What is Eastern Orthodoxy?

In April of this year the Bible Answer Man, Hank Hanegraaff, became a part of the Eastern Orthodox Church. Eastern Orthodoxy, and the other Orthodox Churches, are unfamiliar to many Americans. Eastern Orthodoxy rose in the eastern Roman Empire. As a result, it is most prominent in places like Russia, Eastern Africa and the Middle East. With 270 million adherents the Orthodox church is the third largest Christian group in the world.

Orthodox Churches trace back to the earliest major split in Roman Catholicism. Catholicism began to divide with the division of the Roman Empire in the late 400’s. Over the centuries differences in culture, language, ritual and leadership grew, further separating the east from the west. The divide was complete in 1054 when the Pope excommunicated the leading Archbishop and the Archbishop excommunicated the pope. Since then a few attempts have been made to repair the rift, but the two remain distinct churches. Orthodoxy bears strong resemblance to Roman Catholicism and yet retains significance differences.

Like Catholicism, the Orthodox Church believes tradition to share authority with the Bible. Orthodoxy believes the writings of the church fathers provide the authoritative interpretation of the Bible. Like Catholicism, the Orthodox church places great importance on participation in sacraments for salvation. Orthodoxy holds to seven sacraments, but replaces confirmation with chrismation.

The first sacrament of Eastern Orthodoxy is baptism. Baptism is always full immersion. The person being baptized receives salvation by his baptism. This begins the life in Christ but life in Christ must be nourished to remain. The ability to continue in salvation is received through chrismation. Chrismation immediately follows baptism. The priests anoints the baptized person with oil and makes the sign of the cross over him. This sacrament brings the Holy Spirit to indwell the person enabling him to “live the life of Christ.”

As with Catholicism, the most frequent and familiar sacrament is the Eucharist. By taking the bread and wine the individual receives the body and blood of Christ. The Eucharist provides spiritual nourishment to the receiver necessary for continued spiritual life.

The other sacraments observed by the Orthodox church are the sacraments of penance- much like the Catholic confessional, holy orders- ordaining to ministry, holy unction- anointing of the sick and prayer for healing, and marriage.

To western protestants one of the more confusing views of Orthodoxy is that of deification. Deification is the process of becoming more and more Godlike. This means something more than the Protestant idea of being imitators of God and something less than the Hindu doctrines of becoming one with the Divine. In Orthodoxy the Christian strives to enter more and more into union with the Divine nature. Through obedience the person enters into a greater mystical union with God and has a greater part in the perfection of God. By participating in the sacraments and religious rituals the person becomes more and more “like God”.

Unfortunately, like the Roman Catholic Church, Orthodoxy teaches a means of salvation that denies the grace of God. (Galatians 2:21) Salvation is accomplished by the person’s continual attendance to the sacraments and religious observances. The Bible is in clear opposition to the teachings of the Orthodox Church. No part of salvation is accomplished by the person. “Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to His mercy He saved us.” (Titus 3:5)

Are the miraculous gifts for the church today?

The spiritual gifts are a matter of significant debate and division in the church today. Millions of Christians around the world attend churches which believe the miraculous gifts are a normal part of the Christian life today. The most familiar religious television channels feature a large portion of preachers and ministries who teach the miraculous gifts are still accessible to modern Christians.

The belief in the continued use of miraculous spiritual gifts is the hallmark of the charismatic movement. Charismatics can be found in every major Christian denomination, including Catholicism, Presbyterianism, Lutheranism, Anglicanism and Baptist. Several major denominations were formed around the belief in the miraculous gifts, including, Pentecostals, Church of God, Assembly of God and Four Square Gospel Churches.

All Christian denominations believe that spiritual gifts continue to this day and that the Holy Spirit is actively at work in the life of Christians. The disagreement centers around the relation of miraculous gifts- tongues, interpretation, prophecy and healing- to modern day Christianity. The argument about the charismatic gifts is not based the interpretation of a single Biblical text. The discussion ranges around the purpose of the miraculous gifts in the early church and the sufficiency of the Word for today.

Everyone is agreed the miraculous gifts were not commonly in evidence during most of church history. A few scattered, small Christian groups may have believed in the continuation of miraculous gifts but the vast majority of Christian churches from the late first century to the early twentieth century believed the miraculous gifts to have ceased after the apostolic era.

This changed in the early 1900’s with the birth of Pentecostalism. Growing out of the Holiness Methodist movement Pentecostalism’s earliest proponents were searching for evidence of the baptism of the Holy SPirit. In Acts 2 when the Holy Spirit came upon the first Christians they began to speak in tongues. Thus, the earliest charismatics experienced the presence of the Holy Spirit by speaking in tongues. This early Pentecostalism soon spread across the world as a result of a three year revival in Los Angeles. Pentecostals poured out from Azusa Street to spread charismatic theology across the globe.

The charismatic movement springs out of a fundamental disagreement regarding the purpose of miracles during the New Testament era. The miraculous gifts were given as signs for the Jews. The miracles of Jesus and the apostles were the Divine stamp of authenticity verifying the validity of the claims of Jesus and His apostles. “Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God among you by miracles and wonders and signs.” (Acts 2:22) “God also bearing (the apostles) witness both with signs and wonders, and with divers miracles.” (Hebrews 2:4) (also consider Matthew 11:4-6; Mark 16:20; 1 Corinthians 14:22) The miracles done in the earliest days of the church were God’s testimony that Jesus was truly God’s Son and the apostles were preaching God’s truth. The ministry of the apostles has been completed. The gospel has been authenticated. The miraculous gifts are no longer necessary or normal for the church today.

What are Spiritual Gifts?

Spiritual gifts seem to be a bit of an enigma and are a significant matter of debate. Every major Christian group believes in the spiritual gifts, but most differ from each other on the particulars. The charismatic churches are probably most well known for their beliefs about the spiritual gifts. A few years ago a well known ministry in California hosted a conference focused on their disagreements with Charismatic theology. Why is the topic of spiritual gifts so difficult and contentious?

The Bible is not at all silent about spiritual gifts. The promise of the Holy Spirit that Jesus gave the disciples before His death includes the reception of spiritual gifts. Peter says in Acts 2 that the miraculous things done by the apostles on the day of Pentecost were the fulfillment of God’s promise to send the Holy Spirit. Spiritual gifts are abilities given to Christians by the Holy Spirit to enable them to do the work of the ministry. The spiritual gifts are supernatural gifts of God not skills developed by the person, but the Christian should exercise and improve his spiritual gift.

The spiritual gifts are given for the benefit of others and for the glory of God. The largest section of teaching on the spiritual gifts in the Bible is found in 1 Corinthians 12-14. In that passage Paul teaches the Corinthian believers about the gifts because they were desiring the most impressive gifts and were using the gifts for self-promotion. The spiritual gifts are given by God for the promotion of Christlikeness in the church.

1 Corinthians 12 teaches that all spiritual gifts come from God. God gives gifts to Christians for the benefit of the entire church. No one gift provides everything a church needs and every gift God gives is important to the church. Like the human body, each member of the church body exercises a specific and essential function for the good of all. If everyone had the same spiritual gift the church would be as deformed as a person comprised entirely of ears.

1 Corinthians 14 shows the church the orderly use of the gifts within the church. Gifts are not to be used against one another. Each Christian must show preference to other believers in the application of gifts. Those who have speaking gifts must not insist on their right to be heard but must speak in an orderly fashion, each in turn and only when it is proper to do so.

The Bible contains several other key passages about the spiritual gifts. 1 Peter 4:10-11 puts the spiritual gifts into two broad categories, the speaking gifts and the serving gifts. Ephesians 4 mentions four specific leadership gifts given to the local church for the equipping of the saints to do the work of the ministry. Romans 12:3-8 describes various kinds of gifts. In Romans 12 Christians are instructed to use the gifts humbly for the benefit of the entire church. Each person is to use his gift in the fullest possible way to the best of the ability given him by God. The gifts mentioned in these New Testament passage are: teaching, administration, mercy showing, giving, ruling, prophecy, ministry, exhortation, governments, helps, tongues, interpretation, healing, miracles, prophecy, apostle, evangelist and pastor.

The absence of a particular spiritual gift does not exclude the Christian from engaging in that kind of ministry. All Christians should be merciful, though only some have the gift of mercy-showing. Some Christians are given the gift of evangelism, but all are commanded by Jesus tell others the gospel. The spiritual gifts are given to aid the growth of the entire church not exclude Christians from areas of ministry. Every believer is given at least one spiritual gift. Some may be given more than one, but all believers are gifted by God for the edification of the church. The responsibility of the Christian is to use his gift for the glory of God and the growth of His church.

Are Christians Required to Keep the Sabbath?

The Sabbath Day was a weekly memorial given to Israel as part of God’s covenant with the nation. (Exodus 31:15-16) The command to keep the Sabbath is the fourth and longest of the ten commandments. Breaking the Sabbath was in effect breaking the covenant with God and suffered the harshest of punishments. Surely this command must be taken seriously by all who study the Bible.

Traditionally Christianity has viewed Sunday as the New Testament Sabbath. Christians were taught to observe Sunday as a day of rest, doing nothing but the most necesary work and attending church services. This shaped American business practices for many decades. Though observing a Sunday sabbath has long been the teaching of churches few Christians today see a need to keep a Sabbath of any kind.

Uncertainty about the requirement of a Sabbath can be traced to the way the New Testament views the law of Moses. After the death and resurrection of Jesus certain of the Mosaic laws were recognized as no longer necessary. This included the dietary restrictions (Acts 10:11-16), circumcision (Galatians 2:3) and the sacrificial system (Hebrews 10:2, 14, 18). Most of the ten commandments are repeated in the New Testament, but it contains no assertion of an obligation to observe the fourth commandment.

The pattern of the church during the apostolic era was to meet together on Sunday. The day of Pentecost, the day on which the New Testament church began, was a Sunday. Initially the church met daily, but within a few years the church began to set aside the first day of the week for the regular gathering of believers. (Acts 20:7; 1 Corinthians 16:2)

The Jewish believers probably continued to observe the Sabbath day. They continued to keep the law of Moses but did not require Gentile Christians to become observant Jews. Acts 15 records the discussion about Gentile obligation to keep the law of Moses. The only requirements the church in Jerusalem placed on Gentile believers was to avoid fornication and idolatry and to abstain from eating blood or animals strangled. The first pair of commands were universal commands and the second pair were things that would have hindered the preaching of the gospel because of their offensive to the Jews. They apostles and believers in Jerusalem say nothing about keeping a sabbath. The New Testament does not give any command to Christians to observe a sabbath day.

The New Testament leaves sabbath observance up to the individual Christian. The clearest statement of this is found in Paul’s letter to the Colossians. He says “let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day, or of the new moon, or of the Sabbath days; which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” (Colossians 2:16-17) The special days, special diets and religious feasts of the law were but shadows of Jesus. Now that Jesus has come the foreshadowings are no longer necessary. Those who keep the sabbath were never rebuked, but the New Testament clearly teaches there must be no insistence on the keeping of the sabbath. There must be no condemnation because someone does or does not observe the sabbath. Sabbath observance is a matter of personal preference and conscience to be kept or not unto the Lord.

Why are there so many different kinds of religions in the world?

The world is filled with religions. The number of religions existing today has been estimated to be somewhere in the thousands. Man has been developing religions for thousands of years. Every major religion has splintered into a bewildering variety of sects, denomination and spin-offs. Why are there so many different religions?

A common answer to this question is that all the religions have elements of truth. As man has searched after truth he has discovered little portions of the whole truth. Each religion describes one aspect of truth. By combining the truths of many different religions a person can gain a better understanding of spiritual truth. This idea is itself a religious principle, but not one found in the monotheistic religions of Islam, Christianity or Judaism. The belief that all religions contain a portion of truth originates in the Eastern religions but it cannot be true.

Certain religions, particularly Christianity and Islam, claim exclusivity. They claim the truth they uphold is ultimate truth. That which disagrees is in error. Many religions which do not make exclusivistic claims teach things that are incompatible with other religions. Christianity claims God is Trinity. Judaism and Islam claim God is One. Which is it? God cannot be both the Christian Trinity and the Muslim One. Hinduism teaches there are many Gods. Christianity, Islam and Judaism teach there is only one God. Both claims cannot be true. Christianity claims there is only one way to be forgiven of sin and have eternal life. Many other religions claim there are many ways to heaven. All religious claims cannot be true. More significantly, the core elements of religions cannot all be true. The nature of God and the means of salvation are central principles of most religions. From a logical perspective the possibility exists that all religions are wrong. The major tenets of all, or even most, religions cannot all be right.

Religion is not the result of man’s search for truth. The many different religions exist because of man’s rejection of truth. In Genesis 4 there were only four people on the planet and they all knew God was real. At least half the human population had spoken face to face with God. No one denied the existence of God. Everyone agreed on major tenets about God: He is real, He is creator, He is in charge, He is to be worshiped. Yet even with a tiny population and much first hand information there were still religious differences. Cain and Abel came to worship God. Abel brought a prime lamb for sacrifice and Cain brought some vegetables. God rejected Cain’s sacrifice, which led to Cain killing Abel. Cain’s offering was nothing more than a new worship, a new religion, which rejected the truth revealed by God. The first religious division was the result of disobedience to God.

Making this problem worse is the intentional effort of Satan. He is described in the Bible as the god of this world who blinds the eyes of men lest they see the light of the gospel. (2 Corinthians 4:4) Satan and the fallen angels masquerade as messengers of the light. (1 Corinthians 11:13-15) Demonic forces work to confuse and mislead men. (1 Timothy 4:1). Satanic manipulation moves men to devise and proclaim false religions. Satanic and demonic influence have added to the multitude of religions in this world.

The world is confused by an abundance of different, disagreeing religions because men refuse to believe and obey God. Romans 1 says that God’s existence and glory are seen in creation. Men refuse to acknowledge Him or give thanks to Him. They prefer to worship creatures instead of the Creator. Satan hates man and God. The devil actively works to create more confusion and to promote more idolatry. The vast numbers of religions come directly from the huge number of people and societies that have replaced the worship of God with the worship of other things.

Does a Christian who commits suicide still go to heaven?

People commit suicide for many different of reasons. Some preventable, some not, none good and always tragic. Families are devastated by the loss, the whys and the doubts over what could have prevented it. Sometimes the entire family is treated as if they are guilty for the suicide. One painful question that sometimes adds to the grief surrounding suicide regards the eternal state of the person who killed himself. The largest Christian church in the world teaches that suicide is a mortal sin. Those who die with unconfessed mortal sins do not go to heaven. For many years those who committed suicide were denied funeral rites and burial in a church cemetery. What does the Bible teach about suicide? If a saved person commits suicide does he still go to heaven?

Most Christians view suicide as a sin. The Bible contains a few examples of suicide, but does not include any specific prohibition against it. The command against murder is generally recognized to also be a prohibition against self-murder. Suicides are often accompanied by a large number of extenuating circumstances, including deep despair and mental disorders. This does not mean suicide is not a sin, but recognizing the contributing factors can help those left behind understand what brought a person to such a state.

Those who believe suicide will keep a person from heaven base their belief on passages like Galatians 5:19-21 which declare that that no murderer can enter heaven. If a murderer cannot go to heaven then a suicide cannot enter heaven. This conclusion presumes several things. First, it assumes an act of murder prevents someone from entering heaven. The Bible includes several murderers who are declared to be saved, including such greats as David and Paul. The Biblical does not teach that the act of murder prevents a Christian from entering heaven.

The second assumption builds on the first. Since there are murderers in heaven then it must be unconfessed murder that prevents someone from going to heaven. A suicide does not have a chance to confess his sin and thus does not go to heaven. This assumption has one major problem. Samson is in declared in Hebrews 11 to be a man of great faith. How can he be a hero of the faith if he is now suffering in hell?

The last, and foundational, assumption that leads some to conclude a suicide does not go to heaven is the presumption that a saved person can make a choice that will cause him to lose his salvation. If this is true anyone whose last act is a great sin is in danger of losing his salvation. If this is true Jesus does not forgive Christians all their sin, but only the sin they confess. If this is true the redeemed are not kept by the power of God but by the power of God and their continued devotion.

Those who are truly saved are forever saved. No action of the redeemed, no matter how terrible or final, can undo the work of Jesus. Jesus saves to the uttermost those who come to God by Him (Hebrews 7:25). Suicide nor any other sin is greater than the power of God to forgive or the work of Jesus to save. Salvation has nothing to do with anything the person does. Salvation is accomplished, from beginning to end, by Jesus. The redeemed are not saved because of their goodness, devotion or right choices. The redeemed are saved by the grace of God.

Suicide does not lock the doors of heaven upon a soul. The grace of God is greater than all sin, even if the last act of a person’s life is a great evil. “Where sin abounds, grace does much more abound.” (Romans 6) Suicide tragically ends a life, but all those who trust Jesus for salvation are eternally saved no matter how their life ends.

Are Mormons Christian?

In an effort to rid themselves of the longstanding label of cult the Mormon church has spent a lot of money on advertisements to present themselves as mainstream and Christian. Their founder, Joseph Smith, described Mormonism as a restoration of the true church that was lost after the death of the apostles. The church website says, “Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints unequivocally affirm themselves to be Christians.” Mormons believe themselves to be Christians, but does their self-evaluation line up with the Bible’s evaluation?

Mormonism is not Christian because its teachings are in direct opposition to central tenets of Biblical Christianity. Most importantly, Mormons deny that Jesus is God. They call Him the Son of God, but do not mean it as the New Testament. Mormon’s believe Jesus was a spirit being organized, or formed, by God the Father and is a separate being from the Father. Jesus is a god and the Father is a god, but they are not one. Lucifer was also organized by the Father and is the spirit brother of Jesus. Many other gods exist and Jesus was appointed by these gods to be the redeemer of earthly humanity.

Jesus’ death on the cross does not wash away all sin of those who believe Him, nor does faith in Jesus bring eternal righteousness to the believer. The death of Jesus on the cross makes it possible for men to achieve salvation. Salvation is not received by faith alone, but is accomplished by faith, baptism, good works, obeying God’s command and obeying the teachings of the Mormon church.

Mormon’s believe that salvation is by God’s grace. The grace of God in Mormonism does not give salvation freely to those who turn to Him. God’s grace makes it possible for the faithful to earn their salvation.

Mormonism denies that God is the only God and denies that He is the Creator God who made everything. The Mormon god was once man like us on a different world. God had a flesh and bone body. By his obedience to eternal laws God became an exalted being and is now the god of this planet. He is one of many gods, all who are exalted beings that have risen to their divine state by their obedience to eternal laws. By their faith and obedience earthly men can also be exalted to become gods themselves.

The Bible teaches that none who deny Jesus is God are saved (1 John 2:22-23)), that salvation is only by the grace of God (Ephesians 2:8-9), that any attempt to earn salvation rejects God’s grace (Galatians 2:21) and that any one who preaches a false gospel of moral behavior and personal effort is condemned (Galatians 1:8-9).

Mormonism is a dangerous fraud that presents itself as Christian. The Mormon church willfully obscures its true message to deceive the unlearned or unwary. Mormonism rejects many key tenets of Biblical Christianity. It teaches doctrines both ridiculous and abhorrent. It does not share a common faith with Christians. Mormonism is not Christian and, sadly, those who believe the teachings of Mormonism are not saved.

Why is the resurrection so important?

Christianity stands unique among all the religions of the world. Only Christianity claims that it’s God became human, died and then returned to life. The claim that Jesus rose from the dead is one celebrated and remembered every Sunday of the year by Christian churches all across the world. The resurrection of Jesus is the most important event in all human history. The resurrection of Jesus is the seminal moment in all Christianity. That event changed everything. The New Testament is filled with declarations that Jesus died and then rose again. The resurrection is explained in all four gospels and the book of Acts. Jesus’ resurrection is expressly taught in many of the epistles and in the book of Revelation. The resurrection of Jesus is a crucial truth on which Biblical Christianity is built. Without the resurrection there is no Biblical Christianity. Without the resurrection there is no forgiveness of sin. Without the resurrection there is no eternal life. Without the resurrection, God is a liar, Jesus is a fraud and every gospel preacher is a charlatan.

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the gospel is a lie. “And if Christ be not dead, your faith is vain; you are yet in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian life is pointless and worthless. “What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.” (1 Corinthians 15:32)

The resurrection is important because without the resurrection the Christian has no hope of eternal life. “And if Christ be not raised, then they which are fallen asleep in Christ are perished.” (1 Corinthians 15:17-18)

The resurrection is important because it is the ultimate display of the power of God that is now at work in the believer. (“And what is the exceeding greatness of his power to us-ward who believe, according to the working of his mighty power, Which he wrought in Christ, when he raised him from the dead.” Ephesians 1:19-20)

The resurrection is important because it is the evidence that Jesus is God the Son and Savior just as He claimed and as the Bible declares. “Then answered the Jews and said unto him, What sign shewest thou unto us, seeing that thou doest these things? Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt thou rear it up in three days? But he spake of the temple of his body.” (John 2:18-22)

The resurrection is important because it is the powerful declaration that Jesus is God. “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; And declared to be the Son of God with power, by the resurrection from the dead:” (Romans 1:3-4)

The resurrection is important because if it is untrue, God’s Word is a lie. “We are false witnesses of God; because we have testified of God that He raised up Christ.” (1 Corinthians 15:15)

The resurrection is the lynchpin on which all the gospel hangs, the certification that all the gospel promises are true and the certainty that God is true. Rejoice every Sunday in the remembrance of the risen Savior.

What is a Fundamentalist?

The term fundamentalist is tossed around rather loosely these days. Often groups identified as fundamentalist do not claim that title for themselves. Their opponents apply that name to them. Some see calling another a fundamentalist as the highest insult one can give. The real meaning and history of the term is often buried under the derogatory rhetoric of its opponents.

Fundamentalism is almost always used in reference to religion groups. A fundamentalist is one who holds to a strict historic and literal interpretation of a religious text. An Islamic fundamentalist is one who intreprets the Koran literally. A Mormon fundamentalist holds to a strict application of Joseph Smith’s and Brigham Young’s teachings. A fundamentalist group is one that clings to the original interpretation of its scriptures.

Though today fundamentalist is often used to describe violent extremists, fundamentalism did not gain common use with the increase of worldwide terrorism. Fundamentalism as a “name brand” gained popularity in 1920’s America. Fundamentalism was a Christian movement. Churches and denominations across America were being influenced by men who did not believe certain key doctrines of Christianity. These men, called theological liberals and modernists, denied that Jesus was born of a virgin, rejected the inspiration of the Bible, questioned the resurrection of Jesus and discarded substitutionary atonement. A group of men stood up in their churches and denominations to fight for the preservation of the historic doctrines. To aid in this battle a series of books called “The Fundamentals” were published. The men who fought for the long held beliefs of Christianity became known as fundamentalists.

Later, in the 1940’s and 50’s, fundamentalism became more narrowly defined. Certain men who believed the fundamental doctrines wished to cooperate in ministry with the liberal denominations. These men were frustrated by the long contention and distanced themselves from fundamentalists. A new group in American Christianity was formed. This new group of Christians still taught the core doctrines of the Bible and were willing to work together with those who did not. They took the name New Evangelicals. Fundamentalism began to be distinguished by its doctrinal stand and its separation from teachers of apostasy.

The doctrines a fundamentalist defends are the key doctrines of the Bible necessary to be believed for salvation or integral to the truths of God, Scripture, Jesus and salvation. A fundamentalist believes Jesus is God the Son, Jesus died on the cross to bear the punishment for sin and He rose to life again. A fundamentalist believes the entire Bible is the Word of God, perfectly inspired by God and authoritative over men.

A fundamentalist attempts to interpret the Bible in a literal sense. The fundamentalist reads a text using the normal rules of language and literature. If a common sense reading of a passage produces a reasonable meaning then that meaning is preferred.

Though some Christian fundamentalists have picketed funerals, shouted vile curses at people and done violence to others this is not a hallmark of Christian fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is about a particular set of doctrines and the relationships between believers because of these commonly held doctrines. Christian Fundamentalism is not a violent rebuttal of political and moral idealogies. Christian fundamentalism seeks to persuade and convince not overpower, confine or destroy. Fundamentalism is a bastion seeking to preserve and defend core truths of the Bible.

What would the world be like if Jesus was never born?

Imagining history without certain major figures can be an entertaining exercise. What would the world be like if Buddha, Ghandi, Socrates, Einstein or Newton had never lived? Would things be better off? Would someone else have come along to make similar contributions to history? These kinds of questions are ultimately impossible to answer, but attempting to answer them provides insight into the real significance of historical figures

A reasonable argument can be made that the accomplishments of great men and women likely would have been made by others. The philosophy of Buddha was not just the product of his own mind. Buddhism grew out of the philosophy of others and was added to by those who followed Buddha. His ideas are likely to have risen, maybe in a slightly different form, from the mind of another. The genius of Einstein was not limited to Einstein. His discoveries probably would have been made by others. However, Jesus stands alone in history as totally irreplaceable.

Jesus is not another great philosopher like Aristotle or another influential teacher like Ghandi. Jesus is the Son of God who became human. His contribution to history is more than being a great example of compassion or of founding a religion. In His thirty-three years of life Jesus changed the world. By His death on the cross Jesus paid the penalty for sin. All those who trust Jesus for salvation are forgiven, made new in Christ and given the Holy Spirit.

After Jesus was crucified and rose again, God began to make His name known to the world in a new way. For much of recorded history before Jesus’ birth God was working in the world through the nation of Israel. God called the world to come to Israel and see His glory. Because of the birth, death and resurrection of Jesus God sends Christians out into the world to tell all mankind of Him.

Because Jesus died, rose again and returned to heaven He sent God the Spirit to reside in all believers. The Holy Spirit transformed the disciples from a group of terrified men into a bold force that proclaimed the gospel in the face of intense persecution. The gospel they preached spread across the world.

Jesus transformed Saul of Tarsus. Now known by his Greek name Paul of Tarsus traveled the Roman Empire preaching the gospel. The apostle Paul could have been replaced by many other men. Only Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God and the promised Messiah, could transform and enable Paul to preach as he did. The history of the western world has been shaped by the gospel of Jesus.

Jesus is not done shaping history. As God He is actively working now to bring history to His intended conclusion. The final thousand years of history will take place after Jesus’ conquers the wicked nations of the world and establishes a worldwide, righteous empire. He will bring history to its God designed conclusion.

Jesus is not another great religious leader. Buddhism would have probably found its entrance into he world, but without Christ there is no Christianity. Other Christ’s rose in Judea before and after Jesus, but none were the true Messiah. They faded off the scene and have left little impact on history. Jesus is the true Messiah, the promised Savior and Son of God, who transforms history. The work Jesus did in bringing salvation to the world cannot be duplicated.