By Cecil Willis
Christians are exhorted to “sanctify in your hearts Christ as Lord: being ready always to give answer to every man that asketh you a reason concerning the hope that is in you, yet with meekness and fear.” One of the fundamental foundations of Christian’s faith is the belief that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. Hence, this article is an effort to explicate the reasons why we as Christians account Jesus as the Son of God. We are undertaking to give a reason for our hope.
Limitations in this Article
It is not the purpose of this article to prove the existence of Christ. Unbelievers and believers alike can join hand in hand in the belief in the existence of the person, Christ. Josephus, a first century Jewish historian, testified to the existence of Christ. He says: “Now there was about this time Jesus, a wise man, if it be lawful to call him a man; for he was a doer of wonderful works, a teacher of such men as receive the truth with pleasure. He drew over to him both many of the Jews and many of the Gentiles. He was (the) Christ. And when Pilate, at the suggestion of the principal men amongst us, had condemned him to the cross, those that loved him of the first did not forsake him; for he appeared to them alive again the third day; as the , divine prophets foretold these and ten thousand other wonderful things concerning him. And the tribe of Christians, so named from him, are, not extinct at this day” (Antiquities of the Jews, Book XVIII, ch. 3). There are many who question the genuineness of . this passage from Josephus, but it is doubtful if these same individuals would question it, were it a denunciation of Christ. But the existence of Christ is not dependent upon this historical fragment, whether it be genuine or not. If Christ did not exist, if He is a nonentity, someone should explain his unparalleled influence upon mankind for the past nineteen centuries.
Nor are we attempting to prove that Christ was a great man. He certainly was a great man, but He is more than merely a great man. There are some religionists, some churches, who have no higher goal than to elevate Christ to the position of a great man. They attempt to prove he was the world’s greatest teacher, the world’s best philosopher, the world’s most successful psychologist, the world’s noblest moralist. And Christ is all of these. But to leave Christ defined as just the greatest man that ever lived is to leave Him inadequately described. He is also the Son of God! The Christian’s faith in Christ is that he is the Son of God. And therefore we address ourselves to the responsibility of showing some of the reasons why we account Christ as the Son of God.
Man has come to regard historically conditioned proofs as the strongest. Prophecy is founded in history. The prophets were real men who made their predictions in the presence of other men. These prophecies were made centuries before the existence of Christ. The earliest promise of the coming Messiah is made in the first book of the Old Testament, virtually in the beginning of that book. In Gen. 3:14,15, God said to the serpent, “Because thou hast done this (viz., beguiled the woman), cursed art thou above all cattle, and above every beast of the field; upon thy belly shaft thou go, and dust shah thou eat all the days of thy life: and I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed: he shall bruise thy head, and thou shaft bruise his heel.” Almost every Biblical scholar takes this to be a reference to the coming Christ. Again in Isaiah 9:6, 7, the prophet said: “For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given, and the government shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and of peace there shall be no end, upon the throne of David, and upon his kingdom, to establish it, and to uphold it with justice and with righteousness from henceforth even for ever. The zeal of Jehovah of hosts will perform this.” This statement, applicable to Christ Jesus, was made nearly eight hundred years before his birth.
About a century later, the weeping prophet Jeremiah, added to the large number of prophecies concerning the coming Christ, when he said: “Behold, the days come saith Jehovah, that I will raise unto David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, and Israel shall dwell safely; and this is his name whereby he shall be called: Jehovah our righteousness” (Jer. 25:5,6).
Many other prophecies could be , quoted from the Old Testament, but space will not permit us to do so. The tribe from which he was to come is foretold (Isa. 11:1); his birth was so carefully depicted in prophecy that the village in which it was to occur is named (Micah 5:1,2); he was to be betrayed by one of those given an office by him (Psa. 69:25); his suffering was described (Isa. 53); and finally his resurrection (Psa. 16), and ascension were declared in prophetical statements (Daniel 7:13, 14), all, made hundreds of years prior to their occurrence. Altogether, there were approximately three hundred details of the life and work of Christ foretold by the divinely inspired prophets.
When we turn to the New Testament, and see the record of the conflict between belief and unbelief, we see the importance Christ attached to the Old Testament prophecies in substantiating his claims. On one occasion, when speaking to a group of Jews, he said, “Ye search the scriptures, because ye think that in them ye have eternal life; and these are they which bear witness of me” (Jn. 5:39). They were searching the Old Testament scriptures, for these were all they had at the time Jesus made this statement, and he said “these bear witness of me.” So confident was Jesus of the fact that prophecy established his identity as the Son of God that he told them they could not accept the Old Testament without accepting him. He said, “For if ye believed Moses, ye would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if ye believe not his writings, how shall ye believe my words?” (Jn. 5:46, 47). They were logically impelled either to accept Moses and Christ, or to deny both; the people to whom Jesus spoke were in the inconsistent position of trying to accept Moses, but deny the One of whom he spoke. So prophecy is one of the strongest foundations of Christian’s faith in the deity of Christ.
For Jesus to be the Son of God as we believe the Scriptures teach he is, he must have been born of a virgin. His virgin birth is the second proof or reason we offer to support our faith in his divine sonship. The virgin birth of Christ was a subject of prophecy. In Isaiah 7:14, the prophet said, “Therefore . the Lord himself will give you a sign: behold, a virgin shall conceive, and bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel.” Since the Revised Standard Version was released in 1952, considerable discussion has been devoted to the meaning of the word “virgin” in this passage. Of course, the discussion centered around the meaning of the Hebrew word so translated. Isa. 7:14 is not the only time this word occurs. It is also used in Deut. 22: 23, 24, a passage in which it unquestionably refers to a virgin, one who has never known man. So this other Old Testament usage should indicate that the word is properly translated with the English word “virgin” in Isaiah’s prophecy. He was telling us that Jesus was to be born of a virgin. Notice also that Isaiah said the birth of Jesus would be a “sign.” What would be the significance in a young woman, even a young married woman, bearing a son? There would be nothing extraordinary in such a happening. But if a maiden, who was a virgin, should bear a son, this would be a “sign” such as God promised, by which mankind could recognize the Messiah. In Matt. 1:23, the inspired writer quoted Isaiah’s prediction, saying: “Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son.” So Jesus’ birth was to be an extraordinary event. There was never any birth before like it, or since.
If Jesus was not born of a virgin, he was born of a human father, and a human mother. Therefore, he would be wholly human. And if wholly human, he would not be divine in any sense, and certainly could not be called the Son of God. If he was but a man, born of human parents, then he is not the world’s greatest man. For Jesus taught that He was the Son of God, born of a virgin. If he was not so born, his teachings concerning himself, as well as those of his disciples, were untruths. But because of his virgin birth, we believe him to be the Son of God.
Yet another thing that causes us to believe in the deity of Christ is his works. We mean by these “works” the miracles performed by Christ. Jesus Christ was willing to stake the truthfulness of his claims upon this one point alone. He said, “If I do not the works of my Father, believe me not. But if I do them, though ye believe not me, believe the works: that ye may know and understand that the Father is in me, and I in the Father” (Jn. 10:37, 38).. We read an instance of the public’s response to the works performed by Christ when we read the account of Nicodemus coming to Christ. He believed on Christ because of the miracles he performed. He said, “we know that thou art a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that thou doest, except God be with him” (Jn. 3:2). The apostle John emphasized that the miracles done by Christ should make us believers. He said, “Many other signs therefore did Jesus in the presence of the disciples, which are not written in this book: but these are written, that ye may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing ye may have life in his name” (Jn. 20:30, 31). When one contemplates His miracles, he knows they were not the works of a mere man. He walked on water, healed lepers, made the dumb to speak, the deaf to hear, the lame to walk, the blind to see, stopped storms, cast out demons. None of these are the works of man, but are the result of divine power.
The climactic event, proving to us the divinity of Christ, was his triumphant ascension from the grave. When Jesus was yet alive, He promised His disciples, that even though He were to die on the cross, He would rise again. He predicted the truthfulness of His claims, and teaching, upon the fact that He would rise from the dead. No other teacher, before or afterwards, has made such a claim. No founder of any religion, save Christ, has been willing to base the truthfulness of His claims upon His ability to come from the grave. They dare not! In Matt. 16, Jesus said the gates of Hades would not prevail against the building of His Church. He meant that He was going into the tomb, and even though His church could not have been built when this event came to pass, nevertheless he would accomplish His promises. He came forth to do what he said he would do.
We have the witness of both His friends and His enemies that He actually died on the cross. Afterwards we have the unwavering testimony of above five hundred brethren that He had come from the grave. The apostle John mentioned the intimacy with which he and others had known the Lord. He said, “That which was from the beginning, that which we have heard, that which we have seen with our eyes, that which we beheld, and our hands handled, concerning the Word of life” (1 John 1:1). They knew Him well before His death, and then they did all of these things with him; closely associated with Him, after His resurrection. So we do have good historical proof that Jesus was raised from the dead. Paul says that Jesus “was declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead” (Rom. 1:4). So His resurrection is conclusive proof that he was God’s Son, for if He was raised, and He was, then God had to raise Him. So by the resurrection He was shown to be the Son of God with power.
The prophecies He fulfilled, His virgin birth, His works, and His resurrection are a few of the more outstanding reasons why we recognize Him as the Son of God. And recognizing Him to be God’s Son with all authority, we humbly submit to His will in all matters.
Truth Magazine XIX: 33, pp. 515-517
June 26, 1975