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Jesus Christ: Divine Savior or Gnostic Nobody!

"Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God" (1 John 4:2-3)

By Ken Treybig

icon arrowWho was Jesus of Nazareth? A figment of the imagination of a group of men from Galilee? A good man? A teacher or prophet of God? Or was He truly a divine being made flesh? The answer to that question is the most vital piece of information anyone can have, yet it has been debated and argued for 2,000 years!

In recent years there have been several-high profile media efforts attempting to discredit the divinity of Jesus of Nazareth. Leading the way was The Da Vinci Code as both a book and movie. This was followed up by the supposed lost Gospel of Judas and, early in 2007, another book titled The Jesus Family Tomb.

photoDo you know for certain that Jesus was God in the flesh, or is there a nagging question in your mind about whether some of these modern claims may have some basis in fact? Could it be that perhaps Jesus wasn't really who He claimed to be, that He was just an ordinary man? Your answer affects your eternity, so you'd better be sure!

The modern questioning of the identity of Jesus follows the pattern established by the gnostics of the late first century. Around A.D. 90, the apostle John wrote to Christians warning that "every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God" (1 John 4:2-3).

The issue here was the divinity and humanity of Jesus Christ—whether He was really God made flesh. Concerning John's statement, The Expositor's Bible Commentary says, "The clause 'that Jesus Christ has come' reflects the author's clear view of the preexistence of the Son, who came from the Father and from the moment of his historical birth, was Jesus Christ in the flesh."

Secret knowledge

Many Bible commentaries, Expositor's included, connect the mistaken believe that Jesus wasn't really God in the flesh with the beliefs of gnosticism.

The term gnosticism is derived from the Greek word gnosis, meaning "knowledge." Gnostics believe they have secret knowledge about God, unknown to others, and according to The Catholic Encyclopedia, modern scholars now trace the movement back to ancient Middle Eastern religious roots (www.newadvent.org/cathen/06592a.htm). As gnosticism came in contact with various religions, it appears to have "borrowed" terminology from them to describe its basic tenets—that the material universe is evil and that people are divine beings trapped in a material world by an evil spirit, the demiurge.

According to gnostic teaching, in order to free themselves from the evil, material world, human beings need special knowledge, including spells and magical incantations. There is a wide range of competing ideas within this religious grouping, but since gnostics generally considered the material universe to be evil, they rejected the idea that God would manifest Himself in a fleshly body. Therefore, when they came in contact with teaching about Jesus Christ being God in the flesh, the Savior who died for our sins, they rejected that and taught that He was only a "good person" or that He only "appeared" to be in the flesh—but was really just an apparition.

Jesus discusses His identity

Debate about who Jesus was is not new. In fact, Jesus brought the question up Himself among His disciples. Matthew 16:13-17 records the event and says the disciples told Him that some thought He was John the Baptist or another of the famous prophets of God come back to life.

But Peter answered that he knew Jesus was "the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus then told Peter that he was blessed and that God the Father in heaven was responsible for Peter's understanding of the fact that Jesus was indeed the Son of God in the flesh (verses 16-17).

Some of the Jewish religious leaders even asked Jesus for proof of who He was, requesting some kind of miraculous sign to prove His identity. Jesus called them evil and said the only proof He would give is that, just like Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the fish, He would be three days and three nights in the grave (Matthew 12:39-40).

Guarding the tomb

After Jesus' death, these leaders remembered that He had said He would rise from the dead after three days. So they requested a military guard be posted at His tomb so the disciples would not be able to steal His body away and claim He had risen from the dead (Matthew 27:62-66).

But surprise! Jesus rose anyway. And after Jesus rose from the dead, the soldiers reported the resurrection to the religious leaders who then bribed the soldiers and instructed them to say that Jesus' disciples had stolen His body (Matthew 28:11-15).

Gnostic flair

So theories and lies about how Jesus was just an ordinary human being, and not God in the flesh, began to circulate immediately after He was resurrected. It is no wonder, then, that the first century gnostics would add their own flair to Jesus being a nobody—just another human being. Maybe He was a nice person—maybe a teacher of good things—but in their way of thinking, He was just another human being or just a vision. Their teachings could not conceive of God actually coming in the flesh.

While many today would protest that those behind the modern media efforts to discredit the divinity of Jesus Christ are not gnostic by religious persuasion, the method of discrediting Jesus is the same—to claim secret knowledge about Jesus being only human and not our divine Savior.

It is beyond the scope of this article to discuss all the deficiencies of the claims of these modern theories. However, if you are interested in reading more, you can read this ," which was discovered in 1980 and examined by archaeologists, who determined it was not of special interest.

Also, and for a commentary on the . Additionally, a half-hour video production on "" is available from Beyond Today television.

Was Jesus really the Son of God in the flesh, or just a regular person—a nobody—as taught by the Roman guards, the gnostics of the first century and some modern media efforts of our day? You cannot afford to be unsure of the answer.

The Bible reveals that many of His family and followers willingly gave their very lives for the truth that He was indeed the Son of God. The fact that He was resurrected from the dead exactly three days and three nights after He was placed in the grave, just as He stated, is clear evidence of Jesus' identity. VT

About the author:
About the Author
Ken Treybig is the director of United Youth Camp Carter and pastor of United Church of God congregations in East Texas. Comments or Questions
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