Is Jesus God?
The first coming of Jesus posed a problem for those being confronted with Him. The question was: Who is this Jesus? Is He only human or is He also divine as He claimed? And, if so, how are we to understand God? Is God one, are there several Gods or do we find a plurality of divine persons in one God? This third view is suggested by Scripture. It is essential to have a clear understanding of who Jesus is, in order to have a proper relationship with him. This is not just an academic question but a very practical issue having to do with our salvation.
I. The Divinity of Jesus
1. Jesus Is Called God
John 1:1-3, 14 Jesus, “the Word,” is God and Human
John 20:28 Jesus is called “My God”
Heb 1:8-9 Jesus is God and anointed by God
Col 2:9 Jesus is the fullness of the Deity
Mark 2:5-11 Like God, Jesus Forgives Sins
2. Jesus Is Eternal
Rev 1:8 (Father); 1:17-18 (Son); 21:6 (Father); 22:12, 13, 20 (Son) Both Father and Son are “Alpha and Omega”
John 8:58-59; Isa 43:10-13; Exod 3:14 Jesus is the I Am
Mic 5:2 Like the Father, Jesus is Eternal (Ps 90:2, 13)
Isa 9:6 Jesus is called the everlasting Father
Heb 1:8 Jesus’ throne is everlasting
3. Jesus Is Yahweh
Matt 3:1, 3; Isa 40:3 Preparing the way for Jesus/Yahweh
1 Cor 10:4; Exod 13:21 The spiritual rock is Jesus/Yahweh
John 12:37-41; Isa 6:1-3 The glory of Jesus is the glory of Yahweh
John 6:46; Gen 17:1, 22; 35:9-13; Exod 6:2-3 Abraham, Jacob, and Moses saw Jesus
John 19:37; Zech 12:10, 1, 8 Jesus/Yahweh is pierced
4. Jesus Is Worshiped
Matt 28:9 Like God, Jesus is worshiped on earth
Heb 1:6; Rev 5:8-9, 12-14 Jesus is worshiped by angels and in heaven
1 Cor 1:2 Christians call on the name of Jesus 1
John 14:14 Christians are to pray in the name of Jesus
Acts 7:58-59 Stephen prays to Jesus
II. Problematic Texts
1. Rev 3:14–Jesus, “the Beginning of God’s Creation”
It is claimed that Jesus was God’s first work of creation.
• The Greek word (arch?) can be translated “beginning,” “origin,” “first cause” or “ruler.” The Father himself is called the “beginning” in Rev 21:6. The same title is used for Jesus in Rev 22:13. Jesus is not the first created being but is Himself the Creator.
2. Col 1:15–Jesus, “the Firstborn of All Creation”
Since Jesus is called the “firstborn,” it is argued that he was born.
• According to v. 16 everything is created by Jesus. Therefore, He cannot Himself be a created being.
• The Bible writers sometimes use “firstborn” in a special way. David, though youngest, is called the firstborn—Ps 89:20, 27. The second line of the parallelism tells us that this title means “most exalted king.” The firstborn was the leader of a group or tribe, the priest of the family, and received twice the inheritance of his brothers. Sometimes, the idea of being born first did not play a role. Jacob (Gen 25:25-26 and Exod 4:22) and Ephraim (Gen 41:50-52 and Jer 31:9), though not born first, are also “firstborn.” More crucial than birth order was the special rank and dignity of the person given the title “firstborn.” Jesus, is called firstborn not because He was the firstborn of Mary but because of all creation, His is the birth that matters most and because He holds the exalted position of King of kings over all creation.
3. John 1:1-3–Jesus as God
It is claimed that there is a distinction in quality between God the Father, who is the Almighty God, and Jesus, who is only a god. John 1:1 reads: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with ho theos, and the Word was theos.”
• The Greek term for God–theos–is found with the article (ho theos–“the God”) or without the article (theos–“a god” or “God”). In John 1:1-3 the Father is named ho theos whereas the son is called theos. Is it justified to claim, based on this observation, that the Father is God Almighty whereas the Son is only a god?
• When the term theos is used for the Father, it is not only used with the article but oftentimes also without the article–theos (even in the very same chapter: John 1:6, 13, 18; see also Luke 2:14; Acts 5:39; 1 Thess 2:5; 1 John 4:12; and 2 John 1:9). Jesus is also the God, theos with the article (Heb 1:8-9; John 20:28). In other words, whether “God” has the article or not has nothing to do with their nature as deity.
• Had John always used the definite article with theos, it would mean that there is only one divine person: the Father would be the Son. In John 1:1, in order to talk about two separate persons of the Godhead, John had no other choice than to use ho theos (God with the article) and the next time to employ theos without the article. The absence of the article is not a valid argument against the equality and unity of the Father and the Son. 2
4. John 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9–Jesus, the One and Only Son
It is suggested that the word monogen?s points to a literal begetting of Jesus and should be translated “only begotten.” Like “firstborn,” it is important to see the word’s range of meaning.
• The same term occurs also in Luke 7:12; 8:42; 9:38 and points to an only child.
• Isaac is called Abraham’s monogen?s son in Heb 11:17. While Isaac was not Abraham’s only son, he was unique as Abraham’s “son of promise.” In light of these verses, together with the references in John and 1 John (the only other verses in the NT that use the Greek term), we conclude that “only” or “unique” is better than “only begotten” as a translation of monogen?s.
• The normal term for begotten, gegenn?ka, is found in Heb 1:5 and points either to Christ’s resurrection or incarnation.
• Perhaps the other evangelists did not use monogen?s because agap?tos “beloved” is another way to translate the same Hebrew word (see Mark 1:11 in connection with Christ’s baptism). The two words may sometimes be close in meaning.
Jesus is God as the Father is God. We understand Him to be equal with the Father in quality but not in function. The Son is to be honored as the Father is honored–John 5:23. A wrong understanding of the Son can lead to misunderstanding the way of salvation (see 1 John 4:1-3). Had God offered even his best created being as a sacrifice for lost humanity yet not offered Himself, humans, angels, and the inhabitants of the universe might question His love and misunderstand the real motivation for obedience. In giving His Son, the Father also gave Himself because Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are eternally one. Understanding the nature of Jesus helps us to understand the how we are saved and why we must accept Him as our Savior and Lord.
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