The Distinctiveness and Uniqueness
by Kenneth E. Thomas
As I begin this treatise, let me remind each reader to take a bible in hand and carefully read each scripture reference. Space restrictions forbid that I should write out each of these. I know this is time consuming but it will be to your benefit to actually read directly from God's word, that which I shall use to substantiate each point I shall attempt to make in this study.
There are several distinctive truths which give Christianity its validity and set it apart from other religions of the world. Three in particular come to mind as I begin this treatise. 1. The virgin birth; the church's Prophet and Savior. 2.That Savior's sinlessness. 3.His bodily resurrection which was attested to by many eyewitnesses and other infallible proofs for a period of about forty days after His resurrection and prior to His ascension back to the right hand of the heavenly Father with whom he had shared equality from eternity. (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:8-11; Isaiah 7:14; Isaiah 9:6; 1 Peter 1:18-19; 2:21-22; Matthew 1:18-23; Psalm 16, 22; Luke 24:45-47; 1 Cor. 15:1-9; 13-28; Rom. 1:4; Acts 2:22-38).
Jesus Himself recognized that Adam and Eve were the first pair of humans, created in a unique way; Adam from the dust of the ground and Eve being fashioned by God from a rib which he extracted from Adam's side. Many are the New Testament passages which point back to this original pair and the first institution created by God, the home (Genesis 2:21-24;Matthew 19:1-9; 1 Timothy 2:11-15). Many other passages point back to the time of the fall of Adam and Eve due to eating the forbidden fruit causing a rupture in their close relationship with the Godhead, and their banishment from the paradise garden (Genesis 1:26-27; 3:1-24; Romans 5:12; 1 Cor.15:21; 2 Cor. 11:2-3).
I said the above to make the following point concerning the uniqueness of Christianity among other religions; that "Christianity" alone offers this one Savior for the entire human family who was promised shortly after the fall of Adam and Eve, tying everything from Genesis to Revelation together to form one worldwide religion. This also accounts for why Christ commissioned His chosen apostles who were His special "witnesses" to many things that serve to validate this religion as the fulfillment of every promise God made in the whole of the Old Testament to carry this message to every creature in the whole world (Genesis 3:15; 12:1-6;Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-20; Luke 24:45-49; Gal. 3:16).
Jesus Christ, the one Savior for all of humanity, therefore having given the creation account and the fall of the first human pair authenticity , means that we either accept these things as fact or we deny that Jesus was who and what He claimed to be; because if He was mistaken, then He isn't worthy to be accepted as our Messiah and the Savior of all humanity as He claimed, when he said; "...I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man comes unto the Father, but by Me" (John 14:6). Likewise the apostle Paul affirms in the following statement:
"I exhort therefore, that, first of all, supplications, prayers, intercessions, and giving of thanks, be made for all men: For kings, and for all that are in authority; that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life in all godliness and honesty. For this is good and acceptable in the sight of God our Savior; Who would have all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus; Who gave himself a ransom for all, to be testified in due time. Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, (I speak the truth in Christ, and lie not;) a teacher of the Gentiles (nations other than Jews ket) in faith and verity" (2 Timothy 2:1-7).
The Virgin Birth:
The doctrine of the "virgin birth" is essential to prove the validity of true Christianity mainly because it gives the one and only logical ground for explaining the Incarnation and consequently the deity of Jesus of Nazareth as "the Christ." I shall not go into detail trying to prove Genesis 3:15 to be a prophecy of the virgin birth since some contest it. Although I believe it does indeed show that "the seed of woman" would come into the world in victory over Satan. We have other clear passages that cannot be contested that do indeed prophecy of a "virgin" born Savior, such as Isaiah 7:14-15. Recently Tim Haile in the online paper Gospel Anchor, showed that often Old Testament passages did indeed have a "dual fulfillment." Since this very verse is quoted and applied to Jesus in the New Testament, there can be no doubt that Matthew used the words of the prophet as evidence of the virgin birth of Jesus in Matthew 1:21-23. However looking at this context and reading the next few verses in Isaiah seven shows that perhaps there was also a more immediate fulfillment of v-15 to the Hebrew nation. However we shall notice as we proceed that there is no doubt that inspiration applied v-14 to Jesus.
Leon Crouch in his book on "The Deity of Christ," quoted from Dr. J. Gresham Machen the following:
"The announcement of Jesus' birth is in Luke 1:26-38. The time is given as "in the sixth month" which refers to the sixth month of Elizabeth's pregnancy. The place is given as Nazareth a "city in Galilee." The person is named and it is mentioned that she was "engaged" or "betrothed" to Joseph. The context makes it clear that both Joseph and his betrothed, Mary, were of the house of David. As the angel spoke to Mary, he called her "favored one" and told her that the Lord was with her. Mary did not understand and was troubled. The angel reassured her and repeated "you have found favor with God." He then said, "And behold, you will conceive in your womb, and bear a son, and you shall name Him Jesus. He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Most High; and the Lord God will give Him the throne of His father David; and He will reign over the house of Jacob forever; and His kingdom will have no end" (Luke 1:31-33).
Crouch went on to say: "Mary's son is to be great. The greatness is in the fact that he is to be "called the Son of the Most High." The word translated "will be called" (Gr. klethesetai) indicates that He will not only be called, but will be recognized as, the Son of God. This expression "sets Him apart from all others and makes Him Son of God in a special sense." The child was also to be given the throne of "His father David." Which is in harmony with Jewish expectation and Old Testament prophecy (2 Sam. 7:12ff; Psalm 89:29). The reign over the house of Jacob and the everlasting nature of His kingdom also harmonize with Old Testament prophecy (Dan. 2:44; Psalm 45:6). The statement about His reign in 1 Corinthians 15:24ff, refers "To Christ's mediatoral kingdom....These statements are all relevant to the doctrine of Christ's deity."
Mary's response to the angel was, "How can this be, since I am a virgin?" (vs. 34). These words are not an appeal for proof. She did not doubt the angel, nor did she think that Joseph was to be the father. Her question was about the mode of accomplishment. She knew that she was pure, but evidently understood an immediate fulfillment of the promise. The angel then explained that the conception would be accomplished by the Holy Spirit; it would be a divine activity (vs. 35). Leon Morris correctly says,(according to Crouch, ket) "This delicate expression rules out crude ideas of a 'mating' of the Holy Spirit with Mary. The child to be born would be called and recognized as "the Son of God."
It should be noted just what the title "Son of God" involves in this context. It is much more than any other person could claim. After Jesus had grown to manhood, His claim of being the Son of God caused Him trouble. The Jews knew that His claim made Him equal with God (John 5:18), and they tried to kill Him because they thought He blasphemed (John 10:33). The angel's words recorded by Luke set Jesus apart from all others" (Leon Crouch, The Deity of Christ, pg. 22). Can you imagine anyone today claiming that Jesus was a mere man "just like you and me?" Yet that is what some of our own preaching brethren are saying. Even when they retract the statement that He was "just like us," as John A. Welch apologized for saying, yet he and others continue to make the same arguments which say that this is exactly what he (they) still believe about Jesus. I deny it with all of the fervor of my being!
"The giving of the name "Jesus" is important to this study. The word "Jesus" is a transliteration of the Hebrew word "Joshua" which means "Jehovah is salvation." The reason for the name is stated by Matthew: "For it is He who will save His people from their sins"(v-21). The last part of the verse not only tells the reason for the name, it shows that the important thing in the name is the verb "salvation." Salvation from sin is a work of God, hence this verse points to the deity of Christ."(Quoted from Theological Dictionary... by Kittel...1965...Ibid, pg. 23).
Matthew shows that the events connected with the conception of Jesus were a fulfillment of what the Lord had spoken through the prophet (v-22). His use of the verb translated "might be fulfilled" gives a picture of the "promise or the prophecy as an empty vessel which is at last filled when the event occurs" (R. C. H. Linski The interpretation of Matthew...1961 Pg. 52- ibid).
"The purpose of Matthew and Luke in presenting the circumstances of Jesus' birth "is not out of biographical interest....Their purpose is, on the one hand, to stress the actuality of the human birth of Jesus, in opposition to all docetism; and, on the other hand, to affirm his divine origin and eschatological mission" (Ibid-Pg. 23). John's account of the incarnation is simply stated as follows: "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14). Earlier he began the book with the affirmation, "In the beginning was the Word, and the word was with God, and the word was God" (John 1:1). I wonder how he could have said it if he really wanted us to believe that Jesus is God (deity) if that doesn't make it sufficiently plain?
There is still more evidence which relates to Jesus' birth and His deity: Actually none of the epistles of the New Testament mentions specifically the virgin birth of Jesus although His birth is mentioned a number of times. However, there are three passages from Paul's writings which relate to our subject. In Galatians 4, Paul is speaking about the redemption from the bondage of the law (of Moses ket) and its curse into the position of freedom as sons of God. Speaking of Jesus' birth, he says, "But when the fullness of time came, God sent forth His Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons" (Galatians 4:4-5). The words "born of woman" declare the method of the Incarnation, and attest to the real humanity of the Lord Jesus. These words do not refer to the beginning of His existence, but the beginning as the child of a woman. Jesus was born of woman, that is, became flesh, so that He could die and pay the redemption price for sinful man (Acts 20:28; Ephesians 5:25; John 10:17-18). Mark put it in the following words: "For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister (serve ket), and to give his life a ransom for many" (Mark 10:45). The statement "born of woman" has great significance. A normal birth would be born of man and woman. Such was not so of Christ however, so the phrase "born of woman" suggests the unique nature of Jesus' birth which has reference to the virgin birth in fulfillment of prophecy.
Further evidence not only of the virgin birth but also of the divinity of Christ is what Paul wrote by divine inspiration in the Roman letter chapter one which he claims is in fulfillment of prophecy. "Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God, (Which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures,) Concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead: By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for His name: Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ" (Romans 1:1-6). The word translated "declared" does not imply that the child became the Son of God at or by the resurrection, but that His unique Son ship then became clear to men. Paul again refers to the birth of Christ showing that He is God/man and thus able to accomplish God's purpose.(Ibid-with comments by ket added)
Much controversy has surrounded the following passages from Paul's letter to the Philippians. Some claim that Jesus divested Himself of all of the powers, privileges, and prerogatives of divinity with His incarnation and was therefore "only a man" while He lived on earth. I will quote from "The Word Became Flesh," by John A. Welch, on page 14: 2nd paragraph:
Commenting on Philippians 2:5-8, John wrote,
"The American Standard version replaces "humbled himself" in the text with "emptied himself." Jesus, prior to his birth could adequately be described as equal with God. He divested himself of the glory, honor, divinity, godhood and became subject to the Father as a man. Whatever qualities and characteristics had been his as divine were foregone. Whatever privileges and powers there might have been were stripped from him. He was a man"
The above is not so, as we have noted abundantly clearly already in our study. Crouch quotes from Kittle the following concerning Philippians 2:5-11:
"This passage from Philippians is generally agreed to be a Christological hymn used in the early church. Paul presents the thought of a pre-existing Divine Person being born in the likeness of men. The One who was in the form (Gr. morphe) of God took the form (Gr. morphe) of a bond-servant. He did not try to hold to or grasp the equality, but emptied Himself, not of His deity, but of the glories and certain prerogatives of deity. He did this by taking on the characteristics of a slave in the likeness of a man..." (Ibid-J. Schneider...Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, ed, by Gerhard Kittel...1967).
The point being, Jesus did not empty or divest Himself of anything whatsoever; what He did was divested "Himself" or "empty Himself." We as Christians are told to do likewise in becoming servants of Christ and of our fellow men. How in heaven's name could Jesus possibly "show us the Father," as He came to do, if he was divested of all attributes of deity? Philip once said to Jesus, "Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us." Jesus responded, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, 'Show us the Father?' "Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. "Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves" (John 14:8-11).
The sinless perfection of Jesus Christ:
In order to be our Savior, Jesus had to be more than a mere man. Mere men who have not been cleansed in the blood of the Lamb have all sinned (Romans 3:10; 6:23; 1 John 1:8). In order for God to allow the sinner to go free His legal wrath against sin had to be assuaged (Isaiah 53:3-7; 2 Corinthians 5:17-21;Romans 3:24-30). This was accomplished when the "Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" John 1:29, opened the way back to the Father by the sacrifice of Himself as "a Lamb without spot or blemish" (1 Peter 1:18-19; Hebrews 2:10-17). This is known as "the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24). This gospel has conditions with which believing penitent men and women must comply to avail themselves of this grace that is sufficient to save all men everywhere, (Titus 2:11-12; Ephesians 2:8-10; Acts 10:34-35; Hebrews 2:9). This is why Peter admonished his audience on Pentecost, of whom his sermon had made believers in Jesus as the Christ, to, "Repent and be baptized every one of you...for the remission of sins...This is also why he told them to "...save yourselves from this crooked generation (Acts 2:22-38,40-41).
No one had ever lived a sinlessly perfect life before Jesus Christ accomplished that feat. From the time the Patriarchal law as well as under the law of Moses, all law did was to show man just how sinful he really was, and pointed to the time when a Savior would come to take away such sin (Romans 7:7). In living the perfect life, Jesus gave the law of Moses its full meaning. Not one jot or tittle was removed until it had all been fulfilled. When the Christ satisfied every legal demand of that law he then "took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross," (Matthew 5:18; Colossians 2:14-17; 2 Corinthians 3:1-18; Luke 24:44; Hebrews 7:12; 10:8-22). On the mountain when Jesus was transfigured, when Moses and Elijah appeared there with Him, Peter wanted to honor each of these worthies but God spoke from heaven saying, "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him" (Matthew 17:1-5; Acts 3:22-23).
It was difficult to get even Jews who were converted to Christ to give up their attempts to be "justified by the law." It was to those so inclined to whom Paul said, "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace"(Galatians 5:4). For law to save, it must be kept perfectly. Since none had done so, they all stood condemned before God and in need of a Savior. Christ is that perfect savior and today men may stand justified before God through forgiveness in His blood when they meet the terms which he gave in the great commission of which we had something to say earlier (Matthew 28:18-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:45-47).
When the priesthood changed from the Levitical to the priesthood of all obedient believers as Hebrews 7:12 suggests, then the law was also changed. Christ could not qualify to be a high priest under the Old Testament system, for the priests were descendants of Levi and Jesus was through the lineage of Judah according to Hebrews 7:14. Every Christian is a priest under the New Covenant system empowered to go directly to and through Christ our high priest to the heavenly Father 1 Peter 2:5,9; Hebrews 8:1-6. There is no such thing as an exalted clergy and a lowly laity nowadays, for there are no class distinctions made under the law of Christ (Matthew 20:24-28).
Sure there are differing functions within the body of Christ. There are elders who are to oversee and must answer for how well they take the oversight and how well they lead and feed the flock among them (Acts 14:23; Titus 1:5; Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-4; Hebrews 13:7,17; 1 Thess. 5:11-21). There are special men appointed to serve as deacons under the oversight of elders. In 1 Timothy 3 and in Titus chapter one the qualifications of elders, deacons, and their wives are laid out and only such as meet these spiritual qualifications are to be recognized after they have first been proven and appointed to serve in these capacities. The normal method of appointing such men is for the evangelist to take the lead working with each congregation to this end (Titus 1:5).
The Bodily Resurrection of Christ:
Not only is the "bodily resurrection of Christ" one of the things which gives legitimacy to the religion of Christ, I may say without fear of successful contradiction that it is "the corner stone of Christianity." Too, the resurrection of Christ is further evidence of His divinity. This we hope to prove abundantly in this part of our treatise.
Other religions can take you to the grave where their "prophets" were buried and where their physical remains are still entombed. Some of them make at least an annual pilgrimage where they are enshrined. This is not so concerning the religion of Jesus Christ! There was an empty tomb after the third day, because as prophesied in both Old and New Testaments, Jesus was found alive after his crucifixion at the hands of the Romans, just as He had also predicted would happen. Trying to determine if He was indeed the Messiah for whom they longed, the Jews said, "Teacher, we want to see a sign from You." But He answered and said to them, "an evil and adulterous generation seeks after a sign, and no sign will be given to it except the sign of the prophet Jonah. For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the belly of the great fish, so will the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth" (Matthew 12:39-40; 16:21; Mark 9:31; Luke 18:33).
I suspect the Pharisees and the chief priest knew how powerful even the perception that Jesus had been raised from the dead would be, by the conversation some of them had with Pilate. They said, "...Sir, we remember, while He was still alive, how that deceiver said, 'After three days I will rise.' "Therefore command that the tomb be made secure until the third day, lest His disciples come by night and steal Him away, and say to the people, 'He has risen form the dead.' So the last deception will be worse than the first." Pilate said to them, "You have a guard; go your way, make it as secure as you know how." So they went and made the tomb secure, sealing the stone and setting a guard" (Matthew 27:62-66). You see from this account that all that was humanly possible was done to prevent someone from stealing the body and claiming a resurrection. You will also notice that since Pilate was convinced of Jesus' innocence, and his wife had suffered many things in a dream because of Jesus (Matthew 27:19),he is probably not so sure but what Christ will arise from the dead, for his said "make it as secure as you know how."
The importance of fulfilled prophecy giving authenticity to the claims Jesus made cannot be over stressed. Mere men unaided by a higher source of power and information cannot know the future. When the prophets of God spoke of future events and those things came to pass, it bore testimony that they spoke from God. Therefore Christ told His disciples, "I tell you these things before it comes, that when it does come to pass, you may believe that I am He" (John 13:19). Several Old Testament passages foretold the suffering, death, and resurrection of the Son of God (Isaiah 53; Psalm 16:8-11).
Under the Old Testament economy when one claimed to speak the will of God as a prophet, yet what he predicted did not come to pass, they were told "You shall not be afraid of him." I call your attention to the context in which the above partial quote is found. "..if you say in your heart, how shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken? 'When a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing follow not, nor comes to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken, but the prophet has spoken it presumptuously: You shall not be afraid of him" (Deuteronomy 18:21-22). Conversely, when one has the ability to speak of the future in detail and his predictions are all together true, there is every reason to fear(respect) what such an one says. That the Messiah would give His life for the sins of the world, and that He would "not see corruption in the grave but would be resurrected," is found in both Testaments. If Christ was not raised from the dead on the third day as predicted, the religion of Christ is of no greater value or validity than any other religion on the world scene. In fact Paul, a convert to the resurrected Messiah whom he both saw and heard said the following about the resurrection and its effect on the authenticity of the religion of Christ:
"Now if Christ be preached that He has been raised from the dead, how do some say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then Christ is not risen, and if Christ is not risen then our preaching is vain and your faith is also vain. Yes, and we are found false witnesses of God, because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ, whom He did not raise upif in fact the dead do not rise. For if the dead do not rise, then Christ is not risen. And if Christ is not risen, your faith is futile, you are still in your sins! Then also those who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all men the most pitiable. But now is Christ risen from the dead, and has become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep. For since by man came death, by Man also came the resurrection of the dead. For as in Adam all die, even so in Christ shall all be made alive" (1 Corinthians 15:12-23).
As I see it, not only does the resurrection prove the divinity of Christ, it also shows that only "Christianity" which has a living Savior has the power to save and to offer eternal rewards to its adherents! No wonder the apostles carried this great message to the whole world in short order and at the risk of personal hatred and possible if not probable death for their efforts with no apologies (Colossians 1:23).Early on in the apostles' ministry when threatened and commanded not to teach any more in this name, Peter responded thus: "...We ought to obey God rather than men. The God of our fathers raised up Jesus whom you murdered by hanging Him on a tree. His God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins. And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him. When they (the Jewish council including the high priest) head this, they were furious and took council to kill them" (Acts 5:24-35).
Morris, in his commentary on 1 Corinthians, page 225, is quoted by Crouch in his book on the resurrection as saying: "The resurrection, therefore, is properly considered a proof of the person of Christ, His deity, Messiahship, and his power to save from sin."
Morris agrees with what I wrote above exactly. You see if folks can receive rewards in an after life apart from Christ, under a religion with no living Savior, the religion of Christ is just another religion among religions, and we would have little if any incentives to proclaim the religion of Jesus to the Muslims, Hindus, Jews, or the heathen. Ours is, however, the only valid religion which came from the God who made us all through His Divine Son who lived, died, was buried, raised from the dead and exalted to the Father's right hand where He now reigns as King of kings and Lord of lords unto the time when He shall come for His kingdom, His bride which His blood purchased to receive her unto Himself and then deliver her to the Father (Ephesians 5:22-33; Acts 20:28; 1 Corinthians 15:23-24).
Yes, Jesus is the only Savior for the whole world, and the gospel is the only power to save sinful humanity (Romans 1:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:1-4; Romans 16:25-27; 1 Timothy 2:1-4; 1 Peter 1:22-25; 2 Peter 3:9-18).
Have you ever considered the price the apostle Paul paid when he embraced Jesus as the Messiah? He said he has "suffered the loss of all things (things that most men count as dear) and counted them as refuse as of course compared to what he knew by faith was to be his eternal rewards for such sacrifices (Philippians 3:7-14; 2 Timothy 4:1-8; 2 Corinthians 11:22-12:12). Paul saw and heard the voice of the resurrected Jesus Christ of Nazareth on the Damascus road while engaged in his nefarious work of attempting to destroy the church of Christ. One may learn of his conversion to Christ by reading three chapters in the Acts of the apostles. They are chapters nine, twenty two, and twenty six. One may also learn much about this great apostle who was once a skeptic and in fact an unbeliever in Jesus by reading all of the several epistles to individuals and churches which he, guided by the Holy Spirit, authored (1 Corinthians 2:1-13; Galatians 1:11). My friend or my brother do you really value as you should this unique religion which is man's only hope for an abundant life here and in the world to come?
Back to the Top | Back Home