This is one in a series of articles on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. To see MRM’s website page on the Trinity to see other resources, please click here.
By Eric Johnson
The Bible teaches in many different ways that Jesus is God. It is the centerpiece of the Christian faith. Without this, Christians would be in error to worship Jesus and claim that He is their Savior. The biblical authors are adamant about this issue. For example, consider the Gospel of John. It starts off like this:
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was in the beginning with God. 3 All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.
Notice several things:
- Jesus was in the beginning. That means He was self-existent and did not need to be created.
- Jesus was God in the beginning. There was never a time in His existence when He wasn’t God.
- Jesus was “with God” in the beginning.
- He created all things. In fact, nothing that has been created except through His agency.
Regarding that fourth point, Christian apologist Greg Koukl summarizes it well when he writes:
In John’s Gospel, he writes, “All things were made through Him, and without Him was not any thing made that was made” (John 1:3). Think about that for a minute. John is not merely saying that Jesus made all things. He is saying much more than that. Without Jesus, nothing was made that was made. So there are only two categories: things made and things not made. If it was made, then Jesus made it. Do you see what this means? Jesus cannot be one of the made things, because He made all of the made things. This would mean that Jesus made Himself, which is logically impossible. John goes out of his way to communicate that Jesus is the uncreated Creator, who created all things that were created.
Then, in verse 14, John writes:
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.
In John 3:16-18 says that it is belief in Jesus that takes a person from condemnation to salvation:
For God so loved the world that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but in order that the world might be saved through him. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.
The Jewish authorities certainly understood what Jesus was claiming for Himself. John 5:18 reports:
This was why the Jews were seeking all the more to kill him, because not only was he breaking the Sabbath, but he was even calling God his own Father, making himself equal with God.
In verse 24, Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.” According to John 6:40, Jesus had the power to raise the believers up on the last day: “For this is the will of my Father, that everyone who looks on the Son and believes in him should have eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.” Referring to Exodus 3:14 and the name God gave to Moses, Jesus said in John 8:58: “Truly, truly, I say to you, before Abraham was, I am.” Again, because they considered it blasphemous, the next verse reports that “they picked up stones to throw at him, but Jesus hid himself and went out of the temple.”
In John 9, Jesus healed a blind man. Later, Jesus found the man and asked in verse 35t “Do you believe in the Son of Man?” The man answered, “And who is he, sir, that I may believe in him?” At this, “Jesus said to him, ‘You have seen him, and it is he who is speaking to you.'” We must understand that, according to Daniel 7:13-14, the “Son of Man” is certainly a reference to deity. Daniel 7:13-14 says,
“I saw in the night visions,
and behold, with the clouds of heaven
there came one like a son of man,
and he came to the Ancient of Days
and was presented before him.
14 And to him was given dominion
and glory and a kingdom,
that all peoples, nations, and languages
should serve him;
his dominion is an everlasting dominion,
which shall not pass away,
and his kingdom one
that shall not be destroyed.
Philosopher William Lane Craig writes,
“Son of Man” is often thought to indicate the humanity of Jesus, just as the reflex expression “Son of God” indicates his divinity. In fact, just the opposite is true. The Son of Man was a divine figure in the Old Testament book of Daniel who would come at the end of the world to judge mankind and rule forever. Thus, the claim to be the Son of Man would be in effect a claim to divinity.
According to John 10:30, Jesus said, “I and the Father are one.” This was considered blasphemous, so the next verse reports how “the Jews picked up stones again to stone him.” Once again, his claim to being God was challenged by the Jewish leaders, who considered his words to be worthy of death. In John 14:6, Jesus claimed that he was “the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Perhaps my favorite verses in John displaying the deity of Jesus is found in John 20 in an event that took place a week after the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus. It says,
26 Eight days later, his disciples were inside again, and Thomas was with them. Although the doors were locked, Jesus came and stood among them and said, “Peace be with you.” 27 Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe.” 28 Thomas answered him,“My Lord and my God!” 29 Jesus said to him, “Have you believed because you have seen me? Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed.”
Notice carefully how Thomas called Jesus his “Lord” and his “God.” Such a claim should have been deemed heretical. If Jesus were a good teacher but not those things, He should have reprimanded Thomas for his blasphemous remarks. Instead, He accepted the statement as true.
Other passages supporting the Deity of Jesus
Whole books have been written on this topic. Allow me to give my 10 favorite passages on Jesus’s deity outside the Gospel of John.
- Matthew 1:21: Jesus (as God) “saves his people from their sins”
She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.”
2. Mark 2:6-7: Jesus forgives sins
And when Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, “Son, your sins are forgiven.” Now some of the scribes were sitting there, questioning in their hearts, “Why does this man speak like that? He is blaspheming! Who can forgive sins but God alone?”
3. Acts 4:12: Salvation can only be found in Jesus
And there is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men by which we must be saved.
4. Acts 16:31: Belief in Jesus is necessary for forgiveness of sins
(Peter): Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household.
5. Romans 10:9-10: Belief in Jesus is necessary for salvation
because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved.
6. Philippians 2:6-11: Jesus submitted Himself to the Father and, though God, became man
Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God as a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.
In his book God in Three Persons, E. Calvin Beisner writes:
We have in Philippians 2:6-11, then, a remarkable testimony of Paul on the deity of Christ, balanced perfectly by one of the strongest testimonies to Christ’s full and complete humanity (p. 31).
And as James White puts it in his book The Forgotten God (Minneapolis: Bethany House, 1998):
Difference in function does not indicate inferiority of nature (p. 66).
7. Colossians 1:15-17: Jesus created everything (and only God can create in the beginning)
He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For by him all things were created, in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities—all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.
8. Colossians 2:9: Jesus is fully God
For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily.
9. Hebrews 1:1-3: Jesus is the prophet, par excellence, and creator of the world
Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, 2 but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. 3 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.
10. Revelation 1:17-18: Jesus is the beginning and the end
When I saw him, I fell at his feet as though dead. But he laid his right hand on me, saying, “Fear not, I am the first and the last, 18 and the living one. I died, and behold I am alive forevermore, and I have the keys of Death and Hades.
Is Jesus God?
Some want to argue that Jesus, as a man, is lesser than God. Their argument usually goes like this:
God is not human
Jesus was human
Therefore, Jesus was not God
While it may sound logical, the syllogism is deceiving. Better, it should go like this:
God is not human (Number 23;19)
Jesus is God (John 1:3)
Jesus humbled Himself to become man (Phil. 2:5-11)
Therefore, the God/Man Jesus is both God and man
Several ideas/passages are used to support this rejection of Jesus as God
John 14:28: The Father is greater than Jesus
This verse says,
You heard me say to you, “I am going away, and I will come to you.” If you loved me, you would have rejoiced, because I am going to the Father, for the Father is greater than I.
According to this line of reasoning, the Father is “greater” than Jesus and so Jesus should not be considered God. We need to understand what the word “greater” means. If the President of the United States came into the room and someone said, “Here, Ladies and Gentlemen, is a man greater than all of us,” would this be a correct assessment? (Don’t let your politics get in the way of getting this right!) Of course this is correct since the President has power no other American has. Notice I said “greater,” not “better.” The President is no better than anyone else. He’s just greater in authority.
Consider Philippians 2:5-11, which says that Jesus was in “very nature” God but that He humbled Himself to become a man, taking on a human body that could even die, which happens to all humans. While Jesus became a servant, He never let go of His deity. (Imagine if the President came to your house, put on an apron, and began to vacuum the floor!) Thus, when Jesus said that the Father was greater than He, He was absolutely correct. Submitting oneself to another doesn’t make you a lesser person. Thus, when the Bible says that wives are called to submit to their husbands, the woman is by no means demeaned according to the context of the word “submit.” And Jesus is by no means demeaned through the Incarnation.
John 3:16: Jesus was begotten
When the Bible refers to Jesus as the “only begotten son,” many people read the “only created son.” This is an improper interpretation. “Only begotten” means “unique” or “favored.” C.S. Lewis writes,
We don’t use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. (Mere Christianity, p. 138)
Isaac is called the “only begotten son” of Abraham in Hebrews 11:17, even though Abraham had two sons (Isaac and Ishmael). The word “monogenes” that is translated “only begotten” comes from monos (single, only, lone) and genes (offspring, race, kind). Beisner writes,
As surely as the New Testament teaches the deity of the Father, then, it teaches also the deity of the Son of God, Christ Jesus, the Word, the “only begotten God” (John 1:18). J.O. Buswell, Jr., argued that monogenes . . . is better represented by “unique” than by “only begotten.”
Col. 1:15-17: Jesus was the firstborn of all creation
It is wrong to think that “firstborn” means “first created.” The word in this passage for “firstborn” is “prototokos,” meaning “heir” or “first in rank.” If Paul meant “first created,” he should have used the word “protoktistos. It is a foreign concept to say that God created Jesus. In fact, John 1:3 says that Jesus created everything. If He created everything, how could he have created Himself. The Jehovah’s Witness Bible (New World Translation) gives John 1:3 an ever stronger translation. It says,
All things came into existence through him, and apart from him not even one thing came into existence.
Perhaps most simply James Whites writes: “He who creates cannot himself be created” (p. 106). So how could Jesus have pulled Himself out of a hat?
Finally, Psalm 89:27 calls David the “firstborn” even though he was the last of the family’s sons. Why is he the firstborn? Because he is preeminent. In the same way, Jesus is the firstborn of all creation.
John 20:17: Jesus would return to the Father (my God and your God)
In this passage, Jesus told Mary not to hold onto him because he had not yet returned to God. He said, “I am returning to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God.” Does this mean that Jesus was not God? Again, if we remember Philippians 2, Jesus was in very nature God but did not consider equality with God something that could be grasped. Just because He humbled Himself doesn’t mean that He was somehow lesser than God. In fact, in John 10:30 Jesus declared that He and the Father were one.
Below is a chart taken from Jesus: A Biblical Defense of His Deity by Josh McDowell and Bart Larson (San Bernardino: Here’s Life Publishers, 1983, pp. 62-64. This shows how God and Jesus are referred to by the same descriptions.
|Description||As Used of God||As Used of Jesus|
|YHWH (I am)||Ex. 3:14; Deut. 32:39; Is. 43:10||John 8:24, 58; 18:4-6|
|God||Gen. 1:1; Deut. 6:4; Ps. 45:6,7||Is 7:14, 9:6; John 1:1, 14; 20:28; Titus 2:13; Heb. 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:1|
|Alpha and Omega||Is. 41:4, 48:12; Rev. 1:8||Rev. 1:17-18; 2:8; 22:12-16|
|Lord||Is. 45:23||Matt. 12:8; Acts 7:59,60; 10:36; Rom 10:12; 1 Cor. 2:8, 12:3, Phil. 2:10,11|
|Savior||Is. 43:3, 11; 63:8; Luke 1:47; 1 Tim. 4:10||Matt. 1:21; Luke 2:11; John 1:29; John 4:42; Tit. 2:13; Heb. 5:9|
|King||Ps. 95:3; Is. 43:15; 1 Tim. 6:14-16||Rev. 17:14; 19:16|
|Judge||Gen. 18:25; Ps. 50:4,6; Pr. 96:13; Rom 14:10||John 5:22; 2 Cor. 5:10; 2 Tim. 4:1|
|Light||2 Sam 22:29; Ps. 27:1; Is. 42:6||John 1:4,9; 3:19; 8:12; 9:5|
|Rock||Deut. 32:3,4; 2 Sam 22:32; Ps. 89:26||Rom 9:33; 1 Cor. 10:3,4; 1 Peter 2:4-8|
|Redeemer||Ps. 130:7,8; Is. 48:17; Is. 54:5, 63:9||Acts 20:28; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:12|
|Our Righteousness||Is. 45:24||Jer. 23:6; Rom 3:21-22|
|Husband||Is. 54:5; Hos. 2:16||Matt 25:1; Mark 2:18,19; 2 Cor. 11:2; Eph. 5:25-32; Rev. 21:2,9|
|Shepherd||Gen. 49:24; Ps. 23:1; 80:1||John 10:11, 16; Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 2:25, 5:4|
|Creator||Gen. 1:1; Job 33:4; Ps. 95:5,6; 102:25,26; Is. 40:28||John 1:2, 3, 10; Col 1:15-18; Heb. 1:1-3, 10|
|Giver of life||Gen. 2:7; Deut. 32:39; 1 Sam. 2:6; Ps. 36:9||John 5:21; 10:28; 11:25|
|Forgiver of sin||Ex. 34:6,7; Neh. 9:17; Dan. 9:9; Jon. 4:2||Mark 2:1-12; Acts 26:18; Col. 2:13, 3:13|
|Lord our Healer||Ex. 15:26||Acts 9:34|
|Omnipresent||Ps. 139:7-12; Prov. 15:3||Matt. 18:20, 28:20; Eph. 3:17, 4:10|
|Omniscient||1 Kings 8:39; Jer. 17:9, 10, 16||Matt. 11:27; Luke 5:4-6; John 2:25, 16:30, 21:17; Acts 1:24|
|Omnipotent||Is. 40:1031, 45:3-13, 18||Matt. 28:18; Mark 1:29-34; John 10:18; Jude 24|
|Pre-existent||Gen. 1:1||John 1:15, 30; 3:13, 31, 32; 6:62; 16:28; 17:5|
|Eternal||Ps. 102:26,27; Hab. 3:6||Is. 9:6; Micah 5:2; John 8:58|
|Immutable||Is. 49:9, 16; Mal. 3:6; James 1:17||Heb. 13:8|
|Receiver of worship||Matt. 4:10; John 4:24; Rev. 5:14, 7:11, 11:16||Matt. 14:33, 28:9; John 9:38; Phil 2:10,11; Heb. 1:6|
|Speaker with divine authority||“Thus saith the Lord” used hundreds of times||Matt. 23:34-37; John 7:46 “Truly truly I say to you…”|
This is one in a series of articles on the Christian doctrine of the Trinity. To see MRM’s website page on the Trinity to see other resources, please click here.