Is Jesus God?

In this article, my aim is to provide a Biblical foundation for the full deity of Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity. This article is a mere introduction to the doctrine and further study is recommended.

John 1

John 1:1-14 is one of the clearest passages in Scripture that testifies to Christ’s full divinity. Let’s take a look at verses 1-3 and verse 14:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made… And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth.
-John 1:1-3, 14

The author of the Gospel of John, John the Apostle, wrote to inform readers of Jesus Christ’s true identity. Jesus is the Word according to John 1:14, which speaks of His incarnation through the Virgin Mary. Jesus, who is the Word, is also referred to as the Son later in this chapter. Verse 14 says that He, “the only Son from the Father,” was made flesh and dwelt among mankind. This can only be said of Christ Jesus. I want to make clear that as we walk through these first few verses I am talking about Jesus Christ. John starts in verse 1 by saying that the Word was in the beginning with God and “the Word was God.”

Aside from alluding to the Trinity, these verses explicitly state that the Word is God and He is equal to God. Following this in verse 2, John makes it clear that the Word (Jesus Christ) existed alongside God in the beginning before creation. The third verse clearly explains that not only is Jesus Christ God, but He is also the Creator of all things. Verse 3 says that the Word made all things that were made. This precludes Him from being a supernatural being that God made. Jesus is the creator of all things and He existed before “any thing that was made was made” (John 1:3). This passage clearly testifies to Christ’s full deity.

Hebrews 1

But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated wickedness; therefore God, your God, has anointed you with the oil of gladness beyond your companions.” And, “You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands; they will perish, but you remain; they will all wear out like a garment, like a robe you will roll them up, like a garment they will be changed. But you are the same, and your years will have no end.”
-Hebrews 1:8-12

God the Father is actually the one credited with making this statement according to verses 1 and 2 (follow the pronouns all the way to verse 8 to see this) so we know it is Him addressing the Son (Jesus) . He credits the Son with being the one who “laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning,” and He says of the Son, “the heavens are the work of your hands.” According to God the Father, the Son, who we know is Christ, is God the Creator, and His “years will have no end.”

Christ, according to the Father, existed before all of creation alongside Him (the Father) and He (Christ) will continue to exist forever after creation passes away. Christ is eternal. This means He has no beginning and no end. This is an attribute only God possesses (Psalm 90:2, 96:5, Isaiah 43:10-11). Anyone who denies the truth presented in these verses is also denying that the omniscient Father has accurate information regarding the Son. It is worth mentioning that Hebrews 2:10 and Colossians 1:16 explicitly state that all created things are created for Jesus Christ. God the Father is identifying Jesus, who is God the Son, as God.

Perspectives of Human Witnesses

We can also gain insight from analyzing the claims Jesus made. I want us to look specifically at two of Jesus’ encounters with the Pharisees.

The man went away and told the Jews that it was Jesus who had healed him. And this was why the Jews were persecuting Jesus, because he was doing these things on the Sabbath. But Jesus answered them, “My Father is working until now, and I am working.” This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
-John 5:15-18

Jesus is healing people on the Sabbath as indicated by verses 15-16. The Jews were angry about this because it was a violation of the Law (Deuteronomy 5:14). In response to the Pharisees’ accusations, Jesus says His Father (who is God according to Luke 10:21-22) has been working until now, and that He (Jesus) is working as well. In other words, Jesus is telling them that they are accusing God, who is actively working all things together according to His purpose, including working on the Sabbath (Ephesians 1:11), of breaking the law. Obviously, God is above the Sabbath and perfect (Psalm 18:30), thus incapable of breaking the law. Jesus is basically saying that to accuse Him of breaking the Sabbath is to say that God the Father has broken it too. The Father is above the Sabbath. Christ teaches in Mark 2:27-28 that He also is above the Sabbath. In this passage we have a clear statement from Jesus saying He is God.

In verse 18, John, the author of this Gospel, says that the Jews understood Christ to be calling Himself God. Not only that, but John Himself asserts that Christ “was even calling God his own Father, making Himself equal with God.” The witness here is three-fold. The Pharisees understood Jesus was equating Himself with God. Jesus said that He is divine, and John, the writer, understood from Jesus’ statement that Jesus is equal with God. Neither John, nor the Pharisees was confused by Jesus’ words when He revealed Himself as God in the flesh.

Your father Abraham rejoiced that he would see my day. He saw it and was glad.” So the Jews said to him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.
-John 8:56

In John 8, we see that Jesus claims to have existed before Abraham. This fact refutes the idea that Jesus was simply human like you and I. No ordinary human who lived during the first century, like Jesus, could claim to have existed before Abraham (who lived over 1,000 years before). I must note, however, that the Jews would probably not have been angry enough to kill Christ if He were only claiming preexistence.

I think we can grasp the situation better when we know what Christ means when He says, “I am”? Christ is saying here that He is without beginning or end. To say, “I am” means He not only existed before Abraham, but that He did so eternally. Also note that the text says Abraham “was” which indicates Abraham came into being, but “I am” is used for Christ. This signifies He was never brought into being just as John says in John 1:1-14. Chrysostom, an early church Father, says this:

As the Father used this expression, ‘I Am,’ so also doth Christ; for it signifieth continuous Being, irrespective of time. On which account the expression seemed to them to be blasphemous.

Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!” Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
-John 20:26

There are many who will try saying, “Thomas is calling Jesus his Lord, and then crying out to a second being, God”. Is that what the text says? The key words to understanding this passage, which describes an event after the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ, are, “Thomas answered him”. Thomas is speaking directly to Jesus. Every single word in the statement that follows is to Jesus Christ. Jesus, according to Thomas, is both Lord and God. Jesus does not rebuke him as others do (especially others who were acquainted with Christ) when they are referred to as God or receive praise (Acts 20:26, Rev 19:9-10, Rev 22:8-9). Once again, we have indisputable scriptural evidence that Jesus is God.

Christ is Explicitly Called God

Jesus is identified as God by the apostles in numerous places. Below are some of the times Jesus is plainly addressed as God.

  • Romans 9:5- To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
  • 2 Peter 1:1- Simeon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ.
  • Colossians 2:9- For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily
  • John 9:36- He answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” Jesus said to him, “You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.” He said, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshiped him. Jesus said, “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.” Some of the Pharisees near him heard these things, and said to him, “Are we also blind?”

It is important to note that Jesus does not correct the man that worships Him. If the man did not believe Jesus was Lord, he would be guilty of idolatry. The man believed that Jesus was truly God.

Many more passages can be used to substantiate the deity of Christ that I do not have space to share here. He had the authority to forgive sins which only God can do (Luke 5:20-21). Scripture also teaches that He is Life and the giver of Eternal Life (John 14:6, John 10:28). Please notice that only God gives life. Mere prophets do not claim this. God works through them to resurrect the dead, but Jesus is claiming to be the source of resurrection power (John 11:25).

There are many great theologians who have preached sermons (many of which are on Youtube for free) and/or written books on this topic. I encourage you to continue this study with resources provided by people like James R. White, R.C. Sproul, Voddie Baucham, John Piper, and Conrad Mbewe.

The False Hope of the Health, Wealth, and Prosperity Gospel

We’ve all seen the wealthy televangelist in a suit and tie promising physical well-being and financial blessing if only we call now and sow our seed of faith. This false gospel is known as the health, wealth, and prosperity gospel, and its prevalence in the American Church cannot be ignored. This gospel demonstrates a misplaced hope because its adherents place their hope in their earthly comfort, namely their health, wealth, and prosperity, rather than in Christ’s eternal kingdom.

The Fall of Humanity

To be honest, the idea of a world where it is always God’s will for believers to be physically, emotionally, and financially healthy sounds pretty appealing at first, but it ignores the problem of sin. Sin is a grievous and horrible offense against God and, therefore, is a far greater problem than mere physical infirmities. The effects of the fall are made clear in the latter half of Genesis 3 when God declares that there will be pain both in childbirth and in the work of the fields. Sin has entered into the world and has corrupted the human experience in such a way that disease and poverty come upon people of all backgrounds.

Christ on the Cross

The prosperity gospel ignores this reality and teaches that through Christ’s work on the cross, we are made whole in all areas of our lives. Wife of notable televangelist Kenneth Copeland, Gloria Copeland, infamously stated that “Jesus himself is our flu shot.” Copeland is basically saying that Jesus’ work on the cross was the sacrifice that secured our health.

Now, while this statement may sound nice at first, Scripture makes it abundantly clear that Christ’s purpose on the cross was not to secure our health, but to make us right with God. Jesus took upon himself the wrath of God in order that we might obtain justification. The effects of this action are seen clearly in Romans 5. Paul writes,

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men.
-Romans 5:18

Paul is arguing here that through this one act of righteousness, Christ’s atoning work on the cross, mankind can be justified. Therefore, Christ’s purpose on the cross was not to make us comfortable on earth by giving us health or wealth, but to make us right with God by giving his life.

The Sufferings of the Apostles

The Bible makes it abundantly clear that the apostles faced opposition and died gruesome deaths. These men, along with the men and women of the early church, faced immense persecution. In 2 Corinthians 11:16-33, Paul describes the specific sufferings that he faced which include five times receiving thirty-nine lashes, three times being beaten with rods, stoned, shipwrecked three times, and adrift at sea for a full day along with the extended amount of time he spent imprisoned.

Though Paul’s sufferings were extensive, he was not alone in this suffering. In Acts 5:41, Luke writes about the boldness of the apostles who left the temple courts rejoicing after being beaten and nearly killed. This radical joy was rooted in the hope of a world to come and not in a false hope of comfort in this world.

An Over-Realized Eschatology

Matt Chandler would argue that this gospel is an example of an “over-realized eschatology” meaning that these heavenly promises of health and wealth are being misapplied and taught as if they were an earthly reality. The biblical gospel fills believers with unimaginable joy because their hope is in God and not in their circumstances. Nonetheless, thousands across the world gather each Sunday in stadiums or in front of a television to soak in this distorted gospel which preys especially on the poor and uneducated.

The Prosperity Gospel in the Church

Paul, in his second letter to Timothy writes,

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths.
-2 Timothy 4:3-4

False teaching is not a new problem in the church and Paul knew that. Paul hear speaks of a time when the people would gather around themselves teachers, not to teach them the Word of God, but to teach them what they already want to hear. What Paul describes in this text clearly is manifesting itself in the church today.

Lakewood Church, a Houston-area megachurch pastored by notable televangelist Joel Osteen, averages around 52,000 attendees per week and thousands more viewers through television per week. 52,000 people in one church alone being taught weekly that God’s love for them is to be determined by their health, wealth, and prosperity. 52,000 people being taught that God’s greatest desire for them is to “live their best life now.” This is the heartbreaking reality of the prosperity gospel.

The Prosperity Gospel to the Ends of the Earth

This reality is upsetting, but the worst part is that this theological error doesn’t just affect Americans, but rather has been exported to the ends of the earth exploiting the most vulnerable. I recently had an opportunity to travel to the Dominican Republic with my church providing water filters and sharing the gospel.

During this trip, my group shared the gospel with a young couple and while the husband immediately expressed his desire to surrender his life to Christ, the wife had no interest in doing such a thing. As we began talking to her and asking her questions, she revealed to us that she grew up in church, but that all the church wanted was her money. As she began to describe her church to us, it was abundantly clear that this church had been heavily influenced by the prosperity gospel and was exploiting the impoverished people of the Dominican Republic.

Preaching the Biblical Gospel

Christians must combat this, but how do Bible-believing, gospel-preaching churches fight off the destructive theological error that is the prosperity gospel? Well, by being Bible-believing, gospel-preaching churches. The most effective way to combat falsehood is by proclaiming the truth.

Christians and churches who are fed up with the way the adherents of the prosperity gospel have exploited the most vulnerable in our society and promised a false hope in the comfort of this world, should channel their frustration into an effort to preach truth. We, as Christians, must emphasize the difficult parts of the Bible such as the depravity of man in light of the sovereignty of God. We must emphatically proclaim and live in such a way that demonstrates the joy that is rooted in the hope we have in the biblical gospel. And the gospel is this, that we were dead in our sins, but God, through his Son, made us alive in Christ and it is only through his grace and our faith that we can obtain this great salvation.

Loving the Sojourner

Immigration is one of the most debated issues in America today. For years, political parties in the United States have debated various immigration policies. When it comes to policies regarding immigration, Christians take various positions, but when it comes to how to view and treat immigrants, there is a firm mindset and attitude that Christians should have.

Let me make it clear: this article is not to push a political policy or viewpoint. Rather, I will point to the Biblical truths that should unify us in heart and mind when it comes to the political issue of immigration. Politics is a dangerous ground for Christians, for it is far too easy to allow our selfishness rather than Jesus rule our politics.

As Paul writes in Romans 12:2, our minds desperately need to be renewed. Scripture is clear that we cannot produce this renewal on our own, and that it can only happen by the work of the Spirit in our hearts. In light of this, despite the various conflicting views on immigration among professing Christians, it is essential that we follow God’s commandments and allow Him to transform our hearts and minds.

How do Americans today relate to the Israelites after the Exodus?

You shall not wrong a sojourner or oppress him, for you were sojourners in the land of Egypt.
-Exodus 22:21

God reminds the Israelites that before they were set free from slavery and became Israel, they ventured into Egypt as sojourners. In other words, sojourners in that time were what we would call immigrants today. And at that time, Israel had a twisted and horrendous view of immigrants trying to join Israel. The Israelites were very closed off to others coming to Israel, and God reminds them here that they were once immigrants in Egypt and now need to treat sojourners as if they were one of their own.

Jesus must transform our political agendas and give us a biblical view on how to approach the issue of immigration. The view of many Americans and Christians today is very similar to that of the Israelites. We see in Exodus 22 and 23 that God tells Moses and the Israelites how to view different issues such as social justice, slavery, and festivals.

What a striking similarity these Israelites hold with many Americans today. Many Americans today view immigrants in general as people they despise and hate. Whether the immigrants come legally or illegally, many people possess a distorted view of them and believe that immigrants are inherently bad. However, there is a great deal of Christians who embrace their brothers and sisters of different backgrounds and nationalities. This embrace is such a beautiful picture of God’s grace and love.

However, America was founded and created by immigrants. In Exodus, we see God directed the Israelites to see that they were once immigrants and need to treat immigrants as themselves, and we as Americans can learn from this as well. We were once immigrants to America and we should treat immigrants in America as equals to ourselves.

Even though we are American, our urgent task should be to view immigration through a Biblical Christian lens and not a patriotic one, for Christ is far greater and far more powerful than any nation ever could be. Because we are Christians before we are American, there should be not separation in our worldviews, especially politically. In light of this, our treatment towards the sojourner should be one of humility and grace. Regardless of our political stance or what policies we may push for, our mindset and treatment towards immigrants should be one of selflessness and love.

Our Citizenship lies in Heaven

Beloved, I urge you as sojourners and exiles to abstain from the passions of the flesh, which wage war against your soul.
-1 Peter 2:11

Peter writes this to Christians spread all across the Middle East and Asia. His purpose is to encourage his readers, who are exiles and outcasts in the places where they are, calling them to endure persecution and remember that this is not their home and that Heaven is their actual paradise. Although not written specifically for Americans, this is such a good revelation that should cover us as Christians — that our citizenship lies in Heaven and not on earth.

If our citizenship is in Heaven, then our pride and patriotism should be dethroned by the Almighty God and His throne. God invites us to all become citizens of Heaven by the power of Jesus’ life, death, burial, and resurrection. This should humble us that whether we live in America or Turkey or Antarctica; our true citizenship lies in Heaven. As Paul writes to Philippi in Philippians 3:20, But our citizenship is in Heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ. We can and should apply this truth to our lives.

Our current geographical location does not affect our citizenship. If we have been saved by Christ and Christ alone (Ephesians 2:8-9), then your citizenship lies in Heaven. And if we are citizens of Heaven, and our lives have been saved and transformed by the power of Christ, then we have received the calling to lovingly share the gospel with people of all backgrounds.

What a shame it would be to continue on with our lives, walking in our temporary and earthly citizenship, never sharing the gospel to those who have yet to hear it! What an opportunity, however, it is to be able to proclaim the gospel to those less fortunate than us earthly so that they can become our brothers and sisters and reside in Heaven with us eternally!

Our Call as Christians

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel.
-Philippians 1:27

Paul writes to the church of Philippi that when he returns to Philippi or hears of them,  he would receive news that they were standing firm in one spirit and with one mind for the faith of the gospel. Paul’s expectation is to see or hear that Philippi has become a community of believers centered around the gospel. This expectation is not merely for those at Philippi, but rather is an expectation that applies to us today, even in our modern context. We must keep the gospel at the center of it all.

As Christians, our call is to treat everyone with love and grace. Our attitude and treatment towards all people should reflect that. As Paul points out, we should be treating immigrants with love. Christ has first loved us (1 John 4:19), which should push us to love because of this great love we’ve been given. In love, our call is to share this incredible gospel with everyone, including immigrants and people on both sides of the political aisle.

The gospel that transforms our hearts and minds is the following: We are all sinners who have disobeyed God and fallen short of His glory (Romans 3:23). Because we are sinners, our consequence and punishment is death. However, the gift of life comes through Jesus Christ and him alone (Romans 6:23). This happens only because God loves us and Christ purchases this free gift of life by dying on a cross and rising again three days later (Romans 5:8). If we confess that Jesus is the Christ and is Lord and believe that God raised him from the dead then we will be saved (Romans 10:9-10).

We may have differences on specific policies and laws, but one thing is sure — the only way that we can treat immigrants with love and grace is to be humbled and realize that our citizenship is ultimately in Heaven and comes only through faith in the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Rejoicing in Suffering: A Personal Testimony of God’s Faithfulness

This past summer was one of the toughest and most confusing times of my life, but through everything that I went through the words of James 1:2-4 and Romans 5:3-5 kept running around in my head. James 1:2, which got me through the summer, says “Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds.” Well, this summer, for me, was a collection of trials of various kinds.

My plan, for the past four years of my life, has been to go to West Point after high school. So, after God granted me acceptance this past spring, I was overjoyed with anticipation for the beginning of West Point’s basic training for new cadets, which began July 2. Early that morning my family got up and drove me to West Point, which is about an hour away from where I live in Manhattan. Upon arriving, I was greeted with a frenzy of lines and equipment checkpoints, leading up to a medical station. At the medical station, I was given a questionnaire which asked me if I had ever sleepwalked. I answered yes.

After handing in the questionnaire, I was taken to meet with a psychiatrist and held in a room for over three hours. My admissions officer eventually came in and told me that I would not be allowed to enter basic training with the rest of the class of 2022. He gave me a Letter Of Assurance and told me that I would be allowed to come back next year with the class of 2023 as long as another sleepwalking incident did not occur. Immediately, I called my parents, who were still on campus, and told them the news. Heartbroken, they started frantically calling my friends from camp, the ones who had told me about my sleepwalking. All of my friends said that they can’t remember me sleepwalking and that they never told me any such thing. That’s when I had a sudden realization.

When my friends had given me the impression that I had sleepwalked, they were actually just telling me about cramps that I had in the middle of the night that required me to walk around the room. I had separated two events that were clearly connected and suffered as a result. As soon as I could, I found my admissions officer and told him what had really happened; how I never actually sleep walked and how it was all a big misunderstanding. It did not work out and I was still sent home from West Point with the assurance that I would be able to come back next year if I wanted to.

My family was heartbroken and so were many of their friends, but God always has a plan in store. The plan that He had for me has been better than I could have imagined. Currently, I am a freshman at Wheaton College, in the best Christian environment, with the best friends, that I have ever been in. God’s plan for me is still unclear, and I do not know where I will end up, but perseverance and steadfastness that I know will come from this trial are still on their way. God has blessed me with what has happened beyond what I can imagine, and I have confidence that whatever his plan is for me will be perfect.

Why be Holy if Christ Alone Saves

A popular preacher and author wrote this in one of his books:

On the last day, God will not acquit us because our good works were good enough, but he will look for evidence that our good confession was not phony. It’s in this sense that we must be holy.

That perspective is a backwards motivation for holiness. It’s soul crushing for Christians of weak-conscience. 

Unfortunately, New Calvinists have created a culture of fear when it comes to personal holiness. I, for one have been damaged by this kind of pietistic, revivalistic teaching around obedience. And it seems like most of American Evangelicalism can’t talk about holiness without questioning one’s salvation or motivating one with guilt. There is no rest for the Christian believing in this motivation. It begs the question, “How many good works must I perform for God to consider my faith authentic?” How holy do I have to be to know that I’m saved?

So we ask again “Why be holy if Christ alone saves?” Well, the answer is in the question. Christ alone saves! Christ completed perfect obedience to the law of God that we couldn’t achieve, died the death that we deserved, and resurrected so that we too will resurrect from the dead. If you are in Christ, you have been justified in God’s sight. Our debt of sin was transferred to Christ’s account, and He paid for it (Colossians 2:14). Christ’s righteousness was transferred to our account, and because of Him we inherit eternal life (Romans 5:21). For all who are in Christ, we are seen by God as if we have never sinned but also as if we had done everything right. As J.V. Fesko once said, “justification is the final verdict handed down in the present”. Perhaps we can amend the statement above to: On the last day, God will see what Christ accomplished on our behalf and we will enter into His warm embrace forever. It is in this sense that we must be holy. Assurance is central to the Reformed motivation for holiness. There are no conditions we must meet in order for us to have assurance. John Calvin writes concerning faith in the finished work of Christ:

This is the security which quiets and calms the conscience in the view of the judgement of God… (Institutes, 3.2.16)

For Calvin, and the Continental Reformed, assurance is found in the objective work of Christ, not in the subjectivity of personal holiness. Michael Horton defends this view of assurance as he writes,  

If assurance is not the essence of saving faith, and it can be lost because of sin, sensitive persons will inevitably scrape their consciences raw until they find clues and, as Calvin warned, there will be no satisfactions with evidences [our good works]; there will never be enough to secure the soul’s confidence (Christ The Lord, 134).

If you look to your own personal holiness as the ground of your assurance before God, you will never find rest. Trust me, I’ve tried. In fact, if fear is your motivation to obey, you will never be able to love God and your neighbor well.

The essential component in true faith is the trust that what is true of the gospel is not only true in general but true for me personally (Heidelberg Catechism 21). We confess with the Heidelberg Catechism that our only comfort in life and in death is that

I with body and soul, both in life and death, am not my own, but belong unto my faithful Savior Jesus Christ; who, with His precious blood, hath fully satisfied for all my sins, delivered me from all the power of the devil; and so preserves me that without the will of my heavenly Father, not a hair can fall from my head; yea, that all things must be subservient to my salvation, and therefore, by His Holy Spirit, He also assures me of eternal life, and makes me sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.

The Heidelberg Catechism even answers this objection directly:

64. But doth this doctrine [justification by faith alone in Christ alone] make men careless and profane?

A. By no means: for it is impossible that those, who are implanted into Christ by a true faith, should not bring forth fruits of thankfulness.

Over the entire history of Christianity, those who have preached the unconditional grace of God have been accused of antinomianism (anti – against, nomos – law). As the etymology implies, antinomians see no place for the law of God in the Christian life. However, the orthodox have always been quick to not walk back what they said of the grace of God, but to clarify the use of the law in the Christian life. The end of the first question in the Heidelberg Catechism says that those who have received the glorious grace of God in Christ are “sincerely willing and ready, henceforth, to live unto Him.”

The Christian life ought to be lived as an overflow of joy and gratitude for what has already been done for us by our Lord Jesus Christ. We don’t strive for holiness to pay God back for sending His only Son to die for us, for Christ is of infinite worth that we “unworthy servants” could never repay (Luke 17:7-10). Instead, we should strive for holiness because hearts that are filled with God’s love have no choice but to overflow in love for Him and others.

Our Lord said to disciples, “If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (John 14:15). For our American Evangelical minds, we tend to interpret this as if Christ is holding a gun to our heads, accusingly questioning us on whether or not we love Him. In fact, we tend to read the Gospels as if Christ was always preaching against “easy-believism” (the ideology that teaches merely assenting to the facts of the Gospel makes one a Christian). In reality, however, He saved His harshest words for those who kept the people of God under the bondage of the law (Matthew 23:13-36). Christ stated this in His Upper Room Discourse (John 13-17) hours before His death, intending the discourse to encourage His disciples, not paralyze them with fear. If we take a closer look at the verse, the motivation for obedience is love for Christ. “If you love me, you will keep my commandments.” Obeying God out of love, rather than out of fear of receiving wrath, was a revolutionary idea in Jesus’ day. We must also note that this is a promise (“you will keep my commandments). The promise of the New Covenant is that God will put His Spirit within us and cause us to walk in His statutes and obey His rules (Ezekiel 36:27). For those who love Christ, we will obey Him for we can only do what’s proper to our new nature. Christ not only saves us from the guilt of sin, but from the power of sin as well. By virtue of our union with Christ (John 15:1-5), we have died to sin and raised with Him to walk in the newness of life (Romans 6:1-4). The moment we trust in Christ alone for our salvation, we are given the identity of “slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). This is not an identity that we have to manufacture for ourselves but one that is freely given to us by the grace of God in Christ, which renders any notion of a “carnal Christian” (the idea that a Christian can be justified, and then not be sanctified unless he or she wills to do so) untenable.

1 John 4:19 states, “We love because he first loved us.” We love God and our neighbors solely because of God’s love for us. In love, the Father predestined you to be saved, not because He thought you were better than your pagan classmate or saw that you would be a “varsity Christian”, but solely out the generous pleasure of His will (Ephesians 1:5, Romans 9:16). The Father demonstrated that love in history by sending His only Son, Jesus Christ, to die and bear the wrath of God for us (Romans 5:8, 8:32). And then Holy Spirit came and changed our God-hating, sin-loving, Gospel-resisting hearts to hearts that embraced the Gospel, acquired a distaste for sin, and loves our gracious God (John 3:3-8, 2 Corinthians 4:4-6, 1 John 5:1). And because of God’s love, we have received “adoption as sons” (Galatians 4:5). We are no longer slaves to the fear of condemnation, but children of God, and if children of God, then heirs of eternal life through God (Galatians 4:7, Romans 8:14-17). Obedience driven from slavish fear does not please God. But obedience driven from that fact that we have peace with God, pleases our heavenly Father and honors the redemptive work of Christ.

As children of God and heirs of eternal life, we are given rules to how we ought to conduct ourselves in His Kingdom (i.e. God’s law). There are three uses to the law. In the first use, God acts as a judge “who will by no means clear the guilty” (Numbers 14:18). The purpose of the law is to condemn us and show us our need for Christ. However, Christ came and took our guilt upon Himself and satisfied God’s just wrath for our sins (Romans 3:23-26). In the second use, God acts as a governor who orders civil society (Romans 13:1-5). In the third use of the law, God acts as a loving Father who instructs us children. He does discipline those He loves (Hebrews 12:5-6), but He is not an abusive Father. He does not give His children black eyes. He still continues to accept us, even when we sin, solely because of His Son, Jesus Christ. As Matt Chandler likes to say, “God is not in love with a future version of you. He loves you right now.” And because He loves us so, He will not leave us as we are but will continually sanctify us so that He is more and more our delight.

It is in this sense that we must be holy.

Why Missions Matter

Matthew 28:18-20: And Jesus came and said to them, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.

So, why do missions matter? I think we often forget how important missions are. It’s not just something we have to do; it is an urgent calling. Those who do not know Christ are on the pathway to hell and eternal suffering. We can’t just sit back and watch that happen. God has called us to be His instruments, whom He will use to save them. We have to do something! I know I’ve heard this so many times, but very rarely does it actually sink in just how urgent this is. It’s a matter of life and death for the people we could be sharing the gospel with. Romans 6: 23 says, “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” How much hate can we have in our hearts to keep the good news of the gospel to ourselves and not share that life-changing message with everyone around us? Christ can use you to make an incredible difference in the lives of others. God has shown mercy and grace to us by saving us from our sins, and He calls us to share that great news with others.Again, missions are more than just something we need to do as Christians. Missions are an act of worship. We have a chance to serve and glorify the creator of the universe. After all, He created us for the purpose of glorifying Him. Matthew 5:16 says,

In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

A major way that God has called us to glorify Him is through missions. This is the purpose we were designed for, so living that out is the best possible way to live. God has called us to live on mission for His glory.

Missions matters not only to save the lost, but God uses missions to grow the faith of those who serve Him. My first time on an overseas mission was probably the most influential experience of my life outside of being saved. During Spring break of my junior year, I had the amazing opportunity to go on a mission trip to Haiti. A week before the trip, we got the news that my mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer. I was devastated, and I had no idea what to think or do. I still went on the trip, but I wasn’t super focused, because I was worried about my mom. God used this terrible event in my life to force myself to trust completely in Christ and lean on Him because it didn’t feel like I had anything else to hold on to at the time. Throughout the week in Haiti, God showed Himself to me in an incredible way.  One specific example that blew me away occurred during the first full day when we went door-to-door talking with people and sharing the gospel with them. My group was about to leave when we saw this little, secluded house on a hill. We decided to go up and talk to the man working in his garden, and it was my turn to lead the discussion. When we got up there, I started mumbling through the gospel message. Before I could say much of anything, he looked at me and said, “As soon as I saw your group walking up the hill, I knew this was the day that I was going to be saved.” I had barely started the gospel message, and believe me, I struggled to get the words out, and then he said that. Talk about a God moment. That man and his son were saved that day, not because of the words I said, but because God worked in His heart even before we got there. God is real, He is alive, and He works through His servants who trust in Him. That week, I saw God work in a way that gave life to the truth that “God is alive and working even today,” a phrase I had heard a hundred times before but never really understood. God truly changed my life that week, and I am so thankful for what God did both through me and in me on that mission trip.

Missions are important, because they change your heart as well as those you reach. God may not always show up in crazy ways like in the story above, but He is always there and the mission field is a great opportunity to experience God in new and incredible ways that will grow your faith. Also, being involved in missions forces you to get out of your comfort zone which is something that I know I struggle with, and I think is a widespread problem in American culture. We live a life that is comfortable. We crave comfort and hate it when we are forced to leave that comfort zone. However, when you get uncomfortable on missions, you are allowing God to step in and work through you by surrendering your desires to the Lord. Seeing God work in that way was truly life changing for me. Missions also forces you to know what you are talking about. You have to make sure you are prepared to share God’s love and the gospel with those around you. 1 Peter 3:15 states, “But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.” In order to do missions, we must be prepared to share the gospel and give a defense of our faith. Growing in those areas will certainly strengthen your faith. So, missions greatly impacts your life and faith as well as the lives of those you reach, but there is a common misconception of missions that causes us to lose sight of God’s calling.

Today, going overseas and serving in another country is how people see missions. This leads to the common belief that only certain people are called to missions. This is an outright lie. While it is true that God only calls certain people to move overseas as missionaries, missions is so much bigger than that, and it is something that all Christians are designed to do. Missions is not just about going to another country, and it is definitely not meant for only certain Christians. Missions is important, because it is a lifestyle that God has called us to live. God calls all Christians to go and make disciples. The big thing that we often forget is that wherever we are is our mission field. God has called us all to missions right where we live. Think about it, God placed you in the area and the time that you live for a reason. He had a plan for your life where you live before you were born. Let God work through you and make an impact where you are!

There are 3 types of Christians when it comes to missions: the goers, the senders, and the disobedient. Which one are you? There are far too many Christians in our country, including me, who are apathetic, lukewarm Christians whose lives don’t reflect their faith. This leads to the common view of Christians as hypocrites. We have to change this! That is how the disobedient Christian lives. Missions is important, because it shows that we really are serious about our faith. If you ask people why they don’t go to church, I have learned that many of them see Christians as hypocrites who live completely different lives outside of church. Nonbelievers just don’t want to be a part of that. Our generation can flip this perception by actively living out our faith.

Now, going and sending are both equally important callings. Romans 12:4-6a says,

For as in one body we have many members, and the members do not all have the same function, so we, though many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another. Having gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let us use them.

We are all gifted differently to do different things for God’s kingdom. God uses some of us to literally go to another country and share the gospel. Others are better equipped to encourage, support, fund, and send missionaries out. In Mark 16:5, Jesus declares that we must “Go into all the world and proclaim the gospel to the whole creation.” Whatever your part in global missions is, do it to the best of your ability for the Lord. Global missions is vital to God’s plan and purpose for our lives, but serving the Lord where you live is just as important.

Here in America, we live in a world that is full of comfort, luxury, and entertainment. Americans need Jesus just as much as people in poorer countries. It’s time for us to stop making excuses for why we shouldn’t share the gospel with people around us and actually do it. What is to stop us from going out in our community and just talking to people, sharing the gospel, and praying with them? People might say America works differently, and you can’t evangelize like that here, but that is just plain not true. Excuses like people are too busy, they won’t want to listen, people will think less of you are all prevalent among Christians in our culture. I know I have fallen victim to these excuses. But in the end, God has put you where you are for a reason, and you can shine His light through living for Him, but also through sharing (SPEAKING) the gospel message. If you really think about it, all the excuses that we come up with are insignificant. “If God is for us, who can be against us” – Romans 8:31b. It doesn’t matter what other people think; it matters what Christ thinks of you, and His view of you will never change once He has adopted you into His family. So go and fulfill God’s plan for your life.

Revelations 7:9: After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude that no one could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and languages, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands.

In the end, God’s Will shall be accomplished. All nations will be represented in heaven. The question you must ask yourself is whether God will use you or whether He will go through you. God doesn’t need us to glorify Himself, “we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8:17b). I don’t know about you, but I want to be a part of God’s team on this one. There are over 5,000 unreached people groups in the world today and all of us can make a difference for the cause of Christ in those areas. Whether it is through actually going to those people groups, sending others, or through prayer. All of us can make a difference.

So, I’ll ask this questions again: Why does missions matter? In the end, it’s pretty simple. You were dead in your sins, and God made you alive. We can be a part of that transformation in the lives of others. This is what we are designed to do. This is a major part of our calling to glorify God. Living a life on missions will leave you fulfilled, closer to the Lord, and satisfied in a way that no other lifestyle will. God will work through you and in you as you faithfully serve Him. “And He said to all, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. (Luke 9:23)” It is time for us to take up our cross. You can make an incredible impact in the lives of those around you, what is holding you back?