This past week I put the following message on our church’s outdoor sign: “Who is Jesus really? Join us Sundays 9am to find out.” I placed that message hoping to spark interest in the community about our sermon series through the Gospel of John.
Likewise, I hung a banner and sign in our lobby. It is a word cloud listing the name of Jesus in numerous languages. I thought it would be a helpful visual for a sermon series studying Jesus, and so I titled the series, “Who Is Jesus?”
We Christians know who Jesus is, right? After all, we are Christians, which means we are “people who are followers of Christ Jesus,” so of course we know about him. Or do we?
Remember the parable Jesus told in Matthew 7:21-23? I encourage you to read it before continuing with this article. In the parable Jesus envisions people who seem to have 100% confidence they are going to enter heaven. They call Jesus “Lord, Lord” as if they are in close relationship with him. They even do religious activities. Jesus looks at them, however, and says, “Depart from me; I never knew you.” Can you imagine how shocking it would be to assume that you know who Jesus is, only to hear him say, “You don’t know me.” Well, then, who is Jesus?
What is scary is that this might be more than the plot of an ancient parable. Let’s do a little True/False quiz to illustrate what I mean.
- True or False: Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.
- True or False: Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.
Let’s check your answers. Both questions are false. Jesus was not created by God. Jesus was not just a great teacher. Jesus is God. If you’ve been following the blog for the last few months, you might remember how we studied this in the week on John 1:1-18. In that wee, the first and most important thing we learned about Jesus is that Jesus is God.
Here’s where it gets scary. In recent weeks, Christianity Today reported on a theological survey stating that 73% of evangelicals agree with the statement “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” (71% in 2016; 78% in 2018; 66% in 2020…seems that belief has been high for many years.) The same survey reports that 43% of evangelicals agree “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.” (30% in both 2018 and 2020.)
These heretical views are both variations of Arianism, one of, if not the, most divisive and dangerous heresies in the ancient church. Arianism, in its most basic form, teaches that God created Jesus, thus Jesus is not divine. If you want to learn more, the Britannica article on Arianism is quite good. But Arianism is not some ancient false teaching that is long gone. Even though the ancient church declared Arian belief to be a heresy, the 2022 survey I mentioned above shows us that Arianism is alive and well…in the church! I find it somewhat mind-boggling to consider that 73 of 100 evangelicals believe in the heretical idea that God created Jesus. Or that 43 of 100 believe Jesus was not God.
What about you, your family and friends? Is it possible that a person could affirm Arianism and still be a Christian? Or does belief in that heresy void true faith? So who is Jesus? This coming week on the blog, just like the church sign says, we’ll find out, because Jesus does something that blows people’s minds, and it reveals who he is.