 16:7, Jesus says He will give His followers a Helper and the Baptist says Jesus will do so by baptizing them in the Holy Spirit.

10. The Son of God

1:34 says, “I myself have seen, and have testified that this is the Son of God.”  To be someone’s son is to contain their essence.  Every son possesses his father’s body type, his hair color, his vocal tone, and his mannerisms.  To be the Son of God is to contain the same essence as God, which is John’s point in verse 34.  Of all the men who ever lived, Jesus alone shares God’s attributes.

11. Rabbi

1:38 says, “And Jesus turned and saw them following and said to them, ‘What do you seek?’  They said to Him, ‘Rabbi (which translated means Teacher), where are You staying?’”  Rabbi in Aramaic means “my great one.”12  In the First Century, it came to mean what “doctor” or “professor” means today.  Being all–knowing, Jesus is the ultimate Rabbi.  He is light and He brings us into the light.  He teaches us what no one else ever could.

12. The Fulfillment of Prophecy

1:45 says, “Philip found Nathanael and said to him, ‘We have found Him of whom Moses in the Law and also the Prophets wrote – Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph.’”  The Old Testament contains 60 prophecies in 270 different verses concerning the Messiah.13  Philip, knowing his Old Testament, introduces Jesus to his brother Nathanael as the fulfillment of prophecy.  He is the One Whom Moses and the prophets wrote about.

13. The King of Israel

1:49 says, “Nathanael answered Him, ‘Rabbi, You are the Son of God; You are the King of Israel.’”  Jesus had called Nathanael a ‘true Israelite’ in verse 47.  Now, in response to Jesus, Nathanael says “If I am a true Israelite, then you are the King of Israel!”  Nathanael humbly acknowledged Jesus’ right to rule his life and to rule the nation of Israel.  Interestingly enough, as Jesus hung dying on the cross, John 19:19 says a sign was posted above His head which said “Jesus the Nazarene, the King of the Jews.”  At the beginning of His ministry and at the end of His earthly life, people acknowledged that Jesus Christ is the King of Israel.

So Jesus is the Logos, God, the Light of Men, One Greater than John the Baptist, the Christ, the Only Begotten God, the Lord, the Lamb of God, One Who Baptizes with the Holy Spirit, the Son of God, Rabbi, the Fulfillment of Prophecy, and the King of Israel.  That is a mouthful!  How are you supposed to remember all that?  And, even more importantly, what does that have to do with your life?

John 3:36 says, “He who believes in the Son has eternal life; but he who does not obey the Son will not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”  God the Father has offered Jesus Christ as a perfect offering for sin14 that whoever looks to Him will have their offenses forgiven and possess eternal life.  Whoever does not believe in Jesus, will spend eternity suffering under God’s wrath.

What you choose to believe or not believe about Jesus determines your eternal destiny.  So the question is: what will you believe?  Will you believe that the Only Begotten Son of God came to this earth to be offered as a sacrificial Lamb?  Will you learn from Jesus as your Rabbi and come to Him to be baptized in the Holy Spirit?  Will you obey Him as your Lord and your King?  Will you call out to Him as the Anointed Savior of the world?  Or will you reject Him?  The Bible is crystal clear that you must accept Him for Who He is or He will reject you for who you
are.

Who is Jesus Christ?  This is the most important question you could ever ask.  And the Bible is full of answers to that very question.

 

 

  1. Robert M. Bowman, Jr. & J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 2007) 17. []
  2. Quoted in The Fundamentals, Volume III, ed. by R. A. Torrey (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 2008 ed.) 364. []
  3. Quoted in The Fundamentals, Volume III, 366-367. []
  4. Quoted in The Fundamentals, Volume III, 367. []
  5. The Koran, trans. by N. J. Dawood (New York: Penguin Books, 1999 ed) 2:87; 2:136. []
  6. Joseph H. Thayer, Thayer’s Greek–English Lexicon of the New Testament (Peabody, Mass.: Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., 1996) 380. []
  7. Ibid., 381. []
  8. For more passages on the Trinity, see Mk 1:1; Jn
    10:30; Col 1:15–17; 2:9; Heb 1. []
  9. Jn 8:12. []
  10. Thayer, 672. []
  11. Ibid., 417–418. []
  12. F. F. Bruce, The Gospel & Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983) 56. []
  13. For a sampling of some of these, see Ps 2:7–9; Is 7:14; 53:5;  Jer 23:5; Micah 5:2. []
  14. 2 Cor 5:21. []