Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The deity of Christ

No, this chart does not represent the number of foreclosures in California. It shows the number of active members in the group known as "Jehovah's witnesses" across the United States. Jehovah's witnesses have grown exponentially in the last few decades, but their denial of Christ's deity has remained the same. Are they wrong?

We can't afford to be wrong about Jesus Christ. In 1 John 2:23, we are warned that "whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also." If we deny or disregard the person and work of Jesus Christ as revealed in the Bible, we have denied the Son and called Him a liar. And tragically, those who deny the Son "do not have the Father." God has no part with them. If on the other hand we accurately confess Christ, we have a wonderful promise that we "have the Father also."

So, who is the Son, and how can we make sure we're believing in the right one? Was Jesus merely a moral man? A great prophet? A wise teacher? The "highest" of all created beings? No, none of these phrases adequately describe Him.
He is not merely a moral man; He is the holy fulfillment of God's Law (Matt. 5:17). He is not just a teacher; He is the author of all wisdom (Col. 2:3). He is not only a prophet; He is the living Word of God (Jn. 1:14). He is not the "highest" of all created beings; He is the very one who created all things (Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2). Jesus Christ is God.

Although there are many verses in the Gospel of John that teach the Deity of Christ (e.g. John 1:1, 14; 8:59; 10:30; 20:28), one of my favorites is John 5:17. In this passage, Jesus has just healed a lame man and been accused of violating the Sabbath. In response, Jesus makes an incredibly bold statement: "My Father is working until now, and I Myself am working." To our ears, it may sound harmless at first, but to a first century Jew, Jesus has just thrown down the gauntlet. Notice two claims to deity in this verse:

  • First, Jesus claims to work in the same way as God. Obviously, God does not stop His work on the Sabbath day. Even when humans rest, God continues to sustain life, cause crops to grow, keep stars on course, and sovereignly superintend over all events. Our powerful creator never ceases to work. (And we can be very thankful He never takes a day off or falls asleep on the job!) Even the Jewish leaders acknowledged this. But here's the rub. Jesus claims equality with God when He says "My Father is working...and I Myself am working." Two verses later, He adds, "whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does in like manner" (Jn. 5:19). That's a pretty bold statement. Jesus has the same power and prerogative to work on the Sabbath as His Father does. In fact, Jesus is the "Lord of the Sabbath" (Lk. 6:5). Jesus is God because He does the work of God.
  • Second, Jesus claims to have a unique relationship with God. Notice that Jesus does not call Him "the Father" or even "our Father," but "My Father." Jesus has a unique and intimate union with His heavenly Father that has existed from eternity past; He knows and loves His Father to a degree that you and I will never fully appreciate. The Jews immediately sensed what Jesus was getting at here. They knew He "was calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God" (Jn. 5:18). And because they rejected this claim to deity, they sought to kill Him. Nevertheless, Jesus is God because God is uniquely His Father, and Jesus is the only begotten (one-of-a-kind) Son of God (cf. Jn. 1:14, 18; 3:16, 18).
While never violating the monotheism of the Old Testament (Deut. 5:7; 6:4-5), Jesus expands our understanding by showing that God is actually three in one: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Jesus claims to be equal with God in both the way He works and in the way He relates to His Father. And unless we accurately believe in Jesus as God the Son, we do not have God the Father.

1 comment:

JJones said...

Sorry if this is a duplicate--

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