Things Christians Believe: The Priority of Jesus
Even though there are many versions, denominations, flavors, and types of Christianity throughout the world, one of the common themes that runs through each one is the centrality of Christ. A Christianity without Jesus is just another empty philosophical system. From the very early days of Christianity, the central role of Jesus was understood and taught by His followers. The Apostle Peter said of Jesus, “There is salvation in no one else! There is no other name in all of heaven for people to call on to save them.” (Acts 4:12)
This message of the centrality of Jesus was always at the forefront of what Jesus’ followers preached. The four Gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, were written for different groups of Christians in the first century. Mark appears to have been written for a Roman audience, Matthew to a Jewish audience, and Luke to a Greek audience. It is difficult to determine who John might have been specifically writing for. His book has the ability to appeal to a very broad audience with diverse backgrounds.
Even though the Gospels were written to very different groups, the centrality of Jesus is evident in each of the four books. While the Gospels differ on some details, they all contain an overview of Jesus’ earthly ministry, including his teaching and miracles. Each of the four Gospels also contains a detailed account of Jesus’ crucifixion and his resurrection.
The Apostle Paul’s letters make up almost a third of the New Testament. Paul clearly understood the centrality of Christ to everything that he did. In Paul’s earliest letter, 1 Thessalonians, Paul talks about Jesus in similar terms to what the Gospels used. “…we believe that Jesus died and was raised to life again….” (1 Thessalonians 4:14) Paul does not stop there, however. Paul believes that history will one day culminate in the physical return of Jesus to earth. His two letters to the Thessalonian Christians discuss these ideas in depth. “We tell you this directly from the Lord: we who are still living when the Lord returns will not meet him ahead of those who have died. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven with a commanding shout, with the voice of the archangel, and with the trumpet call of God.” (1 Thessalonians 4: 15-16)
Each of Paul’s letters, in one way or another, reveals the centrality of Christ. In his last letter before his execution by the Romans, Paul reminded Timothy that it would be Jesus “who will someday judge the living and the dead when he appears to set up his Kingdom.” (2 Timothy 4:1) Paul believed that Jesus will one day judge all people and that they will have to give an account to him for their lives.
A last place in the New Testament that demonstrates the centrality of Jesus is the Revelation. The Revelation is often avoided by many readers because of its mysterious imagery and symbolism. Revelation is the only New Testament example of apocalyptic literature. The book is written to seven churches in Asia Minor. These churches appear to represent all churches, in every age. Even though there are sections of Revelation that are difficult for the modern reader to understand, there are many passages that are crystal clear, especially if the reader has read the rest of the New Testament.
When Jesus first appeared to John in chapter one, John was overwhelmed and fell to the ground. Jesus spoke to him and said, “Don’t be afraid! I am the First and the Last. I am the living one. I died, but look – I am alive forever and ever! And I hold the keys of death and the grave.” (Revelation 1:17-18) Here at the very beginning of the book, the centrality and the supremacy of Christ are seen. He is seen here as the lord of death and the grave. He is the One who conquered death through his resurrection.
In the last chapter of Revelation, the last chapter of the Bible, God has established new heavens and earth and the new Jerusalem has come down from heaven. Jesus’ throne is established there. As the book closes, it closes with Jesus’ words, “Yes, I am coming soon.” (Revelation 22:20) These passages about the supremacy of Jesus will, no doubt, be offensive to many in a modern, pluralistic society. The idea of there being only one way to God is repugnant to many. At the same time, however, God offers salvation through Jesus to everyone who is willing to accept him. To know God, an individual must allow Jesus to become central in their life.
How does the preeminence of Jesus affect the way that you share the Gospel with others?
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