Discerning A Very Different Jesus


Baptists believe that the Bible is a perfect, holy treasure of divine revelation directly from God to mankind and that Jesus is the focus of this revelation. Nature may reveal the glory of God to conscious observers (Ps 19:1-3), but Scripture directly reveals God’s plan of redemption for sinners like you and I through Jesus Christ (2 Tim 3:15-17). What we intimately and assuredly know about God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, we know because he revealed it in the Bible.

Narrowing our focus a little more, what we know about who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he demands doesn’t come from the latest pop-theologian, that kind of knowledge – which we can admit is critically important – only directly comes from Scripture. In fact all of Scripture, all 66 books of both the Old and New Testaments, is a “testimony to Christ” (John 5:39). [1]

Salvation only comes through the Jesus of the Scriptures

But there seems to be many different conceptions of Jesus found in our culture, and so it is our task, according to the Word of God, to discern these very different Jesuses from the Jesus of the Bible, because salvation only comes to those who have surrendered their life by faith to the Jesus Christ revealed to us in the Bible (Acts 4:12).

Some very different Jesuses are easy to discern. Clearly when Jehovah Witnesses (a.k.a., the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society) assert that Michael the archangel was the pre-human Christ and deny the deity and eternal preexistence of Jesus, the Jehovah Witness’ Jesus is a very different Jesus than the Jesus of Scripture (Jn 1:1-14; Phil 2:5-11; Col 1:15-20; Rev 3:14).[2] The Mormon’s fictional Jesus should also be rejected. Mormon’s teach that Jesus was born a spirit child to a flesh and bone exalted man called “Heavenly Father” in a pre-earth realm, and that Jesus is in a tussle with his younger brother, Satan.[3] This fictional character that Mormon’s identify as Jesus departs so severely from the Jesus of Scripture, I will devote no further space to the matter.

So the fictional Jesus like the above varieties should be easily distinguishable as very different from the Jesus of the Holy Scriptures. But what about the not so easily distinguishable, very different Jesuses? Beginning in the 18th century, various scholars have taken part in a series of quests for whom they called the historical Jesus. These quests typically began with a presumption that the supernatural is impossible, and thus the record of Jesus in the Gospels is largely unreliable. So with that critique in place, these scholars began to try to decide who the real Jesus of history was. Invariably, in all these quests, the Jesus the researchers wound up identifying looked very little like the Jesus of the Gospels and much more like the researchers themselves – a 19th century German Jesus, a feminist Jesus, a liberal Jesus, and so on.[4]

A Jesus in our own image is no Jesus at all

Such a phenomena is not limited to scholarly researchers. We must discern the pop-culture Jesus who has been slowly tweaked from the Jesus of Scripture into a Jesus made in our image. The things that we have said of Jesus that he never said of himself represent this very different, dangerous, self-condemning Jesus. And so together let’s discern this very different Jesus by identifying some things that Jesus never said.

Jesus never said:

  • “Follow me… unless you can find your own way and your own truth to suit what you want to do, then I will follow you and give you my blessing.”
    (instead, Jn 14:6, 15:5)
  • “You are a really good person now, but please invite me into your heart so I can complete you and make you better.”
    (instead, Eph 2:1, 3)
  • “Follow me and I will make you healthy, wealthy, and popular among your peers.”
    (instead, Mt 10:32-39)
  • “I am loving and never, ever judge.”
    (instead, Jn 5:21-24; Acts 10:42; 2 Cor 5:10)
  • “I will never test you and try you more than you can handle on your own.”
    (instead, 2 Cor 1:8-10; Phil 4:13)
  • “Come just as you are, and don’t worry, you can stay that way until you are ready to change.”
    (instead, Jn 3:3; Mt 16:24-27; Rom 12:1-2)
  • “Your worship in my church is optional, she’s not as important to me as you are.”
    (instead, Eph 5:25-33; Lk 4:16; Heb 10:25)
  • “Go therefore and make disciples, unless it’s inconvenient or difficult. I understand.”
    (instead, Mt 28:18-20; Jn 15:12-13)
  • “You should give yourself and your means to my mission through the local church, but not too much. First, you should store up for yourself lots of material goods and a healthy retirement so you can be comfortable. Hell is not that uncomfortable.”
    (instead, Mt 6:19-21; Acts 2:45)
  • “Once saved, always saved. So you might want to get a copy of the church record when you became a member. I will ask for that when you die.”
    (instead, 1 Jn 2:4; Mt 7:15-23)

We need to know who Jesus is, what he has done, what he demands

So the next time you find yourself saying, “Doesn’t the Bible say somewhere that…” It is time to stop, pray, open up your Bible, and read for yourself just what the Bible says about who Jesus is, what he has done, and what he demands. In short, Jesus is the Word made flesh, God incarnate, the great I AM, fully God and fully man, the blessed Redeemer of mankind, the prophesied Messiah, the Way, the Truth, the Life, the Resurrection, and the living Lord. Because of his volitional sinlessness and perfect submission to God the Father, his death on the cross entirely atoned for our sin debt against God. And what a great sin debt this is, for we are dead in our sin and destined for hell! However, Christ’s bodily resurrection from the grave undoubtedly signified that once-and-for-all death is dead, Satan is defeated, our sin can be forgiven, and life can once again be eternally lived reconciled with God on earth and in heaven. This is the gift of salvation that we desperately need.

But we do have to receive it, and Jesus said in order to receive him we must by faith believe the Gospel, turn from our sins, surrender our minds, bodies, and motives and follow him as our master. Jesus takes the dead, and gives them life, a life to be yielded back to him by observing all that he has commanded without qualification, proclaiming the gospel without fear, and making disciples who do the same. This is the Jesus of the Bible, a very different Jesus than the Jesus of culture.

[1] “Baptist Faith and Message 2000,” (Southern Baptist Convention). Accessed February 2015 from http://www.sbc.net/bfm2000/bfm2000.asp.
[2] Tal Davis, “Jehovah’s Witnesses View of Christ,” (SBC, North American Mission Board). Accessed February 2015 from http://www.4truth.net/fourtruthpbnew.aspx?pageid=8589952835
[3] Tal Davis, “Comparison Chart-Mormonism and Christianity,” (SBC, North American Mission Board). Accessed February 2015 from http://www.4truth.net/fourtruthpbnew.aspx?pageid=8589952801.
[4] Andreas J. Köstenberger, L. Scott Kellum, and Charles L. Quarles, The Cradle, the Cross, and the Crown: An Introduction to the New Testament, (Nashville: B&H Academic, 2009), 111-125.