Some Biblical Evidence

QUESTION: The following query comes from Ireland. "Why you believe that Jesus is God? Or the Son of God?"

ANSWER: You ask an excellent question–and an important one. Whole books have been written on the subject. My answer must necessarily be shorter than that! However, I will try to give you some of the evidence for the deity (the Godhood) of the Lord Jesus Christ.

A) What the Old Testament says about the coming Messiah.

The promised Messiah of the Old Testament (Mashiyach in the Hebrew language), is the Christ of the New Testament. The latter title (Christos is Greek for Messiah) is used of Jesus over 500 times from Matthew to Revelation. So what does the Old Testament prophesy about Him? And how do the two Testaments connect? Here is a brief sampling.

1) "Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel [literally meaning, God with us]" (Isa. 7:14).

This title is applied to Christ in Matt. 1:21-23, as an angel announces to Joseph the coming birth of Jesus to Mary: "‘She will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.' So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: ‘Behold, the virgin shall be with child, and bear a Son, and they shall call His name Immanuel,' which is translated, ‘God with us.'"

2) "For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given; and the government will be upon His shoulder. And His name will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of His government and peace there will be no end, upon the throne of David and over His kingdom, to order it and establish it with judgment and justice from that time forward, even forever. The zeal of the LORD of hosts will perform this" (Isa. 9:6-7).

As to the prophecy concerning Messiah's future earthly reign (which I believe occur place at His return) Mary was told that it was her Son Jesus who would have a right to the throne of Israel–the throne of David (Lk. 1:31-33). Note: In calling Christ "Father" (Isa. 9:6) the prophet is not confusing Him with God the Father. The term could be translated Father of Eternity, likely designating Him as the One who is the Source of eternal life for us.

3) "Behold, the days are coming," says the LORD, "that I will raise to David a Branch of righteousness; a King shall reign and prosper, and execute judgment and righteousness in the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell safely; now this is His name by which He will be called: THE LORD OUR RIGHTEOUSNESS [in Hebrew, Jehovah Tsidkenu]" (Jer. 23:5-6).

In the New Testament, we are told that it is "Christ Jesus, who became for us...righteousness" (I Cor. 1:30; II Cor. 5:21).

4) "But thou, Bethlehem Ephratah, though thou be little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of thee shall He come forth unto me that is to be ruler in Israel; whose goings forth have been from of old, from everlasting" (Mic. 5:2).

In the New Testament, the Jewish priests and scribes readily identify this as a prophecy concerning the birthplace of Christ (Matt. 2:4-6). But notice also how the coming One is described. He is said to have lived eternally ("from everlasting") before He was born.

5) "In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Lord sitting on a throne, high and lifted up, and the train of His robe filled the temple. Above it stood seraphim; each one had six wings: with two he covered his face, with two he covered his feet, and with two he flew. And one cried to another and said: "Holy, holy, holy is the LORD of hosts; The whole earth is full of His glory!" (Isa. 6:1-3).

As you likely know, when the word "LORD" is spelled with all capital letters (in the King James Version, the New International Version, and the New American Standard Bible) it translates the Hebrew Jehovah (or Yahweh). That name is a form of the verb to be, and declares (among other things) that God is the self-sufficient One. It is as though He says by the title–used over 5,000 times in the Bible–"I don't need anyone or anything to support My existence: I just AM."

And in the context Jehovah God warns Isaiah that He will bring a judgment of spiritual blindness on the people, since they have rejected Him and His Word (Isa. 6:9-10). That has a bearing on how the New Testament makes use of the passage. In John's Gospel, the writer quotes the Isaiah passage and says (italics are mine, for emphasis):

"These things Jesus spoke, and departed, and was hidden from them. But although He [Jesus] had done so many signs before them, they did not believe in Him, that the word of Isaiah the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spoke: ‘Lord, who has believed our report? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed?' Therefore they could not believe, because Isaiah said again: ‘He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, lest they should see with their eyes, lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, so that I should heal them.' These things Isaiah said when he saw His glory and spoke of Him" (Jn.12:36b-41).

The logical antecedent of "His" and "Him" in vs. 41 of John is "Jesus" in vs. 36. This shows that, in the vision Isaiah received of the LORD (Jehovah God), the One he saw was none other than the preincarnate Christ. No wonder the Lord Jesus was able to say, "He who has seen Me has seen the Father" (Jn. 14:9).

B) What the New Testament writers say concerning the identity of Christ.

1) Notice how three Gospel writers speak of Him as they begin."The book of the genealogy of Jesus Christ [the Messiah], the Son of David, the Son of Abraham" (Matt. 1:1)."The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God" (Mk. 1:1)."In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God" (Jn. 1:1).

We quickly discover that John is using "the Word" as a title for Christ. In vs. 14 he says, "The Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we beheld His glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth." Thus Christ is clearly identified as God in vs. 1.

This same title, "the Word," is used of Him concerning His second coming. "Now I saw heaven opened, and behold, a white horse. And He who sat on him was called Faithful and True, and in righteousness He judges and makes war. His eyes were like a flame of fire, and on His head were many crowns. He had a name written that no one knew except Himself. He was clothed with a robe dipped in blood, and His name is called The Word of God" (Rev. 19:11-13).

2) On one occasion, the Jewish leaders challenged the Lord Jesus as to His identity. Observe the following exchange:

Christ says, "‘Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day, and he saw it and was glad.' Then the Jews said to Him, ‘You are not yet fifty years old, and have You seen Abraham?' Jesus said to them, ‘Most assuredly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I AM'" (Jn. 8:56-58).

They fully understood that Christ was taking to Himself the "I AM" name of God (cf. Exod. 3:13-14), which is why they took up stones to kill Him (Jn. 8:59).

3) Then there is the exchange between the risen Christ and Thomas.

"After eight days His disciples were again inside [the upper room], and Thomas with them. Jesus came, the doors being shut, and stood in the midst, and said, ‘Peace to you!' Then He said to Thomas, ‘Reach your finger here, and look at My hands; and reach your hand here, and put it into My side. Do not be unbelieving, but believing.' And Thomas answered and said to Him, ‘My Lord and my God!' Jesus said to him, ‘Thomas, because you have seen Me, you have believed. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed'" (Jn. 20:26-29).

4) Of Christ's ascension it is said, "Now it came to pass, while He blessed them, that He was parted from them and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped Him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy" (Lk. 24:51-52).

The followers of Christ worshipped Him at the time of His ascension back into heaven. In contrast, the angels (created spirit beings) refuse to be worshipped by human beings. For example, "Now I, John, saw and heard these things. And when I heard and saw, I fell down to worship before the feet of the angel who showed me these things. Then he said to me, ‘See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God'" (Rev. 22:8-9).

5) "In whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins. By Him all things were created that are in heaven and that are on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers. All things were created through Him and for Him. And He is before all things, and in Him all things consist" (Col. 1:16-17).

And the writer is speaking of the One "in whom we have redemption through His blood, the forgiveness of sins," who is Jesus Christ, and presenting Him as the Creator of all--including angels.

6) "Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ. For in Him dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily" (Col. 2:8-9).

7) "God was manifested in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen by angels, preached among the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up in glory" (I Tim. 3:16b).

8) "But when He [God the Father] again brings the firstborn into the world, He says: ‘Let all the angels of God worship Him.' And of the angels He says: ‘Who makes His angels spirits and His ministers a flame of fire.' But to the Son He says: ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever; a sceptre of righteousness is the sceptre of Your Kingdom'" [Heb. 1:6-8).

9) Terms such as "begotten" and "only begotten" are used in connection with Christ not to suggest He had a beginning. Rather the words were used in Jewish culture as a declaration of rank.

To be the "only begotten" of a human father meant one was the heir and future head of the clan. In Heb. 11:17-18, for instance, Abraham's son Isaac is called his "only begotten," when we know that Ishmael was a son born to him earlier. However, Ishmael was not the heir of the covenant promises made with Abraham. Isaac, though younger, outranked him. King David is also called God's "firstborn" in the same sense of first in rank (Ps. 89:20-21, 27).

C) What Christ Himself says on the subject.

1) The many "I AM" statements of Christ show that He identified Himself as Jehovah God, the centre and source of all things. He said, "I am the bread of life" (Jn. 6:35)...."I am the light of the world" (Jn. 9:5)...."I am the resurrection and the life" (Jn. 11:35).... "I am the way, the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through Me" (Jn. 14:6).

2) Jesus says, "I and My Father are one" (Jn. 10:30).

And the Greek word for "one" there is not masculine–which it would be, if Jesus meant He was the same person as the Father. Rather, the word is neuter, so the statement means Christ is one in nature or kind with the Father. It is a claim to deity.

The Jews certainly understood this, because it says, "Then the Jews took up stones again to stone Him. Jesus answered them, ‘Many good works I have shown you from My Father. For which of those works do you stone Me?' 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.'" (vs. 31-33).

3) At a well in Samaria, "The woman said to Him, ‘I know that Messiah is coming' (who is called Christ). ‘When He comes, He will tell us all things.' Jesus said to her, ‘I who speak to you am He'" (Jn. 4:25-26).

4) Before His death, the Lord Jesus prayed to His heavenly Father, "And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was" (Jn. 17:5).

5) "Then He [Jesus, after His resurrection] said to them, ‘These are the words which I spoke to you while I was still with you, that all things must be fulfilled which were written in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms concerning Me'" (Lk. 24:44).

Think of what a bold claim this is! Christ is saying that from beginning to end the Old Testament is about Him!

6) "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19-20).

This is part of what is sometimes called The Great Commission. Notice how Christ carefully words the authorization for Christian baptism. The construction of the sentence, "The Father and...the Son...and...the Holy Spirit" implies the equality of the three Persons of the Trinity.

Also, for Christ to promise to be with believers always, to the end of the age, is surely a claim to omnipresence–an attribute of deity, that God can be present everywhere at once.

7) Further, omniscience (all-knowingness, another attribute of God) is claimed for Christ. He knows the very thoughts of others (Lk. 6:7-8; 11:16-17; Jn. 4:16-18, 29).

D) What the plan of salvation tells us about His identity

I have included reference to the humanity of Christ here because I believe some of the confusion as to His identity relates to this. As noted above, many Scriptures state or imply the deity of Christ. However, others clearly show His humanity. There is no contradiction. He was not only fully God, but also fully Man–a Being absolutely unique in all the universe.

If we just take verses dealing with His human nature, we might come to the conclusion that He was an ordinary man (who could, for example, get weary and thirsty, cf. Jn. 4:5-7). But these must be balanced with the many texts which indicate He is far more. He is eternally the God-Man.

It is in keeping with Jewish culture that Jesus is called "the Son of God" (Matt. 4:6; Rom. 1:4, etc.) "Son of" to the Hebrew reader meant having the nature of. But as Man, Christ also presents Himself repeatedly in the Gospels as "the Son of Man"--One having the nature of man (Matt. 8:20; 9:6; 12:8; 20:18, etc.). (You can see a similar use of the father-son concept in Christ's condemnation of the Jewish leaders as being "of your father the devil," Jn. 8:44.)

The Bible teaches that God the Son came to this earth as Man in order to save lost sinners (Matt. 1:21; Lk. 19:10). The Bible states that we are all condemned and in danger of eternal judgment because of sin (Jn. 3:18; Rom. 6:23a). Our only hope was for a substitute to take sin's punishment in our place. But if all have sinned (Rom. 3:23), there is no one who does not deserve punishment for his own sins. Thus none qualifies to die in place of others.

That is why the perfect Son of God became Man. To die as our sinless Substitute, to suffer on the cross in our place (II Cor. 5:21). He had to be Man to die. But He had to be God to triumph over death (cf. Jn. 10:17-18). Now we, through personal faith in what He did for us on Calvary, can be forgiven and receive the gift of eternal life (Jn. 3:17-18, 35; Rom. 6:23b; Eph. 1:7).