IS JESUS REALLY GOD?

Copyright Rosemary Bardsley 2007

The question:

‘I am a person who wants to have a more intimate relationship with GOD. I have confessed that Jesus is Lord. I know that GOD raised him (Jesus) from the dead. Some say that Jesus is GOD. If this is the case, why does he receive authority from another source? Matthew 28:18 says, "And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth." In Romans 10:9, pay attention to this phrase: "...GOD raised him from the dead..." This verse leads me to believe that GOD and Jesus are two different beings. How do you explain this? ‘

Answer Part 1: about an intimate relationship with God

According to the Bible the one way to know God is to know Jesus Christ. If you desire ‘a more intimate relationship with God’, according to the Bible knowing Jesus Christ is the one and only way to achieve that. See, for example, John 12:44-46; 14:6-9; 1 John 5 – the whole chapter, or, better still the whole of 1 John.

Answer Part 2: about confessing that Jesus is Lord

[1] the meaning of the word ‘Lord’.

If you have really confessed that ‘Jesus is Lord’ you have in fact confessed that Jesus is God.

‘Lord’ is one of the Old Testament titles of God.

There are two Old Testament words translated Lord in English translations.

One is written in English versions of the Old Testament as ‘LORD’, or, sometimes, ‘Jehovah’; this translates the Hebrew Yahweh, which is God’s unique and exclusive self-identifying name which he revealed to Moses in Exodus 3:13-14. It literally means ‘I am’. Jesus Christ repeatedly used the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Yahweh to refer to himself. This is not nearly as obvious in English translations of the New Testament as it is in the Greek text. It occurs in John 6:35, 8:12; 10:7,9,11,14; 11:25; 13:18;14:6; 15:1, 18:6, and, importantly, in 8:58, where even in the English it is clear. When Jesus, in John 8:58, said ‘before Abraham was born, I am!’ the listening Jews immediately knew that by those words Jesus was claiming to be God. This is evident from their reaction recorded in John 8:59.

The other word, translated ‘Lord’ in English, is the Hebrew adonay. This title signifies that God is the supreme ruler of all to whom all else that exists is both subject and servant. Out of reverence for the name ‘Yahweh’, ‘adonay’ was sometimes superimposed over ‘yahweh’ by Jewish writers.

When the New Testament refers to Jesus Christ as ‘Lord’ and challenges us to acknowledge Jesus Christ as Lord, it is teaching us, and commanding us to acknowledge, that he is God.

[2] Jesus is called ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ in the Old Testament

In predicting the coming of Christ the Old Testament refers to Jesus as ‘the mighty God’ [Isaiah 9:6], and ‘my Lord’ [Psalm 110:1]. Hebrews 1:8 quotes Psalm 45:6 to refer to Christ as ‘God’.

[3] Jesus is called ‘God’ in the New Testament

There are several places in the New Testament where Jesus Christ is specifically called ‘God:

      • John 1:1: ‘The Word [a title of Jesus] was God’.
      • John 20:28, where Thomas addressed and acknowledged him as ‘My Lord and my God!’
      • Romans 9:5: where Paul calls him ‘God over all’.
      • 2 Peter 1:1: where Peter calls him ‘our God and Savior’
      • 1 John 5:20: where John refers to him as ‘the true God’.

[4] The testimony of Jesus himself

There are many places in the New Testament where Jesus refers to himself in terms of equality and unity of being, essence, attitude and action with God the Father. You can study these in the series ‘Who is Jesus’ on this website, particularly the studies on John’s Answer.

[5] John’s comment on Isaiah 6

In John 12:41 John wrote ‘Isaiah said this because he saw Jesus’ glory and spoke about him.’ John had just quoted from Isaiah 6:10, the message God gave to Isaiah immediately after his vision of the awe-inspiring glory of the Lord. John comments that the Lord whom Isaiah saw, that glorious, thrice holy LORD – Jahweh – I AM – was actually Jesus. This is a really amazing comment, and leaves no room for any doubt that Jesus is actually God.

This is certain and clear: the New Testament teaches that Jesus is God.

Answer Part 3: about the Christian belief that Jesus is God [belief in the real and full deity of Jesus Christ]

The other part of the question relates to the interrelationship between God the Father and God the Son. The problem of defining the nature of this relationship has been with the church from its very beginning.

[1] In the New Testament church:

      • Denial of the real deity of Jesus Christ was confronted, and demonstrated as wrong, by Jesus in the gospels, particularly John’s gospel; by the apostolic preaching recorded in Acts; by Paul in his letter to the Colossians; and by the letter to the Hebrews. When Jesus claimed to be the Son of God the Father the Jews understood this to be a claim to equality with God, because a son is of the same essence or nature as his father. They saw what Jesus was claiming, but rejected his right to make this claim. See John 5:17-18; 10:30-33. The whole point of the debates between Jesus and the Jews recorded in John’s Gospel is to express and validate Jesus’ claim to equality and identity with God.
      • Denial of the real humanity of Jesus Christ was confronted in 1 John, and challenged by Hebrews 2, 4 & 5.

[2] In the early church:

      • Docetism, denying the real humanity of Christ, taught that he did not have a real human body, but just looked like he did. He did not therefore suffer and die. This heresy accepted that Jesus was God, but denied that he was human.
      • Gnosticism, believing matter inferior to mind and spirit, also denied the real humanity of Christ.
      • Monarchianism, Sabellianism, Modalism, all believed that God is one, not three-in-one – that Father, Son and Spirit are three different names all talking about the one being, or three different modes, expressions or manifestations of the one substance or being. This denied that Father, Son and Spirit are three distinct persons who communicate and respond to each other, as the Bible obviously reports them as doing.
      • Arianism: Denied the essential and eternal deity of Christ. Its catch-phrase was ‘there was a time when he was not’.

The early church rejected each of these heresies. The ancient creeds of the church were formulated because of the need to clearly define the truth about Christ in the presence of the above, and other, heresies. The relevant creeds are:

The Apostles Creed

The Creed of Nicea [or the Nicene Creed] – one is a variation of the other

The Athanasian Creed

The Definition of Chalcedon

[Less well known] The Anathemas of the Second Council of Constantinople

It is recommend that you read at least the first four of the above creeds. Each of these creeds can be viewed at http://www.reformed.org/documents/index.html .

[3] In the church today:

The same basic errors are present today:

      • Most pseudo-Christian cults deny the real and full deity of Christ or reduce it in some way.
      • Some groups identifying as Christian – sometimes with the adjective of ‘oneness’ or ‘unity’ or ‘Unitarian’ in their name – deny the concept of the Trinity and teach a form of Modalism [see above].

Explanations:

Your question is fundamentally: How can Jesus be God if God is one, and if, as you point out, ‘God’ is said to give authority to Jesus, and raise Jesus from the dead?

The question makes it necessary to speak about the concept of the Trinity.

The word ‘Trinity’ is not found in the Bible. However, the Bible clearly teaches that there is someone called ‘God the Father’, there is someone called ‘God the Son’, and there is someone called ‘the Spirit’ [or the Spirit of God, or the Spirit of Christ’ or the ‘Holy Spirit’]. Each of these is clearly referred to as we would normally refer to someone who is an individual person, that is, a being who has a mind, a will and emotions, and who acts and speaks in expression of that mind, will and emotions. At the same time there is an intrinsic unity – none of these three acts independently of the other, or contradictory to the others’ mind, will and emotions. Although they are distinct, they think the same, they feel the same, they say the same, and they all work towards the one purpose.

Yet as we investigate the biblical data, we find that there are different roles and responsibilities, that there are some things that are done primarily by the Father, but not without the Son and the Spirit; there are some things that are done primarily by the Son, but not without the Father and the Spirit; there are some things that are done primarily by the Spirit, but not without the Father and the Son.

There are many, many verses in the New Testament in which the Father and the Son are both mentioned, and in which the equality of the Father and the Son is taught. Jesus himself majored on this in his debates with the Jews. Read John 5:17-27. There we find the following assertions:

      • Jesus called God ‘my Father’. The Jews clearly understood this to be a claim to be equal with God.
      • Rather back off and say ‘No, I did not mean that’, Jesus put before the Jews a number of further statements affirming his deity and his equality with the Father:
          • · The Son does whatever the Father does
          • · The Son knows all that the Father does
          • · The Son raises the dead, just like the Father
          • · The Son has been entrusted with all judgment [according to the OT, God was the judge]
          • · The Father wants all people to honour the Son in the same way they honour the Father
          • · If they don’t, they are actually not honouring the Father
          • · To hear the words of the Son is to have eternal life, to escape judgment, and to cross over from death to life
          • · The Son has life in himself, just as the Father has life in himself
      • In all of the above Jesus affirms his essential unity with the Father, and the fact that he does all of these things that the Jews knew were God’s sole prerogative. At the same time Jesus acknowledges a relationship of submission to the Father; but it is also a relationship in which the Father places extreme and ultimate responsibility on the Son. The Father puts his whole reputation and his eternal purpose in the hands of the Son. The distinction between the two is clearly one of role and responsibility, not of inequality or superiority/inferiority, not of difference of being or essence.

In terms of your question:

God, the Father, delegated God, the Son, to have and to exercise authority, not just in a minimal way, but ‘all authority’.

God, the Father, raised Christ, his Son, from the dead; yet this does not contradict the fact that Jesus himself not only laid down his life, but took it up again on his own authority [John 10:17-18]. Jesus was actively involved in his own resurrection. Indeed, Jesus states that he received the command from his Father both to lay down his life and to take it up again.

[There are also sections of the Bible in which all three persons of the Trinity are mentioned at the same time, each with distinct being and function, but also demonstrating an essential unity, without division of purpose and intent. For example: Matthew 3:16,17; John 3:34,35; 14:15-23; Romans 1:1-4; 8:1-3; Galatians 4:4-6; Ephesians 1:13-14; 2:18-22; 3:14-17; Hebrews 9:14; 1 Peter 1:2; 1 John 4:13-15; Jude 17-20].

Obviously this one-page cannot fully answer your questions. For more insights I suggest

      • You diligently study the four gospels, carefully making notes on what they teach about who Jesus is. Their aim was to present the truth that Jesus is God in human flesh.
      • You study the sermons recorded in the Acts of the Apostles, noting everything that is taught about who Jesus is.
      • You study Paul’s letter to the Colossians, making a list of every title and description that Paul gives about the person of Jesus Christ.
      • You study carefully the creeds and definitions of the church listed above.
      • You study the complete series ‘Who Is Jesus?’ on this website.

Jesus identified the critical significance of believing that he is who he claimed to be. He said ‘If you do not believe that I am the one I claim to be, you will indeed die in your sins’ [John 8;24]. In the Greek text, this reads literally – If you do not believe that I AM, you will indeed die in your sins. This highlights the fact that in making this statement Jesus used the Greek equivalent of the Hebrew Yahweh – God’s exclusive, self-identifying name.

This is not a matter of mere theological dispute: it is a matter of your personal salvation. Forgiveness of sins depends on believing on the real Jesus – the Jesus who claimed for himself equality and identity with God.