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Doctrine of Christ
The Deity of Christ

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"There are many, in the Church as well as out of it, who need to learn that Christianity is neither a creed nor a ceremonial, but a life vitally connected with a living Christ" (Josiah Strong).

The scriptures present in no uncertain terms the deity of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, from cover to cover. References to the divine nature of Christ include both broad and explicit statements made by inspired prophets and apostles, even Jesus Himself. Additionally, the works of Christ all attest further to His Deity. This article presents a basic introduction to the deity of Christ, who is the second person of the Triune Godhead.

Divine Names and Titles of Christ
The Greek word Kurios is used in both the Septuagint1 and the New Testament as a divine title. While the word may sometimes be used as merely a respectful designation meaning, "sir" (Matt. 13:27; 21:30) or "master" (Matt. 6:24; 21:40), it is used especially and prominently as a divine label meaning "Lord2." In fact, Kurios is the regular Greek translation for "Lord" in the Septuagint, appearing over 6800 times in place of the Hebrew Yahweh. Even more important than the Septuagint uses of the word are Old Testament passages referring to the Lord (Yahweh) that are quoted by inspired New Testament authors using the specific word, Kurios. These authors directly apply these passages to Jesus Christ (Isa. 40:3 compared with Matt. 3:3; Ps. 110:1 compared with Matt. 22:42-45), thereby equating Jesus with Kurios and Yahweh. Other New Testament authors further testify that Jesus is Lord, Kurios (1 Cor. 8:6; 12:3; Heb. 1:10-12; Rev. 19:16), using this same term that is used equivalently of the Father (Matt 9:38; 11:25; Acts 17:24; Rev. 4:11).

The Greek term for "God," is Theos, which is similar to the Hebrew term, Elohim. Christ is explicitly declared to be God (Theos) by multiple New Testament authors with the most well known probably being John. In the first chapter of his gospel, John writes:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. In Him was life, and the life was the light of men (John 1:1-4, emphasis added).
With the Word identified as Christ in v. 14, John is clearly stating that Jesus was God in these opening verses. The parallel of Jesus as Theos in John 1:1 with Elohim in Genesis 1, is clear from the inclusion of the prepositional phrase, "in the beginning." Jesus is presented as Creator God, the source of all life. Furthermore, Jesus, the second person of the Trinity, is the only one that has seen and been with God (John 1:18, where several manuscripts read "The only begotten God"). The disciple Thomas exclaimed before the resurrected Christ, "My Lord [Kurios] and my God [Theos]," fully attesting to the fact that Jesus was God3. Other New Testament authors offer witness to the deity of Christ by applying the same noun, Theos, to Christ (Rom. 9:5; Tit. 2:11-13; Heb. 1:8). Perhaps most glaring is that Jesus is the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy and is Almighty God (Isa. 9:6).

The Son of God
While the scriptures use the title "son of God" to refer to the nation of Israel (Matt. 2:15), man as a creature of God (Luke 3:38), and believers in Christ (Rom. 8:14, 19, 23), the expression "The Son of God," is uniquely applied to Jesus as the second person of the Trinity. As the Son of God, Jesus uniquely knows the Father, has been entrusted with all things, and is the one who gives rest to believers (Matt. 11:25-30). No one else may claim this title and the supreme authority that comes with it.

The Son of Man
While it less emphasizes the deity of Christ than the other titles mentioned above, the title "The Son of Man," does uniquely refer to Christ's divine nature. In the gospels it is used of Jesus over 80 times, only by Jesus and only of Himself. The term's only other use in the New Testament is by Stephen in the Book of Acts, where it is applied directly to Christ (Acts 7:56). From the Book of Daniel, it is known that the Son of Man is the Sovereign One who was to come and rule over all. The Jews understood Jesus' claim to deity when He applied this verse to Himself (equivalently with the term "The Son of God") during His ministry and cried blasphemy against Him (Matt. 26:64-66; Mark 14:61-64).

Perhaps the most beautiful word referring to God's covenant with His people, Jesus is prophesied to come as Emmanuel, which literally means "God with us" (Isa. 7:14; Isa. 8:8). Matthew depicts Jesus as the fulfillment of these prophetic verses (Matt. 1:23) and rightly brings out the plain and basic fact that Jesus was God in the flesh (John 1:14; Col. 2:9; 1 Tim. 3:16; Rev. 21:3).

Alpha & Omega
Jesus is also the Alpha and the Omega (the first and last letters of the Greek alphabet), the First and the Last, and the Beginning and the End (Rev 1:8,17; 21:6; 22:13). These titles all emphasize that Jesus is the Only God (Isa. 44:6), united in essence with the Father and the Holy Spirit. In Him is creation, salvation, and ultimate judgment. In Him all things move and have their being.

Christ as God in John's Gospel
When God revealed Himself to Moses as Yahweh ("I AM" - Ex. 3:14), His people knew Him by that supreme and holy name henceforth. In fact, the name was revered so highly as referring to Almighty God, that the vowels were left out of the name when it was written. John, however, specifically applies the Greek equivalent (ego eimi) directly to Christ (John 8:56-59). In John's gospel especially, Christ becomes the "I AM" in at least seven other instances:
  • the bread of life (6:35)
  • the light of the world (8:12)
  • the gate for the sheep (10:7)
  • the good shepherd (10:11)
  • the resurrection and the life (11:25)
  • the way and the truth and the life (14:6)
  • the true vine (15:1)
Either Christ is self-centered and egotistical (and by definition a blasphemer against God) or He is Truly God, the Great I AM. The Jews stoned Him for the former, while Jesus (and the Apostle John) affirms the latter.

The Apostle John regularly portrays Christ as the unique Son of God who only has held the glory of the Father (1:14), only seen the Father (1:18), uniquely revealed the Father (8:19; 14:9), singly brought salvation (3:16; 3:36; 20:31), and is the sovereign One over life and death (3:36; 5:20-22, 25; 10:17). The pre-existent Christ (5:23; 5:37; 10:36) alone knows the Father, according to John.

Christ as God in the Book of Hebrews
Chapters one through three of the Book of Hebrews establish the superiority of Jesus over the prophets, the angels, and the highly revered servant of God, Moses (while later establishing the work of Christ as superior and final over all the ordinances and ceremonies of the foretelling Levitical Priesthood). Perhaps most strikingly, the author of Hebrews begins his epistle:
God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power, when He had by Himself purged our sins, sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high… (Heb. 1:1-3, emphasis added).
No one other than God Himself can create the worlds, be the brightness of God's glory, exactly represent God, uphold all things, or purge sins. Therefore, the Book of Hebrews affirms the Deity of Christ in even its opening verses.

Christ's Attributes / Acts of Deity
This is the "if He looks, sounds, smells, and tastes like God, He is God" argument. In fact, Jesus' very attributes and acts of Deity prove He was God. For, Jesus was omnipotent (Matt. 8:27, especially in light of Ps. 65:5-7, Ps. 89:9, and Ps. 107:28-29; see also John 2:1-11 and John 14:17-21), and no one other than God is omnipotent. Jesus was uniquely and eternally pre-existent with God (John 8:58; Rev. 22:13). Jesus was omniscient (John 16:30; 21:17), especially with respect to the hearts of men and who the Father was drawing unto Him (Mark 2:8; John 6:64; John 2:25). Jesus was immortal as to His Divine nature (1 Tim. 6:16) and sovereign over all life, including His own incarnate existence (John 10:17-19; see also Heb. 7:16).

Another particularly strong basis for Jesus' Deity is His sovereignty over many things which only God can be sovereign over. This is particularly obvious when it comes to Jesus' sovereignty over forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:5), the Sabbath (Mark 2:27-28), and revelation (Matt. 11:27). Even in His office of prophet, Jesus instead of stating "here comes God's word…," stated directly that "I tell you…." Certainly, no one other than God may make such a distinctive self-claim of authority.

Likewise undeniable to the Deity of Christ is His worthiness of worship. When it comes to worship, there is only One who may be rightly worshipped, and that is God alone (Commandments one, two and three in Exodus 20:3-7). Worship of anything other than God is worship of creation and amounts to nothing more than idolatry (Rom. 1:22-23, 25; note the reaction of Paul and Barnabas at receipt of worship in Acts 14:14-15). Not even the angels may be rightly worshipped (Rev. 19:10). But Jesus is declared to be worthy of worship (Phil. 2:9-11; Heb. 1:6; Rev. 5:11-14) and regularly received worship throughout His ministry on earth with not a single objection by Him (Matt. 2:2, 8, 11; 8:2; 9:18; 15:25; 28:9; 28:17; John 9:38). That Jesus is to be worshipped (Rev. 5:11-14) in the same fashion that the Father is to be worshipped (Rev. 4:10) is a result only of the fact that Jesus was God.

Christ's Direct Claim To Deity
It has often been said that even though the New Testament testifies to His Deity, Jesus never explicitly claimed to be God. As if Thomas' exclamation approved by Christ, "My Lord and My God!" was not enough, a statement like that could only be made by one who has merely read the scriptures out of the original setting, not accounting for the understanding the hearers would have originally had. In fact, even John records that the Jews acknowledged Jesus' direct claims of deity and therefore accounted it against Him as blasphemy (John 19:7). Nevertheless, the scriptures do present fascinating direct claims of deity made by Jesus.

A significant example of a direct claim of deity by Christ occurred when Jesus was examined by the Sanhedrin before Caiaphas the High Priest. The key verses follow:
But Jesus kept silent. And the high priest answered and said to Him, "I put You under oath by the living God: Tell us if You are the Christ, the Son of God!" Jesus said to him, "It is as you said. Nevertheless, I say to you, hereafter you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Power, and coming on the clouds of heaven." Then the high priest tore his clothes, saying, "He has spoken blasphemy! What further need do we have of witnesses? Look, now you have heard His blasphemy! What do you think?" (Matt 26:63-66
Jesus' affirmation alone that He was the Messiah and the Son of God would be a sufficient claim to deity. However, Jesus further clarified his claim to avoid any confusion in how to interpret "Christ" or the "Son of God." In claiming that the Son of Man (a term which Jesus used to refer to Himself regularly in His earthly ministry, as explained above) would sit at the right hand of God and return from the clouds of heaven, Jesus left no room for doubt about His claim to deity. To the first century Jew, Jesus' claim of a direct relationship with God (even though He used the term "Power" rather than "Yahweh" and thereby avoided pronouncing the revered title) and His future power as judge equated to blasphemy so grieving, that the High Priest tore his clothes (see more tearing of clothes as anger for the sake of God in 2 Kings 18:37 and Acts 14:14) and cried "blasphemy" against Jesus. While those in the 21st century can read the verses and not see a direct claim to deity, those in the first knew exactly what Christ claimed.

A similar and most direct claim to being God is made by Christ in the eighth chapter of John's gospel:
Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad." Then the Jews said to Him, "You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?" Jesus said to them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM." Then they took up stones to throw at Him; but Jesus hid Himself and went out of the temple, going through the midst of them, and so passed by (John 8:56-59, emphasis added).
Not only is Jesus plainly affirming His pre-existence to the Jews in these verses, but He is also making it clear that He is the great I AM, Yahweh God. Had He only intended to say that He preceded Abraham, He would easily have said, "before Abraham was, I was." However, the use of the present tense following the past is implemented not to confuse grammaticians, but to clearly communicate to His listeners that He is Yahweh. Again, while one might read this in the 21st century and declare that this is not a direct claim to deity, the first century setting leaves no room for ambiguity. As before, the Jews understood exactly what Jesus was claiming and subsequently attempted to stone Him before He departed.

Importance of Christ's Deity
First, The validity of the atonement stands or falls upon the deity of Christ. For, how could any created being withstand the full wrath of God? Second, how could man trust in anything other than God to bring men to salvation? It is because Jesus was fully God that man is guaranteed salvation. Third, putting salvation in the hands of anyone other than God is to give credit to creature rather than creator. Fourth, worship of God depends on the deity of Christ, for the worship of anything other than God is idolatry. And worship of God without worship of Christ is incomplete.

That Jesus was, is, and forever will be Lord God Almighty is a constant and fundamental teaching of the Holy Bible. It is attested to by the prophets and apostles, by the actions and character of Christ, and even by the direct claims of Christ. Because Jesus is fully God, He is well suited a savior of His people. He is worthy of worship and rightly to be worshipped by His People.

1The Septuagint is the Greek translation of the Old Testament that was in existence at the time of Christ.

2That the word is not used exclusively as a mere title (with no necessary divine implications), one need only turn to Luke 1:43, where the term is used of Christ before He was even born. This verse requires that the term Kurios refer to the deity of Christ, as no one would use such an address of respect to one who was not even born yet.

3Take note that Jesus would have corrected Thomas if what he said was not true or a taking of the Lord's Name in vain. Yet, the Apostle John directly approves of it and includes it in his gospel to highlight his very purpose of proclaiming Jesus as Lord and God.

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