At Caesarea Philippi, Jesus of Nazareth confronted His disciples with the searching question, "Who do you say that I am?" (Mt 16.15, NKJV). He thrusts His identity to the forefront. Who is He? That challenge resounds through the centuries and still faces us today. The New Testament leaves us in no doubt as to the only answer. Jesus Christ, although truly and fully man, is truly and fully God. This is the essential affirmation of authentic Christianity. It is not a construct of the early church councils, as many claim. Rather, those councils put in systematic form what Christians already believed on the basis of Scripture, and excluded erroneous ideas on the Person of Christ. The great confession that Jesus is the Son of God and, as such, God Himself, rests on the clearest Biblical evidence. It is attested by strand after strand of New Testament teaching.
We confess the full deity of the Lord Jesus because He made divine claims. The Gospels are full of dramatic assertions made by Christ about Himself. Taken together, they amount to a claim to deity. For example, He claimed the divine prerogative of forgiving sins (Mk 2.1-12). Ultimately sin is against God (Ps 51.4). He is the most offended party in all sins. The religious teachers were absolutely right when they reasoned that only God could forgive sins. Their conclusion that Christ was blaspheming when He granted forgiveness was absolutely wrong. There was a flaw in their logic. The man who stood before them was Himself God.
The Lord Jesus also claimed that He would be the final judge. All of mankind would stand before Him. Not only so, but His ultimate verdict will be based on each individuals relationship to Him (Mt 7.21-23). Indeed, on another occasion, the Lord Jesus solemnly declared that eternal destiny turns on belief that He truly is the eternal God (Jn 8.24). On a memorable day in Jerusalem, Christ claimed to be the Son of God. God was His Father in a unique way. His contemporaries realised that this was a claim to complete equality with God. They attempted to stone Him because they considered it to be blasphemy (Jn 5.16-18). As a final instance of His glorious claims, take the occasion when the Lord Jesus declared, "Before Abraham was, I am" (Jn 8.58). This astounding statement asserts not just pre-existence but eternal existence as God. In it, Jesus used the title "I am", the characteristic self description of Israels God. Once again, the Jews saw what was at stake. The teacher from Nazareth was making Himself God.
When we consider seriously Christs claims, the popular option of regarding Him as a mere religious leader is closed to us. They demand that He must be a deceiver, deranged, or divine. The Christian falls before his Saviour and recognises the absolute truth of His every claim. They were vindicated in His glorious resurrection. Jesus is God.
We confess the full deity of the Lord Jesus because He is given divine titles. On a few occasions the New Testament actually ascribes the title "God" to Him. For example the Eternal Word who was with God "was God" (Jn 1.1). Of Christ it is said that He "is over all, God blessed for ever" (Rom 9.5). Paul terms Him "our great God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (Tit 2.13, ESV). John says that He is "the true God" (1 Jn 5.20). Amazingly, God the Father addresses His Son as, "O God" (Heb 1.8). Less often noticed is the telling application to Jesus, in page after page of the New Testament, of the exalted title "Lord". The word used is exactly the same word which the Greek translation of the Old Testament used for Gods sacred Name, Jehovah or Yahweh, on almost 7,000 occasions. Thus to the New Testament writers, Jesus the Lord is the Jehovah of the Old Testament. That majestic title is rightly applied to Him.
We confess the full deity of the Lord Jesus because He possesses the divine attributes. That means that everything which is true of God is also true of Christ. Paul does not hesitate to affirm, in a great passage about Christs humiliation and exaltation, that in His pre-existence the Lord Jesus was eternally "in the form of God" (Phil 2.6). That expression means that He possessed all the attributes of the Godhead. It teaches us that He shared in Gods essence and participated in His being. Similarly, in an epistle combating error on the Person of Christ, Paul affirms that He is "the image of the invisible God" and that the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily in Him (Col 1.15; 2.9). The writer to the Hebrews ascribes particular unique attributes of God to Christ, the Son of God. He shows from Old Testament quotations that Christ is everlasting and unchanging (Heb 1.11-12). The astonishing thing is that all these passages were written within a few decades of the life, death, and resurrection of the Lord Jesus. There were still people alive who had known Him on earth. Nonetheless, Christians realised that the carpenter and itinerant preacher was none other than God. In one remarkable passage, John, commenting on the majestic vision which Isaiah had seen in the temple, explains that the glory the prophet saw was the glory of the pre-incarnate Lord Jesus (Jn 12.41). James, the brother of Jesus, gladly confesses Him as "the Lord of Glory" (James 2.1). Christ indeed is "the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature" (Heb 1.3, ESV).
We confess the full deity of the Lord Jesus because He exercises divine functions. Surprisingly often the New Testament writers attribute the creation of the universe, clearly a divine work, to the Lord Jesus as God the Son. This is emphasised by John and by Paul (Jn 1.3; Col 1.16). The writer to the Hebrews has no hesitation in ascribing the laying of the earths foundations to Christ and stating that the heavens are the work of His hands (Heb 1.10). Not only so, but he tells us that it is the Lord Jesus who upholds the whole universe by His powerful word (Heb 1.3). That involves directing all of creation and moving it forward to its eventual goal when He will enter into the wonderful inheritance which is His as heir of all things. How incredible that the great Creator became incarnate as the baby of Bethlehem and died for us on the cross of Calvary!
We confess the full deity of the Lord Jesus because He receives divine worship. It is a fundamental teaching of the whole Bible that worship is reserved for God alone. In Scripture, when good men are offered worship, they refuse it, e.g. Acts 14.11-18. Similarly, when good men find themselves in the presence of angels and offer them worship, these glorious beings disclaim it, e.g. Revelation 19.10. However, God the Father claims the worship of all His angels for His Son (Heb 1.6). On the Isle of Patmos, John, who had been the close companion of Christ on earth, fell down in utter adoration when he saw Him in heavenly majesty (Rev 1.17). In the visions granted to him, John later heard the worship of heaven and earth, angels, redeemed men, and indeed every creature, being ascribed to the Lord Jesus as the Lamb of God (Rev 5.8-14). It is the Fathers desire that all should honour the Son as they honour the Father (Jn 5.23). In resurrection, the Lord Jesus received the worship of the disciples (Mt 28.17). We give the unique adoration due to God to the Son as well as to the Father.
Belief in the full deity of the Lord Jesus is vitally important. It secures to us the truth that He is the full and final revelation of God. Because He is Himself God incarnate, He completely discloses the character of His Father to us. He who has seen me, He declares, has indeed seen the Father (Jn 12.45; 14.9). It also secures to us the efficacy of His work of redemption. Only as God and man in one person could He have accomplished His saving death with its infinite value. May each of us stand with Thomas and gladly confess to the Lord Jesus, "my Lord and my God" (Jn 20.28).
To be continued.