Deity of Christ
The deity of Christ is a central doctrine of the New Testament. Here it will suffice to show that Jesus Himself affirmed that He is God.
Jesus' advice to the rich young ruler
As Jesus was making His last journey to Jerusalem, a man came to Him seeking assurance of eternal life. He was a rich man with considerable influence, for he was a ruler of the Jews (Luke 18:18), yet he was still in his youth (Matt. 19:20, 22).
17 And when he was gone forth into the way, there came one running, and kneeled to him, and asked him, Good Master, what shall I do that I may inherit eternal life?
18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
19 Thou knowest the commandments, Do not commit adultery, Do not kill, Do not steal, Do not bear false witness, Defraud not, Honour thy father and mother.
20 And he answered and said unto him, Master, all these have I observed from my youth.
21 Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
22 And he was sad at that saying, and went away grieved: for he had great possessions.
Jesus' response to the young ruler's initial query was, "Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God" (v. 18). This saying at once illuminated the essential character of each man. It showed the vanity of the young ruler in supposing that he was good. For him, the saying was a rebuke. With reference to Jesus, however, the saying could be taken in either of two ways. Either Jesus was denying that He was good, or He was holding forth His deity. The young ruler took Him the first way. When he next spoke, he dropped the complimentary "good" and addressed Jesus simply as "Master" (v. 20). Yet, for four reasons we know that Jesus had wanted him to accept the alternative meaning.
- Jesus allowed the man to kneel at His feet (v. 17). Who alone deserves to be worshiped?
- Jesus implicitly accepted the title "Master" (the Greek didaskalos is better translated "Teacher" (1)) by giving the young man authoritative teaching (vv. 19, 21).
- By challenging the man's boast of moral perfection, Jesus showed whose goodness was in doubt (v. 21).
- Jesus warned the ruler that he lacked one thing—that if he desired to inherit eternal life, he must sell all and follow Jesus. Now, whether the ruler followed another mere man could not have decided the destiny of his soul.
Jesus' rebuke of the Jews in Jerusalem who were proud of their descent from Abraham
Before these Jews, Jesus declared, "Before Abraham was, I am" (John 8:58). By so saying, He affirmed His deity in two ways.
- He placed His existence at a time thousands of years before His earthly conception. Conception by parents is the beginning of existence for every man who is not divine.
- In defining His preexistence, He used an expression familiar to the Jews as a divine name. He said not, "I was," but, "I am."
When God first appeared to Moses, He said,
. . . I AM THAT I AM: and he said, Thus shalt thou say unto the children of Israel, I AM hath sent me unto you.
God took these strange names for Himself so that Israel would not confuse Him with the ignoble gods invented by human priestcraft and superstition. Every idol is a material thing confined to the realm of time, whereas God is higher and greater than all His creation. The name "I AM" has two meanings, each showing the transcendence of God.
- "I AM" signifies that God exists entirely in the present. Having no past or future, He transcends time. Thus, He is eternal and changeless. The same qualities are implicit in the divine name that the KJV renders Jehovah. The name in Hebrew is related to the verb "to be" or "to exist" (2). Jesus' purpose in calling Himself the timeless "I AM" was to explain His existence in the remote past, even before Abraham.
- The name also signifies that God is self-existent. That is, He does not depend for His existence upon anything or anyone else.
When, in the context of asserting His existence before birth, Jesus said, "I am," the Jews understood that He was making Himself God, and they tried to stone Him for blasphemy (John 8:59).
Jesus' rebuke of the Jews who still doubted that He was the Christ
Near the end of Jesus' career, when certain Jews wearied Him by asking again whether He was the Christ, Jesus answered,
26 . . . Ye believe not, because ye are not of my sheep, as I said unto you.
27 My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me:
28 And I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.
29 My Father, which gave them me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand.
30 I and my Father are one.
If verse 30 were an isolated remark by an ordinary man, we would understand him to mean that he was in perfect fellowship with the Father, or that he shared the Father's moral outlook. But Jesus' statement, "I and my Father are one," is a far bolder claim. The context establishes the vast significance of what He is saying. He is representing Himself as equal to the Father in His ability to protect the sheep from any marauder, human or diabolic, that might seek to deprive them of eternal life. The Father is able to thwart all enemies only because, as Jesus avers, He is "greater than all" (v. 29). So, when Jesus assures us that His hand also provides absolute security (v. 28), He is implying that He also is greater than all. In other words, He is God.
The Jews had no trouble understanding Him.
31 Then the Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I shewed you from my Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
33 The Jews answered him, saying, For a good work we stone thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that thou, being a man, makest thyself God.
Jesus' confession before the Sanhedrin
When Jesus was brought to trial before the rulers of His people, they asked Him,
67 Art thou the Christ? tell us. And he said unto them, If I tell you, ye will not believe:
68 And if I also ask you, ye will not answer me, nor let me go.
69 Hereafter shall the Son of man sit on the right hand of the power of God.
70 Then said they all, Art thou then the Son of God? And he said unto them, Ye say that I am.
71 And they said, What need we any further witness? for we ourselves have heard of his own mouth.
"Son of God" was a title that Jesus had previously appropriated for Himself (John 10:36). Jesus' contemporaries found the title less ambiguous than we do. Modern theology whispers in our ears that Jesus merely recognized within Himself the spark of divinity common to all men. But Jesus' answer before His accusers puts the true meaning of the title in high relief. They asked, "Art thou then the Son of God" (v. 70). If He had said, "Yes, I am the Son of God," we might still wonder what He meant. But instead, He said, "Ye say that I am" (v. 70). In other words, "What ye say, that I am" (3). He was acknowledging the truth of the accusation, which was that He had called Himself the Son of God for the purpose of showing Himself equal with God. Upon His refusal to disown the title, the high priest tore his garments as a sign that he judged the defendant guilty of blasphemy (Matt. 26:65). Yet in representing Himself as God in the flesh, Jesus was merely confessing the truth.
Humanity of Christ
Having shown the deity of Christ, we must now, for the sake of balance, show His humanity. A correct understanding of Jesus' identity requires that we see Him as fully man as well as fully God.
Since few would doubt the humanity of Jesus, we need not develop an elaborate case for this point of doctrine. We will be content to cite two passages of Scripture, both stating unequivocally that Jesus was a man. Paul, speaking of Jesus, says,
5 Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God:
7 But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men:
8 And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Another writer says,
16 For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham.
17 Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.
18 For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.