In 1977, Josh McDowell published a book titled More Than A Carpenter. The first chapter begins, “Recently I was talking with a group of people in Los Angeles. I asked them, “Who, in your opinion, is Jesus Christ?” The response was that he was a great religious leader.”
Your eternal destiny hinges on how you answer the question Josh McDowell asked. Jesus thrust this question on his disciples at the mid-point of his ministry. Walking with them in Caesarea Philippi, Jesus asked, “But who do you say that I am? (Matthew 16:15).
Let’s consider how Southern Evangelicals answer. 64% agree that “Jesus is the first and greatest being created by God.” You read that right. Nearly two-thirds of Southern Evangelicals affirm a statement denounced by the church as heretical at the council of Nicea in AD 325. Athanasius, where are you?!
Charitable as we are, we’ll give these respondents grace. Maybe they misunderstood the question. After all, we affirm that “Jesus, the eternal Son of God, took to himself a true body and a reasonable soul.” The Bible teaches he was “conceived by the power of the Holy Spirit in the womb of the virgin Mary, and born of her, yet without sin.” Maybe 64% of Southern Evangelicals were thinking of that aspect of the Incarnation when they affirmed that God created Jesus.
Perhaps, but now take firm hold of the arms of your La-Z-Boy. 45% also agree with the statement, “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.” The statistic improves only slightly when you filter to people who attend church “several times a week.” Among these, 25% strongly agree, and 13% somewhat agree, that “Jesus was a great teacher, but he was not God.”
Houston, we have a problem! Based on these responses, at least half of Southern Christians deny the Gospel they claim saves them.
In Matthew 11, John the Baptist’s disciples came to Jesus and asked, “Are you the one who is to come, or shall we look for another?” (Matthew 11:3). Jesus answered, “Go and tell John what you hear and see: the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have good news preached to them” (Matthew 11:4-5).
Jesus answered by referencing the Prophet Isaiah. “Then the eyes of the blind shall be opened, and the ears of the deaf unstopped; then shall the lame man leap like a deer, and the tongue of the mute sing for joy” (Isaiah 35:5-6). And, “The Spirit of the LORD God is upon me, because the LORD has anointed me to bring good news to the poor” (Isaiah 61:1).
These were the signs God had come to save his people. “Behold, your God… will come and save you. (Isaiah 35:4). “Yes,” Jesus was saying, “I am the God-man.”
Peter understood this and answered Jesus’ question in Matthew 16, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Matthew 16:16). This, and only this, is the answer of the Christian faith.