THE GOD OF JESUS: PART FIFTEEN
Did Jesus claim to be God?
John 10:30-36: “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.” Jesus answered them, “Is it not written in your Law, `I have said you are gods’? If he called them `gods,' to whom the word of God came--and the Scripture cannot be broken-what about the one whom the Father set apart as his very own and sent into the world? Why then do you accuse me of blasphemy because I said, `I am God's Son'?
Trinitarians see a double proof in this passage that Jesus is God. First Jesus says “I and the Father are one.” Then the religious leaders claim Jesus is blaspheming because He claims to be God. It is assumed that for Jesus and the Father to be one it must mean Jesus is in a Trinitarian relationship with God and therefore is God. It is also assumed that because the religious leaders said Jesus claimed to be God He must be God.
When Jesus says “I and the Father are one” He is not talking about being God. In Christ’s prayer to the Father shortly before His crucifixion, He said this: “I have given them (the Apostles) the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one” (John 17:22). The Apostles becoming one with each other would not make them one Being. If Christ meant for them to become one with the Father as He was, it certainly didn’t mean they became God. Christ’s statement about being one with the Father has nothing to do with identifying Himself as God but simply shows how He was in total harmony with the Father in all things. In referring to the Holy Spirit that He would send after His ascension, Christ said: “On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you” (John 14:20). This is a statement of relationship which has nothing to do with identification of Being. Christ didn’t mean the Apostles would become God by them being in Him and He in them as He is in the Father. Christ was showing that through the Holy Spirit they could be one in purpose just as He and the Father are.
John 14:9c-11a: Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father….Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you are not just my own. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work. Believe me when I say that I am in the Father and the Father is in me.
Jesus is not saying that if you see Him you see the Father in the sense that Jesus and the Father are of identical substance of Being. Jesus is not talking about substance of Being but of being in spiritual unity with the Father. The Father lives in Christ through His Spirit and that same Spirit that lives in Christ can live in us as the Scriptures clearly show.
Did Jesus claim to be God as accused by the Jews as seen in the John 10 passage? It should be evident from how Jesus responded to this accusation of claiming to be God that He wasn’t claiming to be the one and only Supreme, Creator God but that He was god in the same sense as men of authority and power spoken of in the OT. Jesus appears to refer to a statement found in Psalm 82.
Psalm 82:1-7: God (Elohim) presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the "gods": (elohim) "How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? Selah. Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. "They know nothing, they understand nothing. They walk about in darkness; all the foundations of the earth are shaken. "I said, `You are "gods"; (elohim) you are all sons of the Most High.' But you will die like mere men; you will fall like every other ruler.
Here God (Elohim) is speaking to an assembly of gods (elohim) who are seen as appointed by Him to administer justice but have failed to do so. The second occurrence of elohim is followed by a plural predicate “you” thus signifying a plurality of Beings called “gods” who are being addressed. Jesus, in John 10, identifies these “gods” as those to whom the word (logos) of God came. The word or speech of God is seen as given to these Beings called “gods.” The context of Psalm 82 shows these “gods” are of the human realm as human conditions such as weakness, being fatherless and needy and needing deliverance from the wicked is what God is discussing with these “gods.” This passage is referring to human leaders, in positions of rulership, power and authority, failing to properly fulfill their responsibilities. God tells them that, even though they have been granted powers of rulership, they will die like every other ruler, which shows their humanity. Jesus is virtually comparing Himself to this type of god. He is saying that He too has been granted power and authority and has been sent by God. Thus, Jesus distinguishes Himself as a Son of the Most High God, just as these human leaders whom God was addressing as “gods” were seen as sons of the Most High God.
While it is true that Jesus was a unique Son of the Most High God because of His direct begettal by the Spirit of God, nowhere do the Scriptures show this unique status to mean Jesus is the Most High God in the person of God the Son. The phrase God the Son is not found in Scripture. It is always the Son of God.
As discussed earlier, elohim is used throughout the OT in reference to the creator God as well as to designate human rulers and other appointees of the creator God. By answering His accusers as He did, he is virtually saying He is a god in the same sense as the “gods” referred to in the OT who are also called sons of the Most High. Jesus is saying that just as God sent rulers to represent His interests in OT times, God has now sent Him, the promised Messiah as His directly begotten Son. Jesus is not saying He is God as the Most High God is God. He is saying He is a Son of the Most High God which makes Him an agent of the Most High God just as the gods mentioned in Psalm 82. Jesus’ use of Psalm 82 in His defense speaks volumes as to who He believed He was in relationship to the one true God.
In Chapter Twelve we discussed the Greek word gennao and saw how it means to become the Father of and is used in a variety of ways to designate a beginning. We saw how this word is used in association with the birth of Jesus and identifies Jesus as the begotten of the Father. There is another Greek word, monogenes, which is translated into English as begotten in the KJV version and several other English translations. Scholarship has shown this word is better translated as “only,” “one and only,” or “unique in kind” and is so translated in the NIV and other more modern translations. There are four passages in the Gospel of John and one in his first letter that give witness to Jesus being the one and only unique Son of God. Here are these passages as seen in the NIV.
John 1:14: The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:18: No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father's side, has made him known. (The implication that Jesus is God in this translation is discussed in Chapter Fourteen)
John 3:16: "For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
John 3:18: Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God's one and only Son.
1 John 4:9: This is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him.
If you read the above passages from a Trinitarian mindset, you end up with rather peculiar phraseology. If God is Father, Son and Spirit, John 3:16 would have to read “For Father, Son and Spirit gave His only Son.” John 3:18 would read: “in the name of Father, Son and Spirit’s one and only Son.” 1 John 4:9 would read: “This is how Father, Son and Spirit showed His love among us: He sent his one and only Son.” Pronouns such as “His” and “He” would have to apply to Father, Son and Spirit as the single Being God. Yet in John 1:14 and 18, John appears to identify God as Father and identity Father as God. John gives no hint of seeing God as Father, Son and Spirit. It should be apparent when John uses the word God in his writings, he means the Father and not Father, Son and Spirit. For John, God is the Father and the Father is God. There is no scriptural reason to believe John ever sees Jesus as being God as God is God. John, as is true with all NT writers, sees Jesus as the anointed of God, God's Christ to fulfill the promises made to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
Jesus is the one and only, one of a kind unique Son of God because he is the only son of God directly begotten by God in the womb of a human mother. Jesus is the one and only unique Son of God because He had a full measure of God’s Spirit from birth and was ordained to fulfill a special mission. Jesus is the one and only unique Son of God because He took our sins upon Himself and willingly suffered the pain and disgrace of crucifixion so we could have the death penalty for sin removed and be granted eternal life. Jesus is the unique Son of God because He was the first human resurrected to eternal life. Jesus was the first human to experience moving from mortality to immortality. Because of this, we also can experience this same transformation and become sons of God.
Jesus was dead. He went to the grave as a mortal human being. God the Father, who is the source of all life, resurrected Jesus and granted Him eternal life. Death could not hold Jesus because Jesus never sinned. He died as a sacrifice for our sins and was resurrected to eternal life and given great glory and honor because of what He accomplished as God’s agent to facilitate our salvation.
Acts 2:24: But God raised him from the dead, freeing him from the agony of death, because it was impossible for death to keep its hold on him.
Romans 6:9-11: For we know that since Christ was raised from the dead, he cannot die again; death no longer has mastery over him. The death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. In the same way, count yourselves dead to sin but alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Galatians 1:1: Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead--
Romans 8:11: And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.
These Scriptures clearly show it is the Spirit of God the Father that facilitated Jesus’ resurrection to life and it is this same Spirit that facilitates our resurrection to life. It is instructive that in the Romans 6:9-11 passage, Paul writes that Jesus "died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God." Paul is seeing Jesus in His glorified state living His life to God. Even if one concludes by God Paul means the Father, we see Jesus, in his resurrected and glorified state continuing to be subservient to God the Father. This is just one more of the dozens of Scriptures I could reference that show Jesus in His glorified state is not ontologically one with the Father and is not God as God is God as the Creeds proclaim.
Some argue that because Jesus, in referring to His resurrection, said “Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days” (John 2:19), He was saying He resurrected Himself and is therefore God as the Father is God. The overwhelming testimony of Scripture, however, makes it clear it was through the power of God the Father Jesus was resurrected. Therefore, it must be concluded that in John 2:19, Jesus was simply saying He would be resurrected in three days and not that He was resurrecting Himself.
The Scriptures speak of Jesus being the first born from the dead. When the Scriptures speak of Jesus being the first born from the dead, they are speaking of Him being the first to be raised from the dead to never die again. Others, such as Lazarus, had been physically resurrected only to die again. Jesus’ resurrection was a resurrection to eternal life. Jesus was born to eternal life.
Colossians 1:18: And he (Jesus) is the head of the body, the church; he is the beginning and the firstborn from among the dead, so that in everything he might have the supremacy.
Revelation 1:5: and from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, the firstborn from the dead …
1 Corinthians 15:20: But Christ has indeed been raised from the dead, the firstfruits of those who have fallen asleep.
Paul shows Christ to be the firstborn among many brothers thus signifying He is the first in a line of many others who will be born to eternal life.
Romans 8:29: For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness (image) of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers.
Jesus was the first to be born to eternal life and in so doing facilitated our being born to eternal life. Being born to eternal life involves becoming a new creation. Through resurrection to eternal life, Jesus began the process of facilitating a new creation. The whole purpose of the Christ event was to facilitate reconciliation of humanity with God.
2 Corinthians 5:17-19: Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation.
Jesus began the process of establishing a new creation by being born to eternal life and thus facilitating our birth to eternal life as well. In Christ we are a new creation in so much that we have passed from death unto life and become sons of God.
It is evident from the Scriptures that Jesus is not God as God is God and never claimed to be God as God is God. Jesus is the unique Son of God because of His direct begettal by God the Father and the unique purpose for which He was born. Jesus died and was resurrected and became the first human to be born to eternal life. As Paul wrote, Jesus is the firstborn of many brothers. Throughout Scripture, Jesus is identified as the Son of God and never as God the Son. The few references to Jesus as God in the NT are references to being god in the same sense as seen in Psalm 82. We will further explore these references as we continue to move through this material.
Is Jesus Divine?
The Greek word thios is translated “divine” several times in the NT in association with God the Father. The Greek thios implies a supernatural, someone who exceeds the bounds of being human. Thios is also use to define those in close association to the Divine as seen in some ancient literature. Peter uses this word in relation to the power and nature of God in 2 Peter 1:3. We know it is God the Father who is referenced by Peter because he speaks of divinity in association with Him who has called us and we know from other Scriptures it is the Father who calls us.
2 Peter 1:3: His divine (thios) power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.
Paul uses thios in Acts 17:29 to show the contrast between man-made gods and the one true God. The context of Acts 17 shows Paul speaking of the Father as Divine Being. In verse 31 Paul speaks of God judging the world through Jesus whom He has raised from the dead, thus identifying the Father as the Divine Being he is talking about.
Acts 17:29: Therefore since we are God's offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone--an image made by man's design and skill.
Acts 17:31: For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead.
To be divine is to exceed the bounds of normal humanity and manifest supernatural qualities. It is clear from the Scriptures God the Father is intrinsically divine and the source of all divine qualities. Scripture shows He shares such qualities with humans commensurate with His will. God gave Jesus an abundance of His divine qualities as His anointed agent. Upon completion of His earthly mission and ascension to His God and Father, His God and Father glorified Him with still greater divine qualities. Therefore, Jesus can certainly be viewed as divine. Jesus can also be viewed as elohim (god) in the same sense He compared Himself to the gods (small g) spoken of in the OT. Words such as elohim, theos, kurios and thios do not intrinsically mean the One and Only Supreme God as these words are applied to Beings of lesser status to whom power and authority is granted.
Jesus is one unto whom great power and authority has been granted. This does not equate Jesus with the one and only Most High Supreme God who is the source of all power and authority. There is only one God who reflects that identification and who can be called the true God. Jesus confirmed this identification when He said His Father was the one and only true God. Paul and John did the same as previously discussed. I personally do not hesitate to relate to Jesus as divine and as god as long as I maintain the understanding that He is not the One and Only Supreme Divinity, the Most High Creator God who is the God and Father of all reality including the reality that is Jesus.