I received a super question from Europe via email:
I have got a question for your podcast or for a blog article. How can you know what “Christ” means, without John 11:25-27? And can you recommend a monograph about what “Jesus is the Christ” means?
I have got the impression that only a few theologians even think about what it means, although it is very important for a person to get eternal life.
If everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God (1 John 5:1), then it is vital that we know what John means by the expression the Christ.
Years ago, a friend who is a linguistic genius and has two master’s degrees in NT Greek, one master’s degree in Latin, and a Ph.D. in Patristic Greek (from UCLA), challenged me about what the Christ means. He said that the meaning is clearly the anointed one. Thus in his view, to believe that Jesus is the Christ is not to believe anything about my eternal salvation (as I had argued in print). Instead, it is simply believing that Jesus is God’s beloved, His anointed.
I disagree with my friend. John is clear that the expression the Christ means more than Jesus is the Anointed One. It is a Messianic title that is linked to the salvation He gives to all who believe in Him.
To believe that Jesus is the Christ in the sense that John uses that expression is to believe that He guarantees everlasting life that can never be lost to all who believe in Him for it. We see that clearly in John 11:25-27. After Jesus explains that He will raise from the dead in glorified bodies all who believe in Him and that “he who lives and believes in Me shall never die [spiritually],” He asks Martha, “Do you believe this?” She indicates that she does believe it, and she explains why. She believes what He said because she knows that Jesus is “the Christ, the Son of God who is to come into the world.” In other words, the promised Messiah is now here, and she believes His promise of everlasting life to the believer.
That is not the only place in which everlasting life is linked with believing that Jesus is the Messiah. In the purpose statement of John’s Gospel (John 20:30-31), John indicates that he has written the signs in his Gospel so that the readers might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing that, they might have eternal life in His name.
1 John 5:1 says the same thing. But to see that, one needs to compare 1 John 5:1 with 1 John 2:24-26 and 1 John 5:9-13. To believe that Jesus is the Christ is to believe His promise of everlasting life to all who believe in Him.
In his commentary on 1-3 John, Hodges explains 1 John 5:1 in this way: “John’s definition of a Christian brother is simple and direct. Whoever (there are no exceptions!) believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God. In this verse John recalls the thematic statement of his Gospel” (p. 212). Then he continues, “a Christian is not defined by lifestyle, good works, or obedience to God. A Christian is defined only by faith in Christ” (p. 212). He goes on to point out that the reason John is bringing this up here is that he is saying that believers are to love their spiritual brethren. They are not to be fruit inspectors and decide that so–and–so can’t be “a real Christian” and hence I don’t need to love him.
Hodges concludes concerning 1 John 5:1, “When it comes to loving a Christian brother, whether or not he is living worthily of his Christian faith is totally irrelevant…I love the child of God…because I love the Father of that child! And if I do not love the child, I am simply lying if I say that I love his Father (4:20)” (p. 213).
John 4:25, when linked with John 4:10-14, shows that believing that Jesus is the Christ is to believe in Him for everlasting life.
Peter’s confession in John 6:68-69 links Jesus’ words of eternal life with the fact that He is the Christ, the Son of God. (Peter and the other disciples, except Judas, already believed in Jesus and were born again. In verse 68, Peter is speaking of the fact that the Lord Jesus was teaching them more about the life which they had. However, even though he was not specifically saying that all who believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God have eternal life, that is implicit in what he was saying. Only those who have come to believe in Him as Messiah are ready to grow in their understanding of eternal life.)
For more on the truth that whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, see this 1990 article by Brad McCoy.
I am not aware of a book or monograph on the subject.