Is Jesus God?

Growing up, I heard a lot about Jesus. I read the stories and learned the parables. But my knowledge of the nature of Jesus was deficient at best. I had heard of the Trinity but I just thought of that as a group of three important people: God, Jesus and the Spirit, whatever that was. I was shocked when as an adult I came to the understanding that Jesus was supposed to be God. Why did I not know this before? As I learned more, I discovered that this was not just a minor issue. In the first five hundred years of the church, this was the issue. Hundreds of people gave their lives over their belief that Jesus was not just a created being but was in fact equal with God. This sounds like something that we should know about. I am going to deal with three questions around the idea of the divinity of Christ and then try and tie it all together with why this matters.
I. Was Jesus Just a Prophet?
There are many people who respect Jesus very much but who deny that Jesus was God. Muslims have a deep respect for Jesus. Jesus is mentioned much more in the Qur’an than Muhammad. Yet in Islam, the only unforgivable sin is to consider someone equal to God, and in this they have Christians who affirm the deity of Christ in mind. If you kill someone, there is room for forgiveness. But if you say Jesus is God, you are finished. It is not just Muslims who have a problem with Jesus as God. Many people today read passages in the Bible such as the Sermon on the Mount and can affirm that Jesus was a moral teacher and a good man. But God? That seems to be stretching things. In John 8, Jesus gets into the argument with some of the Jews. Jesus presents Himself, not as another prophet in line with the rest of the Old Testament prophets, but as something even more exalted. Jesus then makes a radical statement: “Before Abraham was, I am.” (John 8:58) Jesus is not only saying that He is older than Abraham, He is calling Himself “I Am.” The Hebrew word for “I Am” is the root of the covenant name for God that was revealed to Moses. Jesus is claiming to be God. These Jews became so upset that they picked up stones to kill Jesus. People continue to become angry over claims of the divinity of Jesus. People can accept a human Jesus who is willing to take His place among the world’s religious leaders, but a divine, incarnate Jesus is too much. People may not like it but Jesus gives us no other choice. Jesus forgave people instead of just stating that God had forgiven them because He had the authority to forgive. Jesus is God.
II. Was Jesus an Angel?
There are those who will accept that Jesus was more than a man. Jehovah’s Witnesses, for example, have an exalted view of Jesus. However, their view is somewhat different than the traditional Christian view. One of our key passages for the deity of Christ is John 1:1, which uses “Word” as a title for Jesus. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This clearly teaches Jesus as equal but distinct from God the Father. But Jehovah’s Witnesses translate this differently. “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God and the Word was a god.” Do you see the difference? They are willing to accept an exalted Jesus, but not one quite equal with the Father. If you go deeper into their beliefs, you will find that they believe that Jesus is the archangel Michael. In 1 Thessalonians 4:16, it says that the Lord Jesus will return with the voice of the archangel, most likely Michael. They conclude that this voice must be Jesus’ own and therefore Jesus is Michael. It is more likely that Jesus will return with Michael announcing His arrival. But it is worth us examining this claim. This belief that Jesus was a supernatural but a created being is very ancient. Was Jesus some sort of angel? In the first couple of chapters of Hebrews, the author goes to lengthy attempts to show that Jesus is not an angel but is much greater. For example, Hebrews 1:4, speaking of Jesus, says: “having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.” This is what the author of Hebrews believes about Jesus: “He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.” (Hebrews 1:3) Jehovah’s Witnesses might be nice people, but when it comes to Jesus they have missed the mark. Jesus is not an angel or any other created being but is God Himself in human form.
III. But Is Not Jesus the Son of God Rather Than God Himself?
The thing you might be thinking is: we do not often speak of Jesus as God but rather we use the title Son of God. Which one is correct? Both are. They just speak of different things. One speaks of His essence and the other of His role and position. Let me try to explain. Throughout eternity, there has always been only one God. But within that one God there is movement, there is relationship, there is diversity of role. We call this diversity Father, Son and Holy Spirit. They share the unity of one God and celebrate the diversity of three persons. The Son is fully God in that He has eternally co-existed with the Father and there never has been a time when the Father existed but the Son did not. The Son is the Son in that He chooses to submit to the Father, not because of a difference in nature but a difference of role. So Jesus is fully God. But Jesus is also the Son of God. Jesus is not just the pre-existent second person of the Trinity. Jesus was conceived within the womb of His mother Mary. Since God is the one that caused that conception, Jesus is in every aspect the Son of God. This was not the language of the pagan god-men who were conceived by the mating of god and woman. The language used is similar to creation in Genesis and so mysteriously God creates a fetus within Mary that is fully human and yet contains the full essence of God. Jesus is both God and Son of God.
Let us be honest: does any of this really matter? Does anyone really care if Jesus is man, angel, Son of God or God? It does matter and we should care. It all comes down to this: what is our real need? Was it for good moral teaching and spiritual truths that point us toward God? If that is the case, we really did not need Jesus. Read Isaiah or Jeremiah or any of the other Old Testament prophets, they did a fine job of that. In fact, in much of His teaching, Jesus quotes the Old Testament. He did not say much that was unique. What about the miracles? Moses and Elijah did miracles as well, Jesus was not unique in this either. Not to mention, as interesting as the miracles are, they are really of not much benefit to us today. So what is our problem? Our problem is separation from God. Sin puts up a huge separation, something greater than the Berlin Wall and the Great Wall of China combined. We need something greater than a teaching or a miracle. We need something that can bridge that infinite gap between God and humanity. That bridge is the sacrificial death of the Jesus who was both God and man. This equipped Jesus to both represent us in our humanity and to be up to the task in His divinity. Does it matter that Jesus was God? It is literally a matter of life and death. If Jesus was not God, then we are not reconciled to God. But because Jesus is God, we have been brought into relationship with God. Jesus shares His relationship with the Father with us so that we too are children of God. That is only possible because Jesus is God.

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9 thoughts on “Is Jesus God?”

  1. One of the issues that must be dealt with are how prophecies about YHWH are applied to Jesus. For example, it is clear that the purpose of John the Baptist’s ministry is to prepare the way for Jesus. However, Mark 1:3 quotes Isaiah 40:3, speaking of the voice of the one in the wilderness preparing the way for the Lord. That Lord is YHWH (even the NWT translates this as Jehovah) and yet it is applied to the preparation for the appearance of Jesus. There are numerous examples of Old Testament YHWH prophecies being applied to Jesus. This speaks loudly for the deity of Jesus.

  2. It matters more than any other theological debate.

    Jesus is God (YHWH) and leaves his spirit (God) to indwell those who accept his message and what the message provides. Life is the result of belief that Jesus is God. Sadly too many in the pews today, do not think that the claim Jesus made to be God is important. As a children’s ministry helper, I see that lack of insight as flat line living: no life, no vitality, no curiosity of spirit, no seeking of relevance of our personal existence in this ecosystem of creation – just busy-ness to hide from pondering relevance. The children of parents (and generations) flatline because of the unbelief that Jesus is redeemer and God. Deut30 is one place where we can find an outline of the choice between life and death and the consequences of the choice. In this time in history the question is who do you say Jesus is? Either Jesus is God or he is not. It is the fundamental question for created beings.

    How do I know Jesus is God to be true? When I read the first five books from the OT, by Deut34, I got a pretty strong conviction that Moses knew Jesus was God and what God was going to do for mankind through Israel and through Jesus. Isaiah and Psalms speaks volumes about the coming messiah.

    One of my favourite habits of Jesus was calling himself, Son of Man. He verified through scriptural reference to historical occurrence that he was the Son of God and God himself… But he still was Son of Man.
    Does that make him less than God? It definitely separated him from other claims of deity in history.

    The real proof today is seen and heard in the transformation of the soul or mindset of fully devoted followers. I live in a non-spectacular fashion but on a deeply supercharged level, where the holy spirit of God gently amplifies the promises of scripture, second by second. My everyday life transcends from secular to pleasing before God, ONLY because of Jesus and his spirit. How can one adequately explain the spark that acknowledging Jesus is LORD (or Jesus is YHWH) in the heart, mind and body? I cannot, but I can live it.

    How does this look in the real world? When a JW or LDS comes to the door,knocks, reads, and wants to know what exactly Joshua 24:15 (on the door knocker) means to me, I can depend on the holy spirit of God to address the true issue of the visitors heart with kind, edifying words from my mouth. The holy spirit, promised by the one who claimed he was God incarnate, attunes my being to his being, and breathes life into mere words and actions. The subtlety is that I may not wish to do so, but being attuned to the holiness of God, by his spirit, I can impart words and actions of life not death. Because what Jesus said (and did/does) is true and it proves out true everyday.

    Deut30:19-20 “Today I have given you the choice between life and death, between blessings and curses. Now I call on heaven to witness the choice you make. Oh that you would chose life, so that your descendants might live! You can make this choice by loving the LORD your God, obeying him, and committing yourself firmly to him. This is the key to your life. and if you love and obey the LORD you will live long in the land the LORD your God swore to give your ancestors Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.”

    Choosing to believe Jesus is God is the first act of obedience and vital to really living. Like the author, young children need to know that Jesus is God and they need to experience the Father’s love, the Son’s obedience and the holy spirit’s presence daily.The Word of God stands on its own and young children need to hear an adult read God’s words to them. They will know that Jesus is God , the Word, the Lord, the tiny voice of confidence that says It’s okay I am God, the one who loves you and I know the outcome of this situation already. This is the rock to stand on in this insecure world.

  3. L Brasnett,
    Thank you for your input. You mentioned reading the Old Testament and believing that Moses “know” that Jesus was God… Was there a Jesus in the OT?????

    Can I ask your (and anyone who wants to chime in) opinion on two scriptures:
    Ex 23:20, 21 20 “Here I am sending an angel ahead of you to keep you on the road and to bring you into the place that I have prepared. 21 Watch yourself because of him and obey his voice. Do not behave rebelliously against him, for he will not pardon your transgression; because my name is within him.

    John 1:11 11 He came to his own home, but his own people did not take him in.

  4. The angel that God sent ahead of the people in Exodus could not be Christ because Hebrews 1-2 makes it very clear that Jesus is not an angel but is much superior to angels.

  5. Hi thanks for the opportunity to really dig into scripture on this topic of Jesus is God. Good prep to have a researched answer to a genuine question of faith.

    Just to clarify, The Bible doesn’t tell us everything:) If it was written by the women, it would be considerably more detailed, but God decide who would write and who would speculate. 🙂

    I considered that Moses who knew God personally for most of his life, probably had a good conversation about the plan God had for Israel and the Promised Land right up to Moses death on Mount Nebo. Moses caught the vision God had for his people and he too loved them, you can catch that theme in the first 5 books.

    Do I believe Jesus was in the OT? Yes. John 1:1 mentioned in the initial argument in this discussion corresponds to Genesis 1. Jesus was, is, and will be God. He is introduced as the angel of the LORD , the holy terror, a man who wrestled with Jacob, the God who walked and talked with Enoch, etc. The OT is the story of God and his plan to bring a holy people to himself on his terms and by his means to be his for eternity.

    Daniel, what do you believe? Your initial reply confused me because it had no context that I could relate to. Please introduce the table with a little conversation. I personally do not use the word Jehovah in my conversations with God. YHWH is what I was taught by an elderly Jewish man I cleaned house for in my youth. I understand the linguistic changes.

    Any way I will respond to your quest. Ex 23:20, 21 are best extended to be read until verse 33, because it defines the might and holiness of the angel and gives clues.

    This is an awe full promise to Moses and the people, but Moses often challenged God to lead them personally or leave them in the desert. So based on the big picture of Moses challenging God to lead them or leave them, I believe God lead them by (the comforting proof) of pillar of fire at night and cloud cover by day. God dwelt in the middle of their tents, abhorred the evil ways, dealt consequences and blessings to the people in accordance with obedience and cared for their needs. He was with his people in the desert. I did not pick out scriptures individually but looked at the big themes. Please take some time and read through these 5 books, noting the details (and repetition) that show God’s personality traits. Note that he did dwell with his people as he formed them into a remnant nation to prove the glory of God to all nations in both OT and NT and today.

    So what are the other possibilities as to who is this angel? It could be archangel Micheal who has charge over God’s people (Daniel 12:1) It could be a specially assigned angel: we don’t have a direct answer. It could be a pre-incarnate Jesus or God because the angel is said to have God’s name in him. 23:21 and is able to forgive sins. Who is the one who forgives sins? Jesus… and those who have his holy spirit living in them. In verse 27 a terror of God is personified. Is this the power of God, the Holy Spirit, or another spiritual being assigned by God? God then indicates it is himself. He is a holy and terrifying God to any who oppose his people. So is this Jesus? It is God.

    Respectfully, I disagree with Stephan’s explanation from Hebrews 1-2. I have considered that argument before but find it more carefully examines the relationship of Jesus to Father God in obedience, to Jesus’s lordship over the angels (created beings), and His reaching down the heavenly hierarchy to make himself lower than angels,as a human to complete the sacrifice of blood and body to atone for sin. Chapter 2 clearly states God delivers his message through angels and God confirms his message however he chooses, including by his spirit. God did so by his fleshy son, Jesus. But it also goes onto say that we his children have been given to him. When someone is given they are with that person. Interestingly, in the culture of that day, as adopted children we cannot be given back or away: a natural born child could be denied but not an adopted one. Confirmation of God’s will is completing. So God does show us how He binds us to himself in these Hebrew chapters, but it doesn’t clarify that the angel of the Lord was not Jesus or God.

    I choose to believe it was God himself, Jesus, the holy spirit who lead them into the promised land. The Israelites were not yet a fully defined people other than by their God at that point in the OT. As a theocracy, they needed God to directly lead them. Moses point his out in Exodus 35-40 where he writes about the shekinah glory.

    Do you mean John 1:1 or John 1:11? The latter speaks to the rejection of Jesus by his own people. What changed since the desert journey? Not much. Today repeats the same rejection of God and his redeemer Jesus. Curiously the next verse repeats the theme of adopted children. We Gentiles are blessed because of this rejection, as we are able to be grafted into the family of God. We are accepted when redeemed.

    Thanks for the food for provocative thought, Stephen.

  6. Steven, I see your point. (Heb.1:3, 4; 2:2, 3) but, given Jesus’ position as The Word (angel is defined as messenger), his obvious love of mankind (Prov. 8:31) and involvement with mankind’s affairs and what is brought out at 1 Cor. 10:1 it seems clear that Jesus is the one that is being used here.

    Any comments on the chart?

  7. No problem about the name. But I do not see why Jesus should be identified as an angel. Jesus as the logos or Word seems to be more about God’s creative power in Genesis than a reference to angels. Also, in Jewish texts, angels or Michael are not described as being involved in creation.

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