He said to them But who do you say that I am

The most important question The Da Vinci Code raises is this: Who really is Jesus Christ? Dan Brown would have us believe that Jesus was just a man—a very special man, but just a man. For example, here is some of the dialogue in the book between Leigh Teabing, the historian expert, with Sophia Nevue, a French cryptologist with the police force. They just referred to the Nicene Council of 325 (which produced the Nicene Creed):

"My dear," Teabing declared, "until that moment in history, Jesus was viewed by his followers as a mortal prophet... a great and powerful man, but a man nonetheless. A mortal."

"Not the Son of God?"

"Right," Teabing said. "Jesus' establishment as 'the Son of God' was officially proposed and voted on by the Council of Nicea." "Hold on. You're saying Jesus' divinity was the result of a vote?" "A relatively close vote at that," Teabing added. "Nonetheless, establishing Christ's divinity was critical to the further unification of the Roman empire and to the new Vatican power base. By officially endorsing Jesus as the Son of God, Constantine turned Jesus into a deity who existed beyond the scope of the human world, an entity whose power was unchallengeable. This not only precluded further pagan challenges to Christianity, but now the followers of Christ were able to redeem themselves only via the established sacred channel—the Roman Catholic Church."133 As we have already pointed out: From the very beginning, Christians worshiped Jesus as divine. The Jews handed Him over to be killed because He claimed to be divine. Furthermore, it was not a close vote. Only two voted for Arianism. All the others voted against. On top of that, Dan Brown doesn't seem to realize there are hundreds of millions of Christians who are not part of the Roman Catholic Christians—as in Protestants or Orthodox Christians.

THE CHARACTER OF CHRIST

What kind of a person was Christ? Classical philosophers and ethicists, such as Cicero, Plato, Socrates and others, often violated their own maxims and even endorsed various forms of iniquity. They were the wisest men of Greece and Rome, yet some of them sanctioned slavery, oppression, revenge, infanticide or exposure of infants, polygamy, concubines, homosexuality and other vices—but not so with Christ. Said one skeptic: But how is it with Christ? He fully carried out His perfect doctrine in His life and conduct. He both was and did that which He taught. He was His own credential. Sidney Lanier, the poet, put it this way:

What "if" or "yet", what mole, what flaw, what lapse, What least defect or shadow of defect, What rumor, tattled by an enemy, Of inference loose, what lack of grace Even in torture's grasp, or sleep's, or death's, -Oh, what amiss may I forgive in Thee, Jesus, good Paragon, thou Crystal Christ?134 No one has ever been able to find any flaw in that Crystal Christ. I remember when another anti-Jesus work of fiction came out—The Last Temptation of Christ— which presented an imaginary Jesus, who was quite the sinner. One of the commentators opposed to the movie said of its creator: "Here is Martin (four marriages) Scorsese dragging Jesus Christ down to Martin's level."

In Dan Brown's book, he "de-deifies" Jesus (reducing Him to a mere man), and he elevates a Jesus-worshiper (Mary Magdalene) to a form of deity—the goddess, whom the protagonist of the book worships at the end of The Da Vinci Code. But Brown can do this only by resorting to false history.

In the finest of diamonds we may find flaws, but none in the Son of God. All human heroes have feet of clay, sometimes up to their hips or armpits, but not so with Christ:

• "Which of you convicts Me of sin?" (John 8:46), Christ said. No one stepped forward to take the challenge.

• That one who condemned Him to die said, "I find no fault in this Man" (Luke 23:4).

• And he who betrayed Him said, "I have betrayed the innocent blood" (Matthew 27:4).

• He that crucified Him said, "Certainly this was a righteous man" (Luke 23:47).

This was the Son of God. No. No one has found fault with Christ.

LITERARY MEN'S OPINIONS

The greatest of minds and intellects have believed in Him, despite the fact that so many today would say "nay."

• Experts who examine these things tell us that William Shakespeare probably had the greatest intellect of anyone who ever lived. They based that partly upon his writings and the vastness of his vocabulary. Shakespeare demonstrated a larger vocabulary than any other writer in history, and the bard of Stratford on Avon said this: "I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing, through the merits of Jesus Christ my Savior to be made partaker of Life everlasting."135

• Again, Lord Byron, English poet and one of the greatest literary geniuses of recent centuries, said, "If ever man was God or God man, Jesus Christ was both."136

"A man who can read the New Testament and not see that Christ claims to be more than a man can look all over the sky at high noon on a cloudless day and not see the sun."137

• Noah Webster, a great Christian and a great intellect, when asked if he could comprehend Christ said:

"I should be ashamed to acknowledge Him as my Saviour if I could comprehend Him—He would be no greater than myself. Such is my sense of sin, and consciousness of my inability to save myself, that I feel I need a superhuman Saviour—one so great and glorious that I cannot comprehend Him."138 Yes, we may apprehend Christ, but we cannot comprehend Him and embrace Him or wrap our mind around Him, or we would be greater than He.

JESUS—THE GIFT OF GOD

At one time I was far away from God, immersed in the sin and pleasures of the world. But one Sunday morning, after having attended a party late the night before, I was awakened by a preacher on my radio alarm clock, whereas there had been music on that radio station the night before. Not interested in spiritual things, I was about to spring out of bed and change the station, but he said a few things that caught my attention. In striking contrast to what the world thinks—to what I thought—the preacher declared that the Bible says, "The wages of sin is death...but...the gift of God is eternal life in Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:23).

I will never forget the first day I heard that incredible statement. I was astonished that he had the audacity to say that God wanted to give me Heaven as a gift. I thought that the man must be mad. Being, of course, a great authority on theological matters—at the age of 24—I figured that he didn't know what he was talking about. After all, who was he but a doctor of theology, a pastor of one of our nation's great churches with a worldwide radio ministry? How could that compare to my vast theological knowledge? Why, I could even find my Bible—given enough time.

JESUS—THE ONE WHO CANCELS THE SINNER'S DEATH SENTENCE

How well I remember that day when I first discovered the truth about myself, when the Holy Spirit opened my eyes to see myself as I really was. I was arraigned before the bar of God's judgment. Justice accused me, and the scales tipped precipitously against me. The angels were empanelled as juries and brought in a sentence of death against me. The Judge looked me sternly in the face and said, "I pronounce that you shall die. Do you have anything to say for yourself before the sentence of eternal death is pronounced upon you?"

For the first time in all of my self-righteous life I was speechless. The Judge brought down his gavel, and the sentence was pronounced. Eternal death descended upon me, and I stood on the scaffold of God's judgment. I felt the black cap of eternal death placed upon my head and about to be pulled down over my eyes. My heart pounded within my breast and my knees grew weak. I abandoned all hope, as I was about to sink into everlasting perdition.

Suddenly, I heard a cry—a voice—which said, "Stay. Let not that man descend into the pit." I looked and there came at a great run One whose face was flecked with blood, whose hands were pierced, who said, "Surely he deserves to die, but the spear pierced My side instead. Surely he deserves to descend into the pit, but there in the blackness of midday at Calvary, I descended into the pit for him. All that he deserves I have properly taken. Now let him go free."

That day my life was transformed. I rose, went forth, and followed Him. My heart for these past 50 years has overflowed with gratitude and love for Christ, for I know that within my soul there is a certificate that says, "The gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ my Lord."

My conversion to Christ and all the conversions mentioned above are similar to the healing of the blind man that we find in John 9. Jesus encountered a man blind from birth, and He gave him the gift of sight. The healing was done on the Sabbath, so it caused a controversy among the Jews, to whom a violation of the Sabbath was an egregious offense. Some thought Him a sinner, since He healed on the Sabbath; others asked how could He do this apart from the power of God.

When they asked the formerly blind man about this, he gave them a beautiful straightforward testimony: "Whether He is a sinner or not, I do not know. One thing I do know: Though I was blind, now I see." Every true Christian can echo that last sentiment: "though I was blind, now I see."

Through the years I have seen hundreds, even thousands, come to Christ at the church where I serve as senior pastor. All of them have a story to tell of one kind or another. Some are more dramatic than others, but as long as they truly come to Jesus Christ, they are on their way to Heaven. I think of a man whose whole family rejoiced when he was converted. His daughter told my wife: "I have a new daddy, and I like him better than the old one."

Of course, the finest testimonies are from those who grow up in Christian homes and love and serve the Lord faithfully all of their lives, without ever going the path of the Prodigal Son. It doesn't matter how you come to Christ; what matters is that you come to Christ.

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