A challenge to the deity of Jesus Christ

Questions about God, the Bible and the Christian culture 

(Click here to read Monday Musings ... the place where I discuss the thinking that went into this article.)

Question: Why does the church teach that Jesus is God when Jehovah in the Old Testament said to have no other gods before me? Paul says there’s only one God that is the father, and the Bible says no man has seen God.

Answer: The Church, which is “the Body of Jesus Christ” (1 Corinthians 12:27), teaches that Jesus is God because Jesus, who is the Head of the Church (Colossians 1:18) made that claim for himself in the Bible… and we consider the Bible to be the inspired word of God (2 Timothy 3:16).

(For a more detailed discussion of why we Christians say that Jesus is God, see the Got Questions Ministries article at the following link: https://www.gotquestions.org/is-Jesus-God.html.)

But even without the Bible, it is clear that a man named Jesus came and changed the world — so even atheists have to deal with Jesus’ historical impact! That being said, Jesus is best explained through God’s “special revelation,” the Bible. But if you’re interested in the historical data, I’ve responded to another question about the historical Jesus. Find that Q & A at the following link:

(http://mainsailministries.org/index.php/q-a-a-god-bible-theology-culture/199-extra-biblical-documents-that-corroborate-the-historical-jesus.html)

Christians understand that God exists as a Trinity and that Jesus — along with the Father and the Holy Spirit — are the three persons of the one essence that is God. Now, this was not revealed during the Old Testament period... so unconverted Jews join the Muslims, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Unitarians, Christian Science and Oneness Pentecostals in holding a non-trinitarian view of God. But we at Mainsail Ministries are trinitarian. Furthermore, we believe that Jesus is God.

Why do we believe these things? Because God reveals himself as a trinity in “our” Testament — the New Testament. (Okay... they are both our Testaments!) But the difference in the testaments shows how God communicates: he reveals himself progressively through time. What this means is that Adam was not responsible to understand things revealed to Abraham, and Abraham is not responsible to understand things that were revealed to the apostle Paul.

That’s how the knowledge of God works here on earth. Scholars analyze the biblical, physical and philosophical data, and because each stands on the shoulders of others, we simply “know” more details about the workings of God than those who went before us. As time passes, we accumulate knowledge, and now we know more about the deity and dual nature of Christ than did the authors of the Old Testament... who knew nothing about those things!

The principle is, when we teach from a newer revelation, that information is understood to supersede the older revelation’s where they are different. This is why we no longer sacrifice animals — despite clear Old Testament commands for us to do so. We have newer information through the revelation of Jesus Christ. The New Testament teaches that there’s been a change in the sacrificial system (Hebrews 10:1-18). My question to you is, why not also accept the changes in what we now know about God via the revelation of the New Testament... that he’s a Trinity and that Jesus is God?

The Old Testament’s picture of God was indeed unitarian, but by logic, this doesn’t mean that he was not also trinitarian. Logic says that where there are three of something there is always also one of something... and God was under no pedagogical obligation to reveal himself as anything but the Father back then. God did not change his nature in the New Testament. He clarified our picture of his nature with the advent of Jesus — and he will do that even more in the end times!

The verse you quoted in part, “no one has seen God at any time” (John 1:18) is a “proof text” that opposes your thesis. This verse teaches that we do indeed see God! We see him in the person of Jesus Christ… and Jesus is the one who has seen the Father face-to-face.

“No one has ever seen God, but the one and only Son, who is himself God and is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known.” (John 1:18, NIV)

When God took on flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:14), the game changed for humankind. We still did not see God in the usual sense. After all, he is a spirit being, not a physical being. But in Jesus Christ, we did indeed see God. Jesus, who was the second person of the Trinity, was able to take on human form (1 Timothy 3:16). It’s just that he did it without abdicating his place in the Trinity. This is because Jesus had a dual nature — one human and one divine — and the divine nature persisted in the Trinity while his human nature lived on earth with us. This special mode of Jesus’ existence is called the hypostatic union.

(For an in-depth look at the incarnation and the dual nature of Christ, join Reasonable Faith Ministries’ Defenders class at the following link and listen to the series on Christ: https://www.reasonablefaith.org/podcasts/defenders-podcast-series-3/s3-doctrine-of-christ).

I’m not saying these concepts are easy to parse. I’m saying that you should believe in the Trinity because that is an important Christian doctrine. We are Christ-ians because we believe that Jesus was the Christ... the Son of the living God (Matthew 16:16) … and “the Son” is his title in the Trinity.

“Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” (Matthew 28:18–20, NIV, emphasis mine)

(To learn more about the Trinity, see Got Questions Ministries’ article at the following link: https://www.gotquestions.org/Trinity-Bible.html.)

My point here is that we are not just making this stuff up. The Trinity of God and the deity of Christ have broad support in Scripture, and the indwelling Holy Spirit — another characteristic of the Church Age that the Old Testament believers had no idea about (Acts 2) — indwells believers, and gives testimony that Jesus is the Son of God (1 Corinthians 3:16; John 14:26, 16:13; Galatians 4:6).

Also, contrary to your assertions, the apostle Paul understood that Jesus was God. He declared that because of the service Jesus performed for humankind while he was here in the flesh, God exalted him so we all could worship him as Lord in good conscience.

“In your relationships with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus: Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue acknowledge that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.” (Philippians 2:5–11, NIV, emphases mine)

(To see a more exhaustive explanation of what Paul thought of Jesus, visit CARM Ministries at the following link: https://carm.org/did-paul-think-jesus-was-god)

It’s obvious from your question that you do not subscribe to Christianity’s linchpin doctrine — the deity of Jesus Christ. The most immediate problem is that it’s an important part of the salvation story. Only Jesus as the Word (the Logos in John 1:14) had the moral perfection required to be a complete sacrifice for sins (Hebrews 4:15).

Are you saved? ... or do you even know that there’s salvation to attain in Jesus' name? I ask because it sounds like you don’t. Please check out the following links. They’ll show how important Jesus is to the process of salvation, and they can give you confidence about the future if you’ll let them.

https://www.gotquestions.org/Christian-doctrine-salvation.html

https://mainsailministries.org/index.php/christian-topics/395-an-alternative-to-death.html

Thank you again for coming to Mainsail Ministries with this question.

(Mainsail Ministries articles often have a preamble where I discuss the thinking that went into them. These are called Monday Musings — and if you haven’t read the one associated with this article — consider doing so at the following link: 20200316 Since God is One God, Jesus can’t be God).

(For comments, or to join the Monday Musings mailing list, contact us at mainsailep@gmail.com. To submit a question about God, the Bible or the Christian culture, click here.)