Is Jesus God?
Is Jesus God? If you answered with a quick, firm "yes," read on. Recent polls show a whopping 96% of Americans believe in "God." Obviously, considering the state of American Christianity, something doesn't quite add up. Dare we assume that 96% of Americans believe in the Christian God? Do we all have the same "god" in mind when we confess faith?
Now think about the center of Christian apologetics: that Jesus Christ is God. Please don't excommunicate me just yet, but if you were to ask me, "Is Jesus God?" I would respond with another question. "Which 'god' are we talking about?" Most evangelical Christians, when sharing the Gospel, assume that Jesus' identity is in question, while God's isn't. In other words, we think everyone basically agrees with us about who God is, and so all we must do is simply proclaim Jesus' divine link to Him.
Declaring the divinity of Jesus by stating matter-of-factly that He is God does not really resolve anything until we have painted the biblical picture of the true God. Yet in the past 200 years, fundamentalists and evangelicals have defended Christ's divinity without stopping to consider how God's identity is also under attack. Why? Liberal theologians have taught that Jesus was not divine and should not be worshipped as God in the flesh. Conservative Christians have rightly recoiled from such heresy, but while simply affirming Jesus' deity might stifle the theologians, it provokes a "so what?" from the person on the street.
"Jesus is God" can't be true until we get past all the other "gods" masquerading under the Christian "God" label. Muslims worship an impersonal, distant "god" (Allah, in Arabic), but is the Muslim-god the same as ours? Most Americans will line up to sing "God bless America." Yet considering the Deist beliefs of several of our forefathers (and a growing segment of the population today), this Clockmaker-god does nothing more than put the clock together, wind it up, put it up on a shelf, and go about His business or back to His rocking chair. If the god that is in mind is one of these, saying "Jesus is God" is incorrect. Jesus definitely is not that god.
What Does the Bible Say about Jesus is God?
A Christian who knows his Bible and has a clear picture of God can be telling the truth when he says, "Jesus is God", and at the same time, the person listening (perhaps with a Deist concept of god) may be hearing an outright lie. Jesus' divinity is not the only issue at stake here; God's very identity is under attack too.
Some readers might affirm that "Jesus is the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob" in order to eliminate many pluralistic gods. But where does that leave our Jewish friends, since they would easily affirm the same statement? You might say, "Jews and Christians share the same God! It's just about Jesus that we don't see eye to eye." By saying this, Christians make a glaring misrepresentation of Yahweh - the Great I Am.
God is not God apart from Jesus. It is pointless to try to define the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob apart from Jesus Christ. That is the pluralistic problem plaguing so many Christian factions today. Since you can't explain the Bible's God without involving the Trinity, you can never fully explain how "Jesus is God" makes any sense at all.
Let's take a look at some Bible verses that talk about this.
John 1:14: "And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth."
The Word, the logos, the all-sustaining principle, dwelt among us. This verse captures the idea of the Incarnation. That Jesus came down to earth to live with us.
John 10:30: "I and the Father are one.”
Jesus makes it clear. In fact, on multiple occasions, he faces near-death because of it. People attempt to stone him when he makes a deity claim. In fact, it's the very reason why he dies on a cross. Because the Israelites and religious leaders knew exactly what he was claiming. And they didn't like it.
Isaiah 9:6: "For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace."
Can you hear the Messiah lyrics going through your head? Isaiah prophecies about the coming Christ. Jesus fulfills this prophecy when he is born in Bethlehem. Jesus fulfills more than 300 Old Testament prophecies when he comes to earth. And only one being can deserve the title Mighty God and Everlasting Father. Isaiah makes it clear, and people in Jesus' time would've known this passage. Christ is God.
1 Corinthians 8:6: "Yet for us there is one God, the Father, from whom are all things and for whom we exist, and one Lord, Jesus Christ, through whom are all things and through whom we exist."
The Bible doesn't beat around the bush. Jesus isn't supposed to be a mere moral teacher. He claimed deity multiple times. As C.S. Lewis famously put it, this would either make him out to be a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. Because Jesus fulfilled what he promised to do (resurrect from the dead and offer salvation) we know that he is then Lord.
The Triune God
Since Christians believe in a triune God - Yahweh in three Persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, we actually undermine the divinity of Christ by claiming that our God is the same as that of our Jewish friends. As Christians, we believe Jesus is so important that you can't define God's identity apart from Him.
So what's the answer? What can help us get through some of the theological red tape and bring us to the point where we can once again make a firm statement for the Gospel?
Here's the statement that I recommend you chew on a little bit: GOD IS JESUS. When you see Jesus, you are seeing God, not just because Jesus is God, but also because God is Jesus. Jesus is the One who shows us who God is and what God is like.
Of course, "God is Jesus" is a statement that has its own interesting theological snags. We can start heading backward by asking, "Which Jesus is God?" since people don't agree on Jesus' identity either! Still, I believe we can more easily define Jesus' identity and how it relates to God's Person than we can try to go the other way around.
So, looking ahead for the 21st century, how can we move forward in our Gospel proclamation? Let's teach people who Jesus is; show them how Scripture describes Him; tell about His atoning sacrifice on the cross; proclaim Him as Lord. Then, utilizing the biblical portrait of Jesus, tell people, "That's who God is. That's what God is like! That's God in human flesh." Do you want to know God's identity? Meet Jesus. God is Jesus.
Written by Trevin Wax. © Kingdom People Blog. Used by permission. All rights reserved.