Thursday, April 9, 2009

The Deity of Jesus

I. Deity directly attributed to Jesus

(Note: For a thorough discussion of the following texts see Jesus as God; the New Testament Use of Theos in Reference to Jesus by Murray Harris (Baker, 1992. The following references to “certain”, “very probable”, and “probable” are Harris’ conclusions after careful and thorough exegesis of the passages in Greek including discussions of textual-critical issues, and in light of some contexts of the Hebrew Old Testament and the Greek Septuagint) Harris’ book is the most detailed, careful, thorough and scholarly discussion of this topic that I have seen).

A. John 1:1 (Certain)

“In the beginning was the word and the word was with God and the word was God” (NAS)

“In the beginning the word already existed. He was with God and he was God” (NLT)

B. John 20:28 (Certain)

“Thomas answered and said to him, My Lord and My God” (NAS)

“My Lord and My God, Thomas exclaimed” (NLT)

C. Romans 9:5 (Very Probable)

“from whom is the Christ according to the flesh, who is over all, God blessed forever” (NAS)

“Christ himself was a Jew as far as his human nature is concerned. And he is God, who rules over everything and is worthy of eternal praise” (NLT)

D. Titus 2:13 (Very Probable)

“Looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus” (NAS)

“while we look forward to that wonderful event when the glory of our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ, will be revealed.” (NLT)

E. Hebrews 1:8 (Very Probable)

“But of the Son He says, Your Throne Oh God, is forever and ever” (NAS)

“But to his Son he says, Your throne, O God, endures forever and ever (NLT)

F. 2 Peter 1:1 (Very Probable)

“by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ” (NAS)

“faith given to us by Jesus Christ, our God and Savior, who makes us right with God” (NLT)

G. John 1:18 (Probable)

“No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him” (NAS)

“No one has ever seen God. But his only Son, who is himself God, is near to the Father’s
heart; he has told us about him.

II. Divine functions ascribed to Jesus

NOTE: Context is everything: Example: someone excitedly pointing his forefinger in the air: 1)
at a blue angels presentation, 2) at the end of a championship football game, 3) in a first grade class.

A. Creator and sustainer:

“For by Him [Jesus] all things were created, both in heavens and on earth…He is before all things, and in Him all things hold together (Colossians 1:16-17)

“All things came into being through Him” (John 1:3)

“in these last days [God] has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom He made the world…He upholds all things by the word of His power (Heb 1:2-3)

“…one Lord Jesus Christ by whom are all things, and we exist though Him (1 Corinthians 8:6)

B. Forgiving Sins

“And Jesus seeing their faith said to the paralytic, Son your sins are forgiven” (Mark 2:5).

“But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins” (Mark 2:10)

“He is the one whom God exalted to His right hand as a Prince and Savior, to grant repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins.” (Acts 5:31)

“through His name everyone who believes in Him receives forgiveness of sins” (Acts 10:43)

C. Granting Salvation or eternal life

“And there is salvation in no one else; for there is not other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12)

“for whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved…so faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of Christ” (Romans 10:13, 17)

“everyone who beholds the Son and believes in Him will have eternal life and I myself will raise him up on the last day” (John 6:40)

“I am the living bread that came down out of heaven; if anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever” (John 6:51)

“He who eats my flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life” (John 5:54)

“Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved” (Acts 16:31)

D. Exercising final judgment on humanity

“When the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His throne….[what follows is a description of divine judgment] (Matthew 25:31-46).

[Jesus] is the One who has been appointed by God as judge of the living and the dead” (Acts 10:42)

E. Possessing divine attributes

“For in Him the fullness of Deity dwells in bodily form” (Colossians 2:9)

“I and my Father are one” [whereupon Jesus enemies prepared to stone him] (John 10:30)

“who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Phillippians 2:6)

“Truly, truly I say to you, before Abraham was born, I Am” [whereupon Jesus enemies prepared to stone him] (John 8:58).

“Now, Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.” (John 17:5)

F. The Object of worship:

“And those who were in the boat worshipped him saying You are certainly God’s Son” (Matthew 14:33).

“so that at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth” (Philippians 2:10).

“The Lord will rescue me from every evil deed, and will bring me safely to his heavenly kingdom; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.” (2 Timothy 4:18)

“but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen” (2 Peter 3:18)

“And when He again brings the firstborn into the world He says, And let all the angels of God worship Him” (Hebrews 1:6)

“To Him who loves us and released us from our sins by His blood…to Him be the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (Revelation 1:5-6)

“and thousands and thousands saying with a loud voice, Worthy is the Lamb who was slain… To Him who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb, be blessing and honor and glory and dominion forever and ever…and the elders fell down and worshipped” (Revelation 5:11-14)

III. Examples of Old Testament passages referring to Yahweh applied to Jesus

“Whoever will call on the name of the LORD [Yahweh] will be saved” (Joel 2:32 applied to Jesus in Acts 2:21 and Romans 10:13).

“The voice of one crying in the wilderness, make ready to way of the LORD [Yahweh]” (Isaiah 40:3 applied to Jesus in Matthew 3:3).

“The LORD [Yahweh] of Hosts…shall be your fear and He shall be your dread. Then He shall become a sanctuary; But to both houses of Israel, a stone to strike and a rock to stumble over…” (Isaiah 8:13-14 used of Jesus in 1 Peter 2:8)

“Behold your King [Yahweh] is coming to you…Humble, and mounted on a donkey” (Zechariah 9:9 deliberately fulfilled by Jesus in Matthew 21:1-11; Mark 11:1-10; Luke 19:28-44; John 12:12-19)

IV. Divine titles claimed by or applied to Jesus

In Revelation 22:13 Jesus says “I am the alpha and omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end”. But Revelation 1:8 says “I am the alpha and omega, says the Lord God, who and was and is to come, the Almighty.”

God: John 1:1, 18; 20:28; Rom 9:5; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8; 2 Peter 1:1

V. Writers outside the New Testament show that we have not misunderstood what the New Testament was teaching.

A. Pliny the Younger (AD 112)

“They [Christians] were in the habit of meeting on a certain fixed day before it was light, when they sang in alternative verses a hymn to Christ, as to a god” (Letter to Emperor Trajan)

B. Letter of Barnabas (AD 70-135)

“…the Son of God was the divine Lord, and the future Judge of living and dead alike (Chapter 7).

The Letter of Barnabas calls Jesus “the Lord of all the earth,” a title used in Joshua 3:13 to refer to God (5:1)

C. Ignatius (AD 110)

“To the deservedly happy church at Ephesus…owing its unity and its election to the true and undoubted Passion, by the will of the Father and Jesus Christ our God.” (Letter to the Ephesians)

“according to the love of Jesus Christ our God (to the Romans; Intro)

“For our God, Jesus Christ, now that He is with the Father, (to the Romans; chapter 3)

“Permit me to be an imitator of the passion of my God. (to the Romans; chapter 6)

“by the will of the Father, and Jesus Christ, our God” (to the Ephesians; Intro)

“Being the followers of God, and stirring up yourselves by the blood of God” (to the
Ephesians; Chapter 1)

“For our God, Jesus Christ, was, according to the appointment of God, conceived in the womb by Mary, of the seed of David, but by the Holy Ghost.” (to the Ephesians; Chapter 18)

“God Himself being manifested in human form” (to the Ephesians; Chapter 19)

“I Glorify God, even Jesus Christ, who has given you such wisdom (to the Smyrneans; Intro)

“Ye have done well in receiving Philo and Rheus Agathopus as servants of Christ our God”(to the Smyrneans; chapter 10)

D. Note: The earliest controversies about the doctrine of Jesus were not about whether he was
God—they were about whether he was human! Some heretics thought that since God could
not become evil, and since all humans (all matter) were evil, God did not really become
human in Jesus, He just appeared to be human.

VI. According to the Gospels Jesus:

Claimed that could personally grant forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:5, 7, 10; Luke 7:47-50; 24:47; John 8:24)

Claimed that he would personally judge to world (Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43; 25:31-46; Luke 3:16-17; 17:23-37)

Demanded absolute allegiance to himself above all else (Matthew 16:24-27; Luke 9:57-62; 14:26-27; Mark 8:34-38; 10:2930; John 12:23-26; Gospel of Thomas 55).

Taught that people’s eternal destiny would be dependent on him (Mark 8:34-36; 10:29-30; Matthew 25:31-46; John 3:15; John 10:9; Gospel of Thomas 82)

Claimed to be Lord even of the Sabbath (Matthew 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5; cf. John 5:17-18)

Claimed to be able to grant eternal life (John 5:54; 6:0, 51)

Accepted worship (Matthew 14:33 et al).

VII. To Those who don’t believe the Bible is God’s Word:

A. The facts: We have over a dozen first century documents which either directly call Jesus God, or which makes statements which, in a first century Jewish culture, strongly imply that attribution of deity to Jesus. It is also a fact that Jesus was charged with blasphemy and executed for sedition.

C. How do we account for the facts? Jesus thought of himself as the fulfillment of Jewish prophecies of a Suffering Servant of God who would die for the sins of his people (Isaiah 53) as well as prophecies of how God would one day visit his people and come to His temple (eg. Ezekiel 34, Zechariah 9:9). This would explain:

The charge of blasphemy

The charge of sedition (being executed as a king)

The large amount of evidence that Christians worshipped Jesus as God and that this started at a very early date.

Why Christianity didn’t just die out after Jesus died.

Why early Christians were so willing to suffer for Jesus after he died.

D. Why would anyone believe him?

Most didn’t. Some thought Jesus was a blasphemer. Some thought he was demon
possessed. Some thought he was just plan crazy.

His followers were convinced that no one did the kind of miracles Jesus did (and no one denied his miracles—Jesus’ enemies just explained them as sorcery or the work of Satan)

His followers were convinced that Jesus genuinely fulfilled their Jewish prophecies about a coming Messiah and how God would visit his people

His followers were absolutely convinced that Jesus had risen from the dead.

When Jerusalem was destroyed just as Jesus had predicted, it gave even more reason to