THE UNIQUENESS OF CHRIST
In Jesus Christ, whom the Father sent to rescue and to save the lost, we meet God face to face. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto himself" (2 Cor. 5:19). This dogma rests upon the unshakable truth of Christ's incarnation, sinless life, atoning death on the cross, victory over sin and death, and His resurrection and return to the throne of God at His ascension. And the Christian's faith is established on this, what is to him, immovable conviction.
Does this mean that the claims of the Christian religion excluded all other religions? Does the Christian faith have a unique claim upon the allegiance of all men?
In comparing the Christian faith with other religions, to us the issue is not whether other religions have in them certain moral truths. Christians do not deny the existence of truths in other religions. But truth in another religion does not warrant that it is a supernatural revelation from God. Truth supernaturally revealed may easily be borrowed by one religion from another. This fact is seen quite extensively in Islam, and its sacred book, the Koran.
The New Testament sets forth the Christian faith not simply as another way of salvation, nor the best way of salvation, but as the only way of salvation. This is implied in the command of Christ to preach the gospel not to some, but to all, nations. The apostle Peter makes this categorical statement: "There is no salvation in anyone else at all, for there is no other name under heaven granted to men, by which we may receive salvation" (Acts 4:12, N.E.B.).
What is to be understood by such statements? judged by the Word of God, does not the Christian faith indeed exclude all other religions? Where in the Bible is there any trace of an idea that the teachings of any other religion can stand equally with its teachings? If the unique claims of Christ and the New Testament are false, then the ground of our faith is but shifting sand. To declare that Jesus Christ and His gospel are the supreme salvation-revelation and then to assert that there are other saving revelations from God also available is to dismiss the unique claims of Christ, and fail to understand what the religion of Christ really is.
One thing is clear from the New Testament: Christ claimed to be the Saviour, not for some men, but for all men. He told His disciples to go, not to certain races or religions, but into all the world to preach the gospel to every creature.
The gospel teaches the incarnation and atonement of our Lord, the perfect righteousness of His life on earth, the gift of the Holy Spirit, and the living Christ as our intercessor before the Father. Such a gospel meets and satisfies all the moral and spiritual needs of men that no other religion ever has met or ever can meet.
Tolerance and love for all people are laudable. But when the truth about God and His plan of redemption in Christ is dismissed or disbelieved it is time to take a firm stand against error and falsehood.
If non-Christian religions can save men because they have good concepts and good moral principles, then the incarnation, the atonement, and the righteousness of Christ are superfluous. The Bible asserts that all other religions are bankrupt of the way of salvation. "But I say, that the things which the Gentiles sacrifice, they sacrifice to devils, and not to God; and I would not that ye should have fellowship with devils" (I Cor. 10:20).
The problem, then, is not whether the uniqueness of Christianity is found in a superior ethic, but whether the religion of Jesus Christ alone offers valid redemption to sinful man and constitutes God's ultimate authority to man.
If other religions have revelations from the true God, then they should not hold contradictions in their interpretation of Jesus Christ and Bible teachings. But in this, religions such as Islam and Buddhism, to name only two, fall down. Both deny that man is a free agent, personally responsible for sin. Both insist that man can save himself by moral and ceremonial observances. Islam rejects the incarnation and atonement of our Lord, and it admits of no intercession as prevailing with God for sinners. The doctrine of salvation by substitution is denied. Islam is a religion without a mediator, an incarnation, or a divine sacrifice for sin.
Jesus: The Unique Revelation of God
"No one has ever seen God; but God's only Son, he who is nearest to the Father's heart, he has made him known" (John 1: 18, N.E.B.). Jesus did something for sinful men that no other has ever done or can do: He revealed to us in His own perfect life and character the reality of, and the truth about, God the Father. The character of Jesus stands alone in its revelation of our heavenly Father. Christianity is founded in large part on the kind of person God is. That our heavenly Father should reveal Himself fully in one Man, Jesus of Nazareth, is both amazing and revolutionary. Here lies the uniqueness of the Christian faith.
So if we desire to know what God is like in His nature and character, the presence and person of Jesus is just that. The Father is no different from the Son, and Jesus is no different from the Father. The perfect love, perfect purity, perfect righteousness in Christ, brings God to us.
In this Jesus is the summit of all our hopes and the satisfaction of all our needs. Beyond this no other person has ever lived in whom was manifested the fullness of God. Christ's mission was not a cultural one, but God's unique offer of Himself to all men, the world's only Saviour and Lord. "For in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power" (Col. 2:9, 10).
Truly all our hopes for life and righteousness both in this life and in the life to come are in Christ. His life is a fountain of holy influence unknown to every other religion and to all the ages of time. His life was good not only in the absence of the negative quality, sin; He was filled with positive and matchless excellence in all that God is in Himself.
In His revelation of God our Father, Jesus was separate from men, separate in the very constitution of His spiritual nature. He was sent into the darkness and the lostness of our world to meet a crisis that never could arise again, for a work never again to be repeated. He brought God to us in all His beauty and perfection.
Christ was unique in His birth. He was begotten of God. He was the movement of God Himself toward sinners. All that Jesus was in Himself, all that He said and did, can be predicated of the Father. His human nature was inwrought through a unique act of the Holy Spirit. His birth was not the beginning of His life. His becoming flesh was the appearance of the eternal Son from heaven.
He lived with the Father throughout the eternal ages of the past. He knew our Father in heaven as no other person knew Him. In His eternal pre-existence He enjoyed an eternal fellowship with the Father. And the Father, longing to reveal and give Himself to us, sent His Son. His Son removes all misapprehensions about God. He alone knew and fully understood the true character of our heavenly Father. He knew that God was on our side.
Nothing short of His unbroken union with the Father can account for Jesus' perfect righteousness in humanity. He came to know, to understand, and to do the will of God, which no other man has ever attained. Jesus lived in the full consciousness of God's presence and in perfect obedience to Him in thought, word, and deed.
His complete surrender to the Father's will from the dawn of consciousness to the grave has never been equaled in any other life. From start to finish in His life on earth Christ was absolute righteousness in the entirety of His person. Thereby He could offer to us this perfect gift: the righteousness of God. This could not be true if He were a sinner either by possessing a sinful nature or by committing a sinful act. When we give due honor to the glory of God's righteousness in Christ the glory of the Lord shall fill the earth as the waters cover the sea.
The union of deity with humanity in Jesus, His oneness with the Father, is the only truth that explains the moral and spiritual stature of the Son of God. From the open sky beneath which Jesus of Nazareth stood, the voice of the Father proclaimed, "This is my beloved Son: hear him" (Mark 9:7).
The incarnation of the Son of God was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament truth about God. Without the advent of Christ the Old Testament remains unfinished. It is merely a fragment of God's revelation. With the Incarnation, the Old Testament is complete.
When, through the prophet Jeremiah, God said to sinful men, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee" (Jer. 31:3), He was saying that His righteous love was the one thing that could not remain a matter of verbal expression only. In Jesus the world experienced the eternal truth that "God is love."
The beginning and end of all God's dealings with us is seen in His love. He is seen to be our Father in His sacrifice through the incarnation of His Son, and through the cross. Love unspeakable and immeasurable is the glory that encircles the cradle of Bethlehem and the cross of Calvary. "Herein is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us, and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins" (I John 4: 10).
Is not this the greatest concept conveyed in the Scripture, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father"? What was seen was not God the Avenger, not God the Potentate of the universe, not a God of wrath and condemnation, but the God of love-"my Father, and your Father." Having seen Jesus Christ, we have seen the Father; seen Him in His love at Bethlehem, at Gethsemane, on Calvary, in the resurrection.
How utterly worthy of our devotion is such a God as was seen in Jesus! We believe in God the Father, who "so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son" (John 3:16). We believe in God the Son, who so loved us as to lay down His life for us. We believe in God the Holy Spirit, "because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Ghost which is given unto us" (Rom. 5:5).
In Christ we see the perfect balance of the love and righteousness of God, which stands in sharp contrast to the world's concept of love. Man's tendency is to believe that love to God and man are the two great commandments, constituting the whole duty of man, and that God requires nothing more than love. He is inclined to overemphasize this one side of God's character so as to bring into neglect His holiness and righteousness. Love alone has become the supreme maxim to which the mind must give attention. There is a concentration upon the subjective, where one is concerned wholly with himself. People no longer appreciate the Bible distinction between truth and error, law and love, Bible morality and the world's ethics. As a result, the balance in mind and living is disturbed. The power to resist sin is greatly reduced. The imbalanced emphasis on what modern men consider love to be is now responsible for the weakening of the moral fiber and the sense of sin. There is a consequent decline of interest in obedience to all the will of God revealed in the Bible.
Christ revealed in His life the perfect balance between love and holiness. His love for the Father and for mankind never allowed Him to be careless with sin. God desires of His people a life of righteous love that answers to the character of God revealed in Jesus Christ, our Saviour.
Jesus Christ: The One Mediator Between Man and God
"For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (I Tim. 2:5). "1 am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me" (John 14:6). Jesus made it plain that He alone is the way to God the Father. He is the one "door," the entrance hall as it were, through which we enter triumphantly into the presence of God the Father.
The transforming power of the gospel is not in its ideology or its ethics, but in Christ, our divine Mediator. He brings eternal life from God in place of our mortality. He brings righteousness in place of our unrighteousness. He brings redemption and sanctification in place of our sinfulness. He brings reconciliation to the Father in place of our alienation.
How can any Christian become proud and claim superiority over others when such gifts are from God and never the achievement of man? We are not Christians either by coercion or by our own moral achievements, but by the presence and power of God Himself.
Jesus Christ is Immanuel, "God with us." He is the Christian's victory over self and sin. He is the eternal love of God that banishes hate, hostility, and enmity. He is the strength that removes our cowardice. He is the divine center of our lives that transcends our selfishness. In Christ God chose not to remain distant from us, but to possess our lives.
Christ knew that our supreme need is reconciliation to the Father and continual access to Him. Forgiveness, repentance, and faith in Him are necessary. No man is ever saved except by the presence of God in His life. No man is ever redeemed and transformed by dependence on himself. To fulfill the need for reconciliation Jesus poured out all His life forces. His own access to the Father and His compassion for lost men were aimed at restoring us to oneness with the Father. "For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father" (Eph. 2:18); "In whom we have boldness and access with confidence by the faith of him" (chap. 3:12).
Christ was the sinless Man because He was totally at one with God. Only He has opened for us the way into the presence of the Father.
Christ's work as Mediator between us and God did not cease when He completed His sacrifice on the cross. "He ever liveth to make intercession for [us]" (chap. 7:25). In and through the mediatorial work of our Lord in heaven, God our Father is continually engaged in pouring out all the resources of His life and love to win sinners back to Himself. God insists that they belong to Him, that they are of supreme value to Him. Therefore He seeks by every means possible to restore harmony and maintain oneness between Himself and sinners. God in Christ is the Seeker, the Finder, the Redeemer, the Sanctifier, "The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace" (Isa. 9:6).
Christ continually stands between His people and the enemy. He said to Peter, "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not" (Luke 22:32). Likewise, He interceded for us before the throne of God. Christians are His redeemed children, kept in the favor and love of God when they remain in Him. From heaven above, Christ's loving watchfulness is exercised on their behalf. They are not left to fight the battle alone. "If any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous" (I John 2:1).
As Christians, we are never forgotten by any of the members of the Godhead. The risen Lord walks up and down in the midst of the golden candlesticks, which symbolize the church of God on earth (Rev. 1:12, 13, 20). His intercession for us can never fail. It is ever accessible.
It is a great advantage to know the law of God, to understand and commit oneself to obey that law. But this is not the source of our strength. Our sufficiency is of God.
Many people are inclined to believe that God the Father is angry with us for all the sins and shortcomings in our lives, that we can never think of Him as we think of Jesus, that He never can behold our sinfulness and think of us except in terms of abhorrence, that Jesus stands between us and an angry God.
But Jesus makes it clear that the Father loves and cares for us as much as He Himself does. If we have seen and understand the Son, we also have seen and understand the Father. The love of Christ that gives everything to us is also the love of the Father.
There is not a single act of our lives, there is no problem that faces us, about which the Father does not care and for which we may not have an answer in Christ. "For consider him . . . lest ye be wearied and faint in your minds" (Heb. 12:3). We dwell too much upon our failures and too little upon our heavenly Father and His only Son.
Behind and through all the teachings of Christ and the reading of the Bible is God with us in Christ. We talk about Christ and of the Calvary of long ago. But the Christ who lived two thousand years ago is not our Saviour and Lord unless His presence and power controls the lives we live now. We think of the Christ of the future, for whom the people of God are waiting. We talk of the return of our Lord and the judgment of the great white throne. But He will never lead us into the millennial reign and the new earth unless He is in and with us here and now. "At that day ye shall know that I am in my Father and ye in me, and I in you" (John 14:20). Is there any other religion besides Christianity that offers such a relationship and fellowship with the Godhead?
We have this great promise, "Because I live, ye shall live also" (verse 19). This promise of oneness is that of the head to the body, of the vine to the branches. The Lord is our portion. By Him we who are Christians know the only true God, our heavenly Father. Christ is our exclusive Redeemer, Advocate, Lord, and Master. Our life style comes from fellowship with the Father and the Son.
In our weakness, our ignorance, and our inability, our prayers ascend to the mercy seat of God claiming the power from Him alone. The appeal and intercession of Christ go straight to the heart of the Father. The touch of Christ, the voice of Christ, the look of Christ, but above all, the prayer of Christ, "I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not."
Christ interceding for us, Christ claiming the riches of heaven for us, Christ concentrating His prayer for us, Christ applying His merits to us. What else do we need?
At the time when many disciples chose to walk with Christ no more, Christ addressed the twelve, "Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God" (John 6:67-69). There is nowhere else to go.
The Uniqueness of Christ's Triumph
Christ alone overcame Satan, the originator of sin. Christ alone met sin and death and defeated them. He triumphed not only for Himself but for all those who trust in Him. The victory won by Jesus Christ over the mortal enemies of man is the certainty of our inheritance as heirs with Christ, the eternal basis for our faith, the very inspiration for our allegiance to God.
Christ belongs to all time and to every nation, tongue, and people. He is the contemporary Redeemer and Victor in every age. In every believing heart He plants the victory gained at Calvary. The Christian qualifies for immortality and citizenship in heaven when he truly confesses, "Thou art my Redeemer, Lord, and King."
The God of heaven, our heavenly Father, entrusted supreme authority and dominion to His Son alone.
For some 6,000 years the inhabitants of earth have been in revolt against the God of heaven. They have refused allegiance to their rightful Lord and King. Since the entrance of sin, Satan, the evil angels, and all Satan's followers on earth have arrayed themselves against Jesus Christ.
The apostle John describes Christ's ultimate victory over all the enemies of God:
Jesus is now the exalted Redeemer, Lord, and King. "Of his kingdom there shall be no end" (Luke 1:33). "His dominion is an everlasting dominion" (Dan. 7:14). The word "dominion" implies His right to rule not merely over physical territory but in the hearts of men. For when the seventh trumpet is sounded, "The kingdoms of this world are become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ; and he shall reign for ever and ever" (Rev. 11:15).
Jesus will ever continue as the second Adam, the Head and Lord of the redeemed race. For He has borne every sin and atoned for us all. All of man's enemies have been defeated. Jesus sits as a mighty conqueror on the throne of God, having this honor forever.
But He is still both Son of God and Son of man. When He became man He did not cease to be God. He died on Calvary and He rose again. But He did not cease to be man. The body that He had on earth was taken up into heaven and seated at the right hand of the Father. He is the same Son of man whose feet a sinful woman bathed with her tears. His hand is the same that was laid on the heads of little children, that touched the blind eyes and opened them, that broke the bread at the Last Supper. He is the same Son of man whom John describes:
We are to believe and hold this truth that the glorified and exalted Christ is human still. He never ceased to be God while on earth. He will never cease to be Man while in heaven. His deity and humanity are forever inseparable. Jesus our Lord has a human heart and mind. In His eternal glory He is still very near to us. Jesus, one of our race, has been exalted to the throne of God, Son of God and Son of man.
Christ's exaltation to the throne of the universe is the reward for His triumph here on earth.
Christ is the only rightful sovereign of the universe. He alone is worthy to wield the scepter of universal dominion. He alone has the right to uphold all things by the word of His power and to govern numberless worlds so that sin will never rise again. He has given eternal security to billions of created beings on other worlds and has triumphed on behalf of us all.
Therefore Christ is worthy of the highest honor and glory before the universe. It is the height of absurdity and impiety to suppose that some other man, some other religious leader, could rule as King of kings and Lord of lords; or that the God of heaven would commit universal dominion to anyone else.
What think ye of Christ? In answering we hold a trust too vast and share a victory too glorious to trifle with. For we are now joint heirs with Christ to share the incomparable resources and blessings of His victory.
Christ alone, then, will fulfill the true end of our lives and our being. Why did God create us? Why has Christ redeemed us? Above all things, that God may be glorified in us. We have enrolled ourselves in that white-robed choir which at last will stand face to face with our heavenly Father to sing that new song: