The Deity Of The Lord Jesus
Alastair Sinclair, Crosshouse, Scotland [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
When here on earth, the greatest single issue that divided men regarding the Lord Jesus was His claim to be the Son of God, and therefore equal with God. This is seen in John 6. 17-18, and 10. 30-33.
Things have changed little since those days. Even today men are often prepared to give Him some honour and recognition, but not to accept He is co-equal to, and one with, the eternal God. Cults such as the Jehovah’s Witnesses or the Mormons will describe Him as ‘the greatest man who ever lived’ or ‘the highest of all the angels’. Islam proclaims Him to be ‘a great prophet’ and even professing Christian faiths, while acknowledging His deity will devalue it by exalting others, like his mother, to similar status.
This pattern of things should not surprise us for after all the wicked one has always sought to displace the Son and promote himself to the highest place. The acid test of all wrong doctrine is that it ultimately either seeks to reduce the person, work or position of the Lord Jesus, or promote others in a way that detracts from Him. Sadly, Satan’s deceit of men is not merely an academic or theological argument, but goes right to the heart of salvation. The Lord Jesus makes it clear that ‘no man cometh unto the Father, but by me’, John 14. 6. In his First Epistle John reminds us, ‘Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father’, 1 John 2. 23.
The deity of Christ is therefore a vital truth, which we need to be able to defend and use in our witness.
In this article we are going to consider briefly four great distinguishing marks of deity and apply each of them to the Lord Jesus. These are:
- The titles which display His worth,
- The attributes and essences that proclaim the wonder of His person,
- His works,
- The worship of Himself.
While on holiday recently, I was given a leaflet listing one hundred Names given to the Lord in the Scriptures. Space does not permit us to consider all of them in this article, but we will look at some. The very first occurrence of the word ‘God’ in the opening verse of our Bible gives the indication of the deity of the Lord. It is a plural Hebrew word indicating more than two. The rest of Scripture reveals there are only three to whom deity is ascribed, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit.
In the opening verses of his gospel, John tells us the Lord is, ‘the Word’. He goes on to tell us, ‘the Word became flesh’, and, ‘no man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him’. The Lord Jesus Himself confirms that, ‘he that hath seen me hath seen the Father’. These and other verses therefore make it clear that all the physical manifestations of God are in fact the Lord Jesus. These include the many ‘appearings’ of the Old Testament.
Perhaps the first of these is in Genesis 18, when three ‘men’ appear to Abraham. The subsequent narrative makes it clear that two of these ‘men’ were in fact angels. The third ‘man’ is given the divine name ‘Lord’, both by Abraham and by the man when referring to Himself. Thus Moses, the writer of the record, clearly ascribes deity to this divine One who is none other that the Eternal Word, the Lord Jesus Himself.
Similarly, the psalmist identifies Him in the expression, ‘the Lord said unto my Lord’. The prophets ascribe Him titles including ‘Immanuel’, ‘Lawgiver’, ‘Lord of Righteousness’, ‘King’ and in Isaiah 9. 6, He is called ‘Wonderful, Counsellor, The mighty God, The everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace’. Our New Testament writers acknowledge Him as ‘Alpha and Omega’, ‘Author of Life’, ‘Blessed and only Ruler’, the ‘I am’, ‘King of kings’, King of the ages’, ‘Lord of lords’, ‘Holy One’ and many more titles that can only be ascribed to the divine Persons. Thus, all the writers of Scripture establish, to all but those who will not believe, that the Lord Jesus is God.
His Essence and Attributes
In John’s First Epistle we are reminded that in essence, ‘God is light’, ‘God is life’ and ‘God is love’. These are not just qualities God has, but are part of the definition of God. Remarkably, the same writer refers to the Lord Jesus, often quoting Christ Himself, such as: ‘the Light’, ‘the true Light which lighteth every man that cometh into the world’, ‘I am the light of the world’ and speaking of the eternal city reminds us ‘the Lamb is the light thereof’.
When we consider life, John declares that He is ‘the way, the truth, the life’, ‘the author of life’, and ‘in him was life’.
Regarding love, the Lord Jesus both defines it and reveals it, see 1 John 4. 8-9, and Paul reminds us of the immensity of God’s love which is ‘in Christ Jesus our Lord’, Rom. 8. 35-39.
Similarly, when we come to the attributes of God, we find that He is all-present, all-knowing and all-powerful. While here on earth, despite making Himself ‘of no reputation’ the Lord Jesus displayed each of these divine attributes.
In John 1, to Nathanael, He proclaimed, ‘when thou wast under the fig tree, I saw thee’, causing Nathanael to proclaim in wonder, ‘thou art the Son of God’. In chapter 4 the woman of Samaria proclaims ‘come, see a man, which told me all things that ever I did: is not this the Christ?’ The Saviour Himself proclaims, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth’, Matt. 28. 18, and having seen a demonstration of His power, Peter, in wonder, falls at His feet in Luke 5. 8. We likewise must bow in wonder at these displays of His deity and own Him as ‘my Lord and my God’.
In the upper room, John records the Lord Jesus telling the disciples that He, ‘did the works, which none other man, did’. These, of course, were many, including the seven wondrous ‘signs’ of John’s Gospel. Here we want to think on only two great works which demonstrate His deity: these are creation; and salvation.
As previously referred to, the opening verse of our Bible makes clear, ‘God created the heaven and the earth’. Yet, in John 1. 3, we find that ‘all things were made by him; and without him was not anything made that was made’. This could not be clearer. Jesus is the Creator God. Colossians 1. 15 adds to this in saying, ‘all things were made by (or through) him and for him’. Someone has said He was not only the means of creation, but also the active instrument and the very cause for which it was made. Beyond this He is, ‘upholding all things by the word of his power’, Heb. 1. 3. Again, His deity is proclaimed.
Now when we come to the new creation Scripture insists, ‘that in all things he might have pre-eminence’; we find that He has also accomplished this great work of salvation. Required because of the fall, salvation became essential. Psalm 3. 8 proclaims, ‘salvation belongeth unto the Lord’, and the Jews confessed, ‘who can forgive sins but God only?’. Repeatedly, we see the Saviour forgives sins, for He indeed is God. Sadly, those who deny this are not saved, because they deny the One who is the only One by whom they must be saved.
The sceptics would cite Colossians 1. 15 quoted above, as proof of Him being a created being because of the term ‘firstborn’. What they fail to understand is that this term refers to pre-eminence, not order of time. This can be seen in verse 18, where He is called the ‘firstborn from the dead’. In point of time He was the first to experience true resurrection from the dead, and is pre-eminent in that He is the cause of all such future resurrection.
In response to the temptation of Satan, the Lord Jesus reminded him, ‘thou shalt worship the Lord thy God, and him only shalt thou serve’, Matt. 4. 10. This makes it clear that no one, no matter how exalted, can be ascribed worship, except God. Further evidence of this is seen in the book of Acts when both Peter and Paul, with their companions, rebuke men for considering worshipping them. Also, in Revelation, an angel rebukes John for the same error, Rev. 19. 10; 22. 8-9.
Yet we find that the first use of the word worship in both the Old and New Testaments occurs when the Lord Jesus appears. The first of these has already been referred to in Genesis 18. 2. The phrase ‘bowed himself toward the ground’, is in fact the word elsewhere translated ‘worship’, including in Genesis 22. 5. As explained above this would probably be at the first ‘appearing’ of the Lord Jesus in the form of a man. Matthew 2. 2 is the first mention of worship in the New Testament and again coincides with the appearing of the Lord Jesus, this time in incarnation.
When He appears again in glory the proclamation will be, ‘let all the angels of God worship him’, Heb. 1. 6. How clearly these incidents once more prove beyond question His deity. In that coming day those that now deny Him for who He is, will have to fall and confess with all, ‘that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father’. How blessed for us, that, like Thomas, even when considering His humiliation, we proclaim now, ‘my Lord and my God’.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Alastair Sinclair is in fellowship with the assembly in Crosshouse, Ayrshire, and is active in oral ministry throughout Scotland. He writes regularly for Believers Magazine, is married with a young family, and works in the IT industry.