Is Jesus Deity?
by Dave Brown
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Alleged Bible Contradiction Series …
Let us consider some preliminary concepts before getting into this article.
Trinity. We agree that the word “trinity” is not in the Bible and that it was created by men. We will not question their motivations, but trying to define and use this word is not going to promote our understand of what the Bible teaches. For this article let us just see what the Bible says with regard to the deity of Jesus Christ, and that should move us a major step forward in the direction of the full truth regarding this aspect of the nature of God.
A note concerning 1 Jn. 5:20. We will not base any of our conclusions on this verse. There are two major ancient Greek manuscripts from which New Testament translations are derived, and they are not perfectly consistent on this verse. They do not contradict each other as far as the truth is concerned, but it is clear that one translation says more than the other. The answer to our question is adequately covered in other passages, as we shall see. So we see no need in potentially creating needless discussion over 1 Jn. 5:20 in this discussion. We believe that both manuscripts contain truth and other than the wording, there is no contradiction between them.
Motivations for questioning Jesus’ deity. We have seen some false teachers use this question to confuse and lead astray those who do not have a solid biblical foundation. Their objectives may have nothing to do with establishing the true answer to this question, and everything to do with discrediting the Bible as God’s communication of the truth. If this is true then their guile alone is sinful and they need to repent. While it is impossible to determine motives, it seems that some have grasped upon this potential conflict to degrade our faith in God’s word, claiming that the manuscripts were altered to teach false doctrine. To this we respond that we have the promise of Jesus that the truth of His word will never pass away (Mt. 24:35; Mk. 13:31; Lk. 21:33). If you do not believe these words of Jesus, then the words of this article will be of little use to you.
What does it mean when we say Jesus is Deity? Before our study, let us pause to address this question. What do we mean when we say that a particular being is deity? We mean that this being has the divine characteristics (e.g., omniscience, omnipresence, omnipotence), and that this being has no beginning or end (was not created and is immortal). This article will demonstrate that the Bible clearly states that these are characteristics to Jesus Christ, and therefore we are perfectly scriptural (consistent with the Bible) in declaring that Jesus is Deity of God. Many who object to this statement claim that the Bible teaches that there is only one God (which is true). Since there is only one God, let us view the subject in terms of an alleged contradiction.
The Alleged Contradiction
This alleged Bible contradiction is illustrated by the following two passages:
1 Corinthians 8:6
… there is one God, the Father, …
John 1:1; 14
1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
1:14 And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth.
The teaching of the first passage is that there is one God and Paul refers to Him as “the Father.” John, on the other hand states that the Word was both with God and was God, and John identifies the “Word” in verse 14 as being Jesus Christ. How can this be?
From a physical perspective this would seem to be a contradiction; even John 1:1 would seem to be a physical impossibility – how could someone be God at the same time as being with God? To resolve these issues, let us first appeal to some scholarship to be sure that we are getting the full meaning of the Greek words that are being used in these passages. The following is from Barnes’ commentary on John 1:1:
There is no variation here in the manuscripts, and critics have observed that the Greek will bear no other construction than what is expressed in our translation-that the Word "was God."
1. The name Logos, or Word, is given to Christ in reference to his becoming the Teacher or Instructor of mankind; the medium of communication between God and man.
2. The name was in use at the time of John, and it was his design to state the correct doctrine respecting the Logos.
3. The "Word," or Logos, existed "before creation" - of course was not a "creature," and must have been, therefore, from eternity.
4. He was "with God" - that is, he was united to him in a most intimate and close union BEFORE the creation; and, as it could not be said that God was "with himself," it follows that the Logos was in some sense DISTINCT from God, or that there was a DISTINCTION between the Father and the Son. When we say that one is "with another," we imply that there is some sort of distinction between them.
[Conclusions with regard to this passage:]
1. that the second person is in some sense "distinct" from the first.
2. that he is intimately united with the first person in essence, so that there are not two or more Gods.
3. that the second person may be called by the same name; has the same attributes; performs the same works; and is entitled to the same honors with the first, and that therefore he is "the same in substance, and equal in power and glory," with God.
(from Barnes' Notes, Electronic Database Copyright © 1997, 2003 by Biblesoft, Inc. All rights reserved.)
The perceived contradiction occurs when we view the two persons (the Father and the Son/Word) through physical eyes. Indeed this is impossible, for two different physical entities cannot be the same entity. But when we are talking in spiritual terms, in terms of the truth of God and the authority of God, then two entities that have a single mind with regard to the truth must be regarded as one. God and Jesus today cannot be properly viewed as physical entities – they are spiritual in nature, and in their goodness and perfect truth, they are one. This is what Jesus was trying to communicate to the Jews who were jealous of his rising popularity in the following:
30 I and the Father are one.
31 The Jews took up stones again to stone him.
32 Jesus answered them, Many good works have I showed you from the Father; for which of those works do ye stone me?
33 The Jews answered him, For a good work we stone thee not, but for blasphemy; and because that you, being a man, make yourself God.
It is very clear that Jesus was not claiming to be the Father. At the same time, he was claiming to be one with the Father, and thus God. The Jews perceived this and accused him of making himself God. If their accusations were false, Jesus would have merely denied the accusation. But clearly, he did not. Similarly in:
54 Jesus answered, If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing: it is my Father that glorifies me; of whom ye say, that he is your God;
55 and ye have not known him: but I know him; and if I should say, I know him not, I shall be like unto you, a liar: but I know him, and keep his word.
56 Your father Abraham rejoiced to see my day; and he saw it, and was glad.
57 The Jews therefore said unto him, Thou art not yet fifty years old, and hast thou seen Abraham?
58 Jesus said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, Before Abraham was born, I AM.
59 They took up stones therefore to cast at him: but Jesus hid himself, and went out of the temple.
Again, Jesus made a clear distinction between himself and the Father. And again, if Jesus was not claiming to be Deity, then he could have simply denied their charges. Jesus claimed to have a pre-existence before coming to this earth, totally consistent with John 1 (discussed above). It is also notable that Jesus calls himself “I AM” – the name that God gave to call Himself in Exodus 3:14.
But Wasn’t Jesus a Man?
Yes, he was; and we have found no better passage to resolve this potential issue than the following:
5 Have this mind in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
6 who, existing in the form of God, counted not the being on an equality with God a thing to be grasped,
7 but emptied himself, taking the form of a servant, being made in the likeness of men;
8 and being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, becoming obedient (even) unto death, yea, the death of the cross.
9 Wherefore also God highly exalted him, and gave unto him the name which is above every name;
10 that in the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of (things) in heaven and (things) on earth and (things) under the earth,
11 and that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
We know from other passages discussed in this article that Jesus was not a created being – He had no beginning, has existed and will exist eternally. In verse 6 above this is described as “existing in a form of God.” We invite the reader to do a detailed word study on the Greek word morfee (form) in order to see that this is not talking about being “something like” – it is talking about having the “full nature of” (in this case, God). The scriptures give us a quick verification of this since the exact Greek word is used in the next verse. Jesus took on the “form of a servant.” No one who knows Jesus Christ would say that he was “something like” a servant – indeed that very thought is repugnant. Jesus Christ was the epitome of a servant, and similarly, He is also every bit God.
So, how could he be both a man and God? Verse 7 explains this. He emptied himself. If he was not God, of what could he possibly empty Himself? What did he give up to become a man? We do not pretend to be able to answer this question in detail, but a detailed answer is unnecessary. We do know that Jesus “has been in all points tempted like as (we are, yet) without sin” (Hebrews 4:15). It was necessary for him to give up some of his divine characteristics in order that he could become our great high priest who can “be touched with the feeling of our infirmities.” Much more could be said, but this should be sufficient to understand how we can refer to Jesus when on this earth as being simultaneously both 100% man and 100% God.
Jesus’ Pre-existence and Participation in Creation
Philippians 2 showed that Jesus had a pre-existence before being born of Mary; the following verse states it explicitly:
5 And now, Father, glorify thou me with thine own self with the glory which I had with thee before the world was.
Jesus was with the Father before creation. The following passages clearly show that Jesus Christ was present and participated in the creation of all things. Jesus is not a created being – He created all things.
13 [the Father] … who delivered us out of the power of darkness, and translated us into the kingdom of the Son of his love;
14 in whom we have our redemption, the forgiveness of our sins:
15 who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation;
16 for in him were all things created , in the heavens and upon the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things have been created through him, and unto him;
17 and he is before all things, and in him all things consist.
18 And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
2 The same was in the beginning with God.
3 All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made.
Other Supporting Passages
27 Then saith he to Thomas, Reach hither thy finger, and see my hands; and reach (hither) thy hand, and put it into my side: and be not faithless, but believing.
28 Thomas answered and said unto him, "My Lord and my God."
Jesus would never have consented to be called God if that were not a valid designation. Surely if Thomas could call Jesus God, then it cannot be a sin for us to call Jesus God and ascribe to him all of the characteristics of God.
8 but of the Son (he saith,) Thy throne, O God, is for ever and ever; And the scepter of uprightness is the scepter of thy kingdom.
9 Thou hast loved righteousness, and hated iniquity; Therefore God, thy God, hath anointed thee With the oil of gladness above thy fellows.
10 And, Thou, Lord, in the beginning didst lay the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the works of thy hands:
11 They shall perish; but you continue: And they all shall wax old as doth a garment;
12 And as a mantle shalt thou roll them up, As a garment, and they shall be changed: But thou art the same, And thy years shall not fail.
There can be no dispute that the writer here is referring to “the Son” who is Jesus Christ.
And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplication; and they shall look unto me whom they have pierced; and they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his first-born.
This shows the participation of Jesus in the inspiration of this prophecy. Compare this with Joel 2:28-32 ("I will pour out my Spirit upon all flesh;...), which Peter on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:17-21) confirmed was speaking of that precise day. In other words, Zechariah is prophesying the feelings that the Jews on Pentecost and afterward would have when confronted with the fact that they had slain the Son of God. Indeed "the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy" (Revelation 19:10), so we know that Jesus was not only the one who sent the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:4-5; John 15:26; 16:7) to the apostles, but was involved in all prophecy for all times.
The following passages have been used to object against Jesus being God.
36 But the witness which I have is greater than (that of) John; for the works which the Father hath given me to accomplish, the very works that I do, bear witness of me, that the Father hath sent me.
37 And the Father that sent me, he hath borne witness of me. Ye have neither heard his voice at any time, nor seen his form.
The argument here is that Jesus was sent by the Father and thus was not God. See the discussion of Philippians 2 above. Jesus emptied himself and became for us the perfect example of obedience before God the Father. He said often that he was not doing his own will but that of the Father, which was essential if he was going to totally obey and fulfill the Law of Moses. He could not be a perfect example for them (his contemporary Jews) and for us if he had not emptied himself of being God in order to be able to experience what humans experience. His obedience extended to his death on the cross. This passage is in no way inconsistent with Jesus being God. It only illustrates the extent to which the love of God extends to us if we would only accept it.
8 Philip said unto him, Lord, show us the Father, and it suffices us.
9 Jesus said unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and dost thou not know me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; how do you say, Show us the Father?
10 Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me does his works.
11 Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works' sake.
12 Verily, verily, I say unto you, he that believes on me, the works that I do shall he do also; and greater (works) than these shall he do; because I go unto the Father.
13 And whatsoever ye shall ask in my name, that will I do, that the Father may be glorified in the Son.
This passage is often used in an attempt to prove that Jesus was the Father, especially verse 9. But is Jesus saying that they were identical? Read on, and even in this very context Jesus makes it clear that he is a separate entity (a separate being) from the Father. But, because the Father was “in Jesus” in the sense that Jesus was totally subservient to the Father while on this earth, when they saw Jesus, they saw the Father. There could be no greater or clearer illustration of the Father than the personal presence of Jesus. Today we can obtain that presence by learning and rendering obedience to God’s word, as indicated by Matthew 18:20: “For where two or three are gathered together in my name, there am I in the midst of them.”
Sometimes we are challenged to produce specific words of Jesus that state that he is deity. The following words could be said by none other than one who is Himself Deity. The fact that they are the words of Jesus can be confirmed from verse 12 (since Jesus is the one who is going to come again unto judgment), and verse 16 that states it explicitly.
12 Behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to render to each man according as his work is.
13 I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.
14 Blessed are they that wash their robes, that they may have the right (to come) to the tree of life, and may enter in by the gates into the city.
15 Without are the dogs, and the sorcerers, and the fornicators, and the murderers, and the idolaters, and every one that loves and makes a lie.
16 I Jesus have sent mine angel to testify unto you these things for the churches. I am the root and the offspring of David, the bright, the morning star.
17 And the Spirit and the bride say, Come. And he that hears, let him say, Come. And he that is athirst, let him come: he that will, let him take the water of life freely.
18 I testify unto every man that hears the words of the prophecy of this book, if any man shall add unto them, God shall add unto him the plagues which are written in this book:
19 and if any man shall take away from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his part from the tree of life, and out of the holy city, which are written in this book.
20 He who testifies these things says, Yea: I come quickly. Amen: come, Lord Jesus.
21 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with the saints. Amen.
It is impossible to read this article and fail to conclude that the preponderance of scriptural evidence declares quite definitively that Jesus is a divine being, i.e., God or Deity. One might choose not to believe the holy scriptures, but if you believe that the Bible is the word of God (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and that God has given us his promises that His word will never pass away (Mt. 5:18; 24:34; Mk. 13:31; Lk. 21:33), then the belief that Jesus is God is inescapable.
For non-Bible believers to teach that the Bible declares that Jesus is not God is clearly an identifiable lie. So this final question: if someone now tells you that the Bible does not teach that Jesus is God, what is your opinion of them going to be? Options: a) they have no right to try to tell you what the Bible says because it is obvious that they do not know it themselves; or b) they are flat out lying to you for some ulterior reason -- we know that you will know what it is -- do not be deceived.
What are the conditions of salvation according to Jesus?
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