The Deity of Christ (4)
In this concluding article, I would like to wrap up this study of the deity of Christ. When we have finished this study, I hope that we will have no question that Jesus was God in the flesh.
The Son of Man Is the Son of God
There are two frequently used phrases to describe Jesus: Son of Man and Son of God (see Matt. 16:13,16). The phrase "Son of Man" is drawn from the Messianic prophecy of Daniel 7:13,14. To describe Jesus as the Son of Man is to affirm him to be the Messiah. However, it also emphasizes his identification with man, his humanity (for a study of the manhood of Jesus, see Hebrews 2:5-18). There can be no doubt that Jesus was a man.
The corresponding phrase "Son of God" must be understood as an affirmation of Jesus' deity. So it was understood by the Jews of the first century. When Jesus spoke of God as his Father, the Jews stated that he made himself equal with God (Jn. 5:17-18; cf. 10:33). During his trial the Jews said to Pilate, "We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God" (Jn. 19:7).
Jesus was the God-man. He was the perfect union of God and man. Being conceived by the Holy Spirit and born of a woman, Jesus united in one spirit both his manhood and his deity. I can no more explain how this occurred than I can explain any other miracle (such as walking on water, feeding 5000 with five loaves and two fish, etc.). There is nothing gained by belittling the attempts to communicate that Jesus was both Son of Man and Son of God. There is also nothing gained by speculations about how the miracle was done. Let us be content to believe and use the language of Scripture.
Jesus Was God While on Earth
Jesus did not cease to be God when he became a man. This is seen from the material already presented, in addition to these following evidences:
1. Jesus had power to forgive sins. Mark 2:1-12 records one of the conflicts Jesus had with the Jews on the occasion that he healed the lame man who was let down through the roof in order to have access to Jesus. As the man was being let down, Jesus said, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (2:5). The Jews reasoned that only God could forgive sin; not believing that Jesus was God they concluded in their hearts that Jesus was guilty of blasphemy (2:6-7). Jesus responded to their thoughts saying, "Why reason ye these things in your hearts? Whether is it easier to say to the sick of the palsy, Thy sins be forgiven thee; or to say, Arise, take up thy bed, and walk? But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins, (he saith to the sick of the palsy,) I say unto thee, Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house" (2:8-11). Jesus' forgiving sins while on earth demonstrated that he was God while on earth.
2. Jesus received worship while on earth. Jesus taught a strict monotheism which affirmed, "Thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve" (Matt. 4: 10). This is the monotheism which caused Peter to refuse to allow Cornelius to bow before him (Acts 10:25-26), Paul and Barnabas to refuse worship by the men of Lystra (Acts 14:14-15) and the angel to refuse worship from John (Rev. 22:8-9). Nevertheless, Jesus allowed men to worship him (Matt. 2:11; 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; 17:14-15; 20:20; etc.). Was Jesus a hypocrite in teaching that men should only worship God and then allowing men to worship him or was he the incarnate God?
Jesus' Power Was Inherent, Not Derived
Jesus' power was unlike that of Moses, Joshua, the prophets, Peter, Paul, and other apostles. Each of these received their power from the Holy Spirit. Jesus' miracles "differ from the miracles of the prophets and Apostles in that, instead of being answers to prayer, granted by a Higher Power, they manifestly flow from the majestic Life resident in the Worker" (Liddon, 158). Jesus had power inherent within himself (Jn. 5:21,26; 10:17-18).
There are several passages from John's gospel which have been incorrectly understood to teach that Jesus received his message and did his works from the power given to him by the Father (3:34; 5:19,30; 6:38; 8:26,28; etc.). Far from teaching that Jesus derived his power from the Father, these passages boldly assert a unity between God and Christ, affirming that the will of the one is the will of the other. He did not receive his power as an answer to prayer to the Father. He was not a mere tool of the Father. In all that he does and says he is one with the Father. R.C.H. Lenski said, "Between the prophets of God and the God who sent them a wide gap appears, which is abridged by the word they brought; between Jesus and his Sender there is no gap - in the one you see the other, for the Son is the express image of the Father, Heb. 1:3- (The Interpretation of John, 893).
These passages must be understood to reflect this oneness, not interpreted to imply that the Son while on earth was not God and received his power from the Holy Spirit. Compare the statements which attribute the resurrection to both the Father (Acts 2:32) and the Son (Jn. 10:17-18). Both statements are true because the will of the Father and the Son are the same. Similarly, Jesus could say, "My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me" (7:16) to emphasize the unity between him and the Father. He knew God's will like no mere man could know it. What he spake was not the doctrine of a mere man; it was the doctrine of God.
The Deity of Christ and the Atonement
That which gave efficacy to the blood of Christ to atone for sins was his deity. Were a mere sinless human a sacrifice adequate to atone for sin, the offering of a newborn baby could atone for sin just as certainly as did the blood of sinless Jesus. A mere man's blood could not atone for sin. That which gave efficacy to the blood of Christ was that it was the blood of the incainate God. Peter said, "Forasmuch as ye know that ye were not redeemed with corruptible things, as silver and gold, from your vain conversation received by tradition from your fathers; but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot: who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you. . . " (1 Pet. 1:18-20). The contrast between the blood of Christ and that of bulls and goats is not limited to the fact that one is animal and the other human; the efficacy in the blood of Christ is the fact that he whose blood was shed was God (Heb. 9:13,15). It was the blood of God which purchased the church (Acts 20:28). Jesus was the perfect mediator between God and man because he could equally represent God to man as he could man to God. This was true because he was the God-man. Any doctrine which denies the deity of Christ undermines the efficacy of the atonement! As such it must be rejected.
We are content to use the language of Scripture to describe the Christ. He was the Son of Man, the Son of God, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace, the Wonderful Counselor, the Alpha and the Omega, the bright and Morning Star, the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world, etc. When the language of Scripture is correctly assessed, who can doubt that it points to a Christ who was the incarnation of God?
Guardian of Truth XXXIV: 24, pp. 738, 750