Our Basis Of Doctrine: Part 3 - Christ’s Deity
This is an ongoing series of blog posts in which we provide a brief overview of our church’s Basis of Doctrine as set out in the Church Constitution, by defining, explaining and proving from Scripture the various doctrines expressed. This is not meant to be an exhaustive study, so there is much that won’t stated or defended. Click here to view our Basis of Doctrine.
Part 3The essential deity...of the Lord Jesus Christ
Deity - a term referring to God or “Godness”. In other words Jesus was God.
Essential - Jesus has all the attributes essential, or necessary, of God. Everything God is, Jesus is. They have the same essence.
The New Testament clearly teaches that Jesus claimed to be God. The Bible also affirms the deity of Christ. This is evident in a variety of ways. First, Jesus claimed to be equal with God. He could forgive sin, something only God could do (Mark 2:5). Jesus claimed power to raise the dead (John 5:25-29). He claimed to be honored as God (John 5:18, 23) as well as to be equal with the Father (John 10:30).
Second, Jesus claimed to be the great "I Am." John 8:58 states, "Jesus said to them, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.'" This "I Am" reference is made in connection with Exodus 3:14 where God revealed His name to Moses as "I Am." Jesus' statement, then, is a biblical claim for the deity of Christ.
Third, Jesus claimed to be Yahweh God, the same God of Israel from the Old Testament. This included His claim to have eternal glory with the Father (John 17:5), His claim to be the first and the last (Revelation 1:17), His claim to be judge of all humanity (John 5:27), His claim to be the Good Shepherd (John 10:11), His claim to be the Bridegroom (Matthew 25:1; Isaiah 62:5), and His claim to be the light of the world (John 8:12; Psalm 27:1).
Fourth, Jesus also claimed to be the Messiah God. This is evident in many of the titles attributed to Him in the Old Testament that are referred to in the New Testament. These include reference to Jesus as God (Psalm 45:6 and Hebrews 1:8), Lord (Psalm 110:1 and Matthew 22:43-44), Ancient of Days (Daniel 7:9 and Mark 14:61-64), and as Messiah (John 4:26). These references affirm the biblical deity of Christ.
Fifth, Jesus accepted worship as God. Though the Old Testament commanded not to worship anyone but God alone, Jesus accepted worship on many occasions. Some of these included the healed leper who worshipped Him (Matthew 8:2), the ruler who knelt before Jesus after his son had been healed (Matthew 9:18), the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:25), the mother of James and John (Matthew 20:20), and a demon-possessed man (Mark 5:6). The disciples even prayed to Jesus (Acts 7:59) and in His name (John 14:6; 15:7).
Sixth, Jesus' followers recognized Jesus as God. They called Him God on multiple occasions (John 20:28; Colossians 2:9), referred to Jesus by other names used only of deity, such as Savior of the world (John 4:42), and prayed to or worshiped Jesus as part of the Godhead (Matthew 28:19; 2 Corinthians 13:14). John taught He was with God in the beginning as "the word" and that "the word was God" (John 1:1).
While the New Testament never makes the direct statement "Jesus is God," it is clear that He is referred to as deity in a variety of ways. Colossians 2:9 confirms, "For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily." (See also Philippians 2:6). Those who claim Jesus never referred to Himself as God deny many clear statements in Scripture (such as John 14:6). The deity of Jesus is biblical. Jesus is God, the second person of the Triune Godhead, consisting of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
In addition to Jesus’ specific claims about Himself, His disciples also acknowledged the deity of Christ. They claimed that Jesus had the right to forgive sins—something only God can do—as it is God who is offended by sin (Acts 5:31; Colossians 3:13; Psalm 130:4; Jeremiah 31:34). In close connection with this last claim, Jesus is also said to be the one who will “judge the living and the dead” (2 Timothy 4:1). Thomas cried out to Jesus, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). Paul calls Jesus “great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13) and points out that prior to His incarnation Jesus existed in the “form of God” (Philippians 2:5-8). God the Father says regarding Jesus: “Your throne, O God, will last forever and ever” (Hebrews 1:8). John states that “in the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God” (John 1:1). Examples of Scriptures that teach the deity of Christ are many (see Revelation 1:17, 2:8, 22:13; 1 Corinthians 10:4; 1 Peter 2:6-8; Psalm 18:2, 95:1; 1 Peter 5:4; Hebrews 13:20), but even one of these is enough to show that Christ was considered to be God by His followers.
Jesus is also given titles that are unique to YHWH (the formal name of God) in the Old Testament. The Old Testament title “redeemer” (Psalm 130:7; Hosea 13:14) is used of Jesus in the New Testament (Titus 2:13; Revelation 5:9). Jesus is called Immanuel—“God with us”—in Matthew 1. In Zechariah 12:10, it is YHWH who says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” But the New Testament applies this to Jesus’ crucifixion (John 19:37; Revelation 1:7). If it is YHWH who is pierced and looked upon, and Jesus was the one pierced and looked upon, then Jesus is YHWH. Paul interprets Isaiah 45:22-23 as applying to Jesus in Philippians 2:10-11. Further, Jesus’ name is used alongside God’s in prayer “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Galatians 1:3; Ephesians 1:2). This would be blasphemy if Christ were not deity. The name of Jesus appears with God's in Jesus' commanded to baptize “in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19; see also 2 Corinthians 13:14).
Multiple biblical figures all viewed Jesus as God: Isaiah, John, Thomas, and Paul. We have seen that the doctrine of Christ's deity carried from the biblical writers to their successors, the apostolic fathers such as Polycarp who knew the apostles and Ignatius who probably did. The doctrine did not stop there, but continued through the church fathers who succeeded them such as Justin, Irenaeus, Clement of Alexandria, Tertullian, Origen, and Hippolytus
A fair question is "If Jesus thought of Himself as God, why didn't He just come out and say it clearly?" This is to import Twenty-first century Western thought back into the First century Middle East. It appears that the culture in which Jesus lived expected actions rather than words. Consider the question posed by John the Baptist to Jesus in Matthew 11:2-5. When in prison, John sent some of his disciples to Jesus and asked him, "Are you the expected one (i.e., Messiah) or are we to expect someone else?" We pick up at verse 4: "Jesus answered and said to them, 'Go and report to John what you hear and see: the blind receive sight and the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, and the poor have the gospel preached to them.'" Jesus answered their question by pointing to his works. John presents a similar thought in 10:24-25. The Jews asked Jesus "How long will you keep us in suspense? If you are the Christ, tell us plainly." Jesus answered them, 'I told you and you do not believe; the works that I do in my Father's name, these testify of me.'"
God ‘Theos’ is applied to Jesus in the NT
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
(John 1:1, ESV)
No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father’s side, he has made him known.
(John 1:18, ESV)
Thomas answered him, “My Lord and my God!”
(John 20:28, ESV)
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.
(Acts 20:28, ESV)
To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.
(Rom. 9:5, ESV)
If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth. Great indeed, we confess, is the mystery of godliness: He was manifested in the flesh, vindicated by the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory.
(1 Tim 3:15-16, ESV)
…waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ…
(Titus 2:13, ESV)
But of the Son he says, “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever, the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of your kingdom.”
(Heb. 1:8, ESV)
To those who have obtained a faith of equal standing with ours by the righteousness of our God and Savior Jesus Christ…
(2 Pet. 1:1, ESV)
And we know 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, in his Son Jesus Christ. He is the true God and eternal life.
(1 John 5:20, ESV)
Jesus calls himself I AM
I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins.”
(John 8:24, ESV)
Jesus said to them, “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.”
(John 8:58, ESV)
Then Jesus, knowing all that would happen to him, came forward and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” 5 They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” Judas, who betrayed him, was standing with them. 6 When Jesus said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground.
(John 18:4-6, ESV)
Old Testament references to God attributed to Jesus
Matt 3:33 (Isaiah 40:3)
For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said,
“The voice of one crying in the wilderness:
‘Prepare the way of the Lord [Jesus];
make his paths straight.’”
Matt 21:16 (Psalm 8:2)
and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read,
“‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies
you have prepared praise’?”
Luke 1:76 (Mal 3:1)
And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord [Jesus] to prepare his ways,
John 10:11 (Psalm 23:1)
I [Jesus]am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.
Romans 9:32-33 (Isaiah 8:13-14)
Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written,
“Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense;
and whoever believes in him [Jesus] will not be put to shame.”
Romans 10:13 (Joel 2:32)
For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”
Acts 2:21 (Joel 2:32)
And it shall come to pass that everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.’
1 Corinthians 1:2 (Joel 2:32)
To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
Romans 14:1 (Isaiah 45:19,23)
for it is written,
“As I live, says the Lord, every knee shall bow to me, and every tongue shall confess to God.”
Phil 2:10-11 (Isaiah 45:19,23)
so 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.
1 Cor 1:30-31 (Jer 9:24)
And because of him you are in Christ Jesus, who became to us wisdom from God, righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Eph 4:8-10 (Psalm 68:18)
Therefore it says,
“When he [Jesus] ascended on high he led a host of captives,
and he gave gifts to men.”
(In saying, “He ascended,” what does it mean but that he had also descended into the lower regions, the earth? He who descended is the one who also ascended far above all the heavens, that he might fill all things.)
2 Thess 1:7-9 (Is 2:10, Is 2:19, Is 2:21, Is 66:15)
and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might,
Titus 2:13-14 (Psalm 130:7-8)
waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works.
Heb 1:8,10 (Psalm 102:1,25-26)
But of the Son he says,...
“You, Lord, laid the foundation of the earth in the beginning, and the heavens are the work of your hands;
Heb 1:8,11-12 (Is 51:1,6)
But of the Son he says,...
they will perish, but you remain;
they will all wear out like a garment,
like a robe you will roll them up,
like a garment they will be changed.
But you are the same,
and your years will have no end.”
1 Peter 2:3-4 (Psalm 34:8)
if indeed you have tasted that the Lord [Jesus] is good. As you come to him, a living stone rejected by men but in the sight of God chosen and precious,
1 Peter 3:15 (Is 8:13)
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy,
Rev 1:5-7 (Zech 12:1,10)
To him [Jesus] who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood and made us a kingdom, priests to his God and Father, to him be glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. Behold, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him, and all tribes of the earth will wail on account of him. Even so. Amen.
Rev 2:23 (Jer 17:10)
and I [Jesus]will strike her children dead. And all the churches will know that I am he who searches mind and heart, and I will give to each of you according to your works.
Rev 22:12 (Is 40:10)
“Behold, I [Jesus] am coming soon, bringing my recompense with me, to repay each one for what he has done.
Acts 7:59-60 (Psalm 31:5)
And as they were stoning Stephen, he called out, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.”