Printer-friendly version

Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity 4: The Son, Jesus, Is God

The Biblical Basis of the Doctrine of the Trinity, Part IV: The Son, Jesus Christ, Is God

By:
 

IV. The Son, Jesus Christ, Is God

 

A. Explicit statements identifying Jesus as “God”

1. Is. 9:6; note 10:21. Translations which render the Hebrew el gibbôr here as “mighty hero” are inconsistent in their rendering of 10:21. Also note that Ezek. 32:21, which some try to cross-reference, is (a) not in the same context, as is Is. 10:21, and (b) speaking of false gods, cf. I.G.5. Some object that “mighty God” is simply theophoric (i.e., in which a person’s name says something about God, not about himself). However, this is not true of the rest of the compound name, which is descriptive of the Messiah himself (note especially “Prince of Peace”). It certainly makes no sense to argue both that the expression el gibbôr means merely “mighty hero” and that it is a theophoric description of God. In light of the NT, we should understand it as a description of the Messiah as God.

2. John 1:1. Even if Jesus is here called “a god” (as some have argued), since there is only one God, Jesus is that God. However, the “a god” rendering is incorrect. Other NT passages using the Greek word for God (theos) in the same construction are always rendered “God”: Mark 12:27; Luke 20:38; John 8:54; Phil. 2:13; Heb. 11:16. Passages in which a shift occurs from ho theos (“the God”) to theos (“God”) never imply a shift in meaning: Mark 12:27; Luke 20:37-38; John 3:2; 13:3; Rom. 1:21; 1 Thess. 1:9; Heb. 9:14; 1 Pet. 4:10-11. In context, the preincarnate Christ (called “the Word”) is eternal (existing before creation, 1:1-2), is credited with creation (1:3, 10), is the object of faith (1:12), and has the divine glory (1:14)—all of which shows that he really is God.

3. John 1:18. The best manuscripts have “God” here, not “Son.” The word monogenês, frequently rendered “only-begotten,” actually means “one of a kind,” “unique,” though in the NT always in the context of a son or daughter. Even if one translates “only-begotten,” the idea is not of a “begotten god” as opposed to an “unbegotten god.” The best translation is probably “God the only Son” (NRSV).

4. John 20:28. Compare Rev. 4:11, in which the same author (John) uses the same construction in the plural (“our”) instead of the singular (“my”). See also Ps. 35:23. Note that Christ’s response indicates that Thomas’s acclamation was not wrong. Also note that John 20:17 does show that the Father was Jesus’ “God” (due to Jesus becoming a man), but the words “my God” as spoken by Thomas later in the same chapter must mean no less than in v. 17. Thus, what the Father is to Jesus in his humanity, Jesus is to Thomas (and therefore to us as well).

5. Acts 20:28: “the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.” The variant readings (e.g. “the church of the Lord”) show that the original wording was understood to mean “his own blood,” not “the blood of his own [Son]” (since otherwise no one would have thought to change it). (No one seems to have thought to understand the text to mean “the blood of his own” until about a hundred years ago.) Thus all other renderings are attempts to evade the startling clarity and meaning of this passage.

6. Rom. 9:5. While grammatically this is not the only possible interpretation, the consistent form of doxologies in Scripture, as well as the smoothest reading of the text, supports the identification of Christ as “God” in this verse.

7. Titus 2:13. Grammatically and contextually, this is one of the strongest proof texts for the deity of Christ. Sharp’s first rule, properly understood, proves that the text should be translated “our great God and Savior” (cf. same construction in Luke 20:37; Rev. 1:6; and many other passages). Note also that Paul always uses the word “manifestation” (“appearing”) of Christ: 2 Thess. 2:8; 1 Tim. 6:14; 2. Tim. 1:10; 4:1, 8. The view that Paul means that Jesus Christ is “the glory of our great God and Savior” has several difficulties. For example, construing “Savior” as someone other than “Jesus Christ” in this context is awkward and implausible. Such alternate explanations would never have been entertained had Paul written “the appearing of the glory of our great Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” Thus, the root problem is the assumption that Paul could not have called Jesus God.

8. Heb. 1:8. The rendering, “God is your throne,” is nonsense—God is not a throne, he is the one who sits on the throne! Also, “God is your throne,” if taken to mean God is the source of one’s rule, could be said about any angelic ruler—but Hebrews 1 is arguing that Jesus is superior to the angels.

9. 2 Pet. 1:1. The same construction is used here as in Titus 2:13; see the parallel passages in 2 Pet. 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18. See comments above on Titus 2:13.

10. 1 John 5:20. Admittedly, biblical scholars are split on whether the “true God” in this text is the Father or the Son. Three considerations favor the Son. First, the closest antecedent for “this one” is Jesus Christ (“in his Son Jesus Christ. This one…”). Second, in 1:2 the “eternal life” is Jesus Christ (who was “with the Father”), an apparent example of inclusio (repetition of a theme or idea at the beginning and end of a text). Third, the confession form “This one is …” (houtos estin) strongly favors Jesus Christ, rather than the Father, as the subject, since John uses this language repeatedly with regard to Christ (John 1:30, 33, 34; 4:29, 42; 6:14, 42, 50, 58; 7:18, 25, 26, 40, 41; 1 John 5:6; of the man born blind, John 9:8, 9, 19, 20; of the disciple, John 21:24; of the anti-Christ, 1 John 2:22; 2 John 1:7), but not once for the Father. John has just used this formula for Christ earlier in the same chapter (1 John 5:6).

B. Jesus is Jehovah/Yahweh (the Lord)

1. Rom. 10:9-13: Note the repeated “for” (gar), which links these verses closely together. The “Lord” of 10:13 (where kurios, “Lord,” translates the HebrewYahweh) must be the “Lord” of 10:9, 12.

2. Phil. 2:9-11. In context, the “name that is above every name” is “Lord” (vs. 11), i.e., Jehovah.

3. Heb. 1:10: Here God the Father addresses the Son as “Lord,” in a quotation from Ps. 102:25 (cf. 102:24, where the person addressed is called “God”). Since here the Father addresses the Son as “Lord,” this cannot be explained away as a text in which a creature addresses Christ as God/Lord in a merely representational sense.

4. 1 Pet. 2:3-4: This verse is nearly an exact quotation of Ps. 34:8a, where “Lord” is Jehovah. From 1 Pet. 2:4-8 it is also clear that “the Lord” in v. 3 is Jesus.

5. 1 Pet. 3:13-15: these verses are a clear reference to Is. 8:12-13, where the one who is to be regarded as holy is Jehovah.

6. Texts where Jesus is spoken of as the “one Lord” (cf. Deut. 6:4; Mark 12:29): 1 Cor. 8:6; Eph. 4:5; cf. Rom. 10:12; 1 Cor. 12:5.

7. Many other texts that call Jesus “Lord” do so in ways that equate him with Yahweh: Matt. 3:3, Mark 1:3, and Luke 3:4 (cf. Is. 40:3); Matt. 7:21-22 and Luke 6:46; Matt. 8:25 and 14:30 (cf. Ps. 118:25); Acts 1:24 (addressing the Lord Jesus [cf. v. 21] in prayer and attributing to him divine knowledge); 2:21 (cf. Joel 2:32), 36; 7:59-60; 8:25; 1 Cor. 1:2 (calling on the Lord), 8 (the day of the Lord) [etc.], 31 (cf. Jer. 9:23-24); 2:16 (cf. Is. 40:13); 4:4-5; 5:4 (gathering in the name of the Lord); 6:11; 7:17, 32-35 (devotion to the Lord); 10:21-22; etc.

C. Jesus has many other names or titles of God

1. Titles belonging only to God

a. The First and the Last (Beginning and End, Alpha and Omega): Rev. 1:7-8, 17b-18; 2:8; 22:13; cf. Is. 41:4; 44:6; 48:12; Rev. 21:6

b. King of kings and Lord of lords: Rev. 17:14; 19:16; cf. Dan. 4:37; 1 Tim. 6:15

2. Titles belonging in the ultimate sense only to God

a. Savior: Luke 2:11; John 4:42; Phil. 3:20; 2 Tim. 1:10; Titus 2:13, cf. v. 10; 2 Pet. 1:11; 2:20; 3:2, 18; 1 John 4:14; cf. Is. 43:11; 45:21-22; 1 Tim. 4:10; on Jesus becoming the source of salvation; Heb. 5:9, cf. Ex. 15:2; Ps. 118:14, 21

b. Shepherd: John 10:11; Heb. 13:20; cf. Ps. 23:1; Is. 40:11

c. Bridegroom/Husband: Matt. 22:2; 25:1-13; Mark 2:19; John 3:29; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-27; Rev. 19:7-9; 21:2, 9; cf. Is. 54:5; 62:5; Jer. 31:32

d. Rock: 1 Cor. 10:4; cf. Is. 44:8

3. Jesus’ self-declarations—his “I am” sayings

a. Jesus’ “I am” (egô eimi) sayings with a predicate declare his divine functions: “I am the bread of life” (John 6:35, 48; cf. 6:41, 51), “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), “I am the gate” of the sheep (John 10:7, 9), “I am the good shepherd” (10:11, 14), “I am the resurrection and the life” (John 11:25), “I am the way and the truth and the life” (John 14:6), “I am the [true] vine” (John 15:1, 5). In these sayings Jesus essentially claims to be everything his people need for eternal life.

b. Jesus’ “I am” (egô eimi) sayings without a predicate declare his divine identity as the divine Son come to be the Messiah: “I am [he]; do not fear” (Matt. 14:27; Mark 6:50; John 6:20; cf. Is. 43:2, 5); “I am [he]” (Mark 14:62); “I am [he], the one speaking to you” (John 4:26, cf. Is. 52:6); “unless you believe that I am [he] you will die in your sins…then you will know that I am [he]” (John 8:24, 28, cf. Is. 43:10-11); “before Abraham came into being, I am” or “I am [he]” (John 8:58, note v. 59); “I know the ones I have chosen…you will believe that I am [he]” (John 13:18-19, cf. Is. 43:10); “I am [he]” (John 18:5, cf. vv. 6-8). Note the many parallels to the “I am” sayings of God in Isaiah, which virtually all biblical scholars agree are echoed by Jesus’ “I am” sayings in John. Some scholars also see at least an indirect connection to God’s declaration “I am who I am” in Ex. 3:14 (especially for John 8:58).

4. The NT gives an extraordinary emphasis on Jesus’ “name,” stating that it is the highest of all names, Eph. 1:21; Phil. 2:9-11; referring to it as “the Name,” Acts 5:41; 3 John 7; glorifying his name, Acts 19:13-18, cf. Ps. 20:7. Christians call on his name for salvation; they get baptized and receive forgiveness of sins and eternal life in his name; they cast out demons in his name; they suffer and risk their lives for his name; they do everything in his name: Matt. 7:22; 10:22; 19:29; 24:9; Mark 9:38-39; 13:13; Luke 10:17; 21:12, 17; John 1:12; 15:21; 20:31; Acts 2:21, 36, 38; 3:6, 16; 4:7, 10, 12, 17-18; 30; 5:28; 8:16; 9:14, 21, 27-28; 10:43, 48; 15:26; 16:18; 19: 5; 21:13; 22:16; Rom. 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 1:13-15; 6:11; Col. 3:17; 1 Pet. 4:14; 1 John 2:12; 1 John 3:23; 5:13; Rev. 2:3, 13; 3:8.

D. Jesus received the honors due to God alone

1. Honor: John 5:23; Heb. 3:3-4

2. Love: Matt. 10:37; Luke 14:26; John 14:15, 21; 15:10; Eph. 6:24

3. Prayer: John 14:14 (the word “me” in the text is debated, but in any case it is Jesus who answers the prayer); Acts 1:24-25; 7:59-60 (cf. Luke 23:34, 46); 9:14; 22:16; Rom. 10:12-13; 1 Cor. 1:2; 16:22; 2 Cor. 12:8-10 (where “the Lord” must be Jesus, cf. v. 9); 2 Thess. 2:16-17; Rev. 22:20-21

4. Worship (proskuneô): Matt. 2:2, 11; 8:2; 9:18; 14:33; 15:25; 20:20; 28:9, 17 (cf. Matt. 4:9-10); Phil. 2:10-11 (cf. Is. 45:23); Heb. 1:6 (cf. Ps. 97:7); Rev. 1:17; 5:14 (cf. Rev. 19:10; 22:8-9)

5. Religious or sacred service (latreuô): Dan. 7:14; Rev. 22:1-3

6. Doxological praise: 2 Tim. 4:18; Heb. 13:20-21; 1 Pet. 4:11; 2 Pet. 3:18; Rev. 1:5-6; 5:13

7. Song: Eph. 5:19; Rev. 5:9-10; cf. Ps. 92:1; 95:1; 96:2; etc.

8. Fear/reverence: 2 Cor. 5:10-11; Eph. 5:21; 6:7-8; Col. 3:22-25; 1 Pet. 3:14-16; cf. Deut. 6:13; 10:20; Prov. 1:7; 2:5; 9:10; etc.; Is. 8:12-13

9. Faith: Matt. 9:28; John 1:12; 3:15-18, 36; 6:35, 40; 7:37-39; 8:24; 11:25-26; 14:1; 20:31; Acts 3:16; 10:43; 16:31; 20:21; 22:19; 24:24; 26:18; Rom. 9:33; 10:11; Gal. 3:26; 1 Pet. 2:6; 1 John 3:23; 5:1, 10, 13

E. Jesus does the works of God

1. Creation: John 1:3, 10; 1 Cor. 8:6; Col. 1:16; Heb. 1:2, 10; Rev. 3:14 (where archê probably means ruler or head); on “through” and “in” Christ, cf. Rom. 11:36; Heb. 2:10; Acts 17:28; cf. also Is. 44:24

2. Sustains the universe: Col. 1:17; Heb. 1:3, 11-12

3. Demonstrating divine sovereignty over nature: Matt. 8:23-27 par.; Matt. 14:13-33 par.; Matt. 15:32-39; Matt. 17:24-27; Mark 5:19-20; Luke 5:1-11; 7:11-16; John 2:1-11; John 21:1-14

4. Speaking with divine authority: Matt. 5:20-22, etc.; 7:24-29; 24:35; Mark 1:22; 13:31; Luke 4:32; John 4:26; 7:46; cf. “Amen I say to you” (74 times in the Gospels); “the word of the Lord,” Acts 8:25; 13:44, 48-49; 15:35-36; 16:32; 19:10, 20; 1 Thess. 4:15

5. Salvation:

a. In general: See C.2.a. above

b. Forgives sins: Matt. 9:1-8; Mark 2:1-12; Luke 5:17-26; note that Jesus forgives sins not committed against him.

c. Sends the Spirit and his gifts: Matt. 3:11; Luke 24:49; John 1:33; 4:10, 15; 7:37-39; 15:26; 16:7-14; 20:22; Acts 2:33; Rom. 8:9; 1 Cor. 12:5; Eph. 4:8-11

d. All spiritual blessings (with the Father): Eph. 1:2-3; 2 Thess. 2:16-17; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; 2 John 3; Rev. 1:4; etc.

6. Raising the dead: John 2:19-22; 5:28-29; 6:40, 54; 10:17-18, 27-28 (cf. Deut. 32:39); 11:25-26; Acts 2:24

7. Judgment: Matt. 25:31-46; John 5:22-23; Acts 10:42; 17:31; Rom. 2:16; 1 Cor. 4:4-5; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Thess. 1:7-8; 2 Tim. 4:1; Rev. 2:23

8. All of them: John 5:19

F. Jesus has all the attributes of God

1. All of them: John 1:1; 12:45; 14:7-10; Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 4:4; Phil. 2:6; Col. 1:13, 15, 19; 2:9; Heb. 1:3

2. Self-existent: John 5:26

3. Unchangeable: Heb. 1:10-12 (in the same sense as YHWH); 13:8

4. Eternal: John 1:1-3; 8:56-59; 17:5; Col. 1:16-17; Heb. 1:2, 10-12; 7:3

5. Omnipresent: Matt. 8:5-13; 18:20; 28:20; Mark 7:24-30; Luke 7:1-10; John 1:47-49; 3:13; 4:46-54; Eph. 1:23; 4:10-11; Col. 3:11

6. Omniscient: Matt. 9:4; 11:21-23; 12:25; Mark 2:6-8; 8:31-32 (etc.); Luke 6:8; 10:13-15; 21:20-24; John 2:23-24; 4:16-18; 11:11-15; 13:10-11, 21-29, 36-38 par.; 16:30-31; 21:17; Acts 1:24; 1 Cor. 4:5; Rev. 2:23; cf. Mark 13:30-32

7. Omnipotent: Matt. 28:18; John 2:19-22; 10:17-18; 1 Cor. 1:23-24; 2 Cor. 12:9; Eph. 1:19-21; Col. 2:10; 1 Pet. 3:22

8. Loving (in a preeminent, unlimited way): John 13:34; 15:9, 12-13; Rom. 8:35-39; Gal. 2:20; Eph. 3:19; 5:2; Rev. 1:4; cf. Rom. 5:8

9. Incomprehensible: Matt. 11:25-27

G. Jesus is “equal with God”

1. John 5:18: Although John is relating what the Jews understood Jesus to be claiming, the context shows they were basically right: In v. 17 Jesus claimed to be exempt from the Sabbath along with His Father, and in 5:19-29 he claimed to do all of the works of the Father and to deserve the same honor as the Father.

2. Phil. 2:6: Jesus did not attempt to seize recognition by the world as being equal with God, but attained that recognition by humbling himself and being exalted by the Father (vv. 7-11).

H. Jesus holds God’s position

1. Jesus sits on God’s throne, occupying the highest position possible: Ps. 110:1; Matt. 22:44; 25:31; 26:64; Mark 12:36; 14:62; Luke 20:42-43; 22:69; Acts 2:33-35; 5:31; 7:55-56; Rom. 8:34; 1 Cor. 15:25; 2 Cor. 5:10; Eph. 1:20; 2:6; Col. 3:1; Heb. 1:3, 13; 8:1; 10:12-13; 12:2; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 3:21; 7:17; 22:1, 3

2. Jesus rules over all things: Matt. 11:25-27; 28:18; Luke 10:21-22; John 3:35; 13:3; 16:15; Acts 10:36; 1 Cor. 15:27-28; Eph. 1:22; Phil. 2:10; 3:21; Heb. 1:2; 2:8; Rev. 5:13

3. Jesus rules in this position forever: Luke 1:33; Eph. 1:19b-21; Heb. 1:8; Rev. 11:15; cf. Eph. 5:5; Rev. 22:1, 3

I. Jesus is the Son of God

1. “Son” in Scripture can mean simply one possessing the nature of something, whether literal or figurative (e.g. “son of man,” “sons of thunder,” “sons of disobedience,” cf. Mark 3:7; Eph. 2:1).

2. Usually when “son of” is used in relation to a person (son of Abraham, son of David, etc.) the son possesses the nature of his father.

3. Jesus is clearly not the literal Son of God, i.e., he was not physically procreated by God.

4. On the other hand, Jesus is clearly the Son of God in a unique sense (cf. “only-begotten son,” John 1:14; 3:16, 18; 1 John 4:9) and in a preeminent sense (i.e. the term is more fitting for him than for anyone else, e.g., Heb. 1:4-5).

5. Scripture is explicit that the Son possesses God’s essence or nature (cf. F. above).

6. Jesus’ repeated claim to be the Son of God was consistently understood by the Jewish leaders as a blasphemous claim to equality with God, an understanding Jesus never denied: John 5:17-23; 8:58-59; 10:30-39; 19:7; Matt. 26:63-65.

7. Jesus is therefore by nature God’s Son, not God’s creation or God’s servant; Jesus is God’s Son who became a servant for our sake and for the Father’s glory (John 13:13-15; 17:4; Phil. 2:6-11; Heb. 1:4-13; 3:1-6; 5:8; etc.).

J. Objections

1. Prov. 8:22: This text is not a literal description of Christ, but a poetic personification of wisdom (cf. all of Prov. 1-9, esp. 8:12-21; 9:1-6), poetically saying that God “got” his wisdom before he did anything—i.e., that God has always had wisdom.

2. Col. 1:15: Does not mean that Christ is the first creature, since he is here presented as the Son and principal heir of the Father (cf. vv. 12-14); thus “firstborn” here means “heir” (cf. esp. Ps. 89:27; see also Gen. 43:33; 48:14-20; Ex. 4:22; 1 Chron. 5:1-3; Jer. 31:9); note that v. 16 speaks of the Son as the Creator, not as a creature (cf. E.1. above).

3. Rev. 3:14: “Beginning” (archê) in Rev. as a title means source or one who begins, i.e. Creator (cf. Rev. 1:8; 21:6; 22:13); elsewhere Christ is called thearchê in the sense of “ruler,” Col. 1:18, cf. plural archai, “rulers,” in Col. 1:16; 2:10, 15, also Luke 12:11; Rom. 8:38; Eph. 3:10; 6:12; Tit. 3:1; cf. Luke 20:20; Jude 6; 1 Cor. 15:24; Eph. 1:21. An alternative view is that archê in Rev. 3:14 refers to Christ’s position as head of the new creation.

4. 1 Cor. 11:3; 15:28: Christ is still subordinate to God, but as the incarnate Son to the Father; i.e., they are equal in nature, but the Son is subordinate relationally to God, especially due to the fact that he has permanently assumed human nature. (It may also be that the Son is in some sense eternally “subordinate” to the Father, though if so only in a functional sense; Christians who affirm the Trinity hold different views on this question.)

5. John 20:17; Rom. 15:6; 1 Cor. 15:24; 2 Cor. 1:3; Rev. 1:6; 3:12: Jesus calls the Father “my God” because he is still man as well as God; note the distinction between “my God” and “your God” in John 20:17 (i.e., Jesus never speaks of “our God” including himself with the disciples).

6. Mark 13:32: Jesus’ statement that he did not know the time of his return is to be explained by his voluntary acceptance of the humble form and likeness of a man (Phil. 2:7); in fact Jesus, as God, did know all things (John 16:30), and after his resurrection he does not including himself as not knowing (Acts 1:6-7).

7. Mark 10:17-18: Jesus does not deny being God, but simply tells the man that he has no business calling anyone “good” in an unqualified sense except God. Those who acknowledge that Christ is perfectly good but deny that he is God have a problem at this point.

8. Heb. 4:15: Jesus was tempted, cf. James 1:13; but note that Jesus could not sin, John 5:19. God, in his divine nature, cannot be tempted, but if he incarnated himself (John 1:1, 14), then in his human nature he could genuinely experience temptation.

9. John 1:18: No one has seen God, but people have seen Jesus, e.g. 1 John 1:1-2; but note that no man can see the glorified Jesus either, 1 Tim. 6:16, and to see Jesus is to see the Father, John 14:9.

10. 1 Tim. 1:17: God cannot die, but Jesus did, e.g. Phil. 2:8; but of course the point of 1 Tim. 1:17 is that God’s divine nature is immortal, not that God could not assume mortal human nature. Note that no one could take Jesus’ life from him, he could not remain dead, and he raised himself: John 10:18; Acts 2:24; John 2:19-22.

11. 1 Cor. 8:6: Father called God, Jesus called Lord: but here “God” and “Lord” are synonymous (cf. v. 5; cf. also Rom. 14:3-12 for a good example of “God” and “Lord” as interchangeable); moreover, this text no more denies that Jesus is God than it does that the Father is Lord (Matt. 11:25); cf. Jude 4, where Jesus is the only Lord.

12. 1 Tim. 2:5: Jesus here supposedly distinct from God; but Jesus is also distinct from (fallen) men, yet is himself a man; likewise Jesus is distinct from God (the Father), but is also God.

13. Deut. 4:12, 15-25; God not appear in a human form to Israel, lest they fall into idolatry; but this does not rule out his appearing in human form later after they had learned to abhor idolatry.

14. In many texts Jesus is distinguished from God: He is the Son of God, was sent by God, etc.; in all these texts “God” is used as a name for the person most commonly called God, i.e., the Father.

Next