Lesson 4: The Deity of Christ

Lesson 4: The Deity of Christ

Orthodox Christianity claims that Jesus of Nazareth was God in human flesh. This doctrine is absolutely essential to true Christianity. If it is true, then Christianity is unique and authoritative. If not, then Christianity does not differ in kind from other religions. Thus, this is a vital topic.

The teaching of the Bible and the historic confession1 of the Church is:


We believe and confess that our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God and Man. He is God of the substance of the Father begotten before the worlds, and He is man of the substance of His mother born in the world; perfect God, perfect man subsisting of a reasoning soul and human flesh; equal to the Father as touching His Godhead, inferior to the Father as touching His Manhood. Who although He be God and Man yet He is not two but one Christ; one however not by conversion of the Godhead in the flesh, but by taking of the Manhood in God; one altogether not by confusion of substance but by unity of Person. For as the reasoning soul and flesh is one man, so God and Man is one Christ.

The Westminster Confession2 puts it a little more simply:

The Son of God, the second person in the Trinity, being very and eternal God, of one substance and equal with the Father, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties, and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the power of the Holy Ghost, in the womb of the virgin Mary, of her substance. So that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures, the Godhead and the manhood, were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion. Which person is very God, and very man, yet one Christ, the only Mediator between God and man.

Christ is, and always has been, 100% God, to which was added a human nature at the incarnation, making Him 100% man and 100% God, without any confusion, intermingling, or overcoming of either the divine or the human natures. While each member of the Godhead is equal in glory, Christ voluntarily took on a subordinate role in order to accomplish the plan of redemption. Each member of the Godhead works in perfect harmony to mercifully bring about the redemption of believers.

Cultists and skeptics commonly misunderstand this vital doctrine. They may believe that Christ is either entirely divine (not really human) and only appears to be human, or that the divine and human natures are somehow combined or mixed. Some cultists assert that Jesus was the first and greatest of God’s creation. But any teaching that comes short of acknowledging Christ’s full deity is simply incorrect and unbiblical.

How do we know that Jesus is equal with God the Father? Several reasons:3

  1. Christ existed before the birth of Jesus.

Many mistakenly believe that Christ came into existence at the birth of Jesus. However, the Bible teaches that Christ is eternal. As God, there was never a time when He was not.

    1. Christ existed prior to Creation .

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The context of this verse clearly indicates that “the Word” here is Jesus.

    1. Christ was active in Creation .

All things were made through Him, and without Him nothing was made that was made. (See also Colossians 1:16.)

Note: Since Christ was the Creator, He could not have been part of the creation.

    1. Christ appeared in temporary human form in the Old Testament.

Gen 16:7 Now the Angel of the Lord found [Hagar] by a spring of water in the wilderness, by the spring on the way to Shur.

Who Was the Angel of the Lord?

Several facts have led many scholars to identify “the angel of the Lord” with Christ:

  • The use of the definite article (“the” angel): appearances of other divine messengers normally do not include the article (Luke 2:9 and Acts 12:7).

  • The angel of the Lord is equated with God and worshiped as God (Exodus 3:1-5).

  • The angel of the Lord never appears after Jesus is born.

This should not lead us to conclude that Jesus is an angel or any other kind of created being. The word “angel” is simply “messenger.” These were pre-incarnate appearances of God the Son.

    1. Christ claimed to have existed prior to Abraham .

Jn 8:58 Jesus said to them, “Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM.”

Jesus here clearly claims to be the “I AM” of Exodus 3:14, i.e., Yahweh, the God of the Israelites. Look at the next few verses to see how the Jews responded to this — they understood that He was equating Himself with God, and they wanted to stone Him for it.

  1. Clear statements in Scripture equate Christ with God.

    1. John 1:1 clearly states “the Word was God.” It’s unreasonable to deny that this verse is teaching the deity of Christ. Cultists do deny it but Christians have upheld this obvious interpretation for two thousand years.

    2. In John 10:30-33, Jesus states “I and my Father are one.” The Jews understood this assertion and accused Jesus of claiming to be equal with God. They were going to stone him for such a claim. The word that Jesus used suggests oneness in nature or essence.

    3. In John 20:28, Thomas calls Jesus “My Lord and my God.” Jesus accepts such worship.

    4. In Philippians 2:6, Paul asserts that Jesus was “in very nature God” who “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped.”

    5. Hebrews 1:8-10 clearly equates the Son with God.

But to the Son He says: “Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; A scepter of righteousness is the scepter of Your kingdom. You have loved righteousness and hated lawlessness; Therefore God, Your God, has anointed You With the oil of gladness more than Your companions.” And: “You, Lord, in the beginning laid the foundation of the earth, And the heavens are the work of Your hands.”

  1. Christ is called the “ Son of God .”

In Scripture, “son of” often means “to possess the character qualities of” a person or object. For example, in Genesis 5:32 the original Hebrew literally says that Noah was the “son of 500 years.” Acts 4:36 says that the name “Barnabas” means “Son of Encouragement.” The title “Son of God” indicates that Christ possesses the attributes of God, a fact which even Christ’s enemies acknowledged:

Jn 10:33-36 The Jews answered Him, saying, “For a good work we do not stone You, but for blasphemy, and because You, being a Man, make Yourself God.” Jesus answered them, “… do you say of Him whom the Father sanctified and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’?”

  1. Christ is fully God.

Col 2:9 For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily;

Heb 1:3 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,

Some cults and/or false religions teach that Christ is “a god” or somehow less than fully equal with God the Father. The Bible teaches that He is fully and equally God.

  1. Christ demonstrated that He was God.

    1. Christ demonstrated that He was omnipotent .

Mk 4:39 Then He arose and rebuked the wind, and said to the sea, “Peace, be still!” And the wind ceased and there was a great calm.

    1. Christ demonstrated that He was omniscient .

Mt 12:25 But Jesus knew their thoughts, …

    1. Christ demonstrated that He was sovereign .

Mt 28:18 And Jesus came and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth.”

    1. Christ demonstrated that He was holy .

Christ did not yield to Satan’s temptations (Matthew 4:1-11 and Luke 4:1-13). Many other texts assert Christ’s sinlessness.

Jn 8:46 Which of you convicts Me of sin? And if I tell the truth, why do you not believe Me?

2 Co 5:21 For He made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.

1 Pe 2:22 “Who committed no sin, Nor was deceit found in His mouth”;

Arguments often used against the deity of Christ:

  1. Jesus denied equality with God the Father when He said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Paul also denies such equality when he asserts that “the Son also himself be subject unto [God]” (1 Cor 15:28).

Answer: The Father and the Son occupy different offices or function in different roles, but that does not imply a difference in essence or nature. Jesus submits to the Father as part of his role as Son. This is a functional relationship that does not imply a inferior nature.

  1. Jesus must have been inferior to God because He was limited. He claimed to be ignorant of some things, which cannot be said of God. So He must be less than God.

Answer: Jesus possessed two natures: God and man. As a man, Jesus was limited in some respects—He got hungry, thirsty, tired, etc. His divine nature was unlimited, but His human nature was limited. Any limitations that He experienced were part of His human nature.

  1. Jesus claimed not to be good (Mark 10:18), so He must not be equal with God.

Answer: A careful look at Mark 10:18 shows that Jesus is not saying that He is not good. The man was unwilling to recognize Christ as his master, so Jesus is challenging the man’s use of the title “good master.” Jesus is saying, “Don’t call me ‘good master’ if you don’t really recognize my authority.” Jesus refuses to accept the flattery of the man and soon points out that this fellow is not as good as he thought he was.

  1. On the cross Jesus claimed that God had forsaken Him (Mark 15:34). God could never forsake Himself.

Answer: Jesus took the sin of the world upon Himself on the cross (2 Cor 5:21), which caused God the Father to turn His back temporarily upon the Son.

Many of those who deny the deity of Christ do so because they can’t understand the nature of the Trinity. While the three-in-one-ness of God is indeed difficult to comprehend, it is clearly taught in the Bible and Christians have believed it throughout history.

Conclusion: How do we know that Jesus is equal with God the Father? All the biblical evidence points to that conclusion. The Scripture explicitly states that He is divine. Divine names and attributes are ascribed to Christ. He does those things that only God can do. People worship Him as God. And He claimed to be God. As all genuine Christians have always believed, Jesus is the Son of God, the second Person of the Trinity, equal in essence and nature to God the Father.

Almost all cults and other false religions deny the deity of Christ. If you want to know where a person stands, just ask, “What do you think about the deity of Christ?”

Discussion:

  1. Can you reject the deity of Christ and still be a Christian? No. This is an essential aspect of Jesus’ nature that one cannot deny and still claim to be a Christian.

  2. With all the Scriptural evidence, why do you think cultists deny the deity of Christ? 1. They are unsaved and cannot comprehend spiritual truth; 2. The Trinity doesn’t make sense to them so they want to get around it.

  3. How important is it that Christians have historically accepted and taught the deity of Christ? I’d say it’s very important. This has been a central doctrinal teaching in all branches of Christianity (RCC, EO, Protestant, independents, etc.) for 2k years.

1 From The Athanasian Creed. Athanasius (269-373 AD), the “Father of Orthodoxy,” was the bishop of Alexandria, Egyt and a great champion of orthodox belief.

2 WCOF VIII.ii

3 Much of this material comes from BFL Lesson 13.

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