(More still about) if Jesus had not been born

If Jesus had not been born we wouldn’t have the Spirit and without the Spirit we’d have no idea that God is our Father and no clue what our Father is up to: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him – but God has revealed it to us by his Spirit,” 1 Corinthians 2:9-10.

With the Spirit we do see what our Father is up to. We see Colossians 1:19-29, that “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him (Jesus Christ), and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” We see how God our Father has been preparing the entire universe for eternity through Jesus Christ, where all eventually will be at peace – just as the angels promised in Luke 2:14 when Jesus was born.

But how is God bringing peace to the universe through Jesus Christ? It began with Christ’s death. Jesus was then brought back from the dead to ascend to heaven in triumphant victory, Colossians 2:15, so that he could become head of the church, Colossians 1:18, Ephesians 1:22-23, because it’s through the church that Jesus would start the ball rolling. The church would be the place where the work of bringing peace to the world would be done.

The evidence of that was soon obvious. Jews and Gentiles, ardent enemies outside the church, became equals and friends in the church. The change was remarkable. The reason, however, was clear, “For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility,” Ephesians 2:14. Jesus was at work already, his clear purpose being “to create in himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace,” verse 15.

It was in the church that the seeds of universal peace were being sown. It was only in the church though, because that was the only group on the planet responding to what Christ was doing, and the only group on earth capable of doing it. But this is why Jesus ascended to heaven, “so that the body of Christ (the church) may be built up until we all reach unity.” Ephesians 4:12-13. The church would be a wonderful place to be, because “From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love,” verse 16.

Jesus was born to bring peace to the earth. He died and ascended to heaven to make it possible. And the evidence that he’s doing it is in his church today.

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(More about) if Jesus had not been born…

If Jesus had not been born there would be no promised Spirit, and without the Spirit we would never know that God is actually our Father. And not knowing God as our Father we would never know what it’s like to be his child. And not knowing what it’s like to be his child we would never experience, or even know about, the two great gifts that God has for his children.

Those two gifts are grace and peace, Ephesians 1:2.

Grace begins with this little gem in verse 4, that “Before the world was made God had already chosen us to be his in Christ, so that we would be holy and without fault before him.” That’s God’s first gift to us, the understanding that our eternal future as his perfect, unblemished children was already done and dusted before the universe even appeared.

In other words, this entire plan for us humans was completely accomplished before we even existed. And from beginning to end it is all God’s doing too: He’s the one who chose us, he’s the one who makes us perfect, and he’s the one who provides us with Christ and the Spirit to make it all happen. God designed us in such a way, therefore, that everything about us and for us would be a gift. It would all be based on grace.

And because Jesus was born, that little gem is now being made known to us in the same way it was made known to Paul, that “everything in heaven and on earth will be brought into a unity in Christ,” verse 10, meaning it’s going to happen, it’s purely by God’s doing, it’s he who makes it all possible in Christ, because he’s our loving Father.

So where does that leave us? If it’s now dawned on us that it’s all by God’s grace that we become his eternally happy children, and all by God’s Spirit that we come to understand his “secret purpose” and “the plan he determined beforehand in Christ” (verses 9-10), and all by Jesus Christ being born as a human that everything is going to work out just marvellously in the end for the entire universe, who wouldn’t be at peace?

Exactly; because that’s the second gift awaiting God’s children when their eyes open to his plan: It’s beautiful, wonderful peace, that’s endlessly stirred and revived by knowing that no matter what happens to us in this life our loving Father has it all in hand. And he has it all in hand because of Christ. And because Christ was born, everything in our lives now is unfolding exactly as planned as well.

Grace. And peace.

If Jesus had not been born…

What is Christmas about? In the original story, it’s about God coming to this planet in the person of Jesus to rescue us from the mess we’ve made of ourselves (Matthew 1:21), and to help anyone interested in what he came for to experience peace (Luke 2:14).

And isn’t that what most people keep Christmas for? It’s an opportunity, no matter how brief, to put aside the messiness of the world and enjoy the things that bring us together in an atmosphere of tranquillity and peace. Witness the billions of people, NON-Christians included, who love the peace and goodwill that comes from giving and exchanging gifts, getting together as families, donating to charity, sending sentimental cards to each other, and greeting strangers with a hearty “Merry Christmas!”

But why would non-Christians get involved in all this stuff? It’s a blatantly Christian holiday, for heaven’s sake, with its Christian name, Christian symbols and Christian traditions, like the Christmas tree, the Christmas wreath, and even candy cane. And shopping malls still belt out carols blatantly broadcasting the Christian gospel. But non-Christians soak it all up too. It’s the most amazing phenomenon on the planet, that people of all faiths make a Christian holiday the highlight of their year, and don’t anyone dare cancel it either, or suggest we change its name. So how could this have happened?

Well, we all know it happened because of Jesus. If he hadn’t been born we wouldn’t have Christmas. But why is Christmas so popular when we know it’s really about him? It’s because we can’t resist what he came to this Earth with. He brought the life that God meant us to live. He lived that life himself as a human being, and then promised that after he ascended back to his Father he would live that life in us too. And here we are every Christmas proving that to be true, because we’re living the life of peace and goodwill he lived and promised. Even non-Christians, who have no interest in Christianity or Jesus Christ, do all kinds of peace and goodwill things at Christmas-time.

But Jesus did say he brought the “Kingdom of God” with him. He went on and on about it wherever he went, and how that kingdom was here on this Earth to stay – and to grow. And what do we see all around us at this time of year? The Kingdom of God. Peace and goodwill. Love and giving. Cheeriness and jollity, and strangers greeting each other with a smile.

Explain that in a non-Christian world. Oh, it’s fishy all right, because NONE of it would have happened if Jesus had not been born.

What if Jesus is a hoax?

What if Jesus wasn’t the Son of God after all, and he really was just a Jewish rabbi and nothing more than that? Or what if he’s just another mythical figure like Santa Claus and he never was born at all, and the entire Jesus story is a hoax? Would it make any difference?

Yes, it would make a difference, because the reason “God sent his Son, born of a woman” was to redeem us, Galatians 4:4-5. And why is being redeemed important? Because, Galatians 3:14, “he redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit.”

Redemption is important, because it’s the essential first step to us receiving the Spirit. But why is receiving the Spirit important? Because it’s through the Spirit “that we might receive the full rights of sons,” Galatians 4:5.

If Jesus is one big hoax we would never have come to understand that God is our Father. What world religion, for instance, teaches that God loves us like a father does his children, or that we can love God like a child loves his Dad? No religion teaches that. It takes the Spirit to create that bond, which is why the promise of the Spirit is so important.

The Spirit helps us understand that Jesus was born to share all the rights and privileges he has as a Son of God with us, because WE are God’s children too. And what kind of rights would they be? “Because you are sons,” verses 6-7, “God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, ‘Abba, Father.’ So you are no longer a slave, but a son; and since you are a son, God has made you also an heir.”

The first great right and privilege we receive is knowing we have a Father who isn’t anything like the God taught to us by religion. He doesn’t treat us like slaves who’d better obey him, or else. He loves us as his children, and when we see God in that light our relationship with him changes dramatically. We realize he doesn’t hold anything we do against us, and we can go to him with everything that troubles us and he’ll answer. And one day, because we are his children, we also get to inherit everything in his storehouse of goodies, as well.

God proves that to us too, by giving us a taste right now of what he has in store for us. And when that happens we know for certain, personally, that Jesus is not a hoax.

Was Jesus God because he was “The Word”?

John used a term for introducing Jesus to both Jews and Gentiles that didn’t have them accusing him of saying there were two Gods. That term was “the Word” (John 1:1).

And even though John stated clearly that “the Word was God” and was “with God” from the beginning, neither Jew nor Gentile took it to mean he was saying that Jesus was also God. That’s because “the Word,” or Logos, in both Jewish and Greek meanings did not refer to God himself, nor to the great invisible force that made life, the universe, and the power of human thinking possible.

The Word, instead, was the mediator between God and the world, or the agent acting on behalf of God, or as John phrased it in John 1:3, the Word was the means “Through” whom “all things were made.”

So before John said that “The Word became flesh” in verse 14, he put in place who and what the role of the Word had always been first, so that people would understand who and what the role of Jesus was.

The Word was the Logos, the logo of God, and just like a company uses a logo today on signs and business cards to represent and communicate what it stands for and does, the role of the Word, or the logo of God, has always been to represent and communicate what God stands for and does.

By saying, therefore, that Jesus was the logo of God, John was using a term very acceptable to Jew and Greek, and hopefully to us today too, to get the point across that Jesus represented God exactly, and was the means by which God communicated his purpose, put that purpose into action and enabled human minds to understand it.

To a Jew this was perfectly understandable, because all through their history they’d understood God and his purpose through “the word of the Lord.” The word was the agent of the Lord, perfectly expressing what God wanted said and done. To hear John, then, calling Jesus “the Word” of the Lord (or the logos of God), was simply a familiar carry over for the Jews of what the Word had always been in their experience.

As Jesus himself said, “See me, and you see the Father.” To hear and watch Jesus was the same as hearing and watching God, because that was the role of the Word, and always had been.

It wasn’t John’s purpose, then, to prove that Jesus was God. But it was his purpose to show what Jesus’ mission was: It was, as always, being God’s Word.

Was Jesus God because he forgave sins?

When Jesus healed a severely paralyzed man and told him in Mark 2:5, “your sins are forgiven,” some of those watching him said in verse 7, “He can’t do that, he’s blaspheming,” because “only God can forgive sins.”

And they were absolutely right on that last point, that only God “blots out transgressions and remembers sin no more” (Isaiah 43:25) – but were they also right in accusing Jesus of blasphemy?

No, because Jesus didn’t say, “I, God, forgive your sins.” Instead he called himself “the Son of Man” – not God – in Mark 2:10. And he didn’t say, “I, the Son of Man, forgive your sins” either, as if he, personally, could forgive sins. What Jesus said in verse 10 – instead – was, “the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins.”

And where did his authority come from? Well, by calling himself the Son of Man Jesus took their Jewish minds back to Daniel 7:13-14 when a “son of man” was “given authority, glory and sovereign power” by the “Ancient of Days.” By calling himself the Son of Man, therefore, Jesus was saying his authority came from God.

That in itself was a startling statement, that he, Jesus, was the one to whom God had given all that authority in Daniel 7, but it wasn’t blasphemy. How could it be, when Jesus was clearly saying his authority came FROM God, not that he WAS God?

It must have been hard for those religious scholars, though – who knew their scriptures – to accept that a mere man like Jesus had been given authority to forgive sins, when their scriptures clearly stated that only God could forgive sins. But hadn’t their scriptures also predicted that God would give such authority to a “son of man”?

And now here was Jesus claiming that HE was that Son of Man, and shock upon shock that God had also given him the authority to forgive sins. The Jewish religious leaders, unfortunately, could only interpret that as Jesus saying he was God, but Jesus corrected that by directing their attention to who he really was, the Son of Man, the one sent and chosen BY God.

And then another shock, when Jesus actually exercised his authority and proved he had it by telling the paralytic to “get up and go home.” But notice how the people reacted: In Mark 2:12, “they praised GOD.” They didn’t praise Jesus, take note; they praised God. They didn’t see Jesus as God, but they did accept that God was behind what Jesus did.

So was Jesus God because he forgave sins? No, but the miraculous healing that followed proved that God had truly given him the authority to forgive sins.

Did Thomas say that Jesus was God?

In John 20:28, Thomas cried out “My Lord and my God” to Jesus when he realized the other disciples were right after all when they said they’d seen Jesus alive and well after his crucifixion (verse 25).

By saying that, though, did Thomas now believe that Jesus was God? Well, if that is what Thomas meant Jesus would have corrected him, just as he corrected other people in earlier chapters in John who said that he, Jesus, was “making himself equal with God” in John 5:18, and “calling himself God“ in John 10:33. He corrected them because in Jesus’ mind only the Father was God, a point he made clear in John 20:17 when he told Mary Magdalene to tell the disciples, “I ascend to my Father and your Father, my God and your God.” Jesus totally identified “my God” as the Father.

Jesus never identified himself as God. He described himself instead as “God’s Son,” John 10:36, “the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world.” That was where Jesus’ focus was. It wasn’t on trying to prove he was God; it was on proving through the many “miraculous signs” he did “in the presence of his disciples,” John 20:31, that he was “the Christ, the Son of God,” the Anointed One, the Messiah – meaning he was truly the one who’d been sent by God. And that’s what Jesus wanted people to see when they looked at him. As he said in John 12:45, “When a man looks at me, he sees the one who sent me.”

And that’s what Thomas saw when he cried out, “My Lord and my God.” He looked at Jesus and saw the one who’d sent him. Thomas looked at Jesus and saw the Father, which is exactly what Jesus hoped would happen to Thomas and Philip back in John 14:9 when he told them, “Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father.”

It took Thomas six chapters and the appearance of Christ fully restored from the dead to open his eyes to the picture he was supposed to get when looking at Jesus. But suddenly he got it. And Jesus was so pleased, that at last Thomas believed what Jesus had prayed for in John 17:21, that the whole world one day would believe the Father had sent him – the hope being that everyone looking at Jesus would say, “My Lord and my God,” with the same wide-eyed understanding that Thomas had, as it dawns on them too that it was, in fact, “the only true God,” the Father (John 17:3), who was living out HIS very life and purpose in Jesus.