ST ANDREW’S OCCASIONAL PAPERS
JESUS CHRIST IS GOD
- Jesus Christ is God.
This idea has been touched on in an earlier paper in this series, but it is so important that it is worth a paper to itself. Remember, too, that some groups who would call themselves Christian, do not accept this fundamental truth which means that we need to be clear in our understanding of it.
It has to be admitted that the New Testament seems somewhat reluctant to state this truth as clearly as one might wish. Maybe this is something to do with the origins of Christianity among Judaism where the concept of God as one (Deuteronomy 6:4) was fundamental. Thus it was no easy step to recognise Jesus (and the Holy Spirit) as well as the Father as God. Nevertheless there are many, many witnesses to the truth of the deity of Jesus and we will examine some of them.
Jesus is truly God and this vital idea is truly biblical.
- The Witness of Emmanuel.
After Joseph had been visited by “an angel of the Lord” (Matthew 1:20) who explained to him why Mary would give birth to a Son and that he was still to take her home as his wife, we are reminded that this fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy (7:14) of the birth of a child called “Emmanuel.” The name “Emmanuel” means “God with us” and suggests that Jesus was indeed, “God with us.”
Jesus is truly God and He fulfilled the vision of the prophet.
- The Witness of the Virginal Conception.
Matthew (1:18) and Luke (1:35) both record that before the marriage of Mary and Joseph was formalised, Mary was found to be pregnant by the action of the Holy Spirit. This idea of a Virginal Conception – often loosely called the Virgin Birth – is disputed or rejected by many, yet the witness is there. Without it Jesus would have been conceived and born like any other man and so lose His uniqueness. Conception in the way Matthew and Luke (and remember Luke was a doctor) describe, shows that Jesus was uniquely both God and man. It was also a break in the chain of sinfulness that has affected every human being since the fall of Adam and Eve (Hebrews 4:15).
Jesus is truly God, conceived in Mary by the Holy Spirit and born without taint of sin.
- The Witness of “The Word.”
John begins his gospel with a majestic prologue which takes us back to the very beginning, even before the creation of the world (John 1:1-3). In this beginning “was the Word,” and John tells us that “the Word was God.” However in v.14 John adds that “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us,” which refers to Jesus. So, if the Word was God and the Word is Jesus, then Jesus is God.
Jesus is truly God, active before the creation of the world.
- The Witness of Sins Forgiven.
The story of some men bringing a paralysed friend to Jesus and letting him down through the roof because of the crowd is well known (Luke 5:18-26), but we need to focus carefully on the words of Jesus. First of all, Jesus said, “Friend, your sins are forgiven.” This enraged the religious authorities who thought Jesus guilty of blasphemy, saying “Who can forgive sins but God alone?” Jesus responded to their challenge by stating “that the Son of Man [a favourite name He used for Himself] has authority on earth to forgive sins,” and then healing the man of his paralysis, to the amazement of the crowd.
So, if only God can forgive sins – and Jesus certainly did not contradict those who thought this – and if Jesus had the power to forgive sins, then, logically, Jesus must be God.
Jesus is truly God, able to forgive the sins of those who trust Him.
- The Witness of “I am.”
After another dispute with the religious authorities Jesus made a statement whose meaning may not be immediately clear to us. He said, “I tell you the truth …. before Abraham was born, I am!” (John 8:58). It may not be immediately clear to us, but it certainly was to those who first heard Jesus say it – for they “picked up stones to stone Him” (John 8:59) because they knew this was a claim to be God.
To understand why they knew this, we need to go back to the call of Moses at the burning bush (Exodus 3). Moses was reluctant to accept God’s command to lead the Israelites out of Egypt and into Canaan and, as he argued with God, he asked God by what name he was to refer to Him in front of the people. He was told, “I am who I am. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: ‘I am has sent me to you’” (Exodus 3:14). “I am” – which has the idea of the one who does not depend on another, i.e. the original one – is the name of God and therefore when Jesus used it of Himself, He was claiming to be God.
The use of “I am” with nothing following is, in a way, even stronger than those occasions when Jesus said things like, “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), etc. But each time the “I am” is used, deliberately and with emphasis, we should think of it as the very name of God.
Jesus is truly God, just as entitled to use the name “I am” as the Father.
- The Witness of the Disciple Thomas.
After His resurrection from the dead Jesus appeared to His disciples as they met together in a locked room “for fear of the Jews” (John 20:19-23). However, for some reason, Thomas was not with his colleagues and so when they told him what had happened, he refused to believe them and demanded physical proof (John 20:25).
A week went by and the disciples met together again and this time Thomas was there. “Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them” (John 20:26). Jesus challenged Thomas to come and inspect His wounds to obtain the physical evidence he had demanded. But Thomas did not need to do so. He exclaimed “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).
But the most significant thing is not the words Thomas said but what Jesus said in comment on them – nothing! Jesus accepted Thomas’ worship, He did not deny the truth of what Thomas had said. So Thomas’ confession stands as truth.
Jesus is truly God as even “doubting” Thomas realised.
- The Witness of the “Great Commission.”
At the end of Matthew’s account o f the life and work of Jesus, Jesus gives His disciples their final task to “Make disciples of all nations” and to baptise “them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). this formula, and the similar words used by St. Paul in 2 Corinthians 13:14, obviously link the three persons of the Trinity as one God. In the Matthew version it is worth noting that the Greek word translated “name” is in the singular. There is just one name and three co-equal persons.
Jesus is truly God, just as much as the Father and the Holy Spirit.
- The Witness of the Throne.
In Revelation 4, John is given a vision of heaven and of a throne set in heaven “with someone sitting on it” (v2). From the following description and from the words of the strange “living creatures” who were “around the throne” (v6), we realise that it is God the Father who is seated on the throne. Then, suddenly, in Chapter 5, the One who stands in the centre of the throne is described as “a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain” (v6), obviously a reference to the Lord Jesus Christ. Moreover, the living creatures, along with myriads of angels, worship the Lamb just as they had done the Father. In other words both Father and Son were treated equally as God.
Jesus is truly God, fully entitled to sit on the Throne of Heaven.
- The Witness of an Ancient Hymn.
In his letter to the church at Philippi, St. Paul says some wonderful things about Jesus, and many believe that he does so by quoting an early Christian hymn (2:6-11). This starts by saying that Christ Jesus was “in very nature God” (v6), as clear a statement that Jesus is truly God as one could wish for! The hymn goes on (vv10,11) to say that Jesus should be worshipped on bended knee and by “every tongue” and that this will bring glory to “God the Father.” This is another reference to Jesus’ divinity because only God should be worshipped. (Throughout the Bible worship of anything other than God is condemned, e.g. Exodus 20:4,5).
Jesus is truly God, fully entitled to be worshipped and adored.
- The Witness of the Greek Alphabet.
In Revelation 1:8 we read “I am the Alpha and the Omega” says the Lord God, “who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty.” Alpha and Omega are the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet, so revealing God as the beginning and the end of all.
Yet in Revelation 22:13, Jesus speaks and says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the First and the Last, the Beginning and the End.” So Jesus takes to Himself another title previously claimed by God the Father. He can only do this because He is truly God.
Jesus is truly God, the Alpha and the Omega, the beginning and the end of all.
- The Witness of many others.
We could call to witness many other people and events. We could consider further the writings of John (1 John 5:20), of Paul (Colossians 2:9), of Peter (2 Peter 1:1), of Stephen (Acts 7:59 cf. Luke 23:46), and of the writer to the Hebrews (1:8). We could reflect on the attitude of the Jewish authorities (Mark 14:64). We could ponder the events of the Transfiguration (Matthew 17:1-8) and more. Yet the witnesses we have called should have established the case beyond any doubt whatsoever.
Jesus is truly God, as confirmed by many, many witnesses.
- Does this matter?
Yes it does! It may seem a remote matter of theology for the experts to debate over – but no, it affects every Christian: indeed, if Jesus is not truly God the whole of Christianity collapses into a heap of false promises.
All men and women have sinned and rebelled against God (Romans 3:23). Each of us knows the truth of this for him or herself. Yet God still loves us, it is the very basis of His nature (1 John 4:8). So if we are to be saved, something has to be done about sin. Men and women cannot do it, so God Himself has to act. This He has done by sending His Son (John 3:16) and this “atoning sacrifice” is so great that it is enough to cover “the sins of the whole world” (1 John 2:2). But the sacrifice is so great because it was God Himself, in the person of Jesus, who gave His all for His people. No man could do it, so if Jesus were only a man His sacrifice was in vain, but as Jesus is both man and God, His sacrifice has infinite value.
Jesus is truly God and His sacrifice on the cross is vast enough to cover the sins of all who put their trust in Him.
Scripture quotations are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version. © 1973,1978,1984, International Bible Society. Used by permission of Hodder and Stoughton, a member of the Hodder Headline Group. All rights reserved.