Jesus: Is Jesus fully God?
Jesus is nearly universally recognized as a great moral example, insightful teacher, defender of the poor and marginalized, humble servant to the needy, and unprecedented champion of overturning injustice with nonviolence. However, the divinity of Jesus Christ is most frequently and heatedly debated.
Simply stated, the question as to whether Jesus Christ is fully God is the issue that divides Christianity from all other religions and spiritualities. For example, the Jehovah’s Witnesses Watchtower Society says, “Jesus never claimed to be God.”1 Bahá’i’s say that Jesus was a manifestation of God and a prophet but inferior to Muhammad and Bahá’ulláh. Buddhism teaches that Jesus was not God but rather an enlightened man like the Buddha. Christian Science founder Mary Baker Eddy flatly states, “Jesus Christ is not God.”
Conversely, we believe that there are numerous incontrovertible reasons to believe that Jesus Christ was and is fully God. God the Father said Jesus was God. The Bible is clear that the Father declares the Son to be God. In Hebrews 1:8 the Father speaks of the Son as God, saying, “But of the Son he says, ‘Your throne, O God, is forever and ever.’” When Jesus is brought forth out of the water at his baptism, God the Father says, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased.”2
At Jesus’ transfiguration, “a voice from the cloud said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.’”3 Indeed, there can be no greater testimony to the deity of Jesus Christ than that of God the Father.
Demons said Jesus was God.Even demons called Jesus “the Holy One of God”4 and “the Son of God.”5 Mark 1:34 says that Jesus “would not permit the demons to speak, because they knew him.” Again, Luke 4:41 says Jesus “would not allow them [the demons] to speak, because they knew that he was the Christ.”
Jesus said he was God.Jesus’ claim to be God is without precedent or peer, as no founder of any major world religion has ever said he was God. Yet, Jesus clearly, repeatedly, and emphatically said he was God in a variety of ways. If this claim were untrue, he would have been guilty of violating the first commandment and as a blasphemer would have deserved death. This is why the people who disbelieved his claim kept seeking to put him to death. The eventual murder of Jesus for claiming to be God is recorded in Matthew 26:63–65, which says:
But Jesus remained silent. And the high priest said to him, “I adjure you by the living God, tell us if you are the Christ, the Son of God.” Jesus said to him, “You have said so. But I tell you, from now on you will see the Son of Man seated at the right hand of Power and coming on the clouds of heaven.” Then the high priest tore his robes and said, “He has uttered blasphemy. What further witnesses do we need? You have now heard his blasphemy.”
By declaring that he came down from heaven, Jesus revealed that he was eternally God in heaven before his incarnation on the earth.6 By saying he was the only way to heaven, Jesus claimed to be both God and savior.7 Jesus refused to be considered merely a good moral instructor and instead claimed to be “God alone.”8
Those who heard Jesus say these kinds of things wanted to kill Jesus because he was “making himself equal with God.”9 On this point, Billy Graham says, “Jesus was not just another great religious teacher, nor was he only another in a long line of individuals seeking after spiritual truth. He was, instead, truth itself. He was God incarnate.”10
Jesus’ claims to be God were clearly heard and understood by his enemies, and Jesus never recanted.11 John 8:58–59 reports that Jesus said, “‘Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.’ So they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.” In John 10:30–33 Jesus also said:
“I and the Father are one.” The Jews picked up stones again to stone him. Jesus answered them, “I have shown you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you going to stone me?” The Jews answered him, “It is not for a good work that we are going to stone you but for blasphemy, because you, being a man, make yourself God.”
On this point, New York’s Judge Gaynor once said of Jesus’ trial at the end of his earthly life, “It is plain from each of the gospel narratives, that the alleged crime for which Jesus was tried and convicted was blasphemy.”12
The Bible plainly says Jesus is God. Without question, the New Testament often refers to Jesus Christ as God, and a few examples will illustrate this truth clearly. Matthew refers to Jesus as “‘Immanuel’ (which means, God with us).”13 Thomas calls Jesus, “My Lord and my God!”14 Romans 9:5 speaks of “the Christ who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen.” Titus 2:13 refers to “our great God and Savior Jesus Christ” and Titus 3:4 calls Jesus, “God our Savior.” First John 5:20 says that Jesus Christ “is the true God.” Lastly, 2 Peter 3:18 speaks of “our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.”
Jesus is given the names of God.When picking a title for himself, Jesus was apparently most fond of “Son of Man.”15 He spoke of himself by this term roughly eighty times between all four Gospels. He applied the title from the prophet Daniel, who penned it some six hundred years before Jesus’ birth.16 In Daniel’s vision, the Son of Man comes to the Ancient of Days, the Lord himself. But he comes from the clouds, from heaven, not from the earth. This indicates that he isn’t a human. He is given messianic dominion and authority, something no angel can obtain and is reserved for God. The Old Testament sees this divine person sitting alongside the Lord as an equal. This second person of the Trinity was promised to receive the messianic mission to redeem the world, to defeat every enemy and liberate people. As God, he is exalted over all peoples, nations, cultures, and religions to be worshiped as the eternal King. Jesus is the one who claimed he would be the Son of Man coming with the clouds as God.
Many other names for God are also attributed to Jesus Christ. Jesus claimed to be the “Son of God” on many occasions.17 In so doing he was claiming to be equal to and of the same substance as God the Father. Those who heard him use this title rightly understood that it was a divine title: “This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.”18
The New Testament refers to Jesus Christ as “Lord” several hundred times.19 That term is the equivalent of the Old Testament term “Jehovah,” which is one of the highest titles the Bible ascribes to God. Thus, this title is ascribed to Jesus Christ as God and Lord.
In Revelation 22:13 Jesus says, “I am the Alpha and the Omega, the first and the last, the beginning and the end.” With these titles he is obviously referring to himself as eternal God. Bible commentator Grant Osborne says: The titles refer to the sovereignty of God and Christ over history. They control the beginning of creation and its end, and therefore they control every aspect of history in between. Since this is the only passage to contain all three titles, it has the greatest emphasis of them all on the all-embracing power of Christ over human history.20
Jesus’ miracles confirm his claim to be God. The nearly forty miracles that Jesus performed throughout the New Testament demonstrate God is with Jesus. Just as miracles confirmed the authority and anointing of the ancient prophets and Jesus’ apostles, the miracles of Messiah are God’s way of giving his stamp of approval to the claims of Jesus.21 They point to him as the person through whom God is doing his work. For example, when Jesus gave sight to the blind man, the people would have been reminded of Psalm 146:8: “The LORD opens the eyes of the blind.” The fact of Jesus’ miracles is so well established that even his enemies conceded it.22
The Jewish Talmud charged that Jesus “practiced magic.”23 Celsus, a strong opponent of Christianity, later repeated that claim.24 The noted Jewish historian Josephus also reported that Jesus was “a doer of wonderful works.”25 In John 10:36–39 Jesus speaks of these works:
“Do you say of him whom the Father consecrated and sent into the world, ‘You are blaspheming,’ because I said, ‘I am the Son of God’? If I am not doing the works of my Father, then do not believe me; but if I do them, even though you do not believe me, believe the works, that you may know and understand that the Father is in me and I am in the Father.” Again they sought to arrest him, but he escaped from their hands.
Jesus’ claim to deity includes declaring himself to be without any sin in thought, word, deed, or motive and therefore morally perfect. In John 8:46 Jesus openly invites his enemies to recall any sin he ever committed saying, “Which one of you convicts me of sin?” Those who testify to the sinlessness of Jesus are those who knew him most intimately, such as his friends Peter26 and John,27 his half-brother James,28 and even his former enemy Paul.29 Additionally, even Judas who betrayed Jesus admitted that Jesus was without sin,30 along with the ruler Pontius Pilate, who oversaw the murder of Jesus,31 the soldier who participated in the murder of Jesus,32 and the guilty sinner who was crucified at Jesus’ side.33
Furthermore, not only was Jesus God and without sin, but he also forgave sin.34 The Bible is clear that our sin is ultimately committed against God35 and that God alone can forgive sin.36 Thus, Luke 5:20–21 reveals Jesus doing the work of God:
And when he [Jesus] saw their faith, he said, “Man, your sins are forgiven you.” And the scribes and the Pharisees began to question, saying, “Who is this who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
Lastly, Jesus also claimed the power to raise the dead,37 judge our eternal destiny,38 and grant eternal life.39
People worshiped Jesus as God.The Bible is emphatically clear that only God is to be worshiped.40 To worship anyone other than God is both idolatry and blasphemy—two sins that the Bible abhors from beginning to end with the strongest condemnations. Jesus himself repeats the command to worship God only when the Devil tempts Jesus to worship him. Therefore, the fact that Jesus accepted worship as God is one of the strongest arguments that Jesus Christ was and is fully God.
Jesus repeatedly invited people to pray to him as God.41 As a result of his teaching, both men like Stephen42 and women like the Canaanite43 did pray to Jesus as God.
Jesus also said that he is to be worshiped along with the Father: “All may honor the Son, just as they honor the Father. Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.”44 Upon his triumphal entry into Jerusalem when children worshiped him, Jesus quoted Psalm 8:2 in reference to himself as God to be worshiped:
When the chief priests and the scribes saw the wonderful things that he did, and the children crying out in the temple, “Hosanna to the Son of David!” they were indignant, and they said to him, “Do you hear what these are saying?” And Jesus said to them, “Yes; have you never read, ‘Out of the mouth of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise’?”45
Commenting on this event, Craig Blomberg says: Jesus’ response, again using the introductory rebuke “Have you never read?” tacitly applauds their acclamation in light of Ps 8:2 (LXX [Septuagint] 8:3, which is quoted verbatim). There the children are praising Yahweh, so Jesus again accepts worship that is reserved for God alone.46
Also, after being healed by Jesus, a man worshiped Jesus, and Jesus accepted his worship.47 Lastly, Philippians 2:10–11 envisions a day in which everyone bends their knee in subjection to Jesus and lifts their voice in worship of Jesus as Lord.
Taken together, all of this evidence reveals that Jesus was and is God. Or, as Colossians 2:9 says perfectly, “in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.”
Are you fully convinced that Jesus Christ is fully God? If not, what questions do you need to seek answers to regarding him?