Sjolander Road Fellowship




Declaring the God of Unconditional Love

the essential Jesus

12/6/16

 

What is most significant about Jesus? What he did? Perform miracles, for instance. What happened to him? He was born of a virgin and was killed. What he taught? The parables, the Olivet Discourse, and the Sermon on the Mount.

 

If we took out cue from the Apostles or Nicene Creed, the average church statement of faith, or our own definition of salvation what would be the answer? His actions? His experiences? Or his instructions?

 

If we wanted to see what different groups in Christendom thought about the significance of Jesus, where would we logically look? Couldn't we assume that the critical, i.e. most significant aspects of Jesus, would be reflected in the historical creedal statements of the church and more recently, perhaps in the statements of faith which churches routinely publish in church literature and on their websites.

 

Those who are familiar with church history, which probably is largely confined to those with formal religious training, will understand that the Christian Creeds which form the background for the vast majority of what present day Christianity teaches were developed and finalized over a period of centuries after Christ. During those doctrinally formative centuries, contending groups advocated a large number of different doctrinal positions about Jesus. Ultimately, after much contentious conflict, the Historical Creeds crystallized out of the vast array of different opinions. This period of development for ultimate Christian doctrine was marked by a number of so called church fathers who espoused their own understanding of Jesus, often in written treatises. Typically, when one doctrinal position gained control, the writings in support of other positions were destroyed, thereby assuring the ascendancy of the orthodox understanding.

 

It is extremely important to note that during this period in which Christian doctrine was forming, there was no Bible as we know it. That document did not come to be collected and certified until about the 4th Century. Instead of a recognized divine text, these early Christians had a vast scattering of documents, all potentially relevant to understanding Jesus. The struggle to set down a firm doctrine of Christ and to canonize a divine book played out concurrently, in effect. One should also consider the influence that political entities like the Roman government exerted on both processes. Doctrinal support of government was essential to secular rulers who authorized religious counsels and funded religious activities to their advantage. Nothing about the canonization of the Bible or the associated development of the basic tenets of Orthodox Christianity was free of human biases or powerful secular influences.

 

So returning to the original question as to the most significant aspects of Christ, what can we conclude? The historical creeds place great emphasis on what Jesus experienced and did -virgin birth, crucifixion, resurrection, and his divine nature. Nowhere do we see any reference to what Jesus taught by word or example. Since by implication the creeds capture the essential elements which define Jesus as the Savior of the world, the absence of any notice of Christ's instruction means that those instructions are insignificant. One can claim affiliation with Christ in total ignorance of his ethical instruction.

 

All of this begs the question- Why do the Gospels devote so many words to the non-essential record of miracles, parables, revelations, and ethical pronouncements of Christ? Why expend so much space on the unimportant? We certainly know that two thousand year this side of Christ, there is still no agreement within Christendom on what makes Jesus personally significant for each individual. That should tell us that the church at large is still not settled on the significance of Jesus, so we should feel free to explore that significance for ourselves, unrestrained by settled Orthodoxy.

 

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