Monday, December 8, 2014

Loving the Son of Man at the Expense of the Son of God

In our world today—sadly, within evangelicalism itself—there is rampant confusion on what it means to know Jesus Christ, to love Jesus Christ, and to live like Jesus Christ. I cringe when people use His Name so lightly, showing little reverence when talking about Him and having no concern for how they preface the Name itself. Those of us within the church are constantly bombarded with programs and best-selling books that claim to help us know, love, and live like Jesus, but the predominant focus is on the temporal aspects of Jesus the Son of Man, showing little regard for the fact that He was also Jesus, the Christ, the Son of the Living God who commanded our reverence and obedience.

When Peter rightly declared that Jesus was not merely a prophet or good teacher, but “the Christ, the Son of the living God,” (emphasis mine) (Matt 16:16) it was through that confession that Jesus said He would build His church. Peter was the example of what every true Christian in history would always confess—that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. It was not enough to be satisfied with Jesus the Son of Man—that is half of the picture. Everyone wanted free food from Him, free healings, free advice, but many of these same people turned away from our Lord Jesus Christ when He actually spoke to them about Himself and what the cost was to follow Him.

After Jesus fed the 5,000 (only counting the men) the people—eager to see more miracles—followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee all the way to Capernaum saying, “’Rabbi, when did you come here?’ His response is pretty clear: ‘You are seeking me. . . because you ate your fill of the loaves’” (Jn 6:25–26). They weren’t seeking salvation from Jesus the Son of God, they were more interested in the temporal benefits coming from the Son of Man—free food.

Jesus continued in delineating the difference for the people in verse 27, “Do not work for the food that perishes, but for the food that endures to eternal life, which the Son of Man will give to you. For on him God the Father has set his seal.” He effectively declared that He was not only good for temporal bread, but for the bread that satisfies the eternal need of being reconciled to God.

“Then they said to him, ‘What must we do, to be doing the works of God?’ Jesus answered them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in him whom he has sent’” (28–29). We must believe in Jesus as the Christ, the Son of God. The people here loved Jesus, the Son of Man, but not Jesus the Son of God. They did not, then, believe unto salvation as is revealed in their response: “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know” (42)?

Today, sadly, we typically hear the most well-known evangelicals, or falsely so-called, speak about Jesus as if He were simply the guy to imitate for His good deeds as if that is the height of fulfilling the greatest commandment—to love the Lord Your God with your heart, soul, mind, and strength (Matt 22:37) and your neighbor as yourself (Matt 22:39). In fact we are hearing that even if someone of any religion has similar values, then they most certainly must be among God’s people even though they have different ways of fleshing out their religion. Perhaps the various differences between Islam, Mormonism, and Roman Catholicism, for instance, have just been misunderstood over the centuries? After all, they all have a place for Jesus in their system. Most claim to love Jesus. Most claim to hold to the moral necessity of loving their neighbor. Is that all that matters? Is loving Jesus the only means of determining one’s salvation?

Friends, no. Saying that we love Jesus is not specific enough. Do we “love” Jesus the Son of Man at the exclusion of Jesus Christ, the Son of God? It must be understood that he was the God-Man, fully human and fully God. They cannot be separated without upending the entire prophetic history that started in Genesis 3 and wove throughout the millennia. Do we “love” Jesus only for temporal things, or do we love Jesus Christ, the Son of God because He saved us from our sin that was at one point taking us to Hell?

When God gives us the gift of faith to believe and confess our sins in repentance, then we fall in love with Him. “We love because he first loved us” (1 Jn. 4:19).

The way that our love is then reciprocated and fleshed out is in obedience to Him and His Word—“If you love me, you will keep my commandments” (Jn 14:15). It is also fleshed out in how we love each other (1 Jn 4:11). Since the Bible was written to a Christian audience it must be recognized that a non-believer cannot read verses like, “whoever loves has been born of God and knows God” (1 Jn 4:7) and think that they are good with God because they have some kind of loving feeling for people. No, these pertain only to the Christian reader—someone who has, by grace, placed their faith in Jesus Christ as Lord, for the only way to be justified before God.

The growing popularity among professing evangelical leaders now is to lump together all people who profess to love Jesus, regardless of their religion. Careful theological understanding of faith, salvation, the nature and implications of the triune God as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, are effectively dismissed as “little details”. Major false religious systems are then looked at as simply being a type of denomination of the larger Christian world.

Rick Warren, in a recent video interview that aired on the Catholic News Service, called for evangelical Christians to unite with Roman Catholics for the sake of social justice, stating that “we have far more in common than what divides us. When you talk about Pentecostals, Charismatics, Evangelicals, Fundamentalists, Catholics, Methodists, Baptists, Presbyterians and on and on. . . They would all say, ‘We believe in the Trinity; we believe in the Bible; we believe in the resurrection; we believe in salvation through Jesus Christ.’ These are the big issues.”

The fundamental problem is in all of the excesses of the Roman Catholic Church that Warren completely glosses over. The RC Church believes in the Bible and its additional traditional writings, including the doctrinal assertions that the Pope makes, as being infallible. The RC Church believes in salvation through Jesus Christ and meritorious work.

The Council of Trent (1545–1563) was the Roman Catholic Church’s definitive response to the Protestant Reformation and the writings that were coming from men like Martin Luther and John Calvin. In it they defined what still remains as the bedrock of Roman Catholicism today.

In Section 6, Chapter 11, it reads: “No one ought to flatter himself up with faith alone, fancying that by faith alone he is made an heir [of Christ].”

In this same Section 6 are a number of Canons that further define the Catholic position on justification. Canon IX states: “If any one saith, that by faith alone the impious is justified; in such wise as to mean, that nothing else is required to co-operate in order to the obtaining the grace of Justification, and that it is not in any way necessary, that he be prepared and disposed by the movement of his own will; let him be anathema.” (emphasis mine)

“Let him be anathema” simply means “let him be accursed”. The Apostle Paul, however—under the divine inspiration of the Holy Spirit—wrote to the Galatians: “If we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed” (1:8) (emphasis mine). What was that Gospel that Paul preached?

A person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified” (Gal 2:16).

“By grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Eph 2:8–9).

According to Rick Warren—on the question of differences between Roman Catholicism and Evangelicalism—he states, “There’s still real differences—no doubt about that, but the most important thing is, if you love Jesus, we’re on the same team.”

Sweeping all fundamental doctrine and biblical theology aside, Warren simply states that unification of religion can be defined in whether or not someone "loves Jesus". Again, friends, this sounds good on the surface, but it doesn’t say anything about repentance of sin, faith in the Son of God for forgiveness of sin, or even that this Jesus that someone loves is the Jesus of the Bible, the Son of God. We cannot blur the lines about God—Father, Son, or Spirit—for it is the very belief of who exactly Jesus is and what work He did on the cross and the implications thereof on faith, that determines true salvation, or a false assurance of one.

Similarly, on Fox News, Joel Osteen was once asked ‘Is a Mormon a true Christian?’ in light of Mitt Romney’s run for the Presidency. He answered, “Well, in my mind they are. Mitt Romney has said that he believes in Christ as his Savior and that’s what I believe, so, you know, I’m not the one to judge the little details of it, so I believe they are. . .to me that’s a common bond.”

Strangely, most evangelicals are quick to dismiss Joel Osteen as a false-teacher for his prosperity gospel and other false teachings that continue to surface over the years, yet men like Rick Warren are still defended as being misunderstood, or not actually denying the faith in spite of his ecumenical agenda. For Warren, uniting under the pretense that people “love Jesus” does not stop at Roman Catholic theology.

In 2007, an open letter titled A Common Word Between Us and You was written and signed by 138 leading Muslim scholars and intellectuals to the Christian community calling for unity on the grounds that they both worship the one true God and that they are both called to love God with their whole self and love their neighbor as themselves. The introduction states:

“The future of the world depends on peace between Muslims and Christians. The basis for this peace and understanding already exists. It is part of the very foundational principles of both faiths: love of the One God, and love of the neighbour. These principles are found over and over again in the sacred texts of Islam and Christianity. The Unity of God, the necessity of love for Him, and the necessity of love of the neighbour is thus the common ground between Islam and Christianity.”

Countless signatories from the professing Christian community reciprocated their favor and acceptance of the Muslim outreach by responding with their own letter titled "A Common Word" Christian Response . In it, the signers concur with the common bond based on the love of the one true God and the love of each other’s neighbor. They even go so far as to “ask forgiveness of the All-Merciful One and of the Muslim community around the world” for the grievances that may have been caused by Christians in the past.

The letter goes on to effectively equate Allah with the God of the Bible:

“We applaud that “A Common Word Between Us and You” stresses so insistently the unique devotion to one God, indeed the love of God, as the primary duty of every believer. God alone rightly commands our ultimate allegiance. . . We find it equally heartening that the God whom we should love above all things is described as being Love. In the Muslim tradition, God, “the Lord of the worlds,” is “The Infinitely Good and All-Merciful.” And the New Testament states clearly that “God is love” (1 John 4:8).

The people claiming to represent Christianity on this letter were some of the most recognizable faces and institutions within the evangelical world, including, but not limited to: Rick Warren, Bill Hybels, Robert E. Cooley, President Emeritus, Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, as well as the Fuller Theological Seminary itself. Additionally, other recognizable names from the Emergent/Emerging Church movement were (not-surprisingly) listed as well, such as Brian McLaren and Tony Jones.

Friends: claiming to love God, or love Jesus, does not define your faith unless you can say who God is and who He is not. He is the sovereign Creator—the triune God. Jesus Christ is the only begotten Son of God. The Holy Spirit is equally God.

To call our love of the one true God as something that is equal to the Muslim’s love, or Mormon’s love, of the one true God is blasphemous. This may promote peace on earth, but only at the expense of the exclusive Gospel of Jesus Christ. This may successfully bring about peaceful relations on earth, but it will not bring about the eternal peace that surpasses understanding (Phil 4:7). It may successfully bring about the eradication of poverty, thirst, and hunger, but only at the expense of the “bread of life” and the “living water” that Jesus Christ alone can provide for eternal life (Jn 4:14; 6:35, 48, 51).

The only way anyone can possibly fulfill the Law of God that is summarized in the commandments to love God with all of your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself, is to have been credited with the work of Christ on your behalf who in fact did fulfill the Law of God perfectly.

Take note, that this requires an act of the Holy Spirit in spiritual regeneration that is brought about by the gift of faith. This is something God first does in us because He loved us first. We love because He first loved us. If we love God then we will keep His commandments. If God has indeed saved someone, then they will love God for God is love and God is in us. Love is necessarily the natural fruit that is revealed in a regenerated soul.

Love, then, is defined by God because God is love. We do not determine our own definition of love and then act it out and call ourselves, or others, true believers based on that definition.

We recognize that only Christ in us will actually allow us to will and to work for his good pleasure” (Phil 2:13).

Christ’s righteousness has been imputed, or credited, to us in such a way that we are treated as one who has kept the entire law perfectly. We know that whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it,” (Js 2:10) but that “where sin increased, grace abounded all the more” (Rom 5:20). The work of Jesus Christ has credited us with keeping the entire law—the very law that is summed up in loving the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength, and your neighbor as yourself.

We cannot put the cart before the horse and say that our own loving deeds are fulfilling the entire law. No, friends. Only someone with the Law-fulfiller inside of them has such confidence. Therefore, it is of absolute necessity that the Gospel is what unites people together as children of God. This requires understanding its exclusive claims that no other religion on planet earth would approve:

“We know that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true; and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn 5:20). “There is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 6:23).  “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn 1:9). “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God” (Eph 2:8).

In His Sovereign Grip,



  1. Hi Ben,
    This is the first time I have read your blog! I really enjoyed it! The point is not do we love Jesus but who is Jesus and have we accepted him as our personal Saviour.
    Jackie Harper

    1. Thanks, Jackie! Yes, we certainly don't want to focus our "love" in a way that is legalistic, or even selfish. Thanks for the feedback and comment!