CHRIST THE CENTER OF OUR FAITH
Who is Jesus Christ and why is he so important? And why would he be the center and main focus of the Christian faith? Other religions may have at their center a set of teachings and moral guidlines or spiritual practices. But the Christian faith is focused not mainly on practices or guidlines, but on the person of Jesus Christ. Why is this?
First, let’s recall that God is invisible and cannot be seen by the human eye. His power is so great that no one can approach him without being destroyed. In a letter to Timothy, Paul said this about God:
“who alone is immortal and who lives in approachable light, whom no one has seen or can see.” (1 Timothy 6:16)
God in his infinite power and transcendence would normally be completely inaccessible! But Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. It’s through Christ that we can see God, as he is both human and God, God in every sense of the word.
No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known. (John 1:18)
Jesus Christ is also the mediator between God and the human race. Only through Christ can we approach God. Without him, even our prayers don’t reach God because God is too remote and powerful.
Was Christ revealed to the Old Testament believers?
The Old Testament faithful knew Christ, though from a more obscure view. Before Christ was born into the world as a human, he was the:
- “Mighty God, Everlasting Father” (Isaiah 9:6)
- The Rock from whom the Israelites drank from in the wilderness (I Cor. 10:4)
- The eternal Word (John 1:1)
After Christ came into the world, he confessed his deity and eternality to the Jewish people:
“I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58)
Christ can be seen throughout all Scripture, including the Old Testament. The writer of Hebrews said this about Moses:
He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. By faith he left Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger; he persevered because he saw him who is invisible. (Hebrews 11:26-27)
The One that travelled with Moses through the wilderness was Christ himself. He was the Word of God revealed to Moses, and the One he spoke with on the mountain. Without Christ, Moses could not have spoken with God, as he would’ve been destroyed. Christ provided Moses with a visible image of the invisible God. Even then, Moses could only see God’s back.
At the incarnation Christ became the Word made flesh, God in human form, revealed into the world as Jesus the Christ, the Messiah. Jesus was the One who the faithful had been waiting for all those years. He was the One who would save the people and deliver them, first from their sins, and then from their enemies.
The angel’s announcement to Mary proclaimed the Savior’s greatness:
You will conceive and give birth to a son, and you are to call him Jesus. He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High. The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over Jacob’s descendants forever; his kingdom will never end. (Luke 1:31-33)
Mary obviously had reason to doubt the angel’s promise and wanted to know how God would accomplish this.
“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” (Luke 1:34)
The angel’s answer is astonishing:
“The Holy Spirit will come on you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)
God’s Holy Spirit would inhabit Mary in a unique way and produce in her someone that would be born not just a man, and not God alone, but the union of God and man. Fully God and fully human, God incarnate, the Son of God, the Savior. No one could’ve anticipated it would happen this way, and many in Old Testament times tried but failed to understand it.
Christ the Center
One of the most striking things about the gospel story is how it centers on Christ himself. In their accounts, the disciples made sure that everyone knew who Jesus claimed to be.
Then Jesus declared, “I am the bread of life. Whoever comes to me will never go hungry, and whoever believes in me will never be thirsty.” (John 6:35)
“I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.” (John 8:12)
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” (John 10:11)
“I am the resurrection and the life. The one who believes in me will live, even though they die; and whoever lives by believing in me will never die.” (John 11:25-26)
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The disciples knew that at every turn, Jesus made the gospel message about himself. He is the source of eternal life and is the power of God that conquered death. He is the truth and light of God to those in darkness, the shepherd who carries us to safe pastures, and the way to a secure relationship with God the Father and to our eternal home in heaven.
Jesus reveals his identity as Messiah
In a final confrontation with the religious leaders, they demanded that Jesus tell them who he believed himself to be:
The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said so,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.” (Matthew 26:63-64)
He claimed that he was indeed the Jewish Messiah, in fulfillment of the prophecy of Daniel 7:13-14. And not only that, but he claimed to be the one who will judge all humanity on God’s great and final day of judgment.
The first century believers and their view of Christ
The first century believers had a front row seat in observing the coming of Christ into the world. Their excitement was contagious because they had witnessed the greatest historical event of all time. As a result, the church grew exponentially during the first century. But those of us who have not been privileged to see Jesus in the flesh are still privileged to know him from second-hand information.
Christ himself drove this point home when after he had risen appeared to Thomas and said: “Stop doubting and believe.” Thomas quickly went from a skeptical backseat observer to a front-seat believer! Jesus’ words to Thomas were for us as well:
“…blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.” (John 20: 29)
The Supremacy of Christ
Christ is also the head of the Christian church, and the center of the Christian faith. The Apostle Paul proclaimed of Jesus:
And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. (Colossians 1:18)
Jesus is the Savior and supreme leader of the Church, the Body of Christ. As the “firstborn from among the dead,” he is the first among all humans who will live forever in God’s presence. He is the firstborn among all of God’s children:
For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. (Romans 8:29)
Jesus’ followers are also his brothers, who answer to him in all matters of faith and life. He leads, guides, cares for, and shepherds them in love.
Christ and the Bible
But Christ is the ultimate focus of the Bible, and the gospel of Christ is the message of the Bible. Jesus Christ is God’s self-portrait to us, and the gospel is God’s portrait of Christ. Christ is the supreme revelation of God to the human race, and he is portrayed in Scripture from front to back. In our Bible study, we should not focus on Scripture alone, apart from him. A person who focuses on the Bible for the sake of the Bible will be misguided as to both its meaning and the effect it should have on his life.
On one occasion, Jesus made this statement to the religious leaders of his time:
“You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life.” (John 5:39-40)
These leaders thought that because they possessed the Scripture, they also possessed all the blessings and promises of God. But Christ assured them that their hearts were far from God, because they did not acknowledge him—the One whom God had sent to save them.
The goal of Bible study should be to know Christ, understand his Word, and apply it to our lives to the fullest extent possible. If we study the Scriptures but miss Christ, we have mostly wasted our time.
The Apostle Paul’s central focus in his preaching
From beginning to end, the Apostle Paul’s preaching, teaching, and letters were centered on Christ. To the Corinthian church he wrote:
“For I resolved to know nothing while I was with you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (1 Corinthians 2:2)
Paul’s whole ministry focused on furthering the gospel of Christ. In fact, he insisted that the Christian church remain focused on Christ. He is God’s provision for our redemption, THE Savior, and there is no other. In agreement with Christ’s teaching, Paul preached that the Church itself is built on Christ and depends on him for its very life and existence.
“For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (1 Corinthians 3:11)
We are easily diverted from the center
Over the past 20 years the Christian church has become extremely diverse. In addition to traditional churches, we now have seeker churches and the worship churches. Many churches now strive for a unique identity to distinguish themselves from others. But in the process, some have compromised their devotion to Christ. Their teaching wanders away from Christianity’s foundational truth—that Christ is the center of our faith, the center of God’s plan for our lives, and the center of his eternal plan for the world.
After coming to faith in Christ and being a part of the church for a while, we can get bored with the basics of the Christian faith. We also tend to get caught up in life, work, family, and all of the problems of life. In an attempt to minister to people, pastors may focus on those daily life issues and give Christ less focus in their teaching. Since we already know the historical and theological facts about Christ, we rush past the great Bible passages that speak of him, and we move on to other teachings and interests. Even worse, we may even forget who Christ is, that he is the center of our faith.
Jesus the God-man
Throughout the ages Christ has remained the center of the Christian faith. Wherever the true gospel is preached, Jesus remains the central focus. This wouldn’t be the case if he was just another religious leader who gave his teaching to anyone who would listen. He must either be who he said he was, the Son of God, the Lord of all, or not. I myself have looked at the evidence of Christ’s deity as presented in the gospels. And after considering the evidence, I know in my heart that this man Jesus embodied all that anyone would imagine God to be, and much more. The book of Hebrews declares this about Jesus:
The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven. (Hebrews 1:3)
He is the God-man, the Savior provided to the world by the Father, who represents the Father to us and has the full authority of the Father. Christ is indeed the center of our faith. In another posts I discuss the goodness of God. Through Jesus I am convinced that God is indeed a good God and does love us—the beings he created in his image.
Where do you stand with Christ?
Christ is the Savior provided by the Father to the world. A final question is: Do you know him as your Savior? Is Christ the center of your faith? Do you have the assurance of forgiveness and a secure relationship with God that Christ can provide? If not, settle this issue with God soon by putting your faith in Christ.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)