By Dix Winston
One Solitary Life is a popular and well-read poem about Jesus Christ. It is attributed to James Allan Francis, (1864-1928) a Canadian pastor:
He was born in an obscure village
The child of a peasant woman
He grew up in another obscure village
Where He worked in a carpenter shop
Until He was thirty
He never wrote a book
He never held an office
He never went to college
He never visited a big city
He never travelled more than two hundred miles
From the place where He was born
He did none of the things
Usually associated with greatness
He had no credentials but Himself
He was only thirty-three
His friends ran away
One of them denied Him
He was turned over to His enemies
And went through the mockery of a trial
He was nailed to a cross between two thieves
While dying, His executioners gambled for His clothing
The only property He had on earth
When He was dead
He was laid in a borrowed grave
Through the pity of a friend
Nineteen centuries have come and gone
And today Jesus is the central figure of the human race
And the leader of mankind’s progress
All the armies that have ever marched
All the navies that have ever sailed
All the parliaments that have ever sat
All the kings that ever reigned put together
Have not affected the life of mankind on earth
As powerfully as that one solitary life
There is only one thing wrong with this poem. It is heretical.1
There are two huge attributions missing. Re-read it. Can you find what is missing?
It does not describe Jesus of the Gospels. It never mentions His claim to be God or His resurrection from the dead. It’s a good eulogy, but bad theology!
Jesus repeatedly and in different ways claims to be God incarnate. And these claims are corroborated by His closest intimates, the disciples. This article examines His claims and the disciples’ corroboration.
THE CLAIMS OF CHRIST2
He Claimed to Be God
There are those today who say Jesus never claimed to be God. Of course, there are those today who have never seriously read what Jesus said in the NT. On numerous occasions He claimed outright that He was God. The chosen name for God in the OT was Yahweh or Jehovah. When Moses asked what God’s name was, He replied in Exod 3:14, “I Am Who I Am.” In John 8:58, Jesus rocked the Jews with the statement, “Before Abraham was, I AM.” The Jews then tried to rock Him to sleep with stones because they understood that He was claiming to be one and the same with the One who spoke to Moses, the great I Am.
He Claimed Equality with God
Secondly, He claimed equality with God by professing to be able to do only what God could do: forgive sins. In Mark 2:5-11, Jesus said, “My son, your sins are forgiven you.” The scribes were scandalized by this claim, asking, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
But He did not stop there in claiming the prerogatives of Deity. In John 5:25, 29, He said, “Most assuredly, I say to you, the hour is coming, and now is, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God; and those who hear will live. . . . and come forth—those who have done good, to the resurrection of life, and those who have done evil, to the resurrection of condemnation.”
He Claimed to Be Messiah-God
The OT predicts a coming Messiah or King for the nation of Israel. He is revealed in the OT as God Himself. The prophet Isaiah calls the Messiah “the mighty God” (Isa 9:6). In Mark 14:61-64, in a hostile interchange with the high priest, Jesus is asked if He is the “Christ,” which is Greek for “Messiah.” Jesus responds, “I Am.” The high priest understood that He was claiming to be God and invoked the charge of blasphemy, which called for capital punishment.
He Claimed Worship Reserved Only for God
The Jews understood from the OT that worship was only to be given to God. Yet throughout the Gospels Jesus unhesitatingly accepted the worship of those with whom He interacted (Matt 8:2; 9:18).
He Claimed Equal Authority with God
The Jews revered and worshiped the words of God. It was His special revelation of Himself to them. Jesus puts Himself on equal authority with the God of the OT by giving equal weight to His words. He said, “You have heard that the ancients were told, You shall not commit murder…But I say to you…” (Matt 5:21-22). Of course, the ancients were the Jews of the OT, and the phrase “You shall not commit murder” is from the Ten Commandments. But here Jesus claimed that His words and admonitions should now be heeded.
He Claimed His Name in Answered Prayer
Prayer was the privilege the people of the OT had before a personal God. In the NT, Jesus is giving an intercessory instructive on prayer in the new millennium. They were to ask in His name: “If you ask anything in My name, I will do it” (John 14:14). In other words, He was the “middleman” required to make it happen.
So, we see that Jesus was claiming something that no Jew had ever claimed before—namely, that He was God.
THE CORROBORATION OF THE DISCIPLES
It is always humbling to ask those closest to describe how you come across to them and other people. Many times our friends have a more accurate picture of us than we do. So what did those closest to Christ think of Him? It turns out they thought the same thing about Him as He thought of Himself, namely that He was God! The following points this out.
By Attributing Other Titles of Deity to Christ
The apostles referred to Jesus using divine titles. They called Him “the first and the last” (Rev 1:17), the “true light” (John 1:9), the “Chief Shepherd” (1 Pet 5:4), the one who gives “forgiveness of sins” (Acts 5:31), and the one “who will judge the living and the dead” (2 Tim 4:1). It should be noted that not once did Jesus ever correct their use of these terms as being inaccurate or misapplied. He willingly accepted their perception of Himself.
By Accepting Him as the Messiah-God
In the OT, Isaiah the prophet said of the Messiah, “For I am God, and there is no other… to Me every knee shall bow, every tongue shall take an oath.” The Apostle Paul understood this to be referring to Jesus Christ. For he said of the Christ, “At the name of Jesus every knee should bow… and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil 2:10-11).
By Attributing God’s Power to Him
The apostles said that Jesus had God’s power to raise the dead (John 11:38-44) and to forgive sins (Acts 13:38). He is even named as the primary agent in the creation (John 1:2; Col 1:16). Raising the dead, forgiving the penitent, and creating the world are acts no mere mortal is capable of. But Jesus was no mere mortal in the eyes of His followers.
By Associating Jesus with God’s Name
The name of Jesus is equally used with the name of God in prayer and benedictions: “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal 1:3). He, along with the Holy Spirit, is given equal weight in the Trinitarian baptismal formulae, “in the name [singular] of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit” (Matt 28:19).
By Considering Jesus Superior to the Angels
The followers of Christ understood He was superior not only to humans but to angels as well. This rank or status stemmed from His role as God’s only begotten Son. “For to which of the angels did He ever say, ‘You are my Son, today I have begotten you’? … But when He again brings His firstborn into the world, He says, ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him’” (Heb 1:5-6).
Both the claims of Christ and the corroboration of His followers lead any objective and open-minded individual to come to the same conclusion about Christ as Christ and His followers had, namely that He was claiming to be God.
Once again, there are individuals today who are not willing to concede this point. Not wanting to revere Him, but wishing to respect Him, they will only go as far as conceding that although He was not God, He was a good man. C. S. Lewis lucidly lays into those who would respect Him as a good man but not revere Him as the great God:
I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish things that people often say about Him: “I am 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 rather be a lunatic – on the level with a 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.3
Pastor Francis rightfully notes many things making the life of Jesus one solitary life. But in leaving out His many claims to be God incarnate and the disciples’ corroboration of those claims, he puts Christ in the company of many other great human teachers. As Lewis points out, “He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” Had Pastor Francis included these claims, He could have entitled the poem, “ONE SINGULAR (denoting or referring to just one person or thing) LIFE!” Jesus alone credibly makes those claims. His credentials for those claims are in part two of this article.
Dix is the senior pastor of Crosspoint Community Church in Centennial, Colorado. He and his wife, Cynthia, recently had their first grandson, Gunnar Titus. Dix is unashamedly Dispensational and Free Grace!
1 Editor’s note: Dix is using hyperbole here. It would be heretical if the poem denied Jesus’ deity or His bodily resurrection from the dead. It does not. However, Dix makes a great point. As wonderful as this poem is, it is missing two fundamental truths—the deity of Christ and His bodily resurrection.
2 For a fuller explanation of the sections “The Claims of Christ” and “The Concurrence of His Disciples,” see Norman L. Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, 129-32.
3 C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (New York: MacMillan, 1952), 55-56.