The Divinity of Christ
All Christians at all times have made a claim about Jesus Christ that no other religion has ever made about its leader: namely, that He is God in the flesh. Unfortunately, this doctrine that many Christians take for granted is now coming under vigorous attack from numerous and various quarters: even among those who claim to believe in the inspiration of the Bible. Does the Bible indeed teach that Jesus is God?
Jesus Called Himself “God”
First of all, it is clear that Jesus referred to himself as God. “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (Jn 8:58). “I AM” is the Divine Name, the unutterable name, the name revealed to Moses in the burning bush (cf. Ex 3:13–14). By taking upon Himself the Divine Name, Jesus is declaring His divinity. The passage from John’s gospel also strongly implies that Jesus is outside of time: an attribute that only God possesses. If Jesus is not God, then His words here are completely nonsensical.
Jesus’ words during His Temptation in the desert are also instructive. When Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself off a cliff, even presuming to quote Scripture so as to make the temptation more persuasive, Jesus responded by saying, “You should not tempt the Lord your God” (Mt 4:7) — in reference to Himself! Satan was tempting God by tempting Jesus, and Jesus made sure that Satan knew it.
Jesus also called Himself the “Son of God,” which, to the Jewish mindset, was a very radical statement. During Jesus’ trial before the Jewish leaders, the High Priest said to Jesus, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God” (Mt 26:63). Jesus responded by saying, “You have said so” (vs. 64), or as the NIV has it, “Yes, it is as you say.” The High Priest responded by tearing his robes and saying, “He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy” (vs. 65).
Later, before Pontius Pilate, the Jews said, “We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God” (Jn 19:7). They knew that to declare oneself to be “the Son of God” was to declare that one was of the same nature with God. The son of a father always takes on the nature of the father. Or, as the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, the Son “reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature” (1:3).
The Jews rebuked Jesus for healing a man who couldn’t walk, and telling him to carry his pallet on the Sabbath. Jesus responded by saying, “My Father is working still, and I am working” (Jn 5:17). Immediately after this, John is sure to tell us, in case we are not convinced, “This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God” (vs. 18).
Jesus, in order to make this more explicit, even said to the Jews, “I and the Father are one” (Jn 10:30). When they heard this, “The Jews took up stones again to stone him” (vs. 31). Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?” (vs. 32) The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God” (vs. 33).
Finally, when John, in his Revelation, saw a vision of “the Son of Man,” this figure said to him, “Fear not, I am the first and the last” (Rev 1:17). By saying this, the Son of Man was equating Himself with “the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty” who said, “I am the Alpha and the Omega” (vs. 8). Jesus, of course, is this “Son of Man.” He used this title for Himself on many occasions throughout His ministry (28 times in Matthew’s Gospel alone).
People Called Jesus “God”
In many passages, the apostles and followers of Christ call Him “God” as well. John began his Gospel with these words: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God” (Jn 1:1). We know that this “Word” is the Second Person of the Trinity made man — Jesus Christ — for John says a few verses later, “And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father” (vs. 14). John also called Jesus “the true God and eternal life” in his first letter (5:20).
Peter, for his part, accused the Jews in the Temple of killing “the Author of life” when they asked that Barabbas be released and sent Jesus to be crucified (cf. Acts 3:12–15). And yet, Paul is clear that it is God who gives life to all things (cf. 1 Tim 6:13). Thus, Jesus cannot be the Author of life (or Creator) unless He is God. Peter specifically called Jesus “our God and Savior” in his second letter (1:1), as did Paul (cf. Titus 2:13). Paul also said of Christ that “in him the whole fulness of deity dwells bodily” (Col 2:9). According to Paul, Christ is the one, “who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,” or, as the Douay-Rheims has it, “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” (Phil 2:6).
God the Father Called Jesus “God”
The words of God in the Letter to the Hebrews are very interesting:
Hebrews 1:5–8 “For to what angel did God ever say, ‘Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee’? Or again, ‘I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son’? And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, ‘Let all God’s angels worship him.’ Of the angels he says, ‘Who makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire.’ But of the Son he says, ‘Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom.’”
In this remarkable passage, the Father is addressing the Son by saying, “Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever.” It is fitting that God the Father would provide the final seal upon the witness to the Son’s divinity.
People Worshiped Jesus
In the New Testament, on numerous occasions people specifically worshiped Jesus as God. In fact, from the moment of His birth He was worshiped. The Magi were very clear about their intentions:
Matthew 2:2, 11 “‘Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him’ … and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him.”
When Jesus saved His apostles from the storm by walking on the water and calming the storm by His own power (itself an expression of His divinity), Matthew tells us, “And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’” (Mt 14:33). Of the man cured by Jesus of an unclean spirit it is said, “when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him” (Mk 5:6). When Jesus asked the man whom he had cured of blindness if he believed in the Son of man, “He said, ‘Lord, I believe’; and he worshiped him” (Jn 9:38).
After Jesus’ death, He continued to be worshiped. When He appeared to Thomas after His resurrection and Thomas was able to actually see and touch the wounds of the Risen Lord, “Thomas answered him, ‘My Lord and my God!’” (Jn 20:27–28). When He appeared likewise to His disciples, “they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him” (Mt 28:9). Jesus later appeared on a mountain in Galilee and “when they saw him they worshiped him” (vs. 17). When Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles “worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy” (Lk 24:51–52, KJV).
There are even instances in Scripture where certain persons pray to Jesus after His death. In the Book of Acts we read how, “as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit’” (Acts 7:59). In Acts 9:10–17, we read that “the Lord” told Ananias to go and find Saul (vs. 11), who had just been blinded by an epiphany of Jesus on the way to Damascus. Yet, when Ananias told Paul what he heard in prayer, he said that it was “the Lord Jesus” who sent him so that Saul might regain his sight and be filled with the Spirit (vs. 17). This can only mean that Ananias spoke with Jesus Himself in prayer. This is both an act of worship and a clear indication (from the powers and prerogatives exercised) that Jesus is God.
Jesus’ Exaltation as God in Heaven
Jesus sits in heaven at the right hand of the Father, where He is worshiped by all the angels and saints:
Revelation 4:9–11 “And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, ‘Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created.’”
Revelation 5:8, 12–14 “And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints … saying with a loud voice, ‘Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!’ And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, ‘To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!’ And the four living creatures said, ‘Amen!’ and the elders fell down and worshiped.”
Revelation 7:11–12 “And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, ‘Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.’”
Literally, all of the terms of worship and praise applied to the Father in Revelation are also applied to Jesus. The conclusion is inescapable: He is, and must be, God.
The foregoing is very clear. And to think, we’ve really only scratched the surface of the biblical evidence in favor of the divinity of Jesus! We could also discuss the attributes of God that Jesus possesses, such as His omnipotence and omniscience. We could look closer at the other titles of Jesus, such as “Christ,” “Lord,” “Savior,” “the Word,” “King of kings,” etc. We could look at the Old Testament prophecies about God that Jesus fulfills. The point is that scripture is clear — abundantly clear — that Jesus is God, a statement of faith that is really the foundation of all of Christianity.
Written By: Nicholas Hardesty, M.A. Theology, Franciscan University of Steubenville
Edited By: Dave Armstrong
Bible Version: Revised Standard Version w/ Apocrypha
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