July 15, 2014

200 Words: The Deity of Christ

by Nathan Busenitz

200wordsIn early church history, one of the biggest theological debates centered on the deity of Jesus Christ. There are still groups that deny His deity today, from Muslims (who say Jesus was merely a prophet) to Jehovah’s Witnesses (who insist that He is not equal to the Father).

If I were asked to defend the doctrine of Christ’s deity, in 200 words or less, this would be my response. (Note that my word count does not include Scripture references).

I believe that Jesus is God for at least the following eleven reasons:

1. The Old Testament predicted that the Messiah would be God (Isaiah 9:6; Matt. 1:23)

2. Jesus claimed a heavenly preexistence (John 6:62; 8:23; 16:28; 17:5)

3. Jesus assumed divine authority:

* Over the Sabbath (Matt. 12:8; Mark 2:28; Luke 6:5)

* Over the forgiveness of sins (Mark 2:5–11)

* Over people’s eternal destinies (John 8:24; cf. Luke 12:8–9; John 5:22, 27–29)

4. Jesus exercised divine authority

* Over demons (Mark 1:2–27; 3:11; 5:1–20)

* Over disease and death (Mark 1:29–31; 40–45; 5:25–43; 8:22–26; etc.)

* Over the natural world (Luke 5:1–11; 8:22–25; 9:10–17; etc.)

5. Jesus claimed ownership over that which belongs only to God:

* The kingdom of God (Matt. 13:41; 16:28; cf. Luke 1:33)

* The elect of God (Matt. 24:30–31)

* The angels of God (Matt. 13:41; 24:30–31)

6. Jesus claimed the right to receive worship and the ability to answer prayer (John 14:13–14; cf. Acts 7:59; 9:10–17; Rev. 1:17)

7. Jesus called Himself the Son of Man, a title with divine implications from the Old Testament (cf. Dan. 7:13–14)

8. Jesus also called Himself the Son of God, a title His opponents understood as a claim to deity (Matt. 27:43; John 5:18; 10:46; 19:7)

9. Jesus called Himself “I Am,” thereby applying the Old Testament name Yahweh to Himself (John 8:58; cf. cf. 6:51; 10:9, 11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1).

10. Jesus claimed absolute unity with the Father, such that He could tell His disciples, “If you’ve seen Me, you’ve seen the Father” (John 14:9–10; cf. 10:30; 12:45).

11. The rest of the New Testament affirms that Jesus is God (John 1:1; Acts 20:28; Romans 9:5; 1 Corinthians 1:24; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Philippians 2:6; Colossians 1:15–16; 2:9; Titus 2:13; Hebrews 1:3, 8; 2 Peter 1:1; 1 John 5:20)

Nathan Busenitz

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Nathan serves on the pastoral staff of Grace Church and teaches theology at The Master's Seminary in Los Angeles.
  • Tony Miano

    Thank you for writing this, Nathan. I’m going to print it and attach it inside my open-air preaching Bible.

  • Steve

    Great article! Question, does anyone know of a creative acrostic/acronym for defending the deity of Christ so as to make it more memorable? For example, in defending the Bible a great acrostic is MAPS –

    M – manuscript evidence
    A – Archaeology
    P – Predictive Prophecy
    S – Synergism of 66 books.

    Thanks in advance,

    Steve

    • Wauhop

      HANDS –

      Jesus shares the HONOR given to God

      Jesus shares the ATTRIBUTES of God

      Jesus shares the NAMES given to God

      Jesus does the DEEDS that only God can do

      Jesus has a SEAT on God’s throne

      From Robert M. Bowman and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus In His Place (Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2007), 31.

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  • This is an excellent resource. I had some JWs at the door recently and I could always use references like this to have readily available. Thanks!

    • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

      Johnny, cross referencing Isaiah 45:23 and Philippians 2:10 with the JW’s is also helpful.

      • I added that to my Bible notes, for the next time they come around. Thanks friend!

  • Doug

    I like your 200 word series. My ordination council is in 15 days and this series is like the icing on the cake for my study. 🙂

  • TM

    Excellent resource — thanks! (and last week’s, too)

    Could someone explain to me in more detail #9? I never quite understood why the “I am” statements are so full of divinity. I can see how John 8:58 (“Before Abraham was, I am”) is a loaded statement, but I don’t see how the other “I am” statements are definite statements of his deity. How are statements like “I am the door” or “I am the good shepherd” automatic links back to Exo 3:14’s “I Am Who I Am”? Why aren’t they just normal, every day uses? Granted, those statements say a lot about Christ’s Messiah-ship, but I don’t see how they necessarily evoke Exo 3:14. I mean, Paul used the “I am” construct on multiple occasions (cf Phm 1:8; Rom 1:15; 1 Cor 15:10; 1 Cor 13:2; etc.), but we don’t associate them with Exo 3:14.

    • Nate_Busenitz

      TM,

      Thanks for your comment. You are right in seeing John 8:58 as the primary place where Jesus declared Himself to be Yahweh (cf. Ex. 3:14; Deut. 32:39; Isa. 41:4; 43:10). You’ll notice that I listed the other references from John as secondary references.

      However, when we consider those references, it is important to take the context of John’s gospel into account. In addition to John 8:58, there are seven “I AM” statements in John, all of which affirm aspects of Jesus’ divine character as the Savior of the world.

      John 6:35 — I am the bread of life

      John 8:12 — I am the light of the world

      John 10:7,9 — I am the door

      John 10:11, 14 — I am the good shepherd

      John 11:25 — I am the resurrection and the life

      John 14:6 — I am the way, the truth, and the life

      John 15:1, 5 — I am the vine

      Given that the primary theme of John’s gospel is belief in Christ (20:31), including belief in His divine person (1:1-3), these statements take on a theological richness that is clearly different than other places in Scripture where some other writer (like Paul) uses the phrase “I am …..”

      In using these statements (as recorded by John), Jesus was claiming to be the source of life, truth, and salvation. Those are attributes that belong only to God. Thus, those “I am” statements add additional support to the doctrine of Jesus’ deity.

      • TM

        Thanks for that, Nate. I can appreciate the “theological richness” added to these statements because of John’s goal. It sounds like you are saying that these “I am” statements are less direct echoes of Exo 3:14, but more indirect statement of his divinity. In other words, it’s not the “I AM” part that matters so much (with the exception of 8:58), but what’s after it. Is that about right?
        Thanks again

  • Jane McCrory Hildebrand

    I was saved by reading through the Bible and when I got to John 8:58 where Jesus called himself I AM, it was like a light bulb went off in my head. Everything fell into place from Genesis on when I understood that Jehovah, the one whom I feared, the Great I AM, became approachable in the person of Jesus Christ. I am still in awe of this amazing truth.

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  • Fibber MaGee

    I was in a bible study last year where the leader claimed
    that Philippians 2:6-8 indicated that Jesus gave up His deity. His claim was, that
    at the baptism of Jesus the dove is the Holy Spirit descending and indwelling
    Jesus. He went on to state that all of the miracles Jesus performed were
    actually done by the Holy Spirit. His assertion is that Jesus was just a man. I’ve
    since run into another bible teacher who says the same thing. Anybody have any experience
    dealing with this one?

  • Anonimo
  • gil

    @fibber, this is known as the Kenoisis heresy,Jesus is God and therefore immutable as the verse in Hebrews indicates the same yesterday today and forever, heretic Bill Johnson from Redding CA holds to this teaching as do some other Hyper charismatics, they use this false teaching as well as the “greater works than these “verse as a proof that we should always be operating in the supernatural, as you can see the line between Creator and creation is then blurred( same as with the W o F heretics with their “little gods doctrine) avoid that Bible ” teacher ” like the plague, take care

    • Fibber MaGee

      I did leave the study after one more meeting since I tried
      to discuss it with him and he wouldn’t elaborate on his position. This and I
      was uncomfortable challenging him in front of his wife. I let one of the elders
      know since they have control over the small group leaders. We still remain friends.

      It is interesting and makes sense that it is connected to
      charismania. I go to a borderline seeker church (which is the best we can find
      in our area), so there are many ex-Catholics, Pentecostals and W o F people in the church. The challenges are endless

      Thanks Gil

  • Dave Felber

    that is good thanks Tony going to share with Inmates I send stuff everyday