By Mike Willis
Other articles in this series will be concerned with evidences which confirm the claims of Jesus. In order to understand Jesus’ assertions, I would like to consider the doctrine of the deity of Christ as was revealed in the New Testament rather than to deal with the evidences of His deity in His miracles. Quite early, the Christians celebrated the gospel in song in these words:
“He who was revealed in the flesh,
Was vindicated in the Spirit,
Beheld by angels,
Proclaimed among the nations,
Believed on in the world,
Taken up in glory” (1 Tim. 3:16).,
Thus, we would like to consider the Biblical doctrine revealed about the deity of Jesus.
Throughout the New Testament, Jesus is referred to as having existed before He came to the earth. Referring to Him as the Logos, the Word, John said, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God. . . . He was in the beginning with God” (Jn. 1:1-2). John the Baptist testified, “This was He of whom I said, He who comes after me has a higher rank than I, for He existed before me” (Jn. 1:15, cf. v. 30). Jesus’ own assertions claimed even more for Himself; He prayed to God as follows, “And now, glorify Thou Me together with Thyself, Father, with the glory which I ever had with Thee before the world was” (Jn. 17:5). Again, He said, ” `Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day; and he saw it, and was glad.’ The Jews therefore said to Him, `You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?’ Jesus said to them, `Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was born, I AM’ ” (Jn. 8:56-58).
The belief in Jesus’ pre-existence is the only explanation of His claim to have come out of heaven (Jn. 3:13; 6:62) and to have been sent into this world (Jn. 3:17). For any other person to assert that he was come in the flesh would be nonsensical; yet, some early apostates so denied the humanity of Jesus that John had to assert, “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh” (1 Jn. 4:2). The only explanation of these phrases is the doctrine of the pre-existence of Jesus. Yet, the pre-existence of Jesus does not prove His deity; the angels seen by different people spasmodically throughout the ages existed both before and after they were seen by men, yet they were not considered to be the incarnation of deity.
Titles of Jesus
Whereas the pre-existence of Jesus does not prove that He claimed to be deity, the titles which are given to Him in the New Testament are an assertion of His deity. Notice a few of these titles:
(1) Lord. Giving this title to Jesus is especially significant since kurios (lord) is the term used consistently in the LXX to translate both adonai (Hebrew word for Lord) and JHVH (the proper name of God-Jeh’dvah). Sometimes, the application of this term to Jesus is done by a quotation from the Old Testament which, in the Hebrew, used the word JHVH (cf. Rom. 10:9; Acts 2:21 and Joel 2:32; Isa: 6:1-13 and Jn. 7:3941). The giving of the title “Lord” to Jesus was an assertion of His deity. He is “Lord of all” (Acts 10:36) because He is “Lord of lords and King of kings” (Rev. 17:14).
(2) God. In case kurios seems inconclusive as an affirmation of Jesus’ deity, consider also that He was also called God (Jn. 1:1). When He was born, He was understood to be Immanuel which means “God with us” (Mt. 1:23). The prophet, foreseeing this, prophesied that the Son on whose shoulders the government would be placed was “Mighty God” (Isa. 9:6-7). When Thomas saw the resurrected body of Jesus, He said, “My Lord and my God” (Jn. 20:28). Consequently, the apostle John wrote, “And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding, in order that we might know Him who is true, and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life” (1 Jn. 5:20). The author of Hebrews said, “But of the Son He says, `Thy throne O God, is forever and ever’ ” (Heb. 1:8). Paul spoke of the appearing (epiphaneia – a reference to Jesus’ second coming) “of the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (Tit. 2:13). These passages boldly assert the deity of Jesus.
(3) Son of God. Repeatedly, this title is conferred on Jesus (Mt. 16:16; 3:17; Jn. 3:16; Rom. 1:3-4). That this title was understood to be an assertion of deity is apparent from the reaction of the Jews when they heard Jesus apply it to Himself. In Jn. 5:17, Jesus said, “My Father is working until now. . . .” The Jews who heard this did not understand Jesus to be the son of God in the sense that all men are sons of God; instead, they understood this to be a claim of deity. “For this cause therefore the Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God” (Jn. 5:18). Thus, the title “Son of God” must be understood to be an assertion of His deity.
(4) The Almighty. In the revelation of Jesus in chapter one of the book of Revelation, John records, ” `I am the Alpha and the Omega,’ says the Lord God, ‘who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty'” Rev. 1:8). Inasmuch as these expressions are used repeatedly in the apocalypse to refer to Christ, without a doubt they are an expression of the belief in the deity of Jesus. Anyone who doubts that the Bible claims Jesus to be God doubts the express words of the Bible.
The divine attributes of Jesus reveal His deity as much as do His titles. By analyzing His attributes, we can learn the nature of His being.
(1) He is everlasting. The Messiah to come was described as He whose “goings forth are from long ago, from the days of eternity” (Mic. 5:2); He was the “Everlasting Father” (Isa. 9:6). A number of the titles applied to Jesus in Revelation assert His eternity; He is called the “Alpha and Omega” (Rev. 22:13), the “First and the Last” (Rev. 1:17-18), and the “One Who is and Who was and Who is to come” (Rev. 1:8). He is the “same yesterday and today, yea’ and forever” (Heb, 13:8). From one of the psalms quoted and applied to Jesus, we read, “. . . the heavens are the works of Thy hands; they will perish, but Thou remainest; and they all will become old as a garment; and as a mantle Thou wilt roll them up; as a garment they will also be changed. But Thou art the same, and Thy years will not come to an end” (Heb. 1:10-12). No being, other than God, possesses this attribute.
(2) He is omnipresent. To His disciples, Jesus promised, “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, there am I in their midst” (Mt. 18:20). Again, “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations . . . and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Mt. 28:19-20). Jesus claimed that He would be with His disciples wherever and whenever they gathered together in His name in any nation throughout the world. Thus, He must possess the divine attribute of being able to be everywhere at once.
(3) He is omniscient. Jesus knew the hearts of men (Jn. 2:24-25; Mt. 9:4; Heb. 4:12-13) even though the thoughts of a man no one knows except the spirit of the man which is within him (1 Cor. 2:11). He also knew the end from the beginning (Jn. 6:64; 13:11)-a mark of deity (Isa. 41:22-23).
(4) He is omnipotent. Having already shown that He wore the title “The Almighty,” this attribute seems selfevident. Whatever the Father did, the Son could do (Jn. 5:19); He had life in Himself even as the Father did (Jn. 5:26).
Even as Jesus’ divine attributes attest His deity, so also do His works attest His deity. He was the Creator (Jn. 1:1-2; Heb. 1:2, 10-12; Col. 1:16) and Sustainer (Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:3,12) of this world. He was able to send the Holy Spirit (Jn. 15:26); He could forgive sins (Mt. 9:2-5). In addition to His manifold miracles, these words set Jesus apart as deity.
He Accepted Worship
That Jesus accepted worship cannot be denied (Rev. 5:12-13; Mt. 8:2-3; Jn. 9:38; Mt. 14:33). The Christians were a group of people who worshiped Christ (1 Cor. 1:2; epikaleo is a term designating worship). If any group of people understood that idolatry was wrong, the Jews did; they had eradicated idolatry from their midst. No one of Jesus’ disciples would allow any person to worship another man (Acts 10:25-26; 14:15); not even an angel could be worshiped (Rev. 22:9). To worship any creature rather than the Creator is sinful (Rom. 1:25). Yet, Jesus was worshiped! Therefore, He was not a creature, He was the Creator!
Jesus was none other than God in the flesh! The God who created the heavens and the earth in Gen. 1, who sent the flood, who parted the waters of the Red Sea, who caused the walls of Jericho to collapse, who caused the sun to stand still for Joshua, and who spoke through the prophets is the One Who took upon Himself the form of humanity to die for our sins. Describing Christ Jesus, Paul said, “although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross” (Phil. 2:6-8). The doctrine of the deity of Jesus is one of the most important doctrines in all of the Bible. If anyone who denied the humanity of Jesus was considered an anti-Christ (cf. 2 Jn. 7-the Gnostic heresy), certainly anyone who denies the deity of Christ must also be considered a heretic. The modernists’ concept of Jesus too closely resembles that of the first century Jews to commend itself to us.
Truth Magazine, XX:21; pp. 6-8
May 20, 1976