by Roland W. Keith
As a book the New Testament makes a rather remarkable claim about the leader of its cause. According to Luke’s account the angel Gabriel visited a young, betrothed virgin named Mary, telling her, “’behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall call His name Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. And the Lord God will give to Him the throne of His father David, and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever, and of His kingdom there will be no end.’ And Mary said to the angel, ‘How will this be, since I am a virgin?’ And the angel answered her, "The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God’” (Luke 1:31-35). Subsequent to this conversation the angel visited her fiancé, Joseph, to prepare him for this immaculate birth as well (Matthew 1:20-23).
Many a work of fiction has dealt with the gods and their offspring, some might say. There is only one problem with that assessment. The New Testament is not Greek mythology. It is not an epic poem or story. It is not a fairy tale. Nor is it a tragedy for the stage. It is, in fact, not a story at all. From a publishing standpoint it is a collection of writings and letters unrelated by intent of writing. That is to say that there was no collaboration or intentional building upon one another’s work among the authors. For instance, Luke acknowledged that others had written accounts of the events surrounding the life of Jesus yet having followed the events himself felt that it was good for him to write his own account to Theophilus (Luke 1:1-3). Peter mentions the writings of Paul (II Peter 3:15), marking a distinction in their writings by saying of Paul’s work “according to the wisdom given to him.”
There were eight or nine writers of the New Testament, depending on whether Hebrews was written by Paul (I think so) or an unknown author. There are four gospel accounts written by four men (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John). One history written by Luke. There are 21 letters written by five men (John- 3, Peter- 2, James- 1, Jude- 1, Paul- 14). And, there is one book of revelation, written by John. So, if these writings are unrelated by intent and were not meant to be part of a larger body by the writers (not being fully bound together for several centuries (A.D. 400)), then how did they become one? First, the writings had a common theme or goal. To share with others the writers experiences with a single man— Jesus Christ, and to inform the world of His deity and teachings regarding God and salvation. Two, they had a common audience. Three, each work was one of inspiration that was providentially separated from lesser writings and slowly coalesced into a single volume.
That’s two paragraphs to get to this— The New Testament is not a story in itself, nor a collection of fiction. It is a collection of eyewitness accounts, inspired teachings and revelation written and passed on to us at great peril to the men who wrote them. They risked life and limb to spread the knowledge they had been given. Their purpose and goal was for all of humanity to come to know of that child heralded by Gabriel, Who would grow up with a purpose of His own— to save all who would come to Him from their sins. So, Who is Jesus?
According to Moses He was a prophet like himself, raised up by God to turn men from their wickedness (Acts 3:22-26). To Matthew though, He was more than just a prophet: “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately He went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to Him, and He saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on Him; and behold, a voice from heaven said, "This is My beloved Son, with Whom I am well pleased” (Matthew 3:16-17). Jesus Himself acknowledged the heavenly testimony of God calling Him His Father when He told His followers to abide in Him and keep His commandments (John 15:1-11). Later, Jesus would ask His disciples, “‘Who do people say that the Son of Man is?’ And they said, ‘Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.’ He said to them, ‘But who do you say that I am?’ Simon Peter replied, "You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:13-16; see also John 9:35-38). Peter’s answer reflected not only what Jesus had been teaching them about Himself, but the evidence that He had provided them through His miracles and teachings.
In his history of the early church Luke recorded Peter’s gospel sermon on the Day of Pentecost, when he declared, “Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves know— this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised Him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for Him to be held by it…This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, He has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing. For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, until I make Your enemies Your footstool.’” Let all the house of Israel therefore know for certain that God has made Him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus Whom you crucified” (Acts 2:22-24, 32-36). Had Peter spoken false words to that audience Christianity would have died right there, before it had even really started. The advent of the church succeeded because Peter spoke the truth, eliciting the listeners own personal knowledge as evidence of what he was saying. They had witnessed Jesus' works for themselves, and for those willing to acknowledge that and make the connection Peter was laying before them there was only one correct response to his call for repentance and baptism in the name of Jesus.
As deity Jesus is the Son of God, the second member of the Godhead and the source of eternal life (I John 5:20). As a man, He was the Son of God, the son of David, and the son of Mary, sent to earth to be the Messiah. As such His job was to herald the kingdom of God and prepare man for its inception. It was also His job to offer His life as a ransom for all who would hope to enter that kingdom. John also called Him the “propitiation for our sins” (I John 2:1-2), because He continues as the ransom for our sins from His throne in heaven. He was by turns a carpenter and a rabbi (Mark 6:3; John 3:2), and so much more. Much as Peter called on his audience as its own witness, Paul reminded his readers of all those of past generations who had borne witness of the Christ, in one way or another, describing Him as the “founder and perfecter of our faith,” Who, having accomplished His work was seated at the right hand of God awaiting those who would endure in His name (Hebrews 12:1-2).
Paul would also describe Jesus as not only the Son of God, but as the “apostle and high priest of our confession” (Hebrews 3:1-6). Who do we pray to? God the Father. But in Who’s name do we pray? In the name of the Son. He is the mediator between His Father and men (I Timothy 2:5). However, He is more than just an arbitrator, as Paul made clear to the Hebrews: “Therefore He is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:15). Not only does he mediate the new covenant between God and man, both the covenant and its promise of eternal life were established by His death— purchased with His blood as our redeemer.
Do we sometimes take what Christ did for us for granted? How often do we pray in His name, read from His word, or discuss His life without really meditating on it? How often do we catch ourselves daydreaming in the church pews on a Sunday morning? Jesus pushed me out of the way of an oncoming car, stepped between me and the gunman and took the bullet meant for me, pulled me from a burning building moments before it collapsed, gave me the last seat on the lifeboat before slipping into the icy waters. You say He didn’t do any of those things? How about this— when I deserved death, both physical and spiritual, He died a most excruciating death on a cross, and innocent man just for me. So that I do not have to spend an eternity separated from God. He might not have taken a bullet for me, but he did die for me. And, He did literally pull me away from falling into the fires of hell.
In Revelation John wrote this to the seven churches, “from Jesus Christ the faithful witness, the firstborn of the dead, and the ruler of kings on earth. To Him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by His blood and made us a kingdom, priests to His God and Father, to Him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, He is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see Him, even those who pierced Him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of Him. Even so. Amen. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty’ (Revelation 1:5-8).
Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Faithful Witness, the Firstborn of the Dead, the Ruler of Kings. And, because He loves us and was willing to come to earth and die for us— the Savior of Man.
Hi! I'm Roland. I began writing after retiring from the Navy in 2015. I believe that we each should strive to learn from one another, by sharing our thoughts and ideas. As a writer my goal is to help other seekers of truth to find and grow in Christ.