Who Is Jesus?
Put simply, Jesus is the Saviour of the world. It’s quite common to hear people talk about Jesus as though he were simply a great religious figure from the distant past, but that’s not the Bible’s view. The Bible says that He’s alive today! That’s because Jesus was and is God incarnate (ie fully God and fully human).
The focus of Jesus’ work on earth was his death on a cross, because here he did something for us that we couldn’t do for ourselves – he took the punishment from God that our sins deserved, thus freeing us from any prospect of condemnation by God. More than that, his complete moral goodness (the Bible calls this his ‘righteousness’) was transferred to us, so that God can now accept us as members of his family forever.
However, Jesus didn’t stay dead. Three days after being killed he rose again to life – and the gospels contain details of what the various witnesses saw. After promising to send his followers his Holy Spirit, and one day to return again when he brings all history to an end, he then departed from sight, to be with his Father. The fact that he didn’t stay dead showed both that his great sacrifice had worked – it was acceptable to God – and that He was, and is, alive.
Jesus is given various titles in the Bible including:
- ‘Christ’. Jesus Christ means Jesus, the King. In the Bible, the term Christ has the same meaning as Messiah – and it means God’s chosen King.
- ‘Lord’. When we talk about the Lord Jesus Christ, we mean that he has authority over us: He is Lord of our lives
- ‘Saviour’. The great theme of the Bible is how God has shown his love to us by sending his Son to save us from an eternity without God and give us a new life which goes on forever
- ‘Son of God’. The Bible says that Jesus is both fully God, and also that He is the obedient Son of His Father.
Why Do I Need To Be Saved?
The very first book of the Bible – Genesis – tells us that people were designed by God to be close to Him and to live for ever, but that the relationship was destroyed by our desire to cut God out of the picture and decide for ourselves how we should live our lives. The Bible calls this ‘sin’. Sinning can seem pleasurable for a time but it invariably leads to things going wrong. More significantly, it deprives us of eternal life, because it puts us on the wrong side of God. The Bible book of Romans even describes us as being ‘enemies’ of God. Our natural prospects are therefore worse than bleak: all we can look forward to when we meet God is his anger at our sin.
The problem we face is that we can do nothing ourselves to put matters right. Even if we decided to try to live according to God’s law for the rest of our lives, it would do no good mainly because none of us are capable of keeping it up. That’s why we need a Saviour: someone who can take God’s anger away, free us from the trap of thinking we know better than God, and enable us to have the close relationship with God that He had first intended. When that happens we start to experience what Jesus promised: life to the full.
That’s what Jesus achieved for us when he died for us. God’s hostility to sin meant that his reaction to it fell on Jesus so that it wouldn’t have to fall on us. Some people wonder why God had to punish anyone at all. The answer is that He is both just and loving. As a just God, He cannot overlook wrongdoing. If we had a system of law which never resulted in guilty people being punished but rather that they were free to go, we would say that there was no justice. So God has to show his justice. But, because He is a loving God, He took his own punishment on himself, so that we could be saved from it. The Apostle Peter put it like this: ‘He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.’ (1 Peter 2: 24-25).
This salvation doesn’t just apply to us all automatically. We have to realise the seriousness of the position we are in without God’s forgiveness and then do two things:
- Decide to change. The Bible calls this repentance – where we tell God we are sorry for the past and want to turn back to Him. This change of direction involves accepting Jesus as our Lord – the one who has the right to steer our lives.
- Trust what Jesus has done for us. The Bible calls this believing. We can’t do anything to save ourselves, but when we thank Jesus for what He has done and tell Him we trust him for our salvation, then everything He did applies to us. John’s Gospel puts it like this: ‘ Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, for the wrath of God remains on him.’ (John 3: 36).
It’s wonderful to put your trust in Jesus Christ. First, there’s huge relief. Romans 8 says, ‘there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.’ Secondly, there’s great joy because we can now live in hope. And thirdly, we are given God’s Holy Spirit who helps us enjoy God’s company more and more as the years go by – which only makes us look forward even more to the time when we will see Jesus face to face.
Why Base Your Life on the Bible?
Since the Bible was written so long ago, some people think it is irrelevant to us today. However the whole of the Bible points one way or another to Jesus Christ – and his offer of salvation is as applicable today as it was 2000 years ago.
The Bible demonstrates to us that God is not some distant entity but that He communicates with us and wants us to be in relationship with Him. Some of the most ancient parts (written hundreds of years before Christ) tell us how God interacted with people then and gave advance notice of his intention of sending a Saviour who would take away our sin through his suffering (eg Isaiah 53 and Zechariah 12:10). The New Testament contains the record of what the first witnesses actually saw and heard during Jesus’s earthly life – and what happened subsequently.
So what we have in the Bible is:
- Evidence that Jesus didn’t just appear as some great religious leader; prophet after prophet foretold his appearance – which shows it had always been the central part of God’s plan for the world.
- Evidence from witnesses which have the ring of truth – not least because many of them were prepared to be put to death themselves in defence of what they believed about Jesus Christ as a result.
But why did it all have to happen so long ago? The answer is that if God was going to let us know exactly what He’s like by coming to earth as a human ‘Son’, then He had to turn up some time. And 2000 years ago wasn’t a bad time to ensure the news got around, given that in the Roman Empire there was a common language for passing on news, open borders and relative peace and security. You might think it would be better today in the digital age, but the key thing about Christianity is that God loves the gospel to be passed on by people directly, so that the difference Jesus actually makes in his followers’ lives can be clearly seen – as well as their words heard.
It may have happened long ago, but we still have manuscript copies of fragments of the gospels dating from within a generation or two of Christ’s death. That means we can be sure that what we read today is an accurate record of what was originally written. As an historical record, the Bible has no equal in the ancient world. It is trustworthy, compelling and contains everything God wants us to know about Himself, his plans, and his love for us.
Where Can I Find Out More?
The best thing you can do is to ask a Christian friend to explain things to you. They may suggest you go on a course run by their local church – in which case, why not take them up on it?
If you want to think things through on your own, then go to the bethinking.org web site and see if it answers your questions.
A great book for looking in detail at the evidence for believing the Bible is ‘The Case For Christ’ by Lee Strobel.
For a good book explaining God’s plans as they are revealed throughout the Bible, you can’t do better than ‘God’s Big Picture’ by Vaughan Roberts.
Male Headship: The Theological Basis
A summary of the theological reasons for believing that men and women have different ministries in the Church was provided by Andrew Brewerton in a paper prepared for the Diocese of Sheffield entitled ‘New norms, new beginning.’ It is reproduced below.
- The Bible affirms that men and women are of equal value in God’s eyes and in particular celebrates their equality of status in the Gospel as God’s children, co-heirs of the promise, and belonging to God through faith in Christ (eg Galatians 3:28).
- The Bible also presents a consistent pattern that men and women are to have different complementary roles within marriage and family life and in the leadership of the Church.
- These different roles are rooted in God’s good purposes in creation and furthermore, the nature of the relationships between men and women is designed to reflect something of the complementary nature of the relationships found between the members of the Trinity.
- The Genesis accounts reveal a deliberate ordering in creation, in that the man was formed before the woman, with each made to complement the other. St Paul picks up this creation order in terms of role and responsibility in his New Testament letters (eg 1 Cor 11 and 1 Timothy 2).
- These differences in role are expressed in God’s good pattern for Christian marriage: the husband is to sacrificially love his wife in the same way that Christ loves the Church; the wife is to submit herself to her husband’s love in the same way she submits herself to the Lord’s love. In St Paul’s language, the husband is ‘the head’ of the wife (eg Ephesians 5), not lording it over her but offering to her a form of servant leadership after the pattern of Christ.
- In the life of the family, the husband is to sacrificially love his wife and children by protecting them and providing for their needs, leading them into faith and godliness and teaching them the Scriptures. The role of the wife is as collaborative helper, sharing the management of the household and family while respecting the husband’s overall responsibility.
- St Paul extends these themes in his teaching in the life of the leadership of the local congregation, seeing the church as a ‘household’ or family of faith, where the appointed ‘head’ of the congregation should be male rather than female. His role is to take the lead in protecting the congregation from error, providing for their needs, leading them into faith and godliness and teaching them the Scriptures. St Paul does not exclude the ministry of women within the local congregation, but he does assert male headship, especially when talking about elders, overseers and deacons.
- The headship pattern is further modelled within the relationships between members of the Trinity. St Paul writes that, ‘the head of the man is Christ, the head of a wife is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.’ (1 Corinthians 11). Within the Trinity there is at the same time equality and submission. Father, Son and Spirit are all equally and fully God, yet the Father is the head of Christ. Furthermore, the members of the Trinity have complementary roles: for example only the Son has the role of God incarnate, whilst only the Father has the role of sender of the Saviour; likewise the Son demonstrates loving and willing submission to the headship of his Father in saying, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’ Within their equality, each member of the Trinity has a different and complementary role.
- In terms of practical church ministry, a complementarian theology would usually entail :
- The appointed leader of the local congregation being male, supported by both men and women in his ministry team; many complementarians would welcome the ministry of permanent female deacons
- Mixed congregations being taught the Scriptures primarily by male preachers
- Those who hold this view being unable in good conscience to receive the ministry of ordained women priests or bishops, either as a visiting minister or local incumbent.
- Celebrating and encouraging (as many/as most already do) the ministry of women in many different spheres of church life and teaching, except that of head of the local church or presiding bishop
The desire, therefore, is to be served by a male bishop, ideally one who both understands and shares this same complementarian theology.