“Do not wait for leaders; do it alone, person to person.” – Mother Teresa
For those of us who believe, the Bible is more than a “sublime and benevolent code of morals”. It’s the story of a God who loves us and a savior who died for us and rose again. In a sense, it’s true that each of us is “of a sect by [him or her]self,”—my personal beliefs probably aren’t quite the same as yours—but there are certain things that unite us. One of them is the belief that Christ was not simply a moral teacher but the Son of God.
In New Testament times, “Scripture” meant what we know today as the Old Testament, plus at least some of what we know as the New Testament. 2 Peter 3:16 refers to Paul’s letters as “scriptures” so we know that at least some New Testament writings had been accepted by that time. Paul wrote to the Thessalonians that the scriptures are “not . . . the word of men but . . . the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thes. 2:13 ESV). In the scriptures, we find eternal life (John 5:39). We believe not only in a moral teacher but in the risen Son of God. Without the divine Christ, there is no Christianity. Without the resurrection, there is no hope. The cross represents our redemption (Eph. 1:7) but the empty tomb represents our hope of eternal life (1 Cor. 15:20-22). Paul also wrote about “a different gospel” (2 Cor. 11:4, Gal. 1:7), one in which salvation was earned instead of being a free gift from God. Thomas Jefferson’s “gospel” was a way of life, a set of moral teachings. But neither is the true gospel of Christ. The real gospel is, in Jefferson’s words, “embarrassed”. It’s complicated “with Matters of Fact [and] Faith”. And yet, it’s also simple:
We normally say either “Jesus” or “Christ” or, more rarely, “Jesus Christ” or “Jesus the Christ.” But neither is truly sufficient without the other. “Jesus” represents his human aspect and “Christ” represents the divine. “Jesus” is derived from “Joshua,” the name of the man who led the Israelites after Moses died, and means “savior.” “Christ” means “anointed” or “consecrated” and is the Greek translation of the Hebrew “messiah.” This is what the angel said to the shepherds: “‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2: 10b-11 ESV).
Our witness is to the reality of both Jesus and Christ, the man who was more than a man, who was both servant and Lord, teacher and savior, and the impact of the gospel on our lives. We have “good news of a great joy”, of Jesus, who informs our morals, and the risen Christ, who redeems our souls. This is the message of the gospel. This is the message of Easter.
“For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. May the God of endurance and encouragement grant you to live in such harmony with one another, in accord with Christ Jesus, that together you may with one voice glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God.” (Rom. 15:4-7 ESV.)