Theology Matters

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I am the Resurrection and the Life.

Image“I am the Way the Truth and the Life, no-one comes to the Father except by me.”
In the last two posts and this post I am looking at Jesus’ claim to be “the way, the truth and the life.” The first post in this (mini-)series looked at what it means to say Jesus is the Way, the second at what it means to say Jesus is the truth. In this post, I want to look at the final claim, that Jesus is the Life.

The Raising of Lazarus by “The Resurrection and the Life”
John 11 tells the story of the death of Lazarus. Jesus had heard of Lazarus’ illness, and though he was a close friend of the family’s had decided to take his sweet time in making the relatively short trip to see him. In the meantime, Lazarus had died. When Jesus finally showed up, Mary was too grieved to come and meet him, but Martha put words to the painful thought that was weighing heavily on both of their minds, and also to the hope that Martha scarcely dared acknowledge. Jesus’ response foreshadows both the miracle that was soon to come and his own glorious victory over death:

“Lord,” Martha said to Jesus, “if you had been here, my brother would not have died. But I know that even now God will give you whatever you ask.” Jesus said to her, “Your brother will rise again.” Martha answered, “I know he will rise again in the resurrection at the last day.” Jesus said to her, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?” 

Do you believe this?

Along with “who do people say I am. . .what do you say?” Jesus’ question here is one of the key questions of the Christian faith. I am the resurrection and the Life, says Jesus. Do you believe this?

Most people do not have trouble believing that Jesus existed, that he was a great teacher, and even that he performed miracles. These are near-universally acknowledged facts of history. But the resurrection is a line in the sand. The whole of the Christian faith stands or falls on this event, a fact that the Bible readily admits. “If Christ has not been raised,” says the Apostle Paul, “our preaching is useless and so is your faith.” Indeed, “if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.” Morover, “those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.” And to top it all off, “if only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.” (1 Cor 15:12–18).

Elsewhere Paul makes it clear that the resurrection is not just essential to the Christian hope—that we too will one day be raised from the dead—but to the faith itself. In Romans 10:9 we are told that “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” In other words, belief in the resurrection is essential to salvation. It is not sufficient to believe that Jesus existed. In order to call yourself a Christian, you must actually believe in the Resurrection. But, to return to Paul’s thought in 1 Cor 15, if you don’t believe in the Resurrection—both His, and ours—why would you bother being a Christian at all?

Jesus is Life itself

But Jesus did not only ask Martha to believe in the Resurrection. The latter half of his claim is just as important; I am the Life. And this claim was not only a comforting reassurance for Martha—“Yes, I could raise him then, but I’m going to do it now”—but also a powerful promise for us, “I am Life Itself.” In order to fully appreciate the significance of this promise we must realise that humanity without Christ is spiritually dead. And by ‘spiritually’ I don’t mean figuratively, but actually; in truth, dead. Those that are alive apart from Christ are so only apparently, not truly. To be without Christ is to be separated from God and to be separated from God is death. Or, to state it in the positive, “to live is Christ. . .” (Php 1:21).

Jesus said, “I have come that they might have life, and have it more abundantly.” Again, there are two parts to this text, both of them powerful truths. We often focus on the second part—Jesus is the abundant life that the Father sent him to give us—but miss the first part: Jesus came to give us life. Before him, I was dead. We cannot, and do not truly live apart from him. Perhaps this is why Paul said, when facing the imminent possibility of his own (physical) death, “To live is Christ, and to die is gain.”

And so the promise of coming alive; of truly and abundantly living in Him comes to those who are spiritually dead because of sin (Eph 2:1). God promises that “if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you” (Rom 8:11). We who are in Christ, have been resurrected from spiritual death, and the power and life of Christ’s own resurrection courses through our veins. It is His Spirit, the very same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead, who has raised us with him to live a new life in him.  


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What is Truth?

“What is Truth?”

This is the pervading question of the postmodern age, but it is not a new question at all. This was in fact the very question posed by Pilate at the trial of Jesus, just over 2000 years ago.

Jesus answered, “You are right in saying that I am a king. In fact, for this reason I was born, and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me. “What is truth?” Pilate asked. (John 18:37–38)

In my last post, I began to write about Jesus’ saying, “I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No-one comes to the Father except through me.” I started with the first claim: “I am the Way.” In this post, I want to deal with the next claim “I am…the truth.” In that post I showed that when Jesus said “You know the way to the place where I am going,” the way that he was talking about was Himself, not just the path of life that they would have to travel in following Him. In the same way, when 1 John 2:20 says that “…you have an anointing from the holy One, and all of you know the truth,” it is not referring (only) to the knowledge of certain facts about God, but about the knowledge of Jesus himself who is the location and fullest expression of the Truth concerning the Father, the Very Truth himself.

The tragic irony in Pilate’s question—What is truth?—is of course that the answer was staring him in the face. Jesus is not a Truth among many, just as he is not merely a way among many. Jesus is not just a teacher who proclaimed truth. Jesus is the Truth. And for that reason he is the necessary beginning and the end (that is, the goal) of any sincere search for truth. For to know Jesus is to know the Truth, and to seek the truth is to seek Him.

Fully God and fully human

It is therefore of the utmost importance to understand exactly who and what Jesus was. The Bible reveals Jesus as both Human and Divine; the Son of Man, and the Son of God. In the words of Peter’s confession, Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (see also Martha’s confession in John 11:27) and in Thomas’ words, he is “my master and my God.” The truth that Jesus is both fully human and fully divine has been codified since the early centuries in the language of the creeds (“true God of true God. . .of one substance with the Father. . .who for us all and for our salvation. . .was made man”).

A true understanding of Jesus then is one that recognizes both his humanity and his divinity. So on the one hand Jesus is the truth about God. Jesus came to do the Father’s will on the Father’s behalf, and by so doing, to reveal the Father to us. When Phillip said to him “Show us the Father and that will be enough for us” (John 14:8), Jesus answered:

Don’t you know me, Phillip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? Don’t you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work (John 14:9–10).

On the other hand, Jesus is the truth about us. Jesus did not only come to represent God to us, but also to represent us to God. In Jesus we do not only see what God is like, we see what true humanity is like. Reading a Theology text recently,[1] I was challenged by the thought that we all too often devalue the image of God in humanity. We say for example, when speaking of a fault or a failure in somebody’s character, “well, he’s only human after all.” What we should say instead is “in that area at least, he is less than human.” The Bible tells us that humans were created very good—in God’s image and likeness—but that we fell through sin, becoming in the process something less than God’s original intent; less than human. Jesus came to reveal the Father, but he also came to restore humanity to the Father’s original intent, to be the image bearers of God who rule the planet on his behalf. The truth about Jesus is that he is fully human in a way that we ourselves can never be unless we find our identity in Him.

“Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free. . .” (John 8:31–32)

In order to truly know Jesus, it is important to believe and confess rightly about him (the theological term for this correct belief and confession is orthodoxy). Jesus himself said, that true worshippers must worship the Father in spirit and in truth. That is to say, we do not worship God truly unless we believe and confess him as he truly is. But this is only the start. To worship the Father in truth does not only mean worshipping him truly but worshipping the Father out of our true identity in Christ, that is, in Truth. Because it is only in Christ that the Father becomes our Father.

The goal is to know Jesus, not just to know about Jesus, but we must know about Jesus in order to know him truly.

You have to know the truth in order to be set free by the Truth

This blog is called ‘Theology Matters’ because of my conviction that what we believe about God (theology) determines how we live our lives. I pray you would know, fully experience and enter into the truth of Jesus, the one who is Truth, the one who reveals his Father to us, inviting us, in him, to call his father Our Father and the one who shows us what it is to be fully human.


[1] Larry Hart’s Truth Aflame.


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Sorry to be inclusive, but Jesus is the only Way

one way signWhen people say that Christianity is an exclusive religion, they are partly wrong and partly right. Christianity does not exclude people. And this is a point which we would do well to remember when we find God’s grace being extended to people who are not like us and who do not think like us. In this respect, Christianity is radically inclusive. God’s offer is extended to all. All are called to come. Jesus died for all.[1] Indeed, one of Christianity’s most enduring and influential hymns, Amazing Grace, was written by John Newton, a man who as a former slave trader had been the cause of untold misery and suffering to tens of thousands of people prior to his conversion. If anybody was an unlikely candidate for, well, Amazing Grace, it was him (and that’s kind of the point of the song). We, of all people, cannot and should not ever claim that any person (or type of person for that matter) is beyond the reach of His redeeming love.

But on the other hand, Christianity is an exclusive faith, and, might I say, counter-culturally so in this day and age.

There is only one Way. Only one Truth. Only one Life. This means that every other way is a dead end, every other truth is superseded, and no other life is worth living.

This truth is found in John 14:6. Jesus had been reassuring his disciples by telling them that he was going to his father’s house to prepare a place for them and that he will surely return to bring them to be with him. At the end of John 14:4, Jesus says to them, “you know where I am going, and you know the way.” Thomas answered (it would have to be Thomas, wouldn’t it?) “Lord, we don’t even know where you are going, so how can we know the way.” Then Jesus answered with those famous words, “I am the way, the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except by me.”

Thomas was hung up on the destination and the directions, but Jesus was talking about destiny and dependence. When Jesus told them that they knew where he was going he was referring to what he had already told them. He was going to the Father. That is ultimately where he was leading each one of them and is leading each one of us. And that is all that they needed to know. When he told them that they already knew the way, he was not referring to the path of their natural life that they would travel to its end. Little did they know that the way ahead for each man listening to those words involved trials and triumphs, suffering and glory, and in all but John’s case a horrific death. But those were just the details. He was not telling them about that. He was referring to himself, the living Way to the ultimate destiny of relationship with the Father.

I find that a wonderfully encouraging thought. I may not always know where I’m going day to day, how my life will end up here on earth or where I will end up. But I know the Way. And that is all I need to know. He is the road that I travel on. It’s a narrow road (Mt 7:13) and its the only one to where I’m going. I don’t get to see the whole road at once.

I don’t know what it will take me through, but I know who He will take me to. And that is all that matters.

(c) Clayton Coombs

Theology Matters is a ministry of David McCracken Ministries

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[1] This post is written from an Arminian perspective. I have been profoundly blessed to have studied under and alongside some of the brightest Calvinist theologians during my time at Fuller Seminary and Wheaton College. Nevertheless, I am still predominantly Arminian in my thinking. If you know what I’m talking about, please feel free to dialogue about it. I may well post on this issue in due time. If you don’t know what I’m talking about please ignore this footnote.