Tag Archives: deity of Jesus

Did Jesus’s Disciples Think He Was God? Part 2

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Continuing from part 1, there are additional lines of evidence showing that Jesus’s disciples thought he was God.  Again, this material is excerpted from theologian Norman Geisler’s book, Systematic Theology, Volume 2.

Picking up where we left off, the third line of evidence is that the disciples attributed the powers of God to Jesus.

According to Geisler:

There are some things only God can do, but these very things are attributed to Jesus by His disciples. He is said to be able to raise the dead (John 5:21; 11:38–44) and forgive sins (Acts 5:31; 13:38). Moreover, He is said to have been the primary agent in the creating of the universe (John 1:2–3; Col. 1:16) and in sustaining its existence (Col. 1:17). Surely only God can be said to be the Creator of all things, and the disciples claim this power for Jesus.

Fourth, the disciples associated Jesus’ name with God’s.

How did this happen in the New Testament?  Here are some examples:

Often in prayers or benedictions, Jesus’ name is used alongside God’s, as in “Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ” (Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2). The name of Jesus appears with equal status to God’s in the so-called trinitarian formulas: For example, the command to go and baptize “in the name [singular] of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). Again this association is made at the end of 2 Corinthians: “May the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the love of God, and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all” (13:14). If there is only one God, then these three persons must by nature be equated.

Fifth and finally, the disciples called Jesus God.

Geisler catalogues examples from the apostles John and Paul, and the writer of Hebrews.  All three call Jesus God in multiple ways.

First, the apostle John:

Thomas saw His wounds and cried, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28). The prologue to John’s gospel also minces no words, stating, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word [Jesus] was God” (John 1:1).

Paul and the writer of Hebrews provide several more examples:

Paul wrote, “Theirs are the patriarchs, and from them is traced the human ancestry of Christ, who is God over all, forever praised!” (Rom. 9:5). He calls Jesus the one in whom “all the fullness of Deity lives in bodily form” (Col. 2:9). In Titus, Jesus is “our great God and Savior” (2:13), and the writer to the Hebrews says of Him, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever” (Heb. 1:8). Paul says that before Christ existed in the “form of a servant,” which clearly refers to being really human, He existed in the “form of God” (Phil. 2:5–8 NKJV). The parallel phrases suggest that if Jesus was fully human, then He was also fully God. A similar term, “the image of the invisible God,” is used in Colossians 1:15 to mean the manifestation of God Himself. This description is strengthened in Hebrews, where it says, “The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word” (Heb. 1:3).

Geisler summarizes all of the evidence nicely:

In summary, there is manifold testimony from Jesus Himself and from those who knew Him best that Jesus claimed to be God and that His followers believed this to be the case. They claim of the carpenter of Nazareth these unique titles, powers, prerogatives, and activities that apply only to God. There is no reasonable doubt that this is what they believed and what Jesus thought of Himself according to the New Testament.

Did Jesus’s Disciples Think He Was God? Part 1

Post Author: Bill Pratt

A couple of years ago, I wrote seven posts on the subject of whether Jesus claimed to be God.  At the end of those posts, I promised to follow up with an additional series of posts discussing whether Jesus’s disciples thought he was God.  Better late than never, I suppose.  Here begins that series.

There are several lines of evidence captured by theologian Norman Geisler in his book, Systematic Theology, Volume 2, that point to the fact that Jesus’s disciples did indeed believe he was divine.

First, the disciples attributed titles of deity to Jesus.

The apostle John referred to Jesus as the “the first and the last” (Rev. 1:17; 2:8; 22:13); “the true light” (John 1:9); the “bridegroom” (Rev. 21:2); “Savior of the world” (John 4:42; cf. Isa. 43:3).  He also attributed to Jesus the role of “Redeemer” in Rev. 5:9.

The apostle Peter called Jesus the “rock” and “stone” (1 Peter 2:6–8; cf. Ps. 18:2; 95:1); and “the Chief Shepherd” (1 Peter 5:4).

The apostle Paul referred to Jesus as the “rock” (1 Cor. 10:4) and the “bridegroom” (Eph. 5:22–33).  According to Geisler, “The Old Testament role of ‘Redeemer’ (Hosea 13:14; Ps. 130:7) is given to Jesus by Paul in Tit. 2:13–14.  Jesus is the forgiver of sins in Col. 3:13 and He is  “Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead” (2 Tim. 4:1).

What is so special about these titles?  Geisler explains, “All of these titles are unique to Jehovah (Yahweh) in the Old Testament but are given to Jesus in the New Testament.”  The disciples were steeped in the Old Testament and would have only applied these titles with great care.  If they did not think Jesus was divine, they would have never used these words to describe him.

Second, the disciples considered Jesus the Messiah-God.

The New Testament opens with a passage concluding that Jesus is Immanuel (“God with us”), which refers to the messianic prediction of Isaiah 7:14. The very title “Christ” carries the same meaning as the Hebrew appellation “Messiah” (“Anointed One”). In Zechariah 12:10, Jehovah says, “They will look on me, the one they have pierced.” The New Testament writers apply this passage to Jesus twice (John 19:37; Rev. 1:7) as referring to His crucifixion.

But there is more, as Geisler elaborates on Paul’s view of Jesus.

Paul interprets Isaiah’s message, “For I am God, and there is no other.… Before me every knee will bow; by me every tongue will swear” (Isa. 45:22–23) as applying to his Lord, “at the name of Jesus every knee should bow … and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father” (Phil. 2:10–11). The implications of this are strong, because Paul says that all created beings will call Jesus both Messiah (Christ) and Jehovah (Lord).

There are several more lines of evidence that Geisler presents.  We’ll cover these in future posts, so ya’ll come back now!

What Were They Arguing About at the Council of Nicaea in A.D. 325?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

In A.D. 325, an ecumenical council of Christian bishops gathered to discuss a theological issue that was tearing apart the unity of the church. A common misconception about this council was that the argument was over whether Jesus was God or man. In fact, this idea has become so popular that one of my skeptical friends, who usually knows his stuff, made this mistake recently in a discussion we were having.

He said, in effect, that the church was arguing about whether Jesus was a man or God all the way up to and including the Council of Nicaea. This view, however, is completely false.

The two major positions presented at the council were proposed by Arius and Athanasius. Arius believed that Jesus was created by God the Father in eternity, but that he did not share eternality with the Father. Athanasius believed that Jesus and the Father both existed from eternity, that one never existed without the other.

Please note that the issue was not about whether Jesus was merely a man or God, but what kind of God Jesus was. Both parties agreed he was divine, that he was much more than a mere man, but they disagreed about how he was divine.

The council sided with Athanasius against Arius, declaring that Jesus always existed along with the Father. The debate about Arianism, however, did not subside until the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381 provided further clarification of the terms used at Nicaea and united the church around its understanding of the nature of Christ.

If Jesus Is God, Why Did He Get Tired?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

If Jesus is God, and God is uncaused, immaterial, omniscient, omnipotent, and eternal (and lots of other things), then don’t we have a problem with Jesus being a real man who lived in 1st century Palestine?  After all, Jesus grew tired, but God doesn’t get tired; Jesus sometimes didn’t know things, but God knows everything; Jesus died, but God can’t die; Jesus has a human body, but God doesn’t have a body.  I think you get the point.  How does the Christian church deal with this problem?

Well, before we get to the Christian church, one approach that has been taken by some religious groups over the last two millennia is just to give up on the idea that Jesus is God.  If he is less than God, then all these questions go away.  Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are two groups that took this approach, but they are just the latest in a long line.  The problem with this approach is that it contradicts the Bible’s clear teaching that Jesus is God (see the series of posts on how we know Jesus is God).  So this approach fails to take seriously the biblical data.

The approach that the Christian church has taken is to accept the fact that the Bible teaches that Jesus is both God and man.  In the early church, there was a couple centuries of debate about how this works, until the Council of Chalcedon came together in AD 451 to settle the issue.  Here is the creed that resulted from the Council:

We, then, following the holy Fathers, all with one consent, teach men to confess one and the same Son, our Lord Jesus Christ, the same perfect in Godhead and also perfect in manhood; truly God and truly man, of a rational soul and body; consubstantial with the Father according to the Godhead, and consubstantial with us according to the Manhood; in all things like unto us, without sin; begotten before all ages of the Father according to the Godhead, and in these latter days, for us and for our salvation, born of the Virgin Mary, the Mother of God, according to the Manhood; one and the same Christ, Son, Lord, Only-begotten, to be acknowledged in two natures, unconfusedly, unchangeably, indivisibly, inseparably; the distinction of natures being by no means taken away by the union, but rather the property of each nature being preserved, and concurring in one Person and one Subsistence, not parted or divided into two persons, but one and the same Son, and only begotten, God the Word, the Lord Jesus Christ, as the prophets from the beginning have declared concerning him, and the Lord Jesus Christ himself has taught us, and the Creed of the holy Fathers has handed down to us.

What does all that mean?  It means, among other things, that Jesus is one person composed of two natures: human and divine.  The creed repeats the words Godhead and Manhood several times to hammer the point home.  So, whenever we ask any question about Jesus, we have to specify whether we are asking about his divine nature or his human nature.  In his divine nature, he is omniscient, eternal, and uncaused.  In his human nature, he was tired, he needed food, he didn’t know everything, and he even died.  Two natures, two sets of questions about Jesus.

The church never went so far as to try and explain how exactly Jesus’ two natures interacted; they set boundaries around what was acceptable, based on Scripture, and captured it in the above creed.  Many theologians have attempted to go further with this doctrine and explain in more detail how this is possible, but these details, to my knowledge, have never been formally adopted into creeds of the church.

Poll: Does a Person Need to Explicitly Believe Jesus Is God to Be Saved?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

Is the God of Christianity the Same as the God of Islam?

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

Imagine the following scenario: two people claim to know the same professional football player.  The football player’s name is Alex and he plays in the NFL.  The first person who knows Alex the football player describes him this way:

He is 6′ 6″ tall, he weighs 305 lbs., he plays left tackle, he is married, and he plays for the Carolina Panthers.

Now the second person describes Alex the football player:

He is 6′ 2″ tall, he weighs 256 lbs., he plays middle linebacker, he is single, and he plays for the Atlanta Falcons.

When when we started out, we were pretty confident that these two people were talking about the same Alex the football player.  Once we asked for more details, though, we quickly discovered that they are not the same person at all, but two different people.  We just needed a little more information about Alex from each person.

This is the same situation with the God of Islam and the God of Christianity.  Both are claimed to be the God of Abraham and both are monotheistic creator-God’s.  If we stop there, we might conclude that they must be the same God.

Unfortunately, there is a slight problem.  Christians believe that God is three persons in one nature, a Trinity.  The three persons are the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Muslims flatly reject the Trinity.  There is only one person who is God, not three.

Second, Christians believe that Jesus Christ is the God-man – he is fully God and fully man.  Muslims completely reject this idea of Jesus as God-man.  They view Jesus as a mere human prophet who is less important than the final prophet, Muhammad.

There are more differences in the God of Islam and the God of Christianity, but we need go no further.  Just based on the differences highlighted above, we are 100% sure that these two Gods are not the same.

One final note.  We must admit that there are some similarities in the God of Islam and the God of Christianity, and when Christians speak to Muslims about God, we can use these similarities as launching pads to share our faith.  However, just because there are some similarities, we must not fall into the trap of papering over the very real and very significant differences.  Closing our eyes to the key beliefs of these two religions doesn’t get us anywhere.

Did Jesus Claim to be God? Part 7

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

There are at least six ways that Jesus claimed to be God.  The sixth way is that Jesus Claimed to Be God by Requesting Prayer in His Name. Again, I will draw heavily from Norman Geisler’s Volume 2 of his Systematic Theology series.

Nobody before Jesus, among Hebrew prophets, ever insisted that people pray in his name.  But that would all change when Jesus entered the scene in ancient Judea and Galilee.

Jesus not only asked people to believe in Him and obey His commandments, but He also asked them to pray in His name: “And I will do whatever you ask in my name.… You may ask me for anything in my name, and I will do it” (John 14:13–14). “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you” (John 15:7). Jesus even insisted, “No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6).

The disciples responded by doing just what Jesus told them.

The disciples not only prayed in Jesus’ name (1 Cor. 5:4) but also prayed to Christ (Acts 7:59). Jesus certainly intended that His name be invoked both before God and as God in prayer.

This ends the series of evidences for Jesus claiming both directly and indirectly to be God.  We have yet to cover all of the words of his apostles about his deity.  That will follow in another series of posts.

But before going there, it is fitting to end this series with some words from C. S. Lewis about Jesus’ deity.

Among these Jews there suddenly turns up a man who goes about talking as if He was God.  He claims to forgive sins.  He says He has always existed.  He says He is coming to judge the world at the end of time.  Now let us get this clear.  Among Pantheists, like the Indians, anyone might say that he was a part of God, or one with God: there would be nothing very odd about it.  But this man, since He was a Jew, could not mean that kind of God.  God, in their language, meant the Being outside the world Who made it and was infinitely different from anything else.  And when you have grasped that, you will see that what this man said was, quite simply, the most shocking thing that has ever been uttered by human lips.

You either believe Jesus or you don’t, but please don’t think that you don’t have to make a choice about him.  If he really is God, then you owe him your very life.

Did Jesus Claim to be God? Part 6

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

There are at least six ways that Jesus claimed to be God.  The fifth way is that Jesus Claimed to Have Equal Authority with God. Again, I will draw heavily from Norman Geisler’s Volume 2 of his Systematic Theology series.

In the New Testament, Jesus places his words on an equal footing with God’s.  Following are several examples:

“You have heard that it was said to the people long ago … But I tell you” (Matt. 5:21–22) is repeated over and over again. “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations” (Matt. 28:18–19). God had given the Ten Commandments to Moses, but Jesus said, “A new commandment I give you: Love one another” (John 13:34). Jesus promised, “Until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law” (Matt. 5:18), while later Jesus said of His words, “Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will never pass away” (Matt. 24:35). Speaking of those who reject Him, Jesus confirmed, “That very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day” (John 12:48).

Taken as a whole, there is no question that Jesus  understood his own words to have authority equal to the words spoken by God in the Old Testament.

Put yourselves in the place of the people who heard Jesus speak these words in first century Palestine.  It was shocking and inconceivable for  a Jew to say these things.  Think of all the times that Jesus’ opponents tried to kill him before they finally succeeded.  This mere man, in their mind, continuously equated himself with God, in a way that had no precedent.

You may not believe Jesus is God, but you should be able to understand why his followers and his opponents thought that he was claiming to be.

There is one more line of evidence in this series to consider.  Stay tuned…

Did Jesus Claim to be God? Part 5

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

There are at least six ways that Jesus claimed to be God.  The fourth way is that Jesus Claimed to Be God by Accepting Worship.  Again, I will draw heavily from Norman Geisler’s Volume 2 of his Systematic Theology series.

The Old Testament clearly forbids worship of anyone except God (Ex. 20:1–5; Deut. 5:6–9).  The New Testament likewise reiterates this fundamental teaching of Scripture (Acts 14:13-15; Rev. 22:8-9).

But in direct defiance of this command, Jesus accepted worship on several occasions.  Why would he do this?  The obvious answer is that he considered himself equal to God.

A leper worshiped Him before he was healed (Matt. 8:2), and a ruler knelt before Him with a request (Matt. 9:18). After He stilled the storm, “Those who were in the boat worshiped him, saying, ‘Truly you are the Son of God’ ” (Matt. 14:33). A Canaanite woman (Matt. 15:25), the mother of James and John (Matt. 20:20), and the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5:6) all bowed before Jesus without one word of rebuke. A blind man said, “ ‘Lord, I believe,’ and he worshiped Him” (John 9:38). Thomas saw the risen Christ and cried out, “My Lord and my God!” (John 20:28).

Did Jesus rebuke Thomas and correct him?  Did he deny that he was Lord and God?  No, he did not.  The message he was sending was clear.  Only someone who considered himself God would accept worship like Jesus did.

Did Jesus Claim to be God? Part 4

Post Author: Bill Pratt 

There are at least six ways that Jesus claimed to be God.  The third way is that Jesus Claimed to Be Messiah-God.  Again, I will draw heavily from Norman Geisler’s Volume 2 of his Systematic Theology series.

There are indications in the Old Testament that the prophesied Messiah would be divine.  When Jesus, therefore, confirmed that he was the Messiah, he was also equating himself to God.

Even the Qur’an recognizes that Jesus was the Messiah (Sura 5:17, 75). The Old Testament teaches that the coming Messiah would be God Himself, so when Jesus claimed to be that Messiah, He was also claiming to be God. For example, the prophet Isaiah (in 9:6) calls the Messiah “Mighty God.” The psalmist wrote of the Messiah, “Your throne, O God, will last for ever and ever” (Ps. 45:6; cf. Heb. 1:8). Psalm 110:1 records a conversation between the Father and the Son: “The Lord says to my Lord [adonai]: ‘Sit at my right hand.’ ” Jesus applied this passage to Himself in Matthew 22:43–44.

But there is even further evidence of the connection between Jesus, Messiah, and God.

In the great messianic prophecy of Daniel 7, the Son of Man is called the “Ancient of Days” (7:22), a term used twice in the same passage of God the Father (Dan 7:9, Dan 13). Jesus also said He was the Messiah at His trial before the high priest. When asked, “ ‘Are you the Christ [christos, Greek for “Messiah”], the Son of the Blessed One?’ ” Jesus said, “ ‘I am … And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven.’ The high priest tore his clothes. ‘Why do we need any more witnesses? … You have heard the blasphemy’ ” (Mark 14:61–64). There was no doubt that in claiming to be Messiah (see also Luke 24:27; Matt. 26:56), Jesus also claimed to be God.

There are three more ways that Jesus claimed to God:

  1. Jesus Claimed to Be God by Accepting Worship.
  2. Jesus Claimed to Have Equal Authority with God.
  3. Jesus Claimed to Be God by Requesting Prayer in His Name.

We will cover these in the next few posts.