The plot thickens. Acts, #34.
Can you imagine the looks on the faces of the Damascus believers the day Saul comes through the door of their synagogue? Word is out, Saul has come to town to round up believers in Jesus Christ, and haul them back to Jerusalem. Saul makes his way to the front of the synagogue, and starts preaching about Jesus?! What in the world is going on?
Was it a trick, a ruse to definitively flush out all the believers present? They watch him for a while, trying to size up his demeanor and message. Saul is sincere, and he believes in Jesus! What a radical thing that has happened to this crusader of Judaism.
Here’s Luke’s take: and after taking some food, he regained his strength. Saul spent several days with the disciples in Damascus. At once he began to preach in the synagogues that Jesus is the Son of God. All those who heard him were astonished and asked, "Isn't he the man who raised havoc in Jerusalem among those who call on this name? And hasn't he come here to take them as prisoners to the chief priests?" Yet Saul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews living in Damascus by proving that Jesus is the Christ. Acts 9.19-25
Luke says here that Saul's goal is "proving that Jesus is the Christ." That line just shouts to me--'proving that Jesus is the Christ'-- how did Saul do that? And why did it matter? I believe that Saul proved Jesus by matching Old Testament prophecies to the evidence of how Jesus Christ had fulfilled each of them. This is where being a 'Hebrew of the Hebrews' as Saul called himself was of the utmost value--he knew what the prophets had written concerning the coming of the Messiah; and after he was personally confronted with the person of Jesus Christ on the Damascus Road, he could speak to the assurance of Jesus as Messiah.
Why did it matter that Saul could prove that Jesus is the Christ, the one they had waited for, and why does it still matter today? Because there is no more important question for a person to answer than this: Who do you say that Jesus Christ is?
How is Jesus different than all other religious leaders? Let's entertain these questions, as they are salient to a believing faith, and frankly, our answers form our basis for living.
In short, Jesus Christ is different than any other religious leader because He claimed to be God, the second Person of the trinity. His life backed up His claims--virgin birth, His working of the miraculous, perfect fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies, and His own resurrection from the dead, followed by more than 500 people seeing Jesus in the flesh. When you are sizing up another religion--finding that the people are such wholesome, moral people--family oriented, and great citizens. . . all of which might seem reason to join their religion, and 'get some o'that'. . . stop right there-- what does that religion teach/believe about Jesus Christ?
>How about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons)? They call themselves Christians, so doesn't that mean they believe the same thing Bible-believing Christians do? You decide: Their most-highly revered book of holy writing is the Book of Mormon, written by Joseph Smith, who claimed that he was a god equal to Jesus. . . and Jesus? He was a brother of Satan, created by "Elohim" through sexual union with Mary, not that He has always been--the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1, speaking of Jesus (the Word) being present with God, even at creation.
>Jehovah's Witnesses? With a name like that, surely they believe that Jesus was/is the Son of God. . .? They do not believe in a triune God (Father, Son, Holy Spirit), nor do they believe that Jesus was divine, but rather a creation of Jehovah--an angel who existed first as Michael, then as the man Jesus, and now exists as Michael, the exalted angel. By the way, they believe that only 144,000 will be 'saved'-- a number already hit--so, the only way anyone else has the chance to be saved is through good works.
>Salvation through good works in any religion is a deal-breaker, because it becomes an arbitrary matter--just how many, and what kind of good works will suffice? And, how gooddo you have to be? What if you are 61% good, and 63% is the requirement--how do you know?
>Finally, how about Islam? Recently, someone was trying to tell me how similar the Islamic fundamentals are to Christianity. . . really? ! Muslims believe there is one God--Allah. Muhammed is considered to be the ultimate prophet--above Jesus, Moses and others. Considering Jesus to be God is blasphemy, but they do believe that Jesus was a prophet. They do not believe Jesus was crucified or resurrected.
So, who do YOU say that Jesus Christ is? That is the question. Many today are content with leaving Jesus in the good moral teacher box, thinking they are magnanimous to believe such a thing. C.S. Lewis has the perfect response to that: “I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.”*
Turn your eyes upon Jesus, a great song by Shane & Shane, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P1qgyLTH6Xg
We love you, Lord~
*from Mere Christianity