Did Jesus Claim to Be God?
"I am the First and the Last. I am the Living One; I was dead, and behold I am alive for ever and ever!"—Revelation 1:17-18
When Jesus came to Caesarea Philippi, he asked his disciples the mother of all questions, "Who do you say I am?" (Matthew 16:15; Mark 8:29; Luke 9:20). Mormons answer this question by saying that Jesus is the spirit brother of Lucifer; Jehovah's Witnesses answer by saying that Jesus is the archangel Michael; New Agers say Jesus is an avatar or enlightened messenger. Jesus, however, answered by claiming that He was God.
First, Jesus claimed to be the unique Son of God. As a result, the Jewish leaders tried to kill Him because in "calling God his own Father, [Jesus was] making himself equal with God" (John 5:18 NIV). In John 8:58 Jesus went so far as to use the very words by which God revealed Himself to Moses from the burning bush (Exodus 3:14). To the Jews this was the epitome of blasphemy, for they knew that in doing so Jesus was clearly claiming to be God. On yet another occasion, Jesus explicitly told the Jews: "‘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'" (John 10:30-33).
Furthermore, Jesus made an unmistakable claim to deity before the Chief Priests and the whole Sanhedrin. Caiaphas the High Priest asked him: "‘Are you the Christ, the Son of the Blessed One?' ‘I am,' said Jesus. ‘And you will see the Son of Man sitting at the right hand of the Mighty One and coming on the clouds of heaven'" (Mark 14:61-62 NIV). A biblically illiterate person might well have missed the import of Jesus' words. Caiaphas and the Council, however, did not. They knew that in saying he was "the Son of Man" who would come "on the clouds of heaven" he was making an overt reference to the Son of Man in Daniel's prophecy (Daniel 7:13-14). In doing so, He was not only claiming to be the preexistent Sovereign of the Universe but also prophesying that He would vindicate His claim by judging the very court that was now condemning Him. Moreover, by combining Daniel's prophecy with David's proclamation in Psalm 110, Jesus was claiming that He would sit upon the throne of Israel's God and share God's very glory. To students of the Old Testament this was the height of "blasphemy," thus "they all condemned him as worthy of death" (Mark 14:64-65).
Finally, Jesus claimed to possess the very attributes of God. For example, He claimed omniscience by telling Peter, "This very night, before the rooster crows, you will disown me three times" (Matthew 26:34); declared omnipotence by not only resurrecting Lazarus (John 11:43) but by raising Himself from the dead (see John 2:19); and professed omnipresence by promising He would be with His disciples "to the very end of the age" (Matthew 28:20). Not only so, but Jesus said to the paralytic in Luke 5:20, "Friend, your sins are forgiven". In doing so, He claimed a prerogative reserved for God alone. In addition, when Thomas worshiped Jesus saying "My Lord and my God!" (John 20:28), Jesus responded with commendation rather than condemnation.
What Credentials Back Up Jesus' Claim to Deity?
"When John heard in prison what Christ was doing, he sent his disciples to ask him, ‘Are you the one who was to come, or should we expect someone else?' Jesus replied, ‘Go back and report to John what you hear and see; The blind receive sight, the lame walk, those who have leprosy are cured, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the good news is preached to the poor.'" - Matthew 11:2-5
Jesus not only claimed to be God but also provided many convincing proofs that he indeed was divine.
First, Jesus demonstrated that he was God in human flesh by manifesting the credential of sinlessness. While the Qur'an exhorts Muhammad to seek forgiveness for his sins, the Bible exonerates Messiah saying Jesus "had no sin" (2 Corinthians 5:21). And this is not a singular statement. John declares, "and in him is no sin" (1 John 3:5), and Peter says Jesus "committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth" (1 Peter 2:22). Jesus himself went so far as to challenge his antagonists asking, "Can any of you prove me guilty of sin?" (John 8:46)
Furthermore, Jesus demonstrated supernatural authority over sickness, the forces of nature, fallen angels, and even death itself. Matthew 4 records that Jesus went throughout Galilee teaching, preaching "and healing every disease and sickness among the people" (v.23). Mark 4 documents Jesus rebuking the wind and the waves saying, "Quiet! Be still!" (v.39). In Luke 4 Jesus encounters a man possessed by an evil spirit and commands the demon to "Come out of him!" (v.35). And in John 4, Jesus tells a royal official whose son was close to death, "Your son will live" (v.50). In fact, the four Gospels record how Jesus demonstrated ultimate power over death through the immutable fact of his resurrection.
Finally, the credentials of Christ's deity are seen in the lives of countless men, women, and children. Each day, people of every tongue and tribe and nation experience the resurrected Christ by repenting of their sins and receiving Jesus as Lord and Savior of their lives. Thus, they not only come to know about Christ evidentially, but experientially Christ becomes more real to them than the very flesh upon their bones.
For further study, see Millard J. Erickson, The Word Became Flesh: A Contemporary Incarnational Christology (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1996); and William Lane Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth and Apologetics, rev. ed. (Wheaton, Ill.: Crossway Books, 1994), chapters 7 and 8. Log onto the Christian Research Institute's Web site at www.equip.org.
Adapted from Hank Hanegraaff, The Bible Answer Book (Nashville: J. Countryman, 2004).
Tuesday, January 24, 2006
Hank Hanegraaff serves as president and chairman of the board of the North Carolina-based Christian Research Institute International. He also hosts the Bible Answer Man radio program, which is broadcast daily across the United States and Canada—as well as around the world through the internet at www.equip.org.
Reaching millions weekly through his live call-in radio broadcast, Hank answers questions about Christianity and religion on the basis of the Bible, careful research, and sound reasoning. Additionally, Hank regularly brings to his listening audience live interviews with Evangelicalism's most significant leaders, apologists, and thinkers.
Hank came to faith in Jesus Christ after examining the scientific evidence for creation, the historical evidence for the resurrection of Jesus, and the cumulative case for the divine inspiration of Scripture. With an uncommon intensity he immediately embarked on a rigorous course of Scripture study and memorization, and by the Lord's grace and calling his heart ever since has been to equip others to know God in Christ.
With the release of his new book, The Last Disciple, a novel co-authored with Sigmund Brouwer, Hank reveals significant aspects of his highly anticipated 15-year study of the Bible's teaching on the end times. In a spellbinding story of faith and fulfillment of prophecy, Hank and Sigmund initiate a series of novels in which they explore the lives of Christians who struggle to survive and spread the gospel during the climactic turbulence of "the last days." Readers discover the "code" of Revelation as they begin to see it through the eyes of the persecuted believers to whom it was written.
Hank lives in North Carolina with his wife, Kathy and is the father of nine children.