The theology of the Lord Jesus?! Is there such a book? Well, no, but we are trying a bit of an experiment by asking, how do the teachings of Jesus fit into the categories of systematic theology (the doctrine of man, the doctrine of sin, the doctrine of the church, etc.). If systematic theology is thought of (in its best form) as the attempt to organize the data of Scripture into logical categories, then we might learn a few truths based on this approach.
Please take note: We are not suggesting that the apostolic writings or the books of the Old Testament are less God’s Word than “the words of Jesus in red.” That’s not our position or our purpose. We are simply asking what the Lord Jesus taught about these areas.
We have looked at introductory matters (prolegomena), bibliology, theology proper, anthropology, and hamartiology. Let’s think about some of what the Lord Jesus taught about the doctrine of salvation (soteriology). And on that topic He had much to say! He describes His mission as coming to “seek and to save the lost” (Lk. 19:10). He says that He did not come for the righteous, but for sinners (Mt. 9:13). To those who say they are not sinners, we might say (with sadness), “Then Jesus didn’t come for you.”
A fascinating study of what Jesus meant by salvation is found in John 3. There a leader of the Pharisees Nicodemus wants a private conversation with Jesus. He came to Jesus “at night.” Jesus explains to Nick that one must be born again to enter (or even to see) the kingdom of God. Nick, stuck in Biology 101, doesn’t understand this necessity of being “born again” or “born from above.” Jesus mildly rebukes Nick for failing to understand the need for conversion from the Old Testament Scriptures.
The Lord Jesus emphasizes that being born again is a work of the Spirit of God. He then refers to the event in Numbers 21 when God’s people rebelled against God and against Moses. God sent venomous snakes which killed many Israelites! The people repented and asked Moses to pray for them. God instructed Moses to make a bronze snake and put it up on a pole. “Anyone who is bitten can look at it and live” (Num. 21:8). We read that “when anyone was bitten by a snake and looked at the bronze snake, they lived.” Jesus then says to Nicodemus: “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the wilderness, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, 15 that everyone who believes may have eternal life in him.” (Jn. 3:14-15).
We then read in John 3: “16 For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him. 18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.”
From this passage we may draw several clear conclusions about soteriology:
1. Every human being is a sinner in rebellion against God — and needs to be saved!
2. Salvation is a work of God the Holy Spirit.
3. Jesus is the One who provides salvation “as He is lifted up.”
4. Man is required to “look and live.” Faith in Jesus is absolutely necessary for salvation.
5. God’s primary desire is not to condemn, but to save.
6. But those who don’t “look and live” will remain under the wrath of God (see Jn. 3:36). (to be continued)