If Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation for a lost and dying world, what happens if we proclaim a Jesus who is merely a figment of our own imagination rather than the Jesus Christ revealed in the Holy Scriptures? Answer. We proclaim a false Christ which amounts to a false Gospel, and a false Gospel is no Gospel. The Gospel and salvation depend on truth.
When you have committed high treason against the Almighty Creator and King, the fact that there is any way of salvation at all is good news. But the Good News, the Gospel, is about the Person and Work of Jesus Christ. He is the only way of salvation, and His followers have been charged with proclaiming the good news of salvation in Christ to every corner of the earth.
But, if Jesus Christ is the only way of salvation for a lost and dying world, what happens if we proclaim a Jesus who is merely a figment of our own imagination rather than the Jesus Christ revealed in the Holy Scriptures? Answer. We proclaim a false Christ which amounts to a false Gospel, and a false Gospel is no Gospel. The Gospel and salvation depend on truth.
Jesus Himself warned His people to beware of false Christs, but false Christs are not only people who falsely claim to be the Messiah. False Christs are also those Jesuses we create in our own image. It has been rightly said that the human heart is an idol-factory, and one of the most popular idols we create in our day and age is the false Jesus.
It is important to consider some of the false Christs people create in order to help us understand how deceptively easy it is, even for Bible-believing evangelical Christians, to fall into this trap. What this means is that this blog post will likely step on just about everyone’s toes, including my own.
Ask a random person in the street: “Who do you think Jesus is?” The variety of answers we will get reveal that the mere fact that someone is talking about “Jesus” does not mean that they are talking about the Jesus revealed in the Bible. Consider some of the more obvious examples first.
The Jesus of the Liberals
The Jesus of liberal Christianity is an example of a different Jesus. He’s merely a good man who taught us to be nice to one another. He taught the fatherhood of God and the brotherhood of man. Speaking of the Jesus taught by Adolf Harnack, George Tyrell wrote: “The Christ that Adolf Harnack sees, looking back through nineteen centuries of Catholic darkness, is only the reflection of a liberal Protestant face, seen at the bottom of a deep well.” (Christianity at the Crossroads, p 49). In other words, nineteenth century liberals were projecting their liberal ideas onto Jesus.
The contemporary versions of Jesus talked about every year at Easter and Christmas are usually versions of the liberal Jesuses, different Jesuses: Jesus the inspirational religious figure. A good man, perhaps, but certainly not God incarnate.
The False Jesuses of the Heretics
Scripture reveals that Jesus is God. It also reveals that Jesus is man. And it reveals that there is only one Jesus. Throughout the history of the Church, people have created false Christs by taking into account only part of this biblical witness. We see this in the Docetic Jesus, the Ebionite Jesus, the Arian Jesus, the Subordinationist Jesus, the Apollinarian Jesus, the Nestorian Jesus, and the Eutychian Jesus among others.
The False Jesuses of the Cults
In our own day, we see the same thing still occurring. The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Days saints is named after Jesus, but teaches a different Jesus from the Jesus revealed in the New Testament. The Mormon Jesus was not born of a virgin, was a polygamist, was the brother of Lucifer, progressed to the status of godhood, etc. This is very different from the biblical Jesus. The Jesus of the Jehovah’s Witnesses is also a different Jesus. He’s basically a nineteenth-century American version of the Arian Jesus.
Now, here is the million-dollar question: Are liberal Protestants, heretics, and cults the only ones guilty of proclaiming a different Jesus? I want to suggest that the answer is No.
The False Jesuses of Evangelicalism
Evangelicals can be just as guilty as others of creating false Jesuses. Like the nineteenth-century liberals, we too have a tendency to create versions of Jesus who agree with whatever we already value most in this world. We too can project our ideas and ideals onto Him. Consider just a few ways we can and have created Jesus after our own images.