FactChecker: Is the 'I Only Need Jesus!' Declaration Christian?
Note: FactChecker is a monthly series in which Glenn T. Stanton examines claims, myths, and misunderstandings frequently heard in evangelical circles.
We hear this often in good Christian circles. The credo is adopted by many Christians in an effort to declare and live by a more stripped-down faith. They want their Christianity unleaded, organic, unplugged, non-fat, free-range, locally sourced and sustainable. The real-deal without the fluff.
Except it's not.
Believing that all we need is Jesus is simply an incomplete theology and fails to understand Christianity and what it is that God teaches us about our life in him.
Let's examine this in four key parts.
1) Jesus never taught this.
John the Baptist pointed us to Christ and Christ points us to His Father.
Jesus, in John 14, explains something very important about himself to his disciples. He proclaims to them,
I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will knowmy Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.
And we can know the Father because the Son points us to him. Now, how would the "just give me Jesus" folks answer Jesus?
Jesus says he is the Way, the way to somewhere or someone. Jesus told us he is going to prepare a home for us in God's home, a place where we can dwell with the Father, through redemption from the Son, by the Holy Spirit's drawing and keeping. Jesus tells us that he is obedient to all the Father has commanded him "so that the world may know that I love the Father." (John 14:31)
What are the first words of Jesus' recorded in Scripture? They tell of the center of Christ's life, when he tells his parents,
"Why were you looking for me? Did you not know that I must be in my Father's house?" (Luke 2, ESV)
The New King James puts it this way,
And He said to them, "Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father's business?"
Jesus announced to his parents, as if it is obvious, that he must be about his Father's business, in his Father's house. The meaning here is literally, "I must about the things of my Father!"
Jesus our Savior makes a way for us to know and dwell with the Father. It is Christ's delight and unwavering heart to do this, which leads us to our next point.
2) The God of Christianity is not Jesus alone.
Jesus' fundamental essence, personality, and being is as the Second Person of the divine and eternal Holy Trinity: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
Most of the early creeds of the Church were carefully written and proclaimed to make this central tenant of our faith clearly understood for all. We declare and confess one God in Three Divine Persons. We cannot take one member of the Godhead over the others, for to do so is to deny each of them.
This makes the "Just give me Jesus" claim problematic even while it might be very well-intentioned. Consider the ancient Trinity Shield, created to easily communicate to the illiterate the mystery of the Three-in-One. Each of the three are fully, completely, God---one no more than the other---but each of the three are distinct from one another in their divine personhood, character, and nature.
We cannot take Christ without taking his Father and the Holy Spirit. To do so is to not take Christ in actuality. And because of this dramatic and profound truth, addressing the "All I need is Jesus" topic is not mere theological quibbling.
Now, it would be wrong to say that those who take this "All I need is Jesus" attitude are denying the Trinity. It's just that they don't seem to have really considered the fuller implications of their position. While Christianity is not complex, it is neither this simple.
Some who proclaim this singular need will certainly say, "Well, of course. When we say all we need is Jesus, we mean we need God the Father and God the Holy Spirit." To this, the question "Then why don't you say that?" is not unreasonable. The word "all" is by definition an exclusive term.
This leads up to our third point, because to say all you need is the Trinity is not biblical either.
3) Good Ecclesiology Refutes It.
We cannot simultaneously hold the "All I need is Jesus" position and understand how and what Christ established the Church for. There are no lone-ranger Christians. Doesn't Paul tell us that "we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body . . ."? The body of Christ is made up of each of us who are baptized in the name of the Trinity. I Corinthians 12:21 tells us "the eye cannot say to the hand, 'I have no need of you!' And the head cannot say to the feet, 'I don't need you?'" We are told here that "God has arranged the parts of the body, every one of them, just as he wanted them to be"?
And Hebrews 10 commands us in our relationships with the others that we make up the mystical body of Christ with,
And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.
By our very nature as Christians we are bound to others. We need them and they need us. That is how God fashioned his Church to work as Christ's beloved Bride. As such, we cannot forsake the assembling of ourselves together.
4) Creation contradicts it.
In the very second chapter of the first book of scripture, God says something deeply profound that curiously contradicts this seemingly noble idea. Here we have the second telling of humanity's creation. God has created man first. It's a remarkable situation for Adam. Man is there in God's wonderful, untainted creation with every tree (save one) for his delight, pleasant to the eye and delicious to the tongue. And best of all, the man had perfect, unhindered communion with God. They walked and talked together. If anything was ever idyllic, this was.
But in this very setting, God said something quite profound about the man. Perhaps the most profound statement uttered about humanity in all of human telling, second only to explaining that male and female are uniquely created in the image of God.
What was this statement?
"Then the Lord God said, 'It is not good that the man should be alone . . .'"
Before the Fall had touched and defaced humanity and creation, God said there was something that was not good. It was not good for man to be alone.
But what might we have said to God in response to His statement? I know what I would say:
"But God, I'm not alone. I have You, what else could I possibly want or need?"
God did not forget or overlook the fact of his own sufficiency. He wants to show us something very important about us, what God made us to be. Man was made for another, like him, but different as well. And it was not good without . . . her.
God made us in such a way that even in our sole relationship with him, we are not as we were created to be. Yes, that is very curious, even startling, but it's what God said.
Just as God is a community of Divine Persons, man as God's unique image-bearer in creation must live in a community of human persons. And the first community of human persons that God established is the communion of husband and wife called to enter a union of intense physical, emotional and spiritual intimacy of love which is life-giving, just as the Trinity is life-giving. This human pro-creative union will bring forth the third member of this human trinity after their own kind. A baby. A new generation God-imagers.
This is what God gave us to satisfy and solve the original problem of man's solitude.
Jesus is Lord of all creation. We must hold him above all and before all. But we don't hold him alone. We honor the Lord of all creation by enjoying, glorying, observing, and participating in the wonder, beauty, majesty, and fullness of His creation.
Christians are not gnostics nor solipsists. We live in our Father's world. And we do so with others.
Other articles in this series: