The story of Christianity is naturally connected to the story of Christ. God's plan of redemption is revealed in what Christ did for us. Known as the atonement, what Christ did for us provides the only way to resolve our broken relationship with God.
But before we get to that, let's spend some time looking at who Christ is, His unique claims, and the reliability of the New Testament.
Who is Christ?
Christ is not actually a name, but a title. The Old Testament set the groundwork for a coming Messiah and "Christ" is the Greek translation of this word, meaning, "anointed one." The Hebrews looked forward to the coming of the Messiah. Jesus Christ is a name combined with a title. He is Jesus the Messiah – the fulfillment of Old Testament expectations and the key to God's plan to restore our broken relationship with Him.
The Claims of Christ
The question, "Who is Christ?" is significant. Even Christ asked his followers, "Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15, Mark 8:29, Luke 9:20).  This question is still relevant to day, especially in light of the claims of Jesus.
Jesus made many extraordinary claims, leaving His listeners with very few options regarding His nature. For instance, He equated Himself with God – something even His contemporary critics understood. In John 10:32-33, we read the following: "Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?' 'We are not stoning you for any of these,' replied the Jews, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'"
Earlier, in John 8:58, Jesus equated Himself with God, the "I AM" of the Old Testament (Exodus 3:14) when He said, "I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am!" Again, His contemporaries understood what Jesus was suggesting and in the very next verse "they picked up stones to stone him."
Jesus also claimed the ability to forgive sins. In Mark 2:5, for example, Christ says, "Your sins are forgiven." In Mark 2:7 His critics said, "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"
Christ also accepted worship – something reserved for God alone, particularly considering His Jewish background and cultural setting. Examples of Jesus accepting worship are found in Matthew 28:9, John 9:38, and more.
Was Jesus merely a man? Was He insane? C.S. Lewis answered these questions best when he wrote, "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people say about Him: 'I'm 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 either be a lunatic … 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 …" 
The New Testament
The New Testament records that Jesus equated Himself with God, that His critics understood this, that He claimed to forgive sins, and that He received worship. He also said, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me" (John 14:6).
These are impressive claims. But how do we know that the New Testament record of Jesus is accurate?
As has often been stated, the New Testament documents are the most well attested of ancient history. These documents contain the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – that provide the most information about Christ, His life, His ministry and so forth. There are more than 5,000 copies of the New Testament in existence and multiple thousands of fragments or portions of the New Testament.
Claims that the New Testament documents have been changed over time and with translation are simply not true, especially when one compares existing documents over the course of history (a field of study known as textual criticism). While there is room for slight variations in wording and minor copyist errors known as variants, none of these impact essential areas of Christian belief and are, in fact, inconsequential when it comes to Christ and His claims. 
In short, the New Testament documents are accurate. In addition, the period of time between the time of Christ and the writing of some early New Testament documents is short by historical standards. For instance, 1 Corinthians was written by the Apostle Paul in 55 A.D., about 22 years or so after the events recorded in the Gospels. This means that there was no time for legends to develop about Christ. It also means that many people who were alive at the time of Christ were still alive when much of the New Testament was written.
Moreover, 1 Corinthians contains passages that present the basic principles of the Gospel such as 1 Corinthians 15:1-8: "Now, brothers, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that, he appeared to more than five hundred of the brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living …"
Paul goes on to write about the cornerstone of Christianity – belief in the resurrection of Christ (1 Corinthians 15:12-20).
The Atonement is what Christ did for us through His death and resurrection. While there are several Christian approaches to the finer details of exactly how the Atonement restores our broken relationship with God, all agree that the Atonement involves God providing us with an opportunity to restore our broken relationship with Him through Christ as a result of the death and resurrection of Jesus.
John 3:16 is often quoted, but this does not diminish the fact that it contains the essential elements of God's plan and the atonement: "For God so loved the world that he gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life."
God has reached out to us. Christ has died for us. Christ lives again for us. We need only accept God's grace humbly through Christ, turn away from the wrongs we have done, and receive Christ as our Lord and Savior. Then we are ready for the first steps in the Christian life.
The next in this series deals wit the the first steps in living for Christ.
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Robert Velarde is author of Conversations with C.S. Lewis (InterVarsity Press), The Heart of Narnia (NavPress), and Inside The Screwtape Letters (Baker Books). He studied philosophy of religion and apologetics at Denver Seminary and is pursuing graduate studies in philosophy at Southern Evangelical Seminary.
 Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are from the New International Version of the Bible.
 C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity (Macmillan, 1952), Book II, Chapter 3, pp. 55-56. For a fine contemporary explanation and defense of this line of reasoning see Kenneth Samples, Without a Doubt (Baker, 2004), chapter 8. Further evidence for Christ is provided in Lee Strobel's The Case for Christ (Zondervan, 1998).
 See, for instance, F.F. Bruce, The New Testament Documents: Are They Reliable? (InterVarsity Press) and Craig Blomberg, The Historical Reliability of the Gospels (InterVarsity Press, 2nd edition).