18 Dec

Why Did Jesus Take on Flesh?

Jesus in Manger

At the center of this and every Christian season is the baby Jesus wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  This mysterious bundle of joy is none other than the eternal Son of God who took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14).  That’s the very thing we celebrate here at Christmas—the enfleshing of the Son of God, the incarnation.  He was sent on a mission from the Father to save sinners, and one of the absolutely necessary things Jesus had to do to complete His mission was take on a flesh and blood body just like we have.  But, why was that so crucial?  Why did Jesus take on flesh?  The Bible gives us at least ten reasons.

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01 Aug

The Innocent Sufferer

As one looks at the life of Job (pronounced Jōb) in Scripture, nobody can deny the fact that Job suffered greatly.  In one day through major catastrophic events, he lost his great number of livestock, his many servants, and all ten of his children.  Soon thereafter, he was smitten with a terrible disease, causing black, burning boils to break out on his body from the soles of his feet to the top of his head.  His possessions, his children, and his health were all taken away.  Job was a sufferer indeed.

Nevertheless, Job continued to bless the name of God even though he realized that it was ultimately God who brought these calamities into his life.  After getting the news of the loss of his livestock, servants, and children, Job fell to the ground and began to worship God.  He said, Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I shall return there. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away. Blessed be the name of the LORD, (Job 1:21).  After his health had been stricken, his wife begged him to go ahead and curse God so that God would kill him, but Job’s devotion remained steadfastly to God.  He told her, You speak as one of the foolish women speaks. Shall we indeed accept good from God and not accept adversity? (Job 2:10).  In neither situation did Job sin by charging God with any wrongdoing.

The fact that Job didn’t sin even in the midst of great calamity is probably due to the fact that he was a righteous man—at least he was more righteous than other men.  God himself declared that Job was righteous (Job 1:8; 2:3), and the devil never denied it.  So, in a general sense, Job was innocent.  He was an innocent sufferer, but even Job was captured by the truth of Romans 3:23, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.  Job might have been less of a sinner, but he was still a sinner in need of a Savior.  Job himself seemed to recognize this by his famous declaration, As for me, I know that my Redeemer lives, And at the last He will take His stand on the earth (Job 19:25).

So, how would Job’s Redeemer redeem?  He would do so in two ways:

  1. by living more righteously and perfectly than Job ever could
  2. by taking upon himself more suffering than Job ever knew

Of course, Job’s Redeemer is none other than the Redeemer of the entire world, Jesus Christ.  Therefore, I pray that you would let Job point you to Jesus because Jesus is the ultimate example of an innocent sufferer.

Jesus Lived More Righteously and Perfectly
Than Job Ever Could

The Bible openly demonstrates that Jesus lived a sinless life.  By narrative, from the moment of His birth until the moment of His ascension, no sin is ever recorded.  Everywhere He went, He not only taught righteousness but lived righteously.  Now critics of the Bible would say that Jesus’ recorded sinlessness is just good editing and wishful thinking, but God has given us irrefutable proof concerning Jesus’ sinlessness in the Resurrection.

Remember, the Resurrection is not just God’s way of showing us that there’s victory over the grave.  It is that, but even more than that, the Resurrection is God’s promise that the life and death of Jesus were accepted in the place of all who will believe on Him.  Since the life and death of Jesus “pays” for our sin, the Resurrection is basically our receipt that we have actually been atoned for.  If God raised Jesus from the dead (which He did), that proves that He accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for our sin.  And if He accepted the sacrifice of Jesus for our sin, then Jesus must have been sinless.  The very idea of the atonement is based upon Jesus’ sinlessness.

But the Bible doesn’t just demonstrate that Jesus was sinless.  It also declares that Jesus lived a sinless life.  The following New Testament texts declare it to be so:

  • Luke 23:47, Now when the centurion saw what had happened, he began praising God, saying, “Certainly this man [Jesus] was innocent.”
  • John 8:45-46, But because I [Jesus] speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me?
  • 2 Corinthians 5:21, [God] made [Jesus] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.
  • 1 Peter 2:21-25, For you have been called for this purpose, since Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example for you to follow in His steps, 22 WHO COMMITTED NO SIN, NOR WAS ANY DECEIT FOUND IN HIS MOUTH; 23 and while being reviled, He did not revile in return; while suffering, He uttered no threats, but kept entrusting Himself to Him who judges righteously; 24 and He Himself bore our sins in His body on the cross, so that we might die to sin and live to righteousness; for by His wounds you were healed. 25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.
  • 1 John 3:1-5, See how great a love the Father has bestowed on us, that we would be called children of God; and such we are. For this reason the world does not know us, because it did not know Him. 2 Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is. 3 And everyone who has this hope fixed on Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. 4 Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness. 5 You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin.

Even more, the sinlessness of Jesus was prophesied in the Old Testament:

  • Isaiah 53:9, His grave was assigned with wicked men, Yet He was with a rich man in His death, Because He had done no violence, Nor was there any deceit in His mouth.

Jesus lived the only truly righteous and perfect life.  He is the only who is truly innocent.

Now that we’ve established Jesus’ innocence, let’s turn to His suffering.

Jesus Took Upon Himself More Suffering
Than Job Ever Knew

Job’s suffering was great, no doubt, but the suffering of Jesus surpasses it by a long shot.  Job never endured the cross or bore the sins of humanity or suffered the wrath of God like Jesus did at Calvary.

Isaiah 53:1-12 foretold of Jesus’ suffering in this way.  Let these verses wash over you, and feel the depth of Jesus’ suffering.

  • 1 Who has believed our message? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? 2 For He grew up before Him like a tender shoot, And like a root out of parched ground; He has no stately form or majesty that we should look upon Him, nor appearance that we should be attracted to Him. 3 He was despised and forsaken of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief; and like one from whom men hide their face He was despised, and we did not esteem Him. 4 Surely our griefs He Himself bore, and our sorrows He carried; yet we ourselves esteemed Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted. 5 But He was pierced through for our transgressions, He was crushed for our iniquities; the chastening for our well-being fell upon Him, and by His scourging we are healed. 6 All of us like sheep have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; but the LORD has caused the iniquity of us all to fall on Him. 7 He was oppressed and He was afflicted, yet He did not open His mouth; like a lamb that is led to slaughter, and like a sheep that is silent before its shearers, so He did not open His mouth. 8 By oppression and judgment He was taken away; and as for His generation, who considered that He was cut off out of the land of the living for the transgression of my people, to whom the stroke was due? 9 His grave was assigned with wicked men, yet He was with a rich man in His death, because He had done no violence, nor was there any deceit in His mouth. 10 But the LORD was pleased to crush Him, putting Him to grief; if He would render Himself as a guilt offering, He will see His offspring, He will prolong His days, and the good pleasure of the LORD will prosper in His hand. 11 As a result of the anguish of His soul, He will see it and be satisfied; by His knowledge the Righteous One, My Servant, will justify the many, as He will bear their iniquities. 12 Therefore, I will allot Him a portion with the great, And He will divide the booty with the strong; Because He poured out Himself to death, And was numbered with the transgressors; Yet He Himself bore the sin of many, And interceded for the transgressors.

Of course, Isaiah 53 is prophecy and not narrative.  However, we see the actual fulfillment of that prophecy in the narrative of the gospels.  We’ll look at Matthew 27:24-50.  Again, let these verses wash over you, and feel the depth of Jesus’ suffering.

  • 24When Pilate saw that he was accomplishing nothing, but rather that a riot was starting, he took water and washed his hands in front of the crowd, saying, “I am innocent of this Man’s blood; see to that yourselves.” 25 And all the people said, “His blood shall be on us and on our children!” 26 Then he released Barabbas for them; but after having Jesus scourged, he handed Him over to be crucified. 27 Then the soldiers of the governor took Jesus into the Praetorium and gathered the whole Roman cohort around Him. 28 They stripped Him and put a scarlet robe on Him. 29 And after twisting together a crown of thorns, they put it on His head, and a reed in His right hand; and they knelt down before Him and mocked Him, saying, “Hail, King of the Jews!” 30 They spat on Him, and took the reed and began to beat Him on the head. 31 After they had mocked Him, they took the scarlet robe off Him and put His own garments back on Him, and led Him away to crucify Him. 32 As they were coming out, they found a man of Cyrene named Simon, whom they pressed into service to bear His cross. 33 And when they came to a place called Golgotha, which means Place of a Skull, 34 they gave Him wine to drink mixed with gall; and after tasting it, He was unwilling to drink. 35 And when they had crucified Him, they divided up His garments among themselves by casting lots. 36 And sitting down, they began to keep watch over Him there. 37 And above His head they put up the charge against Him which read, “THIS IS JESUS THE KING OF THE JEWS.” 38 At that time two robbers *were crucified with Him, one on the right and one on the left. 39 And those passing by were hurling abuse at Him, wagging their heads 40 and saying, “You who are going to destroy the temple and rebuild it in three days, save Yourself! If You are the Son of God, come down from the cross.” 41 In the same way the chief priests also, along with the scribes and elders, were mocking Him and saying, 42 “He saved others; He cannot save Himself. He is the King of Israel; let Him now come down from the cross, and we will believe in Him. 43 “HE TRUSTS IN GOD; LET GOD RESCUE Him now, IF HE DELIGHTS IN HIM; for He said, ‘I am the Son of God.'” 44 The robbers who had been crucified with Him were also insulting Him with the same words. 45 Now from the sixth hour darkness fell upon all the land until the ninth hour. 46 About the ninth hour Jesus cried out with a loud voice, saying, “ELI, ELI, LAMA SABACHTHANI?” that is, “MY GOD, MY GOD, WHY HAVE YOU FORSAKEN ME?” 47 And some of those who were standing there, when they heard it, began saying, “This man is calling for Elijah.” 48 Immediately one of them ran, and taking a sponge, he filled it with sour wine and put it on a reed, and gave Him a drink. 49 But the rest of them said, “Let us see whether Elijah will come to save Him.” 50 And Jesus cried out again with a loud voice, and yielded up His spirit.

Jesus suffered immensely.  Physically, crucifixion is a terrible way to die.  It makes the electric chair look humane.  Emotionally, can you imagine for a moment the betrayal that Jesus felt?  These weren’t just his friends, neighbors, and countrymen who were putting Him to death.  These were His creatures.  The Bible says that all of creation was made through Jesus (John 1:3).  Therefore, the creature was mocking and torturing and murdering the Creator.  No doubt, this reality was horrible emotionally.  But in my opinion, the physical and emotional aspects paled in comparison to the spiritual aspects.  He, who truly never sinned and truly never deserved punishment, took our sin and its punishment on Himself.  He who knew no sin was made to be sin on our behalf (2 Corinthians 5:21).  Matthew 27:46 is the key verse in understanding the spiritual suffering of Jesus because here is where the wrath of God for our sin was poured out on Jesus.  Jesus was literally experiencing Hell on earth.  And when the last drop of wrath had been poured out, Jesus gave up His spirit and died.

My goodness, how Jesus suffered!  He is the only true sufferer.  He is the one and only Innocent Sufferer.

I pray that when you face calamities and trials, whether you feel they are deserved or not, remember the life and death of Jesus.  His innocence was perfect, far surpassing ours.  His suffering was intense, far exceeding ours.  Let His life and death put what you are experiencing into perspective, and know that Jesus the Innocent suffered so that your suffering wouldn’t be eternal.  Jesus lived and died so that you can escape the never-ending suffering of Hell and enjoy life everlasting in Heaven.  It’s through the cross of Christ that we’ll see the promises of Revelation 21:1-4:

  • 1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth; for the first heaven and the first earth passed away, and there is no longer any sea. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, made ready as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne, saying, “Behold, the tabernacle of God is among men, and He will dwell among them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself will be among them, 4 and He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away.”

In the midst of your suffering, may you run to Jesus and cling to the cross of Christ!

03 Jun

Is Jesus the Only Savior?

Recently I’ve been challenged to think about whether or not Jesus is the only way to salvation. Are there many saviors, or is Jesus the only Savior? Theologically, this question touches the doctrine of the exclusivity of Jesus Christ. Man can certainly come up with his own opinion, but the authority over all truth is the Scripture. Therefore, our beliefs must be formed and based upon the Word of God.

As for the exclusivity of Jesus Christ (i.e. – Is Jesus the only Savior?), let’s look at what the Scripture says. We’ll look at only four passages, though we could look at many more.

John 3:14-17, “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up; 15so that whoever believes will in Him have eternal life. 16For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. 17For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him.”

The Bible says here that explicit belief in Jesus is the only way to obtain eternal life. Every person who does not believe in Jesus will not be saved from eternal perishing in hell. It doesn’t matter how sincere the person is. Even the sincerest of the Muslims and the Buddhists and the Jews and every other religion will die and go to hell if they do not repent of their sin and trust in Jesus Christ alone for salvation. Jesus is the dividing line between eternal life and eternal death according to Scripture.

Jesus says that He is the door to salvation. He’s not just one of the doors. He alone is the door. If anyone goes through another door, they will not be saved.

John 10:7-9, “So Jesus said to them again, ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. 8All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. 9I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.’”

Again, Jesus is the exclusive way, the only way. Any other way except through Jesus is a way that leads to lies and death. Nobody gets to God except through repentance and faith in Jesus Christ.

John 14:6, “Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.’”

If you’ll read the context of this statement by Peter, he is talking about the name Jesus Christ. There is salvation in no one else except Jesus Christ because God has not given another name to us for salvation. Jesus is it. Unless a person calls on the name of Jesus and Jesus alone, they will not be saved.

Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”

So in conclusion, it’s certainly a reality that many religions exist in this world. Although they are very interesting to study from a cultural or sociological or anthropological viewpoint, from a theological standpoint I believe it is a sad part of reality that there are other religions in this world. It’s sad because repentance and faith in Jesus Christ alone is the only way for a person to be saved. You see, Jesus is not just “our” savior. He is the only Savior for the entire world. Unfortunately, these other religions are leading people to hell. That might seem judgmental, but that is what the Scripture teaches. I would argue that the most loving thing that I could tell a person is that Jesus Christ is the only way to be saved and that if they continue to deny God’s existence (as atheists do) or worship any other god except the God revealed in Jesus Christ, they will spend eternity in hell.