The Deity of Christ (1)
The deity of Christ has been under attack for centuries as modernists have methodically tried to remove supernaturalism from the Christian religion. The Christ of modernism is merely a man - a good man, but still only a man. The Christ of the Bible is the incarnation of God.
The Christ of Prophecy
The prophets who foretold the coming of the Messiah described him as more than a mere man. He is "God with us." Here are some of the prophecies which emphasize the deity of the Messiah.
1. Isaiah 7-14. In foretelling the virgin birth, Isaiah describes the child to be born as "Immanuel." Matthew explains the meaning of the Hebrew word to be "God with us."
2. Isaiah 9:6. The child who was born of a virgin would be known as "Wonderful Counselor, The mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace." The government of God's kingdom would be placed upon his shoulder.
3. Micah 5:2. The Messiah who would enter human history as a baby born in Bethlehem is him "whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting."
4. Psalm 2. In the second Psalm, the Messiah is represented as being so inseparably united with God that the heathen could not separate the Lord from his Anointed. The Lord promised to set his king upon his holy hill and said, "Thou art my Son; this day have I begotten thee" (2:7). The author of Hebrews refers this passage to Jesus showing his superiority to the angels: "For unto which of the angels said he at any time, Thou art my Son, this day have I begotten thee?" (1:6) The nations were commanded to "kiss the Son" in giving worship and honor to him.
5. Psalm 45. This psalm describes the marriage of the Messiah to his bride (the church). The Messiah is "fairer than the children of men" (45:2) and "most mighty" (45:3). To the Messiah, God said, "Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever: the scepter of thy kingdom is a right scepter. Thou lovest righteousness and hatest wickedness: therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee with the oil of gladness above thy fellows" (45:6-7). The author of Hebrews used this statement to attribute deity to Jesus in contrast to the angels (1:8).
6. Psalm 110. The reign of the promised Messiah is described in this psalm. The psalm opens, "The Lord, said unto my Lord, Sit thou at my right hands, until I make thine enemies thy footstool" (110:1). This statement was quoted by Jesus to confound the Jews who could not understand how the son of David could also be David's Lord (Matt. 22:44). The Messiah is pictured as reigning in his kingdom, seated at the right hand of Jehovah God. His reign combines the office of priest and king, just like Melchizedek; his reign is everlasting, not being limited to a brief period of earth history. An everlasting dominion is possible only for an eternal Being.
7. Daniel 2:44. Writing during the Babylonian captivity, Daniel foresaw the establishment of the Lord's kingdom during the days of the kings of the fourth kingdom (the Roman empire). The kingdom which the Messiah would establish "shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people . . . it shall stand for ever." His everlasting dominion would include those from every nation.
8. Daniel 7.-13-14. In a later prophecy in the book, the prophet saw one "like the Son of man ascending with the clouds of heaven to the Ancient of days (a prophecy of the coronation of Jesus after his ascension into heaven). To this Son of man were given "dominion, and glory, and a kingdom, that all people, nations, and languages, should serve him: his dominion is an everlasting dominion, which shall not pass away, and his kingdom that which shall not be destroyed."
9. Zechariah 13:7. This passage states that the Messiah is "the man that is my fellow," describing him as the equal of the Lord of hosts.
From the testimony of the prophets, we can learn that the Messiah could not be merely a man. A man does not have the attributes necessitated by the descriptions of him as "God with us," "The mighty God," eternity, dominion over the entire world, and such like phrases. His humanity is also described in the Old Testament pointing us to the incarnation of God in human flesh.
The Birth of the Babe
Did Jesus leave his deity behind when he became flesh? That he did not leave his deity is seen from several lines of evidence.
1. Matthew 1:21-23. In Matthew's birth narrative, the child born to Mary is no ordinary man produced by human generation. The child was conceived in Mary by the Holy Ghost and is Immanuel, "God with us."
2. Luke's record. Luke's record of the birth of Jesus gives emphasis to the deity of Jesus. The babe born in Bethlehem was no ordinary child, like every other child. In announcing the work of John the Baptist to Zachariah, the angel foretold his work to prepare for the Messiah: "And many of the children of Israel shall he turn to the Lord their God. And he shall go before him (that is, the Lord their God, mw) in the spirit and power of Elias, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just; to make ready a people prepared for the Lord" (1:16-17). The "Lord their God" of Luke's gospel is none other than Jesus. In studying the work of John the Baptist, we can see how he turned the hearts of men toward the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (cf. Jn. 1:29,36); he turned the hearts of men toward Jesus - the Lord their God.
When the Lord announced the birth of baby Jesus to Mary, he described the infant as the "Son of the highest" (1:32), the "holy thing" (1:35), and the "Son of God" (1:35). These words cannot be used to describe a mere human infant!
When Mary went to Elizabeth to confirm the announcement of the angel by the visible sign of the pregnancy of the aged barren woman, Elizabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost and described Mary as "the mother of my Lord" (1:43). The baby in Mary's womb was Elizabeth's Lord!
After the birth of John the Baptist, Zacharias was enabled to speak once again. In his prophecy, he spoke both of his son John the Baptist and the babe to born to Mary. He recognized Mary's child as the "horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David" (1:69). When he turned to speak of John's work, Zacharias said, "And thou, child, shalt be called the prophet of the Highest: for thou shall go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways." Of course, John went before the face of Jesus to prepare the way for him.
When the baby was born, the angels in heaven announced to the shepherds of Israel that "a Savior, which is Christ the Lord" had been born (2:11). A multitude of the heavenly host sang praises to God at the birth of the child.
The birth narratives emphasize that the child born in Bethlehem was no ordinary child. He was the Lord's Messiah, the Son of God, the Lord. To the mind of an humble Jew, such descriptions could not be given to a mere human being without being guilty of blasphemy. These descriptions must be understood to describe the deity of Christ, a deity which did not begin at some later point in his life but was there the moment of his birth. The miracles of Jesus' humanity point us to his deity: he enters the world by one miracle (the virgin birth) and leaves it by another miracle (his ascension).
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 21, pp. 642, 662-663