Revival of an Ancient Heresy
Weldon E. Warnock
Beckley, West Virginia
Old heretical issues of the past have a way of being resuscitated and given new life among the people of God. Such is the case wherein some are indicating that Jesus was just a man, nothing but a man, while he was here on earth. This is not a new doctrine, but an old one, conceived and incubated in the hearts of fallible men.
The apostle John wrote of those who denied that the Son of God had come in the flesh. Listen to him: "Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is the spirit of antichrist" (1 Jn. 4:2-3). This Jesus, John states, is "the true God, and eternal life" (1 Jn. 5:20; cf. 1:1-2). To deny that Jesus was God in the flesh is "not of God" and manifests "the spirit of anit-christ."
Several different groups in times past have put out disclaimers on the divinity of Jesus. One of them was the Ebionites, essentially a Jewish sect of the first century. They held that Jesus was the supreme lawgiver of the church, the promised Messiah, the Son of David, but yet a mere man. Some of the Gnostics taught that Jesus was at best ranked only with the highest of the prophets. He was simply one of many and not unique - divine.
The Arians (4th century) advocated that Christ is a middle between God and man, a sort of demi-god. In the 17th century, the Socinians maintained that Jesus of Nazareth, though supernaturally conceived, was a mere man with extraordinary revelations, but elevated to heaven and deified in reward of his holy life.
Once again the Godhood of Jesus is being called into question. Uncertain sounds are being heard that undermine the divine nature of our Lord Jesus Christ. These cannot be permitted to go unchallenged! The following will conclusively show that Jesus was truly Emmanuel - God with us (Matt. 1:23) while here on earth, yea, forevermore (Heb. 13:8).
1. Jesus was God. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us" (Jn. 1: 1, 14). When Jesus became flesh, he did not become a new being, but entered into a new mode of being.
Thomas confessed that Jesus was his Lord and God (Jn. 20;28). Jesus commended Thomas' adoration and held it up for the imitation of the coming ages. Jesus said in v. 29, "Thomas, because thou hast seen me, thou has believed: blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed."
Paul wrote, "And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh" (1 Tim. 3:16). ". . . and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is over all, God blessed for ever, Amen" (Rom. 9:5).
2. Jesus was the Son of God. He made this claim for himself. "The hour is coming, and now is, when the dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God: and they that hear shall live" (Jn. 5:25; cf. 9:35; 11:4). In his interview with Nicodemus, Jesus designated himself as "the only begotten of God" (Jn. 3:18).
The Jews understood Jesus to claim equality with God. "Therefore the Jews sought the more to kill him, because he not only had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was his Father, making himself equal with God" (Jn. 5:18). On another occasion, they charged Jesus with blasphemy for making himself God. "The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God" (Jn. 10:33).
Were they mistaken in their perception of Jesus' claims and teachings? If so, why did he allow it to stand? Why did Jesus not undeceive them? Obviously, he was God!
3. Jesus was Jehovah. John the Baptist was to "go before the face of the Lord to prepare his ways" (Lk. 1:76). This is taken from Isaiah 40:3 where Isaiah prophesied, "The voice of one that crieth, Prepare ye in the wilderness the way of Jehovah" (ASV). Isaiah clearly calls Jesus Jehovah, John being the forerunner.
Paul speaks of Jesus as "the Lord of glory" (1 Cor. 2:8). This expression, in first century Jewish thought, meant Jehovah. Hence, the princes of this world crucified Jehovah. Lenski said, "The person is here designated according to his divine nature (Lord of glory) while the thing predicated of him belongs to his human nature (crucified)."
4. Jesus was the "I AM." He said, "Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was, I am" (Jn. 8:58). "And he said unto them, Ye are from beneath; I am from above: ye are of this world; I am not of this world . . . . for if ye believe not that I am he, ye shall die in your sins" (Jn. 8:23-24). The pronoun "he" is italicized in v. 24. Hence, they were to be believe that Jesus was "I AM."
William Hendriksen stated that the same thought is expressed in both John 8:24 and John 8:58; namely, that Jesus is God (Commentary on John). Compare Exodus 3:13-14 where God tells Moses that his name is "I AM THAT I AM." When Jesus said, "I am," he identified himself as the eternal God.
5. Jesus was always the same person. Emphasizing certain words in Colossians 1:15-20, let us observe that Paul speaks of the one person who is the image of God (v. 15), by whom were all things created (v. 16), who is before all things (v. 17), in whom was the Father's good pleasure for all fulness to dwell (v. 19, NASB), and having made peace through the blood of his cross (v. 20), God reconciled all things to himself. Hence, the Son of God did not cease to exist when he was incarnated.
Another passage which shows no discontinuity of the person of Christ is Philippians 2:5-8. Jesus, being in the form (essence of a person or thing) of God, took upon himself the form (essence) of a servant, and being found in fashion (likeness) as a man, he (same person as in v. 6) humbled himself, and became obedient unto death. Here is explicitly set forth the fact that Jesus was both God and man.
6. Jesus asserted full power to forgive sins. When the palsied man was brought to Jesus, the Lord said, "Son, thy sins be forgiven thee" (Mk. 2:5). When the scribes heard this they reasoned in their hearts, "Why doth this man thus speak blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God only?"
If Jesus was merely a man, the scribes reasoned correctly, and, therefore, Jesus was guilty of blasphemy. But Jesus responded, "But that ye may know that the Son of man hath power on earth to forgive sins . . . . I say unto thee (palsied man), Arise, and take up thy bed, and go thy way into thine house" (vv. 10-11).
7. Jesus indirectly compared himself with God. Jesus proclaimed, "All things are delivered unto me of my Father: and no man knoweth the Son, but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him" (Matt. 11:27; cf. Lk. 10:22).
"Knoweth" (epiginoskei) in the text is full knowledge. Man knoweth only in part, what is revealed, but Jesus had total, complete and full knowledge of the Father. His knowledge was as thorough of the Father as the Father's knowledge was of the Son. Nothing less than deity can accurately be ascribed to Jesus by the words he spoke in this verse quoted above.
John wrote, "No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he that declared him" (Jn. 1:18). The phrase, "in the bosom of the Father," shows the eternal relation of the Son and "declared" (exegesato) means to "exegete, lead out, interpret. " What mortal man could give an exegesis of God? Jesus said, "He that hath seen me hath seen the Father" (Jn. 14:9).
8. Jesus demanded devotion and honor which can only be properly yielded to God. The Bible teaches that we are to love God with all our heart, soul and mind (Matt. 22:37). Yet, Jesus said, "He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me" (Matt. 10:37, NASB). How could Jesus demand love above family if he were not God?
On occasions Jesus was worshipped, which worship he accepted. "Then they that were in the ship came and worshipped him, saying, Of a truth thou art the Son of God" (Matt. 14:33; cf. 20:20; 28:9,17). Jesus taught that only God is to be worshipped (Matt. 4:10). But Jesus accepted worship, therefore, he was God.
9. Jesus claimed inherent power to raise his own body, quicken souls and to raise all the dead at the last great day. Concerning his body Jesus said, "Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up" (Jn. 2:19). Verse 21 states that "he spake of the temple of his body." He also said, "I lay down my life, that I might take it again . . . . I have power to lay it down, and I have power to take it again" (Jn. 10:17-18). Strange words for a mere man!
Furthermore, Jesus declared he would raise tne spiritually dead (Jn. 5:25), which he did through the gospel (Eph. 2:5; Col. 2:12-13; Rom. 6:311). At the last great day those in the graves shall hear his voice and come forth (Jn. 5:28-29).
10. Jesus announced himself as the center of rest for the human soul. He stated, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest" (Matt. 11:28-30). Jesus also said, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you" (Jn. 14:27; cf. 16:33). Only God is the resting-place of the soul. Jehovah will bless his people with peace (Psa. 29:11).
11. Jesus promised his continued presence with his disciples after his ascension. "For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them" (Matt. 18:20). One of the last promises Jesus made was, "Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world" (Matt. 28:20).
These assurances of Jesus are inexplicable if he were possessed of one nature - the human, which must of necessity be local and limited as to its presence. But Stephen saw him in heaven (Acts 7:56), Paul saw him on the Damascus road (Acts 26:13-118; 1 Cor. 9:1), later receiving encouragement from him at Corinth (Acts 18:9-10) and at Jerusalem (Acts 23: 10), and John was the recipient of his comfort on the isle of Patmos (Rev. 1:17-18).
Though these appearances of Jesus in the preceding paragraph were miraculous in nature, he still knows, cares and abides with us.
12. Jesus came from heaven. He was not a separate entity while he tabernacled in the flesh. His divine and human natures were inseparable, indivisible, concurring in one Person, not parted and divided into two persons. Such is the pure teaching of the Scriptures. We read, "And no man hath ascended up to heaven, but he that came down from heaven, even the Son of man which is in heaven" (Jn. 3:13). The Son of man came from heaven, lived 33 years among mortal men, and returned to heaven. John 6:62 states, "What and if ye shall see the Son of man ascend up where he was before" (Jn. 6:62).
Jesus told the Jews, "for I proceeded forth and come from God" (Jn. 8:42). To his disciples he uttered, "I came forth from the Father, and am come into the world, and go to the Father" (Jn. 16:28). In his prayer to the Father, Jesus prayed, "And now, O Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was" (Jn. 17:5).
To deny the deity of Jesus destroys our trust in him as our Savior, prohibits our loving him with all our hearts, and precludes our admirations of him with our whole being, for to do so would be idolatry!
Brethren, the times demand of us a re-assertion of the foundational truths, the foundation of the gospel, that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of the living God (Matt. 16:16; Jn. 20:30-31).
The effort to portray Jesus as a mere man in order to hold man responsible and inexcusable (Rom. 1:20; 2:1) for every act of disobedience, to show that man is able to live sinlessly perfect, is a fallacious argument from beginning to end. Jesus was a divine being (God-man) and we are human, totally and completely. He resisted sin (Heb. 4:15; 1 Pet. 2:22) and we don't under all circumstances, for "all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God" (Rom. 3:23).
We all agree that no person on this earth has lived above sin, except Jesus, and none ever will (Rom. 3:23; 1 Jn. 1:8, 10). Why engage in controversial rhetoric over "is man able to live a perfect life?" when all of us agree that no one does? Any doctrine which strips Jesus of his divinity, God os his grace, and man of his need for a Savior in order to hold man responsible for his sin is not the Bible doctrine. Indeed, man is a sinner, not by an inherent evil nature, but through succumbing to the temptations of sin (Jas. 1:14-15). Any doctrine which releases man from responsibility for his sin by attributing it to an inherent evil nature is not a Bible doctrine.
Let us be content to employ the language of Scripture to describe Jesus as both the Son of God and Son of man. Let us be content with the language of Scripture in saying, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." Let us hold our theories about whether or not man has the ability to live sinlessly perfect as our own private opinions (Rom. 14:22), the preaching of which genders strife and questions (1 Tim. 1:4; 6:4), and get on with the preaching of the gospel!
Guardian of Truth XXXV: 4, pp. 102-104