A paper discussing whether Jesus claimed to be God or not.
|Did Jesus Christ Ever Claim to be God by What He Said or Did?
Without a doubt, Jesus laid claim to being God both through word and deed. Contrary to the thought of some on the matter, Jesus was not shy about letting the world know who He was. Common to their view is that when Jesus made certain claims such as that He and the Father are one (John 10:30), He was simply stating a philosophical oneness of purpose with God. The key to this way of thinking however, is simply taking the verse out of its context.
If an examination is made of this entire section of John (10:22-33), it becomes quite clear what Jesus said. The Jews came to Him during the Feast of Dedication and asked Him if He were the Christ. He answered and said He had told them plainly, but that they had not believed Him. He further stated that the works He did in His Fathers’ name bore witness of Him. Now it is only logical that Jesus would have done works that would testify (in answer to their question) that He was either Messiah or not Messiah. A furtherance of this thought is the question "Would Jesus do works in His Fathers name to prove He wasn’t the Messiah?" No, there is no logic flow in that. The only thing to infer from all this is that everyone involved in the conversation knew exactly what Jesus was saying. Verse 33 sums it all up in that the Jews tried to stone Him because He claimed not only to be their Messiah but also very God. The saw Him as committing blasphemy and the punishment for that was stoning.
According to Merrill Tenney, In John 5:17 Jesus used the term “idiom” which when speaking of “My Father”, it made the Father his own peculiar possession in a way no one else could say. Furthermore in John 5:30-47, Jesus brings five witnesses to bear against His claims of deity. He put forth His own witness, that of John the Baptist, the works He has done, the witness of the Father, and the witness of the Scriptures.
Jesus also spoke of Himself as the Bread of Life, the True Vine, Living Water, the Way, the Truth and the Life among so many other allusions to His deity. Not only this, but Jesus was called "The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world" by John the Baptist in John 1:29. Thomas called Him “ My Lord and My God” in John 20:28. Peter acknowledged Him as Messiah in Matthew 16:16.
Finally, and most blatantly, in John 8, Jesus, in a long conversation with the Pharisees, first claims to be the light of the world. Jesus then states He knows where He has come from and where He is going. Also that He is One, a direct reference to God the Father. Throughout this dialogue, He continuously uses the phrase I am, another direct reference to the Father. Finally in verse 58, He uses the Tetragrammaton, The holy name of God. By stating “before Abraham was, I AM”, He clearly asserted His deity. These Pharisees knew exactly what He was saying.
Jesus also claimed to be God through His actions. He fed the five thousand, He fed the four thousand, He walked on water, He healed the sick, made the blind to see, made the lame to walk, He commanded demons with authority, He raised the dead, and –most importantly– He forgave the sins of men. Beyond all this, He died and was resurrected from death, and ascended into Heaven to be with the Father.
Did Religious Leaders of the Day Believe Christ was Claiming to be God?
As was already stated, The Pharisees, Scribes, and Sadducees all knew who Jesus claimed to be throughout His ministry. Aparently, not very many of them believed Him but they knew what He claimed. In John chapter 3, in Jesus’ discussion of the new birth with Nicodemus, He claims to have descended from heaven and to those who believe in Him, will be granted eternal life. The Jews in the Temple sought to kill Him in 5:18 because of His claims. As F. F. Bruce points out, Jesus here was asking if God the Father keeps His own Sabbath Law. The answer is, obviously not, due to the fact that providential care over His creation is unceasing. Jesus then places Himself on a level with the Father by stating that since God works so does He.
They complained about Him in John 6:41 because He claimed to be the bread that comes down from heaven. Again in John 7:30 they tried to arrest Him because of His claims and because of the belief of the people and this happened several other times as well.
If these religious leaders had not understood exactly what he was saying (without believing) He would never have been led to death. As Bruce Metzger says, the Jewish leaders used the Romans to carry out their plan to execute Jesus for blasphemy by accusing Him of “leading the nation astray, forbidding the payment of taxes to Caesar, and calling Himself an anointed king”.
How Does the Deity of Christ Affect His Ability to Die for Our Sins?
As stated in Colossians 1:15-20, the father saw fit that In Christ, all fullness should dwell, and that by Him all things should be reconciled to Himself. God made peace with us through the Blood of His Son. Basic to mankind’s salvation is the realization that (as stated in Romans 3:23 and 6:23) Mankind is at a loss. All mankind has sinned through Adam and fallen short of the mark. Because of this sin, we have earned a wage of death. We have no way to earn a salvation for ourselves. The father gave mankind the gift of salvation through the sacrifice of His only Son.
As Thiessen says, by Jesus’ “obedience and sufferings” and perfectly righteous life, He fulfilled all the demands of the law. Only deity would be able to do that. Only deity could redeem us from our sins. If Jesus were not deity, He would not be sinless. If He were not sinless, He would not be a perfect, spotless sacrifice. He would not be a worthy offering, able satisfy the requirement God placed as a payment for our sin. Before Jesus, there was the law and condemnation. Now, according to Romans 8:1-4, God sent Jesus His Son, to fulfill the requirements of His holy law in that we could not.
What is the Impact of this Doctrine Upon Christianity?
If Jesus were not wholly God and wholly man, He would not be the perfect sacrifice God required. Without Jesus’ perfect sacrifice, there would be no forgiveness of sins and no imputation of his righteousness. Without forgiveness of sins, there would be no Christianity. There would be no need to follow Jesus. Without His deity, He would just be another teacher, another empty leader with nothing to offer.
It is in Jesus however, as Lewis Chafer has pointed out, through imputation of His righteousness as the Son of God, that we have forgiveness of sins and moreover a real connection to God through His work on the cross. Through Jesus’ ability to die for our sins, we are now afforded a relationship with Him, the Spirit and the Father, not just dead religion.
Through Jesus Christ, Romans 5:1 tells us, we have been justified by faith and found peace with the Father. Reading on from there, we find the believer in Christ has further been opened up to a whole new worldview because of their new status in Him. Were Jesus Christ not who He claimed to be, Christianity would not be a viable faith. Only because of the fact He is who He claimed and showed Himself to be, could there even be a Christianity as it is today. It would otherwise be a philosophy without substance.
How Should We Live in Light of this Doctrine?
Isaiah 9:6-7 states that Israel and the world were to expect a Messiah. The names He was to bear, Wonderful, Counselor, The mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace, these are all names of God. We are told that when He establishes His throne, it will be with “judgment and with justice from henceforth even for ever.”
Conner has rightly stated that the eternal state of the believer will be a state of “unhindered fellowship” with the Father through his son. We must live life looking up, knowing He has saved us and is coming again to retrieve us to Himself so to be with Him forever.
Again, In Chapter 1 verse 8, the writer of Hebrews states that upon Jesus’ return, God the Father will give Him a throne that will be forever and a scepter of righteous. We must live in view of this. We will reign with our Lord, because we have been made joint heirs with Him, all due to His work on the cross. We must all believe as Thomas, and acknowledge Jesus as our Lord and our God. To acknowledge Him as God, we must believe in Him. To acknowledge Him as Lord however, requires us to walk the straight and narrow path that He walked before us, the path He lights for us to this very day.
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2. Chafer, Lewis Sperry Major Bible Themes. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1979.
3. Conner, William T. Christian Doctrine. Nashville: Broadman Press, 1937.
4. Metzger, Bruce M. The New Testament its Background, Growth, and Content. Nashville: Abingdon Press, 1983.
5. Scofield, C. I. The New Scofield Study Bible New King James Version. Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1989.
6. Tenney, Merrill C. John: The Gospel of Belief An Analytical Study of the Text. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1997.
7. Theissen Henry Clarence Lectures in Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1979.