Summary: Part 1 of the Basics of the Cross. This study looks at who Jesus was. The Old Testament describes Him and the New Testament reveals Him.
Part 1. Who is Jesus?
Vince Lombardi was one of football’s greatest coaches. He coached the Green Bay Packers to five championships. After a disappointing game, Vince walked into the locker room and held up a football. "Men", he said, "This is a football". He went on to make the point that there comes a time when the best strategy is to get back to the basics. There is a great object lesson in that illustration. He stood before champions; in this room were of some of the greatest football players in history. Even the best of the best have to stop and get back to the basics when they get off course.
The same is true for Christians. Even the most mature Christian can get off course. Even strong Christians need to take the time to remember the basics. When we get off target (and we all do at times), traditions begin to creep in and before long even solid Christians can find themselves relying more on the traditions and putting doctrines of men over the doctrine of scripture. The message of the cross is the most fundamental doctrine of scripture. If we loose sight of the cross or allow errors to alter this truth, the foundation of Christianity is weakened, if not lost all together. This is not a secondary issue. The message of the cross is the foundation of our faith. If I don’t understand the purpose of the cross or what transpired on the cross, I am building my personal faith on a fallible foundation. Unfortunately today we see people putting more trust in fallible men and less faith in the infallible scripture.
This study will begin by looking at the foundation of our faith - Jesus Christ. I want to first answer the question, ’Who is Jesus?’ Then I want to look at three questions: why the cross was necessary, what happened on the cross and what happened after the cross.
Who is Jesus?
Let’s begin by looking at the Bible’s definition of who Christ is. Isaiah identifies Messiah this way:
Isaiah 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.
Some struggle with the definition of ’mighty God’. Is this the same God who created us, the Jehovah of the Old Testament? Jeremiah gives a similar description to Jehovah that is found here in Isaiah. In the Old Testament, anytime we see LORD in all caps, that is a reference indicating that the Hebrew word was Jehovah (or YHWH).
18 ’You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them -- the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts.
19 ’You are great in counsel and mighty in work, for your eyes are open to all the ways of the sons of men, to give everyone according to his ways and according to the fruit of his doings.
Jehovah is called the ’Mighty God’ and the great counselor. Jehovah gives the fruit of our ways, and Jesus said He produces fruit in our lives when we abide in Him (John 15). Also notice Isaiah’s prophecy, a child is born, but the Son is given. The flesh may have come into existence during conception, but the Son existed before birth and was given as a gift to the world. The son who was to be born of a virgin was given the same attributes that were reserved for the LORD God in the Old Testament.
Why the virgin birth?
Isaiah 7:14 describes the Son, Jesus Christ as Immanuel or translated, ’God with us’.
"Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.
22 So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying:
23 "Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel," which is translated, "God with us."
The virgin birth is the most scoffed sign that God gave concerning Christ. Some Christians and Christian leaders are intimidated by skepticism and have abandoned the Bible’s clear teaching of the virgin birth of Christ. Why would it be hard to believe that our Creator has the ability to create life in the womb? Some argue that this is impossible, but if it wasn’t impossible, it would not be a miracle. One preacher I read argued that the word ’virgin’ should be translated ’maiden’. Even the word maid or maiden in the Bible is always associated with a young woman who remains pure and unmarried. What kind of sign would it be to say, ’a young woman would be with child’ but not a virgin woman? The virgin birth is essential for two reasons. One, the Bible teaches it. If we are going to be selective about what part of God’s word is really true, then we are essentially denying that God’s word is truth. God clearly states that He exalts His word above His name (Psalm 138). If we can’t trust the word as reliable, then we don’t have a foundation to stand upon with any doctrine.