Jesus Christ » The Deity of Jesus
THE DEITY OF JESUS CHRIST
From The Great Doctrines of the Bible pp. 49-102
by William Evans - © 1974 Moody Bible Institute
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 Savior 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. 16:16 , 17 ; 8:29 ; 14:33 ; 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" ( Luke 22:70 —"Art thou then the Son of God? And Jesus said, 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 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
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 Isaiah 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 worshiped 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 ). 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
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 worshiped Him. They have approached His person in the attitude of self-sacrifice and worship as in the presence of and to a 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.
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
Col.1:16 and 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, and eternal has its source in Christ.
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 ABE 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. Psalms 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 Jesus 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.
Matt 28:18 "All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." Rev. 1:8 ; John 17:2 ; Eph. I: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; Matt. 28:18 ).
John 16:30 "Now are we sure that thou knowest all things." 2:24; 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's 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 Savior 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.
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,
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 -ll; 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 fore-runner, 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 heavenly 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 center 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? Assuredly not.