Contents

God Is: 4

fullness of the Godhead 4

In Christ all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form 5

The Trinity 5

The Granville Sharp rule (TSKS construction) states: 7

Christologically Significant Texts 7

Evidences of The Deity of The Lord Jesus Christ 9

Christ Possesses the Attributes of DEITY 9

Christ Performs the Work of DEITY 9

Christ Accepted the Worship Due DEITY 9

Christ is Given the Titles of DEITY 9

Jesus Claimed to Be God 10

The Apostles Claimed that Jesus Is God 10

Attributes: 10

Eternality of Christ 10

Omnipresence 11

Omniscience 11

Omnipotence 12

Immutability 12

All attributes of DEITY belong to Christ 12

Work: 12

Creation 12

Preservation 13

Forgiveness of sins 13

Power to raise the dead 14

Judgment of the world 14

Worship: 14

Accepts Worship 14

Given the Titles: 15

Son of God 15

Son of man 15

YHWH 15

God 16

God With US: 16

Hypostatic Union 17

Deity in The Revelation 18

Messianic Proof of Christ’s DEITY 21

Introduction: Theos in the New Testament 21

God Is:

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fullness of the Godhead

(Gk. plērōma tēs theotētos) (2:9) Strong’s #4138; 2320: The Greek word plērōma indicates “plenitude” and “totality.” The Gnostics used the word to describe the totality of all deities. Both Paul and John used the word to describe Christ, who is the fullness, the plenitude of God, for all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily (Col 1:19; 2:9). Since all of God’s fullness resides in Christ, every spiritual reality is found in Christ. In Him, we lack nothing. The Greek word theotētos for Godhead is used only here in the New Testament and designates the totality of God’s nature and person. All the fullness of the Godhead “dwells” or “permanently resides” in the body of Jesus, the God-man. In Him, we lack nothing. The Greek word theotētos for Godhead is used only here in the New Testament and designates the totality of God’s nature and person. All the fullness of the Godhead “dwells” or “permanently resides” in the body of Jesus, the God-man. [1]

In Christ all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form

Jesus Christ was God in a body. This passage describes both Christ’s deity and his humanity. The God-Man was both fully divine and fully human. Deity (theotes) is used to refer to the essence of God as opposed to the attributes (theiotes as in Rom. 1:20) of God. Christ possesses the fullness of the essence of God.

The evidence for the deity of Christ has been affirmed throughout the history of Christianity. Christ has the attributes of deity, performs the actions of deity, is given the titles of deity, and claims deity of himself. In addition the apostles also claim deity for The Lord Jesus as well.[2]

The Trinity

A proper definition of the Trinity states: “the Trinity is composed of three united Persons without separate existence—so completely united as to form one God. The divine nature subsists in three distinctions—Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.”

the proper way to designate the Trinity became “one in essence.” The essential oneness of God is linked to Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord is one (Heb. echad, “compound unity; united one”). This statement stresses not only the uniqueness of God but also the unity of God (cf. also James 2:19). It means all three Persons possess the summation of the divine attributes but yet the essence of God is undivided. Oneness in essence also emphasizes that the three Persons of the Trinity do not act independently of one another. This was a constant theme of Jesus in rebuffing the charges of the Jews (cf. John 5:19; 8:28; 12:49; 14:10).

“In God there are no three individuals alongside of, and separate from, one another, but only personal self-distinctions within the Divine essence.”

This unity within three Persons is seen in Old Testament passages such as Isaiah 48:16 where the Father has sent the Messiah and the Spirit to speak to the restored nation. In Isaiah 61:1 the Father has anointed the Messiah with the Spirit for His mission. These references emphasize both the equality and the unity of the three Persons.

The Father is recognized as authoritative and supreme (1 Cor. 8:6); the Son is also recognized as equal to the Father in every respect (John 5:21–23); the Spirit is likewise recognized as equal to the Father and the Son (cf. Matt. 12:31). (This topic will be developed further under the discussion of the DEITY of Christ and the DEITY of the Holy Spirit.)[3]

C. S. Lewis was correct when he said that the only options available concerning the Person of Christ were: He was a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Considering the enormous claims that Christ made, it would be impossible simply to designate Him a “good teacher.” He claimed to be much more than a teacher.

The Granville Sharp rule (TSKS construction) states:

If two

(1) singular,

(2) personal,

(3) non-proper nouns (substantives)

(4) of the same case

(5) are connected by καί and

(6) the article precedes the first substantive

and is not repeated before the second substantive, then the second substantive always refers to the same person that is expressed or described by the first substantive.

In other words, if ALL the conditions are met, then the first and second substantives describe the same person.

Note: Many problems arise if ALL limitations are not observed

Christologically Significant Texts

Granville Sharp believed that several christologically significant texts involved the TSKS construction. However, several of these involved dubious textual variants (e.g., Acts 20:28; Jude 4), and others had proper names (Eph 5:5; 2 Thess 1:12; 1 Tim 5:21; 2 Tim 4:1).

This leaves two passages, Titus 2:13 and 2 Pet 1:1.

Titus 2:13 τοῦ μεγάλου θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ

It has frequently been alleged that θεός is a proper name and, hence, that Sharp’s rule cannot apply to constructions in which it is employed. We have already argued that θεός is not a proper name in Greek. We simply wish to point out here that in the TSKS construction θεός is used over a dozen times in the NT (e.g., Luke 20:37; John 20:27; Rom 15:6; 2 Cor 1:3; Gal 1:4; Jas 1:27) and always (if we exclude the christologically significant texts) in reference to one person. This phenomenon is not true of any other proper name in said construction (every instance involving true proper names always points to two individuals). Since that argument carries no weight, there is no good reason to reject Titus 2:13 as an explicit affirmation of the deity of Christ.

2 Pet 1:1 τοῦ θεοῦ ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ

our God and Savior, Jesus Christ

Some grammarians have objected that since ἡμῶν is connected with θεοῦ, two persons are in view. The pronoun seems to “bracket” the noun, effectively isolating the trailing noun. However in v 11 of this same chapter (as well as in 2:20 and 3:18), the author writes τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν καὶ σωτῆρος, Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ, an expression which refers to one person, Jesus Christ: “Why refuse to apply the same rule to 2 Peter 1:1, that all admit … to be true of 2 Peter 1:11 [not to mention 2:20 and 3:18]?” Further, more than half of the NT texts that fit Sharp’s rule involve some intervening word between the two substantives. Several of them have an intervening possessive pronoun or other gen. modifier. Yet, in all of these constructions only one person is clearly in view.61 In all such instances the intervening term had no effect on breaking the construction. This being the case, there is no good reason for rejecting 2 Pet 1:1 as an explicit affirmation of the deity of Christ.[4]

The incarnation did not subtract deity; it added humanity.[5]

Evidences of The Deity of The Lord Jesus Christ

Christ Possesses the Attributes of DEITY

1. Eternality (John 8:58; 17:5; Isa. 9:6; Mic. 5:2)

2. Omnipresence (Matt. 18:20; 28:20; John 3:13; 1:50)

3. Omniscience (Matt. 16:21; Luke 6:8; John 2:24, 25; 6:64; 21:17)

4. Omnipotence (Matt. 28:18; Mark 5:11–15; Phil. 3:21)

5. Immutability (Heb. 1:10–12; 13:8)

6. All attributes of DEITY belong to Christ (Col. 2:9)

Christ Performs the Work of DEITY

1. Creation (John 1:3, 10; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2)

2. Preservation (Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3)

3. Forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:1–12; Luke 5:24; Col. 3:13)

4. Power to raise the dead (John 5:21; 11:43)

5. Judgment of the world (John 5:22, 27; 2 Cor. 5:10)

Christ Accepted the Worship Due DEITY

1. John 5:23

2. Luke 24:52

Christ is Given the Titles of DEITY

1. Son of God (Matt. 26:63–64; Mark 1:1; John 10:36)

2. Son of man (Dan. 7:13; Mark 2:10)

3. YHWH (Luke 1:76 [compare Mal. 3:1]; Rom. 10:13 [compare Joel 2:32])

4. God (John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Heb. 1:8)

Jesus Claimed to Be God

1. By claiming to be YHWH (Luke 1:76)

2. By accepting worship (Matt. 28; John 9)

3. By identifying himself with God in context of monotheism (John 10:30; 17:5).

4. By explicit claims (John 8:58)

5. By claiming to do what only God can do (John 5:19–27; Matt. 12:5–8)

6. By accepting the titles of DEITY (John 20:28; Matt. 16:16)

The Apostles Claimed that Jesus Is God

Apostolic assertions for Christ’s DEITY can be found in John 1:1; Colossians 1:19; 2:9; Hebrews 1:8, Romans 9:5 and Titus 2:13.[6]

Attributes:

Eternality of Christ

Jesus said to them, “Truly I tell you, before Abraham was, I am.”” (John 8:58, CSB)

[“God replied to Moses, “I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: I AM has sent me to you.” God also said to Moses, “Say this to the Israelites: The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you. This is my name forever; this is how I am to be remembered in every generation.” (Exodus 3:14–15, CSB) ]

Now, Father, glorify me in your presence with that glory I had with you before the world existed.” (John 17:5, CSB)

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, CSB)

Bethlehem Ephrathah, you are small among the clans of Judah; one will come from you to be ruler over Israel for me. His origin is from antiquity, from ancient times.” (Micah 5:2, CSB)

Omnipresence

For where two or three are gathered together in my name, I am there among them.”” (Matthew 18:20, CSB)

teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you. And remember, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”” (Matthew 28:20, CSB)

No one has ascended into heaven except the one who descended from heaven—the Son of Man.” (John 3:13, CSB)

Jesus responded to him, “Do you believe because I told you I saw you under the fig tree? You will see greater things than this.”” (John 1:50, CSB)

Omniscience

From then on Jesus began to point out to his disciples that it was necessary for him to go to Jerusalem and suffer many things from the elders, chief priests, and scribes, be killed, and be raised the third day.” (Matthew 16:21, CSB)

But he knew their thoughts and told the man with the shriveled hand, “Get up and stand here.” So he got up and stood there.” (Luke 6:8, CSB)

Jesus, however, would not entrust himself to them, since he knew them all” (John 2:24, CSB)

and because he did not need anyone to testify about man; for he himself knew what was in man.” (John 2:25, CSB)

But there are some among you who don’t believe.” (For Jesus knew from the beginning those who did not believe and the one who would betray him.)” (John 6:64, CSB)

He asked him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was grieved that he asked him the third time, “Do you love me?” He said, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” “Feed my sheep,” Jesus said.” (John 21:17, CSB)

Omnipotence

Jesus came near and said to them, “All authority has been given to me in heaven and on earth.” (Matthew 28:18, CSB)

A large herd of pigs was there, feeding on the hillside. The demons begged him, “Send us to the pigs, so that we may enter them.” So he gave them permission, and the unclean spirits came out and entered the pigs. The herd of about two thousand rushed down the steep bank into the sea and drowned there. The men who tended them ran off and reported it in the town and the countryside, and people went to see what had happened. They came to Jesus and saw the man who had been demon-possessed, sitting there, dressed and in his right mind; and they were afraid.” (Mark 5:11–15, CSB)

He will transform the body of our humble condition into the likeness of his glorious body, by the power that enables him to subject everything to himself.” (Philippians 3:21, CSB)

Immutability

And: In the beginning, Lord, you established the earth, and the heavens are the works of your hands; they will perish, but you remain. They will all wear out like clothing; you will roll them up like a cloak, and they will be changed like clothing. But you are the same, and your years will never end.” (Hebrews 1:10–12, CSB)

Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8, CSB)

All attributes of DEITY belong to Christ

For the entire fullness of God’s nature dwells bodily in Christ,” (Colossians 2:9, CSB)

Work:

Creation

All things were created through him, and apart from him not one thing was created that has been created.” (John 1:3, CSB)

He was in the world, and the world was created through him, and yet the world did not recognize him.” (John 1:10, CSB)

For everything was created by him, in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities— all things have been created through him and for him.” (Colossians 1:16, CSB)

In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son. God has appointed him heir of all things and made the universe through him.” (Hebrews 1:2, CSB)

Preservation

He is before all things, and by him all things hold together.” (Colossians 1:17, CSB)

The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact expression of his nature, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high.” (Hebrews 1:3, CSB)

Forgiveness of sins

When he entered Capernaum again after some days, it was reported that he was at home. So many people gathered together that there was no more room, not even in the doorway, and he was speaking the word to them. They came to him bringing a paralytic, carried by four of them. Since they were not able to bring him to Jesus because of the crowd, they removed the roof above him, and after digging through it, they lowered the mat on which the paralytic was lying. Seeing their faith, Jesus told the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” But some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts: “Why does he speak like this? He’s blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Right away Jesus perceived in his spirit that they were thinking like this within themselves and said to them, “Why are you thinking these things in your hearts? Which is easier: to say to the paralytic, ‘Your sins are forgiven,’ or to say, ‘Get up, take your mat, and walk’? But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he told the paralytic—“I tell you: get up, take your mat, and go home.” Immediately he got up, took the mat, and went out in front of everyone. As a result, they were all astounded and gave glory to God, saying, “We have never seen anything like this!”” (Mark 2:1–12, CSB)

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he told the paralyzed man, “I tell you: Get up, take your stretcher, and go home.”” (Luke 5:24, CSB)

bearing with one another and forgiving one another if anyone has a grievance against another. Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you are also to forgive.” (Colossians 3:13, CSB)

Power to raise the dead

And just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so the Son also gives life to whom he wants.” (John 5:21, CSB)

After he said this, he shouted with a loud voice, “Lazarus, come out!”” (John 11:43, CSB)

Then he came up and touched the open coffin, and the pallbearers stopped. And he said, “Young man, I tell you, get up!”” (Luke 7:14, CSB)

Judgment of the world

The Father, in fact, judges no one but has given all judgment to the Son,” (John 5:22, CSB)

And he has granted him the right to pass judgment, because he is the Son of Man.” (John 5:27, CSB)

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each may be repaid for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil.” (2 Corinthians 5:10, CSB)

Worship:

Accepts Worship

so that all people may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. Anyone who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.” (John 5:23, CSB)

After worshiping him, they returned to Jerusalem with great joy.” (Luke 24:52, CSB)

Given the Titles:

Son of God

The angel [Gabriel] replied to her: “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore, the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.” (Luke 1:35, CSB)

But Jesus kept silent. The high priest said to him, “I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God.” “You have said it,” Jesus told him. “But I tell you, in the future you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.”” (Matthew 26:63–64, CSB)

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God.” (Mark 1:1, CSB)

do you say, ‘You are blaspheming’ to the one the Father set apart and sent into the world, because I said: I am the Son of God?” (John 10:36, CSB)

Son of man

I continued watching in the night visions, and suddenly one like a son of man was coming with the clouds of heaven. He approached the Ancient of Days and was escorted before him.” (Daniel 7:13, CSB)

But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins”—he told the paralytic—” (Mark 2:10, CSB)

YHWH

And you, child, will be called a prophet of the Most High, for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways,” (Luke 1:76, CSB)

“See, I am going to send my messenger, and he will clear the way before me. Then the Lord you seek will suddenly come to his temple, the Messenger of the covenant you delight in—see, he is coming,” says the Lord of Armies.” (Malachi 3:1, CSB)

For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” (Romans 10:13, CSB)

Then everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved, for there will be an escape for those on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem, as the Lord promised, among the survivors the Lord calls.” (Joel 2:32, CSB)

God

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1, CSB)

No one has ever seen God. The one and only Son, who is himself God and is at the Father’s side—he has revealed him.” (John 1:18, CSB)

Thomas responded to him, “My Lord and my God!”” (John 20:28, CSB)

but to the Son: Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, and the scepter of your kingdom is a scepter of justice.” (Hebrews 1:8, CSB)

God. In Hebrews 1:8 the writer ascribes Psalm 45:6–7 to Christ. The superscription to the quotation from Psalm 45:6–7 is, “But of the Son He says”; then He quotes the psalm saying, “Thy throne, O God

OT = Psalm 45:6 Elohim [Hebrew lemma:אֱלֹהִים],

Septuagint = Psalm 45:6 Theos [Greek lemma:Θεὸς)

NT = Heb. 1:8 Theos [Greek lemma:Θεὸς]).

God With US:

Therefore, the Lord himself will give you a sign: See, the virgin will conceive, have a son, and name him Immanuel.” (Isaiah 7:14, CSB)

It will pour into Judah, flood over it, and sweep through, reaching up to the neck; and its flooded banks will fill your entire land, Immanuel!” (Isaiah 8:8, CSB)

See, the virgin will become pregnant and give birth to a son, and they will name him Immanuel, which is translated “God is with us.”” (Matthew 1:23, CSB)

For a child will be born for us, a son will be given to us, and the government will be on his shoulders. He will be named Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Eternal Father, Prince of Peace.” (Isaiah 9:6, CSB)

Hypostatic Union

The relationship between these two natures in Christ is commonly referred to as the Hypostatic Union.

The orthodox statement of the Hypostatic Union, first set forth by the Council of Chalcedon in a.d. 451 (a meeting of early Christian leaders to clarify scriptural truth), says:

In agreement, therefore, with the holy fathers, we all unanimously teach harmoniously that we should confess that our Lord Jesus Christ is one and the same Son, the same perfect in Godhead and the same perfect in manhood, truly God and truly man, the same of a rational soul and body, consubstantial with the Father in Godhead, and the same consubstantial with us in manhood, like us in all things except sin; begotten from the Father before the ages as regards His Godhead, in the last days, the same, because of us and because of our salvation begotten from the Virgin Mary, the Theotokos, as regards his manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, only-begotten, made known in two natures without confusion, without change, without division, without separation, the difference of the natures being by no means removed because of the union, but the property of each nature being preserved, and coalescing in one person (prosopon) and one hypostasis (hupostasis)—not parted or divided into two persons (prosopa), but one and the same Son, only begotten, divine Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets of old and Jesus Christ himself have taught us about him, and the creed of our Fathers has handed down (J. N. D. Kelly, Early Christian Doctrines, rev. ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1978, 339–40).

Deity in The Revelation

John, who so clearly portrays the humanity of Jesus in his Gospel, was inspired to balance this perspective by presenting a graphic picture of the divine Christ, of Christ as God. We cannot confine this understanding to one section of Revelation, for it pervades the whole book; we therefore do well to conclude this study by summarizing the presentation of Christ’s deistic glory from all of Revelation.

Chapter 1 records a vision of Jesus Christ, identified three times by name (vv.1,2,5), by His attributes, and by His works. This vision is endorsed and ratified by the Father (v.8) to establish its authority, and then Christ is described by His messianic title (Son of Man—Dan 7:13), thus laying further claim to DEITY. The description of His physical appearance, especially His face shining like the sun (v.13–16), furthers His claim to DEITY, and this is completed by the symbol of a two-edged sword, which represents divine judgment (Rev 19:15). The claim to have mastery over death and Hades (v.18) completes the assertion of DEITY for the person of Jesus Christ. The picture that emerges is one which is nowhere as forcibly or graphically presented in the New Testament. There can be no question in the reader’s mind that this Jesus is in every respect God, and no longer human.

Chapters 2–3 present a Jesus Christ who has obvious authority, who is at the same time resurrected, divine, omnipotent, omnipresent, holy, eternal, and a judge.

The third division of Revelation does much to confirm Christ’s DEITY, for chapter 4 plainly portrays God the Father and the worship to which He is entitled, and then 5:1–7 portrays the Father personally handing the scroll which no one has the power to open, to the Lamb (Jesus Christ). This is particularly significant, for, in front of the Father, the worshipers of chapter 4 now confer their worship on the Lamb with no remonstrance from the Father. Clearly and emphatically, the Father recognizes the Lamb as God, and furthermore the Lamb’s omnipotence is established by His ability to break the seals which no one else is able to break. Comparing 4:5 with 5:6 emphasizes the claim to equality with God, for they both reveal that God and the Lamb have the seven spirits of God. The worship scene is repeated in 7:9–17. The next contribution this section makes to the claims of Jesus Christ’s DEITY is the presentation of the Lamb as the Messiah (e.g. 11:15; 14:1–5; 19:6–10) and especially His victory over Satan (20:1–3), for Satan is everywhere depicted as superior to the angels and inferior only to God (until the God-ordained event of 12:7–12). This division closes with a picture of the Lamb enthroned beside God (22:1–3).

The epilogue, too, makes a final claim to DEITY for Jesus (22:16–17), stressing His authority, His person, and His vicarious work.

This purpose of revealing the DEITY of Christ is thus seen to permeate the whole book, and no unbiased reader of Revelation can reach any conclusion other than that Christ is God, with the full endorsement and approval of the Father. He has received His throne from the hand of God, unlike Satan who tried to usurp the office. Jesus Christ’s powers and attributes are all those of DEITY. Any doubt of His DEITY must be laid to rest.[7]

Purpose of 1 John: Robertson mentions the view of Westcott, that John wrote his Gospel to prove the deity of our Lord, assuming His humanity, whereas he wrote his first epistle to prove His humanity, assuming His deity.

John was inspired to presenting a graphic picture of the deity of Christ, of Christ as God in Revelation.

Messianic Proof of Christ’s DEITY

1. The Old Testament says “Messiah is God.”

Isaiah 7:14: Immanuel

Isaiah 9:6: Mighty God

Isaiah 40:10: LORD God

Daniel 7:13–28: Ancient of Days

Micah 5:2: From Everlasting

Zechariah 12:10: YHWH

Zechariah 14:16: Lord of Hosts (or Lord Almighty)

Psalm 45:6: God (Heb. 1:8)

Psalm 110:1: Lord—(Matt. 22)

Psalm 118:22: Stone (used 4 times in New Testament)

2. Jesus is Messiah (Hebrew basis for Greek christos or Christ)

Matthew 16:16–17, 20

Mark 8:29

Luke 9:20

Jesus alone fulfills all the prophecies.

3. Therefore Jesus is God.

Introduction: Theos in the New Testament

A. Background to the New Testament Use of θεός

1. θεός in the Septuagint

a. As Rendering אֵל

b. As Rendering אֱלֹהִים

c. As Rendering יְהוָה

d. The Interrelationship of אֵל, אֱלֹהִים, and יְהוָה

2. θεός in Extrabiblical Literature

a. As Applied to Gods

b. As Applied to Human Beings

c. As Applied to the God of Israel

3. Conclusion

B. Analysis of the New Testament Use of θεός

1. Statistical Summary

2. The Nominative Singular (ὁ) θεός

a. (ὁ) θεός with εἶναι Expressed

(1) ὁ θεός as Subject

(2) θεός as Subject

(3) ὁ θεός as Predicate

(4) θεός as Predicate

b. (ὁ) θεός with εἶναι Unexpressed

(1) ὁ θεός as Subject

(2) θεός as Subject

(3) ὁ θεός as Predicate

(4) θεός as Predicate

c. (ὁ) θεός as Subject

d. (ὁ) θεός as Predicate

3. The Relation between ὁ θεός and θεός

a. Suggested Distinctions

b. Frequently Interchangeable

c. Occasionally Distinguishable

4. The Principal Referent(s) of (ὁ) θεός

a. Synoptic Gospels

b. Johannine Corpus

c. Acts

d. Pauline Corpus

e. Hebrews, James, and Jude

f. Petrine Epistles

g. Conclusion

C. Classification of the New Testament Use of θεός[8]

Pre-Existence and Eternality of Christ

The eternality and DEITY of Christ are inseparably linked together. Those who deny His eternality also deny His DEITY. If the DEITY of Christ is established, there is no problem in accepting His eternality.[9]

DEITY of Christ

MEANING OF CHRIST’S DEITY

During the early centuries of the church there were groups that denied the true humanity of Christ. But the reverse is the emphasis today. In the past two hundred years liberal theology has vigorously expressed a denial of Christ’s DEITY. Yet C. S. Lewis was correct when he said that the only options available concerning the Person of Christ were: He was a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Considering the enormous claims that Christ made, it would be impossible simply to designate Him a “good teacher.” He claimed to be much more than a teacher.

To affirm that Christ is God is not simply to suggest He is “God-like.” Christ is absolutely equal with the Father in His Person and His work. Christ is undiminished DEITY. In commenting on the phrase “(Christ) existed in the form of God” in Philippians 2:6, B. B. Warfield says, “He is declared, in the most express manner possible, to be all that God is, to possess the whole fulness of attributes which make God God.”

IMPORTANCE OF CHRIST’S DEITY

An attack on the DEITY of Jesus Christ is an attack on the bedrock of Christianity. At the heart of orthodox belief is the recognition that Christ died a substitutionary death to provide salvation for a lost humanity. If Jesus were only a man He could not have died to save the world, but because of His DEITY, His death had infinite value whereby He could die for the entire world.

TEACHING OF CHRIST’S DEITY

The Scriptures are replete with the personal claims of Christ as well as the testimony of others concerning His DEITY. The gospel of John is particularly rich in its emphasis on Christ’s DEITY.

His names. (1) God. In Hebrews 1:8ff. the writer states the superiority of Christ to angels and ascribes Psalm 45:6–7 to Christ. The superscription to the quotation from Psalm 45:6–7 is, “But of the Son He says”; then He quotes the psalm saying, “Thy throne, O God {3X}

(Elohim [Hebrew lemma:אֱלֹהִים], Theos [LXX Greek lemma:Θεὸς)

is forever” and “therefore God.” Both designations “God” have reference to the Son (Heb. 1:8 [Greek lemma:Θεὸς]). Upon seeing the resurrected Christ with His wounds displayed, Thomas confessed, “My Lord and My God” [κύριος & θεός] (John 20:28). (Some who reject Christ’s DEITY amazingly suggest that Thomas’ statement was an outburst of profanity.) Titus 2:13 refers to Jesus as “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” [θεοῦ καὶ σωτῆρος ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ[10]]

The Granville Sharpe rule of Greek grammar states that when two nouns are joined by kai (and) and the first noun has the article and the second does not, then the two nouns refer to the same thing. Hence, “great God” and “Savior” both refer to “Christ Jesus.” John 1:18 declares that “the only begotten God”—a reference to Christ—has explained the Father.

(μονογενὴς θεὸς)

No one has seen God at any time; the one and only, God, the one who is in the bosom of the Father—that one has made him known.

Several early manuscripts, including two very early papyrus manuscripts, have “the one and only, God,” which may also be translated as “the only begotten God.” Other early manuscripts and related later witnesses have “the only begotten Son.” The difference is in referent, God or Son. Many textual critics (Metzger, Comfort, Omanson) consider “only begotten Son” as assimilation with similar language elsewhere in John (e.g., John 3:16, 18).[11]

(2) Lord. In Christ’s debate with the Pharisees He demonstrated that Messiah was greater than simply a descendant of David. He reminded them that David himself called Messiah “my Lord” (Matt. 22:44). In Romans 10:9, 13 Paul refers to Jesus as Lord. In verse 9 he emphasizes that it is recognition of Jesus as Lord (DEITY) that results in salvation. In verse 13 Paul quotes from Joel 2:32, where the reference concerns the Lord; but Paul applies it to Jesus, affirming Christ’s equality with Yahweh of the Old Testament. In Hebrews 1:10 the writer applies Psalm 102:25 to Christ, calling Him “Lord.”

(3) Son of God. Jesus claimed to be the Son of God on a number of occasions (cf. John 5:25). This name for Christ is frequently misunderstood; some suggest it means the Son is inferior to the Father. The Jews, however, understood the claim Christ was making; but saying He was the Son of God the Jews said He was “making Himself equal with God” (John 5:19).

His attributes. (1) Eternal. John 1:1 affirms the eternality of Christ. The verb “was” (Gk. imperfect hen) suggests His continuous existence in time past. In Hebrews 1:11–12 the writer applies Psalm 102:25–27, expressing the eternality of God, to Christ.

(2) Omnipresent. In Matthew 28:20 Christ promised the disciples, “I am with you always.” Recognizing that Christ has a human nature as well as a divine nature, it should be stated that in His humanity He is localized in heaven, but in His DEITY He is omnipresent. Christ’s indwelling of every believer demands that He is omnipresent (cf. John 14:23; Eph. 3:17; Col. 1:27; Rev. 3:20).

(3) Omniscient. Jesus knew what was in the heart of man and therefore did not entrust Himself to man (John 2:25). He told the Samaritan woman her past history even though He had not met her previously (John 4:18). His disciples recognized His omniscience (John 16:30). His numerous predictions of His death demonstrate His omniscience (cf. Matt. 16:21; 17:22; 20:18–19; 26:1–2).

(4) Omnipotent. Jesus had all authority of heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18). He had the power to forgive sins—something only God can do (cf. Mark 2:5, 7, 10; Isa. 43:25; 55:7).

(5) Immutable. Christ does not change; He is forever the same (Heb. 13:8). This is an attribute of DEITY (Mal. 3:6; James 1:17).

(6) Life. All creation—humanity, animals, plants—are alive because they have been infused with life. Christ is different. He has life in Himself; it is not a derived life, but He is life (John 1:4; 14:6; cf. Ps. 36:9; Jer. 2:13).

His works. (1) Creator. John states that there is nothing that has come into being apart from Christ’s creating it (John 1:3). Colossians 1:16 teaches that Christ created not only the earth but also the heavens and the angelic realm.

(2) Sustainer. Colossians 1:17 teaches that Christ is the cohesive force of the universe. Hebrews 1:3 suggests Christ “carries all things forward on their appointed course.” This is the force of the Greek participle pheron.

(3) Forgiver of sin. Only God can forgive sin; the fact that Jesus forgave sin demonstrates His DEITY (cf. Mark 2:1–12; Isa. 43:25).

(4) Miracle worker. The miracles of Christ were an attestation of His DEITY. It is a valuable study to note the miracles of Christ and see the claim of DEITY underlying the miracle. For example, when Jesus gave sight to the blind man, the people would have been reminded of Psalm 146:8, “The Lord opens the eyes of the blind.”

He receives worship. It is a fundamental truth of Scripture that only God is to be worshiped (Deut. 6:13; 10:20; Matt. 4:10; Acts 10:25–26). The fact that Jesus receives the worship of people is a strong attestation to His DEITY. In John 5:23 Jesus said that He was to be accorded honor and reverence just as people honor the Father. If Jesus were not God, this statement would be utterly blasphemous. In the benediction of 2 Corinthians 13:14, the blessing of the triune God is accorded the believer. The manner of the benediction suggests the equality of the persons. At the triumphal entry Jesus applied the chanting of the young people to Himself by quoting Psalm 8:2, “Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babes Thou hast prepared praise for Thyself” (Matt. 21:16). Psalm 8 is addressed to Yahweh and describes the worship rendered to Him; Jesus applies that same worship to Himself. When the blind man who had been healed by Jesus met Him and discovered who Jesus was, the healed man worshiped Him (John 9:38). That Jesus did not reject the man’s worship indicates He is God. In 2 Timothy 4:18 Paul refers to Jesus as Lord and ascribes glory to Him. Glory refers to the Shekinah of God and pertains only to DEITY. In Philippians 2:10 Paul envisions a future day wherein all in earth and[12]heaven will worship Christ.

Hypostatic Union

MEANING OF HYPOSTATIC UNION

The hypostatic union may be defined as “the second person, the preincarnate Christ came and took to Himself a human nature and remains forever undiminished DEITY and true humanity united in one person forever.” When Christ came, a Person came, not just a nature; He took on an additional nature, a human nature—He did not simply dwell in a human person. The result of the union of the two natures is the theanthropic Person (the God-man).

EXPLANATION OF HYPOSTATIC UNION

The two natures of Christ are inseparably united without mixture or loss of separate identity. He remains forever the God-man, fully God and fully man, two distinct natures in one Person forever. “Though Christ sometimes operated in the sphere of His humanity and in other cases in the sphere of His DEITY, in all cases what He did and what He was could be attributed to His one Person. Even though it is evident that there were two natures in Christ, He is never considered a dual personality.” In summarizing the hypostatic union, three facts are noted: (1) Christ has two distinct natures: humanity and DEITY; (2) there is no mixture or intermingling of the two natures; (3) although He has two natures, Christ is one Person.

PROBLEM OF HYPOSTATIC UNION

The major difficulty in this doctrine involves the relationship of the two natures in the Lord Jesus. Several opinions on this point have developed.

Calvinistic view. John Calvin taught that the two natures are united without any transfer of attributes. An attribute could not be taken away from a nature without changing the essence of that nature. Walvoord states, “The two natures are united without loss of any essential attributes and that the two natures maintain their separate identity.” There can be no mixture of the two natures; “infinity cannot be transferred to finity; mind cannot be transferred to matter; God cannot be transferred to man, or vice versa. To rob the divine nature of God of a single attribute would destroy His DEITY, and to rob man of a single human attribute would result in destruction of a true humanity. It is for this reason that the two natures of Christ cannot lose or transfer a single attribute.”28

Lutheran view. The Lutheran view of the two natures teaches that attributes of the divine nature are extended to the human nature with some important results. One important doctrinal result is the ubiquity of the human body of Christ, that is, the omnipresence of the divine nature of Christ is transferred to the human body of Christ. Consequently, the human nature of Christ passed into a ubiquitous state at the ascension and is physically present in the elements of holy communion. Although the elements do not change, the person partakes of Christ who is “in, with, under and by” the bread and cup.

RESULTS OF HYPOSTATIC UNION

Both natures are necessary for redemption. As a man, Christ could represent man and die as a man; as God the death of Christ could have infinite value “sufficient to provide redemption for the sins of the world.”

The eternal priesthood of Christ is based on the hypostatic union. “By incarnation He became Man and hence could act as a human Priest. As God, His priesthood could be everlasting after the order of Melchizedek, and He properly could be a Mediator between God and man.”

KENOSIS AND HYPOSTATIC UNION

The kenosis problem involves the interpretation of Philippians 2:7, “(He) emptied [Gk. ekenosen] Himself.” The critical question is: Of what did Christ empty Himself? Liberal theologians suggest Christ emptied Himself of His DEITY, but it is evident from His life and ministry that He did not, for His DEITY was displayed on numerous occasions. Two main points may be made. (1) “Christ merely surrendered the independent exercise of some of his relative or transitive attributes. He did not surrender the absolute or immanent attributes in any sense; He was always perfectly holy, just, merciful, truthful, and faithful.” This statement has merit and provides a solution to problem passages such as Matthew 24:36. The key word in this definition would be “independent” because Jesus did on many occasions reveal His relative attributes. (2) Christ took to Himself an additional nature. The context of Philippians 2:7 provides the best solution to the kenosis problem. The emptying was not a subtraction but an addition. The four following phrases (Phil. 2:7–8) explain the emptying: “(a) taking the form of a bond-servant, and (b) being made in the likeness of men. And (c) being found in appearance as a man, (d) He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death.” The “emptying” of Christ was taking on an additional nature, a human nature with its limitations. His DEITY was never surrendered.[13]

CHRIST

Humanity. While Paul provides some of the strongest statements of the DEITY of Christ he also emphasizes the humanity of Christ. Christ was born of a woman (Gal. 4:4). He was no phantom; He had his humanity from his earthly mother. Christ was a physical descendant of David (Rom. 1:3; 2 Tim. 2:8). Christ physically descended from David (Rom. 1:3).

Christ committed no sin (2 Cor. 5:21). Christ “knew no sin” refers to knowledge of sin gained by experience; He did not experience sin in His life because He had no sin nature (Rom. 8:3). Christ came in the “likeness of sinful flesh”—He came as a man but without the sinful nature. He did not come in the mere likeness of flesh—then He would not have been truly human; He did not come in the likeness of sin—then He would have had indwelling sin. God’s grace came through the last Adam, to redeem what the first Adam lost (cf. Rom. 5:15; 1 Cor. 15:21, 45, 47).

DEITY. A fully developed theology of the DEITY of Christ can be found in Paul’s writings. Christ is the sphere in which all things have been created; moreover, “All the laws and purposes which guide the creation and government of the Universe reside in Him.” Paul’s emphasis that Christ is “from heaven” (1 Cor. 15:47; cf. 2 Cor. 8:9) suggests His preexistence and eternality.

Paul states that the fulness of DEITY dwells in Christ (Col. 2:9). DEITY (Gk. theotes) “emphasizes divine nature or essence.… He was and is absolute and perfect God.” Interestingly, Paul emphasizes that the DEITY was in “bodily form,” suggesting the full humanity of Jesus. This verse is a strong Pauline affirmation of the God-man Jesus.

Christ exists in the form of God (Phil. 2:6). The word form (Gk. morphe) suggests the inherent character or essential substance of the person. Christ in His essential nature exists as DEITY. Paul addresses Christ as God on several occasions. He is called “God blessed,” a reference to DEITY (Rom. 9:5). A better rendering of this verse would be “Christ, who is God over all, blessed for ever.” In Titus 2:13 Paul refers to “our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ.” Greek grammar demands that the two nouns, God and Savior, refer to the same person—Jesus Christ. This is a clear Pauline statement of Christ’s DEITY.[14]

Historical Misunderstandings of Christ’s DEITY

The earliest and most radical denial of the DEITY of Christ is called Ebionism or Adoptionism, which was taught by a small Jewish-Christian sect in the first century. They believed that the power of God came on a man named Jesus to enable him to fulfill the Messianic role, but that Christ was not God. A later and more influential Christological heresy was Arianism (early 4th century), which denied the eternal, fully divine nature of Christ. Arius (c. 256–336) believed Jesus was the “first and greatest of created beings.” Arius’s denial of Jesus’ full DEITY was rejected at the Council of Nicea in 325. At this council, Athanasius showed that according to Scripture Jesus is fully God, being of the same essence as the Father.[15]

Docetism. Docetism (Gk. dokein, “to seem”) was a late-first-century heresy asserting that Jesus only seemed to be human (Kelly, 141). Docetism is “The assertion that Christ’s human body was a phantasm, and that his suffering and death were mere appearances. ‘If he suffered he was not God; if he was God he did not suffer’ ” (Bettenson, 49). They denied the humanity of Christ but affirmed his DEITY. This is the opposite of Arianism, which affirmed the humanity of Jesus but denied the DEITY of Christ (see Christ, DEITY of). Docetism was already present in late New Testament times, as is evident by the exhortation of John the apostle about those who deny “that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 John 4:2; emphasis added. See also 2 John 7).[16]

CONCLUSION

At the time John wrote Revelation, various questions were starting to emerge about the person of Christ: whether He was indeed God as well as man; whether He was actually divine and only appeared to be a man; and other heresies which continue to this day. In this climate,

HIS DEITY

Many in our day deny the DEITY of Christ, knowing that in doing so they are undermining the central aspect of Christianity because they have removed from it the divine Saviour. This denial is not new, for even in the early church there were those who did so: Ebionites, dynamic Monarchians, and the Arians all denied that the Son possessed full DEITY. In the days of the Reformation, the Socinians followed their example and regarded Jesus as merely a man. Schleiermacher, Ritschl, Unitarians, and liberals have done the same in more recent times. Today those who deny His full DEITY regard Jesus either as a great man (to be followed but not worshiped), a good man (who had the courage to die for His convictions), or a man more advanced than any other in His time. Along with such views of Christ goes a denial of the biblical accounts of His miraculous birth, death, and resurrection.

Popularly, opponents of His DEITY assert that Jesus of Nazareth never claimed to be God. It was His followers, they say, who made that claim for Him, and, of course, they were mistaken. This is simply not so, for He did claim to be God, as we shall see. Obviously opponents of Christ’s DEITY do not consider the Bible as authoritative but feel perfectly free to question statements of Scripture as to their reliability. Although denying the infallibility of the Bible does not always result in denying the DEITY of Christ, denying the DEITY of Christ must be accompanied by a denial of the accuracy of Scripture, for there is simply too much evidence in Scripture for His DEITY to do otherwise.

1. His assertions. Jesus of Nazareth claimed equality with God when He said that He and the Father were one (Jn 5:18; 10:30). Those who heard Him make this statement understood the force of such a claim, for they accused Him of blasphemy. If He were only claiming to be some kind of superman, they would not have bothered with the blasphemy charge. When Christ stood before the high priest, He gave a clear affirmative answer to the question whether He was the Christ (Mt 26:63–64). And His reply was given under oath.

In both John 10:36 and Matthew 26:63 the phrase “Son of God” is used, which some claim means something less than DEITY in order to avoid the conclusion that Christ claimed to be God. This is not so.

In Jewish usage the term “son of …” did not generally imply any subordination, but rather equality and identity of nature. Thus Bar Kokba, who led the Jewish revolt 132–135 a.d. in the reign of Hadrian, was called by a name which means “Son of the Star.” It is supposed that he took this name to identify himself as the very Star predicted in Numbers 24:17. The name Son of Consolation (Acts 4:36) doubtless means, “The Consoler.” “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17) probably means “Thunderous Men.” “Son of Man,” especially as applied to Christ in Daniel 7:13 and constantly in the New Testament, essentially means “The Representative Man.” Thus for Christ to say, “I am the Son of God” (John 10:36) was understood by His contemporaries as identifying Himself as God, equal with the Father, in an unqualified sense.

Not only did Jesus make the claim to be equal with God for Himself, but the writers of the New Testament did the same. See John 1:1; 20:28; Romans 9:5; Philippians 2:6; Titus 2:13.

2. His works. Furthermore, Jesus of Nazareth claimed to do certain things which only God can do. In a classic confrontation with the scribes the Lord demonstrated He had the power to forgive sins by healing a man sick of the palsy. The scribes considered this claim to be blasphemy because they recognized that only God can forgive sins. The miracle of healing was done in order to validate Christ’s claim to be able to forgive sins (Mk 2:1–12).

On other occasions He claimed that all judgment was given into His hands (Jn 5:27), that He would send the Holy Spirit (Jn 15:26), and that He would be the one to raise the dead (Jn 5:25). Since these are all prerogatives of DEITY, they substantiate His claim to be God or else they make Him a liar.

Elsewhere in the New Testament, works are attributed to Christ which only God can perform, further substantiating His equality with God. See John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16 for His work of creating, Colossians 1:17 and Hebrews 1:3 for the work of upholding all things, and Acts 17:31 for His being Judge of all men.

3. His characteristics. Jesus of Nazareth possessed characteristics which only God has. He claimed to be all-powerful (Mt 28:18; cf. Rev 1:8); He displayed knowledge that could only have come from His being omniscient (Mk 2:8; Jn 1:48); He made a promise which we often quote that depends on His being present everywhere (Mt 18:20; cf. Mt 28:20; Eph 1:23). These very distinctive claims indicate either that He was God or a great deceiver.

4. His ascriptions. Others ascribed to the Lord the prerogatives of DEITY in substantiation of His own claims. He was worshiped by men and by angels (Mt 14:33; Phil 2:10; Heb 1:6). His name is coupled with other Members of the Trinity in a relationship of equality (Mt 28:19; 2 Co 13:14). The writer to the Hebrews declared that He was the same in substance with the Father—“the exact likeness of his substance” (Heb 1:3, free trans.). Coupled with Paul’s statement that “in Him dwells all the fulness of DEITY in bodily form” (Col 2:9, free trans.), these are very strong declarations of His full DEITY equal with the DEITY of the Father and the Spirit. Too, He is called Yahweh in the New Testament, which could only be true if He were fully God. Notice Luke 1:76 compared with Malachi 3:1, and Romans 10:13 compared with Joel 2:32. Add other names of DEITY which He is given (God, Heb 1:8; Lord, Mt 22:43–45; King of kings and Lord of lords, Rev 19:16), and we can only conclude that Christ’s DEITY is fully attested by the ascriptions given Him in the New Testament.

Remember that in each of these four lines of evidences for the DEITY of Christ, the proofs have been cited from two sources—the claims which the Lord Himself made as taken from His own words, and the claims which others made of Him in New Testament books other than the gospels. Both are equally valid, though there are some people today who deprecate the writers of the New Testament but who still pay some attention to Christ’s own words. In helping people to acknowledge the evidence for the DEITY of our Lord it may be useful to keep this distinction in mind and present to them first Christ’s own claims before presenting the evidence of the rest of the New Testament.[17]

Christ, Humanity of. See Christ, DEITY of; Docetism.

Christ, Uniqueness of. Orthodox Christians believe that Jesus is the unique Son of God in human flesh (see Christ, DEITY of). However, some unbelievers, who may or may not believe Jesus existed, do not believe that Jesus was necessarily a wise or a particularly good man. Others, such as Muslims (see Islam), think that Jesus was a prophet, along with other prophets. Hinduism depicts Christ as one among many great gurus. Liberal Christians and many others hold Christ as a good human being and a great moral example.

In his essay “Why I Am Not a Christian,” the agnostic Bertrand Russell wrote, “Historically it is quite doubtful whether Christ ever existed at all, and if he did we know nothing about him.” As to Christ’s character, he said, “I cannot myself feel that either in the matter of wisdom or in the matter of virtue Christ stands quite as high as some other people known to history. I think I should put Buddha and Socrates above him in those respects” (Russell, Why I Am Not a Christian).

DEITY and Humanity. Christianity is unique among world religions, and Christ’s true uniqueness is the centerpiece of Christianity. The truth about Christ is based primarily on the New Testament documents which have been shown elsewhere to be authentic (see New Testament Manuscripts, Reliability of; New Testament, Historicity of). The New Testament record, especially the Gospels, is one of the most reliable documents from the ancient world. From these documents we learn that numerous facets of Christ are absolutely unique.

Jesus Christ was unique in that he alone, of all who ever lived, was both God and man. The New Testament teaches the fully unified DEITY and humanity of Christ. The Nicene Creed (325) states the uniform belief of all orthodox Christianity that Christ was fully God and fully man in one person. All heresies regarding Christ deny one or both of these propositions. This as a claim alone makes him unique above all other religious leaders or persons who have ever lived, and it can be backed up with factual evidence. Some of this evidence is seen in other aspects of Christ’s uniqueness (see Christ, DEITY of).

The Supernatural Nature of Christ. Unique in Messianic Prophecies. Jesus lived a miracle-filled and supernaturally empowered existence from his conception to his ascension. Centuries before his birth he was foretold by supernatural prophecy (see Miracles in the Bible; Prophecy, as Proof of the Bible).

The Old Testament, which even the most ardent critic acknowledges was in existence centuries before Christ, predicted the where (Micah 5:2), the when (Dan. 9:26), and the how (Isa. 7:14) of Christ’s entry into the world. He would be born of a woman (Gen. 3:15) from the line of Adam’s son Seth (Gen. 4:26), through Noah’s son Shem (Gen. 9:26–27), and Abraham (Gen. 12:3; 15:5). He would come through the tribe of Judah (Gen. 49:10) and would be the son of David (2 Sam. 7:12f.). The Old Testament predicted that Christ would die for our sins (Psalm 22; Isaiah 53; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 12:10) and would rise from the dead (Pss. 2:7; 16:10).

All of these supernatural prophecies were uniquely fulfilled in Jesus Christ. This is not true of any great religious leader or person who has ever lived, including Muhammad (see Muhammad, Alleged Miracles of).

Unique in Conception. Christ was not only supernaturally anticipated; he was also miraculously conceived. While announcing his virgin conception, Matthew (1:22–23) points to the prophecy of Isaiah (7:14). Luke, a physician, records this miraculous inception of human life (Luke 1:26f.); Paul alludes to it in Galatians 4:4. Of all human conceptions, Jesus’ stands as unique and miraculous (see Virgin Birth).

Unique in Life. From his very first miracle in Cana of Galilee (John 2:11), Jesus’ ministry was marked by its miracles (cf. John 3:2; Acts 2:22). These were not healings of delusional illnesses, nor were they explainable on natural grounds. They were unique (see Miracle) in that they were immediate, always successful, had no known relapses, and healed illnesses that were incurable by medicine, such as persons born blind (John 9). Jesus even raised several people from the dead, including Lazarus whose body was already to the point of rotting (John 11:39).

Jesus turned water to wine (John 2:7f.), walked on water (Matt. 14:25), multiplied bread (John 6:11f.), opened the eyes of the blind (John 9:7f.), made the lame to walk (Mark 2:3f.), cast out demons (Mark 3:10f.), healed all kinds of sicknesses (Matt. 9:35), including leprosy (Mark 1:40–42), and even raised the dead to life on several occasions (Mark 5:35f.; Luke 7:11–15; John 11:43–44). When asked if he was the Messiah, he used his miracles as evidence to support the claim saying, “Go back and report to John what you hear and see: The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised” (Matt. 11:4–5). This outpouring of miracles was set forth ahead of time by prophets as a special sign that Messiah had come (see Isa. 35:5–6). Nicodemus even said, “Rabbi, we know you are a teacher who has come from God. For no one could perform the miraculous signs you are doing if God were not with him” (John 3:2).

Unique in Death. Events surrounding Christ’s death were miraculous (see Christ, Death of). This included the darkness from noon to 3 p.m. (Mark 15:33) and the earthquake that opened the tombs and rent the temple veil (Matt. 27:51–54). The manner in which he suffered the excruciating torture of crucifixion was miraculous. The attitude he maintained toward his mockers and executioners was miraculous, saying, “Father forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). The way in which he actually died was miraculous. As Jesus said, “I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord” (John 10:18). At the very moment of his departure, he was not overcome by death. Rather, he voluntarily dismissed his spirit. “Jesus said, ‘It is finished.’ With that, he bowed his head and gave up his spirit” (John 19:30).

Unique in the Resurrection. The crowning miracle of Jesus’ earthly mission was the resurrection (see Resurrection, Evidence for). It was not only predicted in the Old Testament (Psalms 2; 16), but Jesus himself predicted it from the very beginning of his ministry: He said, “ ‘Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days.’ … But the temple he had spoken of was his body” (John 2:19, 21; Matt. 12:40–42; 17:9). Jesus demonstrated the reality of his resurrection in twelve appearances over forty days to more than 500 people.

Unique in the Ascension. Just like his entrance into this world, Jesus’ departure was also miraculous. After commissioning his disciples, “he was taken up before their very eyes, and a cloud hid him from their sight. They were looking intently up into the sky as he was going, when suddenly two men dressed in white stood beside them” (Acts 1:10). Contrary to the view of some (see Harris, 423), this was not a “parable” but a literal bodily ascension into heaven from which he will return in the same literal body to reign in this world (Acts 1:11; Rev. 1:7, 19–20). The great Christian creeds clearly emphasize the miraculous bodily ascension of Christ.

Unique in Sinlessness. Some of Jesus’ enemies brought false accusations against him, but the verdict of Pilate at his trial has been the verdict of history: “I find no basis for a charge against this man” (Luke 23:4). A soldier at the cross agreed saying, “Surely this was a righteous man” (Luke 23:47), and the thief on the cross next to Jesus said, “This man has done nothing wrong” (Luke 23:41).

For a description of what those closest to Jesus thought of his character, Hebrews says that he was tempted as a man “yet without sinning” (4:15). Jesus himself once challenged his accusers, “Which of you convicts me of sin?” (John 8:46), but no one was able to find him guilty of anything. This being the case, the impeccable character of Christ gives a double testimony to the truth of his claim. Jesus’ sinlessness was unique.

The Character of Christ Is Unique. Christ’s character was unique in other ways. To a perfect degree he manifested the best of virtues. He also combined seemingly opposing traits.

In Exemplifying Virtues. Even Bertrand Russell, who fancied he saw flaws in Christ’s character, confessed nonetheless that “What the world needs is love, Christian love, or compassion.” But this belies a belief in what most others acknowledge, namely, that Christ was the perfect manifestation of the virtue of love.

Jesus’ willing submission to the ignominious suffering and death by crucifixion, while he maintained love and forgiveness toward those killing him is proof of this virtue (Luke 23:34, 43). He alone lived perfectly what he taught in the Sermon on the Mount (Matt. 5–7). He did not retaliate against his enemies; instead, he forgave them. He rebuked his disciples for misusing the sword (Matt. 26:52), and miraculously reattached and healed the amputated ear of one of the mob who came to take him to his death (Luke 22:50).

Jesus was the perfect example of patience, kindness, and compassion. He had compassion on the multitudes (Matt. 9:36), to the point of weeping over Jerusalem (Matt. 23:37). Even though he justly condemned (in no uncertain terms) the Pharisees who misled the innocent (Matt. 23), he did not hesitate to speak with Jewish leaders who showed interest (John 3).

In Combining Seemingly Opposite Traits. One of the unique things about Christ is the way he brought together in his person characteristics that in anyone else would seem impossible. He was a perfect example of humility, to the extent of washing his disciples’ feet (John 15). Yet he made bold claims to DEITY, such as, “I and the Father are One” (John 10:30) and “before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58; cf. Exod. 3:14). The claim, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29) sounds arrogant, but he backed his words among little children (Matthew 18). Yet he was so strong as to overturn the tables of those who merchandised God’s house, cracking a whip to chase away their animals (John 2). Jesus was known for the virtue of kindness, yet he was severe with hypocrites who misled the innocent (Matthew 23).

Life and Teaching. As Jesus himself declared, the substance of what he taught finds its roots in the Old Testament (Matt. 5:17–18). He condemned meaningless traditions and misinterpretations of the Old Testament (Matt. 5:21f., 15:3–5; see Accommodation Theory). Though the essence of what he taught was not new, the form and the manner in which he taught it was unique. The Sermon on the Mount employs a fresh teaching method.

The vivid parables, such as the good Samaritan (Luke 10), the prodigal son (Luke 15), and the lost sheep (Luke 15:4f.), are masterpieces of communication. Parables stand at the heart of Jesus’ teaching style. By drawing on the lifestyles of the people to illustrate the truths he wished to convey, Jesus communicated truth and refuted error. Also, by speaking in parables he could avoid “casting pearls before swine.” He could confound and confuse those who did not wish to believe (the outsider), yet illuminate those who did desire to believe (the insider). While the use of allegories and parables themselves was not unique, the manner in which Jesus employed parables was. He brought the art of teaching eternal mystery in terms of everyday experience to a new height. The “laws of teaching” identified by modern pedagogues (Shafer, Seven Laws), were practiced perfectly in Jesus’ teaching style.

The manner in which Jesus taught was unique. The Jewish intellectuals admitted, “No one ever spoke the way this man does” (John 7:46). As he taught in parables, he was thronged by the multitudes (Matt. 13:34). As a lad, he impressed even the rabbis in the temple. For “Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Luke 2:47). Later, he confounded those who attempted to trick him so that “No one could say a word in reply, and from that day on no one dared to ask him any more questions” (Matt. 22:46).

Christ Is Superior. Jesus Christ was unique in every way. From his complete DEITY to his perfect humanity; from his miraculous conception to his supernatural ascension; from his impeccable character to his incomparable teaching—Jesus stands above all other religious or moral teachers.

Christ Is Superior to Moses. As a Jew himself, Jesus had no argument with Moses, the prophet who brought the Jewish law and led the Israelites out of Egyptian bondage to freedom as an independent nation. Moses and Jesus were prophets of the same God, and Jesus said that he did not come to abolish the law (found in the writings of Moses) but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17). Jesus implies that Moses’ words are God’s words (compare Matt. 19:4–5 with Gen. 2:24). However, in many respects, we find that Jesus is superior to Moses.

Christ is a superior prophet to Moses. In Deuteronomy 18:15–19, Moses predicted that God would raise up a Jewish Prophet with a special message. Anyone who did not believe this prophet would be judged by God. This passage has been traditionally interpreted as referring to Messiah. Genesis 3:15 is also understood by many to refer to Jesus as the seed of the woman who would crush the head of the serpent.

Christ’s revelation is superior to that of Moses. “The Law was given through Moses; Grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). While Moses set up the moral and social structures which guided the nation, the law could not save anyone from the penalty of their sins, which is death. As Paul says, “by the works of the law no flesh will be justified in his sight; for through the law comes the knowledge of sin” (Rom. 3:20). The revelation which came through Jesus, though, was one in which the sins which the law made known are forgiven, “being justified as a gift by his grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 3:24). Christ’s revelation builds on the foundation of Moses by solving the problem of which the law made us aware.

Christ’s position is superior to that of Moses. Moses is the greatest of the Old Testament prophets, but Jesus is more than a prophet. As the Epistle to the Hebrews says, “Moses was faithful in all his house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; but Christ was faithful as a Son over his house” (Heb. 3:5–6). While Moses served God, Jesus was declared to be the Son of God with the right to rule over all servants.

Christ’s miracles are superior to those of Moses. Moses performed great miracles, but Christ’s miracles were greater in degree (see Miracles in the Bible). Moses lifted the bronze serpent to give healing to those who would look, but in this he was merely following instructions. He never made the blind to see, or the deaf to hear. Also, there is nothing in Moses’ ministry to compare with the resurrection of Lazarus or of Christ.

Christ’s claims are superior to those of Moses. Moses never made a claim to be God and did nothing other than fulfill his role as a prophet. Jesus did claim to be God and predicted his own resurrection to prove it.

Christ Is Superior to Muhammad. Muhammad, the founder of Islam agreed with Jesus and Moses that God is one (see Islam), that he created the universe, and that he is beyond the universe. There is considerable agreement over the events of the first sixteen chapters of Genesis, to the point where Hagar was cast out from Abram’s house. After this, the Bible focuses on Isaac while Islam is concerned with what happened to their forefather, Ishmael. The teaching of Muhammad may be summarized in the five doctrines:

1. Allah is the one true God.

2. Allah has sent many prophets, including Moses and Jesus, but Muhammad is the last and greatest.

3. The Qur’an is the supreme religious book (see Qur’an, Alleged Divine Origin of), taking priority over the Law, the Psalms, and the Injil (Gospels) of Jesus.

4. There are many intermediate beings between God and us (angels), some of whom are good and some evil.

5. Each man’s deeds will be weighed to determine who will go to heaven and hell at the resurrection. The way to gain salvation includes reciting the Shahadah several times a day (“There is no God but Allah; and Muhammad is his prophet.”), praying five times a day, fasting a month each year, almsgiving, and making pilgrimages to Mecca.

Christ offers a superior message. Jesus made superior claims to those made by Muhammad. Jesus claimed to be God (see Christ, DEITY of). Muhammad claimed only to be a mere man who was a prophet (see Muhammad, Alleged Divine Call of). If Jesus, then, is not God, he is certainly no prophet. Jesus offered a superior confirmation for his claims. Jesus performed numerous miracles. Muhammad performed no miracles and admitted in the Qur’an that Jesus did many. Only Jesus died and rose from the dead.

Christ offers a better way of salvation. Unlike the God of Islam, the God of the Bible reached out to us by sending his Son to earth to die for our sins. Muhammad offered no sure hope for salvation, only guidelines for working oneself into Allah’s favor. Christ provided all that is needed to get us to heaven in his death, “For Christ also died once for all, the just for the unjust, in order that he might bring us to God” (1 Peter 3:18).

Christ offers a superior model life. Muhammad spent the last ten years of his life at war. As a polygamist he exceeding even the number of wives (four) he had prescribed for his religion. He also violated his own law by plundering caravans coming to Mecca, some of whom were on pilgrimage. He engaged in retaliation and revenge, contrary to his own teaching (see Muhammad, Character of).

Jesus Is Superior to Hindu Gurus. In Hinduism (see Hinduism, Vedanta) a guru is a teacher. The Hindu scriptures cannot be understood by reading; they must be learned from a guru. These holy men are worshiped even after their deaths as supposed incarnations of the gods. What they teach is that humans need liberation from the endless cycle of reincarnation (samsara) which is brought on by karma, the effects of all words, deeds, and actions in the present and all former lives. Liberation (moksha) is obtained when the individual expands his being and consciousness to an infinite level and realizes that atman (the self) is the same as Brahman (the one absolute being from which all multiplicity comes).

In other words, each Hindu must realize personal godhood. Such a realization can only be achieved by following Jnana Yoga—salvation by knowledge of the ancient writings and inward meditation; Bhakti Yoga—salvation by devotion to one of the many deities; Karma Yoga—salvation by works, such as ceremonies, sacrifices, fasting, and pilgrimages, which must be done without thought of rewards. Each of these methods will to some extent include Raja Yoga, a meditation technique involving control over the body, breathing, and thoughts.

Hinduism as it is actually practiced consists largely of superstition, legendary stories about the gods, occult practices, and demon worship.

Christ teaches a superior worldview. Jesus teaches a theistic worldview (see Theism). But pantheism, the realization of godhood, is the heart of Hinduism.

Christ’s teaching is morally superior. Orthodox Hinduism insists that suffering people be left to suffer, because it is their destiny, as determined by karma. Jesus said, “Love your neighbor as yourself.” He defined neighbor as anyone in need of help. John said, “But whoever has the world’s goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (1 John 3:17). Also, many, if not most, gurus use their esteemed position to exploit their followers financially and sexually. The Bagwan Sri Rajneesh accumulated dozens of Rolls Royces as gifts from his followers. The Beatles became disenchanted with the Maharishi Mahesh Yogi when they learned that he was much more interested in the body of one of the women in their party than with any of their spirits. They admitted, “We made a mistake.” Even the respected guru Mahatma Gandhi slept with women other than his wife.

Jesus gives a superior path to enlightenment. While the gurus are necessary to understand the sacred writings of Bhagavad Gita and the Upanishads, there is no esoteric or hidden truth in the Bible that must be explained apart from ordinary understanding. Christian meditation is not an effort to empty the mind, but rather to fill it with the truth of Scriptural principles (Psalm 1). Inward meditation is like peeling an onion; you keep tearing off layer after layer until, when you reach the middle, you find that there is nothing there. Meditation on God’s Word begins with content and opens up the meaning until it yields contentment of soul.

Christ teaches a better way of salvation. The Hindu is lost in the karmic cycle of reincarnation until he reaches moksha and is left to work the way out of this maze alone. Jesus promised that we would be saved by faith (Eph. 2:8–9; Titus 3:5–7), and that we could know that our salvation is guaranteed (Eph. 1:13–14; 1 John 5:13).

Christ Is Superior to Buddha. Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha is a title meaning “enlightened one”) is inferior to Christ. Buddhism began as a reformation movement within Hinduism, which had become a system of speculation and superstition. To correct this, Gautama rejected the rituals and occultism and developed an essentially atheistic religion (though later forms of Buddhism returned to the Hindu gods). His basic beliefs are summed in the Four Noble Truths:

1. Life is suffering.

2. Suffering is caused by desires for pleasure and prosperity.

3. Suffering can be overcome by eliminating desires.

4. Desire can be eliminated by the Eightfold Path.

The Eightfold Path is both a system of religious education and the moral precepts of Buddhism. It includes (1) right knowledge (“Four Noble Truths”), (2) right intentions, (3) right speech, (4) right conduct (no killing, drinking, stealing, lying, or adultery), (5) right occupation (which causes no suffering), (6) right effort, (7) right mindfulness (denial of the finite self), and (8) right meditation (Raja Yoga).

The goal of all Buddhists is not heaven or being with God, for there is no God in Gautama’s teaching. Rather they seek nirvana, the elimination of all suffering, desires, and the illusion of self-existence. While a liberal branch of Buddhism (Mahayana Buddhism) now has deified Gautama as a savior, Theravada Buddhism stays closer to Gautama’s teachings and maintains that he never claimed divinity. As to his being a savior, it is reported that Buddha’s last words were, “Buddhas do but point the way; work out your salvation with diligence.” As a variant form of Hinduism, Buddhism is subject to all of the criticisms mentioned above. Jesus’ teaching is superior. Further:

Christ fills life with more hope. Jesus’ teaching is superior to Buddha’s in that Jesus taught hope in life, while Buddhism sees life only as suffering and selfhood as something to be eradicated. Jesus taught that life is a gift of God to be enjoyed (John 10:10) and that the individual is to be honored supremely (Matt. 5:22). Furthermore, he promised hope in the life to come (John 14:6).

Christ offers a better way of salvation. The Buddhist also teaches reincarnation as the means of salvation. However, in this form the self or individuality of the soul is eradicated at the end of each life. So even though you live on, it is not you as an individual who has any hope of attaining nirvana. Jesus promised hope to each man and woman as an individual (John 14:3) and said to the thief on the cross beside him, “Today you shall be with me in paradise” (Luke 23:43).

Jesus is a better Christ. Jesus claimed and proved to be God in human flesh. Buddha was a mere mortal man who died and never rose again. Jesus, however, rose bodily from the grave. Gautama simply wanted to bring his “enlightenment” to others to help them to nirvana, where all desires and individual existence is lost.

Christ Is Superior to Socrates. Although Socrates never started a religion, he has attracted a great following. Socrates never wrote anything, but Plato, his disciple, wrote a great deal about him, although these accounts may be as much Plato’s ideas as the thought of Socrates. Plato presents Socrates as a man convinced that God has appointed him to the task of promoting truth and goodness by making humans examine their words and deeds to see if they are true and good. Vice, in his opinion, was merely ignorance, and knowledge led to virtue. He is credited as the first person to recognize a need to develop a systematic approach to discovering truth, though the system itself was finally formulated by Aristotle—a disciple of Plato’s.

Like Christ, Socrates was condemned to death on the basis of false accusations from authorities who were threatened by his teaching. He could have been acquitted if he had not insisted on making his accusers and judges examine their own statements and lives, which they were unwilling to do. He was content to die, knowing that he had carried out his mission to the end, and that death, whether a dreamless sleep or a wonderful fellowship of great men, was good.

Christ has a superior basis for truth. Jesus, like Socrates, often used questions to make his hearers examine themselves, but his basis for knowing the truth about human beings and God was rooted in the fact that he was the all-knowing God. He said of himself, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” He was, in his very being, the fount from which all truth ultimately flowed. Likewise, as God, he was the absolute Goodness by which all other goodness is measured. He once asked a young man to examine his words by saying, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.” Jesus was the very truth and good which Socrates wanted to understand.

Christ gives more certain knowledge. While Socrates taught some true principles, he often was left to speculate about many important issues, such as what happens at death (see Certainty/Certitude). Jesus gave a sure answer to such questions, because he had certain knowledge of the human destination (John 5:19–29; 11:25–26). Where reason (Socrates) has insufficient evidence to make a definite conclusion, revelation (Jesus) gives answers which might never be anticipated.

Christ’s death was more noble. Socrates died for a cause and did so with courage, which is certainly to be commended. However, Jesus died as a substitute for others (Mark 10:45) to pay the penalty that they deserved. Not only did he die for his friends, but also for those that were, and would remain, his enemies (Rom. 5:6–7). Such a demonstration of love is unequaled by any philosopher or philanthropist.

Christ’s proof of his message is superior. Rational proofs are good when there is sound evidence for their conclusions (see God, Evidence for). But Socrates cannot support his claim to be sent by God with anything that compares to the miracles of Christ and his resurrection (see Resurrection, Evidence for). Pagan prophets and prophetesses, such as the Oracle of Delphi, do not compare with the precise biblical prediction and miracles (see Prophecy as Proof of the Bible). In these acts there is a superior proof that Jesus’ message was authenticated by God as true (see Miracles, Apologetic Value of; Miracles as Confirmation of Truth).

Christ Is Superior to Lao Tse (Taoism). Modern Taoism is a religion of witchcraft, superstition, and polytheism, but it was originally a system of philosophy, and that is how it is being presented to Western culture today. Lao Tse built this system around one principle which explained everything in the universe and guided it all. That principle is called the Tao. There is no simple way to explain the Tao (see Zen Buddhism). The world is full of conflicting opposites—good and evil, male and female, light and dark, yes and no. All oppositions are manifestations of the conflict between Yin and Yang. But in ultimate reality Yin and Yang are completely intertwined and perfectly balanced. That balance is the mystery called the Tao. To understand the Tao is to realize that all opposites are one and that truth lies in contradiction, not in resolution (see Logic; First Principles).

Taoism goes beyond this to urge living in harmony with the Tao. A person should enter a life of complete passiveness and reflection on such questions as, “What is the sound of one hand clapping?” or “If a tree falls in the forest when no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound?” One should be at peace with nature and avoid all forms of violence. This system of philosophy has many similarities with Zen Buddhism.

Christ brings superior freedom. Jesus allows humans to use their reason. In fact, he commands them to do so (Matt. 22:37; cf. 1 Peter 3:15); Taoism does not, at least on the highest level. Taoism engages in the claim that “Reason does not apply to reality.” That statement itself is self-defeating, for it is a reasonable statement about reality. It is either true or false about the way things really are, and not contradictory, yet it claims that ultimately truth lies in contradiction. Jesus commanded: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment” (Matt. 22:37–38, emphasis added). God says, “Come now, and let us reason together,” (Isa. 1:18). Peter exhorts us to “give a reason for the hope that you have” (1 Peter 3:15b).

Jesus encouraged the use of freedom to choose, never imposing himself on the unwilling (Matt. 23:37). Taoism asks each follower to set will on the shelf; to give up the power to change things. Jesus says that each person has a choice and that this choice makes the difference. Each chooses to believe or not believe (John 3:18), to obey or disobey (John 15:14), to change the world or be changed by it (Matt. 5:13–16).

Jesus allows each person the freedom to be saved. Taoism offers only a way to resign oneself to the way things are. Christ offers a way to change both who we are and what we are, so that we might know the joys of life. Rather than accepting death as an inevitable end, Christ provides a way to conquer death by his resurrection. Lao Tse can make no such claim.

Conclusion. Christ is absolutely unique among all who ever lived (see World Religions and Christianity). He is unique in his supernatural nature, in his superlative character, and in his life and teaching (see Christ, DEITY of). No other world teacher has claimed to be God. Even when the followers of some prophet deified their teacher, there is no proof given for that claim that can be compared to the fulfillment of prophecy, the sinless and miraculous life, and the resurrection. No other religious leader (except some who copied Christ) offered salvation by faith, apart from works, based on acting to take away the guilt for human sin. No religious or philosophical leader has displayed the love for people that Jesus did in dying for the sins of the world (John 15:13; Rom. 5:6–8). Jesus is absolutely unique among all human beings who ever lived.[18]

2:22, 23 Denying the deity of Jesus is the same as denying the Father and the Son. In John’s epistles, denying that Jesus is the Christ includes denying that He came in the flesh (see 1:1–3; 4:3; 2 John 7). A person cannot worship God while denying Jesus’ full deity and full humanity.[19]

The virgin birth is an underlying assumption in everything the Bible says about Jesus. To throw out the virgin birth is to reject Christ’s deity, the accuracy and authority of Scripture, and a host of other related doctrines that are the heart of the Christian faith. No issue is more important than the virgin birth to our understanding of who Jesus is. If we deny that Jesus is God, we have denied the very essence of Christianity. Everything else the Bible teaches about Christ hinges on the truth we celebrate at Christmas—that Jesus is God in human flesh. If the story of His birth is merely a fabricated or trumped–up legend, then so is the rest of what Scripture tells us about Him. The virgin birth is as crucial as the resurrection in substantiating His deity. It is not an optional truth. Anyone who rejects Christ’s deity rejects Christ absolutely—even if he pretends otherwise (see 1 John 4:1–3).[20]

BACKGROUND

The Trinitarian controversy was clearly also a Christological controversy. The discussion involved not only the true deity and genuine humanity of Christ, but also the relationship of His two natures. The pendulum swung back and forth: the Docetists denied Jesus’ humanity; the Ebionites denied His deity; the Arians “reduced” His deity, while the Apollinarians “reduced” His humanity; the Nestorians denied the union of the two natures, while the Eutychians emphasized only one nature.[21]

To make it just, we should read the statement rather thus: Our conviction of the deity of Christ rests not alone on the scriptural passages which assert it, but also on His entire impression on the world; or perhaps thus: Our conviction rests not more on the scriptural assertions than upon His entire manifestation. Both lines of evidence are valid; and when twisted together form an unbreakable cord. The proof-texts and passages do prove that Jesus was esteemed divine by those who companied with Him; that He esteemed Himself divine; that He was recognized as divine by those who were taught by the Spirit; that, in fine, He was divine. But over and above this Biblical evidence the impression Jesus has left upon the world bears independent testimony to His deity, and it may well be that to many minds this will seem the most conclusive of all its evidences. It certainly is very cogent and impressive.[22]

Paul meant that the fullness of deity dwells in Christ. The expression is unusual, but the God-man relationship cannot be expressed well in human language. The fullness of deity was Paul’s way of stating that Jesus is every bit God. On the other hand, Paul avoided modalistic language. The fullness refers to the completeness of the divine nature, but it does not mean that Christ is all there is of God. In fact, the word for God chosen by Paul expresses deity, not divine nature. Jesus is every bit God but does not exhaust the dimensions of deity. Father and Spirit are equally divine. Finally, Paul identified the location of this fullness. It is “in bodily form.” This expression, like the others, has given rise to multiple translations and interpretations.182 The point of tension is that the verb “lives” occurs in the present tense so that Paul stated that Jesus now has the fullness of deity in bodily form. Many, therefore, have taken the expression “bodily” in a spiritual or metaphorical sense. They say it means something like “totally.” The problem with that is that Paul generally used the word “body” (sōma) for the real body. Thus, with Lightfoot, it seems best to understand that the fullness of God lives in Jesus us in bodily form. In the “form” of Christ we have the reality of God. The tie between God the Father and Jesus Christ is that they share deity. This expresses some of Paul’s high Christology.[23]

d. Christological Inclusio

If οὗτος = Jesus Christ, then 1 John, like the Fourth Gospel (1:1; 20:28), begins and ends with a crucial christological affirmation that points to or expresses the deity of Christ (1:2; 5:20).

This is true in a general sense, but there is the difference that whereas in the Gospel θεός is applied to Jesus at the beginning and end, in the First Epistle it is the concept of Jesus as (ἡ) ζωὴ (ἡ) αἰώνιος, not an explicit statement of his deity, that is the common feature.[24]

Characters: God, Jesus, Holy Spirit, John the Baptist, Satan, Simon, James, man with demons, Simon’s mother-in-law, leper.

Conclusion: The deity of Jesus Christ is fully attested by the seal of the Father from heaven, His victory over Satan, His authority to call men, and His power over evil spirits and all manner of diseases.

Key Word: First ministry, vv. 1, 14, 21, 32.

Strong Verses: 11, 17.

Striking Facts: v. 35. There is no conflict between the fact of the deity of Christ and His dependence upon the Father in prayer. His prayer life on earth was the manifestation of His perfect communion with the Father before He came into the world. The fact that Jesus never asked anyone to pray FOR Him, is a further proof of His deity. He was superior to all human intercession.[25]

PERSON OF CHRIST:

Method of the Article

I. Teaching of Paul

1. Phil 2:5–9

(1) General Drift of Passage

(2) Our Lord’s Intrinsic Deity

(3) No Exinanition

(4) Our Lord’s Humanity

2. Other Pauline Passages

II. Teaching of the Epistle to the Hebrews He 2:1 ff

(1) Background of Express Deity

(2) Completeness of Humanity

(3) Continued Possession of Deity

III. Teaching of Other Epistles

IV. Teaching of John

1. The Epistles

2. Prologue to the Gospel

(1) The Being Who Was Incarnated

(2) The Incarnation

(3) The Incarnated Person

3. The Gospel

V. Teaching of the Synoptic Gospels

VI. Teaching of Jesus

1. The Johannine Jesus

(1) His Higher Nature

(2) His Humiliation

2. The Synoptic Jesus

(1) His Deity

(a) Mk 13:32

(b) Other Passages: Son of Man and Son of God

(c) Mt 11:27; 28:19

(2) His Humanity

(3) Unity of the Person

VII. The Two Natures Everywhere Presupposed

VIII. Formulation of the Doctrine

Literature[26]

 

fullness of the Godhead

(Gk. plērōma tēs theotētos) (2:9) Strong’s #4138; 2320: The Greek word plērōma indicates “plenitude” and “totality.” The Gnostics used the word to describe the totality of all deities. Both Paul and John used the word to describe Christ, who is the fullness, the plenitude of God, for all the fullness of the Godhead dwells in Him bodily (1:19; 2:9). Since all of God’s fullness resides in Christ, every spiritual reality is found in Christ. In Him, we lack nothing. The Greek word theotētos for Godhead is used only here in the New Testament and designates the totality of God’s nature and person. All the fullness of the Godhead “dwells” or “permanently resides” in the body of Jesus, the God-man.[27]

Conclusion

Here then is one of the most important and extensive teaching passages of “high Christology” in all of the New Testament—clearly delineating the preexistence and deity of Jesus. Here are the seeds of later Nicene creedal doctrine, finalized in AD 325. Yet John’s prologue is equally insistent on Christ’s genuine humanity, against any Gnostic docetism. In context, John starts from a point of agreement with his opponents (Christ’s deity) and tries to move them on to the point on which they disagree (his humanity). Today, the historic Christian faith usually finds itself combating those who deny Christ’s deity, the opposite error. But how many professing Christians really believe in Christ’s full humanity? The number of people who have fallen into pronounced or prolonged sin and who then protest that Jesus could not possibly relate to them or forgive them suggests that docetism is not far from any of us.[28]

(a) He is Called God.

John 1:1—“The Word was God.” Heb. 1:8—“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever.” John 1:18—“The only begotten Son [or better “only begotten God”].” Absolute deity is here ascribed to Christ. 20:28—“My Lord and my God.” Not an expression of amazement, but a confession of faith. This confession accepted by Christ, hence equivalent to the acceptance of deity, and an assertion of it on Christ’s part. Rom. 9:5—“God blessed forever.” Tit. 2:13—“The great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” 1 John 5:20—“His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God.” In all these passages Christ is called God.

It may be argued that while Christ is here called God, yet that does not argue for nor prove His deity, for human judges are also called “Gods” in John 10:35—“If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came.” True, but it is then used in a secondary and relative sense, and not in the absolute sense as when used of the Son.[29]

The Deity of Christ

The Bible teaches that Jesus is really and truly God, the second person of the Trinity. And it teaches that amazing fact over and over again, in a vast number of ways. People sometimes think that the doctrine of the deity of Christ, that Jesus is God, is based on only a few passages that are controversial. But I want you to see (even though I must summarize the argument very concisely) that this doctrine is found over and over again in Scripture. It is pervasive. It is found on nearly every page of the New Testament in one way or other.

Just imagine: Jesus grows up as a carpenter in Galilee. Then, when he is thirty or so years old, he begins to teach as a Jewish rabbi. His disciples are all Jews, and they have been taught from childhood that there is only one God and they should worship God alone. They should never worship idols, certainly never worship a mere man. Somehow, during the next three years or so, all these Jewish disciples, and many more people besides, are convinced that Jesus is God and deserves to be worshiped as God. They have known him intimately as a man, have walked and talked and eaten with him; yet, they have come to worship him. That is quite an amazing thing.

Perhaps most amazing of all is that Jesus’ disciples who wrote the New Testament rarely argue the deity of Christ. They didn’t need to, because the whole Christian community agreed that Jesus was God. The early Christians were often a contentious bunch. They fought and battled over a number of things, some of them central to the gospel as we will see. But, so far as we can tell from the New Testament, they never argued with one another about the deity of Christ.

So, it is interesting to see how often the New Testament assumes the deity of Christ, even in passages that don’t teach that doctrine or argue for it. Consider, for example, how egocentric Jesus’ teaching is. Unlike any other religious teacher, Jesus calls attention to himself as the way of salvation: “The word that I have spoken will judge [you] on the last day” (John 12:48); “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25); “I am the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6; cf. Matt. 5:11–12, 17; 7:21–29; 11:25–27; 13:41; 16:27–28; 24:31; 25:31–46). When the rich young ruler asks Jesus how to be saved, Jesus says, “Follow me” (Matt. 19:21; cf. 4:19; 8:22; 16:24; John 10:27; 12:26; etc.). He says that honor to himself transcends even the honor to one’s own parents commanded in the Decalogue (Matt. 10:37; Luke 14:26), though he strongly endorses the fifth commandment (Mark 7:11). This teaching doesn’t sound humble at all, unless we suppose that Jesus is far more than a mere man. And, clearly, that is what the New Testament writers do suppose.

Negatively speaking, Jesus never withdraws or modifies a statement, apologizes, repents of sin, seeks advice, or asks prayer for himself.

The apostle Paul, defending his apostolic calling, says that he is called to be an apostle not by man but by God and by Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:1, 10, 12). He might have said that he was called not by just any man but by that remarkable man Jesus Christ (as in 1 Tim. 2:5), and his statement would have been true, for Jesus is a real man. Instead, Paul puts Jesus on the side of God: not by a man but by God and by Jesus Christ. He and the other apostles command us to do all things in the name of Jesus (Acts 9:16; Rom. 15:30; 2 Cor. 12:10; 3 John 7). The apostles speak this way not as part of a conscious effort to teach the deity of Christ but incidentally, as it were, while teaching other things. The deity of Christ was itself, evidently, not controversial in the church. So, the salutations (as Rom. 1:7) and benedictions (as 2 Cor. 13:14) of the New Testament regularly refer to Christ as the source of all spiritual blessing, ascribing to Jesus the benefits that come only from God.

 

Christ, the Lord

The strongest evidence for the deity of Christ is this: Christ is the Lord. Remember that God’s lordship is the main theme of this book. The Bible’s main teaching about God is that God is Lord. Lord is the covenant name of God. It tells us that God is in control of all things, that he speaks with absolute authority, and that he takes us in love to be his people.[30]

Resurrection Claims in Non-Christian Religions. Some critics of Christ’s resurrection point to claims that many non-Christian leaders also rose from the dead. If true, the resurrection of Jesus would not be a unique confirmation of his claim to deity (see Christ, Deity of). In particular, Robert Price claims that the many post-death phenomena found in other religions rival Christian claims about Christ (Price, 2–3, 14–25). If so, then the resurrection of Christ cannot be used to support the truth of Christianity over other religions (see Pluralism, Religious; World Religions and Christianity).[31]

Purpose

This report’s purpose is to provide human attestation of Jesus’ divinity.

Exposition

The tearing of the temple veil was divine attestation of Jesus’ deity; the earthquake was nature’s attestation of His divinity; and the reaction of the centurion and all those people who witnessed His death was human attestation to this divinity because of the manner in which He died.

The centurion’s assignment was to watch over Jesus, so his observation is official affirmation that the phenomena described did indeed accompany Jesus’ death. The crowds of spectators were not pious but bloodthirsty, for they had gathered to watch the spectacle of death on a cross. Yet, in His death, Jesus Christ’s awesome dignity and deity could not be denied, particularly because of the unique power by which He dismissed His spirit and the attesting supernatural signs. So beating their breasts, they returned home, leaving the two criminals to die in peace. Nobody who saw Jesus die remained unaffected, a testimony made by Jew and Gentile alike, thus associating the whole race with this acknowledgment. The restoration of life to long-buried corpses on Sunday morning was yet further indisputable divine attestation of Jesus’ deity.

In the crucifixion, God chose a medium for Jesus Christ’s death which all men instinctively recognize as endorsing His deity. The full spectacle of the cross was incontrovertible evidence of Jesus’ deity, and we believers need to develop ways and means of making the unregenerate souls with whom we come in contact conscious of our Lord’s death. We have to live in a way that demonstrates how profoundly significant that death is to us in order to qualify to bring its message to others. One way to do this is to honor His day each week in a manner that marks us as distinct from the world.[32]

Jesus Christ, The Deity of

As Messiah.

Ps 24:7 Lift up your heads, O you gates! And be lifted up, you everlasting doors! And the King of glory shall come in.

Ps 24:10 Who is this King of glory? The Lord of hosts, He is the King of glory. Selah

Ps 45:6–7 Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.

Is 8:13–14 The Lord of hosts, Him you shall hallow; Let Him be your fear, And let Him be your dread. 14 He will be as a sanctuary, But a stone of stumbling and a rock of offense To both the houses of Israel, As a trap and a snare to the inhabitants of Jerusalem.

Is 40:3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord; Make straight in the desert A highway for our God.

Is 40:11 He will feed His flock like a shepherd; He will gather the lambs with His arm, And carry them in His bosom, And gently lead those who are with young.

Jer 23:5–6 “Behold, the days are coming,” says the Lord, “That I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; A King shall reign and prosper, And execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. 6 In His days Judah will be saved, And Israel will dwell safely; Now this is His name by which He will be called: THE Lord OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS.

Zech 13:7 “Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd, Against the Man who is My Companion,” Says the Lord of hosts. “Strike the Shepherd, And the sheep will be scattered; Then I will turn My hand against the little ones.

Matt 3:3 For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah, saying: “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; Make His paths straight.’ ”

Mark 2:7 “Why does this Man speak blasphemies like this? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”

Mark 2:10 But that you may know that the Son of Man has power on earth to forgive sins”—He said to the paralytic,

Rom 9:5 of whom are the fathers and from whom, according to the flesh, Christ came, who is over all, the eternally blessed God. Amen.

Col 3:13 bearing with one another, and forgiving one another, if anyone has a complaint against another; even as Christ forgave you, so you also must do.

Titus 2:13 looking for the blessed hope and glorious appearing of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ,

Heb 13:20 Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant,

1 Pet 2:8 and “A stone of stumbling And a rock of offense.” They stumble, being disobedient to the word, to which they also were appointed.

As God.

Gen 2:3 Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

Is 7:14 Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

Is 9:6 For unto us a Child is born, Unto us a Son is given; And the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Is 44:6 “Thus says the Lord, the King of Israel, And his Redeemer, the Lord of hosts: ‘I am the First and I am the Last; Besides Me there is no God.

Is 48:12–16 “Listen to Me, O Jacob, And Israel, My called: I am He, I am the First, I am also the Last. 13 Indeed My hand has laid the foundation of the earth, And My right hand has stretched out the heavens; When I call to them, They stand up together. 14 “All of you, assemble yourselves, and hear! Who among them has declared these things? The Lord loves him; He shall do His pleasure on Babylon, And His arm shall be against the Chaldeans. 15 I, even I, have spoken; Yes, I have called him, I have brought him, and his way will prosper. 16 “Come near to Me, hear this: I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; From the time that it was, I was there. And now the Lord GOD and His Spirit Have sent Me.”

Matt 1:23 “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,” which is translated, “God with us.”

Matt 12:8 For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath.”

Matt 26:63–67 But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, “I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!” 64 Jesus said to him, “It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven.” 65 Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, “He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! 66 What do you think?” They answered and said, “He is deserving of death.” 67 Then they spat in His face and beat Him; and others struck Him with the palms of their hands,

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

John 1:14 And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

John 1:18 No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.

John 3:18 “He who believes in Him is not condemned; but he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

John 3:31 He who comes from above is above all; he who is of the earth is earthly and speaks of the earth. He who comes from heaven is above all.

Acts 10:36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ—He is Lord of all—

Rom 10:11–13 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek, for the same Lord over all is rich to all who call upon Him. 13 For “whoever calls on the name of the Lord shall be saved.”

1 Cor 1:30 But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption—

1 Cor 2:8 which none of the rulers of this age knew; for had they known, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.

1 Cor 4:5 Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord comes, who will both bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the counsels of the hearts. Then each one’s praise will come from God.

1 Cor 15:47 The first man was of the earth, made of dust; the second Man is the Lord from heaven.

2 Cor 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

Phil 2:6 who, being in the form of God, did not consider it robbery to be equal with God,

Col 1:16 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him.

Col 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

2 Tim 4:1 I charge you therefore before God and the Lord Jesus Christ, who will judge the living and the dead at His appearing and His kingdom:

Heb 1:3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Heb 1:8 But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom.

Heb 1:10–12 And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands. 11 They will perish, but You remain; And they will all grow old like a garment; 12 Like a cloak You will fold them up, And they will be changed. But You are the same, And Your years will not fail.”

James 2:1 My brethren, do not hold the faith of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Lord of glory, with partiality.

1 John 4:9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come and has given us an understanding, that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

Rev 1:5 and from Jesus Christ, the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead, and the ruler over the kings of the earth. To Him who loved us and washed us from our sins in His own blood,

Rev 1:17 And when I saw Him, I fell at His feet as dead. But He laid His right hand on me, saying to me, “Do not be afraid; I am the First and the Last.

Rev 17:14 These will make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings; and those who are with Him are called, chosen, and faithful.”

Rev 22:13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End, the First and the Last.”

As one with the Father.

Prov 30:4 Who has ascended into heaven, or descended? Who has gathered the wind in His fists? Who has bound the waters in a garment? Who has established all the ends of the earth? What is His name, and what is His Son’s name, If you know?

Matt 11:27 All things have been delivered to Me by My Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father. Nor does anyone know the Father except the Son, and the one to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.

John 5:17 But Jesus answered them, “My Father has been working until now, and I have been working.”

John 5:23 that all should honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him.

John 10:30 I and My Father are one.”

John 10:38 but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.”

John 12:45 And he who sees Me sees Him who sent Me.

John 14:7–10 “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.” 8 Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is sufficient for us.” 9 Jesus said to him, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? 10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works.

John 16:15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you.

John 17:10 And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.

1 Thess 3:11 Now may our God and Father Himself, and our Lord Jesus Christ, direct our way to you.

2 Thess 2:16–17 Now may our Lord Jesus Christ Himself, and our God and Father, who has loved us and given us everlasting consolation and good hope by grace, 17 comfort your hearts and establish you in every good word and work.

As sending the Spirit.

John 14:16 And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever —

John 15:26 “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me.

As Creator of all things.

Neh 9:6 You alone are the Lord; You have made heaven, The heaven of heavens, with all their host, The earth and everything on it, The seas and all that is in them, And You preserve them all. The host of heaven worships You.

John 1:3 All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made.

Col 1:16–17 For by Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. 17 And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist.

Heb 1:2–3 has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; 3 who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

Raises the dead.

John 5:21 For as the Father raises the dead and gives life to them, even so the Son gives life to whom He will.

John 6:40 And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.”

John 6:54 Whoever eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

Raises Himself from the dead.

John 2:19 Jesus answered and said to them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

John 2:21 But He was speaking of the temple of His body.

John 10:18 No one takes it from Me, but I lay it down of Myself. I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again. This command I have received from My Father.”

Acknowledged by the Old Testament saints.

Job 19:25–27 For I know that my Redeemer lives, And He shall stand at last on the earth; 26 And after my skin is destroyed, this I know, That in my flesh I shall see God, 27 Whom I shall see for myself, And my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns withi[33]

IV. Greek Grammar and the Deity of Jesus Christ

The New Testament in its English translation plainly teaches that Jesus Christ is the second Person of the Triune God, possessing the same essence as God the Father. It is interesting to know that a rule of Greek grammar brings out the same truth.

The rule is as follows: When two nouns in the same case are connected by the Greek word “and,” and the first noun is preceded by the article “the,” and the second noun is not preceded by the article, the second noun refers to the same person or thing to which the first noun refers, and is a farther description of it. For instance, the words “pastors” and “teachers” in Eph. 4:11 are in the same case and are connected by the word “and.” The word “pastors,” is preceded by the article “the,” whereas the word “teachers” is not. This construction requires us to understand that the words “pastors” and “teachers” refer to the same individual, and that the word “teacher” is a farther description of the individual called a “pastor.” The expression therefore refers to pastors who are also teachers, “teaching-pastors.”

This rule also applies to the following passages where the names “God” and “Father” are in the same case and are connected by the Greek word “and,” while the word “God” is preceded by the article, and the word “Father” is not. The Greek word “and” can be translated by any of the following words, “and, even, also,” depending upon the context in which it is found. In the passages under discussion, it is translated by “and” or “even.” These passages are Romans 15:6; I Corinthians 15:24; II Corinthians 1:3, 11:31; Galatians 1:4; Ephesians 5:20; Philippians 4:20; I Thessalonians 1:3, 3:11, 13, where God and the Father are not two persons but one and the same, and the word “Father” is a farther description of the Person called “God.”

In II Peter 1:11, 2:20, and 3:18, we have the phrase, “Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Here we find the same construction in the Greek text. The same rule of grammar applies. The Lord and the Saviour are the same person, the word “Saviour” being a farther description of the Person described as “Lord.” This speaks of the deity of Jesus Christ, because the Greek word translated “Lord” was used as a name of Deity. The translators of the Septuagint version of the Old Testament (285–150 b.c.) used it to translate the august title of God, “Jehovah.” The word was used in the Roman empire as a name for the ruling Caesar who was worshipped as a god. Christianity challenged the imperialism of the Caesars by announcing that there was born “in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:11). The word “Lord” was an accepted title of Deity in the terminology of Israel, the Roman empire, and Christianity. Thus, a simple rule of Greek grammar teaches the deity of Jesus Christ.

But to make the case still stronger, we find in II Peter 1:1 the expression, “God and our Saviour Jesus Christ,” where the same construction occurs, and the same rule of grammar applies. Solid ground for correct translation and interpretation is found in a careful application of the rules of Greek grammar. The inspired writers of the New Testament held to the grammar of the international Greek spoken throughout the Roman world. Only in that way could they expect to be correctly understood. Thus Greek grammar testifies that Jesus Christ is Lord, the Jehovah of the Old Testament, and Deity, the God of the New Testament. The apostles uniformly testify that Jesus Christ is God, and this is just another example of their statements challenging the Imperial Cult of the Caesar. The translation should read, “through the righteousness of our God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” The Roman emperor was recognized by his subjects as their god and their saviour. Peter tells us that Jesus Christ is the God and the Saviour of Christians.

In Titus 2:13 we have “the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” We find the same construction in the Greek, and the same rule of grammar requires us to interpret the phrase as teaching that Jesus Christ is the great God. Since the Greek word for “and” should be translated by the word “even” where the context demands such a meaning, we are justified in rendering this phrase “the great God, even our Saviour Jesus Christ,” for the grammatical construction demands that the two expressions, “the great God,” and “Saviour Jesus Christ,” refer to one individual. The word “even” brings out this meaning. The translation could also read, “our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ.” Thus the rules of Greek grammar teach the deity of Jesus Christ.[34]

IS JESUS GOD?

Introduction

A. The Millennium Challenge: who is Jesus?

1. Most people sadly did not grasp the implications of the new millennium.

a. The year is numbered 2000 because of the birth of Jesus two thousand years ago.

b. AD stands for anno domini: the year of our Lord.

(1) Granted: Jesus may have been born in 6 BC, or 4 BC (six or four years before Christ); this would mean we entered the new millennium a few years ago!

(2) None the less; by the way we now understand the calendar, the year 2000 has direct reference to the coming of Jesus Christ into the world—approximately 2000 years ago.

(3) It is a reminder to Jews who rejected Jesus as Messiah.

(4) It may be an offence to Muslims.

(5) It may be that others are unaware of the significance of the date.

(a) We are proud of the year 2000.

(b) It was a point of witness to one’s faith.

B. At the end of the day the ultimate issue regarding the person of Jesus is whether or not he was—and is—God.

1. He was God or he wasn’t—and the answer to the question, ‘Is Jesus God?’ is crucial.

2. If we are Christians, we affirm that Jesus is God, that is, the God-man.

3. If he is less than God—in our estimation—we are not Christians.

a. A Christian is one who claims that Jesus is God.

b. There is such a thing as ‘damning with faint praise’:

(1) Saying that Jesus was a prophet—but not the Son of God (as Muslims claim)—is undermining Jesus.

(2) Saying that he was a good man—a good teacher, a good example and one who did not deserve to be crucified—but that he was not God—is to undermine Jesus.

C. The purpose of this study is to examine the following:

1. What the Bible claims about the Deity of Jesus Christ.

a. Deity (def.): God-hood, God-ship; fully Divine.

b. The Deity of Christ means that Christ was—and is—fully God.

2. What Jesus himself claimed as to his own Deity.

a. What was Jesus conscious of pertaining to himself?

b. When did he know who he was?

c. Did he ever say, ‘I am God’? If not, can we say that he claimed Deity for himself?

3. Certain important Christological heresies in church history.

a. Christological (def.): any teaching that pertains to Christ’s person.

b. Heresy (def.): false doctrine or teaching, that is, according to the historic consensus of the Church.

D. Why is this lesson important?

1. If the Millennium Challenge is ‘Who is Jesus?’ the most important question that must ultimately be answered is whether or not he is God.

2. Many Christians affirm his Deity, but would be in difficulty if asked to defend it or prove it.

a. This lesson will help us see why the Church claims that Jesus is God.

b. You should be able to help another to see this after absorbing this important lesson.

3. The most offensive claim of the Christian faith is that Jesus is God, and that the only way to Heaven is by Jesus Christ.

a. Jesus said, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me’ (John 14:6).

b. We need to see why this is true.

4. If Jesus is not God, the claim of the Christian faith and of the Church is not only false; it would mean that Christianity is a sham and that we are all deceived.

a. It is high time we got to the bottom of this matter.

b. If Jesus is not God, we should close down all churches.

5. The inspiration and reliability of the Bible hangs on this question.

a. All we shall say is based on Holy Scripture.

b. We have no other source.

I. What the Bible claims concerning Christ’s Deity

A. The Virgin Birth.

1. Note: The Virgin Birth for some may not prove Christ’s deity.

a. Arianism (see below) holds to the Virgin Birth, as do Jehovah’s Witnesses, but not Christ’s deity.

b. Ironically, Emil Brunner (neo-orthodox theologian) believed in Christ’s deity but not his Virgin Birth.

c. In the next chapter we will show how the Virgin Birth is essential to Christ’s humanity.

d. The Virgin Birth implies that Jesus is the Son of God, which implies deity; therefore Virgin Birth implies deity.

2. Jesus did not have an earthly father.

a. Mary’s reaction to the promise of the angel Gabriel that she would become pregnant: ‘ “How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?” ’ (Luke 1:34).

(1) Gabriel said she would give birth to a son and his name would be Jesus (Luke 1:31).

(2) Gabriel added: ‘He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High … So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God’ (Luke 1:32–35).

b. This would take place by the Holy Spirit who ‘will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you’ (Luke 1:35).

(1) This means that Mary was impregnated by the Holy Spirit.

(2) ‘For nothing is impossible with God’ (Luke 1:37).

3. The birth of a son without a human father—but rather the Most High God—could only mean that Jesus is God’s Son.

a. Note: this is a useful tool in witnessing to a Muslim since the Qur’an (the Muslim Bible) teaches Christ’s virgin birth.

b. Sheer common sense would conclude that this means Jesus is the Son of God.

B. The Son of God.

1. Using the term ‘Son of God’ is the same as saying Jesus is God.

a. The New Testament makes no distinction between the terms.

b. By Son of God we equally mean God the Son.

2. The Jews saw it this way.

a. The claim to be the Son of God was the same as the claim to deity.

(1) Jesus’ testimony to being the Son of God was the ammunition the Jews needed to justify their crucifying him.

(2) ‘They all asked, “Are you then the Son of God?” He replied, “You are right in saying I am.” Then they said, “Why do we need any more testimony? We have heard it from his own lips” ’ (Luke 22:70–71. Cf. Mark 14:61–64).

b. The purpose of the Gospel of John is summed up: ‘But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (John 20:31).

(1) The contents of his Gospel included: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1).

(2) ‘ “We are not stoning you for any of these,” replied the Jews, “but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God” ’ (John 10:33).

c. ‘For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God’ (John 5:18).

(1) The New Testament, as well as the ancient Jews, made no distinction between the two terms.

(2) ‘Son of God’ meant the same as being God, that is, God the Son.

C. Explicit references to the Deity of Jesus.

1. ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God’ (John 1:1).

a. There is no way that we can get around this verse with integrity.

b. It shows Christ’s relationship with the Father; the Word (Gr. logos) was ‘with God’.

c. It shows the pre-existence of the Word: ‘In the beginning’, that is, before the Word became flesh. ‘The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth’ (John 1:14).

d. Athanasius (296–393) held fast to this verse in an atmosphere that was charged with making Jesus ‘like’ God.

(1) The Greek homoousios (the same nature as) and homoiousios (like) gave rise to the phrase ‘one iota of difference’; but that iota was a crucial difference.

(2) Athanasius won the day over Arius (d.336) and his view has been regarded as orthodox (sound) ever since.

2. ‘No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known’ (John 1:18).

a. This is an unpacking of John 1:1 and John 1:14.

b. John 1:18 is perhaps best translated ‘the unique one, who is himself God.’

3. ‘Thomas said to him, “My Lord and my God!” ’ (John 20:28).

4. ‘Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised! Amen’ (Romans 9:5).

5. ‘While we wait for the blessed hope—the glorious appearing of our great God and Saviour, Jesus Christ’ (Titus 2:13).

6. ‘But about the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever, and righteousness will be the sceptre of your kingdom’ (Heb. 1:8).

7. ‘Simon Peter, a servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ have received a faith as precious as ours’ (2 Pet. 1:1).

8. ‘We know also that the Son of God has come and has given us understanding, so that we may know him who is true. And we are in him who is true—even in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life’ (1 John 5:20). Note: this further shows that being the Son of God is the same as being God.

9. This is also brought out by the words that God ‘appeared in a body’ (1 Tim. 3:16).

10. Philippians 2:6: ‘Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.’ ‘Form’ (Gr. morpho), means what a thing really is inwardly and outwardly. ‘In the form of God’ is as strong a statement of Christ’s deity as could possibly be made.

11. ‘For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form’ (Col. 2:9). ‘For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together’ (Col. 1:16–17).

12. He is Creator (John 1:3).

13. His name is Immanuel, ‘God with us’ (Matt. 1:23).

14. Isaiah applies the name God to the coming Messiah. ‘For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counsellor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace’ (Isa. 9:6).

15. ‘He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation’ (Col. 1:15). ‘The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven’ (Heb. 1:3). If Christ is the mirror-image of the Father, what do you see in a mirror? A replica. The Son is the divine mirror-image of the Father.

D. Jesus as Lord.

1. Sometimes the word Lord (Gr. kyrios) is used simply as a polite address to a superior, roughly equivalent to ‘sir’ (Matt. 13:27; 21:30; 27:63; John 4:11).

2. The same word however is used in the LXX (Septuagint, the Greek translation of the Hebrew Old Testament) for Yahweh—translated ‘Lord’.

a. Kyrios translates the name of the Lord 6,814 times in the Old Testament.

b. Anyone with knowledge of that at the time would know that ‘Lord’ was used to mean the Creator—the omnipotent God.

(1) ‘Today in the town of David a Saviour has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord’ (Luke 2:11).

(2) ‘But why am I so favoured, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?’ (Luke 1:43).

(3) Referring to Jesus, John the Baptist cried, ‘Prepare the way for the Lord’ (Matt. 3:3).

(4) ‘Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom all things came and for whom we live; and there is but one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom all things came and through whom we live’ (1 Cor. 8:6).

(5) ‘Therefore I tell you that no one who is speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus be cursed,” and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit’ (1 Cor. 12:3).

II. Jesus’ own claim to Deity

A. When was Jesus conscious of his true identity?

1. In some sense he was aware of this after his bar mitzvah, when a Hebrew boy becomes a man—aged 12, in Jerusalem.

a. He said to his parents, ‘Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?’ (Luke 2:49).

b. This may well be the first witness to Jesus’ self-awareness of being God’s Son.

2. The full awareness of his deity was probably at his baptism.

a. He was obviously aware of his mission when he said to John the Baptist—inviting John to baptise him, ‘It is proper for us to do this to fulfil all righteousness’ (Matt. 3:15).

b. But the full awareness came immediately after he was baptised. ‘And a voice from heaven said, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased” ’ (Matt. 3:17).

B. Jesus asked Peter, ‘Who do you say I am?’ (Matt. 16:15).

1. Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God’ (Matt. 16:16).

2. Jesus affirmed Peter’s testimony. ‘Jesus replied, “Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven” ’ (Matt. 16:17).

3. This was later recognised by the Father’s voice when Jesus was transfigured (Matt. 17:5).

C. Jesus’ reference to his origin and pre-existence.

1. ‘I am the bread that came down from heaven’ (John 6:41, 51).

2. ‘The Father who sent me has himself testified concerning me’ (John 5:37).

3. ‘No one has seen the Father except the one who is from God; only he has seen the Father’ (John 6:46).

4. ‘I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world’ (John 8:23).

5. ‘ “I tell you the truth,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!” ’ (John 8:58).

a. Note: whenever Jesus said, ‘I am,’ he was repeating the very words God used when he identified himself to Moses as ‘I am who I am’ (Ex. 3:14).

b. Jesus was claiming for himself the title, ‘I am,’ by which God designates himself as the eternal existing one.

c. The Jews got the point! ‘At this, they picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus hid himself, slipping away from the temple grounds’ (John 8:59).

6. ‘Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father’ (John 14:9).

7. ‘And now, Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began’ (John 17:5).

D. Jesus referring to himself as the Son of Man.

1. This title is used 84 times in the four gospels, but only by Jesus and only to speak of himself.

2. This expression refers not to his humility or humanity but to deity.

a. This unique term has as its background the vision in Daniel 7.

b. The Son of Man was given ‘authority, glory and sovereign power; all peoples, nations and men of every language worshipped him. His dominion is an everlasting dominion that will not pass away’ (Dan. 7:14).

c. This speaks of one who had a heavenly origin and who was given an eternal rule over the whole world.

3. The high priest did not miss the point when Jesus said, answering the high priest, that he was the Son of God and Son of Man.

a. The high priest said, ‘I charge you under oath by the living God: Tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.’

b. ‘ “Yes, it is as you say,” Jesus replied. “But I say to all of you: In the future you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” ’ (Matt. 26:64).

c. ‘Then the high priest tore his clothes and said, “He has spoken blasphemy! Why do we need any more witnesses? Look, now you have heard the blasphemy” ’ (Matt. 26:65).

III. Evidence of Jesus’ Deity

A. Demonstration of omnipotence.

1. When Jesus stilled the storm with a word (Matt. 8:26–27).

2. When Jesus multiplied the loaves and fish (Matt. 14:19).

3. When Jesus changed the water into wine (John 2:1–11).

a. It is true that the above demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit and Jesus’ faith.

b. However, John says by turning the water into wine he revealed his ‘glory’ (John 2:11).

B. His eternity

1. ‘Before Abraham was born, I am’ (John 8:58).

2. ‘I am the Alpha and the Omega’ (Rev. 22:13).

C. His omniscience

1. Knowing people’s thoughts (Mark 2:8).

2. Seeing Nathaniel under the fig tree from far away (John 1:48).

3. Knowing who would betray him (John 6:64).

4. The disciples said to him, ‘Now we can see that you know all things’ (John 16:30. Cf. John 21:17).

D. His sovereignty

1. He could forgive sins (Mark 2:5–7).

2. The Old Testament prophets would say, ‘Thus saith the Lord,’ but Jesus said, ‘But I say unto you’ (Matt. 5:22, 28, 32, 34, 39, 44).

3. He had the authority to reveal the Father to whomsoever he chose (Matt. 11:25–27).

E. His immortality (cf. 1 Tim. 6:16): only God has immortality.

1. ‘Jesus answered them, “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” ’ (John 2:19).

2. ‘The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life—only to take it up again. No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father’ (John 10:17–18).

3. He has the power of an ‘indestructible life’ (Heb. 7:16).

F. Worship of Jesus commended and commanded.

1. The Magi came to worship him (Matt. 2:11; cf. Matt. 8:2).

2. The angels were told to worship him (Heb. 1:6).

3. ‘Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:9–11. Cf. Rev. 5:12–13).

G. Why are the words, ‘Jesus is God,’ not to be found?

1. ‘God’ is a technical word for the Father.

2. Had the New Testament said, ‘Jesus is God,’ it would imply that Jesus is the Father, which would be an anti-Trinitarian heresy.

3. It would imply that ‘God is Jesus,’ which is a somewhat misleading statement.

4. The facts of the matter are:

a. The New Testament uses the word ‘God’ for the Father.

b. ‘Lord’ equally implies deity, and it is ‘Lord’ which is the technical word for the Lord Jesus Christ.

c. Paul confirmed this: ‘Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father’ (Phil. 2:9–11).[35]

Christology (the Doctrine of Christ)

A study of how different versions have represented the person of Christ is also revealing in regard to theological bias. Sometimes renderings make His deity quite lucid, but at other times the wording raises strong questions concerning whether He is God.

Peter’s well-known confession (Matthew 16:16) is an instance that shows the difference. Some contemporary English translations have used the old English second person pronouns in language addressed to deity. Thus the RSV, the NEB, the MLB, and the NASB contain ‘thee’, ‘thou’, ‘thy’, and ‘thine’ numbers of times. Peter’s words to Christ at Caesarea-Philippi are a strong affirmation of Jesus’ deity, so one would expect ‘Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God’ in these versions. Yet the MLB and the NASB are the only ones that follow that pattern. By rendering the verse, ‘You are the Christ,’ the RSV and the NEB probably reflect a lower view of Christ’s person on the part of the majority of the translators on their committees. Though the ESV, the NASBU, and the HCSB render the verse the same as the RSV, the evangelical orientation of the translators of these versions gives assurance that a lower view of Christ’s person is not implied. Those versions use ‘Y[y]ou’, ‘Y[y]our’, and ‘Y[y]ours’ instead of ‘T[t]hee’, ‘T[t]hou’, ‘T[t]hy’, and ‘T[t]hine’ even when deity is addressed.

Romans 9:5 is also much discussed in connection with Christology. The issue here is the manner in which to punctuate the verse. If a full stop (i.e., a colon, semicolon, or period) separates the name of Christ from the name ‘God’, the statement affirms nothing regarding Christ’s deity. The usual punctuation of the verse, until the advent of some of the twentieth-century versions, has been a half stop (comma) or perhaps no punctuation at all. In fact, the majority of twentieth-century translations has continued this usual method, not making a strong separation between the two proper names (John H. Skilton, ‘Romans 9:5 in Modern English Versions,’ The New Testament Student at Work, vol. 2, 1975, 107–111). The exegetical evidence, though it has been argued both ways, favors the half stop or no punctuation. The verse is thus an explicit statement of the deity of Christ.

Some of the versions that support the deity of Christ in Romans 9:5 are the KJV, the ASV, the NASB, the NASBU, the ESV, the NIV, the NJB, the NRSV, the NCV, the MES, the NET, the JB, the TNIV, and the HCSB. Among those that do not support the teaching of His deity in the verse are the LB, the NAB, the PME, the RSV, the TEV, the REB, the CEV, and the NEB. In this latter list it is surprising to find the LB because of the conservative theology of its translator. This is probably an instance of a translator not realizing the doctrinal implications of his rendering. The NLT has corrected this misrepresentation of the LB translator’s beliefs about the person of Christ. The positions of the other works in both lists seem to agree with what is known of the theological inclinations of their producers.

Acts 20:28 is another testing ground for gauging a version’s support of the deity of Christ. The Greek text reads as in the KJV, the NKJV, the NASB, the NASBU, the ESV, the NIV, the TNIV, the HCSB, and others: ‘the church of God which he purchased with his own blood’ or a close equivalent of that. The words ‘his own blood’ refer back to ‘God’, furnishing a direct statement of the deity of Christ. The RSV avoids that direct statement, however, by adopting another reading that gives ‘Lord’ in place of ‘God’, thereby avoiding a clear statement of the deity of the Son. The NRSV recognizes that ‘God’ is the best supported reading in that verse by changing ‘Lord’ back to ‘God’ in Acts 20:28, but it has another way of avoiding a statement of Christ’s deity. It reads ‘the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son’. In effect, it adds the word ‘Son’ to the text in order to find a way to avoid stating Christ’s deity directly. The REB avoids advocating that Christ is God in a way similar to the RSV, and the NJB, the NCV, the TEV, and the NET shun the doctrine in essentially the same manner as the NRSV.

Most translations of John 1:1 state that ‘the Word was God’. A few, however, vary from this. TEV has the Word ‘was the same as God’. The NEB says, ‘What God was, the Word was.’ These two versions are not as clearly explicit in expressing the deity of Christ, the Word, if they do so at all. The New World Translation predictably removes any reference to unique deity: ‘The Word was a god.’ One would not expect a translation effort sponsored by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, the publishing body of Jehovah’s Witnesses, to support the deity of Christ. So the rendering in the NWT is no surprise.

TEV has a statement in Philippians 2:6 that is difficult and probably impossible to reconcile with the deity of Christ. It reads, ‘He did not think that by force he should try to become equal with God.’ That in essence appears to deny the Son’s full deity by denying His equality with the Father. The rendering also happens to be a misleading representation of the Greek text on which it is supposedly based. The JB is more adequate with its words, ‘he did not cling to his equality with God.’ This latter rendering accepts that Jesus is fully God. The NJB is similar: ‘Who, being in the form of God, did not count equality with God something to be grasped.’ These last two versions bear the Imprimatur of the Roman Catholic Church, an organization that endorses the doctrine of Christ’s deity.

Another illustration of Christological bias derives from the highly regarded ASV of 1901. A scholar of the Unitarian persuasion served on the translation committee for this work. Though greatly outnumbered by orthodox Trinitarians, he apparently left his mark in a note in the margin accompanying the word ‘worshipped’ in John 9:38. The note reads, ‘The Greek word denotes an act of reverence, whether paid to a creature (as here) or to the Creator (see ch. 4:20).’ The blind man, having just come to faith in Jesus, ‘worshipped’ Him, but the explanatory note says Jesus is a mere creature. The note goes on to contrast Him with God the Creator in this respect. That is a rather explicit denial that Jesus is God. The REB follows the same pattern. In John 4:20 they render the word by ‘worship’, but here in 9:38 it reads ‘fell on his knees’ rather than ‘worshiped’. Similarly, the NEB renders ‘bowed’ in John 9:38 rather than ‘worshiped’. Those renderings probably indicate a lower view of Christ’s person.[36]

Why Should We Believe That Jesus Christ Is God?

One of the most remarkable foundations of the Christian faith is that Jesus Christ is eternal God. This is disputed by other religions (including the other monotheistic faiths, Judaism and Islam), by Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses, and certainly by many skeptics. Without question, lacking this central pillar, Christianity fails and has nothing to offer anyone.

It is no surprise that from very early on, believers have contended for, fought for, and died for this teaching—the deity of Jesus Christ. In a nutshell, the doctrine is that Jesus Christ is fully God (not half God or one-third God) and eternally God (he did not become God at some point in time). Anything less has been considered heresy.

There are many lines of argument for the deity of Jesus. Plainly, the fact is crystal clear if one allows Scripture to say what it says. Here are a few of those contentions and a few examples.

Not only did Christ exist before he was conceived by Mary (this is what preexistence means), he has always been; he is eternal. John 1:1 says, “In the beginning was the Word [referring to Christ], and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” This last phrase is also a straightforward statement of his deity. Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58), both a declaration of eternality (“before Abraham was born”) and of deity (“I am”). The Jews would have understood “I am” as a reference to the name of their God: Yahweh (see Exodus 3:14–15). That is why they immediately sought to kill him (John 8:59). The famous prophecy of Messiah’s birthplace also says of him, “whose origins are from of old, from ancient times” (Micah 5:2).

Jesus Christ also has other divine attributes: omnipresence (demonstrated in his promise to be with all believers—e.g., Matthew 28:20), omnipotence (demonstrated through his miracles—e.g., Luke 8:23–25), and omniscience (demonstrated by his knowledge of human thoughts—e.g., Luke 6:8; 11:17). Only God has these three characteristics.

Another line of evidence is that Jesus Christ did what God does. For example, Jesus is Creator and sustainer of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16–17; Hebrews 1:2–3). He gives life, specifically eternal life (John 5:21; 10:28; 11:25–26). A good example of Jesus’ doing what only God can do is his forgiving the sins of a paralyzed man. The Jewish religious leaders responded, “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Exactly! When Jesus healed the man, he said he did it because “I want you to know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (see Mark 2:1–12).

In addition to being who God is and doing what God does, another evidence of his deity is that he made that claim himself: “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30; also 8:58, noted above). After his arrest, when the high priest demanded of Jesus, “Tell us if you are the Messiah, the Son of God” (Matthew 26:63), he replied, “You have said so. But I say to all of you: From now on you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven” (v. 64). Here Jesus quotes from two messianic prophecies (Psalm 110:1; Daniel 7:13), and that those listening understood these as references to a divine being is indicated by their reaction: “He has spoken blasphemy!… He is worthy of death” (Matthew 26:65–66). This was the usual Jewish reaction to his claims of deity (e.g., John 8:59; 10:31).

Some claims that may seem obscure to us couldn’t be missed by the Jews who heard Jesus, as evidenced by this same reaction. For example,

“My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I too am working.” For this reason they tried all the more to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.

John 5:17–18

Another unavoidable argument for Christ’s deity is that he accepted worship. He went so far as to say, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him” (v. 23). In other words, if we don’t worship him, we can’t worship God.

A little while after Jesus had given sight to the man born blind (John 9), he came back to this man, who had not yet seen him, and said, “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” When the man realized who this was, he said “ ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped him” (vv. 35–38). When Jesus appeared to his disciples after his resurrection (John 20), he said to Thomas, “ ‘Stop doubting and believe.’ Thomas said, ‘My Lord and my God!’ ” (vv. 27–28).

What is so amazing about these examples is that these two loyal (strictly monotheistic) Jews did what they did. They believed in one God who has no physical form (thus the first and second commandments). Like others before them (e.g., see Daniel 3), they would rather have died than worship anyone but the one true God; the very thought was repugnant. But these men, like many others, worshiped Jesus because they had become completely convinced that this man is the one true God.

In historical context, what they did was absolutely revolutionary. And Jesus did not rebuke them. If thinking that he was God had revealed a terrible misunderstanding, Jesus could have taken the opportunity to say, “Hold on! Don’t worship me! Worship only God” (as, for instance, Paul and Barnabas did, and as angels repeatedly did). Jesus accepted worship because he is God and is worthy of it.

One of the reasons this doctrine is so crucial is that if Jesus is not fully God, there is no salvation to be found in his death. The sacrifice that would be sufficient for the many sins of the many people had to be a sacrifice of infinite value. No human being could provide this kind of sacrifice; only God himself could. This is why the early Christians were so appalled at the deity of Jesus being denied. They knew his deity was absolutely vital for their salvation.

INTERESTING FACT

Two of the clearest New Testament texts regarding the deity of Jesus are Colossians 2:9: “In Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form,” and Hebrews 1:3: “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.”[37]

6. The word θεότητος is only found here in the New Testament. It is derived from θεός and means “absolute Deity.” All the lexicons, grammars, and commentaries define θεότητος as “absolute Deity.” Thayer defines it as “deity, i.e., the state of being God.” Wuest states:

It is not merely divine attributes that are in mind now, but the possession of the essence of deity in an absolute sense.

As Moule points out, Paul is referring to “the whole glorious total of what God is, the supreme Nature in its infinite entirety.” Trench comments:

St. Paul is declaring that in the Son there dwells all the fullness of absolute Godhead; they were no mere rays of divine glory which gilded Him, lighting up his person for a season and with a splendor not his own; but He was, and is, absolute and perfect God; and the Apostle uses θεότητος to express this essential and personal Godhead of the Son.

7. Paul states that “absolute Deity” resides in Jesus σωματικῶς “bodily.” The Gnostics denied that God could be incarnate in a human body. The very idea of God and matter being mixed together was horrifying to them. This is why Paul deliberately chose the word σωματικῶς. It meant that absolute Deity was “permanently embodied” in Jesus Christ. Robertson explains:

Paul here disposes of the Docetic theory that Jesus had no human body as well as the Cerinthian separation between the man Jesus and the aeon Christ. He asserts plainly the deity and the humanity of Jesus Christ in corporeal form.

Paul stated that absolute Deity was embodied in Jesus in order to correct the errors of the false teachers at Colosse. The implications of this are brought out beautifully by John Eadie:

The fullness of the Godhead was embodied in Him, or dwelt in Him—in no invisible shape, and by no unappreciable contact. It assumed a bodily form. It abode in Him as a man. It made its residence the humanity of Jesus. Divinity was incarnated in Christ. It shrunk not from taking upon it our nature, and realizing the prophetic title “Immanuel, God with us.” The same idea is contained in John 1:14 “the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us.” The Logos, yet unfleshed, was God, and was with God, Divine and yet distinct from the Father; but the fullness of Godhead was only spiritually within Him. Now, it has made its abode in his humanity without consuming it or deifying it, or changing any of its essential properties.

In Jesus, we are clearly confronted with The Theophany of all theophanies. But, whereas in the Old Testament, the “form of Yahweh” (מְנֻּתְמֻנַת יְהוָה) was only a temporary physical manifestation, Jesus is the permanent physical manifestation of God in human form.

What must be in order for what is to be what it is? If Jesus Christ is the embodiment of absolute Deity, how could this idea be stated in the Greek language? What Greek words would convey this concept? θεότητος means “absolute Deity” and σωματικῶς means “embodiment.” The union of these two words indicates the union of the divine and human in Jesus.

Is it a mere coincidence that Paul used the exact words in the Greek language which would clearly convey this idea to the rational mind? While Trinitarians expect to find the authors of the New Testament applying such exalted titles to Jesus, what Arian would ever use such language?

Old Testament Titles and Names for God

If the authors of the New Testament believed that Jesus was God as well as man, then we would expect to find them applying Old Testament titles and names for God to Him. On the other hand, if the anti-Trinitarians are right and the authors of the New Testament did not believe in Christ’s deity, then we would not expect to find them doing so. These two propositions are quite simple and straightforward. Which view is be substantiated by the evidence?

The New Testament writers did not hesitate to take Old Testament divine titles and names and apply them to Jesus. The fact that they did this with such ease and freedom reveals that they began with the assumption that Jesus Christ is God as well as man. The following chart illustrates some of these titles and names.

Title/Name

Yahweh in the OT

Jesus in the NT

Creator

Gen. 1:1

John 1:3

The Rock

Deut. 32:4

1 Cor. 10:4

The Shepherd

Ps. 23:1

Heb. 13:20

The King of Glory

Ps. 24:7

Matt. 25:31–34

The First and Last

Isa. 44:6

Rev. 22:13

I Am

Exod. 3:13–14

John 8:58

Savior

Isa. 45:21

John 4:42

Holy One

Isa. 45:11

John 6:69

That such titles and names rich with Old Testament meaning would be applied to Jesus reveals that He must be God. It would have been sheer blasphemy to apply such titles and names to Jesus, if He were not true deity. That this was understood is demonstrated by John 8:58[38]

He left his father’s throne above,

So free, so infinite his grace,

Emptied himself of all but love,

and bled for Adam’s helpless race.[39]

He did do that, but He never emptied Himself of deity. He considered equality with God not something to be held on to, but emptied Himself. Remember one thing: He never emptied Himself of His deity. He could not do it. It would be metaphysically impossible, even to think such a thought that the eternal Son should be anything less than God. But He never emptied Himself of any attributes of deity; rather, He emptied Himself of the accoutrements of deity. He emptied Himself of the evidences of the deity, covered the deity in a cloak of opaque flesh and walked among us as though He were a man. He was God in overalls, living on the earth, wearing the common denim of humanity and covering over His deity. When occasion required, He could let His deity shine through, as once when He prayed to the heavenly Father and His face became shining white and His garments whiter than any flower on earth, shining like the sun as He knelt there. It was only His deity showing itself through the previously opaque veil of His manhood (see Luke 9:28–29).

But even while He walked on earth He was with unbroken fellowship with His Father. For it is impossible that the Father and the Son should ever cease in the ancient sea of the Godhead to be joined together as one. But the man Christ Jesus cried, “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46). And as pertaining to His manhood, He was forsaken of the Father; but as pertaining to His deity, forsaking would be impossible, for we cannot divide the deity or separate the persons of the holy Trinity. So Jesus, when He walked on earth, saw the Father; and that gives us our forethought, the perfect clairvoyance of the Son.[40]

The Deity of Jesus Christ

I. A Necessary Article of Faith

FOR the Christian believer the deity of Christ is a necessary article of faith for the following reasons:

1. First, Jesus works in us a divine result. There is an urgent necessity in Christian experience which cannot be ignored. We must either formally repudiate Christ as Redeemer, or go on and construe him as Redeemer. If he is not divine he has become a tremendous burden to Christianity. We must either estimate him as no more than a great teacher or a great saint, or else we must recognize in him God manifest in the flesh. For the believer there can be no hesitation. In his redeeming work in the Christian Jesus has done the following things: He has made religion a free and autonomous activity of man’s spirit in direct relations with God. He has created a world of spiritual realities for the redeemed man and holds him in stedfast communion with that world. He has revealed God as eternal Father, whose fundamental character is righteous love which ever seeks the lost. Jesus has also disclosed the inner being of God as a sphere in which that love is active in the relations between the eternal Father and the eternal Son.

2. This conviction that Christ is God, arising out of the redeeming activity of Christ, contains implicitly a group of great intuitions which lie at the heart of man’s spiritual life. It contains the psychological intuition of the self and the not-self, since it knows Another in the inner life of the soul. It contains the ethical intuition of right and wrong because the Christian’s choice of Christ is the supreme choice of duty as such. It contains the rational intuition in its twofold form as the perception of the distinction between truth and error, and of cause and effect. Christ as the truth is for the believer distinguished from all forms of error in the religious life. He is distinctly and explicitly recognized as the cause producing the effects in the morally transformed life. The several forms of the religious intuition are also involved in the experience of redemption through Christ: such as our sense of dependence of the finite upon the infinite; and also our sense of unrest and inner conflict which finds relief and inner blessedness through the discovery of the soul’s true object.

3. The Christian believer holds the deity of Christ for the further reason that his experience of God in Christ unifies and completes many lines of evidence. Logic and philosophy draw inferences from objective facts and arrive at rational belief in God. In our redemption in Christ we find God as a fact. The psychology of religion presents us the manifestations of the religious consciousness of man. But it leaves unsolved the problem of causes. Christ gives us the solution. Physical science deals with causation in the sense of continuity or the conservation of energy, and never rises above the chain of material forces. Our experience of redemption in Christ is an experience of free causation, in which through personal interaction Christ draws us to himself and becomes a transforming power within. The study of comparative religion introduces us to a great mass of interesting data, but leaves unsolved the problem of the unity, coherence, and finality of religion. Our experience in Christ brings all religious values to a focus and unifies the religious life and fulfils its highest ideals. The philosophy of religion seeks to apply the rational process to the phenomena of religion, but remains abstract and unstable until the thinker himself knows experientially the religious object. Our experience in Christ puts us in possession of the realities of the spiritual life and affords the material out of which the philosophy of religion may construct its world-view.

4. Our belief in the deity of Christ arises also from the fact that our redemption in him is not a merely individual experience. It is also social and historical. A new spiritual order arose with the Christian movement. It has continued through Christian history. The creeds of Christendom witness to the great fundamental facts. No one can understand Christian history without recognizing the centrality of Christ in the experience of the individual and of the church. Many errors and abuses have arisen. Many lapses from the lofty standards of Christ’s kingdom have occurred. But the great central truth remains. Jesus Christ stands at the heart of the whole movement.

5. Through the historical connections of faith we are brought back to the New Testament itself. There it is abundantly clear that the risen Jesus is everywhere regarded as the Lord of the church and the redeemer of man. His resurrection from the dead was a great crisis and turning-point in his Messianic work. It marked a new stage in the development of the divine purpose of redemption in and through him. It was the gospel of the risen Jesus that transformed the early disciples. By the side of the resurrection we must place certain other great facts which come to us through the synoptic records of his life and work. One of these is the sinlessness of Jesus. Another is his Messianic consciousness. Yet another is his self-disclosure as the religious object and final judge and only mediator between God and man. And finally, his unique relations as Son with the eternal Father.

On any critical view whatever as to the sources of the synoptic Gospels which is tenable, the above facts stand forth in great clearness. Certain forms of modern religious philosophy, in an abstract and unhistorical and uncritical manner, seek to eliminate some of the above elements. But if the Gospels are permitted to speak at all, they speak the message as we have outlined it. The message is dear and unequivocal.[41]

Deity and Humanity. Christianity is unique among world religions, and Christ’s true uniqueness is the centerpiece of Christianity. The truth about Christ is based primarily on the New Testament documents which have been shown elsewhere to be authentic (see New Testament Manuscripts, Reliability of; New Testament, Historicity of). The New Testament record, especially the Gospels, is one of the most reliable documents from the ancient world. From these documents we learn that numerous facets of Christ are absolutely unique.

Jesus Christ was unique in that he alone, of all who ever lived, was both God and man. The New Testament teaches the fully unified deity and humanity of Christ. The Nicene Creed (325) states the uniform belief of all orthodox Christianity that Christ was fully God and fully man in one person. All heresies regarding Christ deny one or both of these propositions. This as a claim alone makes him unique above all other religious leaders or persons who have ever lived, and it can be backed up with factual evidence. Some of this evidence is seen in other aspects of Christ’s uniqueness (see Christ, Deity of).[42]

1 Kings 15; Colossians 2; Ezekiel 45; Psalms 99–101

the setting was a Bible study led by a lady in the church where I was serving as pastor. A woman from one of the more popular cults had infiltrated this group, and the lady from our church soon discovered she was a little out of her depth. I was invited along, and soon found myself in a public confrontation with the intruder’s cult “pastor” (though he did not call himself that). One of the things he wanted to deny in strong terms was the deity of Jesus Christ. As we started looking together at biblical references which, on the face of it, say something about the deity of Christ, eventually we came to Colossians 2:9. He wanted to render the verse, rather loosely, something like “in Christ all the attributes of the Deity live in bodily form.”

I asked him which of the attributes of God Jesus does not have. He immediately saw the problem. If he said, “eternality” (which is what he believed), he would be trapped, for his own rendering would contradict him. If he said, “none” (in defiance of his own beliefs), then how can Jesus and God be as sharply distinguished as he proposed?

In any case, Colossians 2:9 is even stronger than his translation allowed: “in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.” Observe:

(1) In this context, the Colossians are exhorted to continue to live in Christ, just as they “received Christ Jesus as Lord” (2:6)—which as usual bears an overtone of Jesus’ divine identity, since “Lord” was commonly the way one addressed God in the Greek versions of the Old Testament.

(2) Both then and now, there are people who try to ensnare you through a “hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition” (2:8). In virtually every case, the aim of such deceptive philosophies is to reduce or relativize Christ, to redirect attention and allegiance away from him. Not only these verses but much of the letter to the Colossians show that, whoever these heretics are, their attack is against Christ. Paul will not budge: “all the fullness of the Deity” lives in him in bodily form—and you are complete in him, in him you enjoy all the fullness you can possibly know (2:10). To turn from him for extras is disastrous, for he alone is “the head over every power and authority” (2:10).

(3) Apparently at least one branch of the Colossian heretics was trying to get the believers to add to Christ a bevy of Jewish rituals. Paul does not budge: he understands that the rites and rituals mandated by the Old Testament constitute “a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ” (2:17).[43]

The title “servant” James adopted for himself was one used to describe many of the Lord’s chosen.8 Throughout biblical history such persons—usually prophets—led the people of God because they were divinely selected to be his servants. Since an attitude of service is what distinguishes biblical leadership, there is no contradiction between service and leadership. What distinction there would be between reader and apostle is de-emphasized through the use of “servant” and through the repeated use of “brothers” when directly addressing the readers. This was James the Righteous, James the servant.

Although James’s service was rendered to “God and to the Lord Jesus Christ,” the text could bear the sense of affirming the deity of Christ. This sense appears again in 2:1, where Jesus can be said to be the glory of God. It is grammatically possible that James was saying he served “Jesus Christ who is God and Lord,” which would be one of the great affirmations of the deity of Jesus Christ in the New Testament. Titus 1:1, the only other New Testament greeting to use the term “servant of God,” does not add the name of Jesus Christ, whereas Rom 1:1, 2 Pet 1:1, and Jude 1 use “servant of [Jesus] Christ.” The Book of Acts expresses the close relation between God and Jesus Christ (cf. 11:17; 15:26; 28:31). We should not turn away too quickly from this suggested interpretation.

James, however, may have been intending to exalt both God the Father and Christ. There is no doubt that such an ascription of deity to Jesus Christ would be a sensitive issue—though not as much in a Gentile as in a Jewish context. We must remember what an exalted status “Lord” carries and how it can be applied to both God and Jesus (1:27 and 3:9). Perhaps there is a kind of openness in this text for a reading that both distinguishes and identifies God and Christ. Against this ambiguity, however, is the use of the word “God,” which in James always refers to the Father (1:27; 3:9). In serving Christ as Lord, James served God the Father.[44]

From these premises alone it is concluded that Jesus is the Son of the one, true, theistic God who alone can account for these miraculous events in Jesus’ life. From the deity of Christ it can be, and often is, argued that the Bible is the Word of God, since Jesus (who is God) affirmed it to be so (see Bible, Evidence for; Bible, Jesus’ View of). In this way, God, miracles, the deity of Christ (see Christ, Deity of), and the inspiration of the Bible are all supported by way of a historical argument.[45]

Jesus placed his own words on a par with that law. He claimed that his words bring eternal life (John 5:24), and vowed that his teaching came from the Father (John 8:26–28). Despite the fact that he was a human being on earth, Christ accepted acknowledgment as deity (for example, Matt. 28:18; John 9:38).[46]

Following this miracle (John 5:1–15), Jesus confronts the Jews’ religious hypocrisy with clear statements about His deity (5:17–47). For the first time, John reveals the murderous intent of the Jewish leaders (5:16, 18).[47]

The Deity of Jesus

The following sections examine the titles and formulas found in the Johannine literature of the New Testament which are most important for understanding the person of Jesus.

Explicit claims of deity. The clear and climactic assertion of Jesus’ deity in the gospel of John is found in Thomas’ exclamation in John 20:28, “My Lord and my God!” This is not the first time such an identification of Jesus occurs in the fourth gospel, however. It is introduced in the prologue and repeatedly emphasized throughout the gospel. John 1:1 makes three assertions about the Word (the Logos, identified as Jesus in 1:14). First, before the created order existed, the Word already existed. Second, the Word was in intimate personal relationship with God. Third, the Word was fully deity in essence (the neb provides a helpful translation here: “What God was, the Word was”). Again at the end of the prologue a similar point is made about who Jesus is. “No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known” (1:18). Thus at the very outset of his gospel, John set forth his understanding of the person of Jesus Christ. This understanding is amplified and repeated throughout the remainder of the fourth gospel, reaching its climax in the confession of Thomas in 20:28. Contributing to John’s affirmation of the deity of Jesus are the seven sign-miracles of John 2:1–11:44 (discussed in the preceding section), the nonpredicated “I am” statements of the gospel of John (8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; and perhaps 18:5), and statements relating to the identity of Jesus and the Father. The use of the expression ho ōn (“him who is”) in Revelation 1:4, 8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5 also points to the deity of Jesus.

The sign-miracles and the deity of Jesus. The preceding general section on the person of Jesus in the Johannine writings discussed at some length the seven sign-miracles of John 2:11–11:44. Each of these has its place in John’s narrative as an expression of some facet of Jesus’ person and work, but, in addition, all point to Jesus’ heavenly origin, divine authority, and full deity. This is explicitly stated by Jesus Himself in John 10:37–38: “Do not believe me unless I do what my Father does. But if I do it, even though you do not believe me, believe the evidence of the miracles, that you may learn and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father.” The sign-miracles themselves provide testimony as to who Jesus is.

The “I am” statements and the deity of Jesus. The “I am” statements are unique to John’s gospel. As first-person statements by Jesus they form a significant part of His self-revelation. These statements are important for two reasons. First, a number of them make significant predications about Jesus by using metaphors (e.g., “I am the bread of life,” 6:35). Second, the phrase “I am” is used in the Old Testament as a description of God Himself (Ex. 3:14; cf. Isa. 46:4). A number of the “I am” statements in John’s gospel (8:24, 28, 58; 13:19; and perhaps 18:5) are absolute (i.e., without a predicate) and strongly suggest an allusion to Exodus 3:14.

There are seven “I am” statements which make predications about Jesus in the gospel of John. Jesus used this construction to make assertions about Himself as the Bread of life (6:35), the Light of the world (8:12), the Door (10:7; niv “gate”), the Good Shepherd (10:11), the Resurrection and the Life (11:25), the Way, the Truth, and the Life (14:6), and the Vine (15:1). Each of these metaphors illustrates some aspect of Jesus’ person and work. As the Bread of life, Jesus is the Provider and Sustainer of all life. As the Light of the world, Jesus is the Giver of moral light—but He is also the Light who came into the world at its creation (1:4) and who continues to shine in the darkness (1:5). Many of the abstract concepts about the Logos mentioned in the prologue to the gospel of John are made concrete by the “I am” statements that follow. Important as these are for understanding who Jesus is and what He came to do, they stop short of explicitly identifying Him with the name of Yahweh as found in the Old Testament.

The absolute (nonpredicated) “I am” statements go further, however. Four of these statements make explicit claims to Jesus’ identification with God (8:24, 28, 58; 13:19). The clearest and most remarkable of these is John 8:58, “Before Abraham was born, I am!” This was Jesus’ reply to His opponents’ exclamation, “You are not yet fifty years old … and you have seen Abraham!” (v. 57). Jesus’ statement clearly alludes to Exodus 3:14, and the response of His opponents makes it clear that they understood Jesus’ words as a claim to identification with deity. They prepared to stone Him for what they understood to be blasphemy (v. 59).

The three remaining nonpredicated uses of the phrase “I am” (8:24, 28; 13:19) must be seen against the background of 8:58. Although it might be possible to understand these statements as simple affirmations (“I am He”), in the contexts in which they occur they seem to imply more. In 8:24 and 28 Jesus was discussing who He is. He told His opponents that He is from above, not from this world, and that if they do not believe that He is the one He claims to be (“I am”), they will die in their sins (v. 24). At stake in this context is the urgent necessity of believing in Jesus for salvation and the need for forgiveness of sins. Jesus said that when He would be “lifted up” (in His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension), He would draw all people to Himself (8:28; cf. 12:32), and in that moment it will be clear to those who have eyes to see that He truly bears the divine name (“I am”) and that He has the power to raise people to the Father. But if they refuse to believe—refuse to see—then there is no other way (cf. 14:6) that leads to the Father above, and people will go to their graves permanently separated from the gift and Giver of eternal life.

Similarly in John 13:19 Jesus had told His disciples of His betrayal beforehand, in order that when it happened their faith might be strengthened (that they already believed seems clear from numerous previous statements in the gospel, such as 2:11). What they would believe when they looked back on His prediction of betrayal is given in the final clause of 13:19: “that I am” (niv “that I am He”). The expression here is almost certainly to be understood as an absolute statement without a predicate as in 8:28. On later (postresurrection) reflection concerning Jesus’ prediction of His betrayal, the disciples would conclude that He had been in complete control of the situation as only God Himself could be.

Less certain as an absolute claim to identification with God is Jesus’ statement “I am He” in John 18:5. Jesus may simply have been identifying Himself as the person Judas and the soldiers were seeking. Based on the response in 18:6 to Jesus’ statement, however, some interpreters see this scene as similar to a theophany, where Jesus revealed to His enemies for a moment who He really is, and they prostrated themselves at His feet. It may well be that in verses 5–6 John recorded an incident in which the opponents of Jesus recoiled from surprise or abhorrence of what they perceived to be blasphemy. But for the reader of the gospel, who already knows who Jesus is and that His claim to identification with God is true, the reaction of the enemies is highly ironic. The betrayer Judas himself fell down at Jesus’ feet before the soldiers led Him away to His trial and crucifixion.

Statements relating to the identity of Jesus and the Father. Statements regarding the identity of Jesus and the Father in John 10:30 and 17:22 also point to Jesus’ deity. Some interpreters have understood Jesus’ words in these passages to affirm merely a oneness of will, action, or purpose. But within the framework of John’s gospel the Word is declared to be essentially God (1:1), and the confession of Thomas in 20:28 provides the climax. As already seen in 8:58, Jesus alluded to His identification with God by appropriating the divine name (cf. Ex. 3:14) and the Jewish opponents responded by attempting to stone Him. A similar response to Jesus’ statement “I and the Father are one” occurs in John 10:30. This suggests that Jesus’ opponents understood the statement as a blasphemous (to them) assertion of deity on Jesus’ part. It is important to note that although the statements in 10:30 and 17:22 regarding the relationship of Jesus to the Father do imply Jesus’ deity, they stop short of complete identity. The word for “one” used by Jesus in John 10:30 is neuter rather than masculine in form, thereby preserving the distinction between Jesus and the Father established in the prologue to the fourth gospel (1:1b, “the Word was with God”) and maintained throughout.

The deity of Jesus in Revelation. In the book of Revelation the use of the expression ho ōn (“him who is” in 1:4, 8; 4:8; 11:17; 16:5) also points to the deity of Jesus because it too alludes to the self-designation of God in Exodus 3:14. There are also three “I am” statements in Revelation (1:8; 21:6; 22:13) which are followed by the same predicate (“the Alpha and the Omega”). Of these, the first is probably best understood as an utterance of God the Father (1:8), while the last (22:13) is said by the exalted Jesus (cf. 22:16). It is difficult to be sure whether in 21:6 Jesus or the Father is speaking, but it is probably best to see a reference to the Father here. In any case, the interchangeability of speaker between 1:8 and 22:13 (Jesus and the Father) constitutes an implicit ascription of deity to Jesus[48]

John, Gospel of. The Gospel of John is an important link in the argument for the deity of Christ and the truth of Christianity. Granting truth is knowable (see Truth, Nature of) the overall argument can be stated (see Apologetics, Overall Argument):

1. The theistic God exists.

2. In a theistic universe, miracles are possible (see Miracle).

3. Miracles in connection with truth claims are acts of God that confirm the truth of God claimed by a messenger of God (see Miracles, Apologetic Value of).

4. The New Testament documents are historically reliable.

5. In the New Testament Jesus claimed to be God.

6. Jesus proved to be God by an unprecedented convergence of miracles.

7. Therefore, Jesus was God in human flesh.

John’s Gospel speaks to the fifth premise, recording Jesus’ explicit claims to deity:

The Father judges no one, but has entrusted all judgment to the Son, that all may honor the Son just as they honor the Father. He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him. [5:22–23]

I tell you the truth … before Abraham was born, I am! [8:58]

I and the Father are one. [10:30]

Father, glorify me in your presence with the glory I had with you before the world began. [17:5]

Other claims to Christ’s deity claims are unrecorded in the Synoptics as they are in John (for instance, 9:35–38; 13; 13–15, and 18:6). Clear statements of an eyewitness apostle about Christ’s deity come from John:

In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [1:1]

No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. [1:18]

Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him. [12:39–41]

“My Lord and my God.” [The confession of Thomas to the risen Christ, 20:28]

Because these statements have no parallels in the other Gospels, negative critics have dismissed their authenticity. Apologists frequently avoid the issue by sticking to Jesus’ claims to deity in the Synoptics (for example, Matt. 16:16–17; Mark 2:5–10; 14:61–65) and instances where he accepted worship (for example, Matt. 28:9; Mark 5:6; 15:19).

We cannot afford to bypass John entirely, however. If, as some critics claim, John created these sayings or does not accurately report them, the Gospel accounts are undermined, as well as the rich theological teachings found in John (see New Testament, Dating of; New Testament Documents, Reliability of).

Arguments against Historicity. Several arguments are used against the authenticity of John’s record:

John was written in the second century, so an eyewitness could not have composed it. Allegedly, the writer put statements that attribute deity into the mouth of Jesus and his disciples.[49]

The Deity of Jesus

Paul affirmed that Jesus existed in the form of God from all eternity past (Phil 2:5–11). This means Jesus possessed inwardly and demonstrated outwardly the very nature of God Himself (Col 1:15–16; 2:9). Also the opening verse of John’s Gospel is a categorized affirmation of Jesus’ full deity (John 1:1–2; 14:9; 17:5). Pictures of Jesus’ deity also are in the unique “I am” statements of John’s Gospel (John 6:35; 8:12; 10:7–9, 11–14; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1–5). We see this particularly in Jesus’ statement about His eternal existence that comes during the confrontation with the Jews (John 8:58). Finally, we see Jesus receiving the worship of Thomas (John 20:28) in his confession, “My Lord and my God.” These passages, along with others in the New Testament (see Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:1–8) cut across all lesser confessions of Christ’s person, showing that any view that would make Him merely a great teacher or a great prophet is not adequate.

Unity of the Two Natures

It is necessary that Christ should be both God and man. Only as man could He be a redeemer for humanity; only as a sinless man could He fittingly die for others. Only as God could His life, ministry, and redeeming death have infinite value and satisfy the demands of God so as to deliver others from death.

Christ has a human nature, but He is not a human person. The person of Christ is the God-man, the second person of the Trinity. In the incarnation He did not change into a human person or adopt a human person-age. He assumed a human nature in addition to His eternal divine nature. With the assumption of the human nature, He is not a divine person or a human person but a divine-human person possessing all the essential qualities of both the human and divine nature. This is a mystery beyond full comprehension. Also it is confessed that Jesus has both a divine and human consciousness as well as a human and divine will, yet clearly a unity of person. He is always the same person, Jesus Christ the Lord.

We can also learn about Jesus from His titles, such as Christ, Lord, and others ascribed to Him in Scripture. See article Titles of Christ in the Gospels. Other meaningful titles include:

Servant. The idea of servant acts as an umbrella term in the New Testament, speaking to many aspects of the person of Christ based upon the servant motif in Isaiah 53 (Mark 10:45; Phil 2:5–11; 1 Pet 2:21–25).

Prophet/Teacher. We find references to Jesus as the voice of God or a teacher who has come from God several places in the New Testament. The emphasis is upon Jesus’ preaching ministry and the authority associated with His work (Deut 18:5; John 3:2; Acts 3:22).

Last Adam. The title given to Jesus by Paul in Romans 5:12–21 and 1 Corinthians 15:22, 45–47 evidences the solidarity of Adam with the human race and of Christ with His people. Paul showed Jesus’ importance and uniqueness by contrasting Him with Adam. Adam’s disobedience is contrasted with Christ’s obedience; what Adam lost, Christ regained; what Adam failed to do, Christ did. Through Adam’s one sin, condemnation came to all, bringing death; through Jesus’ act of obedience, grace was provided for all, bringing life. Adam was a living being, a man of dust; Jesus was a life-giving Spirit, a man from heaven.

God. The early church did not hesitate to ascribe full deity to Jesus with the title God (Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13; Heb 1:5–8).

The titles affirm the uniqueness of Jesus and the exalted view of Him by the early church. The total impression gained after reflecting upon the titles and their significance is that Jesus was recognized in His person as fully God and fully human.[50]

John 1:1–18

THE DEITY OF JESUS

Overview

The Gospel of John speaks more clearly than any other of the deity of Christ. There can be no doubt: the Bible does teach that Jesus of Nazareth was fully God as well as truly man.

This teaching does not, of course, rest only on what we find in John’s Gospel. There are many other passages that affirm Jesus’ deity. Among the most powerful are:

Colossians 1:15–20. Jesus who expresses the invisible God was Himself the Creator of all things, and has priority over all.

Hebrews 1:1–13. Jesus is the “exact representation” of God’s being, and sustains all things by His own powerful word. He is, as God, above all created beings, including the angels who are so superior to mortal man.

Philippians 2:5–11. Jesus, though “in very nature God” voluntarily surrendered the prerogatives of Deity to become a true human being. Now that He has been resurrected He has been exalted again, and in the future every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord.

It is this Jesus, God from before the beginning, whom John wants to show us in his Gospel. And from this Gospel John wants to teach us how to respond, from the heart, to Him as Saviour and Lord.

Grace. “Grace” reveals both God and man. It shows human beings as helpless, trapped in sin. And it shows God willing and able to meet our deepest needs.

Commentary

The last of the apostles laid down his pen. His fingers brushed away one of the tears that still came so easily when he thought about the death and resurrection of his beloved Jesus. Even after all these years, he could still feel the same sorrow and joy he had felt so intently then.

John had been bewildered when Jesus died, and amazed by His resurrection. It had taken John and the others so long to understand, so long to really know who Jesus was … no, is.

John remembered those days just after the Resurrection when Jesus again walked with and taught His disciples. Taking up his pen again, the apostle bent over his manuscript to add: “Jesus did many other miraculous signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not recorded in this book. But these are written that you might believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in His name” (John 20:30–31).

John, the last of the apostles to die, gave us in his Gospel one of four portraits of Jesus written in the decades after Christ’s death and resurrection. John’s Gospel is unique in a number of ways. It was written long after the others, possibly some 40 years after the end of Jesus’ life on earth. Unlike the other Gospels, which were written to present Jesus to different cultural groups, John was written as a universal Gospel. It is to all people of all times, and particularly to the church. John’s purpose is to unveil the Man, Jesus, and to reveal Him as God.

Of course, the other Gospels present the deity of Jesus, but the central message and focus of John’s Gospel is Jesus’ deity. John’s many years of ministry had taught him the importance of believers coming to know Jesus as God. John wrote his book for this purpose: “that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God” (italics added).

But why is this so important? And why is the present tense so important: that Jesus is the Christ. Not was. Is!

It’s important because when we recognize Jesus as the God who lives now, we also discover that we “may have life” now through His name.

John was making no retreat from the facts of the Christian faith. John’s failure to speak of Christ’s birth does not deny the historic events that actually took place in space and time. It does not imply that these are unimportant. It is simply that John’s goal was to help you and me see, through the historic Person, the living Christ who is present with us even now. John wanted us to understand not only who Jesus was, but who Jesus is. John wanted us to grasp the fact that in our personal relationship with the living Jesus we can experience new life as a present reality.

So, in the Gospel of John, the writer selected and organized historical events in order to unveil the living Jesus of today. As we see His glory, we will find in Him the vital source of a new life of our own.[51]

Satan’s Touch as Limited by Jesus Christ. In the New Testament, Satan’s power to harm believers is also limited by deity; but in this instance, it is by “the one who was born of God,” Jesus Christ (1 John 5:18). Here Jesus’ work uniquely parallels Yahweh’s.[52]

6–8 [This is the mind] which is also in Christ Jesus, who has always been and at present continues to subsist in that mode of being in which He gives outward expression of His essential nature, that of absolute deity, which expression comes from and is truly representative of His inner being [that of absolute deity], and who did not after weighing the facts, consider it a treasure to be clutched and retained at all hazards, this being on an equality with deity [in the expression of the divine essence], but himself He emptied, himself He made void, having taken the outward expression of a bondslave, which expression comes from and is truly representative of His nature [as deity], entering into a new state of existence, that of mankind. And being found to be in outward guise as man, He stooped very low, having become obedient [to God the Father] to the extent of death, even such a death as that upon a cross.[53]

A Human Person

What must be in order for what is to be what it is? Given the theophanies of the Old Testament and the early Jewish literature, we would expect to find that the first heresy to afflict the Church would be a denial the humanity of Jesus. And when we turn the New Testament, we find that the earliest heresies refuted in the New Testament denied the humanity of the Christ, but not His deity.

The deity of the Christ was not controversial until much later because the theophanies in the Old Testament had already established the idea of Yahweh coming to earth in human form. The literature of early Judaism already spoke of Yahweh coming to earth as a man (Isa. 40:10–11; Mal. 3:1). It is, thus, no surprise to the Trinitarian that the first heresy to arise was Docetic Gnosticism. As Millard Erickson pointed out, it was probably “the original heresy” and “the object of the apostle’s rebuttal in 1 John.” He[54]

Chapter III.

The Trinity

1. Introduction

2. Statement of the Doctrine

3. Further Scripture Proof

4. The Trinity in the Old Testament

5. One Substance, Three Persons

6. Meaning of the Terms “Father,” “Son,” and “Spirit”

7. Subordination of the Son and Spirit to the Father

8. The Generation of the Son and the Procession of the Holy Spirit

9. The Trinity Presents a Mystery but Not a Contradiction

10. Historical Aspects of the Doctrine

11. Practical Importance of the Doctrine

Chapter IV.

The Person of Christ

1. Introduction

2. Christ’s Own Testimony Concerning His Deity

3. Testimony of the Disciples

4. Titles Ascribed to Jesus Christ

5. The Son of God

6. The Son of Man

7. The Pre-existence of Christ

8. The Attributes of Deity Are Ascribed to Christ

9. Jesus’ Life the Fulfillment of a Divine Plan

10. The Miracles of Jesus

11. Importance of Belief in the Deity of Christ

12. The Humanity of Christ

13. The Humiliation of Christ

14. The Exaltation of Christ

15. The Relation of the Two Natures in Christ

16. The Incarnation

17. The Sinlessness of Jesus

18. The Virgin Birth

19. Christ the Messiah of Old Testament Prophecy

20. The Personal Appearance of Jesus

21. The Offices of Christ

22. Erroneous Views Concerning the Person of Christ

23. Conclusion[55]

The only person worthy of being called “God” is Jesus. His deity is explicitly asserted in several New Testament passages, many of which are found in John’s writings. It is John who tells us that “the Word was God.” Not only was the Word with God from eternity, He was God from eternity (John 1:1, nasb). This is asserted at the beginning and at the end of John’s prologue, where the Son is called “God” again (John 1:18). In the Gospel narrative, Jesus declares that He existed before Abraham even came into being (John 8:58), and He asserts that He and the Father are one (John 10:30). The Jewish leaders understood this assertion as a claim to deity (John 10:31–33). At the end of John’s Gospel, Thomas saw the risen Christ, believed in Him, and proclaimed, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:28). Furthermore, at the end of John’s first letter, he said that Jesus is “the true God and eternal life” (1 John 5:20).

Paul and Peter also affirm the deity of Jesus—each of them calling Him “God.” In the book of Romans, Paul praises Jesus Christ, saying, “Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever” (Rom. 9:5). In Philippians 2:6, Paul says that Jesus Christ was in the very form, or substance, of God, and in Colossians 1:19 and 2:9 he says that “For in Him all the fulness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (nasb). In Titus 2:13, Paul identifies Jesus as “our God and Savior.” Peter also named Jesus as “God and Savior” in 2 Peter 1:1; and in the next verse, he says Jesus is “our God and Lord.”

The Jewish leaders of Jerusalem considered it blasphemous for Jesus to claim equality with God. On more than one occasion, they wanted to stone Him for His claims. Jesus told the Jewish leaders, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30, nasb). These leaders immediately understood that He was claiming deity for Himself; they wanted to stone Jesus for His blasphemy, because He, a mere man, made Himself God. Actually, it was the other way around: Jesus was God who became a man![56]

This is why the use of the present participle in Philipians 2:6 “being and remaining to be in essence God” is so important. The Son of God did not empty Himself of His deity as some nineteenth century Unitarians mistakenly thought. Most modern liberals as well as conservatives now accept the orthodox interpretation as the obvious grammatical meaning of the text. Rienecker and Roger comment:

The word does not mean He emptied Himself of His deity, but rather, He emptied Himself of the display of His deity for personal gain. The word is a graphic expression of the completeness of His self-renunciation and His refusal to use what He had to His own advantage.

The point of the Apostle is not what Christ could have become or could have gained if He wanted. But, rather, Christ did not take advantage of His deity, which was always His by nature. I Howard Marshall comments:

The point is, not that Christ gave up any divine attributes, but simply that he did not behave as one who was equal with God might have been expected to behave, but as a humble servant.

The deity of Christ and His dual natures are both clearly in view in this ancient hymn.[57]

Striking Facts: v. 4. The demonstration of the deity of Jesus Christ is His resurrection from the dead. The sign of the prophet Jonah (Matt. 12:39) was intended for the last conviction. Those who will not be convinced by that will not be convinced by anything.[58]

Romans 1:3

Concerning his Son (περι του υἱου αὐτου [peri tou huiou autou]). Just as Jesus found himself in the O. T. (Luke 24:27, 46). The deity of Christ here stated. According to the flesh (κατα σαρκα [kata sarka]). His real humanity alongside of his real deity. For the descent from David see Matt. 1:1, 6, 20; Luke 1:27; John 7:42; Acts 13:23, etc.

Romans 1:4

Who was declared (του ὁρισθεντος [tou horisthentos]). Articular participle (first aorist passive) of ὁριζω [horizō] for which verb see on Luke 22:22; Acts 2:23. He was the Son of God in his preincarnate state (2 Cor. 8:9; Phil. 2:6) and still so after his Incarnation (verse 3, “of the seed of David”), but it was the Resurrection of the dead (ἐξ ἀναστασεως νεκρων [ex anastaseōs nekrōn], the general resurrection implied by that of Christ) that definitely marked Jesus off as God’s Son because of his claims about himself as God’s Son and his prophecy that he would rise on the third day. This event (cf. 1 Cor. 15) gave God’s seal “with power” (ἐν δυναμει [en dunamei]), “in power,” declared so in power (2 Cor. 13:4). The Resurrection of Christ is the miracle of miracles. “The resurrection only declared him to be what he truly was” (Denney). According to the spirit of holiness (κατα πνευμα ἁγιωσυνης [kata pneuma hagiōsunēs]). Not the Holy Spirit, but a description of Christ ethically as κατα σαρκα [kata sarka] describes him physically (Denney). ἁγιωσυνη [Hagiōsunē] is rare (1 Thess. 3:13; 2 Cor. 7:1 in N. T.), three times in LXX, each time as the attribute of God. “The πνευμα ἁγιωσυνης [pneuma hagiōsunēs], though not the Divine nature, is that in which the Divinity or Divine Personality Resided” (Sanday and Headlam). Jesus Christ our Lord (Ἰησου Χριστου του κυριου ἡμων [Iēsou Christou tou kuriou hēmōn]). These words gather up the total personality of Jesus (his deity and his humanity).[59]

4. Historically, the term “god and savior” was commonly combined in pagan religions of that time in reference to a single divine figure. In this historical context it is reasonable to assume they would be understood as referring to a single figure.

Although the arguments in support of this phrase applying theos to Jesus Christ are convincing, it should be noted that the deity of Jesus Christ is not determined by whether he is specifically referred to as “God” in the New Testament. The fact of his deity is established by his supernatural birth; his sinless life; his fulfillment of Old Testament messianic prophecy; his demonstrated authority over nature, disease, demons, and death; his claim upon the attributes and prerogatives of God, including forgiving sins and judging sinners; and his resurrection from the dead and his heavenly exaltation.

The importance of the deity of Jesus Christ, as claimed by Jesus himself and the apostles, cannot be ignored. The ultimate significance of this claim for every person is vividly expressed in C. S. Lewis’s often-quoted statement:

“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 either be a lunatic—on a level with the 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.[60]

CHRIST

In a theme similar to 2 Peter, Jude warns against false teachers who deny “our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (v. 4). The titles Master and Lord both refer to Christ. This is a great Christological statement. Master (Gk. despoten) means Christ is “absolute ruler” (2 Pet. 2:1); the English word despot is derived from this Greek word. Jude also refers to Jesus as Lord, which is a title of deity (cf. v. 25). Lord is the New Testament equivalent of Yahweh (Jehovah) and is a clear statement of deity; Jude equates Jesus with Yahweh of the Old Testament (cf. v. 5). Jude further calls Jesus “Messiah,” the Anointed One (cf. v. 25), who was the anticipated Redeemer and Ruler in the Old Testament. Although Jude is brief, he nonetheless gives a magnificent statement extolling the grandeur of Christ.[61]

Conclusion

Matthew’s gospel emphasizes the deity of Jesus in many remarkable ways. Jesus’ supremacy, origin, and numerous exalted titles point to his identity as God. Matthew applies Old Testament texts about Yahweh to Jesus in a way that would seem blasphemous if Jesus were not divine. The gospel insists that Jesus performs the deeds associated with Yahweh in the Old Testament, in some cases performing deeds that the Old Testament claims only Yahweh could perform. Jesus also speaks the words of Yahweh. He talks as God talks. He makes statements that one would expect only God to make. These features of Matthew’s gospel confirm Jesus’ identity as Immanuel, God with us.[62]

• New Creator

◦ Jesus’ deity

◦ Jesus’ supremacy

◦ Jesus’ virginal conception

◦ Son of Man

◦ personified Wisdom

◦ Lord

◦ Son of God

◦ Immanuel

◦ the miracle of new creation[63]

B. In very nature God (v. 6)

Paul referred to the time before Christ came to earth as a man. The term translated nature is morphe, meaning “form, essence, or expression.” Before Jesus became a man, he was God. He possessed the divine essence of Godhood. He was equal with God the Father and God the Spirit. Being born as a baby in Bethlehem took nothing away from his deity. It only added humanity. Being fully God, his complete and absolute deity is here carefully expressed by the apostle.

C. Made himself nothing (v. 7)

The Greek kenoo literally means “to empty.” The natural question is, What did Christ empty himself of? Some have argued that he emptied himself of his deity. Orthodox evangelicals go in a different direction. They believe that he set aside some of his divine attributes some of the time as he became or took the nature or form of a man.

Putting on humanity involved limitations. In becoming a man, he voluntarily set aside his rights and privileges as God the Son. Some say that Jesus gave up his majesty or manifestation of his glory as God when he acquired a human nature. In the commentary, it is mentioned that he veiled his preincarnate glory and voluntarily chose not to use some of his power. Yet, while on earth, he did give Peter, James, and John a glimpse of his true glory as he transfigured himself before them (Matt. 17:1–13). In his incarnation, or taking on humanity, Jesus was fully God and fully man. In his deity he was undiminished, and in his humanity he was perfect.[64]

1:3–4. God’s good news concerns His Son, identified as Jesus Christ our Lord. This asserts Christ’s deity as basic to His person and prior to His Incarnation, since His identification with David’s line “came to be,” a literal rendering of the participle genomenou, translated was. He was genuinely human too, as His tie with David and His resurrection from the dead show. That resurrection declared Him to be the Son of God because it validated His claims to deity and His predictions that He would rise from the dead (John 2:18–22; Matt. 16:21). This declaration was made through (lit., “in accord with”) the Spirit of holiness. This is the Holy Spirit, and not, as some have suggested, Christ’s human spirit.[65]

Striking Facts: v. 28. The priceless cost of redemption is here seen—the blood of God. See 1 Tim. 3:16. Christ’s deity is thereby asserted. His blood was of infinite value—being God’s blood.[66]

Striking Facts: v. 12. To teach “believing on Christ” for salvation proves His deity. If He was a created or finite being, to teach eternal salvation by believing on Him is blasphemy. Only God can bring eternal life by belief in Himself. To experience new life by believing proves that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh. (See Jer. 17:5.)[67]

We can surely know this, at least: that the Incarnation required no compromise of deity. Let us always remember that when God became incarnate there was no compromise on God’s part.…

But the holy God who is God, and all else not God, our Father who art in heaven, could never compromise Himself. The Incarnation, the Word made flesh, was accomplished without any compromise of the holy Deity.[68]

Theological Implications. From the very beginning the doctrine of the virgin birth became the foundation of a high Christology. Many have pointed out that the earliest church fathers stressed this more perhaps than any other event as proof of the incarnation and deity of Christ. Justin Martyr and Ignatius defended the virgin birth against opponents at the beginning of the 2nd century, and even at that early date it appeared to be a fixed doctrine. In the acrimonious debates of the next three centuries, the virgin birth became a prominent issue. Gnostics (e.g., Marcion) contended that Christ descended directly from heaven and so was never truly human. On the other hand those groups which denied his deity, such as the Arians, concommitantly denied the virgin birth, stating that at his baptism Jesus was “adopted” as Son of God. The Council of Nicaea in ad 325 affirmed that Jesus was truly God, and then the Council of Chalcedon in ad 451 stated that Jesus was at the same time human and divine, a “hypostatic union” of the true natures. These were summarized in the Apostles’ Creed of the 5th century, which declares “I believe in … Jesus Christ, his only Son, our Lord, conceived of the Holy Ghost, born of the Virgin Mary.” In most of the creeds the virgin birth is also connected to Jesus’ sinlessness, inasmuch as his incarnate, divine nature is the source of his sinlessness.

From the beginning, as attested in Matthew and Luke as well as the early patristic writers, the virgin birth has been a cardinal doctrine of the church. As such it is a living symbol of the twofold nature of our Lord, born of the Holy Spirit and of woman, and uniting the human and divine into the incarnate God-man, Jesus Christ. The teaching of the NT is clear on these aspects.[69]

(Col 2:9), Paul says that in Christ “all the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form.” The Greek is to plērōma tês theotētos (“fullness of the Godhead”), and theotētos means “Godhead” or “divinity”; it occurs only here in the NT. In this passage, Paul warns the Colossians to beware of philosophies and deceptions that would capture their minds. [70]

It would be hard to say it more clearly than this. Jesus Christ is God.

In addition to these general statements that attribute deity to Christ, there is further evidence of his divinity. For example, divine names and titles are applied to Jesus by various NT authors. In a number of passages, he is directly called “God” (theos). In John 1:1 John says theos ēn ho logos (“the Word was God”). In verse 14, we read that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us. This speaks of Christ’s incarnation; hence, John is calling Jesus the Word. But in verse 1 John says the Word was God. Jehovah’s Witnesses like to claim that the absence of the definite article with theos means that John is saying Jesus is a god (a lesser deity), but not equal to God. However, grammatical studies have shown that in this passage the anarthrous noun before the verb (ēn) focuses on the quality of the thing designated by the noun. So in this case John is saying that the Word was of the quality of God, or qualitatively God. John is saying, then, that the Word is God.

In John 1:18, John calls Jesus the only begotten God (monogenēs theos). Later we will discuss what “only begotten” means, but the verse does call Jesus God. Similarly, John refers to Jesus as God in 1 John 5:20. There he calls Jesus the “true God” (alēthinos theos), and alēthinos means true in the sense of genuine. In other words, Jesus conforms to the ideal Godhead; he is the “real thing” (see also John 20:28).

In Tit 2:13, Paul calls Jesus “our great God and our Savior, Jesus Christ” (author’s translation). At first glance, it might seem that Paul is speaking about two separate individuals, one who is the great God and the other who is Jesus Christ. However, grammatically, when two singular nouns are connected by “and” (kai), and the second has no article, the article governing the first noun governs the second. Hence, “God” and “Savior” form a conjunct that refers to the same person. Paul says Jesus is both God and Savior (see also Rom 9:5).

A final passage where Jesus is called God is Heb 1:8. The writer depicts God the Father saying various things to angels, but then (v. 8) he says something to the Son. The writer quotes from Ps 45:6 as what the Father says to the Son: “But of the Son He says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.’” Jesus is called God, and it isn’t the writer but God himself who says this.

In addition to Christ being called “God,” there are NT passages where he is called the Son of God, and it means that he has the divine nature. We already noted John 5:18, where Christ’s Jewish listeners were upset that he made himself equal to God. The verse also says that he was calling God his own Father; the phrase, “making himself equal with God,” is then offered as an explanation of what it meant for Christ to call God his Father. Though the wording doesn’t say that Jesus is God’s Son, the phrase in question clearly means just that. Moreover, from the phrase “making himself equal …” we see that Jesus’ hearers understood him to mean that he was divine.

We have also discussed John 10:30ff. As Jesus defended himself, in verse 36 he asks why his accusers are disturbed when he calls himself the Son of God, since Scripture uses that language in regard to wicked judges (vv. 34–35 quoting Ps 82:6). After his betrayal, when Jesus is brought before the high priest, the high priest asks him if he is the Son of God (Matt 26:63). Jesus’ reply (v. 64) affirms that he believes himself to be the Son of God, and that is exactly what the high priest understood (v. 65). Christ is accused of blasphemy, and blasphemers are to be put to death (v. 66). This is the specific charge brought against Jesus to put him to death. Later, when the Roman magistrate Pilate asks what wrong Jesus has done, the Jews’ complaint (John 19:7) is that he claimed to be the Son of God.

Frequently in the NT Jesus is also called Lord. The Greek word is kyrios, the word the Septuagint uses to render the OT הוהי, the name of Israel’s God. To apply this name to Jesus clearly asserts his full deity. Many NT passages call Christ Lord, so the following list is only selective. Matthew 3 begins with John the Baptist calling people to repentance. Matthew says John fulfills Isaiah’s prophecy in Isa 40:3, but that prophecy predicted a forerunner who would make ready the way of the Lord (kyrios). Since John announces Jesus’ coming, Matthew is in effect calling Christ Lord by applying Isa 40:3 to him. In Luke 2:11, the angel announces the birth of Jesus who is Christ the Lord. After Jesus washes his disciples’ feet, he notes that they call him teacher and Lord, and says that they are right, for he is. In the great kenosis passage, Paul writes that because of Jesus’ willing humiliation to the point of death to meet our needs, God raised Christ from the dead and gave him a name that is above every name. Paul then adds that someday every knee will bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord (kyrios). Though many rejected him, they will have to admit that he is the one true living God (Phil 2:10–11). See also Rom 10:9; Eph 1:2; Gal 1:3; 1 Cor 1:3–4.

Another title of deity applied to Jesus is “The Lord of Glory.” In 1 Cor 2:8 Paul says that if the worldly wise were truly wise, they would have recognized who Jesus is and would not have crucified him. In crucifying him, they put to death the Lord of Glory. This designation for Christ becomes even more significant in light of Ps 24:8–10. The psalmist speaks of the King of Glory and asks who that is. He replies that it is the Lord. From such an OT passage the linking of Yahweh with the King of Glory would have been well-known to Paul. In 1 Corinthians 2 Paul applies this title to Jesus, clearly attributing deity to him.

In Acts 3:14 Peter tells his listeners that they disowned the Holy and Righteous One, when given a choice between Jesus and a murderer, Barabbas. This is significant in light of OT designations of God as the Holy One. In Hos 11:9 God refers to himself as the Holy One, in contrast to a mere mortal, and it clearly signifies his deity. Isaiah is especially fond of referring to God this way (e.g., Isa 1:4; 5:19, 24; 10:20; 12:6; 17:7; 29:19; 30:11, 12, 15; 41:14, 16; 43:14; 45:11; 48:17; 49:7; 54:5; 55:5; 60:9, 14; see also Jer 50:29; 51:5; Ezek 39:7). With so many of these references to Yahweh, it is hard to miss the point of calling Jesus the Holy One.

In Rev 1:17–18 Jesus is called “the first and the last” (v. 13 clarifies that it is Christ of whom John speaks). Applying this title to Jesus is again significant because of what we find in the OT. In Isa 44:6, Yahweh, the King of Israel says, “I am the first and I am the last, and there is no God besides Me” (see also Isa 48:12). Hence, in Revelation 1 a title clearly applied to Yahweh is now applied to Christ, and the intent to attribute deity by doing so is hard to mistake.

The result of applying these names and titles to Jesus is significant. Most NT authors were Jews who had been raised in Judaism. They knew the OT well enough, and as Jews they would have been intensely monotheistic. Despite all of this, they deliberately applied these titles to Christ, thereby indicating their conviction that he is God. Likewise, Jesus fully knew the OT import of these names, and he also knew what the Mosaic Law said about blasphemy. Nevertheless, he not only permitted these terms to be used of him but at times even encouraged his followers to do so, and on various occasions he used some of these titles in regard to himself.

Further evidence of Christ’s deity stems from the fact that NT writers predicated attributes of Christ that belong only to God. By saying that Christ possesses those qualities, they were attributing deity to him. We find, for example, that he is eternal and fully living (John 1:4; 1 John 5:11, 12). He is immutable (Heb 1:10–12; 13:8); omnipotent (Phil 3:20–21; John 5:19; Rev 1:8); omniscient (John 2:24–25 [cf. Jer 17:9–10]; 6:64; 21:17); omnipresent, despite his limitations in space and time during his earthly pilgrimage (Matt 18:20; 28:20; John 14:23); loving (John 13:1, 34; 1 John 3:16); truth (John 14:6); holy (Luke 1:35); and possessing life in and of himself, i.e., having the attribute of aseity (John 5:26). Mere humans might possess some of these attributes, such as love and truth, in a limited sense, but the large spectrum of attributes mentioned could only be true of one who is God. NT writers were fully aware of this, and yet did not hesitate to attribute these characteristics to Jesus. These attributes underscore the truth of Paul’s claim (Col 2:9) that in Christ all the fulness of the Godhead dwells.

Another line of evidence for Christ’s deity is the various works he does. While a mere human could do some things he did, other things only God could do. For example, through Christ all things were created (John 1:3, 10; Col 1:16), and by his power the whole universe is sustained (Col 1:17; Heb 1:3). To paraphrase Paul (Col 1:17), it is because of Christ that our universe does not come unglued. Then on occasion Christ forgives sins (Mark 2:5–12). Human beings can say that they forgive others’ sins, but only God can do so in a way that clears the records before God. Hence, Paul urges believers in their interpersonal relations to forgive others for wrongdoing, even as Christ has forgiven our sins (Col 3:13). Then, even as no one but God can create and give physical life, only God can give eternal life. In speaking of his relation to his sheep, Jesus says that he gives them eternal life so that they won’t perish, and no one can take them out of his hand (John 10:28). In addition, only supernatural power can resurrect the dead, and Jesus claimed that he was the resurrection and the life (John 11:24–25). But he did even more than that: he raised Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43–44; see also John 5:21, 28–29). And finally, only God has the right to judge humankind and determine their ultimate destiny, but the NT teaches that judgment of all people is given to Christ (Acts 10:42; 17:31; John 5:22, 27). If Jesus Christ is not divine, then claiming that he can do these works that only God could do is blasphemy. NT writers would know that, but they attributed those works to him, anyway. They clearly understood him to be God.

Two other lines of evidence show that Christ is divine. One is the NT habit of taking OT passages about God or God’s Son and applying them to Jesus. For example, in Isaiah 6 Isaiah is lifted into heaven and catches a vision of God seated on the throne, but John 12:41 says it was actually Jesus whom Isaiah saw. In Ps 2:7 God says, “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee.” However, as Paul preaches in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13:33), he applies this verse to Christ, claiming that he is God’s Son. Similarly, in Hebrews 1, the author introduces Jesus as the fullness of revelation of God. He is above the angels, for, as the writer says, to which one of the angels did God ever say, “Thou art My Son, today I have begotten Thee”? (v. 5) The answer is none, but God did say this to Christ. Furthermore, Ps 110:1 is applied on several occasions to Christ. On the day of Pentecost (Acts 2) Peter says that God raised Christ from the dead and exalted him to the right hand of God. To further make his point, in verses 34–35 Peter quotes Ps 110:1 and notes that it was not David, the psalm’s author, who ascended into heaven and whom the Lord told to sit at his right hand. Peter says this passage refers to Christ, and the writer of Hebrews similarly applies Ps 110:1 to Jesus (Heb 1:13; 10:12–13). Certainly these writers knew that Psalm 2 and 110 were considered messianic psalms and that in effect they were predicating deity and sonship to the Messiah. Yet none of them hesitated to apply these passages to Christ (see also Paul’s application of Ps 68:18 to Christ in Eph 4:7, 8; and Peter’s allusion to Isa 8:13 as he commands believers in 1 Pet 3:15 to sanctify Christ as Lord in their hearts).

This is consistent with what we saw about OT teaching concerning the Messiah. In various places the OT identifies him as God. We saw the same thing about the angel of the Lord. In the NT, Jesus is repeatedly presented as the long-awaited Messiah of Israel (e.g., Matt 1:16; 16:16, 20; John 11:27). Moreover, we have also seen that he is repeatedly called God. Hence, exactly what we expected from OT teaching—that there is plurality in the Godhead because of a Messiah who is divine—is confirmed in the NT. What the NT adds, of course, is that Jesus of Nazareth is that person who is both Messiah and God.

The final line of NT evidence teaching Christ’s deity is the worship given to him. In the NT on various occasions apostles refused to let people worship them (e.g., Acts 10:25–26; 14:11–15). Moreover, mere angels refuse worship (Rev 22:8–9). Jesus himself explicitly taught that only God deserves worship. In light of these facts, it is most instructive to see that Christ did accept and even encourage worship of himself (Matt 15:25–28; 28:9–10; John 9:35–39). In fact, Jesus even said (John 5:23) that those who do not honor the Son do not honor the Father who sent him, so those who think it is appropriate to worship the Father and ignore the Son are severely mistaken. Beyond that, the Father commands worship of Christ (Heb 1:6), and Paul writes that someday worship of Christ will be universal (Phil 2:10–11). If Jesus is not God, all of this is blasphemy.

The conclusion from all these data rings loud and clear: Jesus Christ is God! How that is so in light of biblical teaching that there is only one God is nowhere resolved in Scripture. It is, however, a major reason why early church fathers felt compelled to work out a synthesis of these seemingly incompatible data. Those living during Christ’s life on earth and who even saw him after the resurrection experienced him as divine. The NT affirms the same thing. There is no question that some sort of discussion (even controversy) about how these things all could be true was inevitable.

The Holy Spirit is God. Further NT evidence of plurality in the Godhead comes from NT teaching about the Holy Spirit. Uniformly, he is affirmed as God. Let us consider some of the NT evidence for his deity.

First, various passages call the Holy Spirit God. For example, Acts 5 records the incident of Ananias and Sapphira lying to the Holy Spirit (v. 3). Peter is clear that they have lied to God (v. 4). In 1 Cor 3:16–17 and 6:19–20, Paul speaks about believers being the temple of the Holy Spirit. These passages clearly show that to be indwelt by the Holy Spirit is to be indwelt by God. Moreover, in 2 Cor 3:17–18, Paul writes that the Lord (kyrios) is the Spirit. It would be hard to say more directly than this that the Holy Spirit is God. Furthermore, Stephen (Acts 7) accuses his Jewish listeners of resisting the Holy Spirit as their fathers did. But whom did their fathers resist? The OT shows that they resisted God.

Some NT writers cite OT passages and attribute then to the Holy Spirit, even though the OT passages are uttered by God. A few examples illustrate the point. In Acts 28:25–27 Paul says that the Holy Spirit spoke through Isaiah to their fathers. He then quotes from Isa 6:1–13 (esp. vv. 9–10), but in Isaiah 6, it is the Lord God who says these words. This deliberately links the Holy Spirit with God. Implicitly, Paul is saying that the Holy Spirit is God.

Two other examples appear in the book of Hebrews. The writer introduces Heb 3:7–11 with the words, “just as the Holy Spirit says,” and then he quotes from Ps 95:7–11. However, in Psalm 95 it is the psalmist telling the people to listen to God’s voice (vv. 7–11 capture the basic content of Heb 3:7–11). This is an example of the habit of many NT writers to equate the words of Scripture (whether spoken by God or the human writer) with those of the Holy Spirit. Since Scripture was deemed revelation from God and inspired by the Holy Spirit (see 1 Cor 2:9–13), by quoting OT Scripture and attributing it to the Holy Spirit, the writer of Hebrews attributes it to God. But that means he must think the Holy Spirit is God. An even clearer case of calling the Holy Spirit God is found in Heb 10:15–17. The author says that “the Holy Spirit also bears witness to us, … saying …” and then he quotes from Jer 31:31–34. But, in Jeremiah 31, the Lord utters the words quoted in Heb 10:16–17. Granting biblical inerrancy, the most natural conclusion is that the writer of Hebrews assumes that the Holy Spirit is divine.

In addition to instances where the Holy Spirit is declared to be God, we also find that he has attributes only God could have. He is eternal (Heb 9:14); omniscient (1 Cor 2:10–11; John 14:26; 16:12f.); powerful (Rom 8:2; 15:19); and truth (1 John 5:7). Moreover, various works that only God could do are ascribed to the Holy Spirit. He regenerates those who turn to Christ in faith (John 3:5–8); he sanctifies believers as they grow in Christ (1 Pet 1:2); and he reveals God’s truth to biblical writers and inspires what they write (2 Pet 1:21; 1 Cor 2:12–13). Moreover, it is the Holy Spirit who convicts the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment (John 16:8–11), and we even learn in Rom 8:11 that he was involved in resurrecting Christ from the dead. Only God could do these deeds. NT writers would know that, and yet they said that the Holy Spirit did those things. They thought of him as God.

There are also passages that describe the Holy Spirit exercising the prerogatives of deity. For example, Acts 8:29 shows that he can issue a direct order, and when he does, it must be obeyed. He exercises a sovereign will in distributing spiritual gifts as he chooses to believers (1 Cor 12:4, 7–8, 11). Moreover, even as the Father and Son are to be worshiped and reverenced, so also the Holy Spirit. In fact, Jesus is very clear that rejecting the Holy Spirit’s testimony is blasphemy, and those who do so will be punished (Matt 12:31–32). In fact, Christ says in this passage, rejecting the Holy Spirit’s testimony, and thereby not taking him seriously, is the one sin that is unpardonable.

NT writers clearly consider the Holy Spirit deity. But this only heightens the impression of logical inconsistency, for the NT not only claims that there is only one God, but also that the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all divine. Before turning to the historical controversies over these ideas, we must present further NT teaching about the plurality of God.[71]

Hebrews1:8 O God: Jesus Christ is accorded the rank of full deity. The Son has an eternal throne, which means He possesses an eternal kingdom.[72]

The statement on the person of Christ incarnate formulated at the Council at Chalcedon (a.d. 451) has been considered definitive by orthodox Christianity. It reads as follows:

Therefore, following the holy fathers, we all with one accord teach men to acknowledge one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, at once complete in Godhead and complete in manhood, truly God and truly man, consisting also of a reasonable soul and body; of one substance with the Father as regards His Godhead, and at the same time of one substance with us as regards His manhood; like us in all respects apart from sin; as regards His Godhead, begotten of the Father before the ages, but yet as regards His manhood begotten, for us men and for our salvation, of Mary the virgin, the God-bearer; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-Begotten, recognized in two natures, without confusion, without change, without division, without separation; the distinction of natures being in no way annulled by the union, but rather the characteristics of each nature being preserved and coming together to form one Person and subsistence, not as parted or separated into two Persons, but one and the same Son and only-begotten God the Word, Lord Jesus Christ; even as the prophets from earliest times spoke of Him, and our Lord Jesus Christ Himself taught us, and the creed of the fathers has been handed down to us.

More concisely one may describe the person of Christ incarnate as being full Deity and perfect humanity united without mixture, change, division, or separation in one person forever. The key components of the description include “full Deity” (no diminution of any attribute of Deity), “perfect humanity” (“perfect” rather than “full” in order to emphasize His sinlessness), “one Person” (not two), and “forever” (for He continues to have a body, though resurrected, Acts 1:11; Rev. 5:6).

 

I. The Full Deity of Christ Incarnate

 

A. He Possesses Attributes that Only God Has

1. Eternality. He claimed to exist from eternity past (John 8:58; 17:5).

2. Omnipresence. He claimed to be everywhere present (Matt. 18:20; 28:20).

3. Omniscience. He showed knowledge of things that could only be known if He were omniscient (Matt. 16:21; Luke 6:8; 11:17; John 4:29).

4. Omnipotence. He demonstrated and claimed the power of an omnipotent person (Matt. 28:18; Mark 5:11–15; John 11:38–44).

Other attributes of Deity are claimed for Him by others (e.g., immutability, Heb. 13:8), but these cited are claims He made for Himself.

 

B. He Performs Works that Only God Can Do

1. Forgiveness. He forgives sins eternally. Men may do that temporarily, but Christ grants eternal forgiveness (Mark 2:1–12).

2. Life. He gives spiritual life to whomever He wishes (John 5:21).

3. Resurrection. He will raise the dead (John 11:43).

4. Judgment. He will judge all people (John 5:22, 27).

Again, all of these examples are things He did or claims He made, not claims others made of Him.

 

C. He Was Given the Names and Titles of Deity

1. Son of God. Our Lord used this designation of Himself (though rarely, John 10:36), and He acknowledged its truthfulness when it was used by others of Him (Matt. 26:63–64). What does it mean? Though the phrase “son of” can mean “offspring of,” it also carries the meaning “of the order of.” Thus in the Old Testament “sons of the prophets” meant of the order of prophets (1 Kings 20:35), and “sons of the singers” meant of the order of the singers (Neh. 12:28). The designation “Son of God” when used of our Lord means of the order of God and is a strong and clear claim to full Deity.

In Jewish usage the term Son of … did not generally imply any subordination, but rather equality and identity of nature. Thus Bar Kokba, who led the Jewish revolt 135–132 b.c. in the reign of Hadrian, was called by a name which means “Son of the Star.” It was supposed that he took this name to identify himself as the very Star predicted in Numbers 24:17. The name “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36) doubtless means, “The Encourager.” “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:17) probably means “Thunderous Men.” “Son of man,” especially as applied to Christ in Daniel 7:13 and constantly in the New Testament, essentially means “The Representative Man.” Thus for Christ to say, “I am the Son of God” (John 10:36) was understood by His contemporaries as identifying Himself as God, equal with the Father, in an unqualified sense.

2. Lord and God. Jesus is called Yahweh in the New Testament, a clear indication of His full Deity (cf. Luke 1:76 with Mal. 3:1 and Rom. 10:13 with Joel 2:32). He is also called God (John 1:1; 20:28; Heb. 1:8), Lord (Matt. 22:43–45), and King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev. 19:16).

 

D. He Claimed to Be God

Perhaps the strongest and clearest occasion of such a claim was at the Feast of Dedication when He said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). The neuter form of “one” rules out the meaning that He and the Father were one person. It means that they are in perfect unity in natures and actions, a fact that could only be true if He were as much Deity as the Father. The people who heard this claim understood it that way, for they immediately tried to stone Him for blasphemy because He made Himself out to be God (v. 33).

How can anyone say that Jesus of Nazareth Himself never claimed to be God, but rather that His followers made the claim for Him? Most of the passages cited above are from Christ’s own words. Therefore, one must face the only options: either His claims were true or He was a liar. And these claims are for full and complete Deity—nothing missing or removed during His life on earth.[73]

Overflowing Grace (vv. 14b, 16a)

Notice verse 16: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” John suggests here a fountain brimming over with grace, a spiritual reality. Colossians 2:9 tells us how this can be so: “For in Christ all the fullness of deity lives in bodily form.” Paul is saying that in the humanity of Christ dwelt all the fullness of the Holy Trinity. This is not a theological deduction. It is a statement of fact. It may be incomprehensible, but all God’s “fullness” dwelt in Jesus. Colossians 2:9 throbs with the energy, the power, and the reality of our Lord’s humanity plus all the fullness of deity.

Colossians 2:9 is a thrilling verse because, when related to grace, it associates God’s presence with his love. Grace is God’s love coming to sinners. It is God’s ultimate love communicated to us in Christ. Christ overflows with grace. We need to hold that truth before us as reality. It is not something just to discuss, not a mere theological nicety, but truth. Christ wants to overflow in the lives of those who do not know him. Likewise he wants believers continually to overflow with his love and grace.

When grace is poured out, it is more than adequate. Notice verse 16 again: “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.” In other words, when we received grace, we were given all we would need. Grace is abundantly adequate. In the seventeenth century a young boy was born into a Christian home. For the first six years of his life, he heard the truths of the gospel and was dearly loved. Sadly, though, his parents died. The orphan boy went to live with his relatives and was maltreated, abused, and ridiculed for his interest in Christ. The orphan couldn’t tolerate that situation and, though still a boy, fled and joined the Royal Navy. In the Navy the boy’s life went downhill. He became known as a brawler, was whipped many times, and participated in the keelhauling of some of his comrades. Finally, while he was still young, he deserted the Royal Navy and fled to Africa, where he attached himself to a Portuguese slave trader.

There his life reached its lowest point. There were times when he actually ate off the floor on his hands and knees. He escaped, then became attached to another slave trader as the first mate on his ship. But the young man’s pattern of life had become desperately depraved. He stole the ship’s whiskey and got so drunk that he fell overboard. He was close to drowning when one of his shipmates harpooned him and brought him back on board. As a result, the young man had a huge scar in his side for the rest of his life. He could not get much lower. Finally, in the midst of a great storm off the coast of Scotland, after days and days of pumping water out of the boat, the young man began to reflect on verses he had heard as a boy and was marvelously converted. The new life he found is reflected in these famous words:

Amazing grace—how sweet the sound

That saved a wretch like me!

I once was lost but now am found;

Was blind but now I see.

This young man, John Newton, became one of the great preachers of the seventeenth century—all because of the amazing grace of God.[74]

Striking Facts: Mark 5:7. Even devils believe in the deity of Christ and tremble before Him. Demons know that by His Word they will ultimately be sent to chains of eternal darkness.[75]

“But” John says, “as many as did appropriate Him, He gave to them a legal right to become born-ones of God, to those who place their trust in His Name” (1:12). To appropriate Jesus of Nazareth and to put one’s trust in His Name, are one and the same thing. The expression “The Name” is an Old Testament expression speaking of all that God is in His majesty, glory, and power. “The Name” as it applies to Jesus of Nazareth includes all that He is in His glorious Person. He is absolute God and true Man who died on Calvary’s Cross as a willing substitute for sinful man, paying for the human race the just penalty of human sin, thus allowing a righteous God to bestow mercy on the basis of justice satisfied, upon a sinner who puts his trust in Jesus. He is given a legal right to receive the mercy of God as he recognizes Jesus of Nazareth as the One who procured that legal right for him at the Cross. The sinner has no legal right to the mercy of God. The law which he broke is against him. But Jesus satisfied the just demands of that law which you and I violated, and thus makes it possible for us to receive God’s mercy in salvation. One of these mercies, John mentions here, regeneration. The words “born-ones” are the translation of a Greek word whose root has in it the idea of birth. Justification, namely, the removal of the guilt and penalty of sin, and the bestowal of a positive righteousness, comes first. This is the legal right to which reference is made. Regeneration, or the impartation of divine life, is second in the economy of salvation. Thus, Jesus of Nazareth, is not only the Creator of the universe, but also the source of salvation.

And then John speaks of the incarnation again in the beautiful words, “And the Word became flesh and lived in a tent among us” (1:14). The a.v., has “The Word was made flesh.” To make something is to take something and mold it into a new form, changing its shape. The first form disappears to have something that has a different form take its place. But nothing like that happened to Jesus of Nazareth. Absolute God in His preincarnate state, He remained such in His incarnation. He did not relinquish His deity upon becoming man. He was not made flesh. He became flesh. The Greek word is ginomai (γινομαι), and it is in a tense and a classification of that tense which speaks of entrance into a new condition. By becoming flesh John means that the invisible, eternal, omnipresent, omnipotent, and omniscient God added to Himself a human body and put Himself under human limitations, yet without human sin. While still deity and omnipresent, He became localized in a human body. While still deity and therefore omniscient, He lived the life of a human being on earth. He thought with a human brain. He became exhausted. He broke into tears. He needed food, clothing, and shelter. He gave us a picture of what Deity is like through the medium of a human life. He lived in a tent in the midst of humanity. That tent was His human body. Thus, Jesus of Nazareth is a Person having two natures. He is absolute deity. He is true Man. His deity did not add to His humanity. His humanity did not detract from His deity.

This combination of deity and humanity in one Person, Jesus of Nazareth, John speaks of again in the words: “Deity in its invisible essence no one has ever yet seen. God only begotten, the one who is constantly in the bosom of the Father, that One has fully explained God” (1:18). The words “God only begotten” refer to Jesus of Nazareth. He is God only begotten, proceeding by eternal generation as the Son of God from the Father in a birth that never took place because it always was This one, John says, fully explained Deity. The Greek word translated “fully explained” means literally “to lead out.” Jesus in the incarnation led Deity out from back of the curtain of its invisibility, showing the human race in and through a human life, what God was like. Our word, “exegesis” is the transliteration of the Greek word here. The science of exegesis is that of fully explaining in detail the meaning of a passage of Scripture. In the incarnation, Jesus of Nazareth fully explained God so far as a human medium could explain the infinite, and human minds and hearts could receive that revelation. And He could do that only because He was God Himself. John has answered our question, “Jesus of Nazareth, Who is He?”

We turn to Paul for an answer to the same question. He calls Jesus of Nazareth “God” in Titus 2:13. The Authorized Version has, “The glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” One could gather from this wording that Paul is speaking of two individuals, God and Jesus of Nazareth, and one could maintain that the former was deity and the latter a man. But an examination of the Greek text discloses the fact that we have the deity of our Lord brought out in the translation, “the appearing of the glory of our great God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” The translator finds that the text follows a rule in Greek syntax called Granville Sharp’s rule, which is stated as follows: “When the Greek word kai (και) (and) connects two nouns of the same case, if the article precedes the first noun and is not repeated before the second noun, the latter always relates to the same person that is expressed or described by the first noun; i.e., it denotes a farther description of the first-named person” (Dana and Mantey, A Manual Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 147). The expression in the Greek text conforms to this rule. Here Paul, the scholar, educated in the foremost Greek university of his time, the University of Tarsus, where he received his Greek training, and in the theological school in Jerusalem headed up by Gamaliel, where he received his training in the Old Testament, teaches that Jesus of Nazareth is deity. Peter, the fisherman, in his second epistle (1:1) has the same expression in his Greek text, “through the righteousness of our God and Saviour Jesus Christ.” It is clear that Jesus of Nazareth was worshipped as God by the first century Church. The use of the pronoun “our” is polemic. The citizens of the Roman empire looked upon Caesar as their god. There were two cults in the empire at that time, the Cult of the Caesar, which was the state religion of the Roman empire, in which the emperor was worshipped as a god, and the Cult of Christ, Christianity, in which Jesus of Nazareth was worshipped as God. The people of Syrian Antioch, who had a reputation for coining nicknames, gave the name “Christian” to the disciples of Jesus of Nazareth. It was a term of derision and contempt. They were proud worshippers of Caesar. Agrippa said to Paul, “With but little persuasion, you would make me a Christian” (Acts 26:28).

It was a common practice in the Roman world to deify rulers. But Jesus of Nazareth must have been something more than a man, and His followers must have been convinced of that fact, for they willingly suffered a horrible martyrdom for their testimony to His deity. Thousands upon thousands of people do not go to a violent death for something they know is a fraud. One cannot explain the willing acceptance of Jesus of Nazareth as Saviour by a sin-loving pagan who accepted with Him that which he formerly hated, namely, righteousness, and by that forsook his sin which he loved, knowing that by so doing he would be liable to capital punishment for his act, except upon the basis of a supernatural working in his heart, providing for the willing acceptance of that which he formerly hated, righteousness. Jesus of Nazareth therefore stands as history’s outstanding enigma, unless He is accorded the place which the Bible gives Him, Very God of Very God. One cannot explain Him without this fact of His deity. One can dismiss Him with an “I do not believe that,” but that does not solve the problem nor blot Him from the pages of history. He stands there, astride the world of mankind, a unique individual, God and Man in one Person.

The great apostle in Colossians 2:9 recognizes these two natures, deity and humanity, residing in the Person of Jesus of Nazareth. He says, “In Him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (a.v.). The Greek word which Paul uses and which is translated “Godhead,” needs some study. The word “Godhead” is found three times in the above mentioned version, Romans 1:20; Acts 17:29, and Colossians 2:9. But it is the translation of two different words. In the first two instances, Paul uses theiotēs (θειοτης) in the last named, theotēs (θεοτης). In theiotēs (θειοτης), Trench says that “Paul is declaring how much of God may be known from the revelation of Himself which He has made in nature … yet it is not the personal God whom any man may learn to know by these aids: He can only be known by the revelation of Himself in His Son; but only His divine attributes, His majesty and glory.” But when Paul is speaking of Jesus of Nazareth, he uses theotēs (θεοτης). Here, Trench says, “Paul is declaring that in the Son there dwells all the fullness of absolute Godhead: they were no mere rays of divine glory which gilded Him, lighting up His Person for a season and with splendor not His own: but He was, and is, absolute and perfect God.” Paul, speaking of Jesus of Nazareth in His incarnation, says: “In Him there is at home, permantely, all the fullness of absolute deity in bodily fashion.” That is, in the human body of Jesus of Nazareth, there resided permanently at home, all that goes to make deity what it is. It was absolute deity clothed with a human body.

Finally, we will look at Paul’s great, classic Christological passage in Philippians 2:5–11. The Greek text literally leaps at one in the words: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus, who subsisting permanently in that state of being in which He gives outward expression of the essence of deity, that outward expression coming from and being truly representative of His inner being, did not consider it a prize to be clutched, the being on an equality with deity (in the expression of the divine essence). but emptied Himself, having taken the outward expression of a bondslave, that expression coming from and being truly representative of His inner being, having become in the likeness of man. And having been found in outward guise as man, He humbled Himself, having become obedient to the extent of death, even such a death as that upon a cross: on which account also God supereminently exalted Him, and in grace gave Him THE NAME which is above every name, to the end that in the NAME which Jesus possesses, every knee should bow, of those in heaven and those upon the earth. and those under the earth, and that every tongue should openly confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father.”

See the statements Paul makes here concerning Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus gives outward expression in His preincarnate state of the essence of deity, that expression necessitating the possession of deity. He claims equality with deity in the expression of the divine essence. He empties Himself of self, setting aside His desire to be worshipped. the legitimate desire of deity, in order to come to earth, take upon Himself the outward expression of a bondslave, and go to the Cross for guilty sinners, paying the penalty for their sins, satisfying the just demands of God’s law, thus making a way whereby a righteous God can bestow His grace upon believing sinners, yet on the basis of justice satisfied.

But that is not all. Not only did the followers of Jesus worship Him as absolute deity, but He Himself claimed deity for Himself. As such, He stands alone among all the founders of the great religions, none of whom claimed deity for himself.

Mohammed never claimed deity for himself. He called himself a prophet. Mohammedanism has now approximately 200,000,000 followers. One might argue from this that this religion must be of divine origin. But as we examine into the sources of its growth, we discover that they were all natural. The religion was first spread by force of arms. It is easy to understand that a sin-loving pagan would readily embrace a new religion to save his life. It was spread by fanaticism and an appeal to fallen human nature. Every Moslem was taught to believe that if he died fighting the “infidels,” he was translated immediately into Paradise, where he would enjoy all kinds of sensual rewards. “The sword,” said Mohammed, “is the key to heaven and to hell. A drop of blood shed in the cause of Allah, a night spent in arms, is of more avail than two months of fasting and prayer. Whoever falls in battle, his sins are forgiven, and at the day of judgment, his limbs shall be supplied by the wings of angels and cherubim.” The religion required no regeneration. Its worship consisted of external rites. The conscience was not touched. The person was allowed to go on in his sin, just as long as he observed certain outward rules. Man is incurably religious. He demands the exercises of religion. Mohammedanism satisfies this longing and at the same time, allows its devotees to go on in the way of life which they love. The chief reason for the outstanding success of Mohammedanism is that it is a religion which gives people what they want, and which caters to their evil natures. But with all his successes, Mohammed never claimed deity for himself.

The founder of Buddhism was Gautama, an Indian prince who flourished in 552 b.c. He had become dissatisfied with the gross sensuality of the Hinduism surrounding him, and withdrew from the world to mystical contemplation, in an endeavor to escape from the pain and sorrow of life. He formulated eight ways of deliverance: first, right belief—belief in the doctrines he taught, second, right feelings—namely, absence of all feeling toward everyone and everything, third, right speech—not to lie so as to be found out, fourth, right actions—negative rules of restraint of one’s passions, fifth—right means of livelihood—getting one’s living by means of begging, sixth—right endeavor—mental labor only, seventh, right memory—thought about Buddha’s doctrines, and eighth—right meditation—putting one’s mind in a trance in order to communicate with Buddha, or the annihilation of thought. Instead of a way of salvation, there is only a degrading and pessimistic laziness. The success of Buddhism is found in the fact that it presented a way of escape from the cares of life through the opium of annihilation of all desire, because of the political patronage of an Indian king, Asoka, who popularized it, and because of its readiness to incorporate itself with other religions. But notwithstanding the tremendous success of Buddhism, its founder never claimed deity for himself.

Confucius, the founder of the system of belief that bears his name, never claimed deity. Confucius saw the breakdown of morality in China, and started out to counteract it by gathering together, studying, and teaching the wisdom of the past to all who would listen to him. The enormous success of his ethical system is seen in the fact that the Confucian Classics were the basis of all instruction of the young in the schools of China. In addition to that, all preferment in government positions was dependent upon a knowledge of the teachings of Confucius. But this Chinese sage never claimed deity for himself.[76]

Jesus of Nazareth stands alone among all of the founders of the great religions in asserting that He was God, and in accepting the worship of individuals. The battle royal had been going on for forty days and forty nights, Jesus of Nazareth, put to the test and solicited to do evil by the devil. Exhausted, emaciated, and famished, He is the target of the final assaults by Satan who says in his first temptation, “In view of the fact that you are Son of God by nature, command that these stones become loaves of bread” (Matt. 4:3). There was no “If thou be” (a.v.) in the devil’s theology. It was not an unfulfilled, future, hypothetical condition with him. It was not that Satan was not sure whether Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God. The Greek has the conditional particle of a fulfilled condition. The devil knew that Jesus of Nazareth was the Son of God by nature. That is, he subscribed to the doctrine which teaches that Jesus is Very God of Very God, proceeding by eternal generation from God the Father. Jesus of Nazareth did not deny that fact. He, the only Person who ever lived a sinless life on earth, against whom no one has ever successfully pointed an accusing finger, would have acted a monstrous lie if He was not God. He accepted the title.

But that is not all. Satan tempted Him to assert His deity by creating bread for Himself. Jesus of Nazareth, although God, lived His life on earth as a Man, in dependence upon God the Father for His sustenance. He could create bread and fish to feed 5000 people, but He could not create a crumb for Himself. There Satan again appeals to His deity. Jesus answered, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4), refusing to cast off His human dependence upon God as the Man Christ Jesus, and assert His deity.

On another occasion He asserted His deity in forgiving a person’s sins. Four men had carried a paralytic on a litter to Him for healing. Jesus went to the source of the trouble and forgave his sins. The Jewish theologians sitting by said, “Why does this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?” (Mark 2:7). Jesus asserted His deity by healing the paralytic, the miracle demonstrating that He was who He claimed to be, the God who forgave sins. He called Himself the Son of Man here, and He said that He as the Son of Man had the authority on earth to forgive sins. But the point is that He derived this authority from the fact that He was also deity.

On the occasion of Peter’s great confession, Jesus of Nazareth again acknowledged deity. Peter said, “As for you, you are the Christ, the Son of God, the living God” (Matt. 16:16). Jesus answers, “Flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.” Jesus here states that the fact that He is the Son of God, thus God the Son, was a revelation from God the Father. The teaching to the effect that Jesus of Nazareth is deity, did not therefore come from man, but from God.

We have in John 5:18, the words (a.v.) “Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill Him, because He not only had broken the Sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making Himself equal with God.” The Jews here are the Jewish religious leaders, well educated, learned in the Old Testament scriptures. They had heard Jesus claim that God was His Father. The pronoun “his” does not bring out the full force of the Greek here. This English word is the translation of the ordinary pronoun of the third person in the genitive case in Greek. It expresses the general idea of ownership. But this construction does not appear in the original here. The word is idios (ἰδιος), which means one’s own private, unique, individual possession.” That is, Jesus claimed to own God as His Father in a way different from the way in which believers have God as their Father. His relationship to God as His Son was different, uniquely different, from that relationship sustained by every other person who claims sonship. These astute theologians saw clearly that in making this claim, Jesus was making Himself equal with God. And any person equal with God, must be God. On another occasion, Jesus differentiated between the sonship of believers and that of Himself. He said to Mary, “Go to my brethren, and say to them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father, and to my God, and your God” (John 20:17).

On still another occasion, the Jewish theologians accused Jesus of being possessed by a demon (John 10:20). In the course of His defence, He said “I and My Father are One” (10:30). The record then continues, “Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shown you from my Father; because of what kind of works among them are you stoning Me? The Jews answered Him, For a good work we are not stoning you, but concerning blasphemy, and because you, being a man, are making yourself God” (10:31–33). We have here the testimony again of the Jewish leaders to the effect that Jesus of Nazareth claimed deity for Himself. As theologians, they were well acquainted with the implications of Jesus’ words. They rejected Him and His claims because of sin in their lives, and by reason of their entrenched ecclesiasticism which would allow no interference with its position. It would be well to remember that here the testimony to the effect that Jesus claimed deity for Himself, did not come from His followers, but from the ranks of the opposition.

In the upper room discourse, just before His sufferings on the Cross, He said to His disciples, “You believe in God. Believe also in Me” (John 14:1). For a mere human being to say a thing like that, would be monstrous. Jesus here again placed Himself on an equality with God, thus claiming deity for Himself.

The opposition of the Hebrew theologians put Jesus on the defensive, and He found it necessary time and again to assert His deity. He said on another occasion, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day: and he saw it, and was glad.” Then the Jews said to Him, “You are not yet fifty years old, and have you seen Abraham?” Jesus said to them, “Verily, verily, I say to you, Before Abraham came into existence, I am” (John 8:56–58). Jesus uses the verb which speaks of coming into existence when speaking of Abraham, but when alluding to Himself, He uses the verb of being, and in this instance, in such a way that it is clear that He is speaking of eternal existence. And the Jews understood Him to do so, for the record continues, “Then they took up stones to cast at Him.” Jesus here reminded His Jewish hearers of the time when Moses asked the God of the Old Testament what answer he should give Israel when they ask him the name of the God who sent him, and God’s answer was, “I AM THAT I AM” (Ex. 3:14). Jesus claimed to be the I AM THAT I AM of the Old Testament, the God of the Jews, the Self-existent One.

Finally, we will look at the testimony of doubting Thomas. This disciple refused to believe that Jesus had arisen from the dead until he could see the marks of the nails in His hands, and put his finger into that mark and his hand into the mark left by the spear in His side. Jesus appeared to the disciples when Thomas was present, and invited him to satisfy his spirit of investigation. What Thomas wanted was scientific proof of the fact that Jesus had risen from the dead in the same body in which He had died. Upon investigation, Thomas said, “My Lord and my God.” And Jesus did not deny the allegation. Had He not been God, He would have been guilty of acting a monstrous lie.

Thus, Jesus of Nazareth stands alone among all of the founders of the great religions, in claiming deity for Himself. And unless we accept His claim as true, He becomes the greatest enigma of history.[77]

John 1:15–18 John is constantly bearing witness concerning Him and calls out aloud, saying, This One is He concerning whom I said, The One who comes after me was in existence before me because He preceded me, for out of His fulness as a source we all received, and grace in exchange for grace. Because the law through the intermediate agency of Moses was given, the aforementioned grace and the truth came through Jesus Christ. Absolute deity in its essence no one has ever yet seen. God uniquely-begotten, He who is in the bosom of the Father, that One fully explained deity.[78]

I. The Preexistence of the Preincarnate Christ

 

A. The Meaning of Preexistence

Preexistence of Christ means that He existed before His birth. For some writers it means that He existed before Creation and before time. But strictly speaking, preexistence is not synonymous with eternality. Practically speaking, they stand for a similar concept, for a denial of preexistence almost always includes a denial of eternality and vice versa.

 

B. The Importance of Preexistence

1. At birth. If Christ came into existence at His birth, then no eternal Trinity exists.

2. Not God. If Christ was not preexistent then He could not be God, because, among other attributes, God is eternal.

3. Liar. If Christ was not preexistent then He lied, because He claimed to be. Then the question arises, what else did He lie about?

 

C. The Evidence for Preexistence

1. His heavenly origin. Verses that claim heavenly origin for Christ attest to preexistence before birth. Note especially John 3:13 and 31.

2. His work as Creator. If Christ was involved in creating, then, of course, He had to exist before Creation. See John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; and Hebrews 1:2.

3. His relationship with God. He claimed equality of nature with God (John 10:30). He claimed equal glory with the Father before the world began (17:5). Paul also claimed Christ had the same nature as God (Phil. 2:6). These passages are evidences for eternality as well.

4. His attributes. He claimed full Deity, and others attested to it. These claims will be examined later, but for now Colossians 2:9 will suffice—in Christ dwells all the fullness of Deity.

5. His relation to John the Baptist. Though John was born before Jesus, John acknowledged that Jesus existed before him (John 1:15, 30, literally “first of me” but referring to preexistence as the basis for Christ’s superiority over John).

 

II. The Eternality of the Preincarnate Christ

 

A. The Meaning of Eternality

Eternality means not only that Christ existed before His birth or even before Creation but that He existed always, eternally. Usually eternality and preexistence stand or fall together, though Arius taught preexistence of the Son but not His eternality. He insisted that if Christ was the Only Begotten He must have had a beginning. Jehovah’s Witnesses today have an Arian-like Christology, which denies the eternality of the Logos.

 

B. The Importance of Eternality

If eternality is denied then (a) there is no Trinity, (b) Christ does not possess full Deity, and (c) He lied.

 

C. The Evidence for Eternality

His relationship with God as of the same essence demonstrates eternality, since God is eternal. Notice the word charakter in Hebrews 1:3, which indicates that Christ is the exact representation of God’s nature or essence.

Possession of divine attributes includes the attribute of eternality.

The Old Testament prophets claimed eternality for Messiah. Micah said that His goings forth are from the days of eternity (5:2; see Hab. 1:12). Though the words can mean “from the days of old,” that is, from earliest times, they can also mean from eternity. Isaiah 9:6, “Eternal Father,” likely refers to Christ as a Father to His people always (thus it only looks forward, not backward to eternity past).

Christ claimed eternality when He declared, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58 kjv). This is more than limited existence before Abraham was born because He said “I am.” “I was” might indicate that He existed for several centuries before Abraham, but I am (eimi) states eternality.

John’s plain statement was that Christ is God (John 1:1). “The Word was God.” Not the Word was divine (as in Moffatt and Goodspeed) since that would require theios (as in Acts 17:29 and 2 Pet. 1:3). Nor does John say that the Word was a god (as Jehovah’s Witnesses translate it). Definite nouns that precede the verb, as here, regularly lack the definite article.[79]

Occasion

One predominate object that John had for his Gospel he set forth in John 20:31: ‘But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name’ (cf. John 19:35, ‘The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies that you also may believe’). But John, by his careful recording of the divine character and work of Christ, may have also had in mind an apologetic against a rising heretical Cerinthianism (which depreciated the deity of Jesus). At the same time he wanted to answer the arguments of incipient Gnosticism which had begun to spread: a heresy, which, among other things, began to deny the true humanity of Jesus, as well as that of his deity. (Cf. John 1:1–18).[80]

Striking Facts: v. 18. Jesus was killed because of His claims to deity. If He was not what He claimed to be (v. 23), He was a blasphemer, but this is out of the question, since He was raised from the dead. Therefore, those who deny His deity take their stand with His murderers.[81]

II. The Deity of Jesus Christ

1. Divine Names are Given to Him.

(a) He is Called God.

John 1:1—“The Word was God.” Heb. 1:8—“But unto the Son he saith, Thy throne, O God, is for ever.” John 1:18—“The only begotten Son [or better “only begotten God”].” Absolute deity is here ascribed to Christ. 20:28—“My Lord and my God.” Not an expression of amazement, but a confession of faith. This confession accepted by Christ, hence equivalent to the acceptance of deity, and an assertion of it on Christ’s part. Rom. 9:5—“God blessed forever.” Tit. 2:13—“The great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ.” 1 John 5:20—“His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God.” In all these passages Christ is called God.

It may be argued that while Christ is here called God, yet that does not argue for nor prove His deity, for human judges are also called “Gods” in John 10:35—“If he called them gods unto whom the word of God came.” True, but it is then used in a secondary and relative sense, and not in the absolute sense as when used of the Son.

(b) He is Called the Son of God.

The references containing this title are numerous. Among others see Matt. 8:29; 14:33; 16:16, 17; Mark 1:1; 14:61; Luke 1:35; 4:41. While it may be true that in the synoptic Gospels Jesus may not be said to have claimed this title for Himself, yet He unhesitatingly accepted it when used of Him and addressed to Him by others. Further, it seems clear from the charges made against Him that He did claim such an honor for Himself. Matt. 27:40, 43—“For he said, I am the Son of God.” Mark 14:61, 62—“Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed? and Jesus said, I am.” Luke 22:70—“Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.” In John’s Gospel however, Jesus plainly calls Himself “the Son of God” (5:25; 10:36; 11:4). Indeed, John’s Gospel begins with Christ as God: “The Word was God,” and ends with the same thought: “My Lord and my God” (20:28). (Chapter 21 is an epilogue.)

Dr. James Orr says, in speaking of the title Son of God as ascribed to Christ: “This title is one to which there can be no finite comparison or analogy. The oneness with God which it designates is not such reflex influence of the divine thought and character such as man and angels may attain, but identity of essence constituting him not God—like alone, but God. Others may be children of God in a moral sense; but by this right of elemental nature, none but He; He is herein, the only Son; so little separate, so close to the inner divine life which He expresses, that He is in the bosom of the Father. This language denotes two natures homogeneous, entirely one, and both so essential to the Godhead that neither can be omitted from any truth you speak of it.”

If when He called Himself “the Son of God” He did not mean more than that He was a son of God, why then did the high priest accuse Him of blasphemy when He claimed this title (Matt. 26:61–63)? Does not Mark 12:6—“Having yet therefore one son, his well—beloved, he sent him also last unto them, saying, They will reverence my son,” indicate a special sonship? The sonship of Christ is human and historical, it is true; but it is more: it is transcendent, unique, solitary. That something unique and solitary lay in this title seems clear from John 5:18—“The Jews sought the more to kill Him … because he … said … also that God was His [own] Father, making Himself equal with God.”

The use of the word “only begotten” also indicates the uniqueness of this sonship. For use of the word see Luke 7:12—“The only son of his mother.” 9:38—“For he is mine only child.” This word is used of Christ by John in 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9, and distinguishes between Christ as the only Son, and the “many … children of God” (John 1:12, 13). In one sense Christ has no brethren: He stands absolutely alone. This contrast is clearly emphasized in John 1:14, 18—“only begotten Son,” and 1:12 (R. V.)—“many … children.” He is the Son from eternity: they “become” sons in time. He is one; they are many. He is Son by nature; they are sons by adoption and grace. He is Son of the same essence with the Father; they are of different substance from the Father.

(c) He is Called the Lord.

Acts 4:33; 16:31; Luke 2:11; Acts 9:17; Matt. 22:43–45. It is true that this term is used of men, e. g., Acts 16:30—“Sirs [Lords], what must I do to be saved?” John 12:21—“Sir [Lord], we would see Jesus.” It is not used, however, in this unique sense, as the connection will clearly show. In our Lord’s day, the title “Lord” as used of Christ was applicable only to the Deity, to God. “The ptolemies and the Roman Emperors would allow the name to be applied to them only when they permitted themselves to be deified. The archaeological discoveries at Oxyrhyncus put this fact beyond a doubt. So when the New Testament writers speak of Jesus as Lord, there can be no question as to what they mean.”—Wood.

(d) Other Divine Names are Ascribed to Him:

“The first and the last” (Rev. 1:17). This title used of Jehovah in Isa. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12. “The Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 22:13, 16); cf. 1:8 where it is used of God.

2. Divine Worship is Ascribed to Jesus Christ.

The Scriptures recognize worship as being due to God, to Deity alone: Matt. 4:10—“Worship the Lord thy God, and him only.” Rev. 22:8, 9—“I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel.… Then saith he unto me, See thou do it not: … worship God.” John was not allowed even to worship God at the feet of the angel. Acts 14:14, 15; 10:25, 26—Cornelius fell down at the feet of Peter, and worshipped him. “But Peter took him up, saying, Stand up; I myself also am a man.” See what an awful fate was meted out to Herod because he dared to accept worship that belonged to God only (Acts 12:20–25). Yet Jesus Christ unhesitatingly accepted such worship, indeed, called for it (John 4:10). See John 20:28; Matt. 14:33; Luke 24:52; 5:8.

The homage given to Christ in these scriptures would be nothing short of sacrilegious idolatry if Christ were not God. There seemed to be not the slightest reluctance on the part of Christ in the acceptance of such worship. Therefore either Christ was God or He was an imposter. But His whole life refutes the idea of imposture. It was He who said, “Worship God only”; and He had no right to take the place of God if He were not God.

God himself commands all men to render worship to the Son, even as they do to Him. John 5:23, 24—“That all men should honor the Son, even as they honor the Father.” Even the angels are commanded to render worship to the Son. Heb. 1:6—“And let all the angels of God worship him.” Phil. 2:10—“That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow.”

It was the practice of the apostles and the early church to render worship to Christ: 2 Cor. 12:8—10—“I besought the Lord.” Acts 7:59—“And they stoned Stephen, calling upon God, and saying, Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.” 1 Cor. 1:2—“Them that … call upon the name of Jesus Christ our Lord.”

The Christians of all ages have not been satisfied with admiring Christ, they have adored and worshipped Him. They have approached His person in the attitude of self-sacrifice and worship as in the presence of and to God.

Robert Browning quoted, in a letter to a lady in her last illness, the words of Charles Lamb, when in a gay fancy with some friends as to how he and they would feel if the greatest of the dead were to appear suddenly in flesh and blood once more—on the first suggestion, “and if Christ entered this room?” changed his tone at once, and stuttered out as his manner was when moved: “You see—if Shakespeare entered, we should all rise; if Christ appeared, we must kneel.”

3. He Possesses the Qualities and Properties of Deity.

(a) Pre-Existence

John 1:1—“In the beginning”; cf. Gen. 1:1. John 8:58—“Before Abraham was, I am.” That is to say: “Abraham’s existence presupposes mine, not mine his. He was dependent upon me, not I upon him for existence. Abraham came into being at a certain point of time, but I am.” Here is simple being without beginning or end. See also John 17:5; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:16, 17.

(b) Self-Existence and Life-Giving Power

John 5:21, 26—“For as the Father raiseth up the dead and quickeneth them, even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.” “For as the Father hath life in himself, so hath he given to the Son to have life in himself.” 1:4—“In him was life.” See also 14:6; Heb. 7:16; John 17:3–5; 10:17, 18. These scriptures teach that all life—physical, moral, spiritual, eternal—has its source in Christ.

(c) Immutability

Heb. 13:8—“Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.” See also 1:12. All nature, which like a garment He throws around Him, is subject to change and decay; Jesus Christ is the same always, He never changes. Human teachers, such as are spoken of in the context, may change, but He, the Christ, never.

(d) All the Fulness of the Godhead Dwelt in Him

Col. 2:9. Not merely the divine perfections and attributes of Deity, but (theotes) the very essence and nature of the Godhead. He was not merely God—like; He was God.

4. Divine Offices are Ascribed to Him.

(a) He is the Creator:

John 1:3—“All things were made by Him.” In the creation He was the acting power and personal instrument. Creation is the revelation of His mind and might. Heb. 1:10 shows the dignity of the Creator as contrasted with the creature. Col. 1:16 contradicts the Gnostic theory of emanations, and shows Christ to be the creator of all created things and beings. Rev. 3:14—“The beginning of the creation of God,” means “beginning” in the active sense, the origin, that by which a thing begins to be. Col. 1:15—“first-born,” not made; compare with Col. 1:17, where the “for” of v.16 shows Him to be not included in the “created things,” but the origin of and superior to them all. He is the Creator of the universe (v.16), just as He is the Head of the Church (v.18).

(b) He is the Upholder of All Things:

Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3. The universe is neither self-sustaining nor is it forsaken by God (Deism). Christ’s power causes all things to hold together. The pulses of universal life are regulated and controlled by the throbbings of the mighty heart of Christ.

(c) He Has the Right to Forgive Sins:

Mark 2:5–10. Luke 7:48—“And he said unto her, Thy sins are forgiven.” Certain it is that the Pharisees recognized that Christ was here assuming a divine prerogative. No mere man had any right to forgive sins. God alone could do that. Hence the Pharisees’ charge of blasphemy. This is no declaration of forgiveness, based upon the knowledge of the man’s penitence. Christ does not merely declare sins forgiven. He actually forgives them. Further, Jesus, in the parable of the two debtors (Luke 7), declares that sins were committed against Himself (cf. Psa. 51:4—“Against thee, thee only, have I sinned”).

(d) The Raising of the Bodies of Men is Ascribed to Him:

John 6:39, 40, 54; 11:25. Five times it is here declared by Jesus that it is His prerogative to raise the dead. It is true that others raised the dead, but under what different conditions? They worked by a delegated power (Acts 9:34); but Christ, by His own power (John 10:17, 18). Note the agony of Elisha and others, as compared with the calmness of Christ. None of these claimed to raise the dead by his own power, nor to have any such power in the general resurrection of all men. Christ did make such claims.

(e) He is to Be the Judge of All Men:

John 5:22—“For the Father judgeth no man, but hath committed all judgment unto the Son.” 2 Tim. 4:1; Acts 17:31; Matt. 25:31–46. The Man of the Cross is to be the Man of the throne. The issues of the judgment are all in His hand.

5. Divine Attributes are Possessed by Him.

(a) Omnipotence

Matt. 28:18—“All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth.” Rev. 1:8; John 17:2; Eph. 1:20–22. Here is power over three realms: First, all power on earth: over disease (Luke 4:38–41); death (John 11); nature, water into wine (John 2); tempest (Matt. 8). Second, all power in hell: over demons (Luke 4:35, 36, 41); evil angels (Eph. 6). Third, all power in heaven (Eph. 1:20–22). Finally, power over all things (Heb. 2:8; 1:3; Mt 28:18).

(b) Omniscience

John 16:30—“Now are we sure that thou knowest all things.” 2:24, 25; Matt. 24; 25; Col. 2:3. Illustrations: John 4:16–19; Mark 2:8; John 1:48. “Our Lord always leaves the impression that He knew all things in detail, both past and future, and that this knowledge comes from His original perception of the events. He does not learn them by acquisition. He simply knows them by immediate perception. Such utterances as Matt. 24 and Luke 21 carry in them a subtle difference from the utterances of the prophets. The latter spoke as men who were quite remote in point of time from their declaration of unfolding events. Jesus spoke as one who is present in the midst of the events which He depicts. He does not refer to events in the past as if He were quoting from the historic narrative in the Old Testament. The only instance which casts doubt upon this view is Mark 13:32. The parallel passage in Matthew omits, in many ancient versions, the words: ‘Neither the Son.’The saying in Mark is capable of an interpretation which does not contradict this view of His omniscience. This is an omniscience nevertheless, which in its manifestation to men is under something of human limitation.”—Wood.

This limitation of knowledge is no argument against the infallibility of those things which Jesus did teach: for example, the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch. That argument, says Liddon, involves a confusion between limitation of knowledge and liability to error; whereas, plainly enough, a limitation of knowledge is one thing, and fallibility is another. St. Paul says, “We know in part,” and “We see through a glass darkly.” Yet Paul is so certain of the truth of that which he teaches, as to exclaim, “But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.” Paul clearly believed in his own infallibility as a teacher of religious truth, and the Church of Christ has ever since regarded his epistles as part of an infallible literature. But it is equally clear that Paul believed his knowledge of truth to be limited. Infallibility does not imply omniscience, any more than limited knowledge implies error. If a human teacher were to decline to speak upon a given subject, by saying that he did not know enough about it, this would not be a reason for disbelieving him when he proceeded to speak confidently upon a totally different subject, thereby at least implying that he did not know enough to warrant his speaking. On the contrary, his silence in the one case would be a reason for trusting his statements in the other. The argument which is under consideration in the text would have been really sound, if our Saviour had fixed the date of the day of judgment and the event had shown Him to be mistaken.

Why stumble over the limitation of this attribute and not over the others? Did He not hunger and thirst, for example? As God He is omnipresent, yet as man He is present only in one place. As God He is omnipotent; yet, on one occasion at least, He could do no mighty works because of the unbelief of men.

(c) Omnipresence

Matt. 18:20—“For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.” He is with every missionary (Matt. 28:20). He is prayed to by Christians in every place (1 Cor. 1:2). Prayer would be a mockery if we were not assured that Christ is everywhere present to hear. He fills all things, every place (Eph. 1:23). But such an all pervading presence is true only of Deity.

6. His Name is Coupled with that of God the Father

The manner in which the name of Jesus Christ is coupled with that of God the Father clearly implies equality of the Son with the Father. Compare the following:

(a) The Apostolic Benediction

2 Cor. 13:14. Here the Son equally with the Father is the bestower of grace.

(b) The Baptismal Formula

Matt. 28:19; Acts 2:38. “In the name,” not the names (plural). How would it sound to say, “In the name of the Father” and of Moses? Would it not seem sacrilegious? Can we imagine the effect of such words on the apostles?

(c) Other Passages

John 14:23—“We will come”: the Father and I. 17:3—“And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ.” The content of saving faith includes belief in Jesus Christ equally with the Father. 10:30—“I and my Father are one.” “One” is neuter, not masculine, meaning that Jesus and the Father constitute one power by which the salvation of man is secured. 2 Thess. 2:16, 17—“Now our Lord Jesus Christ himself, and God, even our Father … comfort your hearts.” These two names, with a verb in the singular, intimate the oneness of the Father with the Son.

7. The Self-Consciousness of Jesus Regarding His Own Person and Work

It will be interesting to search the Gospel records to ascertain what was in the mind of Jesus concerning Himself—His relation to the Father in particular. What bearing has the testimony of Jesus upon the question of His Deity? Is the present Christian consciousness borne out by the Gospel narratives? Is Jesus Christ a man of a much higher type of faith than ours, yet one with whom we believe in God? Or is He, equally with God, the object of our faith? Do we believe with Him, or on Him? Is there any indication in the words ascribed to Jesus, as recorded in the Gospels, of a consciousness on His part of His unique relation to God the Father? Is it Jesus Himself who is responsible for the Christian’s consciousness concerning His deity, or is the Church reading into the Gospel accounts something that is not really there? Let us see.

(a) As Set Forth in the Narrative of His Visit to the Temple

Luke 2:41–52. This is a single flower out of the wonderfully enclosed garden of the first thirty years of our Lord’s life. The emphatic words, for our purpose, are “thy father,” and “my Father.” These are the first recorded words of Jesus. Is there not here an indication of the consciousness on the part of Jesus of a unique relationship with His heavenly Father? Mary, not Joseph, asked the question, so contrary to Jewish custom. She said: “Thy father”; Jesus replied in substance: “Did you say my Father has been seeking me?” It is remarkable to note that Christ omits the word “father” when referring to His parents, cf. Matt. 12:48; Mark 3:33, 34. “My Father!” No other human lips had ever uttered these words. Men said, and He taught them to say, “Our Father.” It is not too much to say that in this incident Christ sees, rising before Him, the great truth that God, and not Joseph, is His Father, and that it is in His true Father’s house that He now stands.

(b) As Revealed at His Baptism

Matt. 3:13–17; Mark 1:9–11; Luke 3:21. Here are some things to remember in connection with Christ’s baptism: First, Jesus was well acquainted with the relation of John and his ministry to the Old Testament prophecy, as well as of John’s own announcement that he was the Messiah’s forerunner, and that he (John) was not worthy to untie the latchet of Christ’s shoes. Second, to come then to John, and to submit to baptism at his hands, would indicate that Jesus conceded the truth of all that John had said. This is emphasized when we remember Jesus’ eulogy of John (Matt. 11). Thirdly, there is the descent of the Spirit, and the voice; what meaning did these things have to Jesus? If Christ’s sermon in the synagogue at Nazareth is of any help here, we must believe that at His baptism, so much more than at the age of twelve, He was conscious that in thus being anointed He was associating Himself in some peculiar way with the prophecy of Isaiah, chapters 42 and 61: “Behold my Servant … I have put my Spirit upon Him.” All, therefore, that must have been wrapped up in the thought of the “Servant of the Lord” in the Old Testament would assuredly be quickened in His consciousness that day when the Spirit descended upon Him. See also Luke 4:16–17; Acts 10:38; Matt. 12:28.

But what did the heavenly voice signify to Christ? “This is my beloved Son” takes us back to the second Psalm where this person is addressed as the ideal King of Israel. The last clause—“in whom I am well pleased”—refers to Isaiah 42, and portrays the servant who is anointed and empowered by the endowment of God’s Spirit. We must admit that the mind of Jesus was steeped in the prophecies of the Old Testament, and that He knew to whom these passages referred. The ordinary Jew knew that much. Is it too much to say that on that baptismal day Jesus was keenly conscious that these Old Testament predictions were fulfilled in Him? We think not.

(c) As Set Forth in the Record of the Temptation

Matt. 4:1–11; Mark 1:12, 13; Luke 4:1–13. That Jesus entered into the temptation in the wilderness with the consciousness of the revelation He received, and of which He was conscious at the baptism, seems clear from the narratives. Certain it is that Satan based his temptations upon Christ’s consciousness of His unique relation to God as His Son. Throughout the whole of the temptation Satan regards Christ as being in a unique sense the Son of God, the ideal King, through whom the kingdom of God is to be established upon the earth. Indeed, so clearly is the kingship of Jesus recognized in the temptation narrative that the whole question agitated there is as to how that kingdom may be established in the world. It must be admitted that a careful reading of the narratives forces us to the conclusion that throughout all the temptation Christ was conscious of His position with reference to the founding of God’s kingdom in the world.

(d) As Set Forth in the Calling of the Twelve and the Seventy

The record of this event is found in Matt. 10; Mark 3:13–19; 6:7–13; Luke 9:1–6; 10:1–14. This important event in the life of our Lord had an important bearing upon His self-consciousness as to His person and work. Let us note some of the details:

First, as to the number, twelve. Is there no suggestion here with reference to the New Jerusalem when the Messiah shall sit upon the throne surrounded by the twelve apostles seated on their thrones? Is not Jesus here conscious of Himself as being the centre of the scene thus described in the Apocalypse?

Second, He gave them power. Is not Jesus here repeating what had been done for Him at His baptism: conveying super-human power? Who can give this power that is strong enough to make even demons obey? No one less than God surely.

Third, note that the message which He committed to the twelve concerned matters of life and death. Not to receive that message would be equivalent to the rejection of the Father.

Fourth, all this is to be done in His name, and for His name’s sake. Fidelity to Jesus is that on which the final destiny of men depends. Everything rises or falls in its relation to Him. Could such words be uttered and there be no consciousness on the part of the speaker of a unique relationship to the Father and the things of eternity? Know you of anything bolder than this?

Fifth, He calls upon men to sacrifice their tenderest affections for Him. He is to be chosen before even father and mother (Matt. 10:34–39).

(e) As Revealed in the Sermon on the Mount

Matt. 5–7; Luke 6:20–49. Two references will be sufficient here. Who is this that dares to set Himself up as superior to Moses and the law of Moses, by saying, “But I say unto you”? Then, again, listen to Christ as He proclaims Himself to be the Judge of all men at the last day (Matt. 7:21). Could Jesus say all this without having any consciousness of His unique relationship to all these things? [82]

The touchstone of theological orthodoxy is the person of Christ. Both His deity and His humanity must be affirmed, or the entire doctrine of salvation is affected. Only a Jesus who is truly God and truly man can provide a complete salvation for humanity.

A problem in the early church was explaining how Jesus’ deity and His humanity related. At any given point in His earthly life, how did His two natures blend? Was He more God or more man? How should we view the union of these two natures in the one person? The debate over Jesus’ two natures troubled the church for more than 300 years, at least until 451 at the Council of Chalcedon, when the definitive statement about Jesus’ two natures was written.

As one studies the early church, it becomes clear that the emergence of error usually prompted the church to seek a more satisfactory explanation of a theological question. This was true of the doctrine of Christ. Throughout the period from 325 to 451, major interpretations emerged, often heretical, that challenged the church to think more precisely about defining the relationship of Jesus’ two natures.

The Alexandrian School

Two schools of theology, one in Antioch and the other in Alexandria, Egypt, framed the debate on the nature of Christ. The Alexandrian school claimed such luminaries as Athanasius and the great Origen. Influenced by Greek philosophy, especially Plato, the Alexandrians tended to elevate the spiritual—Christ’s deity—at the expense of His humanity.

Following logically from the Alexandrian position came the heresy propagated by Apollinarius. He was a friend of Athanasius and Basil the Great as well as a teacher of the great Jerome. However, he taught that Jesus was fully God but that His “rational soul” was supplanted by the divine Logos. This meant that Jesus was not completely human.

The Council of Constantinople in 381 condemned Apollinarius as a heretic because his view affected the doctrine of salvation. How could Christ sufficiently die for humans if He was not totally a man Himself? The council thus concluded that Jesus had to be completely human and completely divine.

The Antiochene School

The second major school of theology, in Antioch, was influenced by Aristotle, who saw man as a unity of soul and body, not a dichotomy. This school gave far more importance to the unique distinction of Jesus’ two natures than did the Alexandrians. The Antiochene emphasis logically produced the heresy Nestorianism, named after Nestorius, who further challenged the church’s thinking about Jesus.

As Patriarch in Constantinople in 428, Nestorius held a powerful position in the early church. For several reasons he was uncomfortable with the way the Alexandrians were using certain phrases about Jesus, all of which he thought amounted to a dangerous mixing of the human and divine natures of Christ. His solution was to maintain an absolute distinction of the two natures to such an extent that the only connection between them was the will.

The best analogy of how Nestorius viewed Christ was as a Siamese twin. Because the patriarch could not imagine deity being involved in human suffering or change, he insisted that the two natures were artificially joined. Even though some modern scholarship doubts whether Nestorius actually taught this, this teaching was condemned as heresy at the Council of Ephesus in 431.

It was clear that neither the rigid two-nature model of Nestorius nor the careless one-nature theory of Apollinarius corresponded with the biblical data. In Jesus’ confrontation with the Samaritan woman at the well in John 4, His two natures seemed to be in perfect communion. At any given moment in time, He was both God and man. Thus a position was needed that would combine the strength of both proposals.

A monk from Constantinople named Eutyches proposed a model for understanding Christ that attempted to reconcile Apollinarius and Nestorius. He refused to maintain a clear distinction between the two natures of Jesus; instead, he argued for a mixture of the natures such that a third confused mingling was the result. The analogy of dropping a few drops of oil into a pail of water illustrates the point—both the oil and the water are present, but the distinction between the two is not clear. The result of Eutyches’ teaching was a confused mixture, not fully God or man.

The Council of Chalcedon

To settle this critical matter of how to view the two natures of Jesus, a major council of more than 400 church leaders was called at Chalcedon in 451. After much debate, these leaders affirmed a statement rooted in Scripture that has singularly remained the most important declaration about Jesus Christ in the history of the church.

The statement proclaimed Jesus to be both God and man in one person. It declared that both natures are joined in a miraculous way so neither nature is damaged, diminished, or impaired. His two natures are joined “unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, and inseparably” (Leith, 36). Salvation is thus secured for those who profess faith in Jesus because His sacrifice was as both saving God and identifying man.

From Chalcedon, then, the church taught that Jesus is undiminished deity plus perfect humanity united in one person, without any confusion of the two natures. In the absolute sense of the term, He is the God-man!

We live in a world where religious cults are threatening orthodox truth at every turn. If church history teaches us anything, it is this—precision of language in doctrinal matters is imperative. Any choice of words when describing Jesus that diminishes His deity or His humanity is incorrect and heretical.

The miracle of the Incarnation stretches our finite minds to the limit. The great legacy of the Council of Chalcedon reflects a consensus on the language that preserves both the complete deity and humanity of Jesus in His person. A complete salvation demands it; faith in the God-man, Jesus Christ, procures it.[83]

C. The Communion of Attributes

This simply means that the attributes of both natures belong to the one person without mixing the natures or dividing the person. Practically speaking, it is the basis for Christ being seen to be weak, yet omnipotent; ignorant, yet omniscient; limited, yet infinite.

I have said that attributes cannot be transferred from one nature to the other. To do so would change the mix of the complex of attributes and thus the nature. If infinity can be transferred to humanity, then Deity loses infinity and is no longer full Deity. However, attributes of both natures must be expressed through the one person. Thus the person can seem to “transfer” back and forth from the expression of one or the other natures, though the attributes themselves must remain as part of whichever nature they properly belong to. Thus theologians have developed a system to classify the actions of the person of Christ with respect to origination of the action. Hodge has four categories, and Walvoord has seven. Some examples include (a) actions predicated on the whole person, like redemption (both natures being involved); (b) actions predicated on the divine nature (though the whole person is the subject), like preexistence (true only of the divine nature); and (c) actions predicated on the human nature, like being thirsty.

Whatever help such a classification may give, it seems more important to remember that the person does whatever He does, revealing whatever attribute of whichever nature He reveals. The person thirsted; the person knew all things; the person does not know the day or the hour; and (probably the hardest one) the person died. Of course, Deity does not die or thirst, but the person, Jesus Christ, the God-man, did both.

 

D. The Self-Consciousness of Christ

Another question is whether Christ in His own self-consciousness was aware of His deity and humanity at all times. The answer is that the person was always aware in Himself with respect to His deity and that the person grew in self-consciousness with respect to His humanity (Luke 2:52; John 8:56–58).[84]

It’s one thing to show from Scripture that Jesus possesses divine attributes; it’s still another to demonstrate that Jesus actually claimed to be God. If Jesus never affirmed His deity, then the evidence presented so far would be suspect. Christians could be charged with misinterpreting Scripture, and the New Testament authors with misunderstanding Jesus’ identity and mission. On the other hand, if Jesus did claim to be God, and if the Bible supports this claim by demonstrating He possesses attributes of deity, then surely we have sufficient evidence that Jesus is God.

Once again, our evidence rests on the proven historical reliability of the Bible, which supports the Bible’s claim that it’s divinely inspired and inerrant. If the Bible is God’s Word, then not only what the authors of Scripture say about Jesus must be true, but what Jesus Himself says must also be true. And Jesus does claim divine status in numerous ways.

Jesus makes several explicit statements concerning His deity: “I and My Father are one” (John 10:30); “If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him. … He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:7, 9).

In Mark 14:60–64 (see Matt. 26:63–66), Jesus is questioned by Caiaphas, the high priest. In response to Caiaphas’s question as to whether Jesus was the “Christ, the Son of the Blessed,” Jesus acknowledged His deity by stating “I am.” Caiaphas had no doubt that Jesus was making such a claim. He referred to it as blasphemy, and the rest of the religious leaders agreed by condemning Jesus to death. Caiaphas even ripped his clothes, a customary reaction upon hearing blasphemy, which Jesus’ claim to be equal with the Father was to the high priest. According to Jewish law, blasphemy was a capital offense punishable by stoning. In fact, this charge provided the Jews with their only legal excuse to have Jesus crucified. (Compare this with John 5:16–18, where the Jews were seeking to kill Jesus because He was “making Himself equal with God.”

Still another direct claim to deity is found in John 8:56–58. Speaking to the Jews, Jesus said, “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad … before Abraham was, I AM.” If we compare this passage with Exodus 3:13–15, we see that the phrase “I AM” in John 8:58 is a claim by Christ to be the Yahweh of the Old Testament. In Exodus 3:14, “I AM” is the divine name Yahweh, by which God revealed Himself to Moses at the burning bush. It emphasizes God’s eternal self-existence. Thus in John 8:58, Jesus is saying more than the fact that He existed prior to Abraham. It is a distinct claim to be God, the one and only. Once again, it is evident that the Jews understood this claim. In verse 59, we read that they picked up stones to throw at Him for what they considered to be His blasphemous self-affirmation.

In many other direct ways, Jesus claimed to be God. He said He was “Lord even of the Sabbath” (Matt. 12:8). Who but God could be this? He tells a paralyzed man that his “sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5). Who but God can forgive sins? Jesus said to the multitudes in His famous Sermon on the Mount, “You have heard that the ancients were told … but I say to you …” (Matt. 5:21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 43, 44, nasv). Who but God could speak with such finality, with such authority? In Matthew 23:34, Jesus says, “I am sending you prophets and wise men” (nasv). Who but God can do this?

In addition to these claims to deity, there is other evidence to consider. For instance, Jesus claimed to have God’s authority. Whereas other religious leaders pointed men away from themselves and to their respective gods, referring to themselves as mere spokesmen, Jesus referred to Himself as the very source of authority and truth (Matt. 28:18; John 14:6).

Jesus also equated people’s attitudes about Himself with their attitudes toward God. He said that to know Him is to know God (John 8:19), to see Him is to see God (John 12:45), to believe in Him is to believe in God (John 12:44), and to hate Him is to hate God (John 15:23).

The titles “Son of Man” and “Son of God,” which indicate deity, were taken by Jesus as applying to Him. “Son of Man” frequently occurs in the Old Testament (see Dan. 7:13–14). By the time of Christ, it had tremendous messianic significance. And the Messiah was believed to be divine, as Isaiah 9:6 makes clear, where we read that the Messiah is called “Wonderful Counselor” (referring to the Messiah as a supernatural counselor) and “Mighty God” (designating Yahweh). By taking the title “Son of Man” for Himself, Jesus declared His deity, as the Jews recognized (see Matt. 26:64–65; Luke 22:69–71).

Although, in the Old Testament, the title “Son of God” is applied to angels, Adam, and the Hebrew nation, it denotes deity in the New Testament. In Matthew 26:63–65, Jesus accepted the title when the high priest applied it to Him in a messianic sense. Once again, the Jewish reaction to His claim demonstrates that they understood Jesus to be calling Himself God.

Jesus also used the “Son of God” title to underscore His special union with God the Father (John 3:16). Moreover, the repeated use of son with father may be alluding to Jesus’ equality with the Father in the Godhead. Since Jesus the Son is part of the triune Godhead, “Son of God” likely means that Jesus is a part of the Godhead.

The Trilemma Argument

So far three important truths have been established: (1) Jesus is an historical person, (2) He possesses the attributes of God, and (3) He claimed to be God. Since the Bible is God’s Word, this is sufficient to establish beyond doubt that Jesus is who He claims to be—God.

Unfortunately, many non-Christians will not take the time to evaluate this evidence. And although the historicity of Jesus is seldom doubted, most non-Christians believe that Jesus is simply a great moral teacher or religious philosopher. They do not accept Him as God.

For such people, there remains a simple, rational exercise to determine whether Jesus is deity. It’s called the trilemma argument. It poses three options for Jesus: (1) Jesus says He is God, but He knows that’s not true, so He’s a deceiver (a liar); (2) Jesus really thinks He is God, but He isn’t, so He’s a madman (lunatic); (3) Jesus claims to be God because He really is God (Lord). If we accept the fact that Jesus is an historical person who claimed to be God, then these are the only rational options. Notice that moral teacher and religious philosopher are not included. He could not be either if He was a liar or a lunatic. And certainly if He is God, He is infinitely greater than either one. C. S. Lewis makes the point clearly and forcefully:

I’m trying here to prevent anyone from saying the really silly thing that people often 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’s the one thing we mustn’t say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said wouldn’t be a great moral teacher. He’d either be a lunatic—on a level with the man who says he’s a poached egg—or else he’d 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 don’t let us come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He hasn’t left that open to us. He didn’t intend to.

Was Jesus A Liar?

If Jesus claimed to be God and yet knew He was not, He was lying. In fact, He was a liar of the worse kind because He tricked people into following a religion that, if not true, would inevitably lead them away from the true God and into eternal damnation. But given what the Bible reveals about Jesus’ teachings and the life He lived, He could not have been a deceiver. Nor is it likely that a liar would have had the profound and lasting influence He has had. No other person in history has been considered as morally righteous and honest as Jesus has. He taught His followers to be truthful at all costs, to give sacrificially to others, and to share unconditionally. Jesus not only taught these things but lived them. His was not the character of a liar.

Besides, even supposing Jesus knew He was leading people astray regarding His deity claims, it seems ludicrous that He would suffer brutal torture and the excruciating execution by crucifixion just to maintain a lie. Someone may die for something he thinks is true, but certainly not for something he knows is false. It is hard to imagine that Jesus would have lived such a monumental lie when it brought

Jesus Claims to be God

Him no material gain, no immediate fame, and eventually led to a horrible death.

Was Jesus a Lunatic?

Is it possible Jesus actually thought He was God but was self-deluded? Many people have claimed divine status, but their madness was virtually always obvious. Does what we know about Jesus fit this image? Not in the slightest.

Neither the Bible record nor the testimony of history gives the barest hint that Jesus was a lunatic. He showed none of the symptoms of madness common to people suffering from mental disorders or hallucinations. His teachings were not the ravings of a madman. He never exhibited signs of paranoia or schizophrenia. He was never rash or impulsive. Under all circumstances, even when suffering the anguish of the cross, Jesus appeared self-assured and in complete possession of His senses. Regardless on what subject He spoke, His advice was always profound, insightful, intelligible, and reliable. His instructions in all areas of human relationships (religious, moral, political, psychological, social) were so reliable that they have molded and shaped Western civilization for nearly twenty centuries. Jesus has set countless thousands of people free from the bondage of mental illness, drugs, and alcohol. There is not a shred of evidence that Jesus Christ was anything less than fully sane.

Is Jesus Lord?

Logic and the preponderance of evidence force us to eliminate liar and lunatic choices. And there’s only one option left—Lord. If anyone made a decision for Christ based on no other evidence than probability and common sense, he would be driven to conclude that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be: God in bodily form, the Savior of all who trust in Him by faith.

The significance of this is, literally, a matter of life and death. If Jesus Christ is God, which He is, then what He teaches about sin and salvation is not merely the speculation of a great moral teacher but the very words of God. Jesus said that He is the only way to achieve eternal life (John 14:6). In light of the evidence, it would be foolhardy to reject His claim.[85]

What Proves Jesus to Be the Son of God?

Great emphasis is laid by the Jehovah’s Witnesses, who deny the deity of Christ, on the Father’s declaration in Matt. 3:17. “And lo a voice from heaven, saying, This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.” They say that this declaration proves that Jesus Christ was, at the stage of this declaration, spirit begotten to become the Son of God; and as an embryo His New Creation would grow to maturity, while He lived on earth as man. Then, so they say, upon his death as a man his body was annihilated, and He was resurrected in the Spirit as possessor of divine nature, or a new Creation.

It was not only the declaration by the Father, which was heard when Jesus stepped out of Jordan’s waters, which proved Jesus to be the Son of God. It was His subsequent resurrection from the dead which demonstrated beyond a shadow of doubt that Jesus is the Son of God, equal to God. The Apostle Paul introduces him to us in Rom. 1:3, 4 as follows, “Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh; and declared [determined] to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead.” The power of God made manifest in His resurrection presents Jesus to us as our Saviour-God.

Few men recognized Jesus as the Son of God while he was in the flesh. Paul says in 1 Cor. 2:8, “Which none of the princes of this world knew: for had they known they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.” But many men, after His resurrection, recognized Him as the Lord of Glory. By the Lord’s grace, I am one of the millions.

The real proof of the deity of Christ was not given by word, or declaration, for it was not given credence. Telling proof of Christ’s deity was furnished in our Lord’s dying and in His subsequent resurrection by the power of God. This power carries it right into the heart of the believer, lending to the believer power to live and die with Christ. That power changes things. We read, “For to this end Christ both died, and rose, and revived, that He might be Lord both of the dead and the living” (Rom. 14:9).[86]

A Mysterious Union

Taking the form of a bondservant, and coming in the likeness of men.

Philippians 2:7

The humanity and deity of Christ is a mysterious union we can never fully understand. But the Bible emphasizes both.

Luke 23:39–43 provides a good example. At the cross, “… one of the criminals who were hanged blasphemed Him, saying, ‘If You are the Christ, save Yourself and us.’ But the other, answering, rebuked him, saying, ‘Do you not even fear God, seeing you are under the same condemnation? And we indeed justly, for we receive the due reward of our deeds; but this Man has done nothing wrong.’ Then he said to Jesus, ‘Lord, remember me when you come into Your Kingdom.’ And Jesus said to him, ‘Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.’”

In His humanness, Jesus was a victim, mercilessly hammered to a cross after being spat upon, mocked, and humiliated. But in His deity, He promised the thief on the cross eternal life, as only God can.

[87]

Background of the Passage

Following his deeply theological prologue, John introduces the first of many witnesses to prove that Jesus is the Messiah and Son of God. This is the main theme of his Gospel (20:31).

First we see John the Baptist giving testimony on three different days to three different audiences (1:19–51). These events took place in a.d. 26–27, just a few months after John’s baptism of Jesus.

Next we find the record of Jesus’ first public miracle—changing water into wine at a wedding in Cana of Galilee (2:1–11). This astounding sign was another powerful witness (the first of eight confirming miracles chosen by John) that pointed unmistakably to Jesus’ deity.

Finally, John’s account of Jesus cleansing the temple the first time (2:12–25) in righteous indignation was another added proof of Christ’s deity and messiahship. The incident demonstrated Jesus’ passion for reverence, His promised power of resurrection, and His supernatural perception of reality.[88]

THE DEITY OF OUR LORD

James 1:1; 2:1

Bondman. That is the real meaning of the word “servant.” “James, bondman of,” etc. (J.N.D.). Most of the servants of that time were slaves, and the New Testament writers proudly accepted that title as an apt description of their association with God and with Christ.

Observe the humility of James in abstaining from any reference to his earthly relationship to the Lord Jesus Christ, to Whom he was brother according to the flesh.

Though James mentions the Name of God seventeen times, he repeats the Name of Jesus but twice, here, and in 2:1, but note how reverently and devoutly he does this; and what a world of significance there is in his deliberate association of the awful Name of God with Jesus. Though James was bitterly opposed to Jesus and His claims prior and up to His death, he was, immediately after the Resurrection, converted by a special and private interview with the Risen One (1 Cor. 15:7). This adds value to the testimony of James with regard to the Deity of our Lord.

I. An Arresting Fact. James only refers to his own brother Jesus twice, and then in a reverent and devout fashion. Though they knew each other so well, there was no familiarity, for he called Him, Lord and Christ as well as Jesus. This is an arresting fact.

II. An Impressive Fact. The fact that a brother associates his relative in such a way with God as to imply an equality with the Almighty is very impressive. If Jesus were not Deity, then such an association would be blasphemous. Note, “God, and of the Lord Jesus Christ.”

III. A Glorious Fact. James calls his brother Jesus “The Lord of Glory” (2:1). This is a glorious Old Testament title for God.

IV. A Significant Fact. James calls himself the slave of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ. That implied on his part full surrender of will and life. A slave because:

1. Purchased—by the Blood of Christ.

2. Liberated—from sin’s guilt and servitude.

3. Pledged—conscious of blessed freedom, in great thankfulness he pledged life, service, and possessions.

4. Dependent—in conscious utter dependence upon Him.

V. An Interesting Fact. “To the twelve tribes.” Then there were not any lost tribes, for he addressed his letters to the twelve, whose location was evidently well known at that time.[89]

Christ, Christology. The Greek word translated in English as “Christ” is the equivalent of the Hebrew term Messiah and means “anointed one.” Although not intrinsic to its meaning, the NT use of the term Christ tends to point to the deity of Jesus.[90]

451 The Council of Chalcedon Opens

The Council of Chalcedon was called by Emperor Marcian (396–457) to deal with the heresy of Eutyches (378–454), an elderly monk who blurred the distinction between Jesus’ human and divine natures. More than five hundred bishops were present at the first session on October 8, 451. The council dealt not only with the heresy of Eutyches, but three others as well. The statement of faith issued by the council, called the Definition of Chalcedon, affirmed against Eutyches that the deity and humanity of Christ are distinct. Against Arius (250–336) they accepted the full deity of Christ, and against Apollinarius they maintained Christ’s full humanity. Against Nestorius (d. 451) they declared that Christ is one person. Although the emperor intended the Definition to unite the empire, many churches in the Eastern Empire, especially those in Egypt and Ethiopia, rejected it.[91]

DOCTRINES

Doctrine of God

being of god

On the doctrine of the being of God Seventh-day Adventists do not differ from historic Christianity. We are thankful that in this respect they are not at all in the same category as Mormons, Christian Scientists, or Jehovah’s Witnesses, all of whom deny the doctrine of the Trinity. Seventh-day Adventists clearly affirm the Trinity, as Article 2 of their Fundamental Beliefs reveals:

That the Godhead, or Trinity, consists of the Eternal Father, a personal, spiritual Being, omnipotent, omnipresent, omniscient, infinite in wisdom and love; the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, through whom all things were created and through whom the salvation of the redeemed hosts will be accomplished; the Holy Spirit, the third person of the Godhead, the great regenerating power in the work of redemption (Mt. 28:19).

It will be noted from this statement that the personality and infinity of God the Father is clearly attested, as well as the personality and full deity of the Holy Spirit. The deity of Jesus Christ, though implied in Article 2, is plainly asserted in Article 3: “That Jesus Christ is very God, being of the same nature and essence as the Eternal Father.”[92]

2 Timothy 2:14

ἐνώπιον τοῦ κυρίου

Remind people of these things, solemnly urging them before the Lord not to dispute about words. This is in no way beneficial and leads to the ruin of the hearers.

The textual witnesses are split between “before the Lord” and “before God.” While both options refer to deity, the first points toward Jesus Christ (as evidenced by a variation in one manuscript, “before Christ”) and the second points specifically to God.[93]

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