I had never questioned my faith, and in fact hoped to share it with others, including a dear friend who was a believer, although not a member of the church of Christ. Lately this friend has stated that she believes in God, but not in Jesus anymore. For some reason, I have felt my faith shaken somewhat. This is an intelligent woman whom I admire and trust very much, and although I haven’t discussed with her the reasons for her change of heart, I believe that she must have some compelling reasons. So I have been doing some investigating, so that I can find answers to give her – or perhaps also for myself. Suppose I am wrong in my beliefs? I want to go to heaven, and if it means I must change my beliefs, my religion, so be it. Sticking with something just because it’s something I’ve always known doesn’t ensure my salvation. I have always believed the New Testament. But I’ve decided to look at what non-believers think. I have found websites that have “prove” that Jesus is not the Messiah, that He did not fulfill the prophecies, and/or claim that he used “tricks” rather than real miracles, and have offered explanations of how these tricks worked. These sites have not changed my mind, but they HAVE made me wonder further. How can I be sure? I want to be right with God. Can you tell me WHY we believe that Jesus is the Messiah, and what proof? Thank you.
This question is surely the most difficult question submitted. It is not difficult to answer because of the difficulty in establishing the deity of Jesus; it is difficult because of the overwhelming evidence. Every systematic theology (unless by unbelievers, which includes neo-orthodox existential theologians) contains a lengthy discussion of the subject. Entire books have been written on the subject. The nature of Jesus is generally included in discussion of the Trinity, establishing that He has divine names, divine attributes, performs divine works, and has divine honor ascribed to Him. To deny that Jesus is deity and the Messiah is at the same time to deny God the Father, the inspiration of scripture, and the fact of the resurrection, to mention a few of the more important doctrines that fall if Jesus is not Messiah. The result, of course, is that the hope of man is destroyed. If Jesus is not the Messiah, then the Messiah has never come and God’s wrath against sin has never been satisfied. While woefully incomplete, perhaps the following will lead you in the right way. It is taken from Systematic Theology by L. Berkhof, published by Eerdmans Publishing Company.
Some have shown an inclination to deny that the Old Testament contains predictions of a divine Messiah, but this denial is quite untenable in view of such passages as Ps. 2:6-12 (Heb. 1:5); 45:6,7 (Heb. 1:8,9); 110:1 (Heb. 1:13); Isa. 9:6; Jer. 23:6; Dan. 7:13; Mic. 5:2; Zech. 13:7; Mal. 3:1. Several of the latest historical scholars strongly insist on the fact that the doctrine of a superhuman Messiah was native to pre-Christian Judaism. Some even fin in it the explanation for the supernatural Christology of parts of the New Testament.
It has been found quite impossible to deny that both John and Paul teach the deity of Christ. In the gospel of John, the most exalted view of the person of Christ is found, as appears from the following passages: John 1:1-3, 14, 18; 2:24,25; 3:16-18, 35, 36; 4:14, 15; 5:18, 20-22, 25-27; 11:41-44; 20:28; 1 John 1:3; 2:23; 4:14, 15; 5:5, 10-13, 20. A similar view is found in the Pauline Epistles and in the Epistle to the Hebrews, Rom. 1:7; 9:5; I Cor. 1:1-3; 2:8; II Cor. 5:10; Gal. 2:20; 4:4; Phil. 2:6; Col. 2:9; I Tim. 3:16; Heb. 1:1-3, 5, 8; 4:14; 5:8, and so on. Critical scholars sought escape from the doctrine clearly taught in these writings in various ways as, for instance, by denying the historicity of the Gospel of John and the authenticity of many of the Epistles of Paul; by regarding the representations of John, Paul, and Hebrews as unwarranted interpretations, in the case of John and Hebrews especially under the influence of the Philonic Logos doctrine, and in the case of Paul under the same influence, or under that of his pre-Christian, Jewish views; or by ascribing to Paul a lower view than is found in John, namely, that of Christ as a pre-existent, heavenly man.
Some maintain that the Synoptics only furnish us with a true picture of Christ. They, it is said, portray the human, the truly historical Jesus, as contrasted with the idealized picture of the Fourth Gospel. But is perfectly evident that the Christ of the Synoptics is just as truly divine as the Christ of John. He stands out as a supernatural person throughout, the Son of Man and the Son of God. His character and works justify His claim. Notice particularly the following passages: Matt. 5:17; 9:6; 11:1-6, 27; 14:33; 16:16,17; 28:18; 25:31 ff.; Mark 8:38, and many similar and parallel passages. Dr. Warfield’s The Lord of Glory is very illuminating on this point.
In recent years there has been a tendency to go back to the self-consciousness of Jesus, and to deny that He was conscious of being the Messiah or the Son of God. Naturally, it is not possible to have any knowledge of the consciousness of Jesus, except through His words, as these are recorded in the Gospels; and it is always possible to deny that they correctly express the mind of Jesus. For those who accept the gospel testimony there can be no doubt as to the fact that Jesus was conscious of being the very Son of God. The following passages bear witness to this: Matt. 11:27 (Luke 10:22); 21:37,38 (Mk. 12:6; Luke 20:13); 22:41-46 (Mk. 13:35-37; Luke 20:41-44); 24:36 (Mk. 13:32); 28:19. some of these passages testify to Jesus’ Messianic consciousness; others to the fact that He was conscious of being the Son of God in the most exalted sense. There are several passages in Matthew and Luke, in which He speaks of the first person of the Trinity as “my Father,” Matt. 7:21; 10:32,33; 11:27; 12:50; 15:13; 16:17; 18:10,19,35; 20:23; 25:34; 26:29,53; Luke 2:49; 22:29; 24:49. In the Gospel of John the consciousness of being the very Son of God is even more apparent in such passages as John 3:13; 5:17,18, 19-27; 6:37-40, 57; 8:34-36; 10:17,18,30,35,36, and other passages.
Finally, there is the historical fact of the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The proofs of His resurrection are readily available to those who search for them. The one question that no naysayer has ever been able to answer is “What happened to the body.” This is not to say that they have not tried. They have speculated everything from the swoon theory (Jesus did not really die) to the assertion that dogs ate the Savior’s body. Neo-orthodox theologians wanted to retain belief in Jesus’ resurrection while denying the supernatural. The say that Jesus is resurrected in the hearts and lives of believers but that there was no such thing as a resurrection of his body. The lengths to which men will go to deny the resurrection of Christ, and thus deny his Messiahship, is truly amazing.
There is little doubt that there was a promised and prophesied Messiah. There is not a single Messianic prophecy that Christ did not fulfill. Truly, Jesus is Christ (Messiah) and Lord.
You Must Hear the Gospel
You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)
You Must Believe
You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)
You Must Repent
You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)
You Must Confess
You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)
You Must Be Baptized
Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!
You Must Be Faithful Unto Death
Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)