Jesus in the Canon and in Gnostic Belief
Jesus is the most important figure in Christianity. Variously called Master, Lord, Messiah, Son of God, and Savior, everything the church teaches revolves in some way around Jesus. In the canon, he is the Bridegroom and his bride is the church. The church teaches that sinners authored and administered the sufferings that Jesus had to endure during his crucifixion. The cruel and violent death did not come about as the juncture of certain circumstances coming together, but rather as a part of the mystery of God's plan. Jesus' death enables sinners to reconcile with God. The Gospel of Matthew says that John the Baptist baptized Jesus in the River Jordan and the Spirit of God descended upon Jesus like a dove (Matthew 3:15–16). John in the Gospel of John sees Jesus approaching and calls him the Lamb of God (John 1:29). The “Lamb of God” phrase alluded to the redemption of Israel at the first Passover and also to the prophecy Jesus was fulfilling as the Son of God, permitting himself to be led to slaughter for the sins of the multitudes. Jesus transformed the Passover meal into the Last Supper with a new blood covenant. That Eucharist would forever after symbolize his sacrifice. The mission of Jesus the Christ and the Holy Spirit arrive at completion in the church. In Roman Catholicism today, the church is called the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Christ is the light of the church, and he endows it with holiness.
The term ecclesia is a Greek word meaning “an assembly,” but when used in a Christian context, it is almost always translated as “church.” In contrast, the word “church” derives from the Greek word kyriake and also the German word kirche, meaning “what belongs to the Lord.”
Salvation flows to those who accept him as their Lord and Savior. He is head of the church and the church is his body. Converts are welcomed in the family that is the church. No salvation is possible outside of the church. This has been the position of the church for centuries. It is no accident that the gospels and the other sacred texts selected for inclusion in the New Testament support this position.
The Gnostic Gospels offer a different view of Jesus. He comes to humanity as a Savior bringing gnosis to those who seek knowledge and desire enlightenment. In this way, Jesus is the Redeemer who helps humans save themselves from the pull of the material world. He gives knowledge (secret to those spiritually adept), inspiring souls to turn inward and seek the Light. He is the divine Light Bearer who illuminates the way from darkness, inspiring the soul to rise to enlightenment. Gnostics saw the cosmos as the very embodiment of God. The path to finding God was to them an inward path. They may have pointed to the Gospel of Luke for verification from Jesus' own words.
And when he was demanded of the Pharisees, when the kingdom of God should come, he answered them and said, The kingdom of God cometh not with observation: Neither shall they say, Lo here! or, lo there! for, behold, the kingdom of God is within you. — Luke 17:20–21
The Gnostics distinguish between rational and experiential knowledge, or, in other words, that which must be directly, intuitively experienced in order to be known. Jesus is a vessel carrying the secret knowledge (gnosis) to enable and empower them on the soul's inward and upward journey. Jesus is the inward guide, and when they reach the stage of enlightenment where the darkness has fallen away and their divine spark has merged into the ocean of Light, they, too, will have become Christ, no longer different or separate from him.