John the Baptist was sent by God to set the stage for the appearance of Jesus Christ. He prepared the way of the Lord by preaching and baptizing in the River Jordan. When Jesus appeared on the banks of Jordan, John introduced him as “the Lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world.” He presented Jesus as the completion and crown of humanity’s salvation. Beyond Christ there could never be another.
Yet, when Jesus did not come up to his personal expectation, John sent two of his disciples to ask him: “Art though he that should come, or do we look for another?” At first John was settled in his conviction that Christ was He who should and had come. But now he is unsettled, unsure, unstable.
In this rock-and-roll age we, too, have lost our spiritual balance. We are reeling from side to side looking for Christ or another. Like John, many have not settled the question as to whether it is Christ or another. We need to settle this question once and for all.
The first reason we should settle this question is because it raises doubts as to the finality of Christ as the Saviour of the world. Is he actually the lamb of God that taketh away the sins of the world, or is he still to come? “Do we look for another?”
Many today are secretly and openly asking this question. For instance, in the seminary I had a course in Comparative Religions. The author voiced an appreciation for the worth and beauty in all religions. Also he said that Christianity picked up most of its contents from older religions. His conclusion was that the Christian faith will finally be absorbed in a sort of synthesis of what is best in Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism, etc. In this comparative religions study the author seemed to be unsettled as to whether the Saviour of the world is Christ or Mohammed or Buddha or Confucius or another.
Also there are Unitarian groups operating under the guise of Christian churches. There is little difference between their view and the thesis of Comparative Religions. They openly teach that Christ is not divine; that he is not God’s final, ultimate answer for man’s redemption; that Christ did not die for the sins of the world; that he is not God. As a matter of fact, their teaching reduces Christ to a mere principle, and not a Person. Therefore, they hold that we are not bound by Christ’s commands to repent, believe and be baptized.
Such instability of looking for Christ or another is too shaky to hold attention. There is more to religion than a crowd of unstable, unredeemed people meeting for a sense of false security. Unless our faith in Christ be final it can never demand unconditional surrender. That is what Christ demands in life and in death.
The Christian faith would not be worth a hill of beans if it could be superseded by another. Christ is all and in all. There is no other. If he is not Lord of all, then he is not Lord at all.
We come now to another reason this question should be settled: it raises doubts as to whether Christ completely satisfies.
This was understandable in the very beginning of Christianity. John was confronted by several religious sects. There were the Pharisees, the Sadducees, the Essenes, the Zealots, and others. All these had different views about life and human destiny.
Into that religious syncretism Jesus came saying: “I am the way, the truth, and the life. No man cometh to the Father except by me. Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” “These things have I spoken unto you, that my joy might remain in you, and that your joy might be full.” No other religion implies such claims to satisfy.
Nevertheless, these Jewish sects looked askance at Christ. Even when Christ was about to make his departure from this world, Phillip said unto him, “Lord shew us the Father and it satisfieth us.” With an air of surprise, Jesus said unto him: “Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Phillip? He that hath seen me hath seen the father.” There is no satisfaction beyond the experience of seeing the Father.
This satisfaction in Christ was sublimely expressed by a born-again Christian woman of Philadelphia. In the heyday of Father Divine, one of his followers tried to persuade her to join Divine’s movement. She replied: “Honey, I had better check Father Divine out, Is it true that he was born in Georgia?” The reply was yes. “Well,” she continued, “my Christ is from everlasting to everlasting. For forty-two years He has been my all and in all. He’s my everything. I would not exchange Him for the whole round world.”
All who are in Christ stand in Him complete. Hence, they do not look for another, for He completely satisfies. The old religions before Christianity could not satisfy. Even Judaism could not satisfy. Paul was a strict Judaistic religionist. But he was never really satisfied until he met Christ on the Damascus Road. Then he shouted: “This is it. There is no other name whereby men can be saved. Wherefore, God also hath highly exalted Him and given Him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee must bow … And every tongue should confess that Jesus is Lord.” To Paul there was no thought of another. He was so completely satisfied that he said: “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Trace this satisfaction in Christ to the ends of the earth. Whether in Africa, India, Japan, Russia, no other faith satisfies as faith in Christ. It is as real in prison as in freedom. Even in slavery black people were so satisfied in Christ that they sang: “You may have all this world, but give me Jesus.”
John was in prison when he sent Jesus word: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” He had not settled the question as to the infinite satisfaction in Christ; else there would have been no thought of looking for another. For nothing needs to be asked when there is infinite satisfaction.
Finally, this question ought to be settled because it raises doubts about the unchecked expression of believers in Christ.
There is no faith as expressive as the Christian faith. Check history and experience. Trail those “who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions, quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, … turned to flight the armies of the aliens. … They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute; afflicted, tormented; of whom the world was not worthy. … These all died in faith, not having received the promise but having seen them afar off” (
No other religion is as overtly expressive as Christianity. You can’t beat it. There is no use looking for another. Take Paul, for instance. Nobody could tame him down. When he was brought before the rulers because of his new found joy, he told Festus to his teeth: “I wish you were as I am except in these chains.” Nobody could make him shut up about his saving grace in Jesus Christ.
Ask John Jasper, a black American slave. When he received Christ into his life he went spiritually wild. His strawboss asked him what was the matter with him. He shouted: “I have ligion.” When he kept jumping up and down for joy, the boss sent him to the big house to report to the master. When the master inquired, what is the matter? Again John shouted: “I have ligion, but nobody believes it.” The master said: “Well, I believe it; so you take the day off.” Jasper took from then off, and shouted and preached his way to fame.
No other religion is as expressive as that. It is a known weekly fact that no other religion has inspired people to run, scream, shout and rejoice as does the Christian faith. And these overt expressions are not motivated by what people have and don’t have.
This was attested at the 1978 commencement of Le-Moyne-Owen College of Memphis. A woman sat midway the auditorium, which was packed with sophisticated academicians. When the Dean called the name of her daughter, the girl approached the President for the conferring of her degree. Her mother fully screamed: “Nobody but you, Jesus.” She held up the procedure until her expressive jubilation quieted. Many Christian youths applauded their approval while adult Christians wept for joy throughout the auditorium.
This sort of expressive joy was evidenced at the service that day when John’s two disciples relayed John’s question to Jesus: “Art thou he that should come, or do we look for another?” Jesus said to them: “You go back and tell John the things which you do hear and see. The blind receive their sight, and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.”
There is no need of looking for another. I am Alpha and Omega. There was none before me; there will be no other after me. To these who believe me all doubts are settled, and their expressions of their satisfaction in me cannot be checked.
John got the message, and reconfirmed his conviction that Christ is the one who should and had come, and besides him there is no other. So expressively satisfied with Christ was he that he uncompromisingly gave his life for the only one who was to come. When Herod had his head cut off and brought on a tray to his stepdaughter, Salome, that was John’s majestic answer to his own question. What is yours?
Reprinted from Christ’s Use of Unusables, Nashville: National Baptist Publishing Board, 1980. Used with permission.