The Deity of Christ

By Ron Jones

©Titus Institute 2009 Updated August 2022

Many people who have not read the Gospels think Jesus was a friendly and loving religious man who went around teaching people how to love others. Because of his humility and selflessness, people flocked to him and he became famous as a result. However, when you read the Gospels, you find out that Jesus was far more than just a good moral teacher. Jesus made a startling claim about himself. He claimed to be the Son of God, that is, God come in the flesh. This is the central truth of his Gospel message of salvation in him. If Jesus was not the Son of God, his death on the cross would mean nothing. If Jesus was not the Son of God, he could not offer salvation to anyone. But Jesus's claim was true. He is the Son of God.

Jesus then appointed apostles to take this Gospel message to the world. Their message was not "Come to Jesus because he is humble and loving and can forgive your sins." Their message was "Come to Jesus because he is the Son of God who is humble and loving and can forgive your sins." Jesus claimed to be the Son of God and that claim separated him from all other religious leaders who ever lived. No other credible religious leader made such a claim. Either Jesus was the Son of God, God come in the flesh, or he was some kind of charlatan or lunatic. Good moral teachers don't claim to be God when they are not.

In the article on the Trinity of God, we looked at Jesus' explanation of his claim to be the "Son of God." Jesus spoke of God as his Father, he as the Son, and the Spirit as united to them. Jesus revealed that God was three in one. Within the one being of God there are three distinct persons. Jesus taught that the Father was God, that he, the Son, was God, and that the Holy Spirit was God.

In this articlec, we want to look further at his claims to be the Son of God and his apostles' claims in the writings of the New Testament. It is not only important that we understand Jesus' claims about himself, but where we can find these claims in the New Testament. We need to be sure we rightly understand them because they are the basis of true faith and the Gospel message.

First, Jesus claimed to be the Messiah, the Son of God. In Matthew 16:15-17, Jesus asked his disciples who they thought He was. Matthew writes, "'But what about you?' he asked. 'Who do you say I am?' Simon Peter answered, 'You are the Christ, the Son of the living God." Jesus replied, 'Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah, for this was not revealed to you by man, but by my Father in heaven.'"

Notice, Jesus doesn't respond, "No, you have it all wrong. I am not claiming to be the Son of God." Instead, Jesus blesses Peter for his insight and gives the source of that insight as God the Father. This is a powerful affirmation by Jesus that Peter revealed his true identity. He is the Son of God. As we have learned in the last chapter, "Son of God" describes his deity in terms of his separate personhood from and his love relationship with the Father within the Trinity. It is not meant to convey any form of inferiority. In fact, in the Jewish use of the term "son," equality was implied because a son is of the same nature as his father. However, a son is in submission to his father in terms of his role in the family. So, Jesus affirmed the title "Son of God."

Second, Jesus also proclaimed that God was his Father. In John 5:16-18, it says, "So, because Jesus was doing these things on the Sabbath, the Jews persecuted him. Jesus said to them, 'My Father is always at his work to this very day, and I, too, am working.' For this reason the Jews tried all the harder to kill him; not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God."

To the Jews, when Jesus called God "My Father," he was claiming to be of the same nature as God. They were right, that was his claim. The Jews always called God "our Father" or "my Father in heaven," to keep some respectful distance. They did not believe that the Messiah would be God and they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah so they were going to kill him by stoning him as a penalty for blasphemy. The Jews never thought that Jesus claimed to be another god. The Jews didn't get rid of Jesus because of a theological debate on multiple gods.

Third, Jesus not only affirmed that he was the Son of God and claimed that God was his Father, but he also claimed to be one with the Father as his Son. In John 10:30-33, it says, "I and the Father are one.' Again the Jews picked up stones to stone him, but Jesus said to them, 'I have shown you many great miracles from the Father. For which of these do you stone me?' 'We are not stoning you for any of these,' replied the Jews, 'but for blasphemy, because you, a mere man, claim to be God.'

Jesus was claiming to be one in essence with God His Father. The Jewish leaders understood his claim perfectly. They were saying that Jesus was claiming to be God even though he was a mere man. Again, as in John 5, they did not believe that the Messiah would be God and they did not believe that Jesus was the Messiah so they were going to stone him for blasphemy.

Later Jesus makes a startling claim to his disciples. In John 14:6-11, it states, "'I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.' Philip said, 'Lord, show us the Father and that will be enough for us.' Jesus answered: 'Don't you know me, Philip, even after I have been among you such a long time? Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father. How can you say, 'Show us the Father'? Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me; or at least believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves.'"

The disciples were struggling to grasp the truth of a Triune God. In this passage Jesus teaches them further about himself and the Father. Jesus claims his separate personhood from the Father when he says, "No one comes to the Father except through Me." No one can come to heaven and eternal life except through Jesus Christ. Then He focuses on his essential unity with the Father when he tells his disciples, "I am in the Father and the Father is in Me." He is using simple human words to describe an infinitely complex essential unity in the Godhead. When he says, "Anyone who has seen Me, has seen the Father" he means that he and the Father have the same divine attributes so when Jesus displays his divine attributes, they can see the Father who has the same nature and attributes in him.

Fourth, Jesus accepted worship as God. Jesus says only God is to be worshipped and yet he accepted worship as God. When Satan was tempting him in the wilderness, Jesus made it clear that only one being in the universe should be worshipped and that being is God. In Matthew 4:10, it says, "Jesus said to him, 'Away from me, Satan! For it is written: 'Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.'" Yet, when the apostle Thomas bows before Jesus and declares "My Lord and my God!" Jesus accepts that worship.

This happened when Jesus appeared a second time to his disciples after he had resurrected from the dead. The first time Thomas was not there. John 20:24-25, records what happened when the disciples told Thomas about the Lord's appearance to them. It says, "So the other disciples told him, 'We have seen the Lord!' But he said to them, 'Unless I see the nail marks in his hands and put my finger where the nails were, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe it.'" Thomas tells the other apostles that he wants to see Jesus in his resurrected body and touch his wounds from the nails to make sure it is him. So, Jesus comes and appears to Thomas and the other apostles a week later to give Thomas this opportunity.

John records this in John 20:26-29, "A week later his disciples were in the house again, and Thomas was with them. Though the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, 'Peace be with you!' Then he said to Thomas, 'Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.' Thomas said to him, 'My Lord and my God!' Then Jesus told him, 'Because you have seen me, you have believed; blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.'" When Thomas sees Jesus, he immediately humbles himself before the Lord and declares, "My Lord and my God!" Jesus affirms Thomas' declaration that he is Lord and God and then blesses future generations of people who will not be able to physically see Jesus but will believe that he is Lord and God. Those people include you and me. We are not able to see Jesus physically, but we believe in him. Also, Thomas was not claiming that Jesus was another God and neither was Jesus. Thomas and Jesus were monotheists as the Old Testament taught. Thomas was claiming that Jesus was the one true Lord and God of the Old Testament and Jesus was agreeing with him.

Every Christian must understand what Jesus claimed about himself. So, Jesus claimed to be the Son of God, but he also claimed to be a human being. This we will see in the next article.