Jesus is God
The debate over the deity of Christ is certainly not new. It was one of the main reasons for convening the first Council of Nicaea in the fourth century. Over time, various views disputing Christ’s deity arose; here are some of the main ones:
- Subordinationism: The Father ranks over the Son, who ranks over the Holy Spirit. Neither the Son nor the Spirit are of the same divine nature as the Father.
- Arianism grew out of Subordinationism, and adds that the Father created the Son, who created everything else.
- Socinianism takes the next step of saying that the Son was a mere holy man who did not exist prior to his earthly conception— which paints the Gospel writers as liars. It also denies the personhood of the Spirit, and by extention the Trinity. Thus the Son could not be the substitutionary sacrifice for mankind, which is the key to the dispute.
To Athanasius, the 20th bishop of Alexandria who was prominent in the debate against Arius at the 1st Council of Nicaea, Christ’s divinity was no trifling matter. Salvation itself was at stake, because only someone who was fully human could atone for human sin, and only someone who was fully divine could have the power to save us. The logic of the New Testament doctrine of salvation assumes the dual nature of Christ.
There are other -isms than these of course, but it demonstrates the fact that this debate has been raging ever since the apostles died. With that being the case, we shouldn’t think that we’ll settle the dispute any time soon. What we can do is present our arguments and let the readers weigh the evidence for themselves, paying careful attention to whether a claim can be ruled out. I would also ask the readers to weigh between that which is explicitly stated, and that which is only implicit. Ockham’s Razor is a good guide on any complex or controversial topic. Or as it was put by Dr. David L. Cooper (1886-1965), founder of The Biblical Research Society,
When the plain sense of Scripture makes common sense, seek no other sense; therefore, take every word at its primary, ordinary, usual, literal meaning unless the facts of the immediate context, studied in the light of related passages and axiomatic and fundamental truths, indicate clearly otherwise.
This isn’t a special rule for the Bible; it’s just good reading comprehension.
God, Lord, Father, Son, Savior, Messiah
We’ll begin our study with Zech 12:10 (Hebrew and Greek), which states that
they (house of David and citizens of Jerusalem) will look upon me and mourn for him. Whether one wishes to interpret this as a Messianic prophecy or not, such a meaning cannot be ruled out; it has as much validity as any alternative.
Now look at Isaiah 52:13-53:12. If you try and substitute Israel throughout the passage it makes no sense. Again, though some interpret the passage as referring to Israel in some metaphorical way, the literal interpretation cannot be ruled out, and it’s the simplest, most straightforward explanation.
Look also at Isaiah 9:6, where the Son is called the Everlasting Father and the Mighty God. To invoke metaphor is to beg the question, as is the idea that these titles are merely honorary. The same holds true for Deut. 32:15, Isaiah 43:11, and Hosea 13:4, which say that God is the only Savior.
New Testament references to these titles are found in Luke 2:11, John 4:42, Acts 5:31, 13:23, Phil. 3:20, and Titus 2:13. Regarding that last one, grammatically speaking, both of the nouns (God and Savior) modify Christ. The koine (1st cent. common) Greek rule called the TSKS construction (see Sharp’s rules), is that whenever we see (1)the definite article, (2)a noun, (3)and, (4)a noun, they always refer to the same person. Therefore the expression
the God and Savior Jesus refers only to Jesus. So here we have an explicit affirmation of the deity of Christ, and no valid reason to ignore the grammar or twist it to split God and Jesus.
Next take a look at Mt. 22:41-46, where Jesus quotes Psalm 110:1 and asks the Pharisees how the Messiah could merely be a descendant of David. They were stumped— which was no easy task, if you know anything about the Pharisees. But see also Ps. 110:4, which identifies this
Lord as an eternal priest in the order of Melchizedek, a priesthood not part of the line of Aaron and Levi. For anyone interested, there’s much more about this priesthood in Heb. chapters 5-7, and of course Gen. 14:18-20.
An often-overlooked factor in this debate is the matter of appearances or visibility of God. As you study some of the pertinent passages, 1 Cor. 10:1-4, Col. 1:15-20, and Col. 2:9, you see that any time God
appears it must be Jesus. This includes all Old Testament theophanies.
A good man
Would a mere
good man or
not God say the words in these references? Take a look at Mark 2:5-7, Mark 14:61-64, John 2:19-21, John 8:23-24,58-59, John 14:6-9, John 10:28-33, Rev. 1:8, Rev. 21:6, and Rev. 22:13,16. It should be very clear that no mere good man could utter those words. In addition to those, we have the clear declarations given in these passages:
Mat. 1:23, John 1:1-5,14,29-30,45, John 17:5, John 20:28, Phil. 2:6-7, and Heb. 1:2-10. Note also that both Mat. 2:2 and Rev. 19:10 use the word for worship (G4352 προσκυνεω). It was directed at Jesus as a baby, and when John tried to direct it to the angel in Rev. he was told it was only for God.
At a point in time, Jesus added human nature to God nature, which explains how Jesus could both be God and pray to God. Now as you also check Heb. 2:17, Acts 13:33, Heb. 5:5, and 1 Cor. 2:7-8, what other explanation can be given for all this? It says that Jesus had to become like us in every way. And since one cannot become what one already is,
Today I have become your Father means there was an unprecedented event that happened at a point in time, a colossal change. In fact, we see that this Jesus was
the Lord of Glory who would not have been crucified if this had not been kept hidden from the rulers of this age. How could attributes that hadn’t changed from eternity past have been kept hidden?
Consider also the Great Commission in Mat. 28:19, where Jesus says to baptize in the name (singular) of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
The New Covenant
Finally, we must consider the matter of covenants. There were at least 5 major covenants as illustrated here. Note especially the only bilateral and conditional covenant among them: the one between God and the people of Israel, as shown in Ex. 19-24. Now look at Heb. 9:15-18; it is Jesus who mediates the new covenant, via his death and shed blood, because the death of the testator had to be proved before it could be in force. Who was the testator, the one who made the covenant? God. Remember also what Jesus said at the Last Supper in
Luke 22:20, quoted again in 1 Cor. 11:25:
This cup is the New Covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.
Arguments against the deity of Christ have failed to demonstrate that it can be ruled out, given that the many passages cited here must all be dismissed as meaning something other than what they say. The argument against the deity of Christ relies heavily upon implication to change explicit statements affirming his deity into mere euphemisms.
The clincher is that only God could enact the New Covenant, and only by proving his death. A mere good man, or especially a being who is neither human nor divine, could never be the sacrifice for sin— the Redeemer, the Mediator, the Savior. Only God can be those things, and Jesus is those things. It can’t be stated any clearer or simpler than this:
- Only God’s death could enact the New Covenant
- Jesus’ death enacted the New Covenant
- ∴Jesus is God