Church History Forum: The History of Belief in Jesus the Christ
The History of Belief in Jesus the Christ QUESTION from John on April 19, 2002 Can you please explain to me how Jesus came to be understood as Christ, Lord and Saviour in the post-Easter period and in the early centuries of the Church? God bless you.
ANSWER by Q & A Staff on April 21, 2002 Dear John,
The answer is found in the New Testament. See especially the Book of Acts, chapter 2, verses 22-40 and chapter 3, verses 11-20.
Note that the identification of Jesus of the New Testament with the Christ of the Old Testament was of singular interest to the Jews, who were the custodians of the Old Testament Scriptures. In Acts chapter 2 we see that Peter as head of the newly founded Catholic Church, preaches the truth that Jesus is the Christ to Jews from every nation on Pentecost, after the Jews had heard the Apostles speaking in tongues as the Holy Spirit gave them utterance (verse 5):
Acts 2:22-40: (RSV) Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs which God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know-- this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. But God raised him up, having loosed the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it. For David says concerning him, 'I saw the Lord always before me, for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken; therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; moreover my flesh will dwell in hope. For thou wilt not abandon my soul to Hades, nor let thy Holy One see corruption. Thou hast made known to me the ways of life; thou wilt make me full of gladness with thy presence.'Brethren, I may say to you confidently of the patriarch David that he both died and was buried, and his tomb is with us to this day. Being therefore a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that he would set one of his descendants upon his throne, he foresaw and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that he was not abandoned to Hades, nor did his flesh see corruption.This Jesus God raised up, and of that we all are witnesses. Being therefore exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this which you see and hear. For David did not ascend into the heavens; but he himself says, 'The Lord said to my Lord, Sit at my right hand,till I make thy enemies a stool for thy feet.' Let all the house of Israel therefore know assuredly that God has made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom you crucified. Now when they heard this they were cut to the heart, and said to Peter and the rest of the apostles, Brethren, what shall we do?And Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. For the promise is to you and to your children and to all that are far off, every one whom the Lord our God calls to him.And he testified with many other words and exhorted them, saying, Save yourselves from this crooked generation.
Similarly, Acts 3:11-20 records another incident in which Peter reveals to a Jewish audience that Jesus is the Christ:
While he clung to Peter and John, all the people ran together to them in the portico called Solomon's, astounded.And when Peter saw it he addressed the people, Men of Israel, why do you wonder at this, or why do you stare at us, as though by our own power or piety we had made him walk? The God of Abraham and of Isaac and of Jacob, the God of our fathers, glorified his servant Jesus, whom you delivered up and denied in the presence of Pilate, when he had decided to release him. But you denied the Holy and Righteous One, and asked for a murderer to be granted to you, and killed the Author of life, whom God raised from the dead. To this we are witnesses. And his name, by faith in his name, has made this man strong whom you see and know; and the faith which is through Jesus has given the man this perfect health in the presence of you all. And now, brethren, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers. But what God foretold by the mouth of all the prophets, that his Christ should suffer, he thus fulfilled. Repent therefore, and turn again, that your sins may be blotted out, that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord, and that he may send the Christ appointed for you, Jesus
Again, we see that Peter as head of the Catholic Church is preaching to the Jews the reveation that Jesus is the Christ.
It is interesting to note also in the Acts 17 account of the Bereans, who searched the Scriptures to see if Paul's message was true, that of course the Old Testament Scriptures did not identify Jesus with the Christ; this was left to the preaching of the Apostles, and of course the case of the Bereans cannot therefore be used, as many Protestants attempt, to support the notion of sola scriptura. The Bereans relied on the oral revelation of Paul to identify Jesus with the Christ of the Old Testament.
So in conclusion the identification with Jesus as the Christ was taught from the day of Pentecost in the Church. Note also, that Peter makes a confession of Jesus being the Christ in Matthew 16:
Matthew 16:13-20: Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesare'a Philip'pi, he asked his disciples, Who do men say that the Son of man is? And they said, Some say John the Baptist, others say Eli'jah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. He said to them, But who do you say that I am? Simon Peter replied, You are the Christ, the Son of the living God. And Jesus answered him, Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jona! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.
So Peter recognizes this truth and Jesus says that this is because of a special revelation of God the Father.
God bless, .
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