THE DEITY OF CHRIST The Doctrine of Christ I. THE DEITY OF JESUS CHRIST Jesus Christ, the second Person of the Trinity, is equal with the Father in nature, yet the Father sent Him to die for the sins of the world so that Christ is submissive to the Father in duties. Jesus Christ possessed all the divine attributes of the Father, and was one with the Father, yet was separate in person. Christ effected redemption for men because in Him was united both the human and divine natures. In humanity, Christ was totally human; in deity, Jesus was unalterably God. Yet in Jesus Christ was a single, undivided personality in whom these two natures are vitally and undividedly united, so that Jesus Christ is not God and man, but the God-man. For all these reasons and more, Christ is God. The following reasons help classify and demonstrate His deity. Yet these points are only suggestive, for all the doctrines of Christianity point to the deity of Christ. A. THE NATURE OF THE CLAIMS OF JESUS CHRIST ATTEST H IS DEITY . Simply because Jesus Christ claims to be God does not make His claim true. On the other hand, it is assumed that if God would reveal Himself, He would also identify Himself by a claim that He is God. The self-revelation and claim to deity is the basis for our consideration of Jesus Christ. The one who claims to be God would have to demonstrate God-like moral attributes of holiness, love and goodness, or those qualities that are associated with deity. This person would also have to back up His claim with demonstrations of power, vast knowledge and omnipresence. Finally, His teachings must be consistent within themselves and correspond to the wisdom of God. Some liberals say that Jesus did not claim to be God, yet the biblical account of Christ records ample evidence that Jesus did make this claim. There are eight aspects to Jesus’ claim to deity. (1) In the Gospel of John He used the Jehovistic I AM, that identified him with deity. (I am the way . . . I am the resurrection . . . I am the door . . . etc.). Also, the Jehovistic I AM is used without the figures of speech (John 8:25, 56-59; 18:6, 8 the pronoun “he” is not in the Greek). (2) Jesus claimed to be the Old Testament Adonai (Matt. 22:42-45). (3) Jesus identifies Himself with God in the baptismal formula (Matt. 28:19). (4) Jesus claims to be one with the Father (John 10:30) and that the person who saw Him was seeing the Father (John 14:9). (5) When Jesus claimed to forgive sins (Mark 2:5-7), He was assuming a prerogative that belonged to God. (6) When Jesus allowed people to worship Him, He was asserting Himself as deity, for He was approving an act that belonged to Deity (Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 20:28, 29). (7) Finally, Jesus claimed the comparative attributes of omnipresence, omniscience and omnipotence. Jesus claimed to be in Heaven (John 3:13). Jesus claimed omnipotence (Matt. 28:18), that the dead would respond to His authority (Luke 7:14) and that nature would obey His word (Mark 4:39). (8) Finally, Jesus claimed to have a special relationship to the heavenly Father by addressing Him, “My Father” (John 5:18). This is a common expression today, and many Christians say “My Father” when speaking of God. But when Jesus said, “My Father,” the Jewish leaders recognized that He claimed deity for Himself and they responded accordingly. “Therefore, the Jews sought the more to kill him [Jesus], because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God” (John 5:18). On another visit to Jerusalem, Jesus was asked for a clear statement concerning His claim. He responded, “I and my Father are one” (John 10:30). The Jews understood He was saying, “I am the Son of God” (John 10:36). On several occasions they attempted to kill Jesus for claiming to be God. When the religious leaders finally brought Jesus to Pilate for crucifixion, it was because of His claims. They accused Him of blasphemy. “The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (John 19:7). Conservative theologians have always noted and emphasized the fact that Christ claimed to be God. When Jesus claimed deity in John 5:18, Tenney suggests, His enemies understood what He meant, for they sought to kill Him because he had assumed the prerogatives of deity in calling God “his own Father.” The term his own meant peculiarly his, in a way that could not be applied to anyone else. i Commenting on John 10:31 following a claim of oneness with the Father by Jesus, Arthur Pink notes: This is quite sufficient to settle the meaning of the previous verse. These Jews had no difficulty in perceiving the force of what our Lord had just said to them. They instantly recognized that He had claimed absolute equality with the Father, and to their ears this was blasphemy. Instead of saying anything to correct their error, if error it was, Christ went on to say that which must have confirmed it. ii On this passage even Barclay must admit the obvious. To the Jews Jesus’ statement that He and the Father were one was blasphemy, insult against God. It was the invasion by a man of the place which belonged to God alone. It was a human being claiming equality with God. iii Discussing these claims of Christ, Thomas Schultz notes, Not one recognized religious leader—not Moses, Paul, Buddha, Mohammed, Confucius, etc.—has ever claimed to be God; that is with the exception of Jesus Christ. Christ is the only religious leader who has ever claimed to be deity and the only individual ever who has convinced a great portion of the world that He is God. iv William Robinson further notes, However, if one takes a historically objective approach to the question, it is found that even secular history affirms that Jesus lived on earth and was worshipped as God. He founded a church, which has worshipped Him for 1900 years. He changed the course of the world’s history. v B. THE TEACHING OF THE BIBLE . Jesus recognized His claim was not enough to make Him God. “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true” (John 5:31). Jesus was pointing out that any claim, true or false, could be assumed false if unsubstantiated. To His critics Jesus cited another authority: “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). The Bible records many statements concerning the deity of Christ. John says, “the Word was God” (John 1:1). Writing hundreds of years before His birth, Isaiah called Him “The Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6). Paul was “looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Saviour Jesus Christ” (Titus 2:13). Paul quotes an early church doctrinal statement, “God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory” (1 Tim. 3:16). Since the Bible was demonstrated to be the inspired and authoritative Word of God in our section on Bibliology, we can accept the claims of Scripture about the deity of Christ. The following chart illustrates how many titles for Jehovah are applied to Jesus. vi JESUS IS JEHOVAH OF JEHOVAH: MUTUAL TITLE OR ACT: OF JESUS: Isa. 40:28; Creator John 1:3 Isa. 45:22, 43:11; Savior John 4:42 1 Sam. 2:6 Raise the dead John 5:21, 25 Joel 3:12 Judge John 5:27 cf. Matt. 25:31 Isa. 60:19-20 Light John 8:12 Exod. 3:14 I Am John 8:58, cf. John 18:5- 6 Psa. 23:1 Shepherd John 10:11 Isa. 42:8; cf. 48:11 Glory of God John 17:1, 5 Isa. 41:4; 44:6 First and Last Rev. 1:17; 2:8 Hosea 13:14 Redeemer Rev. 5:9 Isa. 62:5; Hosea 2:16 Bridegroom Rev. 21:2 cf. Matt. 25:1-13 Psa. 18:2 Rock 1 Cor. 10:4 Jer. 31:34 Forgiver of Sins Mark 2:7,10 Psa. 148:2 Worshipped by Angels Heb. 1:6 Through the Old Testament Addressed in Prayer Acts 7:59 Psa. 148:5 Creator of Angels Col. 1:16 Isa. 45:23 Confessed as Lord Phil. 2:11 C. THE PRE - EXISTENCE AND ETERNALITY OF JESUS CHRIST ATTEST HIS DEITY . The Bible teaches that Jesus Christ is the second Person of the Trinity. As such He is equal with God the Father in attributes and nature. Since God is eternal, then any proof that demonstrates that Jesus Christ lived before His birth points to His deity. The term “pre-existence” means that Christ existed in the Old Testament. To this, Jesus Christ testified, “Before Abraham was, I am” (John 8:58). The Jews understood He was claiming deity so they took stones to kill Him for blasphemy (John 8:59). Paul adds to the proofs of His pre- existence; “He is before all things” (Col. 1:17). The proofs that Christ appeared to people in the Old Testament in Christophanies also lay the foundation for His deity, (See Section III). The term “eternality” means Jesus Christ is not limited by time, but that He has no beginning or end. To this testifies the writer to the Hebrews, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). The same writer also states of Christ, “They [the heavens and earth] shall perish; but thou remainest” (Heb. 1:11). To make the eternality of Christ emphatic, he adds, “Thy years shall not fail” (Heb. 1:12). D. THE TRIUNE NATURE OF GOD . God is one God in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Each member of the Trinity is completely God. As part of the Trinity, Jesus Christ, who is God the Son, is deity. The deity of the Trinity has been recognized from the beginning. Isaiah recorded the predictive words of Jesus, “Come ye near unto me, hear ye this; I have not spoken in secret from the beginning; from the time that it was, there am I: and now the LORD GOD, and his Spirit, hath sent me” (Isa. 48:16). When Christians are baptized, they are baptized “in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost” (Matt. 28:19). The very act which God has prescribed for every believer as he begins the Christian life, recognizes the place of Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Everything that is true about God is true of every member of the Trinity of God. Since God has existed from eternity past (Psa. 90:2), then every member of the Trinity has existed equally as long. (See section on Trinity). E. THE HEAVENLY ORIGIN OF CHRIST . In one sense one cannot talk about the origin of Christ—He is eternal. The writer of Hebrews describes his eternity, comparing Melchizedek to Christ, “without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God” (Heb. 7:3). But in a second sense, when we think of the earthly life of Christ, we recognize that He had come from Heaven. John the Baptist said, “He that cometh from above is above all: he that is of the earth is earthly, and speaketh of the earth: he that cometh from heaven is above all” (John 3:31). Because of this, John could accept the growing popularity of Jesus at his expense. Jesus told the people of His home region, “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will, but the will of him that sent me” (John 6:38). F. THE NEW TESTAMENT AUTHORS ASCRIBE THE WORK OF CREATION TO CHRIST . Another proof for the deity of Jesus Christ is the description of His works. John sets Him forth as Creator: “All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made” (John 1:3). Paul noted, “For by him were all things created, that are in heaven, and that are in earth, visible and invisible, whether they be thrones, or dominions, or principalities, or powers: all things were created by him, and for him” (Col. 1:16). G. THE NEW TESTAMENT AUTHORS ASCRIBE DIVINE ATTRIBUTES TO CHRIST . John attributed omniscience to Christ, “But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because he knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for he knew what was in man” (John 2:24-25). The writer of Hebrews attributed to Christ the power to hold the world together: “Upholding all things by the word of his power” (Heb. 1:3). Later in the same chapter he claims Christ is immutable, “Thou art the same, and thy years change not” (Heb. 1:12). Again the same writer notes, “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever” (Heb. 13:8). John describes the eternality of Christ when he attributes to Him the following quote: “I am he that liveth, and was dead; and, behold, I am alive for evermore” (Rev. 1:18). H. THE FACT THAT WORSHIP WAS GIVEN TO AND ACCEPTED BY CHRIST DEMONSTRATES HIS DEITY . Only God is worthy of and can rightly be worshipped. The fact that Jesus allowed people to worship Him shows that He conceived of Himself as deity (Matt. 14:33; 28:9; John 20:28-29). But others also taught that Jesus Christ should be worshipped, implying they ascribed deity to Him (Acts 7:59-60; 1 Cor. 1:2; 2 Cor. 13:14; Phil. 2:9-10; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 1:5-6; 5:12-13). I. THE NEW TESTAMENT WRITERS GIVE DIVINE TITLES TO CHRIST . A person reveals his attitude about Jesus Christ by the names/titles that he gives Him. The New Testament writers attributed the highest praise and devotion possible to Jesus Christ as evidenced in the names attributed to Him. Both the vast number of names (see next section for listing of 365 names) and the quality of the names (Christ is ascribed equality with the Father) demonstrates His deity. (See Section II for a full discussion.) \------------------------------------------------- i. Merrill C. Tenney, John: The Gospel of Belief (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1948), 106. ii. Arthur Walkington Pink, Exposition of the Gospel of John (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1974), 2:146. iii. William Barclay, The Gospel of John (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1956), 2:88. iv. Thomas Schultz, “The Doctrine of the Person of Christ with an Emphasis upon the Hypostatic Union” (Dallas: Dallas Theological Seminary, May 1962), 209. v. William Robinson, Our Lord (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1949), 29.* vi. Norman L. Geisler, Christ: The Theme of the Bible (Chicago: Moody Press, 1969), 48-49.