That God Would Die For Us

COPYRIGHT WARNING

It is a paradox of the Bible that the One who spoke the universe into existence would be willing to come to earth and lay down His life for us.

This character of Jesus as a servant sets Him apart from every other religious or spiritual leader. In Greek mythology, it is inconceivable that Zeus, Apollo, or any other Greek god would lower himself to be a servant of the beings they created. Jesus is described by the Bible as the Creator of all things; yet He came to earth and took the body of a man so that He could offer up His life as a sacrifice for the sins of all men. The humiliation, the mental and physical torture and unimaginable horrors that Jesus experienced while completing the process of our salvation, is beyond comprehension.

A person may not presently have sufficient knowledge to know whether the Bible is true and the information that it presents about the one true God is credible. One thing is certain—Jesus Christ is a real person. His existence in the timeline of history is unmistakable. There have been more books written about Jesus than any other person in the history of the world. We have a substantial number of documents in our possession today which date from within 28 years of the events of Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. In fact, we have more factual documentation about Jesus, than any other person in history. See Prophecy 64.

One of the most stunning discoveries in the field of New Testament reliability, came from an Egyptologist in the late 19th century by the name of Charles B. Huleatt.[1] Three small fragments of papyrus from upper Egypt, found at Magdalen College, Oxford in 1901, contained twenty four lines from the gospel of Matthew, chapter 26:23 and 31. Dr. Carsten Peter Thiede, the director of the Institute of Basic Epistemological Research in Paderborn, Germany, discovered by a scanning laser microscope, that these fragments were certainly from the original gospel of Matthew that was written while Matthew was still alive, about 60 A.D.[2]

Jesus Papyrus[3]

Dr. Thiede concluded that these three papyrus fragments must have been written between the time of the crucifixion at about 32 A.D, and the destruction of Jerusalem by Titus is 70 A. D. This places the date of the writing for Matthew’s gospel at the time that Matthew was alive and witnessed the events recorded in his gospel account.

For detailed information on the credibility of these early documents and how they were analyzed and validated, see the chapter in this book: The Resurrection of Jesus, sub heading: Methods used in determining the age of Biblical Manuscripts.

Criticism has been made that the documents which we possess are merely copies, not the original documents. Many of these documents date much later than the occurrence of the events they are describing.

What is not often considered is that in order to have a copy, there must have been an original.

Since we have over 24,000 copies of the original manuscripts for the New Testament, it is for certain that many, many wise and learned people believed these original documents were worthy of the multitude of copies, which were subsequently made. The consistency of these copies is what gives us the greatest confidence in their authenticity. When we compare the New Testament scriptures, which we have in our Bible today, with these ancient documents that are now close to 2,000 years old, they are virtually identical in their doctrine and structure.

The greatest proof for the authenticity of any ancient document is the number of copies that were made of the original. The books which comprise the New Testament are the most frequently copied documents in the history of the world.[4]

We have in our possession today, over 10,000 early versions of the Latin Vulgate New Testament manuscripts, 5,300 Greek manuscripts, and 9,300 other versions of the New Testament.[5]

If the New Testament books are not reliable, credible or an accurate account of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, then why were they so widely copied? If these documents are not accurate accounts of the actual events which took place, then why are they all virtually identical in the basic doctrines of the Christian faith that we have today in our New Testament Bible?

Based on the shear numbers of copies and their consistency in content, these documents are considered today more reliable than any other ancient documents of history. The fact that the earliest copies we have of these manuscripts date within 28 years of the occurrence of these events—confirms that the narrative of Matthew’s gospel is an accurate first—hand account of Jesus life, death, and resurrection.

These documents have been used by the Christian church and viewed as authentic for nearly 2,000 years. These manuscripts establish that a man known as Jesus of Nazareth lived, healed the sick, raised people from the dead, was arrested, crucified and rose from the dead. There are no controverting documents of antiquity which bring valid testimony contrary to these facts in the historical record. History has a way of removing from the record, any false or erroneous documents which are later found to be fraudulent. To the contrary, the reliability and authenticity of the New Testament record of Jesus life has constantly been upheld and validated all throughout history.

All copies of the Gospels maintain one stunning narrative: A man called Jesus of Nazareth came to earth and lived a perfect and sinless life. He claimed to be the Messiah and offered His life as a sacrifice for the sins of the world. This sacrifice took place on a Roman cross, whereby Jesus died and was laid in a tomb. Three days later, in fulfillment of many Hebrew prophecies, Jesus rose from the dead and was seen by over 500 eyewitnesses, over a 40 day period of time. Jesus Himself claimed that salvation is found in no other person and He said that He will return to judge the living and the dead at the end of this present dispensation.

Modern liberal commentators today who admit that they do not believe personally in Jesus Christ, criticize these copies as unreliable because they were not written closer to the time in which the events took place. In truth, the copies of the New Testament which we have in our possession today, are all written closer to the actual events than any other documents of history. Every secular document which is regarded as absolutely authentic, was written at much greater distance from the occurrence of the events they describe than those which described the life of Jesus Christ.

Second there are no other documents of antiquity which have the substantial number of copies of the original manuscripts as the Gospel accounts of Jesus Christ.

The secular record of Jesus Christ

Added to the Biblical evidence of Jesus life, we have a substantial secular record from the Romans and the Jews. See the chapter in this book: The Historical Record of Jesus Life from Secular Sources.

There is more than enough evidence for Jesus’ life, death and resurrection to convince any reasonable person that He is a real person of history. Literary and historical scholars have fully validated the accuracy of cities, governments, and events described in the book of Acts and the gospel of Luke—authenticating Luke as a historian of the first rank. In the end, it is not a lack of evidence that remains a barrier to faith—it is a lack of interest or sincerity that prevents a majority of people from believing the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Recently, I had an encounter with a young man who responded to a commentary that I made on an article that was posted on Fox News. He brought forth several well known objections to the historicity of Jesus Christ, as well as the validity of Bible Prophecy as a method by which we can authenticate the Bible as being of supernatural origin. After I answered all of his questions and objections with a great deal of verifiable and credible evidence, this young man said to me, “you have proven nothing.” My final word to him was: “I have proven that no matter how much evidence is presented, some people will still refuse to believe.”

If a person is honestly seeking credible evidence for whether the gospel of Jesus Christ is true and based on authentic facts of history, the most substantial proof for these claims is the New Testament. All the documents that are a part of the New Testament record have passed careful scrutiny by many world renown scholars in authenticating ancient documents and comparative research.

Who would contrive the amazing story of Jesus Christ, if it were not true?

There has never been an example of love, compassion, and service demonstrated by any other person in the history of the world that could equal what Jesus has done for mankind. The model of sacrifice that Jesus has displayed is the complete opposite of what we see in all other men. For the most part, we are people who are often self-centered, self-consumed, who predominantly think only of our own self interests and what benefits us—first.

The most attractive aspect of Jesus Christ is His true and genuine humility and the way in which He surrendered all of His rights as God in order to make our salvation possible. Jesus made His life a sacrifice—even to those who hated and despised Him. It was the most vehement and evil of the world that Jesus loved and sought so fervently. Though He is described by the Bible as the author of all that exists, He surrendered His very life and submitted to the vicious acts of evil men—just so that we might be forgiven.

The example of service that God presents to us in His Son has no comparison. There are no mere human words which can adequately describe His love, His concern for us, nor the mercy, grace and empathy He has brought to all mankind.

Even more amazing is the fact that although Jesus never ceased to be God while He was dwelling in the body of a man, He submitted Himself to the will of the Father as His servant. Many have mistaken this submission to the Father as proof that Jesus was just a normal man, not God as many claim. Paul wrote the the church at Philippi to clarify this principle. Although Jesus is God, He willingly laid aside His rights as God—so that He might die for us.

Philippians 2:6 Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it something to be held tightly, to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant…

There are two important points in this verse.

1. Jesus existed as God from eternity.
2. He did not regard His title as God, as something that He needed to hold on to in order to be our servant.

Being in the form of God

The Greek word for being, is hyparchon, which carries the sense of existing in the present tense.[6] Although Jesus was a man, dwelling within Him was the Living God. He did not cease to be God at any time. He chose to set aside many of His powers and rights as God, in order to be a servant for our Salvation.

When Paul writes that Jesus was equal with God, he uses the Greek word Theo, a term often used to describe the only eternal God of all creation. See Prophecy 174, and Prophecy 50.

In the New Testament, there are several occurrences where the Greek word for God, Theos, is used. Most often, this word is used only in describing the Father. However, there are several places in the New Testament where Theos is also used to describe Jesus Christ.[7]

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word (Jesus) , and the Word was with God, and the Word was God (Theos).[8]

Romans 9:5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God (Theos). Amen.

Hebrews 1:8 But to the Son (Jesus) He says: “Your throne, O God (Theos), is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.”

In the Old Testament, the term Lord in Hebrew is Yahweh.[9]

In the New Testament, the word Lord in Greek is Kyrios.[10]

Kyrios is often used as a polite way to address a person, such as when we address a man today as sir. It can also mean master, as in one who rules over a servant or slave. The Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint was widely used during the time that Jesus was here on the earth. The word Kyrios or Lord was understood to mean Yahweh or Jehovah. The Greek Old Testament translates Kyrios as Lord, 6,814 times.

When we arrive at the New Testament, there are many occasions where Lord (Kyrios) is used to describe Jesus. This is for good reason. The writers of the New Testament were attributing the title of Jehovah God to Jesus Christ unmistakably. It was well understood at the writing of the New Testament that Jesus Christ is Yahweh or God Himself.

Did not consider it robbery

This is an old archaic use of the phrase: did not consider it something to be held on to. The Greek word used for grasped is harpagmon, “something to be grasped or seized.”

Paul is stating that Jesus did not need to hold onto His rights as God because they were already His. There is also an implied meaning here that Jesus was willing to set His rights aside for a short time in order to submit His life to the Father for our redemption.

What is abundantly clear from this passage is that Jesus was already God and was willing to lay His rights aside for us. This is perhaps the greatest mystery of the universe that God would be willing to let sinners torture Him to death, while He was dying for them. There is no greater example of love and sacrifice that has ever been revealed to mankind. For this reason, Jesus is worthy of the title of Messiah and fulfills the prophecy of this 215th prediction in Isaiah 49:5.

The work that Jesus was to accomplish on the earth for man’s benefit was intended to bring greater glory to God than any other work God had ever done previously.

One of the purposes of Jesus sacrifice for us, was to publicly display to all creation, His goodness and mercy in the ages to come. This is so that all created beings would look at those to whom Jesus has redeemed by His life and understand what the love of God is really all about. The accusation by satan that God is not righteous and fair, has forever been crushed by the example of Jesus’ sacrifice for all people. That God would surrender His only Son for sinners, is an eternal example of the righteousness, love and grace of God.

Hebrews 2:9-10 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things and by whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to make the captain of their salvation perfect through sufferings.


NOTES:
[1] Thiede, Carsten Peter & D’Ancona, Matthew, The Jesus Papyrus, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996.
[2] Thiede, Carsten Peter & D’Ancona, Matthew, The Jesus Papyrus, Weidenfeld & Nicolson, London, 1996
[3] “P064-Mat-26.7-8-26.10-26.14-15-II” by unknown writer in 3rd century – http://chrles.multiply.com/. Licensed under Public domain via Wikimedia Commons – https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:P064-Mat-26.7-8-26.10-26.14-15-II.jpg#mediaviewer/File:P064-Mat-26.7-8-26.10-26.14-15-II.jpg
[4] McDowell, Josh (1999-03-02). Evidence That Demands a Verdict, 1 (Kindle Locations 1205-1206). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.
[5] Ibid.
[6] Strong’s Greek #5225, Subsisting in the present tense.
[7] Strong’s Concordance of Greek words #2316 and and Englishman’s Concordance of Greek Words.
[8] Strong’s Concordance of Greek words #2316 and and Englishman’s Concordance of Greek Words.
[9] Strong’s Hebrew Concordance # 3068
[10] Strong’s Greek Concordance # 2962

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