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Is Jesus really God? There are many cults and false religions today that deny it. What is the truth about Jesus Christ? We turn to the Scriptures for the answer.
Is Jesus really God? There are many cults and false religions today that deny it. The Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, believe Jesus was created by the Father billions of years ago as the Archangel Michael and is hence a “lesser god” than the Father. The Mormons say Jesus was born as the first and greatest spirit child of the Heavenly Father and heavenly mother, and was the spirit-brother of Lucifer. New Agers claim Jesus was an enlightened master. Unitarian Universalists say Jesus was just a good moral teacher. What is the truth about Jesus Christ? We turn to the Scriptures for the answer.
There are numerous evidences for the absolute deity of Jesus Christ in the Bible. The following is a summary of the more important evidences.
Jesus Christ possesses divine names—names that can only be used of God. For example:
Jesus is Yahweh. Yahweh is a very common Hebrew name for God in the Old Testament, occurring over 5,300 times. It is translated Lord (all capitals) in many English translations of the Bible.
We first learn of this name in Exodus 3, where Moses asked God by what name He should be called. God replied to him, “I AM WHO I AM. . . .Thus you shall say to the children of Israel, ‘I AM has sent me to you’ ” (verse 14). Yahweh is basically a shortened form of “I AM WHO I AM” (verse 15). The name conveys the idea of eternal self-existence. Yahweh never came into being at a point in time for He has always existed.
Jesus implicitly ascribed this divine name to himself during a confrontation He had with a group of hostile Jews. He said, “I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM” (John 8:58). Jesus deliberately contrasted the created origin of Abraham—whom the Jews venerated—with His own eternal, uncreated nature as God.
Jesus is Kurios. The New Testament Greek equivalent of the Old Testament Hebrew name Yahweh is Kurios. Used of God, Kurios carries the idea of a sovereign being who exercises absolute authority. The word is translated Lord in English translations of the Bible.
The affirmation that “Jesus is Lord” (Kurios) in the New Testament constitutes a clear affirmation that Jesus is Yahweh.
To an early Christian accustomed to reading the Old Testament, the word Lord, when used of Jesus, would point to His identification with the God of the Old Testament (Yahweh). Hence, the affirmation that “Jesus is Lord” (Kurios) in the New Testament constitutes a clear affirmation that Jesus is Yahweh, as is the case in passages like Romans 10:9, 1 Corinthians 12:3, and Philippians 2:5–11.
Jesus is Elohim. Elohim is a Hebrew name that is used of God 2,570 times in the Old Testament. The name literally means “strong one,” and its plural ending (im in Hebrew) indicates fullness of power. Elohim is portrayed in the Old Testament as the powerful and sovereign governor of the universe, ruling over the affairs of humankind.
Jesus is recognized as both Yahweh and Elohim in the prophecy in Isaiah 40:3: “Prepare the way of the Lord [Yahweh]; make straight in the desert a highway for our God [Elohim].” This verse was written in reference to John the Baptist preparing for the coming of Christ (as confirmed in John 1:23) and represents one of the strongest affirmations of Christ’s deity in the Old Testament. In Isaiah 9:6, we likewise read a prophecy of Christ with a singular variant (El) of Elohim: “And His name will be called Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God [El], Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”
Jesus is Theos. The New Testament Greek word for God, Theos, is the corresponding parallel to the Old Testament Hebrew term Elohim. A well-known example of Christ being addressed as God (Theos) is found in the story of “doubting Thomas” in John 20. In this passage, Thomas witnesses the resurrected Christ and worshipfully responds: “My Lord and my God [Theos]” (John 20:28).
Jesus is called Theos throughout the rest of the New Testament. For example, when a jailer asked Paul and Silas how to be saved, they responded: “Believe on the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household” (Acts 16:31). After the jailer believed and became saved, he “rejoiced, having believed in God [Theos] with all his household” (verse 34). Believing in Christ and believing in God are seen as identical acts.
Jesus possesses attributes that belong only to God.
Jesus is eternal. John 1:1 affirms: “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” The word was in this verse is an imperfect tense, indicating continuous, ongoing existence. When the timespace universe came into being, Christ already existed (Hebrews 1:8–11).
Jesus is self-existent. As the Creator of all things (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2), Christ himself must be uncreated. Colossians 1:17 tells us that Christ is “before all things, and in Him all things consist.”
Jesus is everywhere-present. Christ promised His disciples, “Where two or three are gathered together in My name, I am there in the midst of them” (Matthew 18:20). Since people all over the world gather in Christ’s name, the only way He could be present with them all is if He is truly omnipresent (see Matthew 28:20; Ephesians 1:23, 4:10; Colossians 3:11).
Jesus is all-knowing. Jesus knew where the fish were in the water (Luke 5:4, 6; John 21:6–11), and He knew just which fish contained the coin (Matthew 17:27). He knew the future (John 11:11, 18:4), specific details that would be encountered (Matthew 21:2–4), and knew from a distance that Lazarus had died (John 11:14). He also knows the Father as the Father knows Him (Matthew 11:27; John 7:29, 8:55, 10:15, 17:25).
Jesus is all-powerful. Christ created the entire universe (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2) and sustains the universe by His own power (Colossians 1:17; Hebrews 1:3). During His earthly ministry, He exercised power over nature (Luke 8:25), physical diseases (Mark 1:29–31), demonic spirits (Mark 1:32–34), and even death (John 11:1–44).
Jesus is sovereign. Christ presently sits at the right hand of God the Father, “angels and authorities and powers having been made subject to Him” (1 Peter 3:22). When Christ comes again in glory, He will be adorned with a majestic robe, and on the thigh section of the robe will be the words, “KING OF KINGS AND LORD OF LORDS” (Revelation 19:16).
Jesus is sinless. Jesus challenged Jewish leaders: “Which of you convicts Me of sin?” (John 8:46). The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as “Him who knew no sin” (2 Corinthians 5:21). Jesus is one who “loved righteousness and hated lawlessness” (Hebrews 1:9), was “without sin” (Hebrews 4:15), and was “holy, harmless, [and] undefiled” (Hebrews 7:26).
Jesus always spoke in His own divine authority. He never said, “Thus saith the Lord” as did the prophets; He always said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you. . . .” He never retracted anything He said, never guessed or spoke with uncertainty, never made revisions, never contradicted himself, and never apologized for what He said. He even asserted, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but My words will by no means pass away” (Mark 13:31), hence elevating His words directly to the realm of heaven.
Jesus’ deity is also proved by His miracles. His miracles are often called “signs” in the New Testament. Signs always signify something—in this case, that Jesus is the divine Messiah.
Some of Jesus’ more notable miracles include turning water into wine (John 2:7–8); walking on the sea (Matthew 14:25; Mark 6:48; John 6:19); calming a stormy sea (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:24); feeding 5,000 men and their families (Matthew 14:19; Mark 6:41; Luke 9:16; John 6:11); raising Lazarus from the dead (John 11:43–44); and causing the disciples to catch a great number of fish (Luke 5:5–6).
Jesus was worshiped on many occasions in the New Testament. He accepted worship from Thomas (John 20:28), the angels (Hebrews 1:6), some wise men (Matthew 2:11), a leper (Matthew 8:2), a ruler (Matthew 9:18), a blind man (John 9:38), an anonymous woman (Matthew 15:25), Mary Magdalene (Matthew 28:9), and the disciples (Matthew 28:17).
Scripture is emphatic that only God can be worshiped (Exodus 34:14; Deuteronomy 6:13; Matthew 4:10). In view of this, the fact that both humans and angels worshiped Jesus on numerous occasions shows He is God.
A comparison of the Old and New Testaments provides powerful testimony to Jesus’s identity as God. For example, a study of the Old Testament indicates that it is only God who saves. In Isaiah 43:11, God asserts: “I, even I, am the Lord, and besides Me there is no savior.” This verse indicates that (1) a claim to be Savior is, in itself, a claim to deity; and (2) there is only one Savior—the Lord God. It is thus highly revealing of Christ’s divine nature that the New Testament refers to Jesus as “our great God and Savior” (Titus 2:13).
Likewise, God asserted in Isaiah 44:24: “I am the Lord, who makes all things, who stretches out the heavens all alone, who spreads abroad the earth by Myself” (emphasis added). The fact that God alone “makes all things” (Isaiah 44:24)—and the accompanying fact that Christ is claimed to be the Creator of “all things” (John 1:3; Colossians 1:16; Hebrews 1:2)—proves that Christ is truly God.
Many theologians believe that appearances of the “angel of the Lord” (or, more literally, “angel of Yahweh”) in Old Testament times were preincarnate appearances of Jesus Christ. (The word preincarnate means “before becoming a human being.”) There are a number of evidences for this view:
These evidences suggest that appearances of the angel of Yahweh in Old Testament times were preincarnate appearances of Christ. Assuming this is correct, the word “angel” is used of Christ in these verses in accordance with its Hebrew root, which means “messenger, one who is sent, envoy.” Christ, as the angel of Yahweh, was acting on behalf of the Father, just as He did in New Testament times.
The deity of Christ is intimately connected to the doctrine of the Trinity. This doctrine affirms that there is only one God and that in the unity of the one godhead there are three coequal and coeternal persons—the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. Let us briefly consider the evidence for this doctrine.
In the course of God’s self-disclosure to humankind, He revealed His nature in progressive stages. First, God revealed that He is the only true God. This was a necessary starting point for God’s self-revelation. Throughout history, Israel was surrounded by pagan nations deeply engulfed in the belief that there are many gods. Through the prophets, God communicated to Israel that there is only one true God (Deuteronomy 6:4, 32:39; Psalm 86:10; Isaiah 44:6). Even at this early juncture, however, we find preliminary indications of the Trinity (Genesis 1:26, 11:7; Isaiah 6:8, 48:16). God’s oneness is also emphasized in the New Testament (Romans 3:29–30; 1 Corinthians 8:4; Galatians 3:20; 1 Thessalonians 1:9; 1 Timothy 1:17, 2:5; James 2:19; Jude 25).
As history unfolded, God progressively revealed more about himself. It eventually became clear that while there is only one God, there are three distinct persons within the one godhead, each individually recognized as God (Matthew 28:19).
The Father, for example, is explicitly called God (John 6:27; Romans 1:7; Galatians 1:1; 1 Peter 1:2). He is also portrayed as having all the attributes of deity—such as being everywhere-present (Matthew 19:26), all-knowing (Romans 11:33), all-powerful (1 Peter 1:5), holy (Revelation 15:4), and eternal (Psalm 90:2).
Jesus is also explicitly called “God” in Scripture (Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:8). And He, too, has all the attributes of deity—including being everywhere-present (Matthew 28:20), all-knowing (Matthew 9:4), all-powerful (Matthew 28:18), holy (Acts 3:14), and eternal (Revelation 1:8, 17).
The Holy Spirit is also recognized as God (Acts 5:3–4). He, too, possesses the attributes of deity, including being everywhere-present (Psalm 139:7–9), all-knowing (1 Corinthians 2:10–11), all-powerful (Romans 15:19), holy (John 16:7–14), and eternal (Hebrews 9:14).
Scripture also indicates there is three-in-oneness in the godhead. In Matthew 28:19, the resurrected Jesus instructed the disciples, “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matthew 28:19). The word name is singular in the Greek, thereby indicating God’s oneness. However, the definite articles in front of Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (in the original Greek) indicate they are distinct personalities, even though there is just one God.
These distinct personalities relate to each other. The Father and Son, for example, know each other (Matthew 11:27), love each other (John 3:35), and speak to each other (John 11:41–42). The Holy Spirit descended upon Jesus at His baptism (Luke 3:22), is called another comforter (John 14:16), was sent by the Father and Jesus (John 15:26), and seeks to glorify Jesus (John 16:13–14).
A helpful analogy of the Trinity is that God is like a triangle that is one figure yet has three different sides (or corners) at the same time. So there is a simultaneous threeness and oneness. Of course, no analogy is perfect since in every analogy there is a similarity and a difference. For example, water can exist simultaneously in three different states as ice, water, and steam; that is, as a solid, liquid, and a gas at pressure of 4 Torr and temperature of 273K. One substance but three totally different personalities.
Cults and false religions often raise objections against both the deity of Christ and the doctrine of the Trinity. In what follows, key objections will be briefly summarized and answered.
Some claim that because Jesus is the Son of God, He must be a lesser God than God the Father. Among the ancients, however, an important meaning of Son of is “one who has the same nature as.” Jesus, as the Son of God, has the very nature of God (John 5:18, 10:30, 19:7). He is thus not a lesser God.
Some cults argue that because Jesus said the Father is “greater” than Him (John 14:28), this must mean Jesus is a lesser God. Biblically, however, Jesus is equal with the Father in His divine nature (John 10:30). He was positionally lower than the Father from the standpoint of His becoming a servant by taking on human likeness (Philippians 2:6–11). Positionally, then, the Father was “greater” than Jesus.
Some cults argue that because Jesus is the “firstborn of creation” (Colossians 1:15), He is a created being and hence cannot be truly God. Biblically, however, Christ was not created but is the Creator (Colossians 1:16; John 1:3). The term firstborn, defined biblically, means Christ is “first in rank” and “preeminent” over the creation He brought into being.
Some cults argue that because Jesus said no one knows the day or hour of His return except the Father (Mark 13:32), Jesus must not be all-knowing, and hence He must not be truly God. In response, Jesus in the Gospels sometimes spoke from the perspective of His divinity and at other times from the perspective of His humanity. In Mark 13:32, Jesus was speaking from the limited perspective of His humanity (see Philippians 2:5–11). Had he been speaking from His divinity, He would not have said He did not know the day or hour. Other verses show that Christ, as God, knows all things (Matthew 17:27; Luke 5:4–6; John 2:25, 16:30, 21:17).
Some cults argue that because Jesus prayed to the Father, He could not truly be God. Biblically, however, it was in His humanity that Christ prayed to the Father. Since Christ came as a man—and since one of the proper duties of man is to worship, pray to, and adore God—it was perfectly proper for Jesus to address the Father in prayer. Positionally speaking as a man, as a Jew, and as our High Priest—“in all things He had to be made like His brethren” (Hebrews 2:17)—Jesus could pray to the Father. But this in no way detracts from His intrinsic deity.
Some cults claim the Trinity is illogical (“three in one”). In response, the Trinity may be beyond reason, but it is not against reason. The Trinity does not entail three gods in one God, or three persons in one person. Such claims would be nonsensical. There is nothing contradictory, however, in affirming three persons in one God (or three whos in one what).
Some cults have claimed the doctrine of the Trinity is rooted in ancient paganism in Babylon and Assyria. In response, the Babylonians and Assyrians believed in triads of gods who headed up a pantheon of many other gods. These triads constituted three separate gods (polytheism), which is utterly different from the doctrine of the Trinity that maintains that there is only one God (monotheism) with three persons within the one godhead.
We have seen that Jesus must be viewed as God by virtue of the facts that He has the names of God, the attributes of God, and the authority of God; He does the works of God; and He is worshiped as God. We have also seen persuasive scriptural evidences for the doctrine of the Trinity. Our triune God is an awesome God!