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Is Jesus God, and Why Does This Matter?

The Deity of Christ

John 3:36 (Phi) “The man who believes in the Son has eternal life. The man who refuses to believe in the Son will not see life; he lives under the anger of God.”

Why is it so important to God that we recognize who Jesus is? Why should this revelation be the causal agent of eternal life or death?

1 John 5:9-12 (Phi) If we are prepared to accept human testimony, God’s testimony concerning his own Son is surely infinitely more valuable. The man who really believes in the Son of God will find God’s testimony in his own heart. The man who will not believe God is making him out to be a liar, because he is deliberately refusing to accept the testimony that God has given concerning his own Son. This is, that God has given men eternal life and this real life is to be found only in his Son. It follows naturally that any man who has genuine contact with Christ has this life; and if he has not, then he does not possess this life at all.

Please note that eternal life for followers of Christ starts now. Eventually, everyone will know who Jesus is. The ultimate test of our lives now, then, is if we can recognize God’s greatest revealed glory when we see it, or choose to admire / worship lesser, even base things.

First we will consider if Jesus really claimed to be God, and if others (believers & enemies) “got” this. Then we will look at the logical options this leaves open to us. Finally, we will look at the reception of Jesus as Lord as the operative key to gaining access to God’s grace and peace, abundant life, and the light of truth.

John 6:40 (NIV) "For my Father's will is that everyone who looks to the Son and believes in him shall have eternal life."

John 8:23 (NIV) [Jesus] …continued, "You are from below; I am from above. You are of this world; I am not of this world. I told you that you would die in your sins; if you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins." "Who are you?" they asked. "Just what I have been claiming all along," Jesus replied.

While we all are potential “sons (or daughters) of God,” (even if, as Jesus said, “few” will be saved) this is not what Christians (who accept) or Jews or Muslims (who reject) mean when they speak of Jesus as God’s Son. Not sons of God in the sense of younger siblings of Christ, but Christ the Eternal Son. Jesus as “the Only Son” (as in the famous John 3:16) before time was created. Jesus claimed to be God become a man, not man lifted up (by that very Son) into God. This is the difference between who Jesus is, and what He does.

Jesus the Christ

Heb 13:8 (NIV) Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.

The revelation of Jesus as Christ or Messiah is one that it will take a lifetime, even an eternal lifetime, to plumb the depths of in meditation and understanding. Much of Christian literature, rapturous worship, and fellowship are focussed on just this. For our purpose here, though, let us take a shortcut.

Before Moses, man had many names for God. But when Moses “met” God at the burning bush he requested to know His real name. What does God call Himself?

Ex 3:13 (NIV) Moses said to God, "Suppose I go to the Israelites and say to them, 'The God of your fathers has sent me to you,' and they ask me, 'What is his name?' Then what shall I tell them?" God said to Moses, "I AM WHO I AM. This is what you are to say to the Israelites: 'I AM has sent me to you.'"

What is translated here as "I AM" is four letters, YHWH, likely pronouced "Yahweh," and termed the tetragrammaton. The Hebrews had a taboo that pronouncing God's most intimate name was blasphemy. It was allowed to be spoken only once a year by the High Priest in the Holy of Holies.

To the point of meaning, God IS. He is outside time. YHWH created time for us, but He is ever present. This can also be taken to mean that YHWH is the prime cause, the creator from which everything else comes. "I AM," is what God calls Himself, as this is true to His nature, or as the Hebrews would have it His true Name.

With this background, we can now fast-forward to Jesus at His trial, and get to the point. Jesus was tried, and found guilty of--you guessed it--claiming to be God. Other charges were brought against Him as well, but He ignored these as not worthy of a response. When it came to being God, though, He did respond, and without any ambiguity.

Mark 14:61b-64 (NIV) The high priest asked him, "Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?" "I AM," said Jesus. "And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven." The high priest tore his clothes. "Why do we need any more witnesses?" he asked. "You have heard the blasphemy. What do you think?" They all condemned him as worthy of death.

This double meaning is rich. One wonders if God did not have this particular answer, on which the universe would hinge, in mind at the burning bush. YHWH is both God’s personal name and an answer which led to His Son’s crucifixion.

For a pre-trial example of this:

John 8:57-58 (NIV) "You are not yet fifty years old," the Jews said to him, "and you have seen Abraham!" "I tell you the truth," Jesus answered, "before Abraham was born, I AM!"

Now Jesus either is making an elementary grammatical error here--using the present tense for a past event--or He is appropriating in answer the intimate name of YHWH God. To be sure His listeners “got it.”

John 8:59 (NAS) ...Therefore they picked up stones to throw at Him…

Jesus claimed to be God. He did so in the highest Jewish court at his trial and was found guilty. More than 2000 years later, it is disingenuous to pretend this was not what was not the main point of his life. Jesus even when so far as to appropriate the “unspeakable” tetragrammaton to Himself, being judged as worthy of death both because of the direct answer and in breaking the taboo.

Jesus' claims to Diety can be categorized as: 1) direct statements, 2) the miracles, 3) confirmation when recognized by others, 4) acceptance of worship, 5) agency in and Lord of creation, resurrection, and judgment, 6) reception of endorsement by God the Father, and 7) the ability to forgive sins not committed against Him. On this last, before we move on...

Mr 2:5-7 (NIV) Jesus... said to the paralytic, "Son, your sins are forgiven." Now some teachers of the law were sitting there... "Why does this fellow talk like that? He's blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?"

Lunatic, Liar, or Lord?

CS Lewis traces out the logic of our responses in what has been termed “The Trilemma.” Jesus' claims were either true or false. If false, and Jesus knew this, that means he deliberately lied--that he was a Liar. (As Josh McDowell points out, this would also make Him a fool, since He died for a lie.) If false, and Jesus believed He really was God, this would make Him sincerly deluded--a Lunatic. Of course, if true, then He was and is Lord.

  • Lewis: "I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept his claim to be God. That is the one thing we must not say.

  • "A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse. You can shut him up for a fool, you can spit at him and kill him as a demon or you can fall at his feet and call him Lord and God, but let us not come with any patronising nonsense about his being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.

  • "We are faced, then, with a frightening alternative. This man we are talking about either was (and is) just what He said, or else a lunatic, or something worse. Now it seems to me obvious that He was neither a lunatic nor a fiend: and consequently, however strange or terrifying or unlikely it may seem, I have to accept the view that He was and is God."

  • "God has landed on this enemy-occupied world in human form."

  • John 11:25-26 (NIV) Jesus said... "I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies; and whoever lives and believes in me will never die. Do you believe this?"

    God Has Something To Say, and That Something is Jesus

    John 1:1-5 (Phi) At the beginning God expressed himself. That personal expression, that word, was with God, and was God, and he existed with God from the beginning. All creation took place through him, and none took place without him. In him appeared life and this life was the light of mankind. The light still shines in the darkness and the darkness has never put it out.

    John 1:10-13 (Phi) He came into the world—the world he had created—and the world failed to recognise him. He came into his own creation, and his own people would not accept him. Yet wherever men did accept him he gave them the power to become sons of God. These were the men who truly believed in him.

    John 1:14 (Phi) So the word of God became a human being and lived among us. We saw his splendour (the splendour as of a father’s only son), full of grace and truth.

    John 1:15-18 (Phi) And it was about him that John stood up and testified, exclaiming: “Here is the one I was speaking about when I said that although he would come after me he would always be in front of me; for he existed before I was born!” Indeed, every one of us has shared in his riches—there is a grace in our lives because of his grace. For while the Law was given by Moses, love and truth came through Jesus Christ. It is true that no one has ever seen God at any time. Yet the divine and only Son, who lives in the closest intimacy with the Father, has made him known.

    John 1:19-23 (Phi) This then is the testimony of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites to ask him who he was. He admitted with complete candour, "I am not Christ." ...They asked, "Well, then, who are you? What would you call yourself?" "I am 'The voice of one crying in the wilderness: Make straight the way of the Lord' as Isaiah the prophet said."

    John 1:29-30 (Phi) ...On the following day, John saw Jesus coming towards him and said, "Look, there is the lamb of God who will take away the sins of the world! This is the man I meant when I said, ‘A man comes after me who is always in front of me, for he existed before I was born!’"

    God's Eternal Son, as a Man, Prays for You

    John 17:1-3 (Phi) Jesus… raised his eyes to Heaven and said, "Father… glorify your Son now so that he may bring glory to you, for you have given him authority over all men to give eternal life for all that you have given to him. And this is eternal life, to know you, the only true God, and him whom you have sent—Jesus Christ.

    John 17:4-8 (Phi) "Now, Father, honour me in your own presence with the glory that I knew with you before the world was made. I have shown your self to the men whom you gave me from the world. They were your men and you gave them to me, and they have accepted your word… They have accepted it all and have come to know in their hearts that I did come from you—they are convinced that you sent me.

    John 17:20-21 (Phi) "I am not praying only for these men but for all those who will believe in me through their message... Just as you, Father, live in me and I live in you, I am asking that they may live in us, that the world may believe that you did send me.

    John 17:22-26 (Phi) "Father... I want them to see that glory which you have made mine—for you loved me before the world began. Father of goodness and truth, the world has not known you, but I have known you and these men now know that you have sent me. I have made your self known to them and I will continue to do so..."

    Get In On This

    John 14:6-7 (NIV) Jesus answered, "I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really know me, you will know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him..."

    1 John 1:1-4 (Phi) We are writing to you about something which has always existed yet which we ourselves actually saw and heard: something which we had an opportunity to observe closely and even to hold in our hands, and yet, as we know now, was something of the very Word of life himself! For it was life which appeared before us: we saw it, we are eye-witnesses of it, and are now writing to you about it. It was the very life of all ages, the life that has always existed with the Father, which actually became visible in person to us mortal men. We repeat, we really saw and heard what we are now writing to you about. We want you to be with us in this—in this fellowship with the Father, and Jesus Christ his Son. We must write and tell you about it, because the more that fellowship extends the greater the joy it brings to us who are already in it.

    Col 1:15-19 (Phi) Now Christ is the visible expression of the invisible God. He existed before creation began, for it was through him that every thing was made, whether spiritual or material, seen or unseen. Through him, and for him, also, were created power and dominion, ownership and authority. In fact, everything was created through, and for him. He is both the first principle and the upholding principle of the whole of creation. And now he is the head of the body which is composed of all Christian people. Life from nothing began through him, and life from the dead began through him, and he is, therefore, justly called the Lord of all. It was in him that the full nature of God chose to live, and through him God planned to reconcile in his own person, as it were, everything on earth and everything in Heaven by virtue of the sacrifice of the cross.

    Col 2:9 (NIV) For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form.

    John 6:29 (NIV) Jesus answered, "The work of God is this: to believe in the one he has sent."

    John 20:31 (NIV) But these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that by believing you may have life in his name.


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