By BJ Rudge, Ph. D.
A Biblical Case for the Deity of Christ
“‘But what about you?’ Jesus asked. ‘Who do you say I am?’ Simon Peter answered, ‘You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.'” (Matthew 16:15-16)
The issue of “Who Jesus is” has been a topic of debate throughout history. During His own time, some saw Him as a great prophet like Elijah or John the Baptist (Matthew 16:14). Others, who opposed Him, saw Him as working in the power of Satan and his demons (Luke 11:15,16). Finally, others, like Peter, saw Jesus as the Son of God.
In order to obtain the answer to the question, “Who Jesus is,” one needs to examine what Scripture has to say about the person, work, and ministry of Jesus. An examination of Scripture will reveal that there are a variety of indicators that conclusively point to the fact that Jesus is the Son of God. The following are three of these indicators, which draw a strong parallel between the depiction of Jesus found in the New Testament and the depiction of Yahweh (God) found in the Old Testament.
The first indicator is the divine titles that Jesus applies to Himself and which are applied to Jesus by the New Testament writers. What makes these titles so unique is that they were titles used in reference to Yahweh in the Old Testament. Consider the following examples: First, Jesus calls Himself the Good Shepherd (John 10:11-18). This beloved title was used several times in the Old Testament in reference to Yahweh (Psalm 23:1; Ezekiel 34:1-16). Second, Jesus used the title “I am” as a declaration of who He was (John 8:58). Yahweh first used the usage of “I am” in the Old Testament when He revealed who He was to Moses (Exodus 3:14).
In both these contexts, the Jews became angry and sought to kill Jesus because they knew that by using these titles Jesus was claiming to be Yahweh. Third, the apostle John calls Jesus “the First and the Last,” (Revelation 1:17; 2:8) which was a title used in Isaiah in reference to Yahweh (Isaiah 41:4; 44:6). Fourth, the apostle Paul called Jesus the Creator (Colossians 1:16). In Isaiah, Yahweh alone is referred to as “He who made all things” (44:24). Fifth, it is interesting to note that Jesus is referred to several times in the New Testament as Savior (Luke 2:11; Titus 3:6; 2 Peter 1:1). In the Old Testament, Yahweh alone is considered to be the Savior: “Was it not I, the Lord? And there is no God apart from me, a righteous God and a Savior; there is none but me.” (Isaiah 45:21b)
In addition to the claims made by Jesus and the titles that were applied to Him, divine attributes ascribed to Jesus stand as proof for His deity. Consider the following examples. First, Jesus is said to possess the attribute of omnipresence (Matthew 28:20; Ephesians 1:23). Second, the divine attribute of omniscience is attributed to Him (John 16:30; 21:17). Third, Jesus is said to be immutable (Hebrews 1:12; 13:8). Fourth, Jesus is considered to be omnipotent (Matthew 28:18). Fifth, Jesus is said to be eternal (John 1:1; 8:58; 17:5). Sixth, the divine attribute of perfect holiness is applied to Jesus, whereby in light of His humanity, He committed no sin (Hebrews 4:15; I Peter 2:22).
All of these attributes are specifically assigned to Yahweh in the Old Testament: omnipresence—Jeremiah 23:23-24; omniscience―Psalm 139:1-4; 147:4-5; immutable—Psalm 102:27; omnipotent—Psalm 66:7; eternal—Psalm 90:2; holy—Exodus 15:11; 1 Samuel 2:2; Psalm 99:3, 9. Only one who is truly God could be credited with such attributes as these.
A final indicator we will consider in this article is the divine actions that are accredited to Him.
First, Jesus claimed that He could forgive sins (Matthew 9:2; Luke 7:47-48). By claiming to forgive sins, Jesus was accused of blasphemy, since God alone was recognized by the Jews as having the authority to forgive sins, “Why does this man (Jesus) speak that way? He is blaspheming; who can forgive sins but God alone?” (Mark 2:7). It should be noted that in Judaism, sins were to be atoned for through offerings and sacrifices made at the temple, which would in turn be forgiven by God alone. However, in the context above, no offering is given and, even though He is not a priest, Jesus forgives the paralytic’s sins on the basis of His own authority. Dr. Ronald Nash notes the following in his book, Is Jesus the Only Savior?:
When Jesus forgave people, he went beyond what any mere human is able to do. Any of us can forgive people for the things they do to us. Jesus did that, of course; but he also forgave people for the sins they had committed against others! In all these cases, Jesus acted as though the sins against other humans were violations of his holy law and thus sins against him as well.
Second, Jesus received prayers from others (Acts 1:24-25; 7:59; 2 Corinthians 12:8), and prayers from the Old Testament are applied to Him (Psalms 8:1-2, Yahweh is addressed in prayer – Jesus applied this prayer to Himself in Matthew 21:16; Psalm 102:24-27, another prayer addressed to Yahweh―this prayer is applied to Jesus in Hebrews 1:10-12). It would not make any sense for one to pray to Jesus if He was merely a created being. Only an infinite, omniscient, omnipotent, omnipresent being is worth praying to. This is exactly why in the Bible only God receives prayer.
Third, Jesus receives the divine act of worship. In Judaism, worship was only to be given to God alone. In fact, worshiping God alone was one of the Ten Commandments that God gave to Moses for the children of Israel to follow (Exodus 20:4-6). This theme of worshiping God alone is carried on into the New Testament. For instance, the apostle Peter tells Cornelius not to worship him for he is just a man (Acts 10:25-26). Also, upon worshiping an angel in the book of Revelation, the apostle John is told by the angel to worship God (22:8-9). In these New Testament passages we see that worship is not to be given to man, or a supernatural being such as an angel, but to God alone.
If Jesus were merely a created being, even a supernatural created being like the angel John met, we would expect that He too would rebuke people, as both Peter and the angel had done, for worshiping Him. However, Jesus never rebukes anyone for worshiping Him (Matthew 14:33; 28:9, 17; John 9:38). It is interesting to note that Jesus Himself rebuked Satan by saying that it is written, “You shall worship the Lord your God, and serve Him only.” (Matthew 4:10) If Jesus were not God, then why would He quote this verse one moment and then violate it the next by accepting the worship of others?
“My Lord and My God”
If Jesus was not divine, why would Jewish men and women, who were thoroughly raised in accordance to the Shema (Deuteronomy 6:4), attribute titles and names designated for Yahweh to Jesus? If Jesus were not divine, how could someone who is not divine forgive sins and receive the worship and prayers of man?
These questions can only be answered when we begin to understand that Jesus is God and as a result can forgive sins, receive worship, and possess divine attributes. A true look into the Scriptures will clearly reveal Christ’s divine nature. And when one honestly faces the truth of what the Word of God has to say about who Jesus really is, he can only come to the same conclusion and confession as Thomas, “My Lord and My God!” (John 20:28).