Jesus or Christ (Or Both)?

Jesus or Christ (Or Both)? August 16, 2018

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ, you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. “ – Col. 2:9-10

Over the last few months, I have been meditating on this verse above, along with a few others that express what many theologians have come to regard as the “Cosmic Christ.”

The other verses that attempt to explain this concept are:

The Son is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For in him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things have been created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” – Col. 1:15-20

“Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” – Heb. 1:1-3

These are not the only verses that speak about the Cosmic Christ, but there are probably the main ones where the idea is best expressed.

What I’m realizing is that many who embrace this concept tend to want to separate Christ from Jesus, as if they are two distinct entities who are not dependent upon one another.

This is where it gets complicated.

Essentially, they teach that Christ is a transcendent expression of God’s nature. Jesus was a man who lived in Palestine during the First Century. They are connected, but not the same.

In other words: Jesus embodied the Christ during his lifetime. Jesus spoke wisdom by the power of the Christ within. He did miracles through the power of Christ. He articulated and demonstrated what a Christ-like life could – and should – look like. But Christ is not Jesus and Jesus is not Christ. Or, better yet: Christ is not merely Jesus and Jesus is not only Christ. [If that makes sense].

The key to all of this is that Jesus is not the only being capable of embodying the Christ. We are all in Christ and we are all potentially connected to God through Christ.

This is supported by numerous New Testament scriptures, by the way. It may sound New Age to some, but all of it comes directly from the writings of the Apostle Paul, [or whoever wrote Ephesians and Colossians].

Paul affirms over and over again that everything that is true of Christ is also true of us, if we are in Christ. [And this last caveat is crucial to the differences I have with those who typically want to separate Christ and Jesus. More on that in a moment].

Here are a few verses from Paul, and a few from Jesus, that affirm our connection to Jesus [and to Christ]:

“If anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: the old has gone, the new is here!” – 2 Cor.5:17

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form, and in Christ, you have been brought to fullness. He is the head over every power and authority. “ – Col. 2:9-10

“On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you.” – John 14:20

“I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one— I in them and you in me—so that they may be brought to complete unity.” – John 17:22-23

Without going too in-depth here, I’d like to point out that in the verses where Paul speaks of Christ [and he does usually speak more about “Christ” than he does about “Jesus”], he always makes references to Jesus’s life, death, crucifixion, and resurrection.

The reason I want to stress this is that often those who want to separate Jesus from the Christ will use the fact that Paul uses “Christ” and not “Jesus” to prove that Paul wasn’t talking about the man Jesus but the spiritual concept of Christ.

My point is that if this is what Paul meant, then I don’t see why he would constantly connect the Christ to the person of Jesus.

As an example:

“And he is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy. For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him,  and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross.” – Col. 1:18-20

See? Here, as Paul expounds on the Christ, he makes two specific references to the crucifixion of Jesus. No, he does not use the name of Jesus, but there is no doubt that Paul is thinking of Jesus of Nazareth as he speaks about the cosmic reality of Christ. To Paul, they are one and the same.

So, I do not accept the idea that Jesus and Christ are two different entities.

However, I do affirm that – because of Jesus – you and I now have an opportunity to embody Christ in the exact same way as Jesus did.

For example:

The Spirit of God, who raised Jesus from the dead, lives in you. And just as God raised Christ Jesus from the dead, he will give life to your mortal bodies by this same Spirit living within you.” – Romans 8:11

 “I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know…his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms…And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the churchwhich is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.” – Eph. 1:18-23

Verses like these -and there are many others just like them – affirm that you and I [if we are in Christ] are now the actual incarnation of Christ in the world today.

So, you and I could honestly say: “If you’ve seen me, you have seen the Father [and Christ]”

Or, at least, that’s the ultimate intention of the ongoing incarnation of Christ through his Body.

Now, to be fair, those who separate Jesus from Christ are quick to point out where Paul seems to affirm the idea that everyone is already in Christ. When Paul speaks to the idol-worshipping pagans in Athens, he tells them that they are already in Christ because he identifies the “unknown god” as Christ, “the one in whom we all live and move and have our being”, and even declares that they are already God’s offspring, or children of God, by default. [See Acts 17:28]

There is also the verse where Paul affirms that Christ holds all things together, which suggests that nothing can exist apart from Christ. [See Col. 1:17]

I’m very open to all of that, by the way. But, I would say that what Paul is really saying is that – while everyone is already in Christ – they don’t realize this reality yet. Until we understand what it means to be in Christ, and how to intentionally live out of that reality, we cannot fully enjoy the many benefits of being in Christ.

So, yes, everyone is already in Christ. Yes, everyone is already a child of God. But, if we don’t develop this understanding and learn to live out of the life of Christ, we might as well not be.

And, to me, the best way to understand what it means to be in Christ and to live out of that reality is to follow Jesus.

The entire reason Jesus came to was to show us who God is, and who we are. This is why we need to learn to abide in Jesus and to allow Jesus to abide in us. This is why we need to not only listen to the words of Jesus, we need to start putting those words into practice.

Jesus is our blueprint for understanding who God is, and who we are. Jesus is our touchpoint to the entire Christ reality.

They are one and the same. And by being one with Christ we realize our connection to God, and to everyone else.

What do you think?

**

Keith Giles new book Jesus Unbound: Liberating the Word of God from the Bible”, is available now on Amazon and features a Foreword by author Brian Zahnd.

He is also the author of the Amazon best-seller, “Jesus Untangled: Crucifying Our Politics To Pledge Allegiance To The Lamb”.

Keith also co-hosts the Heretic Happy Hour Podcast on iTunes and Podbean. He and his wife live in Orange, CA with their two sons.

BONUS: Unlock exclusive content including blog articles, short stories, music, podcasts, videos and more on my Patreon page.

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What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • RevBill

    Jesus is a given name that basically means salvation. It wasn’t an unusual name in the first century and in some cultures (which speak Spanish or Arabic, for instance) it is not unusual today. Christ is a title which is often preceded by the definite article in the Greek New Testament: The Christ. Christ is the Greek translation of the Hebrew word Messiah. Messiah means anointed one. But what does it mean to be anointed? Anointing was the ceremonial procedure by which someone was designated king. In Western culture our procedure is to put a metal crown on the head of someone to make them king or queen. So to call someone Messiah or Christ is to call them a king. Of course this is a political term. To say, “Jesus is the Christ” is to make a political statement. Jesus was very careful about people calling him the Christ. During Jesus’ lifetime on earth, Caesar was king. So to state that Jesus was king was a dangerously subversive statement. At Jesus’s trial, Pilate asked Jesus, “Are you a king?” Some Jewish leaders asserted, “We have no king but Caesar.”

  • Iain Lovejoy

    In asserting that Jesus and the Christ are the same, that Jesus was fully the incarnate Cosmic Christ and also fully human you are doing no more than restating and confirming the traditional Christian understanding of the incarnation. (For the avoidance of doubt I am saying this is a good thing, and it ought not to be controversial.)

  • Abrax1s

    The exact relationship between Jesus and God was worked out over centuries by the Church, resulting in the Nicene Creed (and the Athanasian Creed). The history of doctrine leading up to Nicea is fascinating; every mistake that is made today in thinking about Jesus and God has been made before. And in a very real sense, these doctrinal statements were developed to clarify what was true and what was not true about Jesus and God and to correct the many incorrect doctrines that were floating about. In short, God is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus and the Son are one — fully human, with human body, human mind, and human soul — and fully divine, the Son, the second person of the Trinity. Even the definition of “the same” had to be made precise — homoousios, not homoiousios.

  • It will be interesting to read Rohr’s upcoming book on the Cosmic Christ (Another Name for Everything) to see this idea really fleshed out. I’m not sure right now I understand the distinction they’re making between the idea of the Cosmic Christ and the idea of the Holy Spirit.