The Discounting of Jesus Christ
The Discounting of Jesus Christ
As we look forward to Christmas this week, I would like to read for you a description of the baby who was born in Bethlehem and whose birth we celebrate. The description is found in Colossians 1:15-16: 15) He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. 16) For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. That, folks, is God the Father’s view as delivered through the Apostle Paul of the baby born in Bethlehem some 2,000 years ago.
I take it from those words that Jesus Christ is supreme over all – or He is not supreme at all. Unfortunately, we live in a world and a culture where people want to take a little bit of Jesus, but they fall far short of the whole package. I want to assure you this morning, it does not work that way. We must take all or we must reject all.
A rich young fellow wanted to give his father something for Christmas. He had been through all the obvious, having given him a new widescreen HD TV one year, a Porsche another year. So he was looking for something different. Well, one day he was looking around a market in Costa Rica where he was vacationing when he came across a most unusual bird. Not only was the bird beautiful, but it could talk; it could count; it could give stock market quotes. It was a very special bird – and all for only $20,000. Well, the young man didn’t even hesitate. It was the perfect gift, so he bought it and had it sent. The day after Christmas he called. “Did you get the gift?” he asked his father. “Oh, yes,” he answered. “Well – how did you like it?” “Oh, it was delicious!”
That is what much of the world has done with our Savior. They have taken the gift of God and destroyed it because they will not recognize His supremacy. It reminds of a sign I saw one time in a store just before Christmas. On display was a manger scene with a sign attached – “Jesus Christ, Discounted.” Our world has discounted Jesus Christ and when we do that, all hope of salvation is lost. It is useless to talk about that Bethlehem baby unless we are going to recognize fully his identity, his plan and his purpose. Discounting even one element of his person results in the loss of the whole.
So the question we want to look at this morning is, how has Jesus Christ been discounted and how is His supremacy shown?
I. Some Discount His Birth – Man Rather than God-man
It’s Christmas, so let’s start with the birth of Christ. Some, many of whom ardently celebrate the holiday, nevertheless discount the birth of Christ. How? Well, usually they do so by denying that He was born of a virgin. They are happy to have a wonderful, wise and tender young man who grew up to be the greatest prophet the world has ever seen, but they will not have Him as God. They discount the miraculous in His birth. In so doing, they tear away at His supremacy.
But the Bible is very explicit on this subject. You may have a non-virgin birth if you want, but you may not have it and still claim allegiance to Scripture. It tells us that the angel Gabriel suddenly appeared to the young Mary one day and told her that she had been favored by God and would bear a son who would be great and whose kingdom would have no end – hardly a mortal description. Mary’s first thought as expressed in Luke 1:34-35 was the most natural one: 34) And Mary said to the angel, “How will this be, since I am a virgin?” 35) And the angel answered her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; therefore the child to be born will be called holy—the Son of God.
You see, this virgin birth was not just a nicety. It was rather an intrinsic part of the plan of God. Without going into all the theology of it this morning, it was the means by which Jesus became the God-man, a being unique in history. It was the means by which He as God could experience human life – having a God-nature which He could not give up, but also having a human nature. It was the means by which he could have a human nature, yet one not tainted with sin, thus equipping him as the second Adam. It was the means by which he could live life fully through the resources of his human nature, yet experience it in His God nature.
To deny the virgin birth is to strip Jesus of His deity and render Him a mere man. To allow the virgin birth is to acknowledge the truth of Matthew’s assertion in Matthew 1:23 23) “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us). God, one of us. God-man.
Now, why is this important? Let me just give you some key reasons:
- He had to be a man in order to succeed where the first Adam had failed. For God to live perfectly would be meaningless – for a man to live perfectly was critical to God’s plan. Jesus did that.
- He had to be God to provide the infinite sacrifice required to save mankind as a whole. What God could not do – die – He experienced in the person of Jesus Christ, and thus provided in John’s words in I John 2:2: 2) propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world. No man could do that, but the God-man could.
- He had to be God to experience life as a man so that He could be an advocate for us. We read in Hebrews 2:17-18: 17) Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18) For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted.
Jesus was perfectly suited for his atoning and advocacy work by being the God-man. Take away the virgin birth and all of that goes up in smoke.
It was sometime in the late 1860’s. Two infidels once sat on a railroad train, discussing the life of Christ. One of them said, “I think an interesting romance could be written about him.” The other replied, “And you are just the man to write it. Tear down the prevailing sentiment about His divinity, and paint Him as a man—a man among men.” The suggestion was acted upon and the romance written. The man who made the suggestion was Colonel Robert Ingersoll, the noted atheist. The writer was General Lew Wallace, of Civil War fame, and the book he wrote was called Ben Hur.
However, something unexpected happened in the process of constructing the life of Christ, Gen. Wallace found himself facing the greatest life ever lived on earth. The more he studied, the more he was convinced Christ was more than man. Until one day, in his own words, he was forced to cry “Verily, this was the Son of God!” Folks, Christ was supreme in His birth.
II. Some People Discount His Life – Good Rather than Perfect
A second way that people discount Jesus Christ has to do with his life. They are more than willing to have him living a good life, even a great life – even the greatest life ever lived. But perfection? Not possible. Didn’t happen. Can’t accept that.
But once again, they are in direct conflict with the Scripture, where Jesus’ sinless life is made abundantly clear. Hebrews 4:15: 15) For we do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who in every respect has been tempted as we are, yet without sin. This is a tremendous encouragement to the believer. Christ never asks us to do something that He hasn’t already done, for it says that He has been tempted in every respect as we are. Whatever your Achilles Heel, whatever your great struggle, He knows; He cares and He can provide victory.
But the even bigger reason that Christ’s sinless life is important is found in Romans 5:19: 19) For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, [the reference is to Adam’s sin], so by the one man’s [Christ’s] obedience the many will be made righteous. Do you see that the only reason Christ was able to make atonement for all of us was because He had first lived a sinless life? That was the requirement. It had been illustrated from the earliest times in the sacrifices of the Old Testament. The requirement was always for a lamb “without blemish.” Remember that? What was the point? The point was that the ultimate sacrifice for sin would have to be someone who had lived perfectly and thus deserved for himself none of the punishment he was about to endure.
The superiority of the sacrifice of Christ is fully documented in Hebrews 9 where we are told that while the blood of bulls and goats could never take away sin, Jesus, as the perfect man could. No longer was there need for a yearly atonement. In Christ, the sacrifice was once for all, and the key to the whole thing – the thing that made it effective is identified in Hebrews 9:14: 14) how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Christ was supreme in His life – not good, not great, but sinlessly perfect, and how thankful we should be, for our whole redemption depended on that perfect life.
III. Some People Discount His Death – Example Rather Than Atonement
A third way that Christ is often discounted is in His death. Perhaps of all the ways people discount Christ, this is the saddest and most hurtful to the Lord Himself, for it is a denial of a sacrifice made at the ultimate cost that is being reduced to the status of “nice try.” Imagine if you will what it would feel like to have your son or daughter literally launch themselves in front of ongoing traffic to push an oblivious young child out of the way, resulting in fatal injuries to your child, only to have the other parents come by and say, “What a wonderful example your child displayed. I wish it hadn’t happened because my child was never in danger, but you should be proud of him or her.” Imagine that. You’d go ballistic. And if you didn’t something would be wrong with you. Yet that is exactly what some of even our evangelical brothers and sisters are doing with Christ.
The argument goes like this. One the cross Jesus provided a wonderful example of self-sacrificial love that we should emulate. He refused to hate his enemies even as they viciously killed him. To think that His death was somehow planned by His Father as a means of atonement is beneath 21st century sensibilities. One writer, ostensibly an evangelical, states it like this: “The fact is that the cross is not a form of cosmic child abuse – a vengeful Father, punishing his Son for an offence he has not even committed. Understandably, both people inside and outside of the Church have found this twisted version of events morally dubious and a huge barrier to faith. Deeper than that, however, is that such a concept stands in total contradiction to the statement “God is love”. If the cross is a personal act of violence perpetrated by God towards humankind but borne by his Son, then it makes a mockery of Jesus’ own teaching to love your enemies and to refuse to repay evil with evil.” Do you see how this can be made to sound palatable? And yet it discounts the meaning of Christ’s death in such a way that it must anathema to the Father. I’ll tell you what unloving would be. Unloving would be to let your child die for no good reason when you could prevent it. That would be unloving.
This teaching is a reprehensible denial of what the Bible teaches from beginning to end. Eight Hundred years before the event, the prophet Isaiah described the cross in this way: Isa 53: 10) Yet it was the will of the Lord (literally, it pleased the Lord) to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the Lord shall prosper in his hand.
11) Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Make no mistake; the death of Jesus Christ was planned by God the Father from eternity past. Judas Iscariot and the Jewish and Roman rulers were merely incidental instruments for accomplishing God’s eternal purpose.
The Bible says in Hebrews 9:22: 22) without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins. The writer goes on to say in verse 27: And just as it is appointed for man to die once, and after that comes judgment, 28) so Christ, having been offered once to bear the sins of many, will appear a second time, not to deal with sin but to save those who are eagerly waiting for him. I must tell you, if the Bible is true, then there is no hope for redemption if Christ’s death was merely an unfortunate accident of history that serves as a great example. That is rubbish. It is worse than rubbish.
The Bible says in Galatians 3: 13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us—for it is written, “Cursed is everyone who is hanged on a tree. Almost at the beginning of Jesus’ career, John the Baptist saw him and said, “Behold, the Lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world!” Jesus was designated by the Father in eternity past to be the ultimate lamb – the one who would live sinlessly so that he could die once for all for the sin of the world. It was no mistake; it was no accident; it was not just to be an example. The suggestion that seeing Christ’s death as substitutionary and atoning is child abuse on the part of God the Father is wicked. It represents a complete and total misunderstanding of the absolutely odious and fatal nature of human sin and the price that has to be paid for our salvation. And I must say that it is an insult to God Almighty to suggest that He would allow His Son to die for anything less than to provide redemption from sin.
Do you not see that the very fact that Christ did die says that it must be the most important thing in the world. It was God’s love in its purest and most intense demonstration and to call it merely a great example is to trample on the grace of God. Oh, do not put yourself in that position. You want to know what the cross was about? Look at Romans 3:26 to get it in a nutshell: 26) It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just (shown by his demanding sacrifice for sin and thus remaining God) and the justifier (by providing forgiveness to all who will believe and accept Christ’s sacrifice in their place) of the one who has faith in Jesus.
Let me give you just one example – an example which was experienced by thousands of Jewish men over the years. As the ritual of the burnt offering began in the Old Testament, the worshiper pressed on the animal’s head with the hand and held it while he slit the throat. Why? Because this dramatic act was an emotional experience – the animal died at the hand of the offeror, crumpled to the ground at the offeror’s feet. Perceptive worshipers knew, as later revelation confirmed, that it should have been their blood that was shed and their bodies that lay lifeless before the altar.”
The Bible says in II Cor 5:21) For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. The cross, Beloved, is nothing less than Jesus dying for you and me. And he did it on purpose. Don’t ever buy the lie that someone took Jesus’ life. Don’t every believe that. The Bible says, “2) looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. Don’t ever discount the cross. It’s the pivotal point in history.
And here’s the application as expressed by Charles Spurgeon. He said on his deathbed, “My theology now is found in four little words: “JESUS died for ME.” I don’t say this is all I would preach if I were to be raised up again, but it is more than enough for me to die upon.” Don’t ever die on less. Don’t discount the death of Christ. You can only do so to your own eternal loss. Christ was not a victim in His death – He was supreme! He was supremely obedient to His Father’s will and He was the supreme embodiment of the Father’s love.
IV. Some People Discount His Resurrection – Spiritual Rather than Physical
Another way that folks discount Jesus Christ is with regard to His resurrection. They are subtle, these folks. They are willing to use the word resurrection. They are willing to speak of the resurrected Christ and of the power He brings to lives today, but they do not mean the same thing that you and I do when they speak of his resurrection. When pressed, they believe that Christ arose spiritually, but they deny that he arose bodily. They are willing to have some kind of nebulous idea of a Christ who can inspire and speak to hearts, but they deny that the man Jesus was resurrected to walk this earth again.
Why? Why would anyone deny the resurrection? I do not know. I suppose that their minds just cannot or, more properly will not accept that miraculous event. After all, if Christ really did arise bodily, that is the ultimate proof of everything he said, is it not? That is the ultimate proof of His deity and His message and it commands a personal response.
To me those who deny the bodily resurrection of Christ are a bit like what happened at the death of one particularly ornery man. He died and they had a nice funeral service for him at the church. However, following a funeral service, the pallbearers were carrying the casket out of the church when they accidentally bumped into a wall. Almost miraculously, from inside the coffin they hear a faint moan. Opening the lid, they find the man inside alive and just recovering from a deep sleep or coma! He leaps out, performs a little jig, and everyone concludes that the bump on the wall was most fortuitous. He might never have awakened if not for the jar. Well, he lives another ten years before eventually keeling over. Once again, a funeral is conducted, and at the end, the pallbearers carry out the casket. But this time as they head toward the doors of the church, the wife of the deceased leaps to her feet and shouts, “Watch out for the wall!” She apparently did not want to see her husband alive again.
I trust that you are not here like that today with regard to the resurrection of Christ. I think there is no more glorious event in history than the resurrection of Christ. The Bible says it is pivotal to our whole faith as Christians. We read in I Cor. 15: 14) And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. He makes the implication even more clear in verse 17: And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. You say, “Well, he was just talking about Christ being spiritually resurrected.” Really?! I don’t think so. Listen to what Paul said a few verses earlier in I Cor 15: 3) For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4) that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, 5) and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. (that’s physical, folks) 6) Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, (so check it out is what Paul is saying. He could never have made this claim were it not true) though some have fallen asleep (this was all written within 15-20 years tops after Jesus crucifixion). 7) Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. (Why James? Because this was one of the Lord’s brothers who had thought Jesus a little out of his head at one point and was now a respected and revered church leader in Jerusalem. Explain that apart from the resurrection) 8) Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.
There are simply things that cannot be explained apart from a bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. You will recall that He showed doubting Thomas the scars in his hands and his feet which was enough to drive Thomas to his knees in worship as he said, “My Lord and My God.” Not my teacher, not my revered friend. Not dear prophet or even rabbi, but My Lord and My God. Thomas got it.
If there was no bodily resurrection how do you explain that virtually every sermon in the book of Acts centers on the resurrection and every one of the twelve apostles, excepting John, suffered martyrdom for their faith? How do you explain the institution of the Christian church at all? It’s very existence argues for truth of Christ’s bodily resurrection. To deny that historical fact is to discount Jesus Christ. Christ is supreme in His resurrection and it is that resurrection that is the basis for our own hope of resurrection in the future.
There are other ways that people discount Christ. They discount His life now when they live in isolation from Him – the one who is standing at the door knocking, seeking an intimate relationship with anyone who will believe. They discount Him when they deny His Second Coming, choosing rather to believe that history will continue in its circular spiral, going nowhere, producing nothing, aiming at oblivion.
But Beloved, if this Bible is true, then that baby in the Bethlehem manger, born in such humble circumstances – that baby is the supreme being in all of history. He is either supreme in all or He is not supreme at all. He has not left us the option to just take a little Jesus at Christmas and Easter to salve our conscience. He never meant to leave such an option. We must recognize the supremacy of his deity, equal with God the Father in all of his attributes, and the radiance of His glory. The celebration of His birth is also a call to us to rise in honor at the supremacy of His eternality, to recognize that while his everlasting life as a man had a beginning, his eternal life as God did not, to acknowledge and recognize the truth of what John said about this very one when he said, 1) In the beginning already was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. How mindblowing to think that while he had a birth, he had no beginnning.
We must know the supremacy of His purity. He never sinned. He never sinned. He never had one milli-second of a bad attitude or a sinful lust. Though tempted in every way like us, He never failed. We must know the supremacy of His power to walk on water and cleanse lepers and heal the lame and open the eyes of the blind and open the ears of the deaf and cause storms to cease and with two words to raise the dead. “Lazarus – come forth.” We must know the supremacy of his power.
We must know the supremacy of his dominion. I love what the great Dutch statesman, preacher and commentator, Abraham Kuyper said, “There is not one square inch on planet earth over which the risen Christ does not say, ‘MINE.’ And I rule it. I am supreme over it.” We must know this Christ. And though it may not seem to you as though He holds such supreme rule now, it is but a matter of very short time until He comes, not as a baby this time, but with the glory of His father and all his angels in flaming fire giving relief to those who trust Him now and absolutely destroying to the uttermost those who have rejected Him and discounted Him.
Yes, he came as a baby, thankfully, but the Bible says concerning that very babe 8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, 10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
I tell you this morning, he is no long that baby. He is king over all, but I tell you one more thing – He wants to reside with you. With you. Can you fathom that? He wants to stamp MINE over you and me, but He needs our invitation to do so.
When Queen Victoria reigned in England, she occasionally would visit some of the humble cottages of her subjects. One time she entered the home of a widow and stayed to enjoy a brief period of Christian fellowship. Later on, the poor woman was taunted by her worldly neighbors. “Granny,” they said, “who’s the most honored guest you’ve ever entertained in your home?” They expected her to say it was Jesus, for despite their constant ridicule of her Christian witness, they recognized her deep spirituality. But to their surprise she answered, “The most honored guest I’ve entertained is Her Majesty the Queen.”
“Did you say the Queen? Ah, we caught you this time! How about this Jesus you’re always talking about? Isn’t He your most honored guest?” Her answer was definite and scriptural, “NO, indeed! He’s not a guest. HE LIVES HERE!” May I humbly and earnestly ask this morning, does that baby live with you? Does he? How can you celebrate His birth and not invite Him to live with you? What kind of travesty would that be? If you’ve never done so, let Him in. For as elsewhere in His universe, so in your life, He must be supreme over all, or He is not supreme at all.