Just how little can you believe about God, Jesus, and the Bible and still be a Christian? Of course this very question is a foolish one to ask, because everyone should believe all that the Bible reveals about God. But in another sense this is helpful in identifying real Christians and real churches.
One Saturday, two very nice ladies came to my door to offer me a magazine and talk to me about the Bible. That would seem like a positive way to spend a Saturday morning. After all, I love to read and I love to talk about the Bible. As we talked, however, I realized that we did not believe the same things about the person of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Our society spurns absolute truth. Many people would say that whatever a person thinks about Jesus is good enough as long as they are sincere. “What’s the big deal about different views of Jesus?” “Maybe you and those ladies could have learned from each other and both have been helped.”
The Bible, however, makes it clear that a right view of Jesus is all-important. Sincerity will not get you to heaven (how sincere were the Pharisees about their religion?). It is not enough to claim to believe in Jesus, you must believe in Jesus as he is revealed in God’s Word.
The church in the Turkish town of Colossae had an inadequate view of Christ. In correcting their wrong perspectives, Paul made some of the strongest statements about the Lord Jesus in the Bible. Colossians 1:15-17 says, “And He is the image of the invisible God, the first born of all creation. For by Him all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things have been created by Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together.”
When you have seen Jesus you have seen God. Not a god, but God! In His earthly ministry Jesus was grieved that some of His disciples were slow to realize this reality. “Philip said to Him, ‘Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.’ Jesus said to him, ‘Have I been so long with you and yet you have not come to know Me Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:8-9).
Jesus is the image of the invisible God! Another biblical author put it this way, “And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down on the right hand of the Majesty on high” (Hebrews 1:3).
When Paul calls Jesus “the firstborn of all creation” (Colossians 1:15), he does not mean that Jesus was the first thing God the Father created. Firstborn describes a rank of superiority. It is a position of honor over others. Paul described Jesus as outranking all of creation.
The fact that Jesus was not part of God’s creation is proved by the descriptive phrases Paul uses about the Lord Jesus in the next verses. Four times in the next two verses Paul uses the phrase “all things.” If the Lord Jesus created ALL things, he could not have been a created being. The ladies that visited me on Saturday sought to avoid this obvious contradiction of their view by using a special Bible called the New World Translation.
Their special Bible was translated by a team of people that believe that Jesus was a created being and NOT co-equal and co-eternal with God the Father. Even though the original Greek language of Colossians does not include the word “other,” their special Bible inserts the word into the Bible at these points. Their Bible reads that Jesus created “all other things.” No other translation of the Bible would dare to make such an obviously biased translation (check any other translation of the Bible you can find).
Other passages in Colossians boldly identifying the Lord Jesus with God the Father are found in chapter 2. Of Christ, Paul says, “in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge” (Colossians 2:3). There is no wisdom and knowledge in heaven or earth apart from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Colossians 2:9 says, “For in Him all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” Although God the Father and God the Son are two distinct persons they are one God (along with the Person of the Holy Spirit) with one essence. There is no part of Godhood missing from Jesus. He has existed from all eternity and will exist for all eternity.
So we come to the bottom line—does this really matter? There are many well-meaning people that claim to be Christians but deny that Jesus and Jehovah are the same God. Anyone who makes such a denial is no true Christian. It does not matter how nice or sincere they may be, they are rebelling against the revelation of God in the Bible.
Every time we sin, we sin against an eternal God. Therefore, we are under eternal wrath. Just as killing a police officer is a more serious crime than killing a person on the street in the eyes of the state, sinning against Eternal God is an eternal crime. This is why hell is just as eternal as heaven is (see Matthew 25:46).
The ONLY hope for forgiveness from the eternal wrath of God is the substitutionary death of Jesus on the cross. If Jesus is not as eternal as God the Father is, then his work on the cross could never appease God’s eternal wrath and purchase forgiveness for anyone. So even though I cannot know the heart condition of anyone, I can conclude with confidence that believing in a “Jesus” who is a created being will not save anyone. As nice as my visitors were on the outside, they are in desperate need for a Savior on the inside.
Always choose to read a non-biased translation of the Bible like the English Standard Version or the New International Version. Start by reading what the Bible reveals about Jesus in the letter to the Colossians. Ask God to open your heart to his truth.
By John Crotts