“Jesus was not for Paul merely an example for faith; He was primarily the object of faith. The religion of Paul did not consist in having faith in God like the faith which Jesus had in God; it consisted rather in having faith in Jesus.”
I read this a few weeks back in J. Gresham Machen’s classic book “Christianity and Liberalism.” Ever since then, I have come back to that quote to read it over and over again, along with the chapter as a whole. At the time (early 1920’s), Machen was fighting the liberalism of his day. Not surprisingly, the liberalism of his day was not all that different from the liberalism of our day. There are scores of people today who don’t have a problem with Jesus…….that is, the Jesus of their own creation. They don’t mind the Jesus who is simply a good moral teacher who was, as Machen put it, “an example for faith.” However, the Jesus of the Bible was much more than that. The Jesus of the Bible claimed to be and was, God incarnate. This is where the liberals have a problem because instead of Jesus being an example for faith, He must become the “object” of our faith. There is a huge different and we all know it. Most people look up to and try to emulate other people in life – people they admire and respect. We have no problem with saying that such admiration is a noble thing. Thus, if Jesus was just another person who had great faith and is someone that we try to follow, who could argue with that? This is why “Jesus as an example for faith” is the Jesus who is easy to accept and admire and is why the liberal’s push for this view of Jesus.
Now, no one would argue that Jesus is an example for faith. The true Christian will do everything in his power to follow Jesus and obey his commands, through the power of the Holy Spirit. However, going back to Machen’s main point – He is much more than just an example for faith – He is the object of faith. He is the One who elsewhere Paul writes, “God has highly exulted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:9-11) Jesus Christ is the One who we put our faith and trust and hope in. There is no other person like Jesus of Nazareth nor will there ever be. In conclusion, must beware of Jesus talk that downplays His deity and makes Him less than He really is.