Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus?

Who is Jesus? It is the most important question in the world, and it has the most powerful answer capable of turning the world upside-down. Who Jesus is and His good news is the common ground and foundation on which the unity of His followers is built. “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 3:11). If two or more can agree on the answer to this fundamental question of “Who is Jesus?”, they will be capable with enough time of coming to agreement concerning anything. Unless there is disagreement on the good news of who Jesus is or unless someone agrees but continues to live contrary to that agreement, there can always be fellowship.

The ICTHUS     The shape of a fish made up of two lines, a dashed line for the top of the fish and a solid line for the bottom of the fish.

About a century after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension, his followers began using the symbol of a fish (ichthus in the Greek) to determine the presence of another follower without having to use words. The completed symbol is prevalent nowadays but in the second century, in places of persecution, a follower of Jesus would only draw the first part. Since it was likely that only another follower would know how to complete the symbol, it was useful as a way to more safely determine who else might be a follower.

Besides the obvious reference back to the teachings and miracles of Jesus that made use of fish, the symbol was popular because the word icthus (meaning fish) was also an acronym for the most significant titles of Jesus. ICTHUS is an acronym for Iēsous Christos, Theou Yios, Sōtēr, meaning “Jesus Christ, God’s Son, Savior.” Whether we can be certain of the origin of the symbol, nearly 2,000 years later, these titles still represent well the fundamentals of our faith and the foundation upon which our unity is built. The rest of this page is broken into four sections, each presenting the fundamentals behind one of these four titles of Christ and the many supporting scriptural references. These sections are :

  • Iesous: Jesus was a man…who was God manifested in the flesh.
  • Christos: Jesus is the one and only Christ…who is the awaited Messiah, the one Teacher, the Lord of all, and the coming Judge.
  • Theou Yios: Jesus is the one and only son of God…who is one with God, equal to God, God Himself, and the only One who is good.
  • Soter: Jesus is the one and only Savior…who is the Mediator, the permanently sufficient Sacrifice, and the Door for those who have committed into Him.

If we can agree on these truths about Jesus, and are truly committed to Him, nothing can stop us from pressing on together!

Iesous: Jesus was a man…who was God manifested in the flesh.

A man.

“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know — Him, being delivered by the determined purpose and foreknowledge of God, you have taken by lawless hands, have crucified, and put to death; whom God raised up, having loosed the pains of death, because it was not possible that He should be held by it.” (Acts 2:22-24)

God manifested in the flesh.

“And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness:
God was manifested in the flesh,
Justified in the Spirit,
Seen by angels,
Preached among the Gentiles,
Believed on in the world,
Received up in glory.” (1 Timothy 3:16)

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

“Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel, which is translated, ‘God with us.’ ” (Matthew 1:23)

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7)

Why a man?

“Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. For indeed He does not give aid to angels, but He does give aid to the seed of Abraham. Therefore, in all things He had to be made like [His] brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest in things [pertaining] to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” (Hebrews 2:14-18)

Christos: Jesus is the one and only Christ…who is the awaited Messiah, the one Teacher, the Lord of all, and the coming Judge.

The one and only Christ.

“Simon Peter answered and said, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.’” (Matthew 16:16)

“But He kept silent and answered nothing. Again the high priest asked Him, saying to Him, ‘Are You the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?’ Jesus said, ‘I am. And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming with the clouds of heaven.’ ” (Mark 14:61-62)

“Then the Jews surrounded Him and said to Him, ‘How long do You keep us in doubt? If You are the Christ, tell us plainly.’ Jesus answered them, ‘I told you, and you do not believe. The works that I do in My Father’s name, they bear witness of Me.’ (John 10:24-25)

“And Jesus answered and said to them: ‘Take heed that no one deceives you. “For many will come in My name, saying, “I am the Christ,” and will deceive many.’ ” (Matthew 24:4-5)

The Christ is the awaited Messiah.

“Therefore, having obtained help from God, to this day I stand, witnessing both to small and great, saying no other things than those which the prophets and Moses said would come– that the Christ would suffer, that He would be the first to rise from the dead, and would proclaim light to the [Jewish] people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:22-23)

“One of the two who heard John [speak], and followed Him, was Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother. He first found his own brother Simon, and said to him, ‘We have found the Messiah’ (which is translated, the Christ).” (John 1:40-41)

“And many more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, ‘Now we believe, not because of what you said, for we ourselves have heard [Him] and we know that this is indeed the Christ, the Savior of the world.’ ” (John 4:41-42)

“For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve. After that He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.” (1 Corinthians 15:3-8)

The Christ is the one Teacher.

“The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming’ (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.’ Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am [He].’ ” (John 4:25-26)

“But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren. Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven. And do not be called teachers; for One is your Teacher, the Christ.” (Matthew 23:8-10)

The Christ is the Lord of all.

“Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would raise up the Christ to sit on his throne, he, foreseeing this, spoke concerning the resurrection of the Christ, that His soul was not left in Hades, nor did His flesh see corruption. … Therefore let all the house of Israel know assuredly that God has made this Jesus, whom you crucified, both Lord and Christ.” (Acts 2:30-31, 36)

“which He worked in Christ when He raised Him from the dead and seated [Him] at His right hand in the heavenly [places], far above all principality and power and might and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this age but also in that which is to come. And He put all [things] under His feet, and gave Him [to be] head over all [things] to the church, which is His body, the fullness of Him who fills all in all.” (Ephesians 1:20-23)

The Christ is the coming Judge.

“For to this end Christ died and rose and lived again, that He might be Lord of both the dead and the living. But why do you judge your brother? Or why do you show contempt for your brother? For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it is written: ‘[As] I live, says the LORD, Every knee shall bow to Me, And every tongue shall confess to God.’ So then each of us shall give account of himself to God.” (Romans 14:9-12)

“I charge [you] therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom: Preach the word! Be ready in season and out of season. Convince, rebuke, exhort, with all longsuffering and teaching.” (2 Timothy 4:1-2)

“For as many as have sinned without law will also perish without law, and as many as have sinned in the law will be judged by the law … in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my gospel.” (Romans 2:12, 16)

Theou Yios: Jesus is the one and only son of God…who is one with God, equal to God, God Himself, and the only One who is good.

The one and only Son of God

“And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” (John 1:14)

“No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared [Him].” (John 1:18)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)

“And the angel answered and said to her [,Mary], “[The] Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35)

One with God, equal to God, and God Himself

“I and [My] Father are one.” (John 10:30)

“Therefore the Jews sought all the more to kill Him, because He not only broke the Sabbath, but also said that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” (John 5:18)

“Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God, but made Himself of no reputation, taking the form of a bondservant, [and] coming in the likeness of men.” (Philippians 2:5-7)

“Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?” (John 14:9)

“And Thomas answered and said to Him, “My Lord and my God!” ” (John 20:28)

The only One who is good

“What then? Are we better [than they]? Not at all. For we have previously charged both Jews and Greeks that they are all under sin. As it is written: “There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none who understands; There is none who seeks after God. They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one.” … for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,” (Romans 3:9-12, 23)

“For since the creation of the world His invisible [attributes] are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, [even] His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse,” (Romans 1:20)

“But the Scripture has confined all under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (Galatians 3:22)

“Now a certain ruler asked Him, saying, “Good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” So Jesus said to him, “Why do you call Me good? No one [is] good but One, that is, God.” (Luke 18:18-19)

“For to this you were called, because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that you should follow His steps: ‘Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth’;” (1 Peter 2:21-22)

“For He made Him who knew no sin [to be] sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

“For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all [points] tempted as [we are, yet] without sin.” (Hebrews 4:15)

“And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin.” (1 John 3:5)

“knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, [like] silver or gold, from your aimless conduct [received] by tradition from your fathers, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot.” (1 Peter 1:18-19)

Soter: Jesus is the one and only Savior…who is the Mediator, the permanently sufficient Sacrifice, and the Door for those who have comitted into Him.

The one and only Mediator

“For there is one God and one Mediator between God and men, the Man Christ Jesus,” (1 Timothy 2:5)

“Jesus said to him, ‘I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me.’ ” (John 14:6)

“Nor is there salvation in any other, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12)

The one and only permanently sufficient Sacrifice

“For Christ also suffered once for sins, the just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh but made alive by the Spirit,” (1 Peter 3:18)

“For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.” (Hebrews 10:14)

“God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by [His] Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of [His] glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,” (Hebrews 1:1-3)

“For if we have been united together in the likeness of His death, certainly we also shall be [in the likeness] of [His] resurrection…Now if we died with Christ, we commit that we shall also live with Him,” (Romans 6:5,8)

“[This is] a faithful saying: For if we died with [Him], We shall also live with [Him].” (2 Timothy 2:11)

“Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” (Romans 5:9-10)

The one and only Door for those who have committed into Him

“Then Jesus said to them again, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who [ever] came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them. I am the door. If anyone enters by Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture.’ ” (John 10:7-9)

“My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me. And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand.” (John 10:27-28)         

“All that the Father gives Me will come to Me, and the one who comes to Me I will by no means cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. This is the will of the Father who sent Me, that of all He has given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up at the last day. And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and commits into Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” (John 6:37-40)

“Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you commit into Him whom He sent.” (John 6:29)

“And this is His commandment: that we should commit to the name of His Son Jesus Christ and love one another, as He gave us commandment.” (1 John 3:23)

“When He had called the people to [Himself], with His disciples also, He said to them, ‘Whoever desires to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me. For whoever desires to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake and the gospel’s will save it.’ ” (Mark 8:34-35)

“He who commits and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not commit will be condemned.” (Mark 16:16)

“For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever commits into Him should not perish but have everlasting life. For God did not send His Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved. He who commits into Him is not condemned; but he who does not commit is condemned already, because he has not committed into the name of the only begotten Son of God.” (John 3:16-18)

“Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, And you perish [in] the way, When His wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed [are] all those who put their trust in Him.” (Psalms 2:12)

“And the tax collector, standing afar off, would not so much as raise [his] eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me a sinner!‘ I tell you, this man went down to his house justified [rather] than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, and he who humbles himself will be exalted.” (Luke 18:13-14)

“Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, ‘See, [here is] water. What hinders me from being baptized?’ Then Philip said, ‘If you commit with all your heart, you may.’ And he answered and said, ‘I commit that Jesus Christ is the Son of God.’” (Acts 8:36-37)

“Jesus said to her, ‘I am the resurrection and the life. He who commits into Me, though he may die, he shall live. And whoever lives and commits into Me shall never die. Do you commit [to] this?’ She said to Him, ‘Yes, Lord, I commit that You are the Christ, the Son of God, who is to come into the world’ ” (John 11:25-27)

“He who commits into the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not commit the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.” (John 3:36)

“Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and commits on Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life.” (John 5:24)

Note: Because “believe in’ is a phrase most commonly used in English to mean “agreeing that something or someone is real”, the Greek pisteuo has been translated “commit’ above to more accurately reflect how the word always indicates one has been persuaded to yield, transfer, and relinquish something. In the case of a follower of Christ, this something being transferred is everything – the person’s entire self.

Why a Savior?

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ also loved the church and gave Himself for her, that He might sanctify and cleanse her with the washing of water by the word, that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish.” (Ephesians 5:25-27)

“For it pleased [the Father that] in Him all the fullness should dwell, and by Him to reconcile all things to Himself, by Him, whether things on earth or things in heaven, having made peace through the blood of His cross. And you, who once were alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now He has reconciled in the body of His flesh through death, to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight–” (Colossians 1:19-22)

Common followup question:

  • What is the gospel? Don’t we have to agree on that?
  • What about “false teachers”?
  • Who are not to be considered wolves among us?

What is the gospel? Don’t we have to agree on that?

The gospel is the “good news,” as most Christians know, but the topic of the news is not as complicated as we sometimes make it. When analyzing the use of “the gospel” in the New Testament, it becomes quite clear that the identity of Jesus is the gospel –  indeed Jesus Himself is the gospel, the Word that became flesh. So if we agree on the fundamentals of who Jesus is , as we’ve seen above, we will be agreeing on the good news about Him as well. Let’s look together at each way in the new testament other words are used to clarify the “gospel” and how these references can be grouped:

  • The gospel of Christ and His kingdom
    • “Gospel of Jesus” Christ (Mar 1:1)
    • “Gospel of Christ” (Rom 1:16, 15:19, 29; 1Co 9:12, 18; 2Co 9:13, 10:14; Gal 1:6-7; Phl 27; 1Th 3:2)
    • “Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2Th 1:8)
    • “Christ’s gospel” (2Co 2:12 )
    • “Gospel of the glory of Christ” (2Co 4:4)
    • “Gospel of the kingdom” (Mat 4:23, 9:35, 24:14; Mar 1:14-15)
  • The gospel of God and His Son
    • “Gospel of God” (Rom 1:1-3,  15:16; 2Co 11:7; 1Th 2:2, 8; 1Pe 4:17)
    • “Gospel of His” [God’s] Son (Rom 1:9)
  • The gospel of salvation and grace
    • “Gospel of your salvation” (Eph 1:13)
    • “Gospel of the grace of God” (Act 20:24)
    • “Gospel of peace” (Eph 6:15)
  • The gospel of Paul and all the apostles
    • “My [Paul’s] gospel” (Rom 2:16 , 16:25 ; 2Ti 2:8)
    • “Our gospel” (2 Co 4:3; 1Th 1:5; 2Th 2:14)
  • The glorious and everlasting gospel
    • The glorious gospel (1Ti 1:11)
    • The everlasting gospel (Rev 14:6)

When Paul referred to the gospel as his gospel or the gospel of the apostles in general, we know that he did not mean that the good news was about him or that it ultimately originated from him, so although those references help us to remember how the gospel was spread and the special role Paul and the apostles had, it does not help define it for us. Likewise knowing that the gospel is glorious and everlasting is wonderful but not very explanatory. What stands out is that the gospel is good news specifically concerning Christ and His kingdom, God and His Son, and salvation and grace. Sound familiar? Just based on the way the word was used we can get a sense that the gospel was the good news that Jesus is the Christ, God’s son, and savior. 

Fortunately though, we don’t have to guess. Paul tells us plainly what the gospel is:

“Paul, a bondservant of Jesus Christ, called [to be] an apostle, separated to the gospel of God which He promised before through His prophets in the Holy Scriptures, concerning His Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who was born of the seed of David according to the flesh, [and] declared [to be] the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” (Romans 1:1-4)

“Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast that word which I preached to you–unless you believed in vain. For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures, and that He was seen by Cephas, then by the twelve.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-5)

The good news concerns Jesus, who is the Christ and was born according to the flesh. And the good news is that as Savior He died for our sins, and that He was buried and rose again on the third day, which declares Him to be the Son of God.

…But of course, if all of that were true but there was no way to apply His payment for our sins, or if it was only a partial payment, or if there was a prerequisite of performance, then it wouldn’t actually be good news at all. And so we can’t forget that inherent to the good news that Jesus is Savior is the good news that we are able to get forgiveness for all of our sins all at once, and that it requires only a surrendering of oneself to Him.

Jesus is the Christ as “attested by God…by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him” (Acts 2:22). Jesus is the Son of God as it was “declared…with power according to the Spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Romans 1:4). And Jesus is the Savior according to the scriptures, and this is indeed the greatest news of all!

What about “false teachers”?

Unfortunately, the most common response to a message of unifying the Lord’s people is not “I’m ready!” but “what about false teachers?” The fear seems to be that God’s people, even with His Spirit, will not be capable of keeping out false doctrine or sin if we come together. The assumption seems to be that we are keeping out false doctrine and sin better while divided. This is simply not true, and furthermore this lie is the enemy’s greatest advantage. Unfortunately, what people are really asking with this question most of the time is, “what about people who have the same Jesus and the same good news, but aren’t enough like me?”

Of course sometimes when a person responds to a charge for unity by asking about false teachers, they are genuinely interested in understanding how we will fend off the wolves together; but the sad irony is that typically this is not the case, and instead they are asking for reasons in a way that resembles another type of wolf: divisive people (heretics). If we are really just trying to ward off other followers with differences of tradition, culture, language, skin color, age, worship styles, learning styles, diet, exuberance, faith, maturity, etc. then we ourselves have become wolves, trying to separate out those who Christ died to join together. Our response first needs to be “I’m ready!” and then all that is left to be said is “You’re will, Lord, be done!” – He will always lead His people mightily when our goal is obedience to the Lord and unity with one another.

But for those who are truly wondering about the concern of false teachers, it’s really quite simple. Paul summarized the three main types of wolves best in the following verse where He was rebuking the ekklesia in Corinth:

“For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!” (2 Corinthians 11:4)

In John 10:10 we find, “The thief does not come except to steal, and to kill, and to destroy….”

The three type of wolves introduced above come to steal, kill, and destroy, respectively, and should be accursed, avoided, rebuked, or rejected to varying degrees according to the following passages:

One who brings a false Jesus – Do not receive or greet him

“Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.  He who abides in the doctrine of Christ has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him; for he who greets him shares in his evil deeds.” (2 John 1:9-11)

“For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ [as] coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” (2 John 1:7)

One who brings a false Spirit – Reject him

“Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” (1 Corinthians 12:3)

“For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ….But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.” (Jude 1:4, 17-19)

“But avoid foolish disputes, genealogies, contentions, and strivings about the law; for they are unprofitable and useless. Reject a divisive man after the first and second admonition, knowing that such a person is warped and sinning, being self-condemned.” (Titus 3:9-11)

One who brings a false Gospel – Let him be accursed

“But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.” (Galatians 1:8-9)

“If anyone does not love the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be accursed. O Lord, come!” (1 Corinthians 16:22)

Who are not to be considered wolves among us?

Now that we have gone through the three types of wolves, it is good to remind ourselves who are not wolves. First of all, the weak among us are not wolves.

A Weak Brother Is Not a Wolf – Receive him

“We then who are strong ought to bear with the scruples of the weak, and not to please ourselves.” (Romans 15:1)

“Receive one who is weak in the faith, [but] not to disputes over doubtful things.” (Romans 14:1)

Take special note of the above verse because it is foundational for distinguishing between the wolves and the weak. The phrase “doubtful things” above  literally means “things thought-through”. If you have ever concluded some doctrinal belief based on a series of in-depth scriptural studies that required you to draw charts and chase obscure phrases and textual variants down rabbit holes…you “thought through” it, and therefore it’s not something you should dispute over.

We are not free to be the judge of our brothers, ever. The only freedom we have is to witness of the truth, and in that way judge. If it is an obvious teaching, if Christ or the apostles helped us out with a contextualized command, if it is something the Spirit tells us plainly…only then can judge what is true. Otherwise we make ourselves to be the judge.

“Do not speak evil of one another, brethren. He who speaks evil of a brother and judges his brother, speaks evil of the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is one Lawgiver, who is able to save and to destroy. Who are you to judge another?” (James 4:11-12)

“Who are you to judge another’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. Indeed, he will be made to stand, for God is able to make him stand. One person esteems [one] day above another; another esteems every day [alike]. Let each be fully convinced in his own mind. He who observes the day, observes [it] to the Lord; and he who does not observe the day, to the Lord he does not observe [it]. He who eats, eats to the Lord, for he gives God thanks; and he who does not eat, to the Lord he does not eat, and gives God thanks.” (Romans 14:4-6)

An Unrepentant Brother Is Not a Wolf – Do not keep company or eat with him

On to the second non-wolf: unrepentant brothers. Although we shouldn’t even eat with or keep company with unrepentant brothers (greeting them is not forbidden), and although they could, if left alone, spread unfaithfulness to other followers, unrepentant brothers aren’t enemies!

“But now I have written to you not to keep company with anyone named a brother, who is sexually immoral, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or an extortioner–not even to eat with such a person.” (1 Corinthians 5:11) 

“And if anyone does not obey our word in this epistle, note that person and do not keep company with him, that he may be ashamed. Yet do not count [him] as an enemy, but admonish [him] as a brother.” (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15)

“But you, beloved, building yourselves up on your most holy faith, praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And on some have compassion, making a distinction; but others save with fear, pulling [them] out of the fire, hating even the garment defiled by the flesh.” (Jude 1:20-23)

We must remember that sinning brothers, despite being disobedient to Christ, still claim the same Christ, Spirit, and gospel. If we are a witness that what a brother is doing is wrong, we must immediately refrain from eating with them, but we have no right to reject them altogether and must follow Christ’s command to bring another brother to discuss the issue. And if the brother will not listen to the two, we again have no right to reject them altogether and must follow Christ’s command as best we can to bring the brother before the ekklesia of Christ in that city:

“Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother. But if he will not hear, take with you one or two more, that ‘by the mouth of two or three witnesses every word may be established.’ And if he refuses to hear them, tell [it] to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.” (Matthew 18:15-17)

“Those who are sinning rebuke in the presence of all, that the rest also may fear.” (1
Timothy 5:20) 

This is one of the most important reasons for all the Lord’s people in our city to come together as the ekklesia. Without it there is no ultimate accountability on earth. If there is no ekklesia formed, it’s impossible to send a person out – if not from the ekklesia, what would we really be sending them out of anyway? We should not eat with the person and must separate ourselves such as retracting our deep fellowship, our home, our gatherings, etc., but what are those things in the spiritual realm? What are those things in the view of everyone else? Without the ekklesia to send a person out of, he will not be seen as sent out, but simply separated from a few people (a necessary thing, still, but not as impactful). Being sent out from the ekklesia, however – that is, to be separated from all of God’s holy people in their city – would be noticed both in heaven and on earth!


…So what do you think? Can you complete the ichthus?