Friday, September 09, 2011

Jesus Is God

You can find the strangest people on Facebook.

I'm a member of this FB group called "Apologetics: Defending the Faith (and Discussion)" (my series of "Facebook Apologetics" posts came from my interactions with that group). One of the members calls himself a Christian but refuses to admit that Jesus is God. Crazy, I know ... but it did give me the opportunity to research something I had always just taken for granted and to find out where it is exactly that Scripture supports the divinity of Christ. This post is what I was able to come up with.

Jesus Called Himself "God"

First of all, it is clear that Jesus referred to himself as God. "Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am" (Jn 8:58). "I AM" is the Divine Name, the unutterable name, the name revealed to Moses in the burning bush:
Exo 3:13-14 Then Moses said to God, "If I come to the people of Israel and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' what shall I say to them?" 14 God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM." And he said, "Say this to the people of Israel, 'I AM has sent me to you.'"
By taking upon Himself the Divine Name, Jesus is declaring His divinity. At any rate, how can He exist before Abraham and not be God? If Jesus is not God, then His words here are completely nonsensical.

Jesus' words during His Temptation in the desert are also instructive. When Satan tempted Jesus to throw Himself off a cliff, even presuming to quote Scripture so as to make the temptation more persuasive, Jesus responded by saying, "You should not tempt the Lord your God" (Mt 4:7) -- in reference to Himself! Satan was tempting God by tempting Jesus, and Jesus made sure Satan knew it.

Jesus also called Himself the "Son of God," which, to the Jewish mindset, was a very radical statement. During Jesus' trial before the Jewish leaders, the High Priest said to Jesus, "I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God" (Mt 26:63). Jesus responded by saying, "You have said so" (vs. 64), or as the NIV has it, "Yes, it is as you say." The High Priest responded by tearing his robes and saying, "He has uttered blasphemy. Why do we still need witnesses? You have now heard his blasphemy" (vs. 65). Later, before Pontius Pilate, the Jews said, "We have a law, and by that law he ought to die, because he has made himself the Son of God" (Jn 19:7). They knew that to declare oneself to be "the Son of God" was to declare that one was of the same nature with God. The son of a father always takes on the nature of the father. Or, as the Letter to the Hebrews tells us, the Son "reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature" (1:3).

When Jesus healed the crippled man by the Bethzatha pool, the Jews rebuked Him for healing a man and telling him to carry his pallet on the Sabbath. Jesus responded to them by saying, "My Father is working still, and I am working" (Jn 5:17). Immediately after this, John is sure to tell us, in case we are not convinced, "This was why the Jews sought all the more to kill him, because he not only broke the sabbath but also called God his Father, making himself equal with God" (vs. 18).

Jesus, in order to make this more explicit, even says to the Jews, "I and the Father are one" (Jn 10:30). When they heard this, "The Jews took up stones again to stone him" (vs. 31). Jesus answered them, "I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of these do you stone me?" (vs. 32) The Jews answered him, "It is not for a good work that we stone you but for blasphemy; because you, being a man, make yourself God" (vs. 33).

Finally, when John, in his Revelation, saw a vision of "the Son of Man", this figure said to him, "Fear not, I am the first and the last" (Rev 1:17). This Son of Man is equating Himself with "the Lord God, who is and who was and who is to come, the Almighty" who said, "I am the Alpha and the Omega" (vs. 8). And of course, this Son of Man is Jesus, who took this title upon Himself many times throughout His ministry (28 times in Matthew's gospel alone, see here).

People Called Jesus "God"

There are also many passages where the apostles and followers of Christ call Him "God". John began his Gospel with these words: "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the word was God." (Jn 1:1) We know that this "Word" is the Second Person of the Trinity made man -- Jesus Christ -- for John says a few verses later, "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, full of grace and truth; we have beheld his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father" (vs. 14). John also called Jesus "the true God and eternal life" in his first letter (5:20).

Peter, for his part, accused the Jews in the Temple of killing "the Author of life" when they asked that Barabbas be released and sent Jesus to be crucified (cf. Acts 3:12-15). And yet, Timothy is clear that it is God who gives life to all things (cf. 1 Tim 6:13). Thus, Jesus cannot be the Author of life unless He is God. Peter specifically called Jesus "our God and Savior" in his second letter (1:1), as did Paul (cf. Titus 2:13). Paul also said of Christ that "in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 2:9). According to him, Christ is the one, "who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped," or, as the Douay-Rheims has it, "thought it not robbery to be equal with God" (Phil 2:6).

Finally, even God Himself called the Son "God." This passage from the Letter to the Hebrews is truly remarkable:
Heb 1:5-8 For to what angel did God ever say, "Thou art my Son, today I have begotten thee"? Or again, "I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son"? 6 And again, when he brings the first-born into the world, he says, "Let all God's angels worship him." 7 Of the angels he says, "Who makes his angels winds, and his servants flames of fire." 8 But of the Son he says, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever, the righteous scepter is the scepter of thy kingdom."
In this passage, the Father is addressing the Son by saying, "Thy throne, O God, is forever and ever." It is fitting that God Himself would provide the final seal upon the witness to Christ's divinity.

People Worshiped Jesus as God

If all of this were not enough, there are many examples in the New Testament where people specifically worship Jesus as God. From the moment of His birth, Jesus was worshiped. Listen to the Magi as they express their intent:
"'Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we have seen his star in the East, and have come to worship him.' [...] and going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him." (Mt 2:2,11)
When Jesus saved his apostles from the storm by walking on the water and calming the storm by His own power (itself an expression of His divinity), Matthew tells us, "And those in the boat worshiped him, saying, 'Truly you are the Son of God.'" (Mt 14:33). Of the man cured by Jesus of an unclean spirit it is said, "when he saw Jesus from afar, he ran and worshiped him" (Mk 5:6). When Jesus asked the man who he had cured of blindness if he believed in the Son of man, "He said, 'Lord, I believe'; and he worshiped him" (Jn 9:38).

After Jesus' death, He continued to be worshiped. When He appeared to Thomas after His resurrection and Thomas was able to actually see and touch the wounds of the Risen Lord, "Thomas answered him, 'My Lord and my God!'" (Jn 20:27-28) When He appeared likewise to His disciples, "they came up and took hold of his feet and worshiped him" (Mt 28:9). Jesus later appeared on a mountain in Galilee and "when they saw him they worshiped him" (vs. 17). When Jesus ascended into heaven, the apostles "worshiped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Lk 24:51-52, KJV).

In the Book of Acts we read how "as they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, 'Lord Jesus, receive my spirit'" (Acts 7:59). Praying to Jesus is surely an act of worship. In this same book we are given a window into the prayer of Ananias, which is very revealing:
Acts 9:10-17 Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Anani'as. The Lord said to him in a vision, "Anani'as." And he said, "Here I am, Lord." 11 And the Lord said to him, "Rise and go to the street called Straight, and inquire in the house of Judas for a man of Tarsus named Saul; for behold, he is praying, 12 and he has seen a man named Anani'as come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight." 13 But Anani'as answered, "Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to thy saints at Jerusalem; 14 and here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call upon thy name." 15 But the Lord said to him, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; 16 for I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name." 17 So Anani'as departed and entered the house. And laying his hands on him he said, "Brother Saul, the Lord Jesus who appeared to you on the road by which you came, has sent me that you may regain your sight and be filled with the Holy Spirit."
Note that it is "the Lord" who told him to go and find Saul (vs. 11), yet when Ananias told Paul what he heard in prayer, he said that it was "the Lord Jesus" who sent him so that Saul might regain his sight and be filled with the Spirit (vs. 17). This can only mean that Ananias spoke with Jesus Himself in prayer. This is both an act of worship and a clear indication that Jesus is God. How else can Jesus be prayed to and be revealed in prayer?

Finally, Jesus now sits in heaven, at the right hand of the Father, where He is worshiped by all the angels and saints:
"And whenever the living creatures give glory and honor and thanks to him who is seated on the throne, who lives for ever and ever, the twenty-four elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives for ever and ever; they cast their crowns before the throne, singing, 'Worthy art thou, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for thou didst create all things, and by thy will they existed and were created.'" (Rev 4:9-11)

"And when he had taken the scroll, the four living creatures and the twenty-four elders fell down before the Lamb, each holding a harp, and with golden bowls full of incense, which are the prayers of the saints;" (Rev 5:8)

"saying with a loud voice, 'Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!' And I heard every creature in heaven and on earth and under the earth and in the sea, and all therein, saying, 'To him who sits upon the throne and to the Lamb be blessing and honor and glory and might for ever and ever!' And the four living creatures said, 'Amen!' and the elders fell down and worshiped." (Rev 5:12-14)

"And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, 'Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen.'" (Rev 7:11-12)
Of course, Jesus continues to be worshiped in the Church up to the present day and will be worshiped forever and ever.

Conclusion

Hopefully it is clear from all of this that Jesus considered Himself to be God and that the followers of Christ considered Him to be such, as evidenced by their many references to Jesus as God and their acts of prayer and worship towards Him.

There is of course much more that could be said in defense of Jesus' divinity. For example, I could list the attributes of God that Jesus possesses, I could list the various miracles He performed (which witness to his divine power), I could analyze the other titles of Christ (such as "Lord," "Savior," "Prince of Peace," etc.) which are a clear witness to His divinity. In the future I may enlarge this post to include those things. But, I think that, for now, this is a good start and is on its own all the evidence one needs in order to prove from Scripture that Jesus is God.

For more on the divinity of Jesus, see my earlier posts:

"The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all" (2 Cor 13:14).

4 comments:

Tim V said...

Great post! I have a friend who is Socinian and claims Jesus only 'represented' God. On top of that, he doesn't accept any of the Johannine or Pauline writings. As a result, I wrote an apologetic last fall using only the Synoptic gospels, Acts, and the catholic epistles. But the evidence from those writings alone is still overwhelming that Jesus truly is God in the flesh as the Church has always taught.

phatcatholic said...

Is your apologetic from the Synoptics online anywhere? I would like to read it!

Lady.Rosary said...

Very well said. I think we can't stop if people will still have beliefs different from ours. But I hope this post will enlighten them and make them look beyond into the truth. Thanks again!

phatcatholic said...

You're very welcome!

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