By Tim Coffey
Paul proclaimed, “Great is the mystery of godliness, God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). For those who saw Jesus in the flesh, the difficulty was not in believing that he was man, but in believing he was God. For those of us who read the New Testament and see the overall picture of such a tremendous life, the difficulty is not in believing he was God, but man as well. Our hope of heaven cannot stand in anything less than a firm conviction of both.
The Deity of Christ
When the Ethiopian eunuch proclaimed, “I believe that Jesus Christ is the Son of God,” this statement was not only his, but that which all men must make, or acknowledge believing, in order to become children of God. This statement is the very foundation of our faith, for Jesus said it was “upon this rock,” or the fact of this statement, that he would build his church (Matt. 16:16-18). However, are we at a disadvantage today because we cannot see, firsthand, Jesus working in his ministry? Remember, it was Thomas who said, “Except I shall see in his hands the print of the nails … and thrust my hand into his side, I will not believe” (John 20:25). He was told by the others that Jesus had risen, but faith for him required firsthand knowledge.
In response to this idea, Jesus said, “Blessed are they that have not seen, and yet have believed.” We can have the same faith that Thomas had when he exclaimed, “My Lord and my God” and yet, as Jesus says, we do not have to see him firsthand in order to believe. In fact we are in a situation no different than the Ethiopian eunuch, yet he could state his conviction with all his heart.
We can have full assurance that Jesus is deity because Isaiah said, “a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel” (Isa. 7:14). Matthew tells us this prophecy was fulfilled in the birth of Jesus and that Immanuel means “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). Jesus was God with us on earth.
In like manner we can have full assurance that Jesus is deity because the angels worshiped him at his birth (Heb. 1:6). The wise men who came to Herod expressed that they wanted to worship him and upon finding him did so (Matt. 2:2, 11). The disciples also, as well as others, worshiped him on various occasions (Matt. 14:33; 28:9; Mark 5:6; etc.). These passages give no indication that Jesus ever for-bade anyone from worshiping him. However, this cannot be said of those who are only human. Peter would not accept worship from Cornelius (Acts 10:25-26) and Paul and Barnabas would not accept worship from the people of Lystra (Acts 14:8-18). In fact, not even the heavenly angel who showed the revelation to the apostle John would accept worship from him (Rev. 22:8-9). These all knew that worship is reserved for deity, only, and that is why the an-gel proclaimed unto John, “worship God.” Clearly this proves that Jesus was deity even while on earth.
Next we have the witness and testimony of John the Baptist. He was sent by the heavenly Father to “bear witness of the Light” (John 1:6-7). He tells us that God told him to look for the one “upon whom thou shalt see the Spirit descending and remaining.” John saw such “and bare record that this is the Son of God” (John 1:33-34).
Following the testimony of John we have Jesus, himself, declaring his deity. Throughout the book of John we have Jesus telling the Jews in Jerusalem, on many occasions and in various ways, that he is the Son of God. In John 8:56-58 he said, “Before Abraham was, I Am” which the Jews understood clearly to be a reference to the statement of God in Exodus 3:13-14. Jesus also affirmed that he was the Son of God to the blind man who was told to wash in the pool of Siloam (John 9:35-37). On another occasion the Jews approached Jesus while he walked in the temple and inquired, “If thou be the Christ, tell us plainly.” Jesus, in exasperation, responded with, “I told you, and ye believed not” (John 10:24-25). Since Jesus was without sin, we can know that he told the truth when he said, “I am the Son of God” (John 10:36).
Finally, and perhaps the strongest evidence of all, is the witness which the Father gave of his son. Jesus said, “If I bear witness of myself, my witness is not true. There is another that beareth witness of me; and I know that the witness which he witnesseth of me is true . . . I have greater witness than that of John: for the works which the Father hath given me to finish, the same works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me. And the Father himself, which hath sent me, hath borne witness of me” (John 5:31-37). In John 8:13, the Pharisees accused Jesus of bearing record of himself and said that it was, therefore, not true. Jesus responded, “It is also written in your law, that the testimony of two men is true. I am one that bear witness of myself, and the Father that sent me beareth witness of me” (John 8:17-18). In John 10:37-38 Jesus said, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in me, and I in him.”
Many other Scriptures could be given to show why we can have assurance that Jesus is God, but with these witnesses bearing testimony to the fact, surely the matter is established.
The Humanity of Christ
But, this is not the only thing we must believe. Not only must every Christian believe that Jesus is God, but they must believe that this eternal one came to earth incarnate as man. John said, “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God” (1 John 4:2). As the truth of the deity of Jesus is the foundation of the church, so the truth of the humanity of Jesus is the foundation of our reconciliation to God (Heb. 2:17). Without a Jesus who is man, as well as God, we would not have a High Priest who is qualified to mediate on our behalf. Therefore, we should be able to believe with all our heart, as the apostle Paul, that there is “one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus” (1 Tim. 2:5).
We can have assurance that Jesus was a man because he refers to himself as “the Son of Man” 82 times in the four gospel accounts. Paul not only refers to him as “the man Christ Jesus,” but also told the men of Athens that God “will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he hath ordained” (Acts 17:31). The Hebrew writer says that since we are all partakers of “flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same” (Heb. 2:14).
In like manner we can have full assurance that Jesus was a man because he became our High Priest. The Hebrew writer says, “Wherefore in all things it behooved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest” (Heb. 2:17). This does not mean that he ceased to be deity nor does it mean that he ceased to possess the attributes of deity. What it does tell us is that those attributes of deity did not prevent in any way his living as a man. Many have tried to explain how God could be made “in all things” like us and still be God. Many have tried to explain how God could keep the attributes of deity from conflicting with living as a man. Various words have been used to describe this (i.e., laid aside, gave up, limited, etc.), but surely all will agree that we are not inspired writers or speakers. We clearly run the risk of conveying the wrong idea whenever we use our own words to describe what God has written in his word.
Finally, we can take comfort in knowing that Jesus was a man because he was tempted like we are. “For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). Having felt the infirmities of humanity as we feel them, he is a merciful and trustworthy high priest (Heb. 2:17). He is able to help us when we are tempted because he has “suffered being tempted” (Heb. 2:18). We can “come boldly unto the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need” (Heb. 4:16) because he “ever liveth to make intercession” for us (Heb. 7:25). What great grace was shown by Jesus, for “though he was rich, yet for our sakes he became poor, that we through his poverty might be rich” (2 Cor. 8:9).
As Moses once said, “The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but those things which are revealed belong to us” (Deut. 29:29). What has been revealed is that “God was manifest in the flesh” (1 Tim. 3:16). Let us believe it, preach it, and take comfort in it as God’s word tells us we should.
Guardian of Truth XL: 5 p. 8-9
March 7, 1996